568 Slices
Medium 9781743215524

Utrecht

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

Don't underrate the petite province of Utrecht. Its famous namesake city – with its throngs of students, tree-lined canals and medieval quarter – deserves the limelight. No set piece, it has a plethora of hip, fun bars and cafes. Those with calmer tastes can visit more than a dozen museums big and small. Wandering the backstreets, revel in reminders of the 17th century.

And this is no mere city-state. By bike you can explore evocative castles like the splendid Kasteel de Haar on Utrecht's doorstep. To the east stretches the Randstad's largest park, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, studded with more magnificent estates. Amersfoort radiates medieval character, but also honours native son Piet Mondrian and his minimalist, angular palette.

At the heart of the country, Utrecht's weather is perfectly average: cold and wet in the winter, with the potential for damp, chilly conditions the rest of the year as well. However, perfectly clear and sunny days can appear any time, especially from April to October. These are prime times for bike rides round the province. In Utrecht city, there are tasty bock beer fests in the fall when many cafés and bars have the seasonal brew on tap.

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Medium 9781743603604

El Clavo

Berendt, John Lonely Planet Publications ePub

Glistening like gems, blue frogs hop on my path as I make my way up the mountain. I’m living in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, a reservation belonging to the indigenous Ngäbe people of Panama. As resident English teacher, latrine builder, and runaway pig catcher, I walk nine miles each way every few days to visit schools below my base village at the top of the mountain. Tonight I am returning with important supplies: medicines, canned fish, coffee and books, as well as news from the rest of the world – we are too remote to have radio or phone reception.

The path before me stretches almost vertically, and my companions, a young girl who serves as my trail guide and a malnourished packhorse carrying our supplies, look as though they cannot possibly complete the journey. Yet the three of us – the most unlikely of companions – seem to have found an alliance in one another as we walk quietly without stopping through a night filled with stars and stories. Each tree we pass, each star, each twist in the road, has a story to tell for the Ngäbe. The hungry snake. The angry wife. The woman who looked at the moon. Each tale wraps itself around me like a blanket, making me feel safe and content, despite the gnawing hunger in my stomach. We haven’t eaten for hours and I’m out of water, but these things seem normal now, unimportant.

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Medium 9781743214664

Croatia

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

If your Mediterranean fantasies feature balmy days by sapphire waters in the shade of ancient walled towns, Croatia is the place to turn them into reality.

The extraordinary Adriatic coastline, speckled with 1244 islands and strewn with historic towns, is Croatia’s main attraction. The standout is Dubrovnik, its remarkable Old Town ringed by mighty defensive walls. Coastal Split showcases Diocletian’s Palace, one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments, where dozens of bars, restaurants and shops thrive amid the old walls. In the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria, Rovinj is a charm-packed fishing port with narrow cobbled streets. The Adriatic isles hold much varied appeal, from glitzy Hvar Town on its namesake island to the secluded naturist coves of the Pakleni Islands just offshore.

Away from the coast, Zagreb, Croatia’s lovely capital, has a booming cafe culture and art scene, while Plitvice Lakes National Park offers a verdant maze of turquoise lakes and cascading waterfalls.

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Medium 9781742207575

Estonia

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

%372 / Pop 1.3 million

Estonia doesn’t have to struggle to find a point of difference: it’s completely unique. It shares a similar geography and history with Latvia and Lithuania, but culturally it’s distinct. Its closest ethnic and linguistic buddy is Finland, and although they may love to get naked together in the sauna, 50 years of Soviet rule in Estonia have separated the two. For the last 300 years Estonia’s been linked to Russia, but the two states have as much in common as a barn swallow and a bear (their respective national symbols).

With a newfound confidence, singular Estonia has crept from under the Soviet blanket and leapt into the arms of Europe. The love affair is mutual. Europe has fallen head-over-heels for the charms of Tallinn and its Unesco-protected Old Town. Put simply, Tallinn is now one of the continent’s most captivating cities. And in overcrowded Europe, Estonia’s sparsely populated countryside and extensive swathes of forest provide spiritual sustenance for nature-lovers.

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Medium 9781743215814

Britain

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

Few places cram so much history, heritage and scenery into such a compact space as Britain. Twelve hours is all you'll need to travel from one end to the other, but you could spend a lifetime exploring – from the ancient relics of Stonehenge and Avebury, to the great medieval cathedrals of Westminster and Canterbury, and the magnificent country houses of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard.

In fact, Britain isn't really one country at all, but three. While they haven't always been easy bedfellows, the contrasts between England, Wales and Scotland make this a rewarding place to visit. With a wealth of rolling countryside, stately cities, world-class museums and national parks to explore, Britain really is one of Europe's most unmissable destinations. And despite what you may have heard, it doesn't rain all the time – but even so, a umbrella and a raincoat will certainly come in handy.

AEaster–May Fewer crowds, especially in popular spots like Bath, York and Edinburgh.

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