Cities and Towns in Europe
UNESCO enlisted Visby is perhaps the coolest town in Sweden, and certainly one of the most pleasant. For one thing, it’s enclosed by a thick stone wall, with several relatively intact portals and towers, dating back to the 12th and 13th century. The town itself consists of cute little stone and wooden houses, cobble-stone streets (only residents may drive here in summer), an abundance of roses and gorgeous views of the Baltic Sea. Add a host of cafes, restaurants, craft and deli shops and nearby beaches, and you’ve got your perfect summer destination. Because that’s what it is: a summer destination. In July, downtown Visby never sleeps as the party moves here from Stockholm, and in August the town goes medieval-crazy. But quiet corners are never far away, and if you visit in winter, although far gloomier, the snow-covered stone ruins are no less beautiful.
Diyarbakir is famous for PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), watermelons and the old walled city, where the last one is the reason to come here. The city wall is at places restored to polished monument while at others it is a crumbled adobe wall. You can climb it and walk along sections, which offer great views over the charming old town and its narrow twisting lanes with buzzing bazaar atmosphere. Hidden in corners of the cramped quarters you can find historical buildings like the restored Armenian church and the four-pillar minaret. You could easily spend several days exploring Diyarbakir old town - or just sitting in shady corner sipping Kurdish coffee.
Erzurum is the only real city in Eastern Anatolia, and you will eventually end up here if passing through the region. It is fairly nice and has a few interesting sights, like the citadel and the easy recognizable twin minarets madrasa, Çifte Minareli Medrese. No matter what time of the year you come here, you get the feeling that Erzurum is a popular winter sports place. The Palandöken Mountain ski resort is a short bus ride outside town and sports shops seem to stock skiing gear year-around. It could be fun to come to here during winter, but pack warm clothes (average temperature in December is -8.6 °C).
Istanbul is soaked in culture, history and glory. Previously known as Byzantium and later on Constantinople it has played an important role through out times. Posited right at the Bosphorus Strait, the entrance to the Black Sea, and sprawling over both the Asian and European continents it is a city that can take some time to get your bearings. The skyline of Sultanahmet (old town) is dominated by the giant domes and minarets of the mosques that have made Istanbul so iconic, while the vibrate neighborhood of Beyoğlu is heart of modern Istanbul packed with fine cafes, small restaurants and boutiques. Keep in mind that Istanbul is no hidden secret (and probably never has been). Tourists from around the world pour in by the busload, pressing prices up and ordinary Turks out. So to get the most out of any Istanbul visit, break out of the tourist bubble at Sultanahmet and go explore the less known areas.
Crowned with a castle and beautiful location high on a hillside it is understandable that the creme coloured town of Mardin is popular among local tourists. Narrow restored lanes run along fine stone houses, up flights of stairs and through small tunnels before they end up back in reality and the "modern" part town. Though it is fun to wander through the maze, Mardin might be best appreciated from the distance, like from the main road below, so you can get a sense of the multiple levels and a great view of the picturesque minarets, which give Mardin its iconic image as an oriental town.
Known as "The Prophets' City" it is no surprise that Şanlıurfa, or Urfa for short, is legendarily the birthplace of both Abraham (Ibrahim in the Muslim world) and Job. The city is therefore one of the mayor pilgrimage sites, not only in the southeastern Anatolia, but in Turkey. The pilgrimages, and thus the city’s mayor draw, center on the Dergah Complex. A number of mosques build around the Cave of Abraham and the holy Gölbaşı pool. Legend has it that the builder of the tower of Babel, Nemrut, wanted to burn Abraham as a sacrifice. God however intervened and turned the pyre into water and the coals into fish. Both the pool itself and its fishes that thus holy, something the now very large fish seems to be very happy with indeed. All this is set picturesque below a medieval castle. A short way northeast of Urfa is also the site of Göbekli Tepe, the oldest known temple in the world dating back to 9,000 BC.
A visit to nearly any former Soviet city will reveal an architectural style of unimaginative, grey monolithic pillars which pass as building. This can make the places seem dull and lifeless. But Odessa is not one of these places. The once mighty port on the Ukrainian seaside most certainly has an international colonial feel to it. With the downtown area looking more French or Italian, the brilliant pastels and unique architectural details are simply not common for the former USSR. Pedestrian thoroughfares are lined with overflowing cafes as the young, hip and modern Odessa youth strut their latest fashions in a real life cat-walk. As the sun sets, Odessa does not sleep as an endless array of bars and clubs thump-thump their way in the early morn. Odessa is alive.
Aberdeen is known as the City of Granite. It's a working class city with a bustling harbour. The oil rigs offshore is still the reason why many people come here, but Aberdeen has also a thriving student population, who bring life to town in the weekends. There are of course plenty of fine granite houses like Tolbooth near Castlegate (picture), but the smaller streets of Union Street are equal nice to explore. For something less grey, head east to the Beach Esplanade and the old fishing village of Aberdeen Footdee. Here you find (more) charming granite cottages and wicked colourfull sheds decorated with seafaring relics.
The old fishing village at the eastern end of Aberdeen harbour is a true charmer. Fine old granite cottages and townhouses cluster around three small squares, which are split into garden allotments, and there is even a church too. The characters of the residents are reflected in the decoration of their gardens and sheds. Some are just ramshackle huts, but most are imaginative and adorned with maritime memorabilia - but you can find garden gnomes, Buddha statues, kissing benches and even alpine skis too. The first row of houses lie so close to the sea, that they get wash in stormy weather. The neighbourhood was original built during the early 19th-centuries as a housing project for Aberdeen's fishing community, but today it's home to a more diverse crowd from old folks to artists and rich, who need to park their Jaguar or Porsche in the alley.
© Fingal Ross
Bath was first established by the Romans as a spa, built around hot springs, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Roman Baths are the major draw card of this large town, you will pay a bit to get in, however it is well worth it. Most locals come to Bath to shop, but for the traveller, there are numerous other things to see that are not too costly: Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, The Royal Crescent, The Circus, The Pump Room and for all of you whose heart skips a beat for Mr Darcy, there is the Jane Austen Centre complete with costumes to try on. If you have a few hours and aching muscles, then find your way to the Thermae Spa, where you can soak in the naturally hot spring waters of the town. If you are lucky enough to be there on a Saturday, there are markets and buskers on Stall street, otherwise marvel at the Edwardian architecture and appreciate the wonders of the Roman Empire.