Places with photo galleries in Europe
Lake Trasimeno, covering 128 m2, is situated in the region of Umbria a couple hours drive north of Rome and an hour from Florence. The lake is less touristy than some of the larger lakes, but there are still some nice small towns along the coast such as Passignano Sul Trasimeno, and especially in the surrounding mountains are nice villages and B&B's with stunning views over Lake Trasimeno. You find 3 small islands in the lake. However, only one of them - Isola Maggiore - are inhabited, and here you can visit an ancient castle ruin/Franciscan monastery (Maggiore Castle) by ferry. The lake and the area in general is also known for its excellent local wineries and selection of freshwater fish/seafood.
Perugia is Umbria's "Capital", and is situated on a 500 m high hill with a splendid view over the landscape. The city is relatively large, with approx. 150,000 inhabitants and 2 universities with 40,000 students, so there are many young people around. Perugia consists of a wide pedestrian main street, which natural assembly point is Piazza IV Novembre, where there is a large fountain from the 1200s and the gothic cathedral of San Lorenzo. The cathedral has beautiful paintings on its ceiling, but is otherwise very bleak. There are nice outdoor restaurants in the main streeet, but they are quite touristy. However, if you look in the small winding streets, you will find many more local restaurants. On Piazza Italia there is, furthermore, a large outdoor flea market in weekends.
Back in the early 20th century, Kemeri was famous as a luxury resort town with health baths and sanatoriums. Today it's in oblivion, shrunken to a partly abandoned village - and a fascinating place. Traditional Latvian wooden houses and elegant churches stand in stark contrast to the sad debris of the heydays. An ongoing project try to resurrect the main hotel, but it has been stalled. It's such a bewildering sight to see all the crumbling buildings, one worse than the other, and then realise that people still live next door. Luckily, the network of scenic walking paths are also still here, leading over small bridges, passing tarnish pavilions and through the woods and bogs of Kemeri National Park. Though this is not recommended, some of the abandoned buildings are fully accessible and can turn into an adventure themselves.
Don't let the bustling market area outside Central Market distract you for a visit inside the giant halls, for it's absolute fabulous. Just the building itself is worth a visit. The roof is constructed of five huge, used zeppelin hangars, giving the indoor market an very airy fell. Each hall deals with one kind of food products like meat, fruit, dairy, fish and pastries. It's all fresh stuff, straight from the farms, making the neighbouring supermarket's range looks a bit sad. It can get packed and vendors can seem a bit reserved even unfriendly at first, but it's possible to get a smile from them.
What Riga doesn't have in prettiness, it gains with edge and character. The Old Town certainly has its graceful moments and the Art Nouveau District is wonderful histrionic, but nothing is done up to make tourists happy - they're all genuine parts of Riga which the Latvians use as much as any other neighbourhood. The Russian neighbourhood around the wonderful Central Market and bus station has its fair share of Stalinist architecture and ruthless attitude, you would think died out with the Soviet-era. But it's such things which make Riga such a fascinating city.
The outdoor capital of Latvia is Sigulda. Although it's not Chamonix, there are both bungee jump, bike trails, bobsled tracks and down hill skiing in winter. For those less adventurous, there are some fine sightseeing in the area. A beautiful church, a medieval castle along with a newer castle - plus views to the open air museum, containing another medieval castle, across the gorge in neighbouring Turaida. The famous Gūtmana Cave is also nearby. The cave ceiling and archway is covered in centuries old graffiti. The oldest readable 'tag' dates back to the 1667, though sources state that graffiti already was chiseled in the 16th century. Believe or not, but the cave's modest length of 19 meters makes it the longest cave in the Baltic.
From a distance the Hill of Crosses doesn't look like much, just a small knoll with some crosses. But as you approach the collection of crosses, you will suddenly realise just how many crosses there are. The hill is literally covered in crucifixes of all sizes, materials and colours left by pilgrims through the last couple of centuries. It's estimated that there are more than 100,000 crosses - and more are coming every year.
The picturesque Trakai Island Castle just has the perfect location. It thrones a small island in the pretty lake of Galvė, at a walking distance of the town of Trakai. The medieval castle was completed in 1409, but was totally renovated in the mid 20th century. It's a popular weekend destination for newly wedded couples and picnicking families - along with hordes of tourists during summer. There are lovely trails along the lake shore and even the town of Trakai has its charming corners of wooden houses and docked rainbow coloured rowboats.
While Tallinn has a pretty Nordic feel and Riga is a worn mix of Soviet blandness and ancient elegance, Vilnius has a more central European atmosphere. Less Soviet concrete and more enchanting plazas with grand churches connected with a maze of cobbled, narrow alleys, which of course is UNESCO enlisted. However, Vilnius does have its fair share of quirky sights, like the Frank Zappa monument (the man never went to Lithuania) and Užupis, an artist enclave with their own silly declaration of independence. The amount of local pubs and bars will make any beer drinking and potato/meat eating visitor happy and the locals - whereof a large portion are gorgeous women - are friendly. So there isn't that much to dislike about Vilnius.
The capital of Moldova is surprisingly nice and welcoming. There is not much to see in terms of grand sights, but the compact centre has some nice parks, a few impressive buildings, and a decent amount of Eastern-Bloc concrete to fulfill the expectations of a forgotten capital in a forgotten country. The main boulevard is a long row of money exchange bureaus, gambling halls and fancy shops for those who can afford to drive the Mercedes and BMWs that tyrannise the traffic. The area around the central market is good for local eateries and browsing the random selection of street vendors (looking for track pants or high heels?). There is of course a thriving nightlife, ranging from student drinking joints and live venues to über-fancy clubs. So most travellers won't have any trouble keeping themselves busy for a few days in Chișinău (which is by the way pronounced ki-shi-now).