Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Top 5 most beautiful places in Europe

Dubrovnik. Renaissance city of Ragusa and major rival of the venerable Republic of Venice. Tremendously pretty, it is justifiably Croatia's most visited destination. The sun glints off the broad limestone paving stones of the Plaça, polished smooth by generations of footsteps. Narrow hillside alleys of vines and laundry lead up steep steps between Venetian balconies and shuttered windows to the famous medieval walls.

I am only passing through Dubrovnik, on my way to Sarajevo. I've been here twice now, and I think it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. Having travelled to many places I don't say that lightly. Silver-coloured cliffs surrounding Dubrovnik drop into opaline water. Tall spears of mediterranean cypress tower like shepherds above flocks of bony olive trees on the karst rock.

And somehow Croatia produces stunning women—blonde jaw-droppers who would take the catwalks of Milan by storm, and probably do.

So this inevitably leads me to the following entirely subjective list:

The Solonaut's

(in no particular order)

Dubrovnik, Croatia
One of the best preserved walled cities in Europe. Maybe the best. Tourism has grown considerably in the last five years, but even amid the summer throngs it is easy to find a quiet bar in a lane, such as Caffe Soul, to drink local fruit brandy to the serenade of a live guitarist or watch an evening performance of a chamber orchestra in the chapel of Saint Saviour.

Oia, Santorini, Greece
Those famous photos of Santorini—white domed chapels with blue crosses and low, square houses barnacled above an azure sea—are taken from Oia. The island bakes in a delicious heat in summer. It is the only place I have ever been tempted to kick back with a beer and a book on a deck chair by the pool to overlook the caldera. I deliberately missed my departure ferry to stay. Pronounced ee-ah, Oia is probably my personal favourite in this list, above Dubrovnik.

Venice, Italy
Go back a thousand years in time. Tall fourteenth-century Gothic buildings usher you between piazze and you walk and walk and walk, down tall lanes, between palaces and churches, over bridges and under arched overhangs, and there isn't a hint of the modern world anywhere. You get a sense of how powerfully wealthy this state once was from the vast and sumptuous collection of paintings in the Doge's Palace—one after another gilt-framed Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese. It's like feasting on too much chocolate.

The Vézère and Dordogne valleys, France
Go in October, in wool coat and scarf weather. Leaves from woods of oak turn brilliant orange, yellow and brown in autumn and flock like starlings in the wind. Chateaux stud the hills and charming villages grace the valleys, such as the riverside La Roque-Gageac, the dramatic cliff-hugging town of Rocamadour, and the magnificent medieval Sarlat-la-Canéda, where I lodged for a week in a 16th-century tower.

Lucerne, Switzerland
In late spring, Lucerne is storybook. Yellow flowers whiffling in green meadows. Shaggy highland cattle clanking cowbells. Bright sun and blue sky. Tall evergreen trees. Snowy mountains. White swans on crystal waters. It's ridiculous.

No comments: