In my early days as a guidebook writer, Europe’s undiscovered nooks and undeveloped crannies held the most appeal for me — and they still do. But with ever more sophisticated travelers armed with enough time and money to see the Europe of their dreams, places I “discovered” a few decades ago are now suffering from “Back Door” congestion.
Given that, I’ve come to treasure even more those destinations that still have the feeling of being a world apart from everyday life. Away from the tourist fray, these special spots are backwaters in the best sense of the word, each with its own genuine charm.
It typically takes a little extra effort to reach such places, but the reward is considerable. Gimmelwald, a remote and impossibly idyllic village high in the Swiss Alps, is a classic example. Parking your car in the valley floor and riding the cable car up is like going through a looking glass.
Your car shrinks, your stomach flip-flops, and you look over the valley as though suspended from a hang glider. Then, suddenly, the cable-car doors slide open and you’re deposited — as if from a magical glass bubble — into another world. It’s a place where the air is clean and sharp, where the only noises are bees, bugs and birds pursuing alpine flowers, and where gnome-like men sucking gnome-like pipes are busy chopping firewood.
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