Insatiable globetrotter, here are the most unusual sites of the Old Continent. From Serbia to Slovenia via Spain and France.
Poland – Malbork: Marienburg Fortress
The fortress of Marienburg would be the first in the world by its area. Here, in figures and dates, is everything you need to know about this spectacular building. The outer ramparts surround an area of 143,571 m2 – twice as much as any other castle in Europe. Next comes the Prague Citadel, with 66,761 m 2 . Marienbourg, the “fortress of Mary”, was the seat of the Christian Order of the Teutonic Knights. The first stone was laid in 1274, and construction was completed in 1406. At its height, it housed up to 3,000 knights.
The complex is made up of three distinct forts (the upper castle, the middle castle and the lower castle), to which are added other remarkable buildings, including a cathedral, which, destroyed at the end of the Second World War, today remains to be restored. Every summer, the fortress hosts a medieval festival, with a reconstruction of the siege of 1410: after 56 days of combat, the knights of the fortress repelled the assault of the Polish and Lithuanian armies.
The fortress is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Do not hesitate to consult the website for more information.
Slovenia – Škocjan Caves
More than 5,000 years ago, the first people already occupied the caves of Škocjan, in the Slovenian Karst region. Mentioned in ancient Greek texts from the 2nd century BC and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, they have been open to visitors again since April 2011, after 46 years of closure.
These caves owe their fame in particular to the dizzying underground canyon of the Reka River, which flows 150 m below. A three kilometer walking circuit passes over a bridge thrown 45m above its bubbling waters, as well as many other natural wonders. Today, these caves are enhanced by specially designed lighting to enhance aesthetics and dramatic effect.
More information on the UNESCO website.
France – The Pic du Midi de Bigorre
Among the peaks of the Pyrenees, the Pic du Midi de Bigorre observatory is perched at an altitude of 2,877 m. Seen from the cable car that provides the connection from the winter sports resort of La Mongie, its radio transmitter and its resplendent telescope under the sun seem to come straight out of a James Bond movie, or even Star Wars.
From this observatory, astronomers photographed the surface of the moon to prepare for the Apollo missions. It was also here that they discovered another moon, orbiting Saturn, and named it Helen.
The panorama on planet earth, too, is extraordinary. The Pyrenees chain offers a great all-round spectacle. On a clear night, it is said, the lights of Biarritz twinkle in the distance to the west, and those of Barcelona to the east. In July, you can also see, 760 m below, a line of cyclists struggling to climb the Col du Tourmalet – a great classic of the Tour de France.
And, for good measure, a ski run starts from the top of the peak, where sports enthusiasts can even spend the night in one of the rooms originally reserved for astronomy researchers (accommodation for up to 19 people). . Please note: in bad weather, the winds sometimes reach 300 km/h, and the observatory is then cut off from the rest of the world for several days. Be prepared!
Find more information on the Pic du Midi de Bigorre website.
Denmark – The Memphis Mansion
Almost 40 years ago, Henrik Knudsen first heard Elvis Presley sing Burning Love. He was then only eight years old, but his passion remained intact. His collection includes 6,000 memorabilia of the star, including clothes, shoes, a guitar and all FBI files on the star.
In May 2011, Henrik Knudsen inaugurated a real sanctuary in memory of his idol: a museum, a shop and an American-style restaurant in a replica of Elvis’ house. Prior to 2015, the Memphis Mansion was called Graceland Randers.
Check out the Memphis Mansion website .
Netherlands – The pyramid of Austerlitz
In 1804, Auguste de Marmont, a 30-year-old French general and former aide-de-camp to Napoleon, was stationed in Holland with an army of 18,000 men. Their mission: to defend the Dutch coast from a British invasion… which never came. To occupy his men, Auguste de Marmont put them to work. He enjoined them to erect what he described as “an eternal monument which reminds future generations of our presence in these lands and immortalizes the victories of France and its generals”.
This memorial would take the form of a pyramid, he decided. “In a flat country like Holland, a pyramid of ambitious proportions would look like a real mountain.” In 27 days, the men built a building of earth and sand 36 m high. Located near Utrecht, the pyramid has survived until today, even if Auguste de Marmont was never able, as he wished, to dress it in stone and add a huge statue to it.
Spain – Chinchón, historic city
When visiting Madrid, if you have a few hours ahead of you, Chinchón is only about fifty kilometers southeast of the capital, in the Tajuña Valley. Built on a Stone Age site, Chinchón remains an authentic traditional Spanish town. In the center, the circular space of the Plaza Mayor is surrounded by cafes under the arcades and old buildings, some of which date back to 1499. The square is sometimes a market, sometimes an auditorium for musical and theatrical performances, and sometimes even an arena of bullfighting.
Bullfights take place in the summer on Sunday afternoons, while top matadors gather in Chinchón every October for a charity bullfighting festival followed, the following week, by the annual garlic fair.
Visit the Official Portal of Tourism in Spain to learn more about Chinchón.
Serbia – The “City of the Devil”
In southern Serbia, more than 200 stone chimneys rise skyward like stalagmites. From 2 to 15 m high, they sometimes reach 3 m in diameter at the base. They are composed of earth and rock, and many are crowned with a cap of stone.
Carved by the extremely acidic waters that flow here, eroding the land all around, the chimneys hold on thanks to the protection of their rocky cap. But, as soon as the stone falls, the pyramid, below, does not take long to crumble, while new chimneys rise a little further.
According to legend, these transformations are the work of the evil spirits who clash in these lands – hence the name Ðavolja Varoš, or “City of the Devil”. And to further add to the supernatural atmosphere of the place, the wind blowing between the pyramids gives a mysterious, almost distressing concert of murmurs, howls and sighs… A truly diabolical atmosphere!