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    Europe travel guide - the abduction of europa travel guide

    Famous Europe Travel Guide

    From the cosmopolitan city of London, Paris through the romantic atmosphere of Venice, or finally pushing to the limit of the continent with Istanbul, Europe is also full of destinations more beautiful than the other! And here is our Famous Europe travel guide to make you easier to choose your next visits or holidays.
    Choose your destination in Europe: top destinations and alternative destinations, practical information, reports, photos and forums to share your experiences.

    Choose your destination in Europe with our digital Europe Travel Guide with: top destinations and alternative destinations, practical information, photos to make it easier for you to choose your desired destination.

    Europe countries map en 2
    Map of countries in Europe and the surrounding region. San Jose (map), Hayden120 (retouch), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    THE BALKANS: LESS-KNOWN AND FASCINATING LANDS

    One thing is certain, this Balkan peninsula between seas and mountains is one of the few areas in Europe, where the curious traveler has the impression of living several trips in one and each one becomes an experience. Balkans is a historical and geographical name used to describe southeastern Europe. Our Europe Travel Guide can make it easier for you to prepare for your visit to the Balkan European countries.

    Albania

    Kneaded in the Mediterranean mold, Albania has known the influence of all the great civilizations on the shore: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and the first of all, the Illyrians, direct ancestors of the Albanians. All fought for the control of this strategic land, all left their mark on the coasts as well as the heart of the country: Albania overflows with archaeological riches. Tirana is its capital and largest city, followed by Durrës, Vlorë, and Shkodër.

    Tirana from South
    Tirana from South with Artificial Lake and Great Park in the front. Albinfo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    The rugged nature of the territory has long made it the bastion of all resistance. The most valiant of all, Skanderbeg, hero of the fight against the Turks, anchored his nationalist faith there. The men learned to live in autarky, according to the rigor of the kanun, the code of honor which led to so many vendettas.
    Albania draws a natural border between the East and the heart of the European continent. The bear and the wolf, the jackal and the lynx still live there.

    Albania has only 20% of arable land, grouped on the coastal plain open to the Adriatic and, to the south, the Ionian Sea. The maritime facade is backed in several places by vast lakes. That of Shkodra, shared with Montenegro, is the largest of all the Balkans. To the south, towards Saranda, the Albanian Riviera has not usurped its name, as the beaches are so beautiful.

    Last frontier of Europe, the country, almost virgin of tourist development, finally attracts attention thanks to its sunny coast, its natural and cultural riches.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Bosnia–Herzegovina and often known informally as Bosnia, is a country at the crossroads of south and southeast Europe, located in the Balkans.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina is the archetype of the great Yugoslav cauldron, the place of all encounters and all conflicts in history. It is impossible to chase from memory the massacres of 1992-95, the ethnic cleansing, the sacking of entire villages, the deportations. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina has long been out of conflict.

    Sarajevo
    Sarajevo collage: panorama by night, Latin Bridge, Sebilj, Emperor’s Mosque, Cathedral of Jesus’ Heart, Serb Orthodox Cathedral. Multiple users. See History, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    The country is no longer this no man’s land riddled with anti-personnel mines. It is a country that is coming back to life, with scars of course, but which is reclaiming what has made it original for centuries: its multiculturalism.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only country in Europe where, in the same street, the eye still successively clings to a minaret, an Orthodox or Catholic bell tower, a synagogue wall… The confessions decline the various identities. Conquered by the Slavs in the 7th century and then by the Ottomans in the 14th century, the region, the crossroads of East and West, was forged at the confluence of these two great peoples.

    The borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina kept changing, until the expansion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the 19th century. Despite the recent war and its destruction, despite the creation of two political entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina itself (one Serb, the other Croat-Bosnian), the mixed heritage is visible everywhere. A positive sign, mosques have been rebuilt in the Republika Srpska, and Orthodox churches renovated in the south, in the Bosnian-Croat Federation. Ancient territorial disputes have dotted the country with fortresses and castles. And in the old centers, the mosques of the 15th and 16th centuries, the churches, the madrasas and the old Ottoman houses unfold a history as turbulent as it is surprising.

    However, what makes Bosnia and Herzegovina so charming is not only its cultural contrasts and its built heritage. We also discover wild spaces: primary forest, karst with holes in caves and canyons, tumultuous rivers with emerald waters, falls and cascades in shambles, high pastures…

    Bulgaria

    Sofia is the nation’s capital and largest city; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas.

    One of the last European terra incognita, Bulgaria is perhaps the most enigmatic of all Eastern countries. Surrounded by Greece, Romania, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, this “vestibule of the Orient” (as some travelers called it in the 19th century) is at the heart of Balkan Europe.

    Sofia mosaic 3
    Tsarigradsko shose, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, National Palace of Culture, Boyana Church, Church of St. George, National Assembly, Ivan Vazov National Theatre, Saint Sofia Statue. Stolichanin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Nearly 7 million inhabitants live in Bulgaria, an assembly of mountainous massifs, forests, lost valleys, fertile plains, lakes and rivers, delimited to the north by the wide course of the Danube and, to the east, by the golden beaches of the Black Sea.

    The relative variety of landscapes goes hand in hand with that of possible activities, from hiking to swimming and skiing. Beyond the natural setting, the archaeological and architectural heritage surprises with its richness. Bulgaria is a natural crossroads: between West and East, Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans influenced the destinies of the country, shaping its identity in the confrontation of their languages ​​and cultures. All have left testimonies of their passage as a legacy, preserved in particular in museums.

    The tombs of the Thracian sovereigns have been classified as World Heritage by Unesco. Minarets, again, cross out the sky, testifying to the past influence of the great Turkish neighbor. After five centuries of Ottoman occupation, independence, won after a hard fight in 1878, was expressed in the refined constructions of the “National Renaissance”. Mainly Orthodox, Bulgaria also has many churches and monasteries of great beauty, often illuminated with frescoes.

    Croatia

    There are those who already knew it, those who came “before” (from the time of Yugoslavia) and come back to the country today to savor it again. And then those who come to Croatia for the first time and discover a country with a unique location, a fascinating transition between Central Europe and the Mediterranean, a rather exceptional crossroads of cultures and influences! Illyrians, Celts, Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Italians, Ottomans, Hungarians, French, Austrians have all left their mark in Croatia.

    But Croatia is also a wonderful coast, facing the setting sun and dotted with 1,185 islands and islets over 1,750 km. Multiply beaches and coves by 5, by 10. A coast that is dotted with small architectural jewels whose names are Pula, Rovinj, Zadar, Šibenik, Trogir, Split and the “pearl of the Adriatic”: Dubrovnik.
    Inland from Croatia, Zagreb will also delight with its architectural eclecticism, the wealth of its museums and its cultural life.

    Croatia | The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Croatia

    As for nature lovers, they will be delighted. The national and natural parks are full of fauna that was thought to be reserved for distant lands: bears, chamois, mouflons, wild cats, wolves and lynx, even mongooses basking in the pill on the island of Mljet.
    Ah, the Plitvice Lakes and their 92 waterfalls! As for the islands of Croatia, they made George-Bernard Shaw particularly lyrical.

    Greece

    Greece is not just a repository of ancient ruins, however beautiful they may be, and is not limited to its distant prestigious past. It has a lot to offer to those who know how to think outside the box. In other words, it would be a shame to limit yourself to a circuit that could not be more classic, that of archaeological sites, without pushing curiosity a little further. Crossroads are made to be taken.
    The change of scenery is in fact where, a priori, there is nothing to see. It is in the lost places of Greece that one still has the chance to be welcomed in the respect of the Greek tradition, that of philoxenia, the traditional “hospitality” of the Greeks, which still exists in certain forgotten places.

    Santorini Montage L
    Clockwise from top: Partial panoramic view of Santorini in Greece, Sunset in the village of Oia, Ruins of the Stoa Basilica at Ancient Thera, the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Ypapanti at the town of Fira ([it], the Aegean Sea as seen from Oia, and view of Fira from the island of Nea Kameni at the Santorini caldera. SilentResident (compilation, sources to attribute see above; if any of the sources used in the Montage are removed from Wikimedia Commons, or better ones are found, please inform its creator so that they can update it. You can contact the creator by leaving a message here: [1]), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    This small country is in fact huge: on the mainland, the territories are broken up by mountains and the islands are so many miniature countries, with their own identity, which we encourage you to discover (this guide to mainland Greece in details a dozen that are close to the mainland).

    Of course, Greece continues to suffer from an economic – and moral – crisis… But don’t stop at what the written or television press has said about these “curious” Greeks – curious, at least to the eyes of quite a few northern Europeans who judge them rather harshly. Be curious too, in the other sense of the term, to go beyond the clichés and discover a population that has the vocation of welcoming and will wish to exchange with you on many subjects… Despite all the difficulties, if the judging by the number of tourists in recent years, the country has kept its power of attraction intact, and that’s good!

    Top destinations:
    • Athens
    • Corfu
    • Crete
    • Greek islands
    • Mykonos
    • Rhodes
    • Santorini

    Kosovo

    Kosovo is a small country in the Balkans, with ambiguous international recognition: indeed, the territory is not recognized by the UN and many countries. France recognizes Kosovo as an independent state.

    Thus, Kosovo is not a tourist country, and going on a stay in Kosovo is a real journey through time. The capital Pristina is in complete reconstruction and its city center is under construction. However, many monuments have resisted the war and in Pristina you can see the Fatih Mosque next to the Mother Teresa Cathedral, Gračanica Monastery and many more. Another impressive monument, the national library, offering a very Soviet atypical architecture.

    Gracanica 1
    Gračanica Monastery, founded by King Uros II Milutin in 1321 on the ruins of a 6th-century basilica. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This monastery is a Serbian Orthodox monastery located in Kosovo. Sasa Micic, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    However, you can also see in the city the remains of various churches that were destroyed by Serbia.

    To learn more about the history of the region, the ethnographic museum gives an insight into life in Kosovo and its inhabitants. The city also has several parks, which makes it pleasant to visit during the sometimes very hot days of summer.

    Beyond the capital, the city of Prizren is also worth a detour: located in the mountains, it is a fortified city with several points of interest. The Sinan Pasha Mosque, which is located in the heart of the old city. The city has a charming historic center, better preserved than that of the capital.

    Finally, you can also make a stop in Pec, a city offering an equally pleasant city center, but which is already a much more natural city. Guided hikes are not to be missed in the Balkan Mountains.

    North Macedonia

    There are so many incredible sites to visit and great experiences to live in this small nation on the Balkan Peninsula! I therefore present to you my selection of places to discover, ranging from the best known to the most unusual and confidential.

    Skopje landmarks
    From top to bottom, left to right: Stone Bridge, National Theater, Souli An, MRT Center, Macedonia Gate, Horse Warrior Statue, Fortress. Extratall, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Lovers of wide open spaces will be delighted because Macedonia covers vast mountainous areas and wild forests: the three national parks of Galicica, Mavrovo and Pelister are home to magnificent landscapes dotted with lakes as well as a rich endemic fauna and flora. Notice to sports enthusiasts of all kinds: you will be spoiled for choice between hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, paragliding, climbing, skiing… The cultural aspect will of course not be outdone because the country enjoys he historical and religious heritage of the very first order: you will be immediately seduced and disoriented by strolling through the Old Bazaar of Skopje or by visiting the ancient ruins of Bitola. Finally, your journey will also be an opportunity to savor local gastronomy combining flavors of various influences as well as a light and fruity wine, especially in the beautiful region of Tikves not far from the Greek and Bulgarian borders.

    As you will have understood, Macedonia brings together a multitude of natural, sporting, cultural and gastronomic points of interest in a small area. It will appeal to all profiles and all ages and can be visited at all times of the year, even in the heart of winter for ski enthusiasts!

    Why are there two Macedonias?

    During World War II, the eastern part of Greek Macedonia and most of Yugoslav Macedonia were occupied by Bulgaria. After the defeat of the Axis, a federated republic is proclaimed within communist Yugoslavia, while Greece recovers its Macedonian territory.

    Skopje

    Capital of Macedonia, between the excess of the new town (statues, monumental buildings) and the historical heritage (fortress, old bazaar, mosques, caravanserais, churches).

    Ohrid

    City registered with Unesco; ancient theatre, churches adorned with exceptional frescoes, bazaar, traditional houses, medieval fortress; the lake, “Riviera” of Macedonia.

    Matka Canyon

    From Skopje, a getaway in the heart of nature, in gorges where you can hike, climb, kayak, take a boat trip, visit a cave or have lunch in front of the artificial lake.

    Bitola

    2nd city of Macedonia, very lively; its architectural heritage inherited from the Ottoman Empire and the Belle Époque; in the surroundings, the archaeological site of Heraclea and the cemetery of the French.

    Montenegro

    Podgorica is the capital and largest city of Montenegro. This city formerly called Titograd and Ribnica.

    In the Middle Ages, Venetian navigators, seeing the dark pine forests running on the slopes of Mount Lovcen, christened the country Monte Negro, the “black mountain” – a name later translated into “Crna Gora”. It is this translation that Montenegrins always prefer to use.

    PG collage
    Podgorica overview. Up: Panorama of Modern Podgorica, with the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ and Millenium Bridge. Middle: Block V. Down: Old royal garden around the winter palace of former Montenegrin royal family. Right: Clock tower “Sahat-kula” in the Old City. – File:PodgoricaOverview.jpg by Nije Bitno… – File:Podgorica lok Vc by Bratislav – File:Royal garden Podgorica by Tadeáš.Dohňanský – File: Sahat-kula in Podgorica.jpg by MrSco, CC BY 3.0 CZ, via Wikimedia Commons

    Despite a short facade open to the Adriatic, it is between the limestone peaks culminating beyond 2,500 m, powerful natural fortresses, that hides the soul of Montenegro, the smallest of the former Yugoslav republics. Slavic people, the Montenegrins, ardent opponents of the Turkish conquest in Europe, resisted. In these fights, an identity made up of nationalism and Orthodox faith was forged around the monasteries-bastions and the prince-bishops.

    Koplje, Sjeverni and Veliki vrh
    Prokletije National Park. Hladnikm, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Lake Skadar, Montenegro
    Lake Skadar National Park is a hotspot of freshwater biodiversity. 井上子木, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    The separation by referendum from Serbia in 2006 (end of the State of Serbia and Montenegro) only crowned this reality. Montenegro is now a sovereign state.
    Montenegro, 60% of whose national territory is located at an altitude of more than 1,000 m, never forgets that it also belongs to the Mediterranean zone. It is thus possible, in mid-season, to ski and swim in the sea on the same day! The coast, very indented, alternates cliffs and sandy or pebble beaches.

    In the center stands the jewel of Montenegro: the Bay of Kotor, the southernmost of the fjords in Europe, which forms a gash penetrating 28 km into the interior. The coastal towns, like Kotor, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cultivate a discreet charm, marked by the Venetian imprint of the Renaissance and that of the Austrian Baroque.

    Serbia

    Its capital Belgrade is also the largest city.

    A natural passageway between West and East, between Central Europe and the Mediterranean world, Serbia, with historically shifting borders, has suffered invasions from all sides, the most ardent colonizations, close to annihilation. The centuries-old fight against the Turks has defined an entire people, resistant to models from elsewhere. The Orthodox faith and nationalism have been the refuge of the Serbian people.

    Beograd collage
    Panorama of Belgrade (Serbia), House of the National Assembly, New Palace, Avala Tower, Ušće Tower, Gardoš Tower, The Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts’ building, Church of Saint Sava, Belgrade Fortress, Monument to the Unknown Hero. Zeks127, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    The recent history of Serbia has demonstrated how, at the confluence of worlds, where three great religions coexist (Orthodoxy, Islam, Catholicism), the scars of the past can resurface.

    Serbia today is the heir to this history. Since Montenegro’s independence in 2006, the country has been divided into “inner” Serbia, Vojvodina in the north where the Hungarian minority gathers, and Kosovo in the south, populated by approximately 82% Albanians. The latter unilaterally declared its independence in 2008. In this pressure cooker, the Serbs form about two thirds of the population, an incredible mosaic where around twenty ethnic groups and nationalities live together!

    The turbulent past has given the country a wealth of monuments: castles perched high and monasteries buried between the folds of green valleys. These jewels, among the most beautiful in the Orthodox world, express all the grandeur of medieval Serbia (12th-14th centuries). The frescoes of some, unfolding the life of saints and men, have earned them to be classified as World Heritage by Unesco. The relative touristic virginity of the country is worth discovering these places in a rare tranquility under the European skies. The remark also applies to natural areas, in mountain pastures and deep forests, along the wide curves of the Danube or on its banks enclosed between high cliffs. At the Iron Gates, the river crosses the extremity of the Carpathians.

    The Balkan black sheep is finally chasing away its old demons. Youth push forward. A youth full of life, European at heart, who wants to draw a line under the mistakes of the previous generation, go out and have fun, as in the past, when Yugoslavia was at the forefront of the Eastern bloc. The nightlife of Belgrade, historic capital to rediscover (founded seven millennia ago), could not be more lively.

    Slovenia

    Located at a European crossroads, on the edge of the Balkans and the Mediterranean, Slovenia is a small country where Slavic, Germanic, Roman and Hungarian cultures meet. Ljubljana, the capital and largest city of Slovenia, is geographically situated near the centre of the country.

    Coming from the former Yugoslavia and a member of the European Union since May 1, 2004, Slovenia has escaped the wars that tore its Balkan brothers apart in the 1990s, but also the horrors of the economic and social transition that shook most of the countries of the former Eastern bloc.
    Democratic since its independence in 1991, it has a stable and dynamic economy today. Slovenia has also been able to preserve part of the heritage of Yugoslav socialism, in particular a very protective social system and a very active public policy (particularly in the cultural field).

    Ljubljana Montage 2
    Clockwise from top: Ljubljana Castle and Old Town (on the left of the top image) with Slovenska Street (in the center of the top image) and modern buildings (on the right of the top image); Ljubljanica River (with the Triple Bridge in distance); Ljubljana City Hall; Visitation of Mary Church at Rožnik Hill; Dragon on the Dragon Bridge; Kazina Palace at Congress Square. See info on Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    However, Slovenia remains largely unknown. The Slovenes thus claim to be sheltered from mass tourism, jealously protecting the beauties concealed in this “green heart of Europe”.

    And yet, to the nature-loving tourist, to the one looking for a breath of fresh air a few hours from Paris, to the one who likes to get away from it all while passing from the Alpine peaks in the morning to the sunset over the Adriatic, after having crossed the forests, to this one, the Slovenes will open their doors and warmly share the natural treasures of their country. So welcome to the “sunny side of the Alps”!

    CENTRAL EUROPE: THE 1001 FACETS OF MITTELEUROPA

    In addition to the golden triangle of Mittleuropa that make up Vienna, Budapest and Prague, the Bavarian Munich and Krakow in Lesser Poland reveal their architectural treasures from medieval times to the imprint of Modern Art, centuries of history and artistic influences that make these cities unmissable stops in Central Europe. From the Spree to the Isar, from the Sava to the Vistula, passing by the Danube, common thread between several capitals of Central Europe, rivers and streams tell a sometimes common story by way of an astonishing link. Mittleuropa is German terms for Central Europe. Mittleuropa adalah istilah bahasa Jerman untuk menyebut Eropa Tengah.

    Germany

    Germany is rich in strong traditions, in charming villages in the heart of gentle landscapes, in medieval towns that have been preserved and often rebuilt identically after the war. From Franconian folklore to the forests of Baden-Württemberg, from the beaches of the Baltic to the castles of Ludwig II of Bavaria, from the small roads of the Rhineland to the banks of the Danube, a deep and peaceful Germany does indeed exist.

    Brandenburger Tor abends
    Brandenburger Tor. The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Germany has some of the most beautiful museums in the world. It is proud of its gothic cathedrals and its baroque churches, as much as of the “kolossal” festivals around beer and wine, which punctuate the seasons.

    In terms of modernity, what would Germany be without its creativity coupled with its commercial dynamism? You will be surprised to discover innovative architecture, inspired art at the forefront of the avant-garde and design made in Germany. New trends are born every day. New ideas are developing there, often to the credit of a youth whose originality and freedom will please you…

    On the political side, in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Wall, we discovered a disconcerting former East Germany, with a poorly known past.
    Since then, water has flowed under the bridges of the Elbe, and after the gigantic effort to integrate the Länder of the East, the country has returned to growth and a certain prosperity.

    Austria

    Travelers taking the Bavarian autobahns towards Bregenz and Innsbruck will no doubt have their heads filled with postcard images of Austria. They will immediately be immersed in unspoiled nature, with pristine lakes surrounded by mountains, with ski resorts brightened up with pretty chalets with balconies dripping with geraniums.

    Castillo de Hohenwerfen, Werfen, Austria, 2019-05-17, DD 115
    Gate of castle Hohenwerfen, Werfen, near Salzburg, Austria. The medieval rock castle, situated on a 623 metres (2,044 ft) precipice overlooking the town of Werfen in the Salzach valley. The fortress is a “sister” of Hohensalzburg Fortress, both built by the Archbishops of Salzburg in the 11th century. Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    In Salzburg, right in the middle of the festival, the vision will be both frozen and shifted. Because Austria may jealously preserve its folklore, it does not refuse modernity; its architecture is evolving (Vorarlberg, which has become a model in the field of alternative architecture), its major cities (Vienna, Linz, Graz) vibrate to the rhythm of an intense nightlife and artistic life and contain high quality museums.
    In short, a country which, without neglecting its prestigious past, remains nonetheless focused on the future. Once a great European power, Austria can be seen in the open air in every city, in every village. Medieval castles perched on their hills, baroque churches, palaces and gardens, towns coiled around their market place.

    All this mixes, not without harmony, with a certain audacity, with contemporary constructions imagined by futuristic architects, certainly, but always concerned with preserving the environment.
    And Vienna, the ultimate goal of the journey, reputed to be the most pleasant capital in the world but also dual, contradictory, fascinating as one might wish, so fertile in currents of thought and artistic movements that had a profound impact on the world.

    Austria is therefore able to bring together the fierce ecologist in search of adventure, the sportsman eager to do battle with a nature that has remained in the wild state and the intellectual curious to discover a country which saw the birth of so many universal geniuses.

    Hungary

    It is true that Hungary resembles Austria in certain aspects (in its lower part), while already opening the door to a world of spicy flavors, powerful wines and bewitching gypsy music.

    Hungary occupies the center of the Danubian Basin, where spa towns, baroque cities and rural towns alternate. Here, there are no grandiose or overly tormented landscapes. Delimited to the northeast by the Carpathians, Hungary leaves the peaks to Slovakia and cultivates the sweetness of life in its plains or on the volcanic shores of Lake Balaton, which still attract many summer visitors and spa guests. Wherever it goes, the Danube imposes itself.

    BudapestMontage
    From top, left to right (Budapest): view of the city with the Danube River, lion guarding the Chain Bridge, Heroes’ Square, the Parliament Building, Fisherman’s Bastion, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and a panorama from Gellért Hill with Buda Castle on the left. mcshadypl at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Hungary occupies a modest area, but that does not prevent it from being very rich culturally. One cannot, of course, circumscribe it to its sublime capital, although the latter is its center from all points of view. We cannot overlook its charming provincial towns, such as Szeged, Sopron, Győr, Kőszeg, Kecskemét, Eger and Debrecen… which combine Baroque, Art Nouveau and Neoclassicism.

    The Turkish presence for 150 years has left it with a taste for coffee, spicy or sweet cuisine, roses, Turkish baths and even some mosques.

    Poland

    Warsaw is the nation’s capital and largest metropolis. Other major cities include Kraków, Wrocław, Łódź, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

    After 123 years of disappearance from the map of the world (1795-1918), a few brief years of independence then 6 years of Nazi barbarism (1939-1945) and 45 years of communist totalitarianism (1945-1989), Poland is among the nations that have suffered the most in Europe.

    Warsaw montage
    In the photos (clockwise): ul. Emilii Plater at night, St. Krzyża, National Stadium, Kazimierzowski Palace, Grand Theater and Castle Square. Foxy1219(montage), Radek Kołakowski, Marek和Ewa Wojciechowscy , ekeidar, Marcin Białek, DocentX, Mateusz Włodarczyk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Happy nations have no history, they say. The sufferings and vicissitudes of Poland hurt it but did not destroy it, making this Slavic nation even more endearing to the traveler. The country has modernized rapidly and takes on a little more color every year.

    Gone are the gray faces that prevailed after the fall of the Wall. Here, young people come out. The bars are bursting with vitality. The Poles have a very nice little Latin side. Proud of their country, they are honored that you come to discover their (beautiful) history.

    Whether you walk, ride or paddle through their stunning national parks, in search of the last wild bison in Europe or the bears of the Carpathians. Whether you walk the streets of the cities of Poland, superb. Even those destroyed by war have been able to rebuild their noble architecture of yesteryear. You will discover real pearls, first and foremost Krakow, one of the most beautiful cities in Central Europe.
    Poland has finished having to hide its treasures through invasions: it has gilded the paneling of its magnificent castles and hung up master paintings on the walls.

    Pieniny Trzy Korony
    Pieniny National Park (Poland) or Parc Pieniński Narodowy. This is a protected area located in the heart of Pieniny Mountains in the southernmost part of Poland. Administratively, the park is located in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship on the border with Slovakia. Its registered office is in Krościenko nad Dunajcem.
    The Pieniny mountain range is divided into three ranges: Pieniny Spiskie, Małe Pieniny, and the Pieniny Właściwe range where the park is located. The area of the park is 23.46 square kilometers (9.06 sq mi), of which 13.11 km² is forested. A third (7.5 km²) is strictly protected. On the Slovak side of the mountains, there is a parallel park called Park Pieninský národný. Marek Silarski, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Czech Republic

    It was his famous men – Kafka, Smetana, Dvořák, Miloš Forman, Kundera, Václav Havel… – who made the reputation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, these two Central European countries formerly linked under the name of Czechoslovakia.

    However, the kingdoms of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia had an unusual destiny. Over the centuries, the indigenous peoples, integrated into the Holy Roman Empire and then into the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs, fought tirelessly for their independence and freedom, winning short-lived victories and suffering cruel setbacks.

    The number 8 symbolizes all the great hopes, missed opportunities and “burials”: ​​1848, the revolution that swept Europe, including Bohemia and Slovakia; 1918, independence following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; 1938, Munich and annexation to the Third Reich; 1948, the Prague coup; 1968, the end of “Spring”… It was only 1989 and the Velvet Revolution to put an end to the series!

    A trip to the Czech Republic, particularly in Bohemia and Moravia, is a dive into the sources of Central Europe, at the border of the Germanic and Slavic worlds, in a territory still shaped by the struggles for influence of the past. In a setting of countryside and forests, the Czech Republic thus offers an incredible range of castles, a rainbow of small Renaissance or Baroque towns painted in pastel colours. History accompanies you every step of the way.

    Slovakia

    Slovakia, separated from its Czech half since 1992, deserves to be better known. With not quite 50,000 km² (19 305 miles²), it is 4/5 mountainous and more rural. There are superb hikes in a still wild nature, especially in the Tatra mountains or in the Slovak Paradise. Add to that rafting in summer, skiing in winter, many hot springs and some of the most spectacular caves in the world…

    In addition, Slovakia has admirable castles, churches and palaces in Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque styles, not to mention the pearls of Slovak architecture: the wooden churches of the east of the country. The main cities of Slovakia have undertaken the renovation of their old quarters. 7 sites have been classified as World Heritage by Unesco.

    Now enjoying an independence that was long denied to them, the Slovak people are both proud of their traditions and open to the world, while claiming a deeply European identity. You will quickly notice that the Slovaks have a sense of hospitality… and of celebration!

    Swiss

    Switzerland looks like an island planted in the center of Europe. The country is nonetheless made up of surprisingly varied landscapes and populations with very different characters. To the west, from Geneva to the bottom of the Valais (or almost) and up to the canton of Jura, the French-speaking Swiss are undeniably of Latin origin. This is noticeable in the first words they speak. On the other side of the Sarine (the river which, in particular, crosses Friborg and acts as a kind of “border”) begins the domain of German-speaking Switzerland, the largest and most populated territory (nearly 6 million people). inhabitants against 2 million Romands).

    To the east, Graubünden, where Romansh is still spoken, but not very much. And south of the Alps, once through the Saint-Gothard tunnel, Italian Switzerland: Ticino. Three geographical areas therefore (the Jura, the Plateau and the Alps), four national languages ​​(German, French, Italian and Romansh), 26 cantons, i.e. as many small States, each with its particularities, forming the Swiss Confederation, one of the oldest countries in the world.

    In Switzerland, federalism is not an empty word! But if you have to look for what can unite the Swiss, you don’t have to look long: the mountain asserts its strong presence in almost every landscape. It is above all the sumptuous natural landscapes that people come to admire in Switzerland, dotted with villages that have managed to combine tradition and modernity.

    EASTERN EUROPE

    Belarus

    Rest on the shores of Lake Narach, and understand why Belarus is nicknamed the “blue-eyed country”. Revisit the wounds of the past at the Katyń Memorial, in Vitebsk’s Victory Square, or at the Museum of Belarusian Jewish History and Culture in Minsk. Learn about customs and traditions at the Dudutki Folk Museum. Follow in the footsteps of Napoleon along the Berezina River.

    Let yourself be charmed by Novogrudok, a small town with a long history. Stop in the Biełaviežskaja Pušča National Park, one of the oldest in Europe, the first home of the European bison, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and contemplate the natural riches. Get off the beaten track to unravel the mystery of this small country…

    Minsk

    Entirely rebuilt after the wars, capital and only Belarusian metropolis, with atypical charm; old town, Stalinist blocks and modern buildings.

    Mir and Nesvizh (surroundings of Minsk)

    Their 16th century castles registered with Unesco; cornerstones of Belarusian heritage, with European cultural and architectural influences.

    Grodno (Hrodna)

    Relay town which opens the country to Europe, with its ancient heritage; excursion to the ruins of the castle of Novogrudok (Navahroudak), the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

    Narach Lake

    One of the “Blue Lakes”, the largest in Belarus; its clear water which will seduce travelers eager for nature and water sports.

    Polotsk (Polatsk)

    Thousand-year-old city, one of the oldest in Belarus, the cradle of the state and an important cultural center; the Saint Sophia Cathedral and several monasteries.

    Vitebsk

    Major cultural and historical crossroads, which was a center of culture and then of the persecution of the Jews of Belarus; the Marc Chagall Museum.

    Crimea

    Sun, translucent sea, sandy and pebble beaches, mountains falling steeply into the blue water, multicultural heritage, Crimea has all the advantages to become a leading destination in Eastern Europe.

    On March 11, 2014, Crimea declared its independence, then following a referendum was attached to Russia on March 18. This referendum and the attachment that followed were condemned by Ukraine and a large part of the international community, including the EU. Bathed in the clear blue waters of the Black Sea, Crimea forms a peninsula (26,100 km2) in the shape of a kite wave. It is geographically attached to Ukraine by an isthmus.

    Since the 19th century, Crimea has become the French Riviera of the Russians, their Riviera in short. Sebastopol and Balaklava at the southern end enjoy an almost Mediterranean climate, mild in winter and hot in summer

    For those who don’t know it, this peninsula in the south of Ukraine, surrounded by the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov? At the confluence of Eastern Europe and Asia, south of Ukraine projects a peninsula into the Black Sea. It is Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine but speaking mainly Russian.

    Estonia

    One of the main attractions of Estonia is the surprising way in which history and modernity live together seamlessly. We are first of all pleasantly surprised by the modern architecture, the comfort of the hotels, the multitude of friendly cafes and the contemporary art galleries.

    At the same time, traces of a rich history can be detected in Estonia, illustrated by the red tiled roofs, the spiers of churches, the weather vanes, the turrets of centuries-old castles. Since the Middle Ages, Estonia has been an integral part of the European cultural space thanks to the trade passing through its ports, which has helped to make the country prosper while making it known abroad.

    One of these age-old ports is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Tallinn charms us with its historic center, a real setting with splendid churches, houses and palaces. It is one of those rare towns still surrounded by an authentic well-preserved medieval wall, and a city whose irresistible charm makes it a destination of choice. Its old town is magical and somewhat secret…

    Latvia

    After the particularly depressed economic period that followed independence in 1991 (the country lost a large part of its industries in the great post-Soviet dismemberment), Latvia then proved to be the good student of the Baltic countries.

    In addition to a superb medieval core, Riga, the capital of Latvia, has an Art Nouveau style city center, a unique architectural ensemble, classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Riga, European capital of Art Nouveau, surprises us at every corner. Furthermore, Riga, the largest Baltic metropolis, has the hippest youth and the craziest nightlife of the three Baltic states.

    About thirty kilometers from Riga, Latvia has the most beautiful beaches in the Baltic, very popular with Russians in Soviet times. As for Rundale, the “Versailles” of Latvia, it alone is well worth taking a plane to discover…

    Lithuania

    Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic countries, and the one with the most tormented history. After having been a great kingdom, constantly occupied by Poland, Germany and Russia, Lithuania was the first to face the USSR, in 1989-1990, showing the way to independence.

    Today, like its Baltic counterparts, Lithuania is integrating the European Union in a dynamic way, and adopted the euro on January 1, 2015. Moreover, if we include Russia below the Urals, Lithuania would be the geographical center of Europe (25 km or 15.5 miles from Vilnius exactly).

    This is the perfect opportunity to explore these little-known lands dotted with numerous lakes, thick forests and some magnificent national parks.

    Vilnius, which long possessed, thanks to its very large Jewish community, the title of “Jerusalem of the North”, is a magnificent repository of cultural and artistic influences.

    Moldova

    After very long periods of annexations and occupations, the small Republic of Moldova finally gained independence on August 27, 1991. Composed of less than 5 million inhabitants, Moldova is landlocked between Romania and Ukraine with which it has complex diplomatic and political relations. Like its neighboring countries, it has managed to preserve its environment intact and still today has a very significant biological diversity.

    Сорокская крепость Cetatea Soroca Soroca Fortress (44738806701)
    Built during the reign of Stephen the Great, several authors believed the Soroca Fort was constructed on the site of a former Genoese fortress named Olhionia. This medieval fortress is one of the main tourist attractions in Moldova. It is part of the “belt of stone fortresses”, a set of medieval forts intended to protect the country from invaders. There are four fortresses on the Nistru, two on the Danube and three in the north of the country. Soroca Fortress was built in 1499 in place of an earlier fortress. Photobank MD from Chisinau, Moldova, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Moldova is located in Eastern Europe. It borders Romania and Ukraine and has Chisinau as its capital. It is in the latter that the main historical monuments of this country born after the break-up of the former USSR are concentrated, including the Basilica district, the history museum where you can see works of historic art, the Arc de Triomphe and the Orthodox Cathedral.

    But, there are also other interesting sites in other parts of the country:
    • Citadel of Soroca,
    • Citadel of Tighina
    • Statute of Stephen the Great in Balti

    The country has no less than 30 nature reserves, such as that of Codru, one of the oldest in the country, 13 protected territories and 5 scientific reserves, i.e. a total of nearly 74,000 hectares. ecological network. Moldova is therefore an ideal destination for lovers of green tourism. Especially since the climate lends itself quite well: Moldova enjoys a temperate continental climate, characterized by very hot and particularly sunny summers and, by contrast, very cold winters – January is the coldest month. of the year and hottest July.

    But lovers of historical and religious culture can also find what they are looking for: Moldavia covers many monasteries, like for example that of Hîncu, erected in 1678 in a location formerly occupied by a former convent of nuns or even that of Orheiul Vechi, literally Old Orhei, located about sixty kilometers from the capital Chisinau.

    Highlight of the destination, the medieval fortress of Soroca, located 160 kilometers north of the Moldovan capital, is an attractive tourist destination in Moldova. With its 5 towers of 24 meters, it comes to us practically in the state it was in when it was designed in the 15th century. A detour to Chisinau, the Moldavian capital, is part of the itinerary of anyone discovering this country.

    Despite very deep traces of Soviet architecture, the Moldavian capital seduces visitors with its abundance of parks, which makes it a “green” city and its colorful markets. The nights are also dynamic and last until dawn. Conversely, Moldova also presents a very deep rural face: some observers do not hesitate to establish a very clear separation between Chisinau and the Moldovan villages, where you will be able to taste the local production of the country and the friendliness of its inhabitants. Beware, however, of the state of Moldovan roads: the road network, which dates back to the Soviet era, is absolutely not maintained due to the absence of public investment.

    In addition to this fairly clear dichotomy between the Moldavian villages and its capital, Moldova also has an interesting geographical and political particularity: covering an area of ​​some 4163 square kilometers, the Moldavian Republic of Transnistria, which is also known by other names in Russia or in Romania, is a republic not recognized by the international community and which decided to secede from the Republic of Moldova in 1991, following the independence of the former states of the USSR.

    It nevertheless remains occupied by a Russian regiment and this country continues to provide it with investments, making this state a richer territory than Moldova. Its capital is Tiraspol. Moldova had tried to retake this territory in 1992 but the operation had ended in failure.

    Poland

    Located in Central Europe, between Orthodox Russia and Christian Germany, Poland was first a powerful state in the Middle Ages that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

    After 123 years of disappearance from the map of the world (1795-1918), a few brief years of independence then 6 years of Nazi barbarism (1939-1945) and 45 years of communist totalitarianism (1945-1989), Poland is among the nations that have suffered the most in Europe.
    Happy nations have no history, they say. The sufferings and vicissitudes of Poland hurt it but did not destroy it, making this Slavic nation even more endearing to the traveler. The country has modernized rapidly and takes on a little more color every year.

    Gone are the gray faces that prevailed after the fall of the Wall. Here, young people come out. The bars are bursting with vitality. The Poles have a very nice little Latin side. Proud of their country, they are honored that you come to discover their (beautiful) history.

    Whether you walk, ride or paddle through their stunning national parks, in search of the last wild bison in Europe or the bears of the Carpathians. Whether you walk the streets of the cities of Poland, superb. Even those destroyed by war have been able to rebuild their noble architecture of yesteryear. You will discover real pearls, first and foremost Krakow, one of the most beautiful cities in Central Europe.
    Poland has finished having to hide its treasures through invasions: it has gilded the paneling of its magnificent castles and hung up master paintings on the walls.

    Today the territory stops at the mountainous reliefs of the south, with the massifs of the Sudetes and its Carpathians on the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the center, it is a large plain crossed by the Vistula which crosses the country to throw itself into the Baltic Sea, in Gdansk. Throughout its history, this country has experienced invasions that have constantly upset its borders. The first to attack Poland was the Muslim Empire from the 12th century. From the 17th century, it experienced incessant attacks from its two powerful neighbours. From this tormented history remains a rich heritage of these different influences. Several historic centers retain houses dating from the Middle Ages, ramparts, richly decorated churches and magnificent palaces.

    But this vast country also has superb nature reserves, such as the primary forest of Bialowieza, very beautiful beaches on the Baltic Sea or even Pomerania, a region rich in thousands of lakes. A stay in Poland is aimed at lovers of old stones as well as hikers and those who appreciate the change of scenery on northern beaches.

    The climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters. Spring and autumn are therefore the best seasons to take a flight to Poland and enjoy the country without encountering too extreme temperatures. In the center of the country are the big cities. It is absolutely necessary to visit Krakow, the old capital which dates from the 13th century, with its 14th century ramparts and its medieval pedestrian streets. The city has the largest market place in Europe, inherited from the time when this city was a major crossroads where goods from Western Europe and the East were exchanged. Its historic center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has many old houses, palaces and religious buildings such as the Wawel Royal Castle and its cathedral built on a hill and the Basilica of Saint Mary, among others. 60 kilometers east of Krakow is the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

    South of Krakow, don’t miss the medieval wooden churches of Little Poland, made of logs in the 15th and 16th centuries, richly decorated with murals, with amazing architectural forms. About ten kilometers away, the famous salt mines of Wieliczka, which in the 14th century brought in a third of royal revenue! It’s a real underground city with many rooms sculpted in the gem.

    If Warsaw was deliberately destroyed in 1944 by the Germans, the historic center was rebuilt identically by the inhabitants, including the old ramparts and the royal castle which are worth a visit. However, there are still old buildings such as the majestic Wilanow Palace (17th century), rich houses belonging to merchants or the Krasinski Palace where Chopin lived. Do not miss the Gothic castle of Malbork, in Pomerania. This fortress of the Teutonic Order was founded in the 13th century by military monks in order to repel the pagans and convert the Baltic peoples to Christianity. It is an immense citadel endowed with several castles, witness of the crusades delivered to the borders of Eastern Europe.

    There are ruins of another castle of the same Teutoni order than in Torun, whose center retains buildings dating from the 14th century (including the house of Copernicus) when this city was part of the powerful Hanseatic League. Another exceptional building; the Churches of Peace located in Silesia which are the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe. They were built after a treaty ended the persecutions against Protestants. The Lutherans were able to celebrate their worship there, away from the cities, on the condition that the construction was entirely made of wood! There are so many places to visit that several nights in a hotel in Poland are a must!

    Romania

    Romania, a crossroads of Western, Byzantine, Slavic and Eastern influences, is a real backpacker destination (the cost of living there is one of the lowest in Europe, with Bulgaria) and cultural. A very endearing country which fought hard to free itself from a mad dictator. Then, it had to fight to acquire its place within the European Union.

    Finally, Romania is still fighting against prejudices so far from reality. Admittedly, the scars of communism are still very present in places, but Romania has many assets to seduce: a generous nature, conducive to hiking and bird watching (the Danube delta is home to the largest natural reserve of pelicans Europe), an authentic countryside where work in the fields is still done in the traditional way as in the past, preserved villages where the inhabitants welcome you with open arms in rustic pensions full of charm. Francophiles and often even French speakers, Romanians communicate easily and this hospitality is one of the great attractions of the country.

    Lovers of culture and old stones will not be left out in Romania, between the elegant architecture of the medieval towns of Transylvania, the castles of fairy tales, the wooden churches of Maramureş and the painted monasteries of Moldavia, unique sets in the world, listed as World Heritage by Unesco. Only 2 hours by plane from Paris, what a change of scenery!

    Russia

    It is no coincidence that in the time of the Tsars, the monarch bore the title of “sovereign of all the Russias”. Russia is a land of extremes and diversity, and Moscow and St. Petersburg are two cities that everything opposes. Moscow is made up of gigantic avenues lined with Stalinist buildings, writers and artists whose houses we visit, bulbs crowning the churches, a Red Square famous throughout the world, the Kremlin…

    St. Petersburg Montage 2016
    St. Petersburg: Admiralty, Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Isaac ‘s Cathedral, Fontanka River, Bronze Horseman, Winter Palace. AlexTref871, Florstein, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    But the Soviet Empire melted and a most savage capitalism pointed its muzzle. Moscow is changing at high speed, sometimes for the better (it is no longer that gray city of the Soviet era), sometimes for the worse when old neighborhoods are destroyed. If the babushkas are less visible, a certain golden youth has set the tone in recent years. Luxury hotels and restaurants have sprung up like mushrooms, and bars and clubs are veritable fashion shows. A new generation is taking over in Russia, despite a particularly authoritarian regime.

    Permanently connected, she travels, speaks English and finally looks to the future in her country. Just browse the trendy places of the capital to taste this new dynamism. What is Russian about Saint-Petersburg, built by German engineers, designed by Italian architects, influenced by Holland, where the language of Voltaire was spoken at Court? Saint-Petersburg was created from scratch at the beginning of the 18th century by Peter the Great. We are here at the heart of the unshakeable will of a man: his passion for water is embodied by the Neva and the canals, his rejection of Moscow translates into a frenzied desire to get closer to Western culture. Women continued the work, especially Catherine II, who gave the city all its majesty today.

    Ukraine

    2nd largest country on the European continent, Ukraine, bordered to the west by the EU, to the east by Russia and to the south by the Black and Azov seas, is the “Mother of all Slavic peoples Orientals”, the heiress of the kingdom of Rus’ of Kyiv (kyiv), founded in the 9th c.

    1991, independence… A country of 40 million inhabitants opens up, eager for freedom but strongly marked by the USSR. Since then, politico-economic and even military issues, resulting from a conflict with Russia vexed by its Western temptation, have often made the news in Ukraine.
    But it would be a shame to reduce Ukraine to the turmoil of the news…

    So over to you…Kyiv (kyiv), capital of the country, its civil and religious heritage, its animation, its greenery, its islands; Odessa, free port and model city on the Black Sea, designed in the early 19th century by the French; Lviv, to the west of the country, the former Austro-Hungarian capital of Galicia, the most European and Ukrainian of cities, and to the south-west, the authentic section of the Carpathians, the great massif of Central Europe, between villages and forests.

    Not far to the east, Chernivtsi, the former Moldavian of Bukovina, is worth the detour for its monumental 19th century university, its architecture inherited from a cosmopolitan history, just like Kamianets-Podilskyï, a land island with a formidable fortress, once “last bastion of Christianity”.
    You too will welcome a resilient people, proud of their identity. And the plain blackened by the fertile Chernozem, a prelude to the eastern steppes? You will realize that here, in these endless Slavic marches, the sun of Europe rises.

    WESTERN EUROPE

    Germany

    Germany is rich in strong culture and traditions, in charming villages in the heart of gentle landscapes, in medieval towns that have been preserved and often rebuilt identically after the war. From Franconian folklore to the forests of Baden-Württemberg, from the beaches of the Baltic to the castles of Ludwig II of Bavaria, from the small roads of the Rhineland to the banks of the Danube, a deep and peaceful Germany does indeed exist.

    Germany has some of the most beautiful museums in the world. It is proud of its gothic cathedrals and its baroque churches, as much as of the “kolossal” festivals around beer and wine, which punctuate the seasons.

    In terms of modernity, what would Germany be without its creativity coupled with its commercial dynamism? You will be surprised to discover innovative architecture, inspired art at the forefront of the avant-garde and design made in Germany. New trends are born every day. New ideas are developing there, often to the credit of a youth whose originality and freedom will please you…
    On the political side, in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Wall, we discovered a disconcerting former East Germany, with a poorly known past.

    Since then, water has flowed under the bridges of the Elbe, and after the gigantic effort to integrate the Länder of the East, the country has returned to growth and a certain prosperity.

    Belgium

    For many, going to Belgium does not appear to be a particularly exotic trip. And yet, it is indeed a real exotic stroll to which we invite you. How can we imagine that an “elsewhere” so close is despite everything so different from France? How not to be surprised by so much wealth on such a small territory?

    TE-Collage Brussels
    A collage with various views of Brussels, Top: View of the North Quarter financial district, second left: floral carpet on the Grand Place, second right: Brussels Town Hall and the Mont des Arts area, third: Quincentenary Park, fourth left: Manneken statue, middle room: Cathedral of San Miguel and Santa Gudul, right: Congress Colum, bottom: Royal Palace of Brussels. Montage by User:The Emirr, authors of source images listed above, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Flat country certainly, but its relief, it is its inhabitants who give it so much they are warm, funny and always accessible. France has ignored its neighbor for too long. Since the beginning of the century, Belgian filmmakers, actors, fashion designers, writers, comedians and even footballers have helped to change the situation: the Belgian is now “trendy” in France.

    Where we discover that Belgian culinary diversity goes far beyond simple mussels and fries. And then the painting! This country has produced a dizzying number of artists. Since then, each creation from Belgium has aroused astonishment: the kingdom has become the homeland of quirky humour, the paradise of self-mockery.

    In terms of geography, in Belgium there are no mountains but forests, few sea shores but a nature that invites you to stroll, especially by bike, and a concentration of architectural riches. On the cultural side, Gothic churches, innovative and exciting museums, flower markets and, above all, festivals.

    France

    This country will surprise you, amaze you and above all make you travel through the countries. Secret and unknown places, treasures of towns and villages, unmissable hikes and cycle paths, dream addresses, wines, cheeses…

    France is beautiful, full of natural riches, cities with a vibrant history; villages lost to be even better discovered; from natural parks to incredible hikes; lakes inviting you to disconnect; wonders of nature that would make us believe that we are in a completely different part of the world…

    Do you like city of Paris?

    Paris montage 2013
    Montmartre • Eiffel Tower • Louvre • Opéra Garnier • Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de • Pont des Arts • Notre-Dame de Paris • Paris Metro • Arc de Triomphe. Paris 16, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Do you like the atmosphere of the Southwest? Head for the Basque Country or the Gironde. Do you like the Atlantic but further North? Vendée and Brittany are waiting for you. And then there is “the South”: Provence, the Côte d’Azur, Corsica, Languedoc, Ardèche… So many regions that will offer you original activities to try with children, gastronomic discoveries or itineraries to experiment without taking the car, for a holiday that is more respectful of the environment.

    Fancy the mountains? Savoie, Auvergne, the Vosges, the Pyrenees unveil their circuses, massifs, mountains and winding roads to grant you a delicious green setting, off the beaten track. Beyond its traditional brand image, made of art culinary and haute couture, France multiplies its faces in a mosaic of regions. Not one is like the other and you will find extraordinary places there. All you have to do is (re)discover them…

    Ireland

    Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit Ireland knows it: the Irish naturally cultivate the pleasure of hospitality. With the rapid enrichment of recent decades, mentalities have changed a little.

    Fortunately, the heart of Ireland still beats. It is not by traveling from town to town that you will discover it: you will have to explore the corners of the island, visit the hidden villages and the wild peninsulas, to find, at the bend of a Gaeltacht (area where you speaks the Gaelic language), the real human warmth of green Erin. In other words, go to green class! And follow, for example, the “new” Wild Atlantic Way, from Kinsale to the Inishowen Peninsula (Donegal), the longest coastal road in the world (about 2,500 km!). Or discover itineraries of Ireland’s Ancient East.

    If Ireland has remained so human, it is undoubtedly because it suffered a lot in the past. This magnificent country, where the landscapes resemble romantic engravings of the 19th century, is populated by ghosts. This always present past, you will be confronted with it from the first pub, to the first song.

    This is Ireland today: a liberal economy recovering from a serious crisis after having been flourishing, a young country (25% of the inhabitants are under 15) and modern.

    If the mentality, once very conservative, has softened, Ireland remains a country of strong values, contrasts, even contradictions. The sun shines through the rain, the sad ballads lead to wild jigs… It’s a bit of yourself that you leave in Ireland… Because, no matter where you come from, Ireland is that of the heart.

    Luxemburg

    Between Germany, Belgium and France, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is certainly one of the smallest countries in the European Union, but it is certainly also the most European of all.

    Bilingual and often trilingual, Luxembourgers speak their national language, as well as French, German and often another European language.

    In addition to its cosmopolitan character, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (now 2 hours by TGV from Paris) has its own identity and a number of cultural and natural riches spread over its five regions: the capital, Luxembourg, and its surroundings, the Ardennes and their natural parks, the Müllerthal, baptized “Luxembourg’s little Switzerland” because of its beautiful wild nature, the Moselle and its vineyards, and finally the Terres Rouges, land of mines, in the south of Luxembourg.

    The Netherlands

    The Netherlands ? Well no, it’s not a country! It is the name of 2 provinces of the Netherlands, which have twelve, and which constitute, it is true, the most visited, the best known part of the kingdom. As a result, it is commonly accepted that Holland is the name of the country.

    Sights in Amsterdam
    Amsterdam Dam. Het Schip. Keizersgracht canal in Amsterdam. Red light district. Vondelpark. ING House.  Collection created by Rubenescio (talk)Image composed from these images on Wikimedia Commons:File:Amsterdam Dam 2008.jpg by Andreas PraefckeFile:Het Schip.jpg by Sérgio GodoyFile:KeizersgrachtReguliersgrachtAmsterdam.jpg by Massimo CatarinellaFile:Amsterdam red light district.jpg by DjdeakaFile:Vondelpark On A Sunny Day.jpg by David SilverlineFile:INGHouse1.jpg by Mig de Jong., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Another received idea: The Hague… No, it is not the capital of the Netherlands, even if it looks like it (ministries, embassies, etc.). The capital is indeed Amsterdam: it is in this city that the investiture of the Dutch monarchs takes place. Its name is originally linked to water, since it means “the dyke on the Amstel”.

    Throughout the history of the Netherlands, land and water, often confused, have finally each found their place and seem to stick to it. In the past, their relationship was very tumultuous. No doubt it is because of this difficulty that the Dutch people acquired their stubbornness, their methodical spirit, their taste for reflection and their love of freedom, masterfully illustrated by the welcome they have always had done to all the exiles of History.

    Amsterdam remains a destination where everyone rubs shoulders without fear of displaying their uniqueness. One breathes a perfume of good-natured cosmopolitanism in a village setting with global dimensions, which overall still respects the rights of each minority.

    And apart from the tulips, in the Netherlands, when the night lights up the opulent interiors along the canals, an old-fashioned art of living is cultivated there, giving full meaning to this sometimes outdated notion that we call gezelligheid , an untranslatable concept, between conviviality, well-being and sociability.

    United Kingdom

    Great Britain is only about thirty kilometers from the coast of France, but already this arm of the sea is taking on the appearance of the Atlantic. When you land for the first time “on the other side”, you are inevitably confused. The landscapes of England decline the whole palette of greens which contrast with the white of the cliffs and the brick facades. From the fake fire that decorates the hearths to the nice ladies who call you honey or darling, everything in England deserves the qualifiers quaint and cozy (“old and cozy”).

    London Montage 2016
    Some of the most representative monuments of London, counterclockwise: Big Ben, Tower Bridge, panoramic photo of Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral. AlexTref871, Carlos Delgado, Jey Han, Diliff, Colin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Neat lawns and sidewalks, manicured houses and gardens, in England there is only the sky that the British have sometimes forgotten to repaint. And again, Turner did not hesitate!

    Let yourself be charmed by a completely different art of living, by the disconcerting English humor and by the famous British phlegm which are not a legend! As for Brexit, we no longer know whether to talk about it…
    In this monarchical country, the British youth cracked down – some fifty years ago – the Victorian austerity and respectability that had encircled it for more than a century, by bringing together the most extravagant looks and the bowler hat.

    Scotland

    Scotland, land of legends… If the ghosts and the Loch Ness monster still attract some lovers of the strange, most travelers are above all looking for the subtle mix between raw and wild nature, a rich history and a unique culture.

    EdinburghMontage
    Clockwise from top-left: View from Calton Hill, University of Edinburgh Old College, View of Edinburgh Old Town, Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street as seen from Calton Hill. Compilation by User:Scottfree92, using images taken from various authors:View from Calton Hill: Oliver Bonjoch, User:Oliver-BonjochOld College: Jonathan Oldenbuck, User:Jonathan_OldenbuckView of Edinburgh Old Town: Nicolai Schäfer, User:NizeEdinburgh Castle: Ad Meskens, User:Ad_MeskensPrinces Street as seen from Calton Hill: Ad Meskens, User:Ad_Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Lovers of heather-covered moors and romantic lochs, cliffs and waterfalls will come home delighted, especially if they venture to the northwest of the country, to discover the Highlands.

    Scotland is one of the best preserved in Europe: less than 10 inhabitants per square kilometre! There are many more sheep there… and a few atypical cows with long hair and rebellious fringe (Highland cattle), not to mention the countless seals and birds that inhabit the multitude of islands.

    As for the Scots, we find them warm, like the atmosphere that often reigns in pubs. Their cuisine also reveals some good surprises, such as haggis, the famous stuffed sheep’s stomach, dreaded in our country and yet acclaimed “best dish in Scotland”.

    In the end, the only potential enemies of the backpacker in Scotland remain the famous midges… and the rain. So much so that the Scot claims to have invented the kilt to no longer have to wet the bottom of his pants! Rest assured: the weather changes quickly, and the landscapes compete in beauty between each grain…

    NORTH EUROPE

    Denmark

    Finger of Jutland darted between the North Sea and the Baltic, islands by the hundreds, large and small to escort it, Denmark is a country of water, sea. The tones are soft, the green of the omnipresent countryside. The smallest of the Scandinavian countries is also the most southern, in its geographical position as well as in its soul. The Danes are more solar than skies, warm, open and sociable. Here, we enjoy life and we don’t hesitate to raise our elbows!

    Don’t do like so many other travelers, in a hurry to conquer the Far North, and take the time to discover Denmark, a country that does not offer spectacular natural curiosities, but distills thousands of others, more discreet. Rent a bike, criss-cross the small bucolic roads pedaling to the rhythm of Danish nature, so gentle, so hospitable…

    Iceland

    A trip to Iceland, land of extremes and contrasts, at the edge of the Arctic Circle, is an opportunity for a fabulous lesson in geology. Volcanoes, glaciers, lava fields, waterfalls, geothermal areas, natural baths and black sand beaches make up wild landscapes which, depending on the sky and the lighting, evoke the beginning or the end of the world. With its cracked, heaving, smoking, upset soils, revealing in places the bowels of the Earth, Iceland was once considered the gateway to Hell.

    Reykjavik Main Image
    Landscape highlights in Reykjavik. From upper left: View of Reykjavik during summer seen from Perlan, rooftops of houses seen from Hallgrímskirkja, View of Reykjavik from Hallgrímskirkja from different angle, Fríkirkjan (church) in Reykjavík, panorama from Perlan during winter. Benedikt Aron with original images taken from authors Pjt56, Hedwig Storch, Luc Van Braekel, Bjørn Giesenbauer and Napoleon tnt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Today, more than 2 million tourists visit this island every year, the discovery of which never leaves you indifferent. Because, like its relief and its sharp and raw colors, Iceland can only inspire whole feelings.
    So many opportunities, for the backpacker in love with nature and wide open spaces, to be amazed during his stay: hiking in almost lunar landscapes, walking on a glacier, observing humpback whales, remaining speechless under an aurora boreal

    In a word, Iceland is a unique destination (and we weigh our words) where every day offers its share of wonders to contemplate, light years from what we know.

    Finland

    Helsinki is the capital and largest city, forming a larger metropolitan area with the neighbouring cities of Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa.

    Forests, lakes, swamps, rivers, forests, swamps, lakes, forests, reindeer, tundra, lakes, lakes, more lakes… and a few towns lost in this immensity of lakes , forests and rivers… One might fear monotony. And yet, this country exerts a certain fascination.

    Helsinki montage 2015
    Clockwise from top: Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki center, Sanoma building and Kiasma museum, Helsinki center at night, beach at Aurinkolahti, Parliament Building and Suomenlinna fortress. Michal Pise, kallerna, Alvesgaspar, Janne Hellsten, Johannes Jansson/norden.org, Otso Kivekäs, Jonik, Paasikivi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Finland is not a pure destination, a specific place, a list of places to visit; it’s an atmosphere, a road trip, an invitation to dawdle and let yourself be invaded by the immensity of nature.

    After many vicissitudes, stuck between the appetites of the Swedish and Russian ogres, Finland has found its marks and asserted its own character. Take its language: incredible sounds, a farandole of letters surmounted by a multitude of umlauts, brought from the depths of the steppes at the foot of the Urals…
    Being Finnish is a way of seeing the world. It is the sisu, this tenacity, this courage in the face of the (sometimes) unleashed elements that has shaped the soul of this people. The sisu governs patience, endurance, it helps to build, to project into the future; sisu has made Finland one of the most developed nations on the planet. A country where the city has been reinvented in its own right: simple, efficient, peaceful, opening the door wide to wooden architecture and a design with a form that is as refined as it is aesthetic – and still practical.

    To understand Finland, you have to leave the roads, take the tracks and paths to the most secluded lakes, to take a bath in serenity. You have to become one with this gigantic and wild nature, at the risk of encountering myriads of mosquitoes and insects… Walk, take out your compass and your fishing rod, sacrifice again and again to the ritual of the sauna. It is there, at the heart of a different relationship to time, space and nature, that we will discover the deep reason for this attraction that the country exerts on its visitors.

    Norway

    The capital and largest city in Norway is Oslo.

    Lovers of wide open spaces will find an authentic promised land in Norway. Mother Nature has delivered one of her most majestic masterpieces! From her palette, she has drawn landscapes of remarkable diversity, united around a common point: they are absolutely fabulous. Here, nature puts on a show for the great pleasure of Norwegians who live in harmony with it.

    Oslo newer montage 2013
    Panorama Osla, Královský palác, čtvrť Aker Brygge, zátoka Oslofjord, parlament Stortinget a Opera House. Jonipoon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    They tamed it with respect, gentleness, anxious to preserve its purity. Norwegians have risen to the top ranks of prosperity through the exploitation of huge oil and gas deposits off the coast. Individualists and very patriotic, they refuse the frantic race for growth and, until now, have refused to integrate the European Union, unlike their Nordic neighbors. They do not want to upset their way of life at any price and intend to exploit their resources with a prudent and wise slowness, without having to be accountable to anyone. Holders of pole position in the UN’s human development index, they have decided not to stray from the right path, the one that leads to happiness.

    The income from black gold provides them with high salaries and unequaled social protection guaranteed by an exemplary democratic system. Thus, several cities in Norway – notably Stavanger – experienced explosive development, and the national economy was radically transformed. As a consequence for the visitor, this translates into the need to carefully assess his budget. Very domesticated and wild at the same time, nature in Norway provides lovers of wide open spaces with a variety of unlimited pleasures. You will pass abruptly from landscapes composed of forests, gentle hills and green meadows to high, steep mountains bordering emerald-water fjords and high plateaus where reindeer and muskoxen live until the mythical North Cape, the northern Europe.

    Sweden

    Almost as large as France but 7 times less populated, Sweden does not lack living space, and individual rights have been able to develop there smoothly, with its counterpart: respect for others. Sweden is the harmony between man and nature, landscapes of absolute tranquility and a sweetness of life that flirts with monotony.

    Stockholm
    From top to bottom and left to right: Old Town, spread over City Island, Holy Spirit Islet and Knights Islet, Skeppsbron Quay, Stockholm City Hall, the statue of Evert Taube, Buildings of the Hötorg square, the Ericsson globe and the royal palace. Holger.Ellgaard (image 1-5), Abhijeet Vardhan (image 6), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    To brighten up all this, a few large dynamic cities, most often full of charm, steeped in history but at the top of modernity, for better or for worse. The capital and largest city is Stockholm.

    Sense of proportion, compromise, negotiation, questioning, gentle temperaments, fussy respect for the rules, puritanism, these are the key words that make Sweden.

    Even the landscapes seem to have been drawn so as not to offend anyone. Immense forests and countless lakes, all the way to the land of the Sami, in the far north, are there for you all to yourself.

    SOUTHERN EUROPE

    Want sun and a warmer temperature during winter season? visit the European southern part!

    Cyprus

    Cyprus is the 3rd largest and third-most populous island in the Mediterranean, and is located south of Turkey, east of Greece, north of Egypt, and west of Syria. Its capital and largest city is Nicosia.

    According to legend, Aphrodite, goddess of love, was born from the foam at a point where the sea flows over rocks on the coast of Paphos. This is why Cyprus was called “the island of love”, a charm that was to extend for a long time through legends as well as through history. Then, ambitious nations coveted its strategic importance, as much as its rich copper mines and its forests of pines and cedars.

    Nicosia Collage
    From top left: view of Nicosia (capital of Cyprus), houses, Venetian Walls in Nicosia, Pancyprian Gymnasium and Buyuk Han (Cyprus’ best-preserved example of Ottoman caravanserai architecture. Built in 1572 by the first Ottoman governor of Cyprus). Masri145, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    A land where the sun stays all year round, Cyprus offers a total change of scenery, both through its rural, mountainous and marine landscapes. But this independent republic, at the same time Hellenic, Eastern and cosmopolitan, bears a wound: a real Greek tragedy is playing out on both sides of the green line which divides Nicosia, the capital, transforming it into a Berlin of the Mediterranean.

    Traveling from east to west, from Ayia Napa to Polis, staying on the coast, does not mean having seen Cyprus. Stay on the island long enough to enjoy it. Visit ancient castles, monasteries, hill stations, forests, admire spring wildflowers, see ancient farming methods. And above all, don’t be surprised if a stranger greets you in the street; it is in the good manners of this country to welcome the foreigner with a smile.

    Croatia

    There are those who already knew it, those who came “before” (from the time of Yugoslavia) and come back to the country today to savor it again. And then those who come to Croatia for the first time and discover a country with a unique location, a fascinating transition between Central Europe and the Mediterranean, a rather exceptional crossroads of cultures and influences! Illyrians, Celts, Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Italians, Ottomans, Hungarians, French, Austrians have all left their mark in Croatia.

    But Croatia is also a wonderful coast, facing the setting sun and dotted with 1,185 islands and islets over 1,750 km. Multiply beaches and coves by 5, by 10. A coast that is dotted with small architectural jewels whose names are Pula, Rovinj, Zadar, Šibenik, Trogir, Split and the “pearl of the Adriatic”: Dubrovnik.
    Inland from Croatia, Zagreb will also delight with its architectural eclecticism, the wealth of its museums and its cultural life.

    As for nature lovers, they will be delighted. The national and natural parks are full of fauna that was thought to be reserved for distant lands: bears, chamois, mouflons, wild cats, wolves and lynx, even mongooses basking in the pill on the island of Mljet.

    Ah, the Plitvice Lakes and their 92 waterfalls! As for the islands of Croatia, they made George-Bernard Shaw particularly lyrical.

    Spain

    There is not one Spain, but several. Without entering into the political debate on the autonomy of this or that region, the traveler who crosses the Iberian Peninsula will be able to observe the extraordinary diversity of Spain, a country which has experienced, since the end of Francoism, a dazzling revival and a high-speed modernization.

    Diversity of landscapes, cultures, languages ​​(Castilian, Catalan, Basque), lands and cities. Spain offers something for everyone: let’s leave aside the beaches invaded in summer and the Costa del Sol concreted by hotel complexes. Let’s instead venture into the interior of the country, superb and natural, lavish in striking landscapes, splendid monuments, exciting lifestyles…

    For this, it is sometimes enough to move away from about ten kilometers from the crowds. Discover Salamanca, the little Spanish Rome, or Toledo the beautiful medieval perched on its promontory. Explore the rugged plateau of Castile, from Segovia to Leon, discovering magnificent cathedrals and extraordinary museums. Taste the specificity of the Catalan soul and its artistic treasures, from Dalí to Gaudí via Tapiès and Miró. Take the road to Santiago de Compostela to admire the beauties of rural Galicia, as green as the land of the Basques, to which they are so attached. Or, finally, on a festive evening in Seville, Madrid or Barcelona, ​​succumb to this dazzling joy of living which is the hallmark of the entire country. Because the nights are often more intense there than the days.

    You have to meet its inhabitants, frequent its bodegas and enjoy its cuisine, because Spain is a country to live. It is not only diverse, it is inexhaustible!

    Top destinations:
    • Andalusia
    • Balearics
    • Barcelona
    • Canary Islands
    • Catalonia
    • Ibiza
    • Lanzarote
    • Madrid
    • Majorca
    • Minorca
    • Seville
    • Tenerife
    • Valencia

    Italy

    Northern Italy is rich, both economically and culturally. It is characterized by its industrial past and its mythical companies, but also by its gastronomy. This has not prevented the region from retaining its authenticity, its art of living steeped in simplicity and sharing, as well as an idyllic environment that is sometimes still wild. It is suitable for all types of travelers (nature, mountains, cities, idleness).

    Each region has its characteristics. The region of the Italian lakes has always attracted and seduced visitors, from 19th century romantics to international stars, bewitched by these pearls of clear waters nestled in pre-Alpine landscapes of great beauty. Piedmont travels between its alpine reliefs and its capital, Turin, the industrial heart of Italy. Liguria, the Italian Riviera, oscillates between sea and mountains. Lombardy, its cities of art, its small charming villages and its medieval basilicas. Veneto, characterized by its cultural and artistic richness, its religious heritage, is also one of the cradles of the history of art. Emilia-Romagna is home to a city steeped in history: Bologna.

    Whether for the coastal landscapes, the ancient and medieval architectural heritage, or the alleys and their romantic atmosphere, there will always be something to delight your eyes.

    In Tuscany, the groves of cypresses arranged sparingly on the hills and interfluves. The great buildings of Chianti immersed in a tide of holm oaks, with the song of the cicadas and the zenithal gravity of the sun. Dusty dirt roads lined with dry stone walls and olive trees. Few places in the world can boast such a dense concentration of masterpieces.
    Umbria well deserves its name as the “green lung” of Italy. It is certainly more secret and authentic than its Tuscan neighbor.

    Southern Italy offers visitors rich regions with diverse landscapes. Campania has a lot of assets, with Naples first. The dilapidated state of certain dwellings contrasts with the opulence of the Baroque decor. Lovers of old stones will be conquered by almost intact ancient cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum. The Bay of Naples with its famous islands: Capri, Ischia or Procida. Finally, the Amalfi Coast unfolds one of the most sumptuous landscapes in Italy.

    The discovery of Puglia remains that of a less monumental Italy but just as interesting with Lecce the baroque and the perched villages. An agricultural land where the stone constructions blend into the landscape, like the conical roofs of the trulli scattered in the pastures and these old farmhouses surrounded by olive groves.

    As for discreet Basilicata, it still has a lot to reveal. What about Matera and its maritime coasts, still preserved?

    Calabria remained peaceful. The sea is a heavenly blue, the mountains reserve beautiful walks and its capital Reggio Calabria conceals an impressive archaeological museum.

    Top destinations:

    Greece

    Greece is not just a repository of ancient ruins, however beautiful they may be, and is not limited to its distant prestigious past. It has a lot to offer to those who know how to think outside the box. In other words, it would be a shame to limit yourself to a circuit that could not be more classic, that of archaeological sites, without pushing curiosity a little further. Crossroads are made to be taken.
    The change of scenery is in fact where, a priori, there is nothing to see. It is in the lost places of Greece that one still has the chance to be welcomed in the respect of the Greek tradition, that of philoxenia, the traditional “hospitality” of the Greeks, which still exists in certain places. forgotten.

    Whether you want to visit Athens, discover the Peloponnese and the archaeological sites of Epidaurus and Olympia. Or whether you prefer to spend a holiday by the sea in the Cyclades (Santorini) or the Dodecanese archipelago (Rhodes), you will quickly see that there are a multitude of places not to be missed during your trip!

    Athens Montage L
    From top to bottom and from left to right: acropolis, former royal palace, Zappéion, Olympic stadium, Monastiraki, view of the city. SilentResident (compilation, sources to attribute see above; if any of the sources used in the Montage are removed from Wikimedia Commons, or better ones are found, please inform its creator so that they can update it. You can contact the creator by leaving a message here: [1]), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    This small country is in fact huge: on the mainland, the territories are broken up by mountains and the islands are so many miniature countries, with their own identity, which we encourage you to discover (this guide to mainland Greece in details a dozen that are close to the mainland).

    Of course, Greece continues to suffer from an economic – and moral – crisis… But don’t stop at what the written or television press has said about these “curious” Greeks – curious, at least to the eyes of quite a few northern Europeans who judge them rather harshly. Be curious too, in the other sense of the term, to go beyond the clichés and discover a population that has the vocation of welcoming and will wish to exchange with you on many subjects… Despite all the difficulties, if the judging by the number of tourists in recent years, the country has kept its power of attraction intact, and that’s good!

    Malta

    It’s hard not to be surprised by this small archipelago between East and West.

    Because it is off Sicily and Tunisia, at the crossroads of the maritime routes of the Mediterranean, that these small islands are scattered: Latinity to the north, Arabism to the south, and the big blue all around.
    No Mediterranean civilization has diverted its route from the archipelago, each time leaving its mark. What riches! Old Latin habits, a well-established European culture, the outspokenness and patience of Easterners blend harmoniously with Anglo-Saxon rigor, the legacy of nearly 150 years of the British Empire.

    Valletta montage
    Photos: Buildings in Valletta (the capital of Malta), Saluting Battery (artillery battery), Lower Barrakka Gardens, St. John’s Co-Cathedral (Roman Catholic, built between 1573 and 1577) and the Fortifications city walls. Xwejnusgozo (montage)Boguslaw Garbacz, Briangotts, Ies, Coldsun2006 (original photos), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area and population.

    With its accession to the European Union, Malta, the smallest country in Europe, is reviving its long history and regaining its place in the concert of nations. What young students from all over Europe seem to appreciate to learn English in the sun during language courses or as part of the famous European Erasmus program.

    Lovers of all ages come to admire Valletta or Mdina, fascinating cities of art so well preserved, where each monument bears the mark of chivalry.
    Let’s not forget nature, because if there are few sandy beaches, it is to better take refuge in small wild coves or to indulge in diving. The west of Malta and the island of Gozo, as bucolic as can be, lend themselves to hiking.

    Madeira

    The capital of Madeira is Funchal, which is located on the main island’s south coast.

    The Atlantic Garden, the Flower Island or even the Pearl of the Atlantic. So many evocative and colorful names to sum up the beautifully preserved qualities of this little floating gem. Located 600 km from the Moroccan coast and nearly 1,000 km south-west of Lisbon, Madeira can be discovered by tourists seeking a good nature cure.

    +Ausblick am Abend im Hafen von Funchal. 03
    View of Funchal in the evening. Holger Uwe Schmitt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Her virginity and her beauty, she owes them to her late discovery. As incredible as it seems to us today, the birth certificate of Madeira only dates from the 15th century. An island covered with a forest so thick, so dense, that it took several years of repeated fires to finally allow men to settle there permanently. Then Zarco arrived. The Portuguese explorer approached the island of Porto Santo in 1419 to finally drop anchor off the main island, Madeira, in 1420, and begin its colonization 5 years later.

    Today, the wealth of Madeira Island is Mother Nature. Inconceivable to leave the island without having worn out your soles on the dozens of hiking trails that run along the coast, tackle the highest peaks or follow the levadas, these characteristic irrigation channels of the island.

    Nature lovers who shun physical effort will treat themselves to a breath of fresh air in the lush gardens. If you have more sea legs, head west to titillate the waves of the best surf spots on the island. You can also splash around in the natural pools.

    From the seabed to the volcanic peaks, in Madeira nature occupies all the space and the traveler only has to slip into the scenery. One last tip: climb into one of the many cable cars to gain height and give yourself a wide-angle souvenir of this garden set in the heart of the ocean.

    Portugal

    From Lisbon to the Azores via Alentejo, Porto, Madeira,… There are many places to visit in Portugal! Taste the cataplana, a wonderful way to prepare fish. Fall for a romantic night in a pousada.
    Discover the Algarve other than by its beaches. Explore the unspoilt coastline of the Southwest Alentejan and Vicentine Coast natural park.

    Lisbon set of images
    Various images of the city of Lisbon. In the top picture, the April 25 bridge; the castle of San Jurgi, a view of the Baixa de Lisboa, a traditional Lisbon tram, the Mega Arvore de Natal or the Giant Christmas Tree, and the São Bento Palace; The Belém Tower, the São Rafael and São Gabriel Towers, the Arc de Triomphe in the Praça do Comércio district; Estádio da Luz football field, and Lisbon Cathedral; Gare do Oriente station, April 25 Tagus bridge crossing the river, the park of Eduardo VII., and the rotunda of the Marquess of Pombal; The view of the city of Lisbon from the castle of San Jurgi and finally the airport of Lisbon. Galak76, Osvaldo Gago, Szilas, Christian Thiele, Zero, António M.L. Cabral, Puddingsp, Filipe Fortes, Javier Gimenez, Ex13, Fofo, Carlos Paes, Lee Kindness, Pentarux, Antonio De LorenzoJoão P. M. Lima (collage), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Take the hiking trails around the fortified city of Monsaraz. Follow the Alentejo wine route. Shed your little tear while humming a centuries-old fado in the shade of the old walls of Coimbra. Boldly climb the slopes of old Porto in a 1920s tram…

    Turkey

    Turkey has always been a land at the confluence of all cultures. First, the Turkish territory has in fact been known since Antiquity as Asia Minor, a territory coveted by Greeks and Romans then placed on the exact trajectory of the Silk Road. This rich and complex history, and the preponderant role it played in the construction of European civilization, makes this cultural mecca a place of choice when you want to travel.

    Montage of Istanbul 2020
    From top to bottom (left to right): Istanbul skyline with the First Bosphorus Bridge, Hagia Sophia, Levent Financial District, Historical Tram, Dolmabahçe Palace, Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi) also known as Leander’s Tower since Byzantine times. Zintex, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    The more you deviate from the beaten track, the more you love this country: Turkey is inexhaustibly rich. From the Bosphorus to Anatolia, from Lycia to the Black Sea, via Cappadocia, this country offers an incredible diversity of landscapes, cultures and traditions.

    Kindness, attentions, hospitality don’t care about language barriers. Go and meet the people of the country. Convinced of being Westerners, the Turks welcome you as a cousin, and there is not much to scratch to find the treasures of Ottoman hospitality.Life in Turkey, night and day, far from the turbulence at the borders, is easy to live.

    Welcome to the cradle of the greatest civilizations of this world, neither more nor less! Turkey today is both the scene of the greatest dynasties, from the princes of Byzantium to the Ottoman sultans, via the Hittite civilizations, the Greek invasions around the Mediterranean and peoples who have remained mysterious in the face of history, such as the Lycians. So many sections that leave their traces in the most beautiful mosques and palaces of Istanbul, in the incalculable Greco-Roman remains, amphitheatres, temples and libraries, dominating the cliffs and dream beaches of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Without forgetting the troglodyte cities clinging to the cliffs of the south and the caravanserais testifying to the passage of the Silk Road to the East.

    Turkey is also the ideal playground for all lovers of nature and extraordinary landscapes, starting with the geological formations covering the plains of Cappadocia and the immaculate white pools of the Pamukkale site. It is a rich culture where the cuisine smells of cumin and saffron, where the dervishes turn to lose their heads and where the climaxes flirt with Noah’s Ark.


    Travel Guide By Destination : Africa, Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe


    Sources: PinterPandai, Rick Steves’ Europe, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site

    Photo credit (main picture): François Boucher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    Main foto description: mythological painting of The abduction of Europa, painted by Francis Boucher in 1747. Louvre Museum, Paris. Louis XV offered this painting to his mistress Madame de POMPADOUR. At that time the salons and boudoirs were decorated according to the tastes of the favorite called the Rococo style. Rococo is an architectural, artistic and furnishing style that reigned in France in the 18th century, characterized by the ornamental profusion of stone, flowers, and shells, by the fantasy of contoured lines and scrolls and by the search for a somewhat cutesy grace.

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