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Cultural routes in The Alps

As seemingly insurmountable and intimidating as the beautiful Alps are, they haven’t prevented the development of trade and pilgrimage routes and alpine cultural adaptations that make for fascinating travel in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Slovenia and Italy.

 

“You can do without gold, but not without salt”, is a quotation attributed to the Roman statesman Cassiodorus - and Switzerland was mining salt at a time when it was as valuable as crude oil is today. The Via Salina follows the route of this precious substance from Arc-et-Senans in the French Jura to Berne. It links two UNESCO World Heritage sites along idyllic historical routes in a little known cultural landscape. The Via Romana links the most important Roman sites in Switzerland, spelling out Roman culture in all its facets. In 990, Sigeric “the Serious”, archbishop of Canterbury travelled back to his English home town from Rome and made a note of the stops along the way in his diary. Today, the route is known as Via Francigena, a European culture route. The priory church of Romainmôtier in the Jura Vaudois, the cathedral of Lausanne and St-Maurice abbey in the Valais are sacred, spiritual highlights along the route. the climb to the Great St. Bernhard is one of the most spectacular stages from a scenic point of view. Paths a millennium old have been used by the devout as they made their pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle Jacobus in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Today the paths leading to that destination are called Jacob's Trails and are still used by pilgrims.

The Cheese Route through the Bregenzerwald in the Vorarlberg region of Austria is the ideal way to explore the area and its close ties with cheese-making: from dairy farms to cheese specialty inns, and from alpine pastures to modern shepherds. If you’re a cheese connoisseur, this is for you. Cheese making looks back on a long history in the Bregenzerwald and has left its mark on the region’s culture and traditions. The Cheese Route is also an opportunity to enjoy the beauties of a lovingly tended rural landscape as well as the produce of the region’s dairy farms: creamy natural yoghurt and smooth locally churned butter. The route is not so much a single road as a local network ideally linking the various aspects of cheese production. It takes in many of the most memorable features of the Bregenzerwald: the fine old traditional buildings, the deeply rooted crafts traditions, and folklore, all immersed in the idyllic setting of a region which remains a world in itself.

The history of the imperial Roman road, the Via Claudia Augusta provides a fascinating, ready-made itinerary in Germany. The only Roman imperial road across the Alps extends from the Adriatic to the Danube. This 500 kilometer military supply route snaking through the mountains was the most important connection between the Roman motherland and its rich provinces to the north, a fabulous example of Roman ingenuity and persistence. The 700 km Swedish trail examines the cultural history of the Swedes in Germany. It stretches from the island of Rügen in the North to Grossbeeren south of Berlin, and from Gadebusch in the west to Peenemünde and Usedom in the east, covering important historical events such as the Thirty Years' War, the rise and fall of the Swedish empire, the ascendancy of Prussia, social changes in the 18th century and the upheaval of the Napoleonic wars. Travel to fairyland on the German Fairytale Route, one of the oldest scenic routes in Germany. It takes you on a magical journey from Bremen to Hanau, linking more than 70 towns and villages associated with the Brothers Grimm and the realm of fairytales, sagas, myths and legends.

As the heart of one of the world's most significant religions, Italy has always been a destination for those who have who wish to explore the roots of a world that has produced art, architecture, and objects of inestimable value. Italy is a land of pilgrimage - one of the foremost in the world - and is home to countless places of devotion and worship: San Giovanni Rotondo, the city where St. Padre Pio of Pietralcina lived and worked; Assisi, the city of St. Francis, with its magnificent Basilica and Holy Convent; and the Sanctuary of Loreto, one of the most prominent spiritual and cultural centres in Europe. But the ultimate destination for religious pilgrimages is undoubtedly Rome, the Capital of Christianity and Seat of the Papacy, where one can find St. Peter's Basilica, the largest Christian church in the world. Another of the countless destinations is Turin, site of the Shroud of Turin, a relic bearing the everlasting image of Christ after the crucifixion, which can only be seen during scheduled exhibitions. Italy is an unparalleled and mandatory destination for anyone wishing to travel the historical roads of Christianity, such as the Via Francigena, or explore the numerous places of worship in every region, or simply take a spiritual trip to admire the artistic, cultural, and religious heritage of this country.

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