After Scroll Through Web, Couple Finds Dream Home

Internet surfers click on 'live' cameras to see world

By , Staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor

Juergen and Sharone Neuhoff have Net-surfed all the way from Albuquerque, N.M., to Colchester, England. The couple and their teenage daughter, Alexandra, may be among the world's first cyber-migrants.

The Neuhoffs decided to quit the childhood home of Billy the Kid after gazing for several weeks at a Web site showing a live picture of a street in the heart of Colchester.

Mr. Neuhoff, a German-born computer-software specialist, says he began searching the Internet for ideas about a new place to live after the son of a friend was murdered last year.

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"We wanted a safe life for our daughter and decided there must be better places," Neuhoff says. "So we scrolled through lots of Web sites and came across this Colchester street scene.

"We saw happy people out walking and shopping.... We hardly ever saw a policeman, so we decided it might be safe."

Juergen and Sharone began researching the city in depth, also making use of the Internet. They checked out home prices, public transport, health services, and crime statistics.

Last year in Colchester (pop. 154,000) there was one murder investigation, compared with 70 murders in Albuquerque (pop. 426,000).

The Neuhoffs found that Colchester's schools are regarded as among the best in Britain. The city has a university, five museums, four theaters, and a zoo.

It also has a fascinating history. Colchester, northeast of London, is the oldest recorded town in England. Roman invaders established their capital in England there in AD 49.

It was also home to the first-century English King Cunobelin - the basis for Shakespeare's "Cymbeline."

Neuhoff says his daughter, Alexandra, was delighted to discover that Colchester also has modern features with appeal for an American teen: a McDonald's near the city center and several pizza parlors.

In July, the family made the decision to move, and left for England a month later.

The tranquil street scene that lured the Neuhoffs across the Atlantic is captured by a closed-circuit TV camera at the offices of Actual Size, an Internet services company.

It's one of a growing number of live Web sites around the world.

For example, anyone thinking about migrating to Germany can look down, via the Internet, on the rooftops of Nuremberg as seen from the seventh floor of the World Wide Travel Agency.

For those with an urge to settle in Stockholm, but worried about the climate, the Net provides a view of the Swedish capital, complete with weather reports.

Fancy heading to Wellington, New Zealand? A live Web site supplies shots of the distinctive beehive-shaped Parliament building.

For those curious about life in the United States, there is no shortage of options.

From Los Angeles, a camera offers video images of Wilshire Boulevard and Hollywood and Vine. Dallas flaunts its downtown skyscraper profile, and there are Web site views of Boston's Back Bay and city skyline.

But for the Neuhoffs, the search is over. They have settled into a new house and Juergen is setting up a software business.

For Colchester, the Neuhoffs' arrival brought amazement and delight. Gary Leach, managing director of Actual Size, says: "This woman just walked in and told us she had come here from the United States because she had seen our street-cam site. She bowled us over."

The delighted Colchester Borough Council took out a full-page ad in the London Times celebrating the incident. Council spokeswoman Elizabeth Curry says it would be "delighted to welcome other people who may be attracted to the city" through looking at the Web site. The city also is keen to attract new investment.

The Internet address that captivated the Neuhoffs is: www.actual.co.uk/streetcam.html

Yahoo!, one of the "search engines" used to navigate on the Internet's World Wide Web, lists several fixed camera Web sites in the US and other countries.

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