Summer Holidays in Europe

by Agneta de Bekassy

This summer I decided to stay as long as two months in Europe. Normally I plan for just six weeks, but I had a feeling this summer was going to become totally different and how right I was. I have never, ever experienced a summer like this year and they say, that it has been the warmest for 280 years. I left a very warm and sticky Bangkok and arrived in a beautiful Gothenburg, (Sweden) blue sky with no clouds. After a few days in Gothenburg with my Mom, I took off for a few days in Italy. I was in Rome as a student and to Tuscany many times on holiday and have always loved it.

This time, I was invited to attend a Swedish friend’s 50th birthday in Umbria, a completely unknown part of Italy to me. I landed in Rome, met with 2 other friends and we rented a car and drove to a small village called Porchiano.  This little village belongs to the municipality of Amelia, in the province of Terni, is situated more or less between Rome and Florence. We were happy to have a working GPS in the car and we arrived safely early evening. We checked in to an airbnb named “Residenza Collefiorito” and were welcomed by a charming Signora Fabiola, such a “sympatico donna”.

We also met a group of Swedish friends from Shanghai and several parts of Sweden. This was my first experience of Airbnb and I was happily surprised. My two companions and I from Bangkok, got an apartment in an old house with a lovely living room, two bedrooms and an open kitchen area. In the garden was a nice pool with the most comfortable sun beds and cabanas. The “birthday child” and her close family stayed in a nearby small castle and in the evening we all gathered together on its beautiful terrace for a welcome dinner.

The view was spectacular and the catering company handling the dinner, were very efficient. I had wondered if it was time for white truffles and luckily for me, it was the season for this delicacy. We were served a delicious dinner with risotto and truffles, which was typically Italian and delightful. During the evening, we also enjoyed a selection of quality wines from the Orvieto region close by. The day after our arrival, we decided to pay a visit to Orvieto. This was about 40 minutes drive away and we had a loverly day in this ancient city in the Termi province. Orvieto has a population estimated to around 20,000 people, approximately 2000 are foreigners. Orvieto is not only known for it’s excellent wines, but their unique cathedral.

The city has Etruscan Travel roots and is perched high on a rocky cliff. The Cathedral is located on the Piazza del Duomo and is from the 14th century, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It was constructed under the orders of Pope Urban. The Cathedral has a very dominating position in the city. The Cathedral has large rose windows, golden mosaics and heavy bronze doors. Inside you will find two frescoed chapels decorated by some of the best painters of the period.

The facade, in black and white stones, gives the Cathedral its rather unusual look. The next day we also took a trip to Todi, a small city built on a hill overlooking the Tibet River. Like Orvieto, this little town has Etruscan origin. Here you can explore the Etruscan necropolis, a Roman amphitheatre and a forum. Todi belongs to the province Perugia in central Italy. Todi is sometimes called “Tuder”. This was the most powerful fortress city in the preRoman period. The city has been very well maintained over the past years. It has a population of around 5,600 people.

The evening my friend had her birthday, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner overlooking the greenish, beautifully landscape from the terrace, belonging to the castle Porchiano. Italy is, without doubt, one of the most enjoyable countries to celebrate holidays in. The people are friendly, the cities beautiful and the food to die for. Time passed much too fast and unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Signora Fabiola after four days. She who had taken such good care of us. We all agreed we had to return soon. Before boarding the plane again to Sweden, I enjoyed a last delicious, typical Italian anti pasta meal at the airport, Arrivederci Roma.

Arriving back in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden after Stockholm, the capital. Gothenburg has two nicknames “Little London” and “New Amsterdam”. Gothenburg is the fifth largest town in the Nordic countries. The city is situated by “Kattegatt” and has a population of approximately 580,000 inhabitants. Gothenburg was founded as a primary Dutch trading colony in 1621 when King Gustavus Adolphus ruled. The port of Gothenburg is the biggest and busiest in Scandinavia. It says, that in year 2035, the city residents will make space for 700,000 habitants. About 50,000 people are studying in Gothenburg and here we’ll find two of the most popular universities; “University of Gothenburg” and Chalmers. One of the most important industries in Sweden is hospitality.

Gothenburg’s prosperity increased in the early 18th century with the development of the Swedish East India Company. A second period of wealth started with the completion of Gøta Kanal (Gota Channel) and a beginning of a transoceanic shipping service. Gothenburg is also the hometown for the company Volvo and several other well known Swedish companies. The archipelago with its thousands of islands and islets, is popular to visit. It’s a completely different archipelago from the East coast. On the West coast the cliffs are rough and not very green compared to the East coast. After a short tram drive you can reach the nearby islands Køpmansø, Styrsø and Donsø.

When you visit Sweden, you should keep in mind that the Swedes are extremely kind to the environment. Sweden is the world leader in the movement to eliminate waste. Popular places in Gothenburg during summer are; Traedgårdsføreningen (The Garden Society of Gothenburg). It’s located in the middle of the city. Here you can walk through a 19th century park with a magnificent rose garden, woodlands and sculptures, palms and exotic plants in greenhouses. The Palm House dates back to the golden age of horticulture. This part is very popular for both the people living in Gothenburg and tourists.

If you are a fan of rollercoasters, a visit to the amusement park Liseberg is a must. This park was founded in 1920. Haga is a charming area of traditional wood buildings and cobbled streets, home to 17th century fortress Skansen Kronan. Candlelit cafes and pubs with terraced courtyards create a bohemian vibe around Järntorget square and adjoining Långgatorna thoroughfares. The area is dotted with vegan bistros and bakeries known for cinnamon buns. Quaint stores sell books, crafts and knitwear. Like the capital Stockholm, Gothenburg is surrounded by water and several canals divide the city. Take a sightseeing boat called Paddan and experience the canals and the harbour.

The guides are fluently in English, German and French and can tell you everything worth knowing about Gothenburg. From the West coast to the south. If you are in Sweden you absolutely need to visit Skåne and especially Skanør/Falsterbo. These two, typical summer places, are most charming and very popular destinations for both Swedes and foreigners. In July you will find many of the worlds best riders in Falsterbo for the “Falsterbo Horse Show”. It’s the most prestigious event, there riders from all over the world come to compete in jumping and dressage. During this July week, you have to book and confirm your hotel in advance, as it is overcrowded around this time of the year.

In Skanør you have two really lovely hotels, Gæesslingen and Gæstgivaregården. Gæsslingen offers both a spa and a pool. This charming hotel is situated next to Skanør’s old, white limestone church, most popular for weddings and concerts. What else can you do in Skanør/Falsterbo? Go for a walk along the sea, feel the sand between your toes, play golf or rent a bike. If it’s warm enough (was this summer) go for a swim in the crystal clear water. Stroll the small, narrow streets and admire the beautiful, colourful houses and the hollyhocks growing against the walls, they are typical for this area.

Picnics on the beach are also very popular and why not try the relatively new sport ”paddle”. There is so much to do, the days pass too fast……. I haven’t mentioned much about Stockholm, “Venice of the North”, but there is too much to say about this incredibly, beautifully city, so I’ll better leave it for later on. It can make another story in the future. There are so many interesting countries to visit in Europe, it is hard to say where to begin. With age, I have become more curious to explore places I haven’t been to before. I love my life in the never sleeping Bangkok, but I must admit, that from time to time, I need to breath European air. My advice, go travelling and enjoy other cultures and manners, it makes your life richer. Happy journey! Travel safe, be happy and be safe!

Agneta x


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