With the Ligurian Sea to the south, Piedmont to the north, Tuscany to the east, and the border of France to the west, the coastal region of Liguria in Italy is a popular tourist getaway, renowned for its spectacular beaches, vibrant towns and superb cuisine. Liguria experiences a mild climate all year round as a result of the semi-circle of hills located just beyond the coast. Abundant rainfall ensures lush, green vegetation, whereas other Mediterranean areas are prone to long dry spells.
Weighing up to 120 kgs and measuring up to 90cm at the withers, the shaggy-haired St Bernard dog is readily associated with tales of rescue missions in the Swiss Alps – and for good reason. Way back in the early 18th century, the rugged and treacherous St Bernard Pass, linking Italy and Switzerland through the Alps, claimed many a victim during sudden snowstorms. Monks living in the area would use large dogs that were well adapted to the icy conditions and had a keen sense of direction, to help them rescue lost travelers. The St Bernard that we see today is descended from these hardy, good-natured canines.
Standing on an island in the Dahme River of the Köpenick district of Berlin, Schloss Köpenick was built as a hunting lodge by order of Elector Joachim II Hector of Brandenburg in 1558. After he died in 1571, the lodge was occupied by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, brother-in-law of Elector George William of Brandenburg. The Renaissance style castle was rebuilt and extended by Frederick I of Prussia who lived there with his first wilfe Elizabeth Henrietta of Hesse Kassel. Today the building serves as the home of the Museum of Decorative Arts, overseen by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.
Located in eastern France on the road between Lyon and Paris, the city of Dijon started off as a Roman settlement, with the region later becoming the home of the Dukes of Burgundy. Between the early 11th and late 15th centuries, Dijon gained prominence financially and politically, as well as being a center of learning and culture. The city's architectural history includes Gothic and Renaissance design, with many of the houses in the city center dating back to the 18th century and even earlier. The palace once occupied by the Dukes of Burgundy currently houses a museum of medieval art and the city hall.
Rome is noted for its abundance of public parks and nature reserves, many of which were created by Italian aristocracy, such as the Villa Ada, Villa Doria Pamphili and Villa Borghese, which are among the most popular to visit. Nature lovers may want to add one or more of Rome's spectacular public parks to their itinerary when exploring this ancient European city's wealth of cultural and historical attractions.
The iconic clock tower commonly referred to as 'Big Ben' is one of the most readily recognized, most photographed and most visited attractions in London. Previously known as the Clock Tower, the tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. 'Big Ben' is, in fact, the nickname for the great bell of the clock which rings out every hour on the hour, but over the years has come to refer to the entire clock tower.
Water has long been used as a means of defense against attack, and with large parts of the Netherlands being below sea-level, the Dutch are experts on both holding water back from flooding inhabited areas, and using it as a defensive weapon. In 1672, a waterline was erected to ward off French forces during the Eighty Years War. By flooding low-lying tracts of land (polders) to a depth of about 40 cm, they made it impossible for enemy wagons to get through, while the water was not deep enough to be traversed by boats. Where the terrain was too high to flood, forts, batteries and bunkers were built and armed to hold invaders back. After 1815 the waterline was extended to include Utrecht, Muiden, Gorinchem, Amsterdam and Vreeswijk and became known as the New Dutch Waterline. Today, the forts and bunkers have been turned into tourist attractions and the New Dutch Waterline offers a series of fascinating historical landmarks to explore.
When exploring an unfamiliar city, or even your own home town for that matter, museums can be an invaluable source of information on the history and culture of the area and its people. Visiting museums dedicated to a specific field of interest, such as science, aviation and medicine for example, is a great way to learn more about these topics. With more than one hundred museums, Stockholm has a wealth of information readily available, with something for everyone, with some of the most popular museums being the open-air museum Skansen, the Stockholm City Museum, the Nordic Museum, the Vasa Museum and the Royal Coin Cabinet.