What happens when we’ve visited all of the popular travel destinations and have the urge to escape the common tourist trail? We get off the beaten path at places that often go unnoticed yet present a wealth of rewarding experiences. The Old Continent is home to 51 counties that showcase ancient cultures, jaw-dropping natural scenery, gorgeous coastlines and world-famous landmarks. From the Pyrenees principality of Andorra to the European-Asian intersection of Georgia, here’s five incredible European countries that everyone forgets about.
Andorra is a micro-state nestled in the shadow of the Pyrenees on the border of Spain and France. Influenced by Italian, French and Spanish cultures, this is the only place in the world to declare Catalan as its sole official language. It’s where snowcapped peaks soar above lush green valleys, at the foot of which sit quaint towns and villages.
In the capital city Andorra la Vella, an enchanting medieval charm radiates through the streets and squares of the Barra Antic old quarter. Meanwhile, upscale boutiques and jewelers line Meritxell Avenue. Mild summers make Andorra a hiking paradise and miles of trails deliver you into postcard-perfect landscapes. Explore routes such as the 27-mile GR7: Andorra, D’Est a Sud, which forms part of the European Grande Route E hiking trail between Greece and Gibraltar. In winter you can carve up on the slopes of the Grandvalira, Pas de la Casa and Soldeu ski resorts.
Ruled at times by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Soviets, Georgia is as much a historical crossroad between Europe and Asia as it is a geographical one. This is one of the world’s last untouched paradises, a country with a landscape defined by Black Sea beaches, the Caucasus Mountains and dozens of national parks.
You can hike to age-old churches and monasteries in Kazbegi National Park and trek to Devdoraki Glacier. In the northwest, the Svaneti region is a UNESCO-protected area that boasts the tallest Caucasus peaks and time-honored Svan villages among its riches. Wine has been made in Georgia for 8,000 years and the Kakheti Wine Region has several bodegas that open their doors for tours and tastings. For urban adventures, visit the art nouveau masterpieces, galleries and sulfur baths of the capital, Tbilisi.
If you really want to get away from the crowds then consider a trip to the world’s biggest non-continental island. Greenland is one of Mother Nature’s true marvels yet often a place most people only fly over on their way from Europe to Canada. And yes, as a Danish territory it’s technically part of Europe.
Unlike neighboring Iceland, it hasn’t received the cult status among the everyday traveler yet. Visits to Greenland entail discoveries of an awe-inspiring scenery made up of glaciers, hot springs, icebergs, ice sheets and wildflower meadows. You can experience the midnight sun and watch the mystical Northern Lights. The Greenland National Park is an arctic wilderness inhabited by musk oxen, polar bears and walruses. Delight in the chance to camp overnight on the Ice Cap, follow in the footsteps of Vikings and ride on dogsled just as the Inuit people do. Brightly-colored houses characterize the capital Nuuk, itself a hotbed of Inuit arts, crafts, cuisine and fashion.
While Croatia has been making headlines as the place to be on the Adriatic, its southern neighbor Montenegro offers much of the same in a compressed version. There’s centuries of history to uncover at towns located between the Balkan Mountains, fjord-like Bay of Kotor and 182 miles of Adriatic Sea coastline.
The fortified town of Kotor is a UNESCO-listed site decorated with medieval glories such as St. Tryphon Cathedral and the Castle of San Giovanni. There’s beautiful religious landmarks in Perast and ancient mosaics in 1,700-year-old Risan. Hiking, lake swimming, whitewater rafting and wildlife watching awaits inland at the country’s five national parks. Lake Skadar National Park blends lakeside beaches with mountain scenery and colorful birdlife. Budva, Sveti Stefan and the other 100-plus beaches will tempt you in the warm summer months.
Of the three countries that make up Great Britain, Wales is the smallest and is packed with historic castles, mountain-clad national parks and a dramatic coastline. If you like outdoor adventures then you’ll have a blast kayaking, rock climbing and spelunking amid the gentle green pastures of Brecon Beacons National Park. The 1,085-feet-tall Snowdon dominates Snowdonia National Park and is reachable by foot and mountain railway. Beach and nature enthusiasts flock to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, where 186 miles of trails lead to gorgeous beaches, surf spots and picturesque villages.
You’ll want to dedicate some time to Cardiff, the nation’s vibrant capital that offers international sports, museums, nightlife and everything in between. Visit the home of poet Dylan Thomas in Swansea and the tin mining towns of the Rhondda Valley. No trip to Wales is complete without a tour of Conwy Castle and other castles built for and fought over by feuding British monarchs.
From Christianity Today
The coming of the Messiah has been predicted by the prophet Isaiah around 700 BC. His prophecies recorded in the Bible referring to Jesus are quoted worldwide, especially during Christmas every year:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
There was declared the various roles of Jesus: a child, a son, a government, a counselor, God, father, and a prince. Despite being mentioned at last, this attribute is not the least – in fact, it is of great significance: Prince of Peace. Without peace, the continuity of life would not be possible. That is why the Son of God, King of kings has come into the world He created.
Jesus Christ is the only reason we can truly live peacefully with God. The right relationship with God is the foundation of living in harmony with all His creation. In Jesus, our fears in death are removed and replaced with the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Moreover, the Son of God has become the Prince of Peace so that we, the children of God, may become the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9, Isaiah 57:19). With the peace of God reigning over our lives, we will see heaven on earth as we are expectantly waiting for the second coming of the Prince of Peace.
Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Peace because He alone is able to accomplish these three things:
1. Restore every broken relationship
Since the fall of man, sin was “transmitted” to humanity and entered the world with death as a result (Romans 5:12).
The rebellious nature in every man caused him to be the enemy of God, his neighbors, and himself. Because of sin, man wanted a self-centered life independent from his Creator, which could lead to a permanent separation from Him.
God knew from the beginning that no amount of good works could save man from the bondage of sin and its eternal consequence. For this reason, the Word became flesh and came to the earth to lovingly reach out His people and offer Himself for a price of our salvation. Jesus Christ, the perfect lamb of God, has done the impossible work on our behalf through His death on the cross, so that we may have peace with God and others (Ephesians 2:14-18) and with ourselves (Romans 8:1). Jesus Christ has become a mediator (1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 5:1) and an intercessor (Hebrews 7:25) to God, that all who believe in Him may continue to live in His peace.
2. Provide a well-ordered and balanced life
The peace of Christ is a key to have a harmony in life, enabling us to live with a grateful heart (Colossians 3:15). Jesus addresses not only our spiritual needs, but also our emotional and physical concerns. He knows that we need a work-life balance. In fact, Jesus commanded us to work (John 9:4) and rest (Matthew 11:28) in Him – a lifestyle that will bring us a true fulfillment.
As we have been reconciled with God, we are to dedicate our lives to serve for His kingdom, not for our own pleasures. The work of the Holy Spirit produces truth, peace, and joy in us as the kingdom of God becomes our focus and priority (Romans 14:17). God’s peace also unites His people for building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:33, Ephesians 4:1-3).
Knowing that Christ is our peace, let us entrust our lives to Him. Let us surrender our burdens (anxieties, doubts, fears, and restlessness) to Jesus that we may experience His perfect peace in our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7).
3. Assure our eternal destiny
Beyond the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, every human needs (an assurance of) salvation. Because life on earth is perishable, our greatest need is not of the earthly things. Ultimately, we all need an eternal life – a life with the Creator, free from evil, sin, and death.
No man in history has had a courage to promise the eternal life. But here is the good news: in Jesus Christ, we have that very promise because He is the author of life who has himself experienced victory over death (Acts 3:15). Jesus is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20), therefore He is able to give us the true peace that nobody else can offer (John 14:27). In His perfect peace, we may continue to experience the love of God that casts away our fears.
Scriptures on Peace
Jesus restores every broken relationship:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 NKJV
“Christ is the reason we are now at peace. He made us Jews and you who are not Jews one people. We were separated by a wall of hate that stood between us, but Christ broke down that wall. By giving his own body, Christ ended the law with its many commands and rules. His purpose was to make the two groups become one in him. By doing this he would make peace. Through the cross Christ ended the hate between the two groups. And after they became one body, he wanted to bring them both back to God. He did this with his death on the cross. Christ came and brought the message of peace to you non-Jews who were far away from God. And he brought that message of peace to those who were near to God. Yes, through Christ we all have the right to come to the Father in one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:14-18 ERV)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1 NKJV)
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5 KJV)
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1 NIV)
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV)
Jesus provides a well-ordered and balanced life:
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15 ESV)
“We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.” (John 9:4 NLT)
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17 NLT)
“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33 NKJV)
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
Jesus assures our eternal destiny:
“You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:15 NIV)
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20 ESV)
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NKJV)
“‘I will teach them a new word: peace. I will give peace to those who are near and to those who are far away. I will heal them.’ The Lord himself said this.” (Isaiah 57:19 ERV)
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 KJV)
Philip Wijaya is presently a graduate research student at the University of British Columbia living in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, Sandra. His interest in science and faith in God has encouraged him to write in a blog (philipwijaya.com), with a hope of better understanding the truths in the Bible in relation to scientific views and discoveries. Besides research and study, he also enjoys sports, music, and traveling.