July 27, 2017

Less Crowded Options for European Summer Travels

School is almost out which means summer vacations are right around the corner. If you’re able to vacation any time of year, you might not choose summer to visit Europe but many vacationers only have summertime for a European family vacation.

So how do you beat the summer crowds in Europe?

In my local Sunday paper I found a list of travel options that are less crowded than the more popular destinations. Here are their suggestions for quieter summer destinations in Europe!

Budapest Hungary instead of Paris France

Danube and Parliament Building Budapest Hungary

Budapest by ** Maurice **, on Flickr

Paris is probably one of the most well known travel destinations in the world so it’s not surprising Paris is crowded during the summer! While Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Seine River, the Louvre and the Champs Elysee bring people to Paris, Budapest also has its well known sites. People come to Budapest to see the Fisherman’s Bastion, Parliament Building, the grand boulevard Andrassy Ut and its Spas. Some even say Budapest is the most beautiful city in Central Europe and with the beautiful views over the Danube River I can see why Budapest has earned this label. Budapest and Paris both have long and tumultuous histories, grand architecture covering a vast array of time periods, beautiful cathedrals and gobs of cultural opportunities!

Korcula Croatia instead of Corfu Greece

Panorama of Korčula Croatia

Panorama of Korčula by Zupec on wikimedia

Korcula and Corfu are both stunning islands that offer warm weather, crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches but the comparisons stop there. Sitting off the coast of Greece, Corfu has been the playground for the rich and famous for eons. The island also has a rich heritage dating back to 1300 BC and is full of historic monuments and museums displaying archeological finds from the temples and ancients cities on the island. If you’re looking for a quieter vacation centered on water and beaches, then Korcula may be the perfect place for you! Relax on one of the beautiful beaches, kayak around some of the other islands or snorkel in the clear cool waters of the Adriatic. Korcula also offers great views back to the Dalmation Coast of Croatia!

Baltic Coast of Germany instead of Bavaria Germany

National Park Jasmund on Rugen Island Germany

National Park Jasmund on Rugen Island by Thomas Wolf on wikimedia

If Germany is your destination, you really can’t go wrong visiting either Bavaria or the Baltic Coast.  But if you’re looking for a quieter seaside trip, then the Baltic is an excellent option. When I wrote Warnemunde – A Baltic Beach Resort the number one comment I received was people were surprised Germany has beaches. Yes Germany has glorious beaches and Warnemunde is just one of them! The Baltic coast had been a popular resort area with the aristocrats for years and since reunification, this coastline is gaining in popularity but is still a peaceful respite from the summer crowds found in the more popular tourist destinations. Germany’s Baltic coast is full of long sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, sand dunes, popular resort islands, nature reserves and quaint seaside towns with centers that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Baltic coast still maintains a very definite maritime feel and is a great place to relax while watching sailboats or enjoy a walk or bike ride along the miles of sandy beaches!

What other less-crowded European destinations can you suggest?

Picking a Favorite

Do you ever get asked what your favorite destination in Europe is?

I do.  People ask me regularly what my favorite place is and as I’m about to reply I start thinking what about location A or what about location B?  It’s kind of like asking me to pick my favorite child!

Berchtesgaden Bavaria Germany by Eric Sorenson

Berchtesgaden Germany by Eric Sorenson

I could easily say my favorite place in Europe is Bavaria. I find myself drawn to this part of Germany time and time again.  But by picking Bavaria, what does that say about all the other wonderful places I’ve been?  I mean who couldn’t love the French Basque region? Or Normandy? Or what about InnsbruckLast summer I visited Innsbruck and fell in love. So just because I haven’t spent as much time there means it’s not my favorite?  How do I know it wouldn’t become my favorite if I spent more time there?

 

View of Innsbruck Austria

View of Innsbruck Austria by Leo-setä, on Flickr

And by picking a favorite, where does that leave all the places I dream about visiting? Dordogne, Croatia, Costa Brava and Black Forest are just a few of the places I long to visit.  Will one of these replace my current favorite?

Dordogne river france

Dordogne by Jos Dielis, on Flickr

What makes you label a place as your favorite? Is it the people?  The food?  The scenery? Or is it a sense of peace you get just by being there?  Like love, no words need to be spoken you are just filled with an overwhelming sense of comfort.  Just like an old pair of shoes, this special place fits you like a glove.

Peaceful Lautersee Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

Peaceful Lautersee above Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

If I’m honest, that is exactly how I feel when I visit southern Bavaria. I love the people, the food, the scenery and the ambiance.   It just seems to fit me like a glove and makes me feel warm and comfortable.  This part of Bavaria is also a sentimental favorite since I spent most of my time here during my very first European trip.  So . . .

Grounds of Linderhof Castle Bavaria Germany

Grounds of Linderhof

If I asked you right now to name your favorite place in Europe, what would it be?

Independence Day Celebrations across Europe

Yesterday the United States celebrated the 235th anniversary of its Independence.  It is a day to spend with friends and family commemorating the time when our forefathers declared we would be free of British rule.  We celebrate by having BBQ’s, enjoying local parades, watching fireworks, proudly waving our red, white and blue flags and eating apple pie.

I began to wonder how European countries celebrate their independence.

I randomly selected the following six countries to research how they celebrate their independence or not.

Belgium celebrates its Independence Day on July 21.  This National Day is in recognition of the day in 1830 when they declared their independence from the Dutch.  During the Belgian revolution, on July 21, the 1st Belgian King was inaugurated, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg who was a German!  There is a grand celebration in Brussels where everything is dressed in black, yellow and red flags.  After dark, enjoy wonderful fireworks erupting over the Royal Palace.

Belgium Independence

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, Gustaf Wappers

Germany celebrates its Day of Unity on October 3 in celebration of the reunification of East and West Germany.  The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989 but the treaty reunifying Germany wasn’t signed until October 3, 1990.  There are many festivals and celebrations held locally across the country.

Ireland doesn’t celebrate an Independence Day because the whole of Ireland is not united.  Instead they honor the Easter Uprising which began on April 24, 1916 and was the day Ireland declared their independence from Britain.  For a better understanding of the events surrounding the Easter Uprising, watch the movie Michael Collins.

Birth of the Irish Republic

Birth of the Irish Republic

August 1 is Swiss National Day and it commemorates Switzerland’s First Federal Charter of 1291.  This day is celebrated locally across the nation with parades, fireworks and by displaying the Swiss flag.  It is during this celebration that the Rhine Falls are festively lit up.

On June 25, 1991 Croatia declared it’s independence from Yugoslavia vowing to fight for this independence and keep its borders intact.  At the end of the brutal war, that is what was achieved.   To celebrate this day, Croatia celebrates Statehood Day each June 25 with some parades, speeches and lit candles honoring those who died fighting for Croatian freedom.

July 14 is the day France celebrates Bastille Day or La Fete Nationale (The National Celebration) commemorating the storming of the Bastille on this day in 1789.  This was one of the biggest events that occurred during the French Revolution and is seen as the beginning of the end of the constitutional monarchy which then led to the First Republic.  Bastille Day is celebrated across the country but Paris has the biggest celebration which includes a large Military parade down the Champs Elysees with jet flyovers, fireworks, music, and balls across the town.  I’m sure if you look, you will be able to find a Bastille Day celebration somewhere near you!

Storming of the Bastille Paris France

Storming of the Bastille © Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons

 

Have been to another country during their Independence Day celebration?

What was it like?

Yes Virginia, there are Waterfalls in Europe!

Back in May I wrote a post titled Rhine Falls – Europe’s Biggest and the most common reaction was that readers didn’t seem to know Europe had waterfalls like these!  At the time, the only other waterfall I could name was Trummelbach so I decided to look into it and see what waterfall experiences there are in Europe.

I’m happy to say, there are quite a lot of waterfalls in Europe.  Most don’t come any near the Rhine Falls or other falls you are familiar with but they all are quite beautiful and in areas that are well worth a visit.  So here are 7 European waterfalls you might want to take a look at.

Dettifoss waterfall Iceland

Dettifoss Waterfall Iceland

Dettifoss waterfall is in Northeast Iceland and is the most powerful in all of Europe.  The falls are part of the Vatnajökull National Park and on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river (I know, thats easy for me to say!).  Dropping into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, which is a smaller version of the Grand Canyon, this falls look as magnificent as they are powerful!

Reichenbach Falls Switzerland

Reichenbach Falls by Audriusa

Near Meiringen in central Switzerland are the Reichenbach Falls.  Sitting on the Aar River the falls can be reached by the Reichenbachfall-Bahn funicular.  At the top you will be treated to magnificent views that include the tiered falls as they make their way down 250 meters.  If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, you will know this is the place where Sherlock dies in “The Adventures of the Final Problem.”

Trummelbach Falls Switzerland

Trummelbach Falls by by Doogsta, on Flickr

Trummelbach Falls are Europe’s largest subterranean waterfalls.  Located near Lauterbrunnen Switzerland, the water falls down from the glaciers of the mighty Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch.  These falls are accessible by underground elevator, tunnels and paths.  It is said that the water makes the “mountain shudder and makes a thundering noise.”

Langfoss Waterfall Norway

Langfoss Waterfall by Frokor

Langfoss waterfall is located in Norway and enjoys a year-round flow as the water comes from the lakes and snow pack up above.  These beautiful falls cascade down into the Åkrafjorden.  Unlike the normal waterfalls, the water just seems to rush over the rocks never loosing contact with them.

Plitvice Waterfalls Croatia

Plitvice Waterfalls by paradise on flikr

Plitvice waterfalls are located in the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia and are one of the main draws to the country.  This series of amazing waterfalls connects 16 lakes in the park.  There are many falls in the park and at times it seems that water is everywhere and seeping out of every piece of rock or dirt.

 

Krimml Waterfall Austria

Krimml Waterfall by Emha

Krimml waterfalls in the Salzburgerland part of Austria actually cascades down in 3 different levels.  The longest falls in Europe are best viewed by the paths leading up to different viewing points.  Coming from glacial water, Krimml falls tumbles into the Salzach River and makes its way to the Black sea via the Danube.  These falls are very popular all year round.

High Force Waterfall England

High Force Waterfall England

Yes there are even water falls in England!  Proof is the High Force falls on the River Tees in County Durham.  The entire rives falls over the cliff forming two separate falls.  England’s biggest falls are very beautiful.

 

Do you enjoy waterfalls?  Tell me which one would you most like to visit?

6 Walled Cities of Europe

Walled European cities have a romantic allure to them but if you think about it, there is nothing romantic about the reason the walls were needed in the first place.

These beautiful walls were erected as a defense from invaders.  They were used to squash and kill anyone trying to take over the town.  Literally, thousands have been killed at the base of the fortified walls, which were also used to regulate people and goods going in and out of the city.

Despite all of this, I am drawn to medieval walled cities.  Below are 6 walled cities in Europe that I would love spending time in wandering through their streets listening as the wind tells their story.

Medieval Carcassone France

Fortified cité of Carcassonne by thierry, on Flickr

Carcassonne France

Europe’s largest medieval fortress is Carcassonne.  Located in southwestern France, near the foot of the Pyrenees, Carcassonne rises above the lovely vineyards in the valley below.  The mighty walls were first erected by the Romans during the 1st century but the elements have taken their toll making it necessary to restore these walls to their magnificent beginnings.  Make sure you spend some time strolling through the impressive gates and cobblestoned streets stopping by the pleasing shops and restaurants.

Dubrovnik Croatia a medieval village

Dubrovnik Croatia by Rambling Traveler, on Flickr

Dubrovnik Croatia

To say that Dubrovnik is a beautiful city is truly an understatement.  This walled city at the southern end of Croatia sits like the beautiful star it is overlooking the Adriatic.  Heralded as the most beautiful spot in the Mediterranean, Croatia is filled with streets that are lined with Baroque buildings and is steeped in architectural wonders.  The Old Town of this stunning city is home to many churches, monasteries and fountains.  Make sure to leave time to enjoy views of the Adriatic by walking along the city’s intact walls.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Bavaria Germany

Rothenburg Panorama courtesy of Bayern Tourismus

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany

Rothenburg holds a very special place in my heart.  During my first ever trip to Germany I visited Rothenburg and fell in love with this amazingly quaint village.  Yes it is touristy but it is worth every minute you will spend here.  Walking down cobblestoned streets you will be greeted by old houses, towers and gateways that have all withstood the test of time. At every corner you come face to face with the history this town has seen.  Be sure to enjoy walking the city walls, which almost circle the town, and from which you can get amazing views of the Tauber valley below.

Medieval York England

York Minster from the Roman walls by James Preston, on Flickr

York England

York welcomes those that love history.  This magical city hold much English history as it was the 2nd most important city in all of England at one point in history.  This historic town is surrounded by a 700 year old wall.  The grand cathedral of York, The Minster, looms above the city.    This gothic structure took over 250 years to complete and contains many stained glass windows along with the flying buttresses.  There is much to do in York but don’t forget to spend time wandering her narrow cobblestoned streets gazing at the timbered buildings.

Medieval Bruges Belgium

Bridge over Bruges Canal, Belguim by kevgibbo, on Flickr

Bruges Belgium

Two thousand year old Bruges is known as the Venice of the north due to the many canals gracing the city.  At one point in history, Bruges was the most important commercial city in Europe.  Walking the streets of Bruges is a great way to soak up the history that greets you at every turn.  Explore inside the city walls to see the churches, castle, romantic canals, chocolate shops, colorful homes and museums.  You can even visit the Diamond museum or the French fry museum!

Medieval Avila Spain

Ávila by valakirka, on Flickr

Avila Spain

As you approach Avila you will be treated to a very stimulating sight.  From a distance, you can see the 11th century fortress standing as it must have yesterday.  This is the oldest fortification in all of Spain and home to a gothic cathedral and striking 15th century houses.  The most fun is spending time strolling the old town with its cobblestone streets and abundance of plazas.  Don’t forget to look for the storks that make their home under the rooftops of the city.

 

Have you been to any of these medieval cities?

What other walled cities would you add to the list and why?