- Travel and Places
Music To Enliven Your Eurotrip
Say, you're at the doorstep of your dream Eurotrip. Literally, as in at the airport. And you can't enter Europe because the airline lost your bags.
Or, you're already in Europe. But for whatever reason, you didn't do your online research properly, and you turn up at an attraction that's closed. For the rest of the year.
Or maybe there's really nothing very wrong. You're just tired. Your feet are killing you. You have a long train ride ahead. You start to long for home.
It happens to every visitor to Europe. Unforeseen circumstances. Unhelpful weather. Visual overkill ... ... When that happens, the awesome medium that is music is your buddy for the day. Be it sung or an instrumental, music can revitalise your Eurotrip. Outside of despondent moments, music is also the key to perfecting any Eurotrip. The Old World is not meant only to be seen or felt, or tasted. It is also meant to be heard. Music has always and will always be an integral part of Europe.
Here are songs I recommend for visitors to Europe. Sorted by countries.
Disclaimer: I'm no musicologist. Obviously my list is far from exhaustive; for example I left out huge chunks of Eastern Europe. What I'm recommending below is based on what I've heard and found to be evocative. If you feel that any song should or should not be included, please do comment.
Criteria of Selection: I refrain from listing only folk or classical music. I'm aiming instead for a broader, more universal appeal. As much as possible, I try to include a mix of everything, from classical compositions, to evergreens, to jazz, to even pop music.
Playlist: Here is the link to the playlist of songs I compiled in Youtube.
- You got to be kidding if you're beside the Danube and not humming The Blue Danube. You're really missing out too if you're in Vienna on New Year's Eve, and not attending a concert performing this beloved masterpiece.
- Not renting expensive audio guides while touring Hapsburg palaces? Then complement your visit with regal Strauss music. The Emperor's Waltz, Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka, the Die Fledermaus Overture are amongst the most renowned pieces.
- Salzburg is the hometown of Mozart. If Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is too common for you, consider some of his opera pieces, such as the Magic Flute. Other Mozart compositions are great too. His Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C is my personal favourite. Ave Verum Corpus is perfect when in a tiny, deserted little chapel, with unmarked graves.
- Salzburg is also renowned for ... ... Yes, singing nuns and dainty white flowers. The Sound of Music is nowadays the theme for many days tours in Salzburg. Just try not to terrify the countryside when you bellow the lyrics atop a hill.
- Salvatore Adamo holds the proud title of being the bestselling Belgian musician of all time. Performing for more than half a century, he has lots of chanson hits for you to check out. Such as Tombe La Neige or C'est Ma Vie.
- Do you know that the saxophone was born in Belgium? Any song featuring the saxophone as the lead instrument has extra meaning in Belgium. My favourite saxophonist, by the way, is Stan Getz.
With embarrassment, I admit I know nuts about Bulgarian music. Just so that I do not leave out too much of Eastern Europe, I researched online and found Gradil Ilia Kilia. This was listed as a famous Bulgarian folk song. To me, It feels very representative of the more rustic side of Bulgaria.
Antonín Dvořák is Czech's foremost contribution to classical music. His most famous composition is The New World Symphony, but that's for the Americas. While in Czech itself, consider his Humoresques. Listen to this while appreciating the night time splendour of Prague Castle.
(France is difficult. There are so many wonderful compositions depicting the many faces of France. What I have here only scratches the surface.)
- La Vie On Rose by the immortal Edith Piaf. If you could only listen to one song in France, this is it.
- Another appropriate piece by Edith Piaf is Sous Le Ciel De Paris, translated as Under The Sky of Paris. What else could be more romantic during a stroll to the Eiffel tower? Alternatively, April In Paris, the Ella Fitzgerald version, reminds you of everything to love about Paris, and can be enjoyed all year long.
- Think misty, brooding beaches. Quiet, foggy villages. Un Homme Et Une Femme. Or A Man And A Woman, by Francis Lai. Watching the movie while snuggling inside a quaint French apartment is a wonderful experience to have on any Eurotrip.
- To be honest, the movie was weird to me. (Singing only? No dialogue?) But the Umbrellas of Cherbourg, or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg by Michel Legrand is another French movie soundtrack that has earned permanent place in international fame. It is an evocative piece to enjoy when touring Northern France.
There are many other famous "French" music, even if they aren't exactly French by birth. Moulin Rouge, the pop version. Les Misérables, etc. A visitor to France should really have no difficulty finding suitable music to enjoy.
- Brahms Symphony Number Three, with its melancholic, occasionally tumultuous tones could actually be very ideal for a long German train ride. Such as up the Rhine, or when journeying through the romantic lands.
- Experience the Baroque splendours of Germany while intoxicated by Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Don't get breathless.
- Tomorrow Belongs To Me from the musical/movie Cabaret, when at any Nazi or holocaust site. For the record, I am no Nazi sympathiser. Instead, the song reminds us how the Third Reich once seduced tens of thousands of people into executing its murderous spree. A chilling reminder of what must not be allowed to happen again.
- Wind Of Change by the Scorpions when at any East Germany relic, or at the remnants of the Berlin Wall.
Did you know that Melina Mercouri was twice the Greek Minister for Culture?
- Bjork. I'm not a fan of hers, but somehow her experimental, surreal style seems to complement the extreme landscapes of Iceland very well.
- Sing Molly Malone to the right crowd, and you might earn yourself a free pint. Otherwise, it's your emotive companion while hiking through those peaceful, emerald meadows.
- I'm hesitant about putting down Londonderry Air. Since Londonderry is actually in Northern Ireland, which itself is ... ... But lets consider Ireland as a whole. This song is also the best known Irish composition in the world.
- I believe most people wouldn't be familiar with Lucio Battisi. But he was big in Italy during his time. Si Viaggiare means Yes, Travelling. And its carefree, joyful touch is why you should listen to it when commencing any Italian journey.
- O Sole Mio. Many, many versions of this famous song. From Pavorotti's powerful delivery, to Il Volo's modernised, boyish rendition. Soak in the Italian sun while getting high on this.
- Funiculi Funicula, When riding up and down ... ... funiculars of course. Like those in Naples.
- You would be reminded to enjoy Vivaldi's Four Seasons while in Venice. Day long, you'd have flyers handed to you by promoters in periodic costumes; flyers advertising Four Seasons concerts. Actually, Venice's best known composer could be enjoyed anywhere in Europe, not just within La Serenissima.
- La Vita E Bella by Nicola Piovani. This was from the award winning movie Life is Beautiful. I highly recommend this for I once heard it performed at St. Mark's Square and it was like, wow, that somehow summarises what Italian history is. A poignant, spirited mix of love and hardship, and the vitality to live through it all.
- For something calmer, another recommended soundtrack would be the Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso. Quite the perfect piece to enjoy the sunset with, while on a hill, in a train, in a gondola ... ...
Fado is Portugal's gift to music. Some consider it a must have experience for a Eurotrip involving that region. You could enjoy it in a pub, or through your phone while exploring the old quarter of Lisbon. I don't know enough about Fado to recommend any particular songs though.
- The classical composers of Russia are legendary. Anything from Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Borodin etc. is ideal for a Russian adventure. The passion and the intricacies of their works often depict the vastness of Russia very well.
- Gorky Park. A very different side of Russia. One that shows that the motherland is not all about secretive men swaddled in furs and chucking vodka in bunkers.
- From Russia With Love by Matt Monro. This feels politically wrong, I know. The book was about killing Russian spies. But the overall exotic ambience of the song. Hmm ... ...
- Stranger In Moscow by Michael Jackson. You're really going to be a stranger in Moscow, if you don't at least read some Cyrillic, or do enough travel research beforehand. Just kidding.
I'm not going to list Flamenco because that is nowadays a must-see in Spain.
- Spain by Chick Corea. Spain is a lot of things. Not just the language or imperial heritage or Catholicism. It is also a modern and fashionable country, with plenty of trendy destinations. Jazz keyboardist Chick Corea aptly summarises what Spain is as a whole with this most famous composition of his.
- Besame Mucho by Consuelo Velaquez. There are so many versions of this, erm, Mexican composition. But hey, it's still sung in Spanish, right? The version by Julio Iglesias is the most ideal for your Spanish Eurotrip.
- Y viva España and El Porompompero, both by Manolo Escobar, might feel a bit too touristic. But then again, what's so wrong with being a tourist?
- When in Seville, have a haircut. With luck, your Barber of Seville might leave you with an unforgettable experience.
- There was once a Dancing Queen in Sweden. And at many places, you are going to be reminded of Sweden's greatest gift to popular music, ᗅᗺᗷᗅ.
- Do you know of the William Tell legend? Let the overture in his name inspire you with its grandness. If you're a Eurotrip veteran, you'd know too that there's a William Tell Express train ride in Switzerland. Enjoy the overture while on it.
- Something slow by Chet Baker while in Amsterdam. I admit this is questionable. Not only was Chet not Dutch, his death in Amsterdam was horrific. But put that aside and appreciate the depth of his musical delivery. Pay homage to this great jazz icon by remembering his music, in the city he left us from.
The United Kingdom presents the greatest challenge for this list on Eurotrip songs. Brit-pop is an institution, is it not? And that's only the modern representation of British music; we still have the middle ages, the post war era etc. I attempt only to cover the more renowned names of British music.
- Handel's Music for the Royal Firework. Handel is German, but this was composed for British Monarch George II. Listening to it while touring British royal palaces will remind you that Britain once ruled half the world.
- Why do people go to Liverpool? For football ... and the Beatles of course! In my opinion, nothing is more iconic of post-war British pop culture than the Beatles. If you don't get to travel to Liverpool, you could still get your Beatles kick by listening to them while at the Abbey Road Crossing in London.
- Who else but Bond could claim to be the perfect British gentlemen? Since we know much more about where British spies actually worked nowadays, the appropriate place to listen to The James Bond Theme would be when strolling by the Thames.
- This is a little politically sensitive. Boney M's Belfast is a catchy, gritty summation of the Troubles. Don't go around singing this to strangers.
- There is an on-going musical honouring them. Queen and Freddie Mercury are without doubt eternal icons in the world of Rock. Their most famous pieces are We Will Rock You, I Want To Break Free, and the eclectic Bohemian Rhapsody. My personal favourite, the oh-so-slick Dragon Attack.
- Not as famous as the other artistes listed above, but Shakatak remains one of the top names in Fusion Jazz. Their signature piece is Night Birds, but I would suggest Livin' In The UK while moseying down the packed streets of West End London.
- Other than the above, Britain made many other contributions to modern music. The Rolling Stone, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Elton John, Oasis, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, Adele, to name but some. The list just goes on and on, and on.
Again, here is the link to the playlist of songs I compiled in Youtube.