Rural Europe: Landscapes to remember

Posted in: Essays

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The Lavaux region on the banks of Lake Geneva
The famous wine-growing region of Lavaux. Photo by zug55.

If you have followed our posts here on EuroCheapo over the last three years, then you’ll certainly know that we are not really urban creatures. True, we have spent many happy months exploring European cities, often those that are lesser known, and we have written about many of them—Roskilde, Poznan and Trieste, for example.

Europe’s rural landscapes

But our real affections lie with Europe’s rural landscapes. Rural, of course, does not mean untouched by human hand, and some of the finest European rural scenes are all the more appealing because they evince centuries of interaction between people and landscape.

Some of those that stick in our memories are the valleys and fells of the English Lake District and the achingly beautiful terraces that skirt the northern edge of Lake Geneva east of Lausanne.

This later area, often referred to as the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List—a reminder, if ever one were needed, that there is as much culture and heritage to be found in many rural parts of Europe as there is in the great galleries of Florence or Paris. Culture and heritage are not exclusively metropolitan commodities. Wander through the Lavaux region and you are immersed in a viticultural tradition that extends back for more than a thousand years.

It is the human imprint that gives texture and meaning to many of the landscapes of the Pyrenees. Yes, there are dramatic mountains to be sure, but the tapestry of the landscape carries the imprint of centuries of pastoral tradition. In Greece, the inaccessible sandstone pinnacles at Meteora will doubtless delight geomorphologists and rock climbers alike—but to us the real appeal lies in the monasteries perched on the tops of many of those slender towers.

The human impact

The human impact on Europe’s landscapes is often far from positive. Think Chernobyl. But across our continent, there are also thousands of examples of rural landscapes that reflect the long-term evolution of Europe’s cultures. They range from the Neolithic landscapes of Scotland’s Orkney Islands to the riverine landscapes of the Danube in the Wachau region of Austria, from the plains and wetlands of the Hungarian Puszta to the post-industrial landscapes of Lusatia (Eastern Germany) and the Tamar Valley (Southwest England).

Tell us!

We would be interested in hearing of readers’ favorite cultural landscapes in various parts of Europe. Share with us by writing a comment.

About the author


About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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One thought on “Rural Europe: Landscapes to remember”

  1. Nice one. I like the idea tucked away in this piece. Makes me feel better about living in a slightly run-down industrial area of northern England, now I know that it is a cultural landscape.

    But seriously, this is a great way of looking at what Europe has to offer. We all miss a lot if we just speed from city to city and do not look at the rural areas along the way. So I’d say some memorable cultural landscapes for me would include the Roskilde area of Denmark with its legacy of early settlement, the Carmargue with its long history of wetland management and I guess the Rhone valley too.


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