Pleasant Walks On the European Continent
Crossing A Canal
Walking is a great activity with many side benefits. For travelers walking can be an enjoyable way to get around some of the places you visit. It's also economical, keeps you healthy and can give the walker new opportunities to meet the local population. With these ideas in mind I have created a list of ten of favorite short strolls on the Continent of Europe. This information is by no means inclusive for even a lifetime is not enough to cover every such place. Hopefully, this presentation will give you a chance to enhance a visit to that cluster of nations located across the Atlantic.
Anywhere In Venice
Venice is a walker's paradise. Automobiles are banished, so walkers can peruse through the old city at their own discretion. And there is quite a lot to see. The old city is vast, but fortunately outdoor cafes are abundant especially around St. Mark's Square. My favorite walking section lies to the north and west of the famous tower and Bridge of Sighs. Here you can find numerous walkways, alleys and bridges like the one pictured above.
A Church on an Island
Around a Beautiful Lake
Slovenia is a small Slavic country, located near Venice. It has a port on the Adriatic Sea and mountain towns located high in the Julian Alps. Lake Bled is a spectacular mountain lake with a fairy-tale church located on an island in the middle of the lake. The popular vacation spot is much better known by Europeans, who flock here to sample a tasty creme cake and gaze at the beautiful surroundings. Sightseers can ride out to the island church in a gondola or walk around the small lake on a level path. Round trip is at least two hours. Another fabulous, level walk is the path through Vintgar Gorge. This amazing walk takes place on a long series of rustic bridges built just a few feet above a raging rapid. The gorge is just outside the town of Bled and is well-marked by homemade signs.
Where The Philosopher's Stroll
Heidelberg is a small riverside city in Germany, situated on the Neckar River. The town is noted for its world class university and a famous Old Bridge. If you cross the Alte Brucke (Old Bridge), you will find an interesting set of alleys and trails that lead to the Philosophers Walk, an easy stroll that was once taken frequently by Goethe. The main walkway follows the north side of the river with many good views of the valley. There are frequent benches to sit on and gardens also. From the Philosophenweg more strenuous hikes can be taken to the top of the ridge through scenic forest trails. Also of note, were visits by the British painter Turner, who once roamed these hills with brushes and palette in hand.
Annecy is a busy French city, located at the edge of the Alps on a beautiful pristine lake called Lac d'Annecy or Lake Annecy. From the town of Annecy you can just stroll along the lakeside or pick up the bike path and follow that for a ways. Other relatively easy hikes can be found by walking to La Semnoz, an overlook or strolling along the shoreline to the town of Duingt. More adventuresome may want to head into some of the high peaks that surround the alpine lake.
A Trip Back In Time
Not Just A Bridge
Somehow the Czech capitol wasn't bombed during WWII. As a result city visitors can wander the streets and marvel at nearly a thousand years of Central European architecture. The stroll across Charles Bridge (Karluv most) has been described by PBS travel guide, Rick Steves, as "one of the most pleasant and entertaining strolls in Europe". The bridge is pedestrian-only and is often covered with visual artists and street performers. The architecture is classic Late Gothic and a long procession of saintly statues line both sides of the bridge. Views of the river and surrounding hills are also astounding and for a really memorable experience, visitors can climb the watchtower at the east end of the bridge.
At The Top of the Lift
Switzerland is a very mountainous, land-locked country. As a result chair lifts are not just for skiers, for hikers can use the convenient form of transportation to arrive at a place that is level and suited for easy walking. In fact, there is one Swiss village named Gimmelwald that can only be accessed by gondola and hiking trails. Also in the shadow of the Jungfrau, a towering snowcapped peak, are a series of small towns that can be reached by train and gondola. One place called Mannlichen can be accessed by a gondola from Wengen, which in turn has train access to Lauterbrennen and Interlaken. Once you arrive in Mannlichen, walkers are treated to a series of wide level paths that lead over to a train stop and tourist destinations at Kleine Scheidegg. It is spectacular country, right at the base of the Bernese Alps. Hikers can return to Wengen by walking downhill or by taking the same gondola that brought you up the mountain.
On Royal Property
The Hapsburgs were a very unusual royal family. They weren't king and queen, but simply called emperor and empress. And there summer estate just outside Vienna rivaled Versailles with its splendor, elegance and decor. Yet on the other head they were enlightened with some of their social programs and provided financial and moral support to many of the great classical composers of the 18th and 19th century, such as Mozart and Beethoven.
To further understand these powerful monarchs, walk the estate at Schonbrunn and marvel at the huge palace and lavish palace grounds. The outdoor walk is free, but a tour of the grand estate will cost a dozen Euros or so. Be sure to climb the hill in the back and ascend the simple war memorial. The view of the city is quite marvelous.
Stairs To A Castle
Finale Marina hugs the coastline of the Italian Riviera close to the French border. Along the sandy shore of the Mediterranean, there is the "old city" built by the Romans. This is a fun place to explore, but also of interest is a set of stairs that leads up the steep hillside towards the Ostello Vuillermin, which in actuality is an old castle. Hostelling International runs a very nice youth hostel, which takes up the whole castle.The stairs are a good way for hostel guests to descend to the main part of town by the shoreline.
For the Religious Minded
Salzburg, Austria is known as the birthplace and childhood home of Mozart. The town goes all out to celebrate the composer, but to get off the beaten path, walkers might head for the Station of the Cross, which begins as a nondescript alley in downtown Salzburg just north of the river. The walk quickly turns into a religious experience, as you stroll past a series of outdoor shrines depicting the crucifixion. However the walk quickly morphs into a trip through the woods as the path leaves the shrines, passes through a park and ascends to a monastery with a great view overlooking the city.
Climb A Steeple
Of all the walks included here this Copenhagen activity is the only one that involves an entry fee. But the short ascent is so unique, I just had to place it within the content of this article. Yes, in Copenhagen, the royal capitol of Denmark, there is a church, called Vor Frelsers where you can climb a steeple and peer down at the streets below from a dizzy height of 300 feet. No climbing gear is needed, but a walk up an exposed, exterior set of spiral stairs is required.