Sights I Have Seen in Europe
I visited Europe four times between 1971 and 1991, spending six months there in all. I've been in all the countries of Western Europe, except 3 enclaves, but in Eastern Europe, I have visited only Greece and Hungary. These visits were a little cursory for such an important center of culture as Europe, so I´ll just recount some of the major points of interest that I did get to see, instead of devoting a whole web page to each of 22 countries.
For me, there is no place in Europe where it is warm enough, so I'd never consider living there, even if I could afford the outrageous prices that are charged for every little thing in some countries, like those of Scandinavia. Still, it's really enjoyable to visit famous places like the Vatican, the Acropolis, the Louvre, the British Museum and so forth.
I visited the Vatican twice, in 1974 and 1991. Undoubtedly, this is the most important cultural center in Europe. Vatican City is completely contiguous with the city of Rome, but is an independent country, one of the smallest in the world area-wise. Below is a picture of St. Peter's Square, with the Basilica itself in the background.
St. Peter's Square, Vatican City
(This picture and some others below are clickable.)
The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum are full of magnificent works of art. One of the most impressive is The School of Athens by Rafael (Raffaello Sanzio). This is a very large piece, covering an entire wall.
Rafael's The School of Athens, in the Vatican
In the Basilica itself stands the world-famous statue entitled Pietà, attributed to Michelangelo, who, however, was only 23 when the work was completed. So there is a doubt concerning his authorship. It was damaged in 1972 by a terrorist. I saw it on my first visit to the Vatican, when it was still in plain view. Now it's supposed to be behind glass.
Michelangelo's Pietà, St. Peter's
Another famous church in Italy is La Basilica di San Marco, the Cathedral of Venice. It dominates Piazza San Marco, in the Rialto, right downtown. Before the church there stood, and probably still stand, two bronze horses looted in Constantinople (Istanbul) during the Crusades. At the time of the looting, Venice was a country, not just a city, and it extended around the Adriatic Sea as far as Dubrovnik (now in Croatia). Venetians were energetic mariners and merchants.
La Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
Important to Italians and to the world at large are the heirlooms of Roman antiquity. One of the most noteworthy of Roman buildings is the Colosseum (Coliseum), which anyone who walks the streets of Rome will see sooner or later. This stadium dates from 72 to 80 AD, constructed during the reigns of Emperors Vespasian and Titus. I saw this on both of my visits to Rome.
The Colosseum (Coliseum), in Rome, Italy
In the Capitoline Museum, atop the Capitoline Hill in Rome, once can see the colossal head of Emperor Constantine, the man responsible for putting the Catholic Church in business:
Colossal Head of Emperor Constantine,
Here is the prologue to William Shakespeare's immortal play, Romeo and Juliet, which was set in fair Verona, in northern Italy, just west of Venice:
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
The house of Juliet Capulet, if she was a real person, still stands in Verona. In the courtyard there's a statue of the famous heroine.
Juliet Capulet's House, in Verona, Italy
I visited Paris four or five times, but never for more than a few days unfortunately. You can bet, though, that the first thing I did was head for the Louvre.
The Louvre, Paris, France
One of the most illustrious paintings in the Louvre is The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David. This painting, in which the figures are at least life-size, is over 30 feet long and almost 20 feet tall.
The Coronation of Napoleon,
by Jacques-Louis David
A real treasurehouse in the Louvre is the room devoted to the cycle of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens depicting the great events in the life of Marie de' Medici. Below is The Exchange of the Princesses, one of about a dozen such superb paintings.
The Exchange of the Princesses,
by Peter Paul Rubens
Another spot near Paris that probably no one misses is Versailles Palace, built by Kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV in the eighteenth century. This is where the famous Queen Marie Antoinette lived, and her boudoir and bedchamber, delightful rooms, can still be toured. Below is pictured the Hall of Mirrors. It mystifies me how workmen were able to fashion the buildings and their appointments in those days before motors, heavy equipment and electricity.
Versailles Palace, Versailles, France
In downtown Paris, on the Seine River, stands Notre Dame Cathedral. Though I am not a religious person, I've always been a keen visitor of cathedrals, shrines and other pious landmarks. I visited Notre Dame in the seventies, climbing the narrow spiral staircase to the roof, where the gargoyles lour out over the city of Paris. The cathedral dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and represents an incredible accomplishment for those medieval times.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
A famous church is the unfinished Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, Spain. The work, begun in 1882, is still unfinished. I visited Barcelona twice briefly in 1991, and saw the church, which didn't even have a roof at the time. I read later that, in preparation for the Olympics in Barcelona, in 1996, the local citizenry were planning to complete construction, but apparently those plans were not realized. This church was designed by the Catalonian architect, Antoni Gaudí.
La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, Spain
Dominating Vienna, Austria are the Art History Museum and the Natural History Museum, identical museums that stand facing each other on opposite sides of Maria Theresien Platz. These are among the best museums that I have ever visited.
The Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria
Frankfurt, Germany is an amazing city. One can hardly believe that a town with a population of only 1,000,000 has the financial, commercial and cultural trappings that put it in a category with much larger cities, like London, Paris and New York. Below is a picture of Frankfurt's skyline.
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
The best thing to see in London, England is the British Museum, which is loaded with artifacts, heirlooms and souvenirs of the many lands that formed parts of the 14,000,000 square miles that were the British Empire. In the museum, there are Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, and countless other things, which you'll never see in their entirety, unless you have several days to spend there.
The British Museum, London, England
Here is a head of Pharaoh Ramses II, abstracted by the English from Egypt.
Pharaoh Ramses II, in the British Museum
A beautiful and prestigious church in London is the eleventh-century Westminster Abbey, where rest the remains of many of the luminaries and dignitaries of the realm. This is the abbey where England's kings and queens are crowned and buried. I visited Westminster Abbey in 1971, and cannot remember the names of all the illustrious people buried there. I do recall John Milton, and, standing in a vertical tomb, Samuel Johnson.
Westminster Abbey, London, England
Another famous site in England is Stonehenge, whose construction, by an unknown people, went on for several centuries and ended in 1600 BC. This archeological treasure is in the vicinity of Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford, northwest of London.
In 1991, I passed back and forth over the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and in 1974, I spent a few days in the Italian Alps. Very scenic, these mountains are much lower than some of the mountains I've seen in Asia and South America.
The Austrian Alps
Another famous European mountain that I saw was Gibraltar, in the South of Spain. In 1991, I sailed the Straits of Gibraltar from Algeciras, Spain to Tangiers, Morocco. From Tangiers I trained to ad-Dar al-Beyda (Casablanca) and back, and then sailed the straits again.
Gibraltar, near Algeciras, Spain
An even more famous rock is the Acropolis, in Athens, Greece. I visited this fmous landmark in the summer of 1990, when I lived briefly in Greece. I merely cycled downtown from the suburb of Voula, where I was staying in a government-run camping ground.
The Acropolis, in Athens, Greece
In 1974, I sailed the English Channel, on my way from London to Paris, and after a visit of a few days, I sailed back. So in this way, I was able to see the white cliffs of Dover, famous the world around.
The White Cliffs of Dover, England
Perched on a cliff in the manner of the Acropolis, and very imposing in its own way, is Edinburgh Castle, in Edinburgh, Scotland, nearly due north of London several hundred miles. The castle has a museum of arms and armor, and the motto above the gates of the castle reads, "Nemo me impune lacessit," which means, "Nobody harasses me with impunity." I visited the castle in the early seventies.
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
In 1990, I sailed the Oresund, the sound that separates Denmark from Sweden. I rode aboard a train from Copenhagen to Stockholm. The train rolled onto a ferry on the Danish side, on the island of Sjaelland, and rolled off in Malmö, Sweden, so that I did not have to detrain until we got to Stockholm. Of course, I had to cross The Sound, as it is called in English, again on the way back. Since then, a bridge has been built.
The Oresund, between Denmark and Sweden
Rafael's The School of Athens, in the Vatican:
Michelangelo's Pietá, St. Peter's:
La Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy:
The Colosseum (Coliseum), in Rome, Italy:
Colossal Head of Emperor Constantine in Rome:
Juliet Capulet's House, in Verona, Italy:
The Louvre, Paris, France:
The Coronation of Napoleon, Jacque-Louis David:
The Exchange of the Princesses, by Peter Paul Rubens:
Versailles Palace, Versailles, France:
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France:
La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, Spain:
The Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria:
Frankfurt am Main, Germany:
The British Museum, London, England:
Pharaoh Ramses II, in the British Museum:
Westminster Abbey, London, England:
The Austrian Alps:
Gibraltar, near Algeciras, Spain:
The Acropolis, in Athens, Greece:
The White Cliffs of Dover, England:
Edinburgh Castle: Edinburgh, Scotland:
The Oresund, between Denmark and Sweden: