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European Cultural and Religious Routes

Author: Anothertravelguide.com2 COMMENTS

European Cultural and Religious Routes

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European Cemeteries Route
The European Cemeteries Route is formed of 63 cemeteries, located in 50 cities of 20 European countries. Like music notes of an elegiac composition, sculptures and engravings of these cemeteries narrate the story of the entire Europe. Cemeteries reveal chapters of European history, continent's anthropological characteristics, burial customs and European urban planning traditions.
Much like open-air museums, cemeteries are a great source of information for one to learn more about the history of a particular city, and more often than not, these courtyards of deceased are filled with life, too, as they are a dwelling place of numerous species of birds and plants.
Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, designed as an English-style garden by French architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, became a sample for the further development of many romantic European necropolises.
Ohlsdorf cemetery in Hamburg is considered to be the Europe's largest cemetery, while Vienna Central Cemetery with its Jewish and Protestant, Catholic and Russian Orthodox burial areas characterizes Europe as crossroads of religions. World War I and World War II memorials there revel some of the most blood-stained pages of the European history, while burial place of Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert tell us about the Golden Age of classical music. The European Cemeteries Route lead also to Scandinavian countries, to Vår Frelsers cemetery in Oslo, for example - the resting place of Edvard Munch and Henrik Ibsen. This cemetery fuses romanticism of Norwegian nature with its shady woods, winding trails and rough cliffs and classicism, encoded in the symbolism of its gravestones.
Stockholm Skogskyrkogården cemetery, in its turn, reflects the development of architecture from national romantic to functionalism. An international competition for the design of a new cemetery was announced in the beginning of the 20th century, and the winners were architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz with their project "Tallum". A beautiful and tranquil cemetery resulted from this project, now spreading out under pine trees and complementing European cemetery scene.
Another eternal resting place under pine trees is Metsakalmistu cemetery in Tallinn - a secular cemetery, associated to no particular religion at all. It has no crosses, no fences and the allowed height of monuments is 1.5 m.
An equally impressive cemetery can be found in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bare cemetery in Sarajevo perhaps is the most beautiful one in this part of the world and marks a confluence of many

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European Thermal Route
The European Thermal Route is yet another travel itinerary with an additional cultural value to it. The use of thermal waters for healing purpose started out in Greece; in the 19th century this new medical practice found its reflection in the contemporary architecture of that time, but nowadays has evolved to modern spa culture across the world. For instance, French Enghien-les-Bains sulphurous water spa dates back to 1766. The mineral springs of Enghien Lake area became popular after healing King Louis XVIII of leg ulcer. In 1863, Enghien-les-Bains was the most fashionable health resort in Europe, but in the 20th century it became famous also for its fancy casino. Enghien-les-Bains of today still exudes the charm of Belle Epoque, while surrounded by neo-Gothic castles, neo-Classical villas and examples of the Second French Empire style.
Saltwater healing power can be sought after also in spa town of Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy. In the 19th century, crème de la crème of Europe's rich and famous travelled to Mariánské Lázně town in current Czech Republic to enjoy the curative qualities of its carbon dioxide springs, and Goethe, Chopin and Wagner were among them. It's referred also as a golden era of this town with many beautiful parks and manor gardens created at that time.

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Iron Curtain Trail
During the Cold War, the Iron Curtain was a symbolic, ideological, and physical boundary, dividing the European continent into Eastern and Western block countries. The Iron Curtain Trail is a unique cycle-tourism route, covering the whole of Europe - from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea, along the historic Iron Curtain borderline between East and West.
The trail calls history aficionados into a cycling adventure of over 7000 km, retracing the meandering trail of the past - from the Norwegian-Russian border, through the former Warsaw Pact countries and ending at the northernmost point of Turkey at the Black Sea. It leads through 20 countries, comprises many cultural and historical sites, museums and nature parks.
The route leads also along the Baltic Sea coast - through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The Iron Curtain Trail is an initiative of German Green MEP Michael Cramer, intended to symbolically mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009. Originally, the trail covered only the line marked by the Berlin wall - a scar left between the former West Berlin and GDR, and only later on following the renewed contours of European countries.
In 2005, the European Parliament recognized the Iron Curtain Trail as a model project for sustainable tourism as well as a strengthening symbol of European reunion.
The Iron Curtain Trail website provides maps, descriptions of places, photos, as well as comments and publications.

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The Way of St. Augustine
Saint Augustine has said: "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page."
No less than 5 cultural and religious routes crisscross Pavia, the capital of the former Mediterranean Kingdom of the Lombards, the Way of St. Augustine being one of them. It's also known as The Way of the Rose, owing to the rose silhouette outlined by its trail on the map. Like the charismatic father of Western Christianity many centuries ago, modern-day pilgrims from across the world tread the 563 km long route through Northern Italy, connecting 25 sanctuaries and St. Augustine's places, including the grave of the saint at San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro basilica in Pavia.
The route passes through relaxing, peaceful places with a rich cultural and historical value to experience and appreciate while enjoying charm of Milan's countryside.

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Via Francigena
It's a route connecting historic English cathedral town of Canterbury and Rome. For many centuries it has been travelled by traders and royals, bishops and pilgrim, going to Roma and further to Jerusalem in the Holy Land, or backward. Even though Via Francigena was not a single road but comprised several possible routes, it was a significant medieval pilgrimage route.
One of the stops along its way to be mentioned is the church of San Giacomo della Cerreta, tiny as a confessional. The river Po that once flowed near to the town of Pavia at Belgioioso brought numerous pilgrims and soon the church became a must-stop praying spot. Its apse dates back to the 7th century while the rest of the church, using typical to the area red bricks, was built until the 15th century. The church features a unique, cylindrical bell tower but its fading frescoes depict patrons of Christian pilgrims, at the same time revealing the character Lombardian art. The icon "Virgin with Child" is attributed to the North Italian renaissance painter Vincenzo Foppa. Worth attention is also the 15th century wooden sculpture of St. Jacob in a traditional pilgrim's attire. The church is located in rural settings, surrounded by verdant oak grove. A tiny small oak tree has managed to sprout up at the roof cornice of the church, too. A section of road leading to San Giacomo della Cerreta very well illustrates the entire Via Francigena - oftentimes these are dirt roads with sharp turns, marking borderlines of the local land properties. Although a seemingly small detail, it reveals yet another historical aspect of the region - Lombardy has always been broken into small pieces in hands of numerous landowners, and no rule has been able to straighten these roads in some more rational manner.
The route features not only religious locations but offers other attractions along the way as well, giving a glimpse into history, architecture, culture, wine and cuisine of England, France, Switzerland and Italy.

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