Europe is small compared to so many bigger countries, but they have managed to pack so much history and culture into so many countries with such a differences in peoples, ie. compare the Germans with the French and they are only separated by a border. The romantic language of the French and the technical no nonsense German language. You could spend much time going through all the medievel towns in both countries, then you have Italy and Spain.
For us new worlders seeing such varying cultures which have developed over centuries within horse ride of each other is a place to wonder about. Kings and Queens have come in that time and people who have shaped the new world have come out of these ie Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims and the convicts.
Europe’s historic buildings are admired by history buffs, while its varied landscapes fascinate nature lovers. You can easily eat your way around both the cosmopolitan hubs of Europe and its hidden jewels if you’re a foodie. You will never get bored of the infinite dining alternatives that these distinctive destinations to visit in Europe have to offer because local products and specialities differ from town to village.
Alas two of my favourite countries which i could get lost in for a long time would be France, and Italy, but it doesn’t mean i dont like countries like Greece or Switzerland. But i will try and recommend places from a few countries which i found sometimes by mistake or even planned. These places aren’t in any particular order , some you could spend a week at some just a day.
Matera, a stunning city in Basilicata Italy, is rich with history, cave hotels and tasty Italian food. We stumbled across Matera as we drove through the Italian countryside without any destination in mind.. And to our amazement this was a town which was a throwback in time to medievel times.
Ironically, the glorious town has a interesting history. Until the 1950’s, Political prisoners were transported to reside in the gloomy, sun-scorched wilderness of rocks and stone at Matera, a despicable place that was like an Italian Gulag. But today it is a glorious town made famous by Mel Gibson “The passion of the Christ”, go into any restaurant and you will see photos of Mel and/or his cast. Besides all the restaurants have great food with earthiness of their local food imbued into their meals.
Matera is on a edge of a canyon with houses built into the cliffs and has an old feel about it and you can see why it was picked for the Passion.
The second-largest city in Sicily is Catania, which has a population of about 300,000. It is situated on the Ionian Sea, in the shadow of Mount Etna, also known as A Muntagna by the locals.
The ever-present Mount Etna has significantly influenced Catania’s history and present-day existence. The city was repeatedly destroyed by volcanic eruptions, with the 17th century being the most severe. In 1669, Catania was buried in lava, and then 24 years later, in 1693, the town was rocked to its very core by an earthquake.
Amazingly, in response to this second calamity, the entire old town was rebuilt in the Baroque style, with broad, open squares and avenues. However, the most notable feature was the building material used: lava! Catania is essentially a “grey” city and unique in the world for this. I found this city to be unique with lots of Roman antiquities and statues and far to the volcano called Etna which i went up a couple of times. The food here was good as Sicily has its own food culture with all influences from the Romans, Arabs and Greeks.
We couldn’t get any accommodation in Paris due to some cycle race happening at the time so we headed back down to Strausbourg but stopped in to have a look at Verdun. It was a rainy day for most of the time there and gave a feel for what it was like in World War one where it was a major battlefield against the Germans.
As well as the many nearby war-related sites and remembrance locations for the Battle of Verdun centenary (Douaumont Ossuary and Fort, Fort Vaux, the Sacred Way, Souville Fort, Thiaumont Fortress, etc.), you can visit the city’s underground citadel, built between 1890 and 1893, to help you understand the events of the First World War. This veritable logistical HQ is very impressive and is made up of tunnels where the soldiers lived and military equipment was stored. It has recreations of scenes from everyday life during the battle. This is also where the “unknown soldier” now lying beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was chosen. Over 300.000 soldiers died and a buried here both German and French.
Santorini , Greece
Flying into Santorini it seems an unusual place, with island being on a gradual slope, doen on one side and going up to the main part of Santorini itself.Santorini (or Thera) is one of the most popular holiday destinations worldwide and the most visited of all the Greek islands. It is one of the most magical places you’ve ever seen!, with an a volcanic island off its coast which has in the past exploded, to the white domes buildings and the houses and resorts built into the sides of the cliff. One thing i liked besides the beaches was the obstinate mules who carry the tourists up the hill from the cruise boats, if you get in their way they will steamroll you into the side of a house or cliff and they don’t seem to care.
Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain
Small village Setenil de las Bodegas is carved into the cliffs in southern Spain. This indicates that the locals essentially live in the cliffs and crags of rock much like Matera.
In addition to its picturesque cliffside location, Setenil de las Bodegas has two other notable attractions. The Church of La Encarnación and Nazari Castle are two fascinating sites. Each one is extraordinarily distinctive and solidifies the town’s standing as unique.
At the summit of the hill, you can see Nazari Castle, which was once an Arab castle from the 13th century. One of the final Moorish strongholds before the Christians recaptured the Iberian Peninsula in the late 1400s was this ancient castle. After the previous assault, all but one of the castle’s original towers were destroyed. However, the breathtaking vistas of the charming village below are still worth a little pause.
Mittenwald , Germany
When scheduling a trip to Mittenwald, be sure to allot enough time for a leisurely stroll through the Altstadt. Every street is adorned with timeless tradition, especially the Obermarkt (the main street). Along the town’s pedestrian-friendly streets are several colourful houses, businesses, and murals. It’s a beautiful sight. Everything as you would expect in a German town is in order and well presented.
It’s interesting to note that Mittenwald has a long tradition of excellence in the art of violin manufacture. For this reason, it is frequently referred to as the “Village of a Thousand Violins.” Mittenwald is beautiful and rhythmic, making it the ideal name for the town.
The Karwendel Alps, which form a spectacular background for the town, are another major lure. Due of this, Mittenwald is a desirable location for summer hikes and winter skiing.
It has a great little stream which runs through the centre of the town which gives it a timeless and peaceful ambience.
Ohrid, North Macedonia
This was another place which we stumbled into with no place in mind after coming fron San Bernadino in Spain. The place of Lourdes is probably well known to Catholics as a place of miracles and part of the town is setup for this, but as a destination it is great being on the French side of the Pyrennes it has a unique feel and the Hotels are good with great food. It has a great river flowing through the middle of the town and gives the place a good vibe. They had a good bird show up in the mountainside which show cased all the local birds, and very entertaining.
Lucerne, which lies on the shores of its name-bearing lake, is a mediaeval dream city that is easy to wander through and exudes an ethereal beauty. It will capture your attention as you stroll along the boardwalk as the sun sets in a blaze of gold and pink or as you cruise across its waters to mountains of legend: 2132m (6995ft) Mt. Pilatus, where Wagner gushed about the Alpine panorama and Queen Victoria trotted on horseback, and 1797m (5896ft) Rigi, with a light so exquisite Turner painted it in three different moods.
With the landmark mediaeval Kapellbrücke bridge across the Reuss River, the Jean Nouvel-designed KKL arts centre, and the Sammlung Rosengart, the small city punches much above its weight culturally.
Beautiful lake with the mountains in the background and we stayed in a place called WEggis on the lake shore. Also climbed MT pilatus which was a great experience.