As capital cities go, Amsterdam is small in
comparison (pop. 700,000). It has a reputation for free spirited and very liberal
lifestyles. Some might call it Europe's most "radical" city, but one cannot deny
the beauty of Amsterdam and its rich history as reflected in its impressive monuments and
architecture. Amsterdam is also a cultural center of Europe as exemplified in its over 141
art galleries and 40 museums.
Situated along the Byfjord, Bergen is the second largest city
in Norway, and one of its most charming destinations. The history of this city dates back
to the early eleventh century when Olav Kyrre established a settlement and royal residence
here. In 1240, Bergen replaced Trondheim as the capital of Norway, and the city quickly
prospered under the guidance of the Hanseatic League. These German merchants soon
controlled all trade in Norway and remained in the city for many centuries until 1764.
Much of the city's architecture today reflects the lifestyle of the Hanseatic merchants,
who resided in narrow row houses near the harbor.
Copenhagen was a fishing village until the middle of the 12th
century; it grew in importance after coming into the possession of Bishop Absalon, who
fortified it in 1167. Because of its harbor, it soon became a place of commercial
importance and received municipal rights about the middle of the 13th century. It was
repeatedly attacked by the Hanseatic towns. The city was chosen for the capital in 1443 by
Christopher III, or Christopher of Bavaria. During 1658 - 59 it withstood a severe siege
by the Swedes under Charles X. In 1801, during the Napoleonic Wars, in an effort to compel
the Danes to recognize Great Britain's right of search on the high seas, a British
flotilla, commanded by Horatio Nelson, destroyed a Danish fleet in the harbor of
Copenhagen. In 1807 the city suffered great damage, and hundreds of persons were slain,
when British naval vessels bombarded the city to prevent Denmark from surrendering its
fleet to Napoleon. During World War II Copenhagen was occupied by German troops from April
1940 until May 1945.
Modern Dublin has the quirky flavour of a large town busily
engaged in neighbourhood pursuits. Rows of shops, pubs, and bookmakers line the streets,
sidewalk musicians sent their lilting tunes echoing down each narrow alley, and the
horizon is unscarred by skyscrapers. Dubliners are always ready, at the end of a hard
day's work, to stop for a convivial pint at the local pub, where music, politics, poetry,
and the sharp smell of stout fill the air.
The name of Dublin comes from the Irish Dubhlinn, meaning "dark
pool". But you?ll also see a much older Gaelic name on buses and signs: Baile Atha
Cliath, "the town of the hurdle ford", which explains why Dublin was originally
settled centuries ago - as a place to ford the River Liffey near its exit to the sea. The
river, a system of tranquil canals, and the nearby Irish Sea all contribute to Dublin?s
Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Dalmation Coast, curls around its
harbor like a nautilus shell, protecting the antique treasures that lie within its
15th-century walls. Amazingly, most of the city was spared by the hostilities which
recently raged all around it. Founded by Greek and Roman merchants, the town was
originally known as Ragusa. With an invincible fleet of very fast ships, Ragusa became one
of Europe's most powerful city-states, sending its merchants and emissaries all over the
world, rivaling Venice and Genoa in influence. The town is beautifully preserved, with
graceful Venetian style palaces and curved loggias bordering the gleaming white main
placa. Walk through Renaissance portals to see the Rector's Palace, where the affairs of
the Republic were conducted. A plaque on the entrance proclaims "Forget private
affairs, and get on with public matters".
The name of this enchanting Scottish capital was most likely
derived from King Edwin of Northumbria during the seventh century. During the eleventh
century Malcom Canmore erected a castle on Castle Rock and built a chapel for his wife,
Margaret. By the fourteenth century, Edinburgh was granted its first charter and the city
began to flourish in trade and handicrafts. It became the capital of Scotland in 1482 and
today offers some of Great Britain's most impressive historical monuments, which line the
enchanting Royal Mile.
With an average width of three miles and a depth of nearly
4,000 feet, the Sognefjord is the largest, deepest and most spectacular fjord in Norway.
Deep inside the eastern arm of the fjord are the ports of Flaam and Gudvangen. From here
visitors climb aboard an historic railway to climb more than 2,800 feet on a twisting,
turning path to reach the ancient town of Voss. During the eleventh century, a cross was
erected in Voss to celebrate the region's new Christianity.
Geiranger village is located along the scenic snow-covered
Geirangerfjord in central Norway. The dramatic beauty of the fjord is breathtaking, with
its steep mountains and rushing waterfalls. Visitors from all over the world have been
traveling here for more than 150 years. From Geiranger, many different arms of the fjord
can be easily reached.
Gudvangen nestles at the end of a long arm of Norway's largest
fjord, Sognefjord. This spectacular fjord probes nearly 110 miles into the heart of the
mountainous interior of Norway, skirting around the southern edge of the great glacier
massif of the Jostedalsbreen. Surrounded by 5,500 foot cliffs wetted by veils of tumbling
waterfalls, the fjord is so narrow in some places that during the winter, the sun never
reaches the valley floor. Perhaps the raw wild beauty and solitude of this place inspired
the building of Sognefjord's medieval stave churches - several fine examples can be seen
here. The entrances to the venerable wooden sanctuaries are guarded by grinning visages of
fierce trolls and dragons, lovingly carved by long-dead Viking craftsmen. From Gudvangen,
drive through the green Naeroy Valley up a narrow zig-zag road to the Stallheim Mountain
Hotel, where you can enjoy a clifftop lunch with a view of mountains, the fjord, and
ships, now the size of matchboxes, below.
Historic Hamburg is Germany's largest port and its second
largest city. During medieval times, it was an independent state. Evidence of early
settlements in Hamburg have been traced back some 15,000 years, but the city was
established and fortified during the ninth century when it was under constant attack by
the Vikings. During the early twelfth century, the city was granted free trade, and
Hamburg surpassed all other European cities in commerce during the powerful era of the
Hanseatic League. Hamburg was a focal point of attack during World War II, but fortunately
many structures remain from medieval times, making one of Northern Europe's most adored
Hammerfest, the world's northern-most city in the world with a
population of 7,000 residents, is located in the wide but calm bay of the Province of
Finnmark. The North Atlantic Gulf Stream provides the city with an ice free port all year
round. Like most northern cities, fishing is Hammerfest's most important industry with
tourism not too far behind as Hammerfest's short distance from the North Cape makes it an
attractive destination to tourists.
The natural port of Hammerfest provided a good anchoring location in
earlier days and this might account for the origin of its name: Hamer = anchor. Like
Tromso, Hammerfest became a major location for the start or end of arctic expeditions in
the 19th century. In 1890, the town was one of the first in Europe to provide electric
street lighting. Of course, the sun's disappearance from the sky during the arctic winter
from November through February may have contributed to this distinction.
Helsinki is laid out with spacious streets interspersed with
many gardens and parks. Architecturally, Helsinki is a mixture of old and modern styles,
with the old senate house and the Suurkirkko, or Great Church, representing the older
buildings, and the railroad station, designed in 1918 by the Finnish architect Eliel
Saarinen, as a notable example of modern architecture. Helsinki is the cultural and
commercial, as well as the political, center of Finland. The University of Helsinki has
been in the city since 1828, when it was moved from Turku, where it was founded in 1640.
The National Museum of Finland, the opera, and several theaters, presenting works in both
Finnish and Swedish, are located here.
Kiel is a city in north central Germany, in
Schleswig-Holstein, a port on an arm of the Baltic Sea, at the eastern entrance of the
Nord-Ostsee (or Kiel) Canal. The city has been noted as a port since the 10th century
because of its excellent harbor, which is a tideless fjord. The chief industries here,
aside from shipbuilding and naval maintenance, are the manufacture of soap, food products,
machinery, and woolen goods. The city has a university and is a popular center for
pleasure boating. In 1284 Kiel became a member of the Hanseatic League. In 1773 it came
under Danish rule, and in 1866, as part of Schleswig-Holstein, it passed to Prussia. In
World War I the city was the headquarters of the German Imperial Fleet, and in World War
II its important naval base was heavily bombed by the Allies.
The Shetland Islands are Great Britain's most northerly
islands, situated nearly fifty miles northeast of the Orkneys. Lerwick is the capital of
the principal island of Mainland and is Britain's most northerly town. On the southern tip
of the island is Jarlshof, site of ruins of several Stone Age and Bronze Age dwellings as
well as wheel-houses from the Iron Age. Elsewhere on the island is Clichimin Broch,
another prehistoric site containing a Bronze Age fort
One of the world's greatest cities, London is a melting pot of
centuries of cultures offering an endless collection of historical and modern sites. Man
has been traced in the area as far back as the Bronze Age, and the area was occupied later
by the Celtics. The written history of London began with Roman occupation under the rule
of Emperor Claudius. By the first century AD, London was an established trading center,
providing the Romans with a central base from which to explore the reminder of Britain. In
the centuries that followed, the city changed hands periodically and grew into a major
world capital. One of the London's most noteworthy periods of history was when King Henry
VIII ruled during the sixteenth century and disobeyed against the church of Rome by
marrying six times.
At the end of the beautiful Nordfjord is Olden, a town that
offers extraordinary views of the surrounding mountains. An Iron Age burial mound was
discovered in this region of Western Norway, but in more recent history, most of the town
were settled in the seventeenth century. In Olden, an historic church was built in 1746
and survived the Second World War.
Beautifully situated at the head of Oslofjord and surrounded
by lush hills, Oslo is the oldest of the Scandinavian capital cities. It was founded
during the 11th century by Viking Harald Hardrada, Norway's first king. Today it offers
rich historical treasures as well as many modern delights. Many of the city's finest sites
can be found on the Bygdoy Peninsula including the Kon Tiki Museum and the Vikingship
Museum, each displaying vessels from Norway's early maritime days. In the oldest part of
town lies the 13th century Akershus Castle, containing the tomb of King Hakon VII. In
northern Oslo, Frogner Park is home to 175 sculptures of stone, bronze, and iron completed
by master sculptor Gustav Vigeland.
Rostock is a city in northeastern Germany, in Mecklenburg-West
Pomerania, on the estuary of the Warnow River, near the Baltic Sea. Rostock is an
important seaport and, with nearby Warnemunde, constitutes one of the major shipping
centers of Germany, receiving a large part of the oil supplies imported into the country.
The city has a university and a college of music. A number of old churches, including
Saint Nicholas' Church, dating from the middle of the 13th century, and Saint Mary's
Church, a Gothic structure begun in 1398, are located here. The Gothic city hall was also
built in the 14th century.
Rostock was founded in the 12th century on the site of a Wendish
settlement and was chartered as a city in 1218. Subsequently, the city became a leading
member of the Hanseatic League. Large sections of Rostock were severely damaged by
bombings in World War II.
The gateway port of call for cruise ships to Paris. A call at
Rouen offers cruise passengers many centers of interest. It is a pleasure to sail up the
Seine from the sea to Rouen surrounded by varied, beautiful scenery punctuated by cliffs,
forest, chateaux, abbeys and other points of interest. A major regional capital, Rouen
boasts plenty of medieval and renaissance riches as well as shopping facilities located
right in the center of the city.
Along the southwestern coast of France near the dramatic range
of Pyrenees Mountains is France's region of Languedoc and the port of Sete. This fishing
village is gateway to Montpellier to the north. This historic city was the twelfth century
site of Europe's first medical school, established after years of growing and trading
medicinal plants. The school became a university in 1289. Under the reign of Louis XIV,
Montpellier was the capital of lower Languedoc, and the city rapidly expanded.
For first time visitors, St. Petersburg is like nothing you've
ever seen before. For those who have been before, now is the time of so many changes that
the city may have changed beyond belief. Witness the amazing political and social changes
that are developing so quickly, and the dramatic scenes of history that others can only
read about. St. Petersburg lies on the river Neva, and is built on 42 islands,
criss-crossed by rivers and canals. They are connected by 350 bridges. The river
eventually leads to the Gulf of Finland. Inside the city the Neva is contained within
granite banks, and on the "white nights" of summer the night rarely falls.
One of Norway's oldest towns, Stavanger is situated along the
Byfjord, an arm of the Stavangerfjord. A bishop ruled the city from the twelfth through
seventeenth centuries. At the end of the eighteenth century, Stavanger had developed a
successful merchant shipping fleet and during the next century developed herring fishing
and canning industries. Today the city?s historic monuments and grand houses reflect the
wealth of its residents throughout its history.
The city of Stockholm, built on 14 small islands among open
bays and narrow channels, has been dubbed the "Venice of the North". It is a
very civilized city, full of parks, squares, and airy boulevards. It has its modern
section too, but in the center you are never more than a few minutes walk from twisting
medieval streets and waterside walks. The first written mention of Stockholm dates from
1252, when a powerful regent, Birger Jarl, is said to have built a fortified castle here.
It was this strategic position, where the calm fresh waters of Lake Malaren meet the salty
Baltic Sea that prompted King Gustav Vasa to take over the city in 1523.
Tallinn fronts a bay on the Gulf of Finland dominated by
Toompea, the hill over which it has tumbled since the Middle Ages. The aura of the 14th
and 15th centuries survives intact in central Tallinn's jumble of medieval walls and
turrets, spires and winding cobbled hills; it's judiciously restored and fascinating to
explore. Tallinn is also a national capital with government buildings, a university,
entertainment and modern styles on its streets. Finns flock over from Helsinki on
weekends. Tallinn is on a similar latitude to St. Petersburg and shares that city's summer
"white nights" and short, dark winter days.
Located on Tromso Island, which measures 950 square miles, the
capital of the northern Province of Troms has a population of 44,000 and is probably the
most important port in Norway's arctic region. Although Tromso is located far north of the
Arctic Circle, the North Atlantic Gulf Stream makes its presence known and creates a mild
climate conducive to great vegetation.
Founded during the 13th century, Tromso developed slowly as a
fishing village with a single church and eventually became the main center for barter
trade with Russia. Six centuries later, it also became the "Gate to the Arctic"
when Roald Amundsen and Friedtjoff Nansen used Tromso as the starting point of their
famous expeditions into the far north. Even today, present Arctic voyagers commence their
adventures in the city also known by the Norwegians as the "Paris of the North".
Several Highlights of sightseeing tours are the Ice Sea Cathedral
(1965), the planetarium and the old districts with beautiful wooden houses. The
"Midnight Sun", disappearing behind the horizon, can be seen from May until
July. The Arctic dark dominates between November and January.
Trondheim or Trondhjem (ancient Nidaros), a port in central
Norway, is the administrative center of Sor-Trondelag County, on Trondheim Fjord.
Trondheim is one of the largest cities of the country, and a commerical center for the
surrounding agricultural area. The principal industries include shipbuilding,
metalworking, and the production of processed foods and textiles. The 11th-century Nidaros
Cathedral, erected over the tomb of King Olaf II, patron saint of Norway, is considered
one of the finest ecclesiastical edifices in Scandinavia and is the site of Norwegian
coronations. The University of Trondheim (1968) is here. Founded as Nidaros in ad 997, the
city served as the capital of Norway until 1380. Trondheim was occupied by German troops
during World War II.
With 137,400 residents, Trondheim is Norway's third largest city and
is located at the mouth of the River Nidelv at the end of the Trondheimfjord. Trondheim is
the center for the wood industry and has well known shipyards.
The city was founded in 997 AD by Viking King Olaf I Tryggvasson
because the settlement of an island on the River Nidelv was easy to defend. The King, who
tried to establish a united Norway, later chose Trondheim for his residence Nidarnes. In
1152 the city became an Archbishopric. The city had bloomed into a spiritual center until
Trondheim burned down several times in massive blazes and, as a
result of rebuilding, the architecture of today was formed after 1681. Most of the old
manors and trade houses were built from wood until a city law was enforced to prohibit the
use of wood as building material in 1832.
Remarkable points of interest are: The Dome (Nidaros Cathedral)
built in 1152; the market square with a statue of Trondheim's founder, the Stiftsgarden, a
wooden palace from the Rococo Epoch, the homes and trade buildings around the old port;
the Palace of the Archbishop from the 12th century with a museum of weapons and armory,
the V?r Frue Kirke (church) from 1739 at the Market Square, the Fortification of
Kristiansten Festing (1684) with an amazing view of the city center, the Ringve Music
Museum with its unique collection of old instruments, an open air museum and Fort
Sverresborg built in 1180.
Gotland and Oland are part of the Baltic islands that lie off
the southeast coast of Sweden. Today Gotland is a blend of old and new with its natural
beauty and cultural heritage. Folklore of Gotland tells us that the island rose out of the
water every night, only to sink below the waves as the sun's first rays broke through.
When Tjelvar, Gotland's first inhabitants, brought fire to the island, this spell was
broken and the island remained above the water.