Text and Photos by Erza S.T.
Sometimes traveling can be quite tiring if you only visit the mainstream destinations, and in high season most popular tourism spots usually have long queues everywhere you go. For some attractions, you even have to book the ticket online in advance. On my last trip to Europe, I found some alternative spots that were charming, unique and still not yet discovered by the masses. Here are my memorable picks that are well worth the visit.Click to view slideshow.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Bag Crazy at The Tassen Museum
Bags and purses are one of the things that most ladies cannot live without. One lady name Hendrikje Ivo is one who was not only fascinated by the beauty of a bag, but also has a collection of over 3,500 items that includes bags, pouches, purses, luggage and many other accessories. Highlights include a 16th century goatskin belt pouch (considered the oldest recorded ‘man bag’), a 1920s snakeskin evening bag with a carved ivory panel, an 18th century leather bag with tortoise shell cover, and a Giannie Versace couture evening bag carried by Madonna at the 1997 movie premiere of Evita. Located in a 17th century patrician’s house at the Herengracht, Amsterdam’s most prestigious canal, this museum is one of the only three across the globe specializing in this field. Considered to be the world’s largest collection, this is the result of a lady collecting bags for over 30 years. It is a hidden gem.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A Scrumptious Walk with The Hungry Birds
I have always believed that food is a great way to understand the culture of a country, and there is nothing better then having fun tasting street food. Esther-Hanna and Zosia are two great foodies who live in Amsterdam and the best people to take you on a three- to four-hour street food adventure. On my journey with these two lovely ladies, they took me to a Saturday open market where we met many food vendors and savoured many local delicatessens complete with stories of the product, the sellers and their families. Under the company name of Hungry Birds, the duo are simply the best food ambassadors in Amsterdam and will definitely take you on a memorable journey of delicious food. Forget having breakfast before you go, as you will be tasting an array of great food all morning or day long. It is simply a must for every food lover from across the world.
Going Green at Fristaden Christiania
Imagine a city withn a city that has its own autonomy and is regulated by a special law. Imagine a city where dogs run wild and no cars are allowed. Imagine a city that has the mild scent of cannabis in the air and interesting architecture that is so different from the rest of Copenhagen. Welcome to Christiania. Coming up to its 43rd birthday, Christiania is an alternative society within a society where taking photos is not allowed, but you can “enjoy” pot, hash or other what they call safe drugs in the area. What used to be an old military barracks has become an interesting area with lots of unique graffiti and buildings that reminds you of the 70s. A visit during the day for sightseeing and enjoying “the air” followed by a cup of coffee in one of the cafes will provide a very memorable experience. They also host many concerts and performing arts events in summertime. This is really a place where the hippy spirit never dies.
An Open Sandwich at Royal Smushi Cafe
Bread with different toppings has many names in Europe. The Italians name it bruschetta and the French call it tartines, but in Denmark this open sandwich concept is known as smorrebrod. In a hidden place called The Royal Smushi Café, this casual and popular Danish food has been transformed into a new version known as smushi – an instant sensation that has become famous all over Copenhagen. Smushi is a smorrebrod that is sushi-sized with a beautiful visual presentation that matches the gorgeous design of the restaurant itself. Selections such as smoked mackerel with egg yolk, chives and radish; pepper salmon with avocado crème and ash of leek; to vegetarian fricassee, are some of the café’s delicious smushi. Surrounded by a pinkish-hued ambience and eclectic interiors by Danish design icons like Holmegaard, Bang and Olufsen and Fritz Hansen, Royal Smushi Café is simply one of Copenhagen’s best kept secrets.
Oxford, United Kingdom
Heavenly Singing at New College Chapel
Since the 12th century, the city of Oxford in Southeast England has garnered a reputation as one of the best student cities in the world. This is the place where some of the most prestigious scholars are made. Aside from being famous for its educational institutions, Oxford is a historical city where you can see some of the best examples of ancient architectural design, art and culture. One of the hidden gems that I found on my last visit was rather more unusual then the usual tourist activity. One evening, a dear friend of mine who is also an Oxford scholar took me to an Anglican Church service at New College Chapel. For one hour, we got to experience not only the church service but also amazingly beautiful singing from the award-winning New College Choir. Both children and the young adults in this choir really gave us a world-class standard of singing. With over 80 CD recordings and a reputation extending across the globe as one of the finest Anglican choirs, the New College Choir performance at the chapel is definitely not to be missed.