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Europes Great Cities

Hi, I’m Rudy Maxa. The great cities of Europe bristle with historic buildings, great restaurants, spectacular museums and wonderful people. But sometimes we only have a day to visit Rome, Munich or Berlin. So what to do? Hold on, it’s Four Great Cities of Europe: on Smart Travels.



Our first stop is Copenhagen. Situated on the east side of the Danish island of Zealand, this Scandinavian city is closer to Sweden then the mainland of Europe.

Copenhagen is the capitol of Denmark, Europe’s oldest Kingdom. Once the home of the dreaded Vikings, today Denmark is the very image of a civilized country, enjoying one of the world’s highest standards of living.

Copenhagen is steeped in history with its share of churches, museums, palaces and a Queen. If this seems a little bit stuffy don’t be fooled because the Danes also know how to have fun.


Avoid the hassle of buying tickets for transportation, museums, and attractions with a Copenhagen Card. You can purchase yours on-line.


A Danish & A Boat Ride top

And for me, the fun starts with breakfast. This country has elevated a flaky, fruit filled pastry to such a high level of perfection it is known the world over as “A Danish.”


Wandering into a bakery or cafe can be a challenge without a little help with the Danish language. You'll find a helpful "Danish Menu Reader" at guide.appetitenet.com.

Later, I’ll burn off some of those delicious Danish calories with a brisk Danish walk….but first, we have a boat to catch. If you feel the need to rush, to make the most of your short stay in Copenhagen, relax. A great way to get a feel for this harbor town is a tour boat ride through Nyhavn.


Find out all about touring Copenhagen's canals by boat at www.visitcopenhagen.dk.

Once the home of rowdy sailors and merchants, this sea going neighborhood has been a prosperous part of Danish life for over 300 years.. Wooden sailboats still anchor at the docks near Hans Christian Andersen's home.


Take a quick on-line tour of Hans Christian Andersen's homes and temporary lodgings at www.astoft.co.uk.


Stroget Street & Hans Christiam Andersen top

After your tour, head up Stroget Street, a pedestrian mall that leads from Nyhavn to the city center. Stroget is one of Copenhagen’s best places to shop, snack, or just to people watch.


For a fun read on the state of Copenhagen fashion and shopping, check out the CPH Times. For the official version, visit Wonderful Copenhagen.

Stroget leads right to the Town Hall Square and the center of the city. Some travelers have a seat right in Hans Christian Anderson’s lap. The author of “The Ugly Duckling” and “the Little Mermaid” doesn’t mind at all.


For more information about Hans Christian Andersen, visit www.andersen.sdu.dk.


Danish Design Center top

Perhaps you’ve noticed the Danes have a knack for design. Whether it’s in architecture like the Black Diamond addition to the Royal Library of Copenhagen, or in everyday things.

To see what a coffee pot SHOULD look like, spend an hour in the Danish Design Center, near the Tivoli gardens. The museum shows how Danish designers achieved international fame by producing furniture and everyday objects that are functional, graceful and comfortable.


The Center conducts daily guided tours. Find out more at www.ddc.dk.


Tivloi Gardens top

For our evening in Copenhagen, we’ve saved the best for last—Tivoli Gardens, a must-see destination. Tivoli is a one-of-a-kind amusement park-- right in the center of the city. For more than 150 years Tivoli has offered travelers an easy place to totally unwind. Here, you can relax over dinner, take a romantic stroll, dance the night away or cap your 24 hour adventure with a bit of pyrotechnics—a prefect end to a prefect day in Copenhagen.


The summer of 2005 brings to Tivoli "A Tivoli Fairy Tale." This is a spectacular show featuring 15-foot puppets, music, lights, pyrotechnics and special effects. Don't miss it!



Next up, a one day visit to Berlin. The once and future capital of Germany is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a world war and the cold war.

Few cities have born the weight of history as Berlin has. Fewer still have shaken off the burdens and strife of the past to be born anew. Berlin bustles with energy, youth and excitement while remembering a difficult and troubled past.

Now Berlin is the center of an exuberant revival in the arts, finance, industry and government. But with only 24 hours, how can we get a glimpse of what Berlin is today and a sense of its past?


For discounts, freebies, and transportation in Berlin and other major cities, go to www.europeancitycards.com.


Hotel Adlon top

When I’m in Berlin—even for one night—I like to be treated like royalty, and for me that means the Hotel Adlon near the Brandenburg Gate. When it first opened in 1907 the Adlon became the home of Kaiser Wilhelm II and THE meeting place for the rich and famous. After World War Two the Adlon was in East Berlin. And by the 1970s, the most luxurious hotel of the Roaring 20’s was a boarding house for apprentices. Since reunification, the hotel has been lovingly renovated and today the history-steeped Adlon recalls it’s glory days.


Take a virtual tour of the hotel at www.hotel-adlon.de.


Potsdamer Platz top

For a striking example of the New Berlin, stop for a morning café in Potsdamer Platz. Just east of the old Berlin Wall the Sony Center and the DaimlerChrysler Building are the centerpieces of a civic tour-de-force. Just a few short years ago, this area was a wasteland strewn with the rubble of war.


The guided tour "Art and Architecture on Potsdamer Platz" is held the first Saturday of each month.


Pergamon Museum top

A sharp contrast to the obsession with contemporary architecture is the Germanic fascination with antiquity. During the nineteenth century, German archeologists spread out across the ancient world, bringing home every thing they could carry. Many of their finds can be seen at the Pergamon. If you have time for only one museum in Berlin , make it the Pergamon.

Dating from the 6th Century B.C., the Ishtar Gate was built by Nebuchadnezzar the Second as one prominent entrance to his royal city of Babylon. It is dedicated to the most important goddess in the Babylonian pantheon. Looking ahead several centuries, Nebuchadnezzar wrote: “upon this gate humankind in it entirety will gaze in wonder.”

The centerpiece of the Museum is the Altar of Pergamon. It was reconstructed from fragments of the original temple built around 150 B.C. in Western Turkey. The frieze depicts the epic battle between the Giants and the Gods. More than a hundred over live-size statues bring life to this ancient myth and reality to the horror of battle.


For an excellent on-line guide to the museums in Berlin, check out the Museum Quarter in Berlin.


The Jewish Museum top

Germans are not strangers to the horror of battle, both as aggressors and as victims. Berliners are dedicated to preserving that memory “lest we forget.”

The Jewish Museum holds echoes of terrible events that must be heeded today. It is a moving testament to the suffering of a people, and a strong indictment against wars of ideology and culture. The Jewish Museum now celebrates a culture that that was nearly destroyed.


The museum offers an extensive on-line resource for anyone interested in its collection. Make sure you set aside plenty of time. There's a lot to explore.


Check Point Charlie top

After World War II, the most significant event in Berlin’s recent history was the division of the city between East and West. The Soviets erected the Berlin wall in 1960 to stop the defection of thousands of East Germans to the West. Check Point Charlie became a focal point of confrontation. The museum at Check Point Charlie chronicles the history of the Berlin Wall and how over five thousand Berliners escaped to freedom using secret compartments in cars and luggage, by digging tunnels, or flying homemade airplanes or hot air balloons. Sadly, escape attempts didn’t always have happy endings; more than 60,000 people were arrested and at least 170 were killed before the wall was torn down in 1989. Today, this museum is a moving testament to their quest for freedom and to the spirit that reunited Berlin.


Find out museum hours, phone, and address on Columbus Guides.


Lutter & Wegner top

For me, WHERE I eat dinner is always an important decision. Tonight, I’m in the mood for a traditional Berlin meal, and nothing is more traditional than Wiener Schnitzel at Lutter and Wegner. A delicious experience—worth the entire trip.


If you read German, be sure to check out the Lutter & Wegner menu at
l-w-berlin.de. Hint: just above and to the right of the picture, click "Klassiker Karte". If you'd like to learn more about the food in Berlin, visit www.berlinfo.com. You'll find the most help and specific links on types of cuisine along the left side of the page.



Next, we’re headed south to another German classic.

Munich is the capitol of Bavaria in Southern Germany and is known for its relaxed atmosphere, teeming beer gardens, traditional folkways and hearty meals. Munich has long been a favorite vacation spot for northern Germans in search of sunshine and a good time.

Monks founded Munich and quickly discovered it was a great place to make beer. It’s still a great place to make beer and enjoy the traditional Bavarian culture but there is so much more. Munich is an up-scale, high tech, cosmopolitan city that boasts a terrific contemporary art museum.

There is so much to do in and around Munich that it is easy to fill up a day with a bit of tradition and a bit of the modern. The first thing I do is head to the center of the city.


Does Bavarian culture ring your bell? If so, check out a great list of experiences and interests links at www.bavaria.com. If, instead, beer and Munich is what does it for you... your first stop has to be The Beer Drinker's Guide to Munich.


Marienplatz top

Though much of the city was severely damaged during World War Two many of the historic buildings have been painstakingly restored to their pre-war condition. A great example is Munich’s city hall. Called the “New Town Hall” because it wasn’t completed until 1909, it’s a neo-Gothic building that dominates Marienplatz, the city center plaza. At 11:00, noon and 5:00 o’clock each day visitors can view the famous Glockenspiel clock, or carillon. The mechanical figures perform scenes from the town’s history, such as the cooper’s dance when barrel makers celebrated the end of the Plague in 1517 or a jousting tournament held in the honor of Wilhelm II and Renata von Lothringen in 1568.


Want to take a look around Munich right now? Check out these web cams.


Frauenkirche top

On the east end of Marianplatz is Munich’s most recognizable landmark, the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady. Completed in 1525, the distinctive domes have served as a model for many village churches through out Bavaria.


For some interesting technical detail and photographs, take a look at www.emporis.com. If it's the story of the "Devil's Footprint" you're interested in, go to www.munichfound.de. On your way down the page to this interesting story, you'll find plenty of great history as well.


The "Pinakotheks" top

Munich has some of the Europe’s best art museums, so you can choose what you want to see you from the last 500 years of art history. For the oldest works, try the Alte Pinakothek, or “old art gallery.” It was built in the 19th century and features works by the European Old Masters--from the Renaissance to the early 18th Century.

Across the street the Neue Pinakothek, or “new art gallery” is the choice for European art from the second half of the 18th Century through the beginning of the 20th Century.

For contemporary art, cross the street again to Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne. This massive gallery features such masters of the 20th century as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali and displays contemporary artworks from around the world. Even on a short trip, Munich has an art museum worth savoring. No matter how many times I visit, I always find something new and engaging here.


Beyond the "Pinakotheks" and other large museums, Munich also offers a host of smaller galleries catering to a variety of tastes.


Hofbrau House top

Earlier I promised a bit of “old” Europe, and in Munich that means a visit to the Hofbrau House.

Bavarians are nothing if not fun and the best way to enjoy your self is with a stein of beer, perhaps a plate of sausage, and a traditional beer hall show.

Munich is close to the Alps and the culture of the woodsman—alpine dancing and music—are important parts of local tradition.


You'll find all the details at www.hofbraeuhaus.com. To learn more about cultural events in Munich, don't forget to check out www.muenchen.de.


ROME top

Our fourth great European city is across the Alps and 500 miles south.

Rome is both the oldest city on our tour, and the hippest. It seems to be a modern haze of perpetual motion and simultaneously it still seems timeless.

Rome is called the “Eternal City.” Eternally on the move is a more accurate description. There is nothing ancient about the vitality, energy and lust for life of the modern Roman. Rome never seems to stand still so it’s best to just hang on and go along for the ride.

The vitality that built the ancient empire still radiates on the streets and energizes the modern visitor to Rome. When Rome ruled the world this was a busy place. Today, it’s still new and exciting.

As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and it’s certainly impossible to see all of Rome in a day. So,don’t even try to see everything. Take a walk and focus on the ancient city.


Planning your trip soon and need a place to start? Check out www.enjoyrome.com.


The Forum top

The Forum is a quite enclave in the center of the modern city. An ideal spot for a quite stroll to reflect on the power and the glory that was Rome. The Via Sacra leads into the Roman Forum, the heart of ancient City. Here is where the everyday business of empire took place.


Take your time and explore the Forum on-line at www.vroma.org.


The Colosseum top

Close to the Forum, and across a busy street, is the Colosseum where the dark soul of ancient Rome shown fourth. In Ancient Rome the Colosseum hosted blood-sports. Here, gladiators battled wild beasts and each other in life-and-death struggles.


Start your introduction to the Colosseum at www.the-colosseum.net. Want to navigate this site a little more quickly? click here.


Walking Rome top

Fortunately for us—and them—modern Romans have forsaken the bloodlust of their ancient ancestors to become some of Europe’s most open and friendly big-city dwellers. A walk through a Roman neighborhood is good way to get to know the people and to feel the excitement of the modern city. Along the way, you’ll find busy squares and peaceful piazzas, many with Baroque or Renaissance fountains fed by ancient aqueducts.


If walking tours are your thing, www.enjoyrome.com is a great place to start. Want to take it at your own pace? Then slip the essential "Blue Guide Rome" by Alta MacAdam into your travel bag. You'll find it on-line at

Even with just one day in Rome, I suggest that you take time to enjoy the sights, the sounds and the smells of a neighborhood piazza. Of course, a stop for a cappuccino is de rigeur.


If cappuccino is your primary reason to be in Rome, then "Cafe Life in Rome" by Joseph Wolff is a must-read for you.

My walk has brought me to Teatro Marcello, an ancient theatre that was converted to a palace in the 16th Century and is now a luxury apartment complex.


For an interesting and detailed read on the history of Teatro Marcello (along with some great links), visit the Theater of Marcellus.


The Sheraton Roma top

Rome has no shortage of luxury apartments or good hotels. We’re staying at the Sheraton Roma. Just a 10 minute taxi ride from Rome’s historic center, this big, classy hotel appeals to business travelers and jet-setters. A big plus: easy access to Leonardo DaVinci airport.


To take an on-line peek at the Sheraton Roma, visit www.starwoodhotels.com.


Vatican City top

If you fancy a trip to another country—and have the time—hop a bus to Vatican City, an independent state in the heart of Rome and the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.


For an excellent on-line map of Vatican City, go to www.hot-maps.de.

Of course, the Vatican is the site of St. Peter’s Basilica and the home of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and spiritual leader of the world’s Roman Catholics. With a Dome designed by Michelangelo and a Piazza and colonnade designed by Bernini, St. Peter’s has a blue-ribbon Renaissance and Baroque pedigree. It never fails to impress. If you want to tour the cathedral, be sure to dress modestly. Even in the heat of the summer, short pants and sleeveless shirts and blouses are not allowed.


You can view the Vatican art collections on-line at Vatican Museums Online. There, you'll find an excellent virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel.


La Dolce Vita top

An important part of the Roman’s sweet life or “La Dolce Vita” is food. Romans love to eat and relish everything from pizza on-the-go, to gelato—Italian Ice Cream—to pastries and espresso.

I prefer to get off-the-beaten-path and find a Pizzeria Forno a Legno, I’m a fan of the traditional thin crust Roman pizza cooked in a wood oven. The margherita, or a plain cheese pizza is Rome’s most popular. Since I could hardly go wrong with any pizza on the menu, I tried ordering in Italian just to see what would happen.


Take a look at Arthur Schwartz's very helpful restaurant guide to Rome at www.TheFoodMaven.com. Scroll to the bottom for reviews from the different neighborhoods.


Do As The Romans Do top

What a great way to end our whirlwind tour of four of the greatest cities in Europe. Sure, it’s great to take your time and savor the moment, but when you only have 24 hours, do as the ancient Romans advised, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day. Until next time, I’m Rudy Maxa. Ciao.


If you happen to be savoring the moment in an Italian restaurant, here's a little on-line help so you don't sweat the menu. Start with www.ehow.com for the basics and check out italian.about.com if you want to know more. Good luck!


Interested in planning your vacation to Europe?
Start your trip at



Find out all about touring Copenhagen's canals by boat at www.visitcopenhagen.dk.

For discounts, freebies, and transportation in Berlin and other major cities, go to www.europeancitycards.com.

Planning your trip soon and need a place to start? Check out www.enjoyrome.com.