Switzerland, Northern Italy, and Croatia
From Rhine Falls to the Matterhorn, from tranquil Lake Como to the canals of Venice, Europe is steeped in a rich history and some incredible landscapes.
This was our first trip together to Europe. We stayed with friends just outside of Schaffhausen, Switzerland, at the start of our trip. We enjoyed punting down the Rhine, brunching at Schloss Laufen castle adjacent to Rhine Falls, strolling through Stein am Rhein, the quaint village of Marthalen, beautiful views of the Rhine from Munot Fortress, and a day visit to Konstanz, Germany.
We then proceeded down to Luzern, where we took a cogwheel train up, hiked around, and enjoyed the gondolas down Mount Pilatus. We lodged at the charming riverfront Hotel Des Alpes. We also took a scenic ferry ride through lush Lake Luzern and visited the historic Kapellbrücke bridge and old town. We also climbed upon the old city wall, and visited the Lion Monument, which commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution.
We stopped in Bern for the day, where we'd highly recommend a meal at the Rosengarten restaurant on a hill adjacent to town for wonderful views. We enjoyed the many town statues and fountains, the gothic cathedral, and of course the famous clock tower (or Zytglogge) animations as well!
Next stop was Zermatt for breath-taking views of the Matterhorn. We utilized the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise gondola lift system to witness the Matterhorn up close. We hiked down to the village of Blatten from the Furi station, which looks like it popped right out of the film Heidi! We also enjoyed the Schweigmatten Shepherd Festival when we were there. And if the weather's just right, you can tandem paraglide there as well.
We continued utilizing our Eurail pass to Italy, made our way to Varenna at Lake Como, and stayed at the historic Villa Torretta. Lake Como was so romantic and picturesque with its gardens, shops, and walking paths. Our favorite lakeside gardens were Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. We hiked up to Castello di Vezio for commanding views of Lake Como! We also visited Villa del Balbianello, made famous as Padme's lakeside villa on Naboo from Star Wars Episode II, and the nearby town of Bellagio by ferry.
In Venice, Palazzo Ducale was beautiful and grandiose, and our highlights included an intimate operetta at Musica a Palazzo and gondola ride through the canals. We also utilized their vaporetti to visit the famed glass-blowing town of Murano. Our best advice for Venice is to stray off the beaten tourist path. Stroll along the canals and outer banks. We stayed at Vanessa House bed and breakfast on the mainland adjacent to Venice, utilizing the bus system to travel back and forth.
From Venice we took a ferry to Rovinj, Croatia. The old town was magnificent, and we discovered one of our favorites - a local farmers market - while we were there. Renting a car we drove to Korana, adjacent to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a beautiful place full of some of the world's highest rated waterfalls, clear blue lakes, and lush green forests. The boardwalks around the lakes and waterfalls are incredibly scenic and very well maintained.
Europe is, without a doubt, the West's historical center. From architecture, to landscapes, to culture and history, there is so much allure to this wonderful continent.