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It's been said that the country of Latvia is one of Europe's hidden treasures; and that very well might be true. Found along the Baltic Sea, Latvia is uncrowed, and chocked full of history--all the way back to when it belonged to the Teutonic Knights.
The best time to enjoy Lativa is from June to September, when the days are bright, warm, and sunny. Winters can be long, harsh, and snowy; so if you don't mind that, October to May is perfectly wonderful, too.
Colder weather will keep you from Latvia's sandy coastline, but the Black Balsam (served with either coffee or Vokda) can help keep you warm. And dishes like piragi (stuffed pasty with bacon and onion) will stick to your ribs during the rough winter.
When a happening nightlife is what you're looking for, Riga (its capital) has it. Not only are there the traditional nightclubs, cafes, and bars; but the city has a good number of "adult entertainment" places.
Oh, isn't that a nice way of saying that Riga's full of strip clubs.
Latvia's full of lakes (12,000 of them), too; so find one you like, and just walk. It's exercise for the body and soul.
Walking is what's on the agenda during the Procession at the Basilica of Aglona, a pilgrimage that's some 150,000 people strong on August 1th.
Rather have peace and quiet? Latvia is full of forests, so it's easy to lose yourself within them. Over by the Gauja River Gorge you will find a ruined castle, if you're interested.
Within the Gauja National Park you'll also find pretty forest speckled with caves, and camping facilities. There are 22 other campsites spread out over Latvia's other National Parks, in case you're wondering.
One of the most famous castles in Latvia is Turaida Castle, an imposing structure that was built for defense. Another castle awaits in Cesis, a cobblestoned medieval town. But nothing compares to the Rococo styled Rundale Palace, richly and ornately decorated in bright reds, pastel pinks, and all other colors of the rainbow.
For a look back at Latvia's more modern history head to the town of Liepaja to see its KGB Museum. For anyone not old enough to know who the KGB were, they were the Soviet's dreaded secret police. Then go to Liepaja's beaches--a quiet place to contemplate.
Do you see what's hidden within Latvia; and how lucky its 2 million residents are to live around National Parks (with camping, no less), eat stick to your rib goodies, or just to wander around cities like the capital of Riga.
What's even more remarkable is how easy it is to get around, with its excellent public transportation, rail network, and inexpensive shared taxis. All you need to get here is a simple passport, no visa or onward ticket necessary. Beautiful and easy-going, you can't ask for more than that about any destination.
Why hasn't everyone heard about Latvia? Maybe it's better they haven't, let it be a wonderful secret between friends.
Just because it won't take you long to get through the teeny, tiny, miniscule country of Liechtenstein, doesn't mean that you should skip it altogether. Who cares if it's only 160 square kilometers. Who cares if the entire country doesn't even have 35,000 residents.
What you should care about is how strikingly beautiful those few kilometers are. Located between Austria and Switzerland, Liechtenstein enjoys a temperate alpine climate; making its summers nice and warm, while its winters are kind of mild.
Amazing, considering it lies really close to the Austrian Alps. Perfect for some great winter activities. However, it's the lush green warmer months that really shows off.
But, you got to get here first before you can enjoy it. Liechtenstein doesn't even have its own airport. It shares Basel's International Airport with Switzerland, and the rules of entry are the same as its Swiss neighbor.
That means all you need is your passport, or European ID Card. No fuss. No muss. You're now free to roam about the country. Both taxis and car rentals are available, but bicycles are you best option, offering some 56 miles of bike trails thoughout.
Hiking through the region of the Rhine Valley will certainly delight, as well. It's kinda high up, 4,920 feet above sea level. Splendid scenery if ever there was any.
With an elevation like that, no wonder Liechtenstein is a winter sports haven. In the Malbun area you've got everything from skiing to a slegde run, to cross-country skiing.
One important thing to remember, with all the winter sports to do it's best to make sure you've got comprehensive medical insurance before leaving home. Its capital city of Vaduz has a good number of museums. The city itself has only about 5,000 people living here, but everyone is welcome to visit the National Library, the Liechtenstein Art Museum, Ski Museum, and Postage Stamp Museum.
For some reason, Liecthenstein's postage stamps are one of the biggest items bought here. Pottery and ceramics are also popular items, but stamps?
Vaduz is also the place to visit the Prince's Wine Cellar. Oh, can't you just taste the delicious vino? Try Vaduzer, a locally made red wine with some Käseknöpfle, a cheese dumpling dish. Wait, wouldn't that go better with a white?
FYI--no worries about eating or drinking in Liechtenstein, everything is safe.
From the sound of its food, German seems to be a big influence. It is, it's the official language; but English is spoken all over the place.
English or German, doesn't matter so long as you get around to seeing the Gutenburg Castle (what's Europe without a castle or two), and the Chapel of St. Peter in Balzars. Don't leave out a visit to the Roman excavations while you're at it, either.
After a day of sightseeing, some nightlife around Liechtenstein is mostly bars and clubs in the towns of Balzars, Triesen, and Eschen.
Who's got the energy to go clubbing after paragliding, hiking, biking, and anything else you've thought of all day?
Considered to be the largest of the Baltic States, Lithuania is a little seen wonderland of lakes, some 2,800 of them, scattered about its 65,000 square kilometers.
There's more to this country that's been occupied by the Russians, the Nazis, then the Russians again. It's a land of action sports, sandy beaches, old churches, and lively nightlife and cultural pursuits.
Its capital city of Vilnius has the largest Old Town is all of Europe; and filled within it is its St. Ann and Sts. Peter & Paul Churches. Vilnius also hosts a grandiose International Folklore Festival (Skamba Skamba Kankliai) every May in its Old Town, where you find crafts and food, singing, and just about everything else.
One of the most exciting things to do in Vilnius (not including its discos and bars) is bungee jump from its television tower. Or, a hot air balloon ride might be a more prefered option.
Getting from the capital to other parts of Lithuania is somewhat easy. Rail service to places like Kaunas, and sleeper trains that'll zing you along to the Baltic Coast make it an attractive option.
One village that's a must-see (no matter how you get there) is Nida, known more for its action-filled adventures than anything else. Here you can sail, windsurf, paraglide, whatever strikes your fancy. Of course, just walking along its lighthouse is also good.
Palanga is another seaside resort town; and its attractions include an Amber Museum and Botanical Park.
Nature is just what the doctor order in Lithuania. A quarter of the country is covered by forest, and hiking through the UNESCO Curonian Spit National Park is a good way to see its pine forests. You'll find some sand dunes here too, if you're interested.
Some of you might be more interested in castles, and the Trakai Castle (14th century) is beautifully designed with its red brick and red roof. The town of Trakai is located along Lake Galve, a picture perfect place in the heart of Lithuania.
Shopping in Lithuania is a treat, too. Baltic Amber and linens are two of the best deals you can get here in Lithuania. Make sure you bring some home.
Too bad you can't bring home some local dishes from Lithuania, like salti barsciai, a cold soup; or vedarai, a potato sausage.
No concerns about food or water safety here in Lithuania, but you might find the water a bit cloudy due to its minerals. Bottled and/or filtered water is available if you want.
Better yet so you don't have that problem, try some midus, a local spirit made from honey.
Have one after a night on the town in Lithuania, but the choice is yours if you're going to take in an Opera, Ballet, theater, or film.
The last one might be hard if you don't speak Lithuanian, but other than that English is spoken some.
Sound like your kind of place? All you need is a passport or EU Identity Card, no visa or onward ticket required. Sounds simple, because it is.
Bordering Germany, France, and Belgium is the small country of Luxembourg, a small duchy just 2500 square kilometers. It has a population of just about a half-million with a Catholic majority.
Luxembourg's northern region falls along the Ardennes, while the south is more farming lowlands. If you're looking for a rainbow of colors, the northern areas during the Fall is just the thing.
Come winter, the Ardennes areas can get snowy. So, unless you like to bundle up, head south where it's warmer.
Geography and topography aside, places like Luxembourg City are filled with cobblestone streets, framed by cafes and restaurants. Its Old Town has a 17th century Cathedral (Notre Dame), and a Grand Ducal Palace (only open in July & August).
One must see castle in Luxembourg is the 12th century one in Clervaux. This is also the region for the Battle of the Bulge, if you're more interested in modern history.
If you want older, head to Echternach where you'll find a 7th century Benedictine Abbey. There's a museum here to tell you all about it.
Two more castles can be found in Beaufort and Larochette in the Müllerthal Region. Or, as it's affectionately called, Little Switzerland. Note because it's got international banking, but for its forests and rock formations.
However, it's about two other countries in the town of Schengen. It was here where the German and French borders meet up with Luxembourg; and was the site of the signing of the Schengen Agreement that virtually did away with border control in the European Union. The Gardens Without Borders through the area is an extra added treat.
The close proximity to these other countries has influenced the food in Luxembourg. And if you want something sweet, try the Tarte aux quetsches, or Plum Tart. And the Eau de vie is a fruit spirit that can also be made with plums.
Wine tasting tours through Luxembourg are also popular, and rightfully fitting since the country lies along the Moselle wine growing region.
Or, in German, the Mosel. It's easy enough to switch back and forth between French and German since both are the official language. Within the last few years a German/Mosel dialect known as Lëtzebuergesch was added as another official language. English isn't just widely spoken, but excellent English is widely spoken.
Great, all the better to get yourself excellent deals on some shopping around here. The porcelain and crystal are of excellent quality, perfect trinkets to bring home. Designer clothes are also a good buy.
After all the eating, drinking, sightseeing, and shopping--you'll need to relax. The thermal baths in Mondorf-les-Bains are perfect.
No need to worry about how to get from place to place in Luxembourg, even if the country has only one airport and taxis are expensive. Bike rentals are cheap, costing about 7-10 Euros a day. Trains are inexpensive too, but a slower option than driving. A leisurely cruise along the Mosel is just as nice, so long as you do it between Easter and September.
No worries about health concerns, either. The worst you'll have to consider is a flu shot in the winter.
That's about all you need for a trip to Luxembourg, and a passport, of course. Not for everyone, that Schengen Agreement means anyone from the EU gets to enter with only their ID card.
Let's hear it for Luxembourg!
The modern day country of Macedonia was once part of the now gone Yugoslavia, ruled behind the Iron Curtain by the Soviets in the mid to late 20th century. Today the country still experiences some of the bureaucracy of the time, but it's a small price to pay to see it.
For thousands of years people have come to Macedonia (which borders Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania), the Greeks and Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Turks; and they've all wanted to stay. So will you.
Start at the capital city of Skopje, whose Old Town is chocked full of restaurants and shops. Try some gravce tavce, a bean skillet dish; and a burek, a pie filled with ham, spinach, cheese in a flaky crust. Or, go for something served with ajvar, a sauce made with red peppers--the sweet kind, of course.As wonderful as eating as your way through Macedonia, it's got a historical side that begs to be seen. Just 11 miles from the Greek border are the Ottoman Ruins in the town of Bitola.
Bitola is connected to Skopje by rail, so getting here is simple enough. In fact, much of Macedonia is connected by train--making it an easy way to get around.
How else will you be able to see the Church of the Holy Saviour (16th century) in places like Kursumli? Or, the 10th century Kale Fortress and the 12th century Byzantine frescoes at St. Pantlejmon, for that matter?
Much of Macedonia's sites have to do with monasteries and mosques, in part due to its medieval and Ottoman history. But as said before, Greeks and Romans once lorded over the land. So to see what they've left behind, head to Heraclea Lyncestis, dating from the 4th century BC. It's mosaics are a stunning look at Ancient art, that's for sure.
The natural side of Macedonia is as wonderful as anything else, which you can see from the Korab, the tallest mountain in the country. The Smolare Waterfall is striking, and the with three large lakes you're bound to find one you love.
Lake Ohrid might be the clear winner, where you'll find fortress walls and the first Slavic University. After a walk around the lake, make sure you see the 11th century frescoes at the Cathedral of St. Sofia.
All that's necessary to experience the best of Macedonia is either a passport or European Union Identification Card. Only some foreign nationals need a visa, so checking with the consulate is wise.
Even if you don't speak Macedonian, you'll be fine. A myriad of languages are spoken throughout its 25,000 square kilometers--from Albanian, Turkish, English, French, and German.
So long as you can communicate with one of these, you can talk about the weather to anyone listening. Just remember, summers can get very hot (perfect for all the watersports); and winters can get very cold. No wonder skiing is a popular activity.
And with no known health concerns, Macedonia is a relatively safe place to travel. No wonder no one wanted to leave.
Spread throughout only 316 square kilometers in the Mediterranean Sea is the closest you'll find to Heaven on Earth. The 400,000 thousand people who live here just call it Malta.
It's a relatively new nation, only gaining independence from Britain back in 1964, but it's history dates back to the Phoenicians from Antiquity. There's a Catholic majority, and the country does have a conservative attitude.
That doesn't mean you won't be able to hit up its incredible beaches--it just means that if you're visiting places like its many churches, cover up.
The capital city is Valletta, a city full of churches and cafes, palaces and museums. From here you can get bus connections to just about any where else on the island, and not very expensively either.
The vintage buses will take you to the ferries that'll shuttle you over to Gozo and Comino, two smaller (and less inhabited) islands. Gozo isn't just a pretty face with its beaches and hiking trails; the Santa Maria Cathedral has a dome with 3-D artwork, marble floors, and a museum.
Another historical site on Gozo are the Ggantija Temples, built 5000 years ago--and have earned a UNESCO designation.
Gozo does have what's known as the Azure Window, a complex of caves with brightly colored coral, and rock formations.
Back on the big island, the Blue Grotto is a site to behold too. Named for the one on the island of Capri, Malta's Blue Grotto runs from light turquoise to a deep blue along limestone caves; and said to best be seen in the early morning light.
On Comino, the Blue Lagoon welcomes the beach loving crowd for a day of sun-filled fun. Just prepare yourself for the crowds that flock here every summer, it's peak season.
You could head to Golden Bay, another sun-kissed coast with golden sand; offering horseback rides along the beach. You can even get a sunset ride, quite romantic really.
Pulling yourself away from the pristine beaches might be hard, but knowing you're of to see the lands of medieval Knights might get you motivated. Mdina has a 13th century palazzo and a Cathedral overlooking St. Paul's Bay.
All the sightseeing and beach activities can make you hungry. Maltese cuisine has a Mediterranean flavor with dishes like pastizzi, a pastry stuffed with peas or ricotta cheese. Fenek, by the way, is rabbit cooked in wine. Enjoy whatever you eat with Cisk lager, the national beer.
It'll be easy to order off the menu (and with no food health concerns, it's even easier to order) if you don't speak Maltese, since English is also the official language. Italian is widely spoken, too.
Getting from place to place in Malta is simple. Buses are inexpensive, and bicycle and mopeds are also readily available. Just remember they drive on the left side.
Since Malta is part of the European Union all you need is a European Union ID Car, for others a passport will do. Some foreign nationals need an onward ticket, but no visa. It's always best to check with the consulate before leaving home, since rules are always changing.
Don't let anything stop you from visiting Malta, a true paradise in Europe--if not the world.
The best way to describe the Eastern European country of Moldova would be to say it's the land that tourism forgot. For anyone looking to get away from the "been there, done that" European tour, Moldova makes the best choice.
The Huns and Magyars (the folks that settled Hungary), Romans, Mongols, and Russians have also laid claim to the place, each putting their own stamp and flair to it.
Moldova's snowy winters didn't stop them from coming. But, perhaps they fell more in love with the crisp Autumn days, and warm summers. It might've been the landscape that was great for growing wine grapes, too.
You'll find vineyards all over the place, making a hundred different varieties of vino; including the favorites like Riesling, Merlot, and Moldovan Cabarnet.Many of Moldova's wines pair nicely with much of its cuisine, inlcuding mititeyi (a grilled sausage with peppers and onions), and tocana (pork stew served with apples). For dessert try Nistru, a brandy that's great for after dinner.
It's a good call to bring home a few bottles of the stuff, but don't forget to pick up some embroidered items and wood-carved bric-a-brac.
In order to eat the local food, drink the local wines, and shop for locally made goods--you got to get here. A simple passport is required for everyone, and no visa is needed for most visitors. To save yourself a headache later on, check with the consulate before leaving to double-check if one is needed.
No trip to Moldova is ever complete without a stop in the capital city of Chisinau, once called Kishinev. Whatever name it goes by, the city is a cultural gem. The Pushkin House details the life of the Russian poet's exile; and the city is filled with Opera Houses, Concert Halls, and Theaters.
Chisinau's Choral Synagogue is now the Chekhov Drama Theater. That's killing two sightseeing birds with one stone. Other cultural pursuits in the city include Puppet Theater, the Symphony Orchestra, and litte cafes and restaurants.
People watching and eating is a cultural activity, in case you were wondering.
A country this old is bound to have a number of historical sites to see. Benderi is one of the oldest villages in the country, and you should see its 17th century fortress.
The History & Regional Lore Museum (in Chisinau) is a fun (and educational) way of learning about the place, too.
Moldova's landscape is as extraordinary as its history, the Emil Racovita is a gypsum cave complex going in some 291,000 feet (with underground lakes, no less), spread out over different levels with names like Cinderella's Hall.
You can visit most parts of the cave, so long as you've got an experienced guide with you.
No guides necessary to hit up the thermal spas in towns like Cahul--total relaxation all by yourself.
You'll need to relax if you're trying to drive your way around the country. Roads outside the capital are in pretty bad shape, but the train connects to most towns, making it a much better choice. Within the city itself, buses and trolleys are cheap, but tend to get crowded. With locals, of course, since Moldova's the forgotten land of tourism.
Isn't nice to have the place to yourself?
Not too many places in the world say opulence, wealth, and prestige more so than the tiny Principality of Monaco. For years this has been the prime destination for the jet-set, the movers and shakers, and the world's elite. Many of whom have their own little private beaches at Lavartto Beach.
There's no checkpoint at the border, which lies between the French and Italian Riviera, that checks your bank statement before letting you in. They might, however, check your passport--and the same entry requirements for France apply here.
But, thanks to its "discreet banking" (oh, that's a great term for keeping your cash away from the tax collector) it's been a haven for the wealthy. This is why Monaco is all about the glitz and glamour, the yachts, and expensive cars.
It'll even cost you to enter its famous Grand Casino in the capital of Monte Carlo. You must carry your passport with you to enter (after paying, of course), since no one under 21 is allowed in. This is the James Bond kind of casino, full of High Rollers.
Within the Grand Casino are a number of restaurants and it offers nightly entertainment. Some say it's over the top, but this is Monaco--everything is over the top.
How Monaco manages to do it, considering it's not even 2 square kilometers, is amazing. And it's still run by the same family more than 700 years later. No one in Monaco's Royal Family is probably more famous than Princess Grace, an actress from Philadelphia who married her Prince Charming. In Monte Carlo's Romanesque Cathedral, by the way.
A number of sites have her name on them, but none may be more beautiful than the Princess Grace Rose Garden. This isn't the only Gardens in town, try to see the St. Martin Gardens and Japanese Gardens too, if you can.
Princess Grace and her husband lived in the Place du Palais, built in 1215. Some say the Throne Room and Courtyard are the most beautiful places in the palace, but the view of the water is also spectacular.
Monaco might be full of the world's wealthy, but for anyone out there with a less full wallet can be rich in knowledge. Monaco boats a good number of museums, like the Stamp & Coin Museum (Monaco's stamps are highly prized by collectors), the Oceanographic Museum (with Aquarium), and a Wax Museum await.
And as with any place that caters to those with some extra cash to throw around, there are spas. After a nice spa treatment, get dressed up for a night at the Opera House.
You won't want to dress up too much for the annual Monaco Grand Prix, where drivers careen around the small winding streets. Too crowded an event for you? Consider taking a helicopter ride, giving you a birds-eye view of the Mediterranean and Monaco.
A fun way of seeing the Old Town of Monte Carlo is the Azur Express, giving tours in four languages. French, English, and Italian are all widely spoken around here--but the tour does it in German, too.
In any language the glitz of Monaco shines on.
In 2006 the marriage between Serbian and Montenegro was over. Today the country of Montenegro is a Republic; and a hidden jewel within Europe. It isn't very big, just 14,000 square kilometers. It isn't very populated, less than 700,000 people. But, it boasts some 117 beaches along the Adriatic Sea. And since it isn't exactly one of the world's biggest tourist spots, it's not all that crowded.
For starters, in the town of Ulcinj you'll find seven miles of beach. And after you're done lounging around paying homage to the Sun God, come see the rest of the city that's got a City Museum housed in the Renaissance Church Mosque.
The town of Kotor, a cute little port city with an Old Town, has its own historical sites, like the 17th century clock Tower, but the 12th century Cathedral of St. Tiphun is the show stopper.
Montenegro's capital city of Podgorica isn't a totally happening place for visitors, many prefer to head to Bar; home to the oldest olive tree in the world (more than 2,000 years old). The olive oil produced here is some of the world's best. Take that, Italy!
Bar is reached by rail from Podgorica, as are some other of Montenegro's towns. Driving can be a bit rough because many roads are in poor condition, making night driving especially hazardous. Then you've got the toll boots to contend with. Stick to the train.
Whatever small inconveniences you might incur to get from place to place is but a mere blip, considering what you'll get on the return. Montenegro's Primeval Forest National Park is one of the few remaining "jungles" left in Europe. As you're walking along Biogradska Lake, make sure you look up to find the eagles.
Another must-do is the Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO area that's got all sorts of hiking and biking trails through its pine forest and gorges. This is where you'll find the deepest gorge in Europe, so in this park make sure you look down.
The 17th century monastery in Ostrug is another spot where you should look down, as it was built right on the edge of a vertical cliff.
Speaking of monasteries, there's one in the 700 year old town of Herceg Novi. And it's right back full circle after you've seen it, since there are some fantastic beaches here, too.
Some people prefer eating their way around a country, and Montenegro is a good place to do it. Try the clear fish soup, or smoked ham known as prsuta. The markets in Montenegro offer the freshest fruits and veg, as well as locally made cheese. Who needs expensive restaurants when you've got this. And don't worry, all produce in Montenegro is considered safe to eat, and water safe to drink. You could always stick to just drinking grape brandy known as Rakija.
For nightlife you'll have to stick to the major towns and cities, offering nightclubs and discos. Shopping is a bigger activity than clubbing, and in Herceg Novi you'll find art galleries and local jewelry craft shops.
To get here you'll just need a passport or EU Identification Card. No visa or onward ticket for most foreign nationals to complicate things.
All the better to get to Montenegro then.
Mention the word Holland, and just about everyone will shout out about the Red Light District in Amsterdam. The folks visiting the coffee shops, might give a different answer. There's more to the Netherlands, its other name, than just this--if you're willing to take the time to get to know her.
The country itself borders both Belgium and Germany, and lies along the North Sea Coast. This is one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands, since you'll find five Wadden Islands full of sandy beaches, and ferries to shuttle you over. One of the best activities is mudflat hiking.
It's simple enough, just wait for the tide to roll out--and walk. It's best to take a guide with you who knows the tide table if you're not familiar with them.
Dotting the Holland landscape are the famous windmills, used to help with keeping the country from being flooded since much of the land is actually below sea level.
The capital city of Amsterdam isn't known for its windmills, but more for its liberal activities. The Red Light District isn't a family affair, best left to the adults walking along doorways filled with scantily clad women. This isn't the only adult entertainment, as there are all sorts of other "shops" for the open-minded.
Some minds, however, are focused only on Amsterdam's coffee shops. Best put this way--if you want coffee go to a cafe. If you want to smoke marijuana, go to a coffee shop. Most of whom don't allow cigarette smoking, but hash and pot are OK.
Ponder that as you head to Amsterdam's Flower Auction, a center more than 10 million square feet of the sweetest smelling buds on the planet. You gotta get up early, it's best to be there by 7am.
You can sleep in later if you're going to one of the Netherlands' Cheese Markets. All sorts of dairy delights are waiting for you. And if you want more flowers, the tulips at the Keukenhof Garden (all four million of them) await.
No matter what, no trip to Amsterdam should be without a stop to the Anne Frank House. A solemn reminder of Amsterdam's history.
On the lighter side, food is another great experience in Holland. Try the stamppot, made with smoked sausage and mashed potatoes--it's like a Dutch version of Bangers and Mash. Flemish Fries are a good snack, and usually served with mayo. And don't freak out wondering what a kip is, it's just chicken.
Wash your lunch down with a good Dutch beer. Perhaps you already have--Amstel or Heineken are two of the biggest and best brews around.
You can get Amstel just about anywhere in the world, but the blue/white Delft is best bought here. So are the wooden shoes that the Dutch are famous for; and you'll also find some beautiful crystal and glass pieces.
Getting around the Netherlands to all these wonderful places is easy. Excellent trains run from Schipol Airport to the City Center where you can catch all sorts of TRAMS and buses to just about everywhere.
For as many people visit the capital, it's an exceptionally quiet city--mostly because so many folks ride bikes, so less traffic noise to contend with. All you need is a passport or Euro Union ID Card. And with no major health concerns or risks, you're pretty much good to go.
Now, who knows where the best coffee shop is?
Tours in Norway :
Norway, home to Norse Gods and Vikings. Home to past Olympic Glory. Home to some of the best landscape in the world. Come to think of it, it's not fair to summarize Norway like that.
It's a country of stunning landscape, full of fjords that'll leave even the most chatty person speechless. Hopefully you can brave the cold, since it gets mighty frigid up here--especially in the areas above the Arctic Circle. Then again, how else are you going to see the aurora borealis (or the Northern Lights, as its called)?
Days of darkness in the winter means a land of the Midnight Sun in the summer. One of the most popular things to do this time of year is a "coastal voyage", stopping at as many as 35 destinations along Norway's 25,000km of coast. Everyone wants to get a glimpse of the Sognefjord, the longest fjord in the country.
It seems everyone wants to see Norway's Voeringsfossen Waterfall, a 984-foot drop in the countryside between Bergen and the capital of Oslo.
Don't even bother to try to choose between Bergen and Oslo, you got to do both. Oslo's full of museums and a Royal Palace (only open between June and August). Bergen's the UNESCO town with a fish market and funicular.
Also near Bergen in the Hardanger Fjord; and Trolltunga--or the Troll's Tongue. This rock formation is the ultimate seat to see the fjords, but it'll cost you. Not in money, but sweat--this is one heck of a hike, but so worth it to feel like you're on top of the world.
Pulpit Rock will do that for you, too. Cruse along its blue waters as the cliffs jut some 1,969 feet above you.
Glacier hiking is great, too. And if you don't mind elk coming into your backyard, rent a little lakeside cabin for a few nights.
Roasted elk (and reindeer) are some regional Norwegian dishes, if you're willing to give 'em a try. Not so adventurous? Try the Lutefisk (cod), or brunost that's a brown cheese. You'll be lucky if you're here in the summer--that's when you'll get cloudberries called multer.
Nothing says food more than festivals, and one of the biggest is the St. Olav Fest, celebrated since 1030 when Christianity came to the country; that's predominately Lutheran today.
Another way to see what religion has done to Norway, look no further than its 28 medieval churches. Yes, it doesn't sound like a lot--but these are all wooden churches, the oldest one dating to 1130.
How ever much you choose to see of Norway, you'll love it; more so since getting around is very easy. Bikes and ferries are the best modes of transportation; trains (both express and overnight) are punctual and inexpensive. Catamarans and hydrofoil are also good. The roads are excellent, but expensive because of the all the tolls.
Norway is lucky enough not to have any major health concerns or safety issues--but medical insurance is a good idea, only for all its major winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and anything else you can do on the white stuff. Now, isn't Norway nifty?
Poland co hosts to Euro 2012 along with the Ukraine.Euro 2012 is Europes own international tournament.
Bordering seven countries spreading out over some 312 thousand square miles is the totally underrated country of Poland. Mostly famous for its World War II history, Poland is actually quite an old country with sandy beaches, Teutonic Castles, and its famous sausages.
Just about 95-percent of Poland is Catholic, and its people friendly but conservative. The official language here is Polish, but English and French are spoken by many of its 38 million residents. You will hear Russian being spoken, but said to be less so as the years of its former Soviet Occupation pass.
Before the Soviets came to Poland, the Nazi were here. Their Auschwitz Concentration Camp stands as a memorial and State Museum to those who lost their lives to the atrocities associated with the regime.
World War II caused its capital city of Warsaw to have to be totally rebuilt. Using plans from the 16-and 1700s, the city maintains an Old World feel, despite actually being just over half a century old.
Krakow (often spelled Cracow) is much older, and now a UNESCO area with its 14th century gate into its Old Town. Cities like Wroclaw, originally Breslau in German, are also historical having a 15th century Town Hall (a Rathaus in German) that's now a museum. As beautiful as it is, the 100 bridges of Breslau are really remarkable.
Gdansk is another fantastic Polish city, home to the Black Madonna said to be painted by St. Luke himself; and the Basilica of St. Mary, the largest Gothic church in Poland. Not too far away you'll find a number of castles that used to belong to the Teutonic Knights.
Don't you just love Knights in shining armor?
You'll love the Chopin House, with all sorts of information on the famous composer; but it's the beaches of Szczecin along the Baltic Sea Coast that's the true winner.
Don't you just love lounging around on the sand all day?
The Baltic Coast, by the way, offers some 325 miles of coastline--so you're bound to find a spot you love, even if it isn't the port city of Szczecin. Or as the Germans called it, Stettin.
Name changes can all be pondered while trekking around Poland. You can have some fun with sleigh rides, or mushroom picking. But you can also do some regular hiking, too. The Bialowieza National Park is a good one for seeing all kinds of wildlife, including bears, European bison, wolves, and wild horses.
Who knew Poland was so untamed?
It's also quite cultured on the flip side of the coin. A place of arts and crafts, cinema, a National Opera, nightclubs, bars, and dancing. Polish posters are said to be highly valued by collectors, so if you can get one--go for it.
What you need to get is a seat in a Polish restaurant, ordering things like pierogi (often referred as a ravioli or dumpling) stuffed with all sorts of goodies, or bigos made with cabbage, onion, and some kind of meat. And who can mention meat in Poland without saying anything about kielbasa. It's really good with cabbage, too.
If you're gonna drink like the Polish big boys, you better order your vodka "neat". No appletinis for this crowd. Ah, the vodka will keep you warm on those cold Polish winter nights. But, if you want beer--ask for it in Polish as piwo.
It's totally shocking that Poland really is underrated, but you'll know how wonderful it truly is.
A few hundred years ago the country of Portugal was chocked full of Explorers ready to make their mark on the world all for their country. Today Portugal is still making its mark on the world. This time not with Explorers ready to settle New Worlds, but for those looking to come here to play and experience its grand history.
While Lisbon might be Portugal's capital city, it's the country's smaller towns that really shine. Places like Alfama, twisting lanes full of churches and medieval stairs, bordered by little taverns serving up a good drink.
Braga's history dates back even further, to the Romans. Roman ruins are the highlight, but so are the many Baroque churches that came along more than a thousand years later.
Further back in Portugal's history are the rock carvings found at the Coa Valley Archaeological Park, with a UNESCO designation no less.
But it always comes back to the Middle Ages in Europe, doesn't it? Towns like Tomar offer a chance to see a Knights Templar Castle, while Ribeira has both a a part Romanesque- part Gothic Cathedral, and a palace.
Over in Sintra, a hillside town, there's a castle that was the summer home of Portugal's Royal Family.
Sinta's where you'll get the chance to try some Queijadas de Sintra, a locally made cheese tart. Some people might say that Portuguese cooking doesn't get the respect it rightfully deserves compared to neighboring Spain, or countries like Italy. But, you'll find it to be quite delicious, often using curry spices to flavor the freshest ingredients.
With good food comes good wine, which you'll find in the Douro Valley. Whites or Reds, doesn't matter--they're both good. A ride along the Douro River can only be better if you've got a glass of wine to go along with you.
Save the vino for after you've tackled most of Portugal's sports. You'll need a clear head to come in under par at one of the country's many golf courses; or if you're going to try windsurfing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and just about any other sport you can think to do along 500 miles of coastline.
Speaking of the sun, best to take care to avoid sunburn or sunstroke. Portugal's summers are exceptionally hot, so make sure you drink plenty of water, as well as wear a hat will help.
The island of Madeira is also a sun-lover's paradise; and easily reached by ferry from the mainland. Getting around on Portugal's mainland itself is easy, too. Domestic flights are available if you want to be there quick, while the country's extensive network of trains will get you almost anywhere you want to throughout its 92.000 square kilometers.
Driving on the roads isn't as hazardous as some of the Portuguese drivers themselves, so caution is advised if you're going to drive yourself around. Maybe it's best to let the professionals do it. Taxis are inexpensive, and no tipping is really required--although it's good form to round up the fare.
Hmm, is it possible that the Portuguese stopped exploring new worlds because they realized how wonderful they had it home?
When it comes to Romania two very famous (yet strikingly different) names come to mind: Vlad the Impaler and Nadia Comaneci. And two very distinct regions also come to mind: the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania.
What you'll find in between these two regions (and its famous and infamous residents) is a country full of wonder and surprises, wine and castles, thermal springs and food influenced by a handful empires.
FYI--for those of you who don't know, Nadia Comaneci was an Olympic gymnast during Romania's days in the Eastern Bloc; and the first woman to ever receive a score of a perfect-10.
Vlad the Impaler, who didn't get his name until after his death in the late 15th century, was the Prince of Wallachia (Vlad Tepes) who impaled tens of thousands of his enemies on long poles. No one ever said life in the Middle Ages was an easy one.
A picture of him hangs in Innsbruck's Ambras Castle, but he's most famous for being the inspiration for Count Dracula. His Bran Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world.
Vlad was born in the medieval town of Sighisoara, which still has many of its cobblestone streets and nine towers.
Another wonderful Romanian town is Biertan, found in Transylvania; full of stunning Saxon churches. In the town of Costanta, once a bustling Byzantine port town, dates back to the 6th century BC to the days of the Ancient Greeks.
The natural side of Romania is a sight to behold. Hiking through the Carpathian Mountains is a great way to see it; and the forests are quiet and full of wildlife like bears and wolves. Wintertime doesn't stop the action, bobsledding is always good.
Close to the town of Buzau, Romania has these mud volcanoes that spew mud instead of molten lava. Do you think that's as good for you as Romania's thermal springs?
Probably, but Romanian food (having been influenced by the Greeks, Romans, and Turks) is good for the body and soul. Try the Pasca, a cheesecake of sorts; and the wines are simply divine. Glühwein is mulled wine, good for those cold winter nights.
And cold they get, especially up in the Carpathian Mountains where it generally snows from December to April. Summers in the southern part of the country can get downright hot, but sea breezes along the Black Sea Coast help cool it down.
The southern part of Romania is where you'll find its capital city of Bucharest, full of nightclubs restaurants, and cafes. They make a wonderful venue as you discuss the medieval frescoes found at the Painted Monasteries in Bucovina.
It's a lot easier to visit Romania than it was back in Nadia's day, just a passport or European Union Identity Card. Some foreign nationals do require an onward ticket (Australia, Canada, USA), but no visa is necessary. Plus, with no major health concerns either, Romania is a much safer place than during Vlad's days.
Just keep in mind that Romania is a very conservative country; and it's best to keep things formal when meeting someone for the first time--like addressing someone as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So.
That being said, Ms. Comaneci and Mr. Tepes, what a wonderful country you have.
Anyone 40ish or older has probably seen a million "Russian spy films" during the last days of the Cold War. Mostly Russia was seen as a grey, dreary place that was always blanketed by snow with men wearing big fur hats. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, you won't it to be the Spy Flick Russia any longer. The snow, however, continues to come.
Today's Russia is a lively country with lots of nightlife that includes theater, cinema, concerts, and the good old favorites like the Bolshi Ballet and Opera. Without a doubt Russian Vodka is on the scene, as well as Russian tea and Chai--no matter what kind of entertainment you've chosen for the evening.
Russia is a big country, some 17 million square kilometers, so getting around long distances can be quite time consuming. Traveling from one city to another is best done by overnight trail, and their short-distance rail system is fantastic. Nothing is more famous in Russia than the Trans-Siberian Railway, which'll take you some 9,000km from Beijing to Moscow, the capital city.
It is best not to drive in Russia, and buses might be a hassle--but less so than police checkpoints for driving. Within places like Moscow, the public transportation system is a great way to get around.
Moscow is most famous for its Red Square (it's a UNESCO site, where you'll find the Kremlin and St. Basil Cathedral. Again, if you've seen any spy film you've seen Red Square--and it's here that you'll find the Lenin Mausoleum, where he's been laid out for all to see since 1924.
Some people might prefer to see snow than a decades old dead guy, so head to Mt. Elbrus at 18,510ft that'll take six days to climb up & back. Skiing is done in the Red Valley, and they even offer Heli-skiing for the truly adventurous.
Snow awaits you at Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake. That is, of course, if you've come anytime during the year other than the Summer. With some 2,000km of coastline, it'll seems like it takes three months to make your way around.
Yes, it's important to pay attention to Russia's weather--since places like Siberia are extremely cold during the winter. In those spy films, no one wanted to be shipped off to Siberia. Today, however, it's a fantastic place to spend some time.
There are parts of Russia that are known for its White Nights, 24-hours of sunshine for just about three months in the summer. You won't find it like that in St. Petersburg, but more so up in the northern reaches of the country.
With that many hours of daylight, you'll get to see so much more of Russia than you might ever have imagined. And now that Russia isn't as closed-off to the rest of the world as it used to be--you'll enjoy all the more.
When you arrive in San Marino, you're visiting the third smallest country in the world; but what a punch this tiny place packs. Just like Vatican City (one of the two smaller countries), it is totally surrounded by Italy.
More specifically, surrounded by the Emilia Romagna region of Italy with cities like Modena and Parma, just 10km off the coast from the Adriatic Sea. The rules to enter San Marino follow the same protocol as entering Italy, so if you need a visa or passport for that--you'll need one here.
It won't take you long to actually get through San Marino, it's just 61 square kilometers. Yet, you won't want to rush it. Take your time exploring San Marino's nine districts, including San Marino City. This is where you'll find the 16th century Basilica San Marino, where the reliquary of the saint himself is housed.
The Palazzo Pubblico, or Town Hall, is another of San Marino's famous sites--framed by a charming Town Square and little shops.
What you might notice about San Marino is that it isn't flat. The entire diminutive country is set along some hilly landscape decorated with Pine Forests. Hiking and biking through the countryside is one of the best ways to experience San Marino; and to visit its three "fortresses". Guaita and Montale are the older of them, built just about a thousand years ago.
The Government Palace is where you need to be at either 830am or 630pm, since that's when the Changing of the Guard takes place. You can spend the rest of the day at Malatesta Castle with its church and Stamp and Coin Museum.
Stamps from San Marino are especially prized, so stock up if you can. For a small fee you can have San Marino stamped in your passport. A cute addition to your world travels. If you want to get yourself some other type of souvenir, San Marino is great for buying ceramics and wine. And for some reason, cigarettes.
For as small as you'll find San Marino, it has even more museums. The St. Francis Museum is a blend of old with modern; a Contemporary Art Museum housed within a medieval cloister. Then you've got the Museum of Emigration. How anyone would want to leave this slice of Utopia is mind boggling.
The food is exceptional, all with an Italian influence. The cafes, bars, and trattorias serve up the most delicious tortellini, veal cutlets, and ravioli; followed by San Marino Tort.
San Marino's got great scenery, fantastic food, and a long history. What else more can you ask for? How about a great time? On top of everything else, San Marino hosts an annual Sailing Regatta and a Formula One Grand Prix.
Bigger isn't always better, which never is that more evident than in the country of San Marino. By staying small you can get to explore every nook and cranny of its medieval town center, which doesn't even allow cars.
Yes, San Marino might be totally dwarfed by the much bigger country of Italy--but you'll forget all about it with one look.
Chances are if you're old enough to remember the 1980's, chances are you're old enough to remember hearing about the country of Yugoslavia. Today the former Yugoslavia is now known as Serbia, who gained its independence from Kosovo back in 2008.
Whatever it was, or is, called the capital city of Belgrade is still the center of cultural life in the region. Its Old Town is full of many centuries of architecture, although its Orthodox Cathedral and Belgrade Fort are two of the biggest attractions.
To see a little more of Belgrade's "Bohemian" side, you'll want to to to Skadarlija; a neighborhood in the city that's full of fantastic art galleries and delicious restaurants. The fall of the Iron Curtain certainly opened up the creative sides of the Serbians.
They must be inspired by the Serbian landscape. Places like the Djerdap National Park with its deep Djerdap Gorge, not to mention skiing from December to March. Hiking through the Fruska Gora is a treat--and majestic enough to be an artistic muse to almost anyone. Hidden within the Fruska Gora area are all sorts of indigenous birds, and monasteries.
One of the most famous monasteries in Serbia is the Monastery of Zica, site where many a King was crowned. There's more to Serbia's history than just its kings, and there's more to Serbia's culture than just Belgrade.
This is a country that loves museums, so be sure to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Nikola Tesla Museum. Over in the town of Nis, you'll find a charming Roman town; and the Turkish Fortress and Skull Tower unique pieces of architecture.
The season will determine if you're going see all this swathed in bright colors or covered by lily-white. Serbia's winters can be cold, and heavy snowfall isn't unheard of. From June to August you'll find the country to quite hot without a whole lot of rain.
Who cares if it does rain--it never hurt anyone, right? Just use the time to go shopping for some fantastic lace and embroidered items, or buy yourself a Turkish Coffee set. Scope out the pedestrian-only Kneza Mihaila for cute shops.
Shopping knows no language barrier, but you shouldn't have one no matter what you choose to do. Besides using the Cyrillic script, they use the Latin one too--so English speakers, you'll be all right. But, if you speak Hungarian or Albanian, you'll do even better.
Shopping, hiking, sightseeing, and museum going can make you hungry. Whatever you choose to eat, don't worry--it's all safe--and delicious. The Cevapcici is a grilled minced meat dish, but you could opt for the mutton and sauerkraut instead.
Two great beverage choices in Serbia are either the Laza (made with morello cherries), or Turkish coffee that's known as Turska Kafa around here. While it does taste delicious, it is strong enough to put hair on your chest.
There are a good number of internet cafes found in Serbia, perfect places to send messages back home about how wonderful Serbia is--all you need is a simple passport, no worry about a visa or even a return ticket.
Sweet! You might decide to stay.
Many countries in some Cold War films centered around the little known country of Czechoslovakia hidden behind the dreaded Iron Curtain by Soviet rule. In the early 1990s, known as the Velvet Divorce, Czechoslovakia became two independent countries--the very famous Czech Republic with Prague as its capital; and Slovakia with Bratislava as its capital city.
Both at one time were united, and despite being overshadowed by Prague, Slovakia is just as wonderful as its former spouse. And you might not think to find something as ostentatious as the Andy Warhol Gallery (with all sorts of Modern Art) here, you'd be surprised. Mr. Warhol's parents came from the region around the city of Medzilaborce--so it actually is a fitting place for his eclectic work.
Bratislava is a bit more, ah, historical and traditional. The architecture you'll find around its medieval Old Town center even has its own castle. And luckily, Slovakia isn't a one castle town. The ruins of Devin Castle are famous, but probably not as famous as Spis Castle, the largest of its kind in the country. Its small museum will fill you in on all the medieval details.
Castle design isn't the only kind of buildings famous in Slovakia, people from all over come to Vlkolinec to see the log houses, even earning it a UNESCO designation.
Places like Kosice are great, especially if you're into little cafes and performances at the State Theater; but this place is best enjoyed underground. Follow the extensive network of underground passages for something different.
Rather be outdoors than below? Hike through the High Tatras, or find a trail in the Mala Fatra National Park. Either way, you can't go wrong. For those wanting the vino, take the Carpathian Wine Route.
Maybe its best to wait on the wine until after you've partied at the International Festival of Ghosts and Goblins. Just saying.
Shopping is a good time in Slovakia, and some of the best bargains are pottery and porcelain items, clothing, and woodcarvings. After a day looking for the best gifts to bring home, treat yourself to tickets to the theater or opera. Afterwards, hit up one of Bratislava's nightclubs.
Getting around in Bratislava is quite simple, there's extensive network of public transportation. If you're looking to go further out (to like the northern town of Bardejov that's got very few tourists), the train is a great option. Slovakia's rail system is quite extensive--and popular, so make reservations on trains if possible.
Car rentals are available if you want to drive yourself, but one of the best ways to experience Slovakia is on bicycle. This leisurely pace will allow you to see more of the forest countryside, meet friendly people, and stop for some local fare.
Most food and drinks are safe all over the country--more so than trying to ski your way down the mountainside in Stary Smokovec or Jasna.
Too cold for you in the White Carpathian Mountains? Just come in the summer when the country experiences a warm season to be enjoyed by everyone. The country itself certainly has everything and anything that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Yes, Prague is one of the world's most wonderful cities--and yes, it belongs to the Czech Republic; but it wouldn't be right to forget about its former partner, Slovakia and its capital city of Bratislava--that should also be considered one of the world's most wonderful cities.
Its a bit of a cool undiscovered place is Slovenia indeed ! mounds not quite hills covered entirely in the greenest grass, emerald green lakes and some extreme sports make this an interesting destination at great value for money this will entrentch it in the backpackers destination guides for Europe.
See what Tours we have in Slovenia.
Things to do in Slovenia:
Even though Slovenia lies in South Central Europe it maintains a very Alpine feel. Perhaps the fact that Slovenia borders Austria and Italy along the Alps has something to do with it.
In addition to having such wonderful scenic regions within this famous mountain range, Slovenia is a bustling country with a young and vibrant student population in its capital city of Ljubljana, but also a place steeped in tradition and history.
Depending on what you're looking to do in Slovenia would depend on where to go, and when. The country enjoys a Mediterranean climate along its coastal region, that borders the Adriatic Sea, so if you're looking for fun in the sun--you know to come here.
For those looking to hit the slopes, then the Alps are the clear choice. Skiing in the region of Bled and Kranjska Gora brings fans of the winter sport from all over Europe, and beyond.
It's OK if you don't ski, the Alps are famous for hot air ballooning and paragliding; but best to save that for the warmer months.
While the Alps have been here in Slovenia's landscape for eons, viticulture has only been going on a mere 2,000 years. Wine lovers will certainly appreciate following along the Wine Trails of Goriska Brda and Vipava Valley.
Wine making certainly has gone on longer than some of the Empires that lorded over the area. Slovenia has seen the likes of the Franks and Carolingians, Bavarian and the Habsburg Empire; even the Holy Roman Empire--which wasn't the rascally Romans from Julius Caesar's day. No, the Holy Roman Empire ruled over the area in the days of Charlemagne and other German Kings.
This means Slovenia's history is long, and some of the best historical sites are seen in its capital city, like the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and its Cathedral built in 1708.
One fun activity, besides the theater, operas, and orchestra events, is dragon hunting. You're not going to slay real dragons, but the fun is in trying to find as many as you can on its bridges, buildings, and all sorts of other locales.
Hunting for dragons can make you hungry, so try the potica, a tasty "cake" made with raisins and cinnamon. Wash it down with some blueberry brandy with no worries, since food & drinks are quite safe to eat.
The worst you have to worry about are tick-illnesses, which means just be a bit cautious while out hiking. One place that's a must-see, whether you hike or drive to get there, is the Postojna Cave--big enough to hold 10,000 people inside its "Hall".
Good thing Slovenia is known for its thermal and mineral springs, so spas are found all over the place to rest up tired muscles after enjoying the slopes and scenery.
Shopping is a past-time just as good as any; and the best gifts to bring home are crystal pieces, wines, "beehive art" (made from real beehives), and bobbin lace. The detail put into the handmade lace here is extraordinary in its detail.
Whatever the reason for you wanting to come to Slovenia you can't go wrong--and you'll find so much more than you ever imagined along the way.
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Sweden is one of those countries with some very surprising statistics. Almost eighty percent of its 445,000 square kilometers is dense forest, eight percent is covered by water, and almost all of Sweden's 9 (and a half) million people live in urban areas.
Good, that means you get to enjoy Sweden's less populated areas almost all to yourself. This is a land once ruled by Vikings, now dominated by Evangelical Lutheranism (more than 85-percent of the people).
To go back to Sweden's Viking roots the best place to do that is in the Buhuslän Province where many Viking (and Bronze Age) archaeological finds have been, well, found.
Sweden is more than Vikings, it is a museum loving country. In the city of Gothenburg you can visit a Historical Museum (with medieval art, no less), a Fine Arts Museum, City Museum, Maritime Museum, but also a Volvo Museum.
Yup, Volvo as in car. That's right, the sturdy car is made right here.
Another of Sweden's cities to see is Malmö, with a stunning church (St. Petri) and Castle to see. However, it is the Öresund Bridge that attracts so many to Malmö. The bridge, by the way, links Sweden to the Danish capital of Copenhagen.
Sweden's capital is Stockholm, a city with its own Old Town and Royal Palance, Baroque buildings, and the VASA Museum with a 360-year old ship on display.
Thousands of lakes are on display in Sweden's Lakeland District, located near the Baltic Coast. Actually the exact number of lakes found in Sweden numbers over 97,000.
Much of Sweden isn't so easy to see in the winter months when much of it is frozen. It does offer a chance to see the Northern Lights--so there's some good to come from long nights of darkness.
A night at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasgörvi could be fun, as will an evening spent at the Absolut Ice Bar. You will never complain that your drinks are too warm, that's for sure.
Those long winter nights give way to long summer days--another "land of the midnight sun", so to speak. So why not take advantage of daylight at 10pm and go fishing, play some golf (there are some 400 golf courses), or hike until your beyond tired.
Sporting your way around Sweden can make anyone hungry--so this might be why the Swedes came up with the Smorgasbord. The Swedish Cold Table is full of pickled herring, potatoes, and meat of some kind. You will have to be adventurous to try the smoked reindeer.
Eating reindeer isn't as dangerous as driving along some of Sweden's roads--where you could literally run into reindeer, musk ox, and elk.
Let someone else do the driving if you want. Because Sweden is so big, flying is one of the best options for getting around. However, taking the train around the Swedish countryside is a wonderful way to see it.
To bring home memories of your trip to Sweden, consider buying some gorgeous glassware, like crystal. Their knitwear is totally warm (it has to be) so you might want to pick yourself some items to take home with you. Maybe not if you live in a warm climate--best to stick to the glass then.
Or, get yourself a bathing suit to use on one of Sweden's beaches--then you can use it back home too. Oh, didn't know Sweden had beaches? It does--hundreds of miles of coastline. Great chance to try water skiing on top of everything else, right?
Some of the best Skiing Resorts in the world if you can afford it ! But hardly the highest rated touristic destination for the young- never the less it does have many interesting places for those who want more than a beer and a shag.
Best Things to see in Turkey:
Ukraine co hosts to Euro 2012 along with Poland.Euro 2012 is Europes own international tournament.
There are accusations of human rights abuse with the countries own mental health institutions. This has been well documented in the documentary Ukraines Forgotten Children
There's an old idiom that says, "All roads lead to Rome". The funny part? At one time it seemed that all roads did lead to the Italian capital city. What's even funnier? That once most folks get to Rome, one of its most popular sites really isn't in Rome--or Italy at all, for that matter.
No, for those of you who think you're going to Italy to see the Sistine Chapel--you're not. You're going to Vatican City. Which, by the way, isn't just a city--it's a country all on its own.
Vatican City is the world's smallest nation, not even measuring a half square kilometer, with a population of around 1,000 people; and ruled over by the Pope. It is, however, totally surrounded by Rome so it experiences all of the same weather.
Most of the same entry requirements for Italy apply for those wishing to visit Vatican City, that's guarded over by those brightly colored medieval garbed Swiss Guard. Just remember, this is the Church that Peter built--and modesty is virtue--so if you're not dressed appropriately, you're not going to see the Sistine Chapel.
You didn't come all this way not to see the frescoes painted by one of history's greatest artists, did you? On the last Sunday of the month the entrance fee into the Vatican Museums (called the Musei Vaticani) is free, and lines can be exceptionally long. Understandable since Vatican City receives more than 4 million visitors a year.
Again, this is Peter's Church; and worth every minute of the wait to see not only the Sistine Chapel, but also Raphael's Room--another of history's greatest artists, who used these four rooms in the early 16th century.
Michaelangelo and Raphael aren't the only famous names to have their work here in Vatican City. Spread out over countless galleries you'll find the works of Caravaggio, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Fra Angelico. Inside the Sistine Chapel the works of Botticelli and Perugino are here, too.
No wonder the Vatican has been given a UNESCO designation. It's even more special when Vatican City holds its Special Music Events and Night Openings.
If you can tear yourself away from some of the Masters best works of art, you'll be treated to the Vatican Gardens. While beautiful all year round, the blossoms of Spring and Summer make them pop. The Vatican boasts not only the ornate Renaissance and Baroque Gardens, but also a medieval one created by Pope Nicholas III.
Vatican City is more than a bazillion museums (like the galleries of Etruscan art at the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco). This is a real working country with its own bank; its own post office (go ahead, mail your letter home with a Vatican City postmark); and its own newspaper.
What Vatican City doesn't have are nightclubs and restaurants; and no birth rate. All of Vatican City's residents all came from somewhere else--and no baby has ever been born behind its walls.
Babies might not ever be born here, but Vatican City has given life to creations by some of the best artists of their day. It's also where new popes are chosen during Papal Enclaves--more specifically in the Sistine Chapel after a reigning Pope dies.
Steeped in history and tradition, masculine rule by Popes and Priests, the Holy See (as it is also called) might be the world's smallest country, but within is limitless in creativity and eternal appeal. Forget all roads leading to Rome--it seems all were leading to Vatican City.
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