Europe is so blessed with fascinating points of interest for visitors that it’s difficult to pick and choose among them. Certainly the major European capitals rank first on most visitors’ lists.
Away from the capitals, however, visitors can find many rewarding sights. Secondary cities and regions offer different aspects of a country and its culture, with natural sites, unusual histories, peoples and customs that you may not find in the big cities.
Here, then, are a selection of European regions beyond the capitals that have much appeal to visitors. All are well worth exploring.The Rhine, Germany:
Many castles and fortresses lie along the river, 27 of them between Koblenz and Rudesheim. Many can be visited. A number of picturesque small towns also nestle on the river banks as well as some major cities, among them Cologne, with its historic Gothic cathedral that for a brief period in the 1880s was the tallest building in the world; Bonn, birthplace of Beethoven; and Koblenz, founded more than 2,000 years ago at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers.
Many companies offer cruises on the river, as do ferries. Lorelei can been seen from day cruises out of several cities. Most sites also are accessible on land tours. Attractions: www.viator.com/rhine-river/d767. General information: www.germany.travel/en/index.html or any river cruise line.The Amalfi Coast, Italy:
Along the way are fascinating towns like Positano, whose buildings and pathways rise from a small beach to cover a hillside with a jumble of civilization.
Some 1,200 feet above the town of Amalfi is the town of Ravello, which was a favorite hangout for creative stars including composers Richard Wagner and Edvard Grieg and writers D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Wolff. www.amalficoast.com.The White Towns, Spain:
Biggest of the white towns is Ronda, which is the home of Spain’s first bullring and is noted also for the 400-foot-deep gorge that splits the city in two.
Except for Ronda, which can be reached by train, you need a car to visit the white towns. Some can be viewed on a day trip from the Costa del Sol. www.andalucia.comThe fjords, Norway:
An easy way to visit fjord country is by a tour called Norway in a Nutshell, which combines travel by train, ferry and bus in a 12-hour roundtrip journey from Bergen. One of the highlights is the spectacular 2,700-foot descent by train from Myrdal to Flam, where participants board a ferry that tours two fjords.
Cruises also operate on the 100-mile-long Sognefjord, Norway’s longest. www.fjords.com.
Another Cornwall site that draws many visitors is Land’s End. Famed as England’s westernmost point, it also is the site of the ruins of Tintagel Castle, believed to be the birthplace of King Arthur.
Elsewhere of interest in Cornwall are the Lost Gardens of Haligan, a 200-acre Victorian showplace; the port of Falmouth, which houses the National Maritime Museum and occasionally hosts large cruise ships; and a smaller museum that I found fascinating, the shipwreck museum located in Charleston, near St. Austell. www.visitCornwall.com.Dalmatian Coast, Croatia:
Still standing in the city of Split is the much of the Palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian, built in 295-305 A.D. There, visitors can admire the Temple of Jupiter and the Peristyle. Great religious treasures as well as a Roman forum are found in Zadar. Trogir boasts the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in Central Europe.
Dubrovnik is the pearl of the coast, a walled city with marble streets and Baroque and Renaissance architecture. It’s also a major port of call for cruise ships.
Dozens of islands lie off the Dalmatian coast, many with lovely beaches. Some can be reached on day cruises and offer activities such as wine-tasting, sun-bathing and hiking. www.croatiatraveller.com.French Alps, France:
Dozens of ski resorts dot the region, which has been host to three Winter Olympic Games — Albertville in 1992, Grenoble in 1968 and Chamonix in 1924. Among the best-known ski resorts are Courchevel, Meribel and Val d’Isere. but there many others.
Dominating views of the region is Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak at 15,782 feet. A remarkable seven-mile tunnel through that mountain connects Chamonix in France with Courmayeur on the Italian side.
One of the Europe’s most romantic towns is found in this region. Annecy, sometimes called the “Venice of Savoie,” is known for its azure lake as well as its canals, scenic old city and chateau. www.franceguide.com