Category Archives for "Europe"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the Europe.

Malta In Its Every Little Detail

Thirty or so English-speaking visitors have gathered for a tour of Thrones sites in Malta’s ancient fortified town of Mdina, and right now we’re standing on Pjazza Mesquita. Before us hang the balconies where scheming Lord Baelish displayed his prostitutes and Ned Stark, lord paramount of the North, is horrified to find his wife. Everything around us—walls, arches, paving stones—is golden limestone, interrupted only by green shutters and black iron curving over windows.

Malcolm Ellul, a 41-year-old Maltese businessman and actor, points to a very un-Westeros mailbox.

“That’s practically the only thing they had to change,” he says—“they” referring to the film crew for the hit TV series. “Otherwise, you see? Malta doesn’t need anything done to it.”

This isn’t the sentiment I had hoped to hear. On my first trip to Malta, several years ago, I’d been struck by how out-of-date the place seemed, not just old but old-fashioned. Its history as home to the Knights of Malta and, subsequently, a British protectorate (English remains an official language), was fascinating. But there was something about this Mediterranean island nation perched between Sicily and North Africa that seemed stuck, its food and arts scenes undeveloped, its fashions several years behind, its tourism aimed largely at northern Europeans hellbent on sunburns and hangovers. Even Malta’s politics seemed retrograde: Divorce was illegal until 2011.

But in the intervening years I had heard rumors of change. The European Commission chose Malta’s capital, Valletta, as one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2018. Malta’s government finally legalized divorce. New boutique hotels were opening, major cultural initiatives were being launched, and, yes, Game of Thrones began filming here.


One of the locations where Game of Thrones was filmed in Malta – Fort Manoel, Malta

Together, all of these changes had me wondering: After so much time being known primarily for sunshine and knights, was Malta finally entering the modern world?

I ARRIVE IN VALLETTA as the sun is setting and head straight out to retrace a walk I made on my last visit inside the city’s fortified walls. Narrow streets are lined with baroque buildings, all ornate porticoes and wrought-iron balconies. Various doorways bear a plaque commemorating some long-ago event or person. Vintage hand-painted signs mark shops—Paul’s Store, Smiling Prince Bar—long departed. When I reach the Grand Harbour, the cobalt expanse of the Mediterranean Sea gives way to an astonishing panorama of tightly packed houses, church domes, and fortresses. It looks either medieval or Meereen —a city from the show—I’m not sure which.


Even for the Old Continent, Malta is dense with history. A republic centered on three inhabited islands at a key crossroads location in the Mediterranean, it has been a strategic prize about as long as there has been strategy. Archaeological remains place its original inhabitants in the Neolithic period; a progression of Phoenicians, Romans, and Arabs subsequently populated it. Malta really came into its own in the 16th century, when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V granted its two main islands, Malta and Gozo, to the order of the Knights with the hope that it would help protect Rome. Several sieges and 150 years of British colonialism later you have a place that bears hallmarks—an Arabic-inflected vocabulary, a taste for fish-and-chips—of the many cultures that have passed through it.

The National Wallace  Monument – Stirling, Central Scotland

Standing over 150 metres above sea level, this imposing tower, dedicated to the real-life Braveheart, is a fitting tribute to a legendary Scottish hero

On a September day in 1297, Scottish national hero William Wallace stood atop the Abbey Craig hill, closely observing the English army in the moments before what would become his greatest success. Almost six centuries later, this dramatic peak would become the site of a spectacular monument to his legacy Born into a minor landowning family, little else is known about Wallace’s upbringing and path to heroism. A patriot at heart, the young warrior made a name for himself attacking Lanark in May 1297, a town held by the English. His assassination of the town’s English sheriff won him fame and notoriety, and he was soon able to gather together a band of commoners and gentry, united by a common enemy. And so began the first truly organised resistance against the growing English influence in Scotland.


The imposing monument overlooks the site of Wallace’s most notable victory over the English – the Battle of Stirling Bridge. As King Edward I’s men began to cross the narrow Stirling Bridge, hoping to encroach further on Scottish lands, Wallace picked his moment. He waited until half of the English army had made it to the other side, before launching his attack from Abbey Craig. The battle is revered in history as one of Scotland’s finest moments, and the 27-year-old Wallace became one of the nation’s greatest heroes. As a prize for his victory, Wallace was awarded a knighthood by the Scottish royal court. He fought once again at Falkirk, although defeat marked the start of his downfall and, just a few years later, he was captured by the English and hanged, drawn and quartered in London in 1305.

A revival of interest in Celtic nationality and culture in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the construction of a monument in his honour. Literary figures such as Robert Burns and Walter Scott began to romanticise the nation’s dialect, capturing the imagination of Scots that had lost their connection to the land and its unique history. William Wallace provided an ideal figurehead for this cultural renaissance.

It was decided that a bold, statement-making structure would be built to commemorate his remarkable impact on Scottish history. Once Stirling had been chosen as the location – resolving the fight between Glasgow and Edinburgh for the prestigious selection – a competition to design the tower was held. After 106 plans were sent in, including some that were disqualified for being too ‘anti- English’, a Gothic Revival design submitted by Glasgow architect JT Rochead won. The plan featured many subtle homages to Wallace, including stained glass windows, which portrayed a glowing likeness of the man himself.

“A bold, statement-making structure was required”

In order to finance this ambitious project, funds were sourced both from public subscriptions and foreign donors. One such benefactor was the Italian reunification leader Giuseppe Garibaldi, a sympathiser of the growing affection for Scottish heritage and nationalism in the Victorian era. At a cost of £18,000 (over £1 million in today’s money), construction began on Bannockburn Day in 1861, and it was opened on the 572nd anniversary of Wallace’s historic victory at the site.


Be warned that there is a mammoth 246-step clamber to the top. However, there’s a space on each level to catch your breath and absorb more of Wallace’s fascinating story. The climb is worth it as it ends at the crown of the monument, a regal tribute to Wallace that can be seen from miles around. Take a moment to reflect on the stunning view of the Ochil Hills, just as the ‘Guardian of Scotland’ did more than 700 years ago.




The first floor of the tower narrates the story of the Battle of Stirling Bridge and features original weapons, armour and equipment used by each side.



Climb 64 steps to the next level and visit Scotland’s unofficial ‘hall of fame’, featuring busts of other great Scots such as Gladstone, Robert the Bruce and Rabbie Burns.



The Wallace Sword, Scotland’s very own Excalibur, is the centrepiece here. Whether Wallace actually used it is debatable, but its 5’4” length has to be seen to be believed.


The final floor is home to an interactive exhibit of the monument’s construction, where youngsters can try their hand at building their own tower.



The monument’s Gothic peak is an architectural wonder, featuring intricate battlements and ornate decorations that would not look out of place on a fairytale castle.



Spot the Scottish Highlands in the distance, with the Firth of Forth, Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle adding to this magical view, which is worth climbing up 246 steps for.


Some more Scottish gems for you to discover:



On the way into Stirling town centre, visitors can see the site of Wallace’s greatest victory, and cross over the 15th-century bridge that now stands there.



Visible from the Wallace Monument, Stirling is one of Scotland’s finest castles, featuring banqueting halls and a royal palace within its hilltop grounds.


Four miles south of the Wallace Monument, watch a 3D demonstration of this other famous battle, then re-enact it.


The Splendid Georgian Homes Found in Northern England

No trip to northern England is complete without a wander around a few of the truly splendid Georgian stately homes

Lyme Park


Famed for its numerous appearances in film and TV, Lyme Park has something for everyone. Whether you want to play an Edwardian piano, admire the artwork or just stroll through the deer park and let younger visitors loose on the adventure playground, Lyme is sure to be a great day out.

Castle Howard


One of the most magnificent stately homes in Great Britain, Castle Howard has long been a favourite of many filmmakers. With its evocative interiors, breathtaking architecture, hectares of parkland and a packed schedule of events for everyone in the family, this is not a place to miss.

Harewood House


Harewood House just oozes Georgian grandeur from every stone and every inch, from its Capability Brown gardens to its era-spanning collection of art and artefacts. There’s also a richly-stocked bird garden and, for the younger visitors, a farm, which features everything from pigs to penguins.

Dunham Massey Hall


Although Dunham Massey was built in the 18th century, the site also contains Elizabethan features and Victorian structures too. In the house are exhibitions telling the remarkable story of the family who made this their home, while outside red deer roam the serene parkland s.

Seaton Delaval Hall


Once home to one of the most notorious families in England, Seaton Delaval Hall gives visitors a chance to travel back through time and meet the infamous Delaval family. Catch your breath in the rolling grounds and enjoy a choice of many different family- friendly activities.

Ruins of Churches in Dumfries and Galloway – Scotland

The picturesque landscape of Dumfries and Galloway is home to some truly inspiring historic churches. Here are five of the best

Lincluden Collegiate Church


Although ruins are all that remain of the church built here in 1389, it is still possible to get an impression of the building that was once a centre of worship. The ornate tomb of 15th-century Princess Margaret can be viewed here, and it’s well worth a stop.

Kirkmadrine Early Christian Stones


Three of the eight stones here date back to the 5th century, providing evidence of early Christian worship in Dumfries and Galloway. Considered to be one of the earliest Christian sites across all of Scotland, Kirkmadrine played a vital part in the religious development of the nation.

Cruggleton Church


Cruggleton Church dates back to the 1100s, when it was built by Fergus, who was the first Laird of Galloway. Once derelict, this near-perfect example of a former Romanesque church was fully restored in the Victorian era. The church is a gorgeous, tranquil place that is perfect for a wander along its nearby coastal path.

Saint Ninian’s Chapel


This chapel was once a place of sanctuary for Medieval pilgrims who were on their way to Whithorn Priory and Saint Ninian’s chapel does still welcome modern pilgrims to leave stones at its cairn. Set on a dramatic hilltop, this is a truly evocative place that will truly captivate travellers.

Chapel Finian


The ruins of this 10th-century chapel were first discovered back in the 1950s. It is a simple rectangular chapel aligned east-west in Christian tradition. It is believed that this was another stopping place for Irish pilgrims who were on the road to Whitehorn Priory, but little else is known about the history of this tremendously peaceful site.

Cemeteries of Paris are Real Historic Treasures

No trip to Paris is complete without a trip to view its famed cemeteries. Here are just a few to start you on your way



Once littered with the victims of the Reign of Terror, Montmartre is now an oasis of tranquility in one of the city’s most famed districts. Rich in awe-inspiring sculpted tombs and resting place of some legendary Parisians, it is not to be missed.

Pere Lachaise


The largest of these cemeteries is also the world’s most visited. Thousands of visitors flock to it every single day to wander through its 70,000 tombs and pay homage to figures from rockstars to artists to politicians and beyond. No trip to Paris is complete without a stroll through Pere Lachaise.

The Pantheon


This iconic and opulent building is famed for its magnificent crypt, where visitors can easily lose a day exploring everything it has to offer. In this neoclassical splendour, some of the greatest names from throughout French history have been laid to rest here including Voltaire, Hugo and the Curies.



When it opened in 1824, Montparnasse was the first cemetery to have been established in Paris in decades. Particularly popular as a burial ground for French and international intellectuals, Montparnasse cemetery is a hugely a popular stop for travellers in the capital.



Though less famous and a lot quieter than some of Paris’s other cemeteries, Passy is no less steeped in history. To add to its beauty, the Eiffel Tower looms over the burial ground. Those laid to rest here include the Debussy, Renault and celebrated American actress and adventuress, Pearl White.

Copenhagen Open Its Castles & Palaces Gates

If you’re planning a visit to the Danish capital, be sure not to miss these five historic castles and palaces that celebrate the royal history of the nation

Christiansborg Palace

christiansborg palace

Beneath the opulent Christiansborg Palace, home of the Danish parliament, is a mysterious world. These are the ruins of the 12th-century castle of Bishop Absalon. Visitors can tour not only the splendour of Christiansborg Palace, but also the evocative remains of the ruined castle.

Rosenborg Castle


This stunning 17th-century castle takes travellers back in time to meet the waxworks of those who once called its halls their home. Here you can relive some of their most scandalous episodes. However, whatever you do, don’t miss the Danish crown jewels, which are sure to take your breath away.

Frederiksborg Castle


Set on an island in its own lake, the 17th-century Frederiksborg Castle was rebuilt after a catastrophic fire in the 19th century. Now it houses the Museum of National History and one of the most beautiful royal gardens you will ever have the chance to explore.

Fredensborg Palace


Fredensborg Palace is still used as a residence by the Danish royal family. This Baroque masterpiece is particularly famed for its extensive and extravagant gardens, many of which are still tended and enjoyed by members of the royal family themselves.

Amalienborg Palace


The residence of the Danish royal family welcomes visitors for guided tours around its awe-inspiring rococo interiors. Be sure to watch the traditional changing of the Royal Guard before you tour all four of the different Danish palaces that make up Amalienborg.

Best Places To Go Out For History Lovers

Britain has so much to offer the casual historian in terms of days out and excursions that the choice can be a little overwhelming. Whether it’s castles or museums that whet your appetite for learning about the past, we’ve shortlisted five of the best historical destinations that are guaranteed to excite, inform and entertain.



Located between the Sussex towns of Arundel and Storrington, Amberley Museum is dedicated to local industrial heritage. Exhibits include the telecommunications hall, electricity hall, working printshop, road steam engines and more. The museum is home to traditional craftspeople such as the wheelwrights and blacksmith, with a cafe, gift shop, nature trails and picnic areas. The museum hosts more than 50 events ranging from children’s activity days to classic vehicle shows. February half term events include Opening Weekend on 13-14 February, Toddler Tuesday on the 16th and Electric Amberley Activity Day on the 17th.

All events are listed on the museum’s website and Facebook page. After half term the museum is open from March to October, seven days a week during Sussex school holidays and on Bank Holidays, otherwise Wednesday to Sunday.



Experience 700 years of history at the castle once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and also home to Anne of Cleves. Set in the beautiful Kent countryside, the original Medieval castle with its gatehouse and walled bailey was built in 1270, with the Tudor dwelling added by the Boleyn family.

The splendid panelled rooms contain fine furniture, tapestries, antiques and an important collection of Tudor portraits. Two prayer books that belonged to Anne Boleyn are on display – one is believed to be the prayer book she took to her execution at the Tower. Despite its splendour, Hever Castle also houses lots of armour and gruesome torture devices. A permanent exhibition brings the 16th century to life with costumed figures illustrating key events in Anne’s life at the castle.



The bravery and sacrifice of the aircrew who took part in the Battle of Britain in 1940 continues to inspire us more than 75 years after it happened. The story of how fewer than 3,000 men took to the sky to defeat the Luftwaffe and end Hitler’s plans to invade this country is brilliantly told in the new Spitfire-shaped Wing building at the National Memorial to the Few. Situated on Kent’s famous white cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne near Folkestone, the multimedia Scramble Experience gives a sense of what it must have been like to take part in possibly the most important battle this country has ever won.

The memorial itself is an inspirational stone carving of an airman gazing reflectively out over the Channel, while the site is also home to a replica Hurricane and Spitfire and the Christopher Foxley- Norris Memorial Wall, where the names of those who took part are listed.



Exploring the history of a city like York can be an expensive day out or short break. Luckily the JORVIK Group offer the Pastport – allowing access to five of the best city-centre attractions throughout the year for one great, discounted price. Discover a Medieval townhouse, once hidden behind a modern facade and now restored to its former glory at Barley Hall.

Explore the bloody impact of the Wars of the Roses on York at the Richard III & Henry VII Experiences on the famous city walls. Experience hands-on archaeology at DIG – An Archaeological Adventure. Unfortunately following the floods in York over the Christmas period, JORVIK Viking Centre will be closed until further notice but any Pastports purchased during this time will be valid for 24 months, allowing you to re-visit York and re-discover the Viking Age at JORVIK!



Saturday 20 February, 1-4.30pm

Take a boat trip down the Thames and immerse yourself in the myths of the river and dark stories of crime and death from Execution Dock to the Great Stink. Join experts Scott Wood, author of London Urban Legends: The Corpse On The Tube and a regular contributor to Londonist, and Julie Chandler, a Blue Badge Guide and founder of London Town Tours, as they narrate the stories of the river.

The tour goes from Westminster Pier to the 02 and back again, passing by the famous landmarks of the city including London’s iconic bridges, the London Eye, the Tower of London, London’s Docklands and Greenwich. Book now for £38 by calling 020 7001 9844.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival, Germany

On weekends from September to November, downtown Ludwigsburg engages in revelry celebrating the harvest of the season—pumpkins. Giant pumpkin sculptures designed around a theme take pride of place near the town market in southwestern Germany. There’s also a display of close to 800 types of pumpkins and other squash grown locally in Ludwigsburg. There are pumpkin carving contests and food stalls featuring dishes made using the sweet squash, including what is known as “Germany’s biggest pumpkin soup” that is sold to raise money for charity.


The highlights at the Kurbisausstellung Ludwigsburg (Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival) are the paddlers and the weigh-offs. For the former, participants paddle across Castle Lake in giant hollowed-out pumpkins. Meanwhile, the biggest, heaviest pumpkins battle it out at the Pumpkin Weigh-Offs (the European record holder is a 1054-kilogram specimen from 2014). Winning entries are proudly displayed before being smashed to smithereens by revellers on the last day. Some do it for fun, others to collect the seeds to grow their own prize pumpkin.

Welcome To Lemon Festival: Menton, France

The French Riviera town of Menton welcomes the end of winter with a celebration that involves tonnes and tonnes of sunny, juicy lemons. At the Fete du Citron or Lemon Festival, organised every year in February-March, lemons and other citrons are arranged to create 30-foot-high structures at the town’s Bioves Gardens. Artists and enthusiasts create designs based on the year’s theme, which has ranged from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea inspired by the Jules Verne novel, to Tribulations of a Lemon in China, a spin-off on a popular French novel. Come nightfall, the orange and yellow structures are illuminated with myriad lights, and often accompanied by sounds to bring the fruity creations to life.


There’s also a parade once a day along the adjacent Promenade du Soleil that lends the festival a carnival air. There’s the Golden Fruits Parade and the nighttime parades, which have extravagantly decorated citrus floats that are sometimes accompanied by dramatic fireworks and followed by brass bands, confetti-showering crowds, and brightly-dressed dancers and performers. The whole town gets into the spirit of the festivities with shops selling citrus-flavoured foods and fragrances among other things.

This Mini-Guide Will Help You to Discover The Real London Air

Brexit may have been controversial for the Brits, but travelers eager to visit London have reason to celebrate. Politics aside, the aftermath of Brexit brings tourism benefits to Americans because of a favorable exchange rate and more affordable transatlantic airfares.

Anglophiles drawn to the English capital will find that the city is still an eclectic mix of royal, modern, and indie. Even native Londoners would need more than a lifetime to uncover everything that their city offers.   Venturing beyond the historic center and popular must-see spots can feel as though you’ve wandered past a series of connected villages that sport football scarves as flags. Sometimes, it can seem like you’ve even, in the tradition of British television treasure Doctor Who, traversed through time and space itself.


London’s calling. Answer in a classic red phone box

In spite of the current legislative upheaval, visitors will discover a welcoming city. Diversity is diffused throughout London’s 60,000 winding streets, from the experimental artist spaces to neighborhood ethnic eateries to the stocked stalls that line Saturday markets. In London, hipsters, global finance leaders, and expats convene as equals with a pint in hand at the local pub.

And that, Brexit or not, is a pretty great deal.

Situate your stay along the Thames, the aquatic artery that threads through the heart of London. Just steps from both the river and Trafalgar Square, the CORINTHIA boasts Victorian architecture, a planet-size crystal chandelier, a florist, and a swanky spa featuring an ice fountain and sleeping pods. Across the street from the Tower of London and a few minutes’ stroll from the river is CITIZENM. The 370-room hotel includes a lobby made to feel like your living room, if your living room were outfitted with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and Union Jack accent pieces.


CitizenM Hotel’s Tower of London location is both proper and plush

Plus, there are Instagram-ready workspaces with complimentary espresso, a library saturated with style books, and a selection of iMacs in case you left your laptop at home. For an alternative stay, try the GOOD HOTEL, a floating former detention center for illegal immigrants. This new not-for-profit hotel will spend five years in the Royal Victoria Docks, serving up local craft beers in what was once the mess hall and waterfront views on its rooftop garden. Better yet: All the Good Hotel’s profits go into an education and entrepreneurship program for its staff.