Historical places in Europe
Flanked by the sea on one side and resorts on the others lies this gem of an open-air museum. A collection of underground tombs and chambers dating all the way back to the 4th century BC. Despite the name, Tombs of the Kings, no kings were buried here, just wealthy residents of ancient Paphos. There are seven excavated tombs scattered over the rather large site. Some are cut into small hills, while others are underground, imitated the houses of the living. Not much is fenced off and there are staircases so you can descend into the tombs, which all are empty. Tombs of the Kings is, along with Paphos Archaeological Site closer to the harbour, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The beautiful restored mill on top of Dybbøl Hill is mostly known as the epicenter for one of the most devastated battles in the history of Denmark, the Battle of Dybbøl. The Danish fort, which was located next to the mill, was attacked in the early morning of 18th of April 1864 by the Prussians. The fort was first bombarded by the modern artillery of the Prussians, before the Prussian infantry charged. The Danes were ill-prepared and heavily outnumbered, so the thoroughly bombed fort was invaded within 30 min of the first attack wave.
The outcome of the severe defeat eventually forced Denmark to hand over the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, which to this day still are on German’s hands.
Today, there are still some remains of the fort left, along with a memorial. Dybbøl Mill rises above the town of Sønderborg, which is a gem by itself. The town is rich in history and nested beautifully along the shore of Alssund, which separates the island of Als with mainland Jutland.
The Jelling Stone is the most famous rune stone in Denmark. The giant stone was erected by King Harald Bluetooth around 965 A.C. in memory of his parents, Gorm and Thyra. The rune inscription on the stone lists Harald’s achievements, including unifying Denmark and making the Danes Christian. Historically the stone marks the ending of the Viking era and the Danes conversion from Norse paganism to Christianity. The stone is often called the “birth certificate of Denmark”, as it’s the oldest written Danish source for the name “Denmark”. Christ is carved on one of the sides, making it the oldest example in Scandinavia.
The rune stone stands along with a smaller and older rune stone erected by Gorm for his wife Thyra in front of Jelling church. Until recently the stones were standing unprotected, but now they are behind protective glass.
The iconic rune stone is UNESCO enlisted and is depicted on the pages of the Danish passport.
King Humble's Grave is a prehistoric long dolmen. It measures about 55 m long and 9 m wide with a single burial chamber on the top of the mound and is outlined by 77 curb stones (though we didn’t count). The name refers to a King Humble, who appears in local legends and probably lived around 300-400 AD. However, archaeological excavation has revealed more than 4000 years old human bones in the grave. Today the long dolmen is located on open farmland, a short walk through fields from the parking area, with views of the Church of Humble in the distance.
This giant runestone contains Denmark's longest runic inscription. It was probably erected in the early 10th century, during the Viking Age, by Ragnhild in memory of her husband Alle the Pale, who should have been a chief and pagan priest. Like some other runestones the text ends with a curse for those who tamper or steal the stone. The stone was placed as part of a stone ship (setting of stones shaped like a ship) on an even older burial site of two barrows dating back to the Bronze Age, more than 3,000 years ago. In the 1900s more stone monuments were placed at this site and trees were planted.
Estonia is full of small quirky sights and this medieval monastery is just one of them. It was original built in the 14th century by dispossessed monks from Latvia. It was later rebuilt into a fortress, a state it survived despite numerous overtakes, until a clock was installed in the tower in the 18th century and lightning struck, which left the monastery partly burned down. Today, the monastery is under restoration, but is still a full access ruin. Wobbly wooden staircases lead up to the tower and you can even have a look at the dungeon - but be careful, there are lots of pitfalls.
Likely the most important historical place in the Faroe Islands. From 1111 and throughout the High and Late Middle Ages Kirkjubøur was the home of the Faroese bishopric. The village itself dates back to the Viking Age and today around 80 villagers call Kirkjubøur home. Despite its limited size, here's an impressive historical presence. The biggest sight is the never-finished Magnus Cathedral. Construction started around the year 1300, but as it was never roofed, it was never finished. Nevertheless, is it still the largest medieval building in the Faroe Islands. Kirkjubøur is also noteworthy for holding the oldest, still-serving church anywhere in the country. Olav Church dates back to the 13th century. Lastly, one of the world's oldest log houses – the old bishop's presbytery – is also open to visitors. It's the largest farm on the islands and the current inhabitants the Patursson Family, who have lived here for 17 generations, have kept both the wooden interior and the grass covered roofs mostly intact.
Right off the coast of Helsinki, spread out on four tiny islands, lies the maritime fortress complex of Suomenlinna, Fortress of Finland. It was initially built in 1748 by the Swedish to protect Helsingfors (Swedish for Helsinki) against the Russians. As with other big constructions in history, the creator had big expectation to it, in this case the Swedish thought Suomenlinna to be inpenedable... but it wasn't. The Russian took it 1808 and kept it along with the rest of Finland until Finland's independence in 1917. Today people still live on Suomenlinna and it's now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Half the fun of a visit to Mtskheta is trying to pronounce it correctly. With 5 consonants in a row, it's no easy task. But once you manage to get there, you certainly won't be disappointed. One of the oldest cites in Georgia, the historical monuments of the Mtskheta area are recognized a UNESCO world heritage site. The varying forts, churches, cathedrals and monasteries which surround the tiny town date anywhere from the 3rd century BC to as young as 1,000 years old. Easily doable as a day trip out of the capital, Tbilisi, Mtskheta is the place to get your fix of religious buildings.
Not to be confused with Mt. Olympus, Olympia is the birth place of the Olympic games.
Much is left to the imagination, as it is with many archeological sites but this one is definitely worth it if you like the Olympic games and you would like to see and "feel" where it all started. Several of the temples are in ruins but there is a great museum that exhibits beautifully restored statues (especially the one of Hermes) and enormous pediments from the temple of Zeus.
Maybe the best part of the visit to Olympia is to go to the "stadium" of which the entrance is still there - and race your friends on the 120 m long sprint track!