For three years I lived and worked in the European Union capital of Brussels, Belgium. While there I traveled as much as my workload and finances would allow. But I can say that one day I saw all of Europe. Yes, in one day.
Technically it wasn’t all of Europe; it was more of a highlights tour. But in the shadow of the Atomium (that big bunch of silver balls that makes up this website’s background photo), there lies a small park called mini-Europe. Mini as in miniature landmarks representative of the major vistas and capitals of the continent (and the UK too). Here is what it looks like from high up in the Atomium.
Since this is Brussels, they of course have the Grand Place…the big square that sits in the center of the city. You can see the detail that went into these models. Check out the gothic style city hall, decorated with 294 statues from the 19th century, which dominates one side of the square. This particular display shows the carpet of flowers that graces the Grand Place only one weekend every two years. A grand site to see. (And as an added bonus, the famous manneken pis is just a short walk away).
Heading north gets you to the Castle of Olavinlinna, built in 1475 in Finland. It used to form part of the frontier defenses against Russia.
Some countries have only one or two landmarks (Luxembourg’s contribution is a single highway bridge). France is well represented with several landmarks from around the country. Here is the church of Sacre Coeur, which sits high atop Montmartre Hill in the northern part of Paris. On a clear day you can see 50 km away.
Moving over to Italy, I’m sure everyone will recognize Pisa. The Piazza del Duomo is pretty much the attraction in this northern coastal city. The campanile (leaning tower) is 55 meters in height and has never been straight since its construction. Behind it is a Romanesque Cathedral built to celebrate the victory of the Pisan fleet over Palermo. The model is made entirely of small marble blocks and weighs 800 kg. Consider that the next time you complain about doing a mere 1000-piece puzzle.
Last stop on today’s tour is Athens, Greece. Situated on the highest point in the city is the Acropolis, which was built in the 5th century B.C. as a national sanctuary for the worship of the twelve Greek gods.
I’ve been lucky enough to have visited all of the landmarks above, with the notable exception of the Olavinlinna Castle (though on more than one occasion I was in Finland’s capital, Helsinki). There are many more mini-landmarks in mini-Europe, so I’ll be coming back here periodically. In fact, I’ll be showing photos of the model along with my own photos taken during visits to the real places. I have to admit, after seeing the models it’s is very cool to see the leaning tower, the Acropolis, Sacre Coeur and more up close and personal.
David J. Kent is a science traveler. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.