Category Archives: Europe

In Europe, You Can Always Visit Your Friendly Neighborhood Christmas Market

Plenty of Christmastime to Go Around

They’re a growing trend in the States, but a staple of Christmas in Europe. A Christmas Market is pretty much what it sounds like:

Markets. At Christmas.

Each year, for about a month before Yule, many towns and cities across the continent set up makeshift marketplaces in their center squares, with food, drinks of all kind, and Christmas-themed trinkets. Lights are just part of the show, including those that adorn buildings and churches (see below). Larger Christmas markets usually have ice skating rinks set up in the middle of them.

Roasted chestnuts are some of the favorites, along with Glühwein and well-decorated cookies. Of course, if that’s not your thing, there’s plenty of other local eats, depending on the country. We’ve visited a number of Christmas markets in Western Europe and found Germany and Belgium host some of the most elaborate ones (perfect places to get chocolate-covered Belgian waffles!). Although we haven’t made it to Switzerland yet, we’ve heard the Christmas Market in Zurich is by far the best anywhere.

And then there’s the Christmas trees. Europe really takes their Christmas trees seriously, putting the one at Rockefeller Plaza to shame.


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A Sunken Ship Reborn

This Ship Has a Story to Tell

Click icon to view map. Detailed directions and parking instructions in Stockholm can be found here.

We would like to thank one of our readers, Melissa, for sending us photos of the Vasa from her recent trip to Sweden. We enjoy hearing from our readers, and welcome you to send us your travel stories through our Share Your Travels page. Your contributions help make UndiscoveredWanderings possible. We would also like to thank the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) of Stockholm for assisting UndiscoveredWanderings with this article.

The Vasa, a sunken ship raised from its watery grave centuries after it met its untimely demise, is one of the most popular attractions in Scandinavia, but virtually unknown in America. We certainly weren’t aware of it until we received this postcard from our friend, Melissa, addressed to UWanderings’s Founder/Editor:

Intrigued, We Set Out to Learn More
The year is 1628. The Vasa was a grand spectacle, complete with two decks of cannons, 10 sails, and beautiful artwork and carvings. The pride of the Swedish Navy; the might of Scandinavia. The ship was a force to be reckoned with. At least it would have been if it ever made it to sea. The ship, it turned out, was top-heavy and very much overloaded. There were plenty of warning signs to indicate design flaws during its construction 400 years ago—including the yet-to-be-completed ship’s dangerous rocking—but political pressure of the day demanded the biggest and most intimidating ship, so such concerns were overruled or simply ignored.

The Vasa at its current home, the Vasamuseet, still drying out.

On its maiden voyage, less than a mile out of dock in Stockholm Harbor, the Vasa keeled over and sank. It was a complete disaster that was keenly visible to the watchful public that day, plus a major diplomatic embarrassment. King Gustav II Adolf was not pleased, even though he approved the ship’s design in the first place. Investigations ensued, but no one officially took the blame once concluded. Perhaps the powers that be would rather have forgotten this whole failure altogether.

And so the Vasa sat, beneath the murky, cold Swedish waters for over three centuries, until a major salvage operation in 1961 brought the world’s attention to this relic of the past, reintroducing it to a brand new, welcoming public. The cold waters actually helped to preserve its hull, but its journey was far from over. Preserving the Vasa’s waterlogged wood required constant spraying of polyethylene glycol; otherwise the wood would quickly dry out and fall apart.

Archival footage of Vasa’s 1961 salvage operation, courtesy Vasamuseet YouTube channel.

Vasa was moved to its current home, the Vasa Museum (or Vasamuseet, in the original Swedish) in 1990, the story of which is an interesting read.  The Vasa is still under restoration since the polyethylene glycol continues to slowly dry, and will for many years to come. We hope to have the opportunity to visit the Vasa someday ourselves; it’s truly remarkable. Here’s a complete visual timeline of the Vasa’s journey. For more information on the other exhibitions at the Vasa Museum, click here.

Vasa Museum official website

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Amsterdam Clock Guy

What a Cool Job!

@ the Amsterdam Airport

Okay, so there’s not really a guy inside this giant digital clock, but let’s just pretend there is. Still, some guy had to film himself “changing” the hands of the clock, every minute, every hour…or maybe they were on a budget and just duplicated a couple minutes of footage. But if you’re bored while waiting for a layover at the Amsterdam airport, you can always watch the show.

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Explore Submarine Life in Sweden!

Parked Above the Sea

Click to view map

If you’ve ever wondered what living in a World War II-era Swedish submarine was like, you can get a pretty good idea by visiting the Teknikens og Sjöfartens hus (The House of Maritime and Technology) in Malmö, Sweden. The museum is packed with historical objects related to high tech and the sea, including a vintage Swedish fighter jet. And don’t worry: the submarine—known as the U3—is in permanent dry dock, so hydrophobic travelers need not worry. Great for families as you walk through the belly of this stunning water machine.

Malmö is a cool city at the southern tip of Sweden. Although not a primary destination for most foreign visitors to Sweden, it’s worth the train ride from Stockholm or, as was our case, Copenhagen. It’s a quick ride across the Öresund Bridge from Denmark.

LINKS
The House of Technology and Maritime
More information about the U3 submarine
U3 Veterans Crew


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A Walk in the Park in Luxembourg

Walk Among the Ruins

Click icon to view map

For our peeps in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is well on its way with all the joys that freezing cold, ice and snow bring to us each year, so it’s easy to feel like the travel season is officially over. Let’s prove that myth wrong once and for all, because we here at UndiscoveredWanderings have found some of the best places to explore during the season of freezin’.

Enter Luxembourg, a small country in Europe bordering Belgium, Germany and France. We made a point to visit this place because so few outsiders have. It’s unfortunate that Luxembourg is frequently overlooked by backpackers and people on holiday; even fewer go to Europe to visit only Luxembourg. But, being us, we didn’t wind up there by accident.

No matter the season, Luxembourg is a BEAUTIFUL country. In fact, it was this time of year that we visited. While there’s plenty of countryside, old buildings, and Christmas markets to explore, our focus today is Luxembourg City, the capital. And in this city is a place called Vallée de la Pétrusse, home to the Pétrusse Parks. This is no ordinary park landscape. It takes a few minutes of walking the footpaths to realize that it’s not level with the rest of the city–it slopes down to where you’ll find yourself under a couple of bridges, surrounded by ancient city walls. When you get to the bottom, you’re literally looking up to the cityscape. That’s a first for us!

Even if Luxembourg isn’t your primary European destination, a quick day trip there is an easy train ride away.

LINKS
Learn more about Pétrusse Parks

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