For would-be explorers, living in the contemporary world can be a bit of a drag. Apart from outer space and the bottom of the ocean, just about everything has already been discovered. It may seem as though there’s nothing new to find unless you want to invest in deep-sea diving gear or a spacesuit.
But what about the treasures that have been forgotten, tucked away from the public eye as tourists trample each other to get a glimpse of Mona Lisa or the Berlin Wall? Modern day Magellans looking to go where no man has gone before should consider European gems that take them off the beaten track to cities of yesteryear, places where time seems to have stood completely still.
Get out your backpack and walking boots, book your train tickets and invest in some cheap travel insurance – Europe’s secret gems have been hiding and need you to seek them out.
For authentic French charm, visit Sainte-Agnès. Nestled atop a mountain, it is a challenge to get to, deterring many visitors. Those willing to brave the narrow, twisting paths that will take them into this town will be rewarded with breathtaking views, stone house from the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries and mysterious arched passageways. Whether you decide to visit the remains of a twelfth-century castle or just browse local art galleries and craft shops, the few and far-between who choose to visit this gorgeous small town are now the keepers of one of France’s greatest secrets.
Montenegro itself is a lesser-known travel destination, so when you get to Kotor, a small town tucked away in the cloistered Montenegro Bay, you will have escaped the well-trodden tourist track almost entirely.
Kotor has done a tremendous job preserving its twelfth- and fourteenth-century architecture, so as you walk through its narrow cobblestone streets and squares and gaze upon the buildings you pass, you’ll be transported back to medieval times. Cars are not allowed in the city, which only adds to the magic. Those with adventurous souls are welcome to paraglide from one of the many surrounding cliffs, while those who prefer gentler activities can head to one of the local restaurants or pubs in the hopes of running into one of the yarn-filled sailors or traders who live in Kotor.
Quirky and quintessential, the colourful town of Apenzell is situated in one of the least-explored regions of Switzerland. Here you will find picturesque views, century-old traditions and the best cheese and beer you’ve ever tasted. Apenzell is known for its embroidery and, if you time your visit right, you’ll have a chance to watch local residents in hand-embroidered costumes herd cows down the mountainside during the local festival of Alpfarten.
Sainte-Agnès, Kotor and Apenzell, some of the secrets of Europe, are perfect destinations for those searching for authentic international experiences. Away from the for-profit tourism market, they have no ulterior money-making motives. However, as you will be quite far off the beaten track, consider investing in some cheap travel insurance – Europe is quite safe, however, lost luggage and accidental injuries are always travel risks. With your mind set at ease, you’ll be able to focus on unearthing places that many have forgotten were even buried.