I heard the bells on Christmas day Their old familiar carols play And mild and sweet their songs repeat Of peace on earth good will to men. - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

6 Under-the-Radar European Cities You’ll Want to Visit

Bucharest, Romania

Aerial view of Romanian city of Bucharest during a sunset
Credit: Dragos Asaftei/ Shutterstock

Modern Bucharest is one of the safest democratic cities in eastern Europe. Because of its colorful past, Bucharest still hasn’t caught on as a major tourist destination, which makes it perfect for people who want to enjoy the sites while avoiding the crowds.

Visitors enjoy the plethora of shopping and restaurants. There’s a unique mixture of modern and historic architecture, including the second largest, and the heaviest, building in the world: The Palace of Parliament. It was once the palace of the communist ruler but has since been turned into Parliament’s headquarters and a spectacular attraction for visitors.

For history and fantasy buffs alike, Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as the inspiration for Dracula, built his castle within driving distance of the city. Take a day and head over to Bran Castle for a unique, albeit creepy, experience. Just keep an eye out for bats.

Noto, Sicily, Italy

Aerial view of historic architecture in Noto, Sicily, Italy
Credit: Dalibor Kastratovic/ Shutterstock

If you like baroque architecture, Noto is the place for you. The entire city was built in the same style giving it an authentic, old-world Italian feel. While other travelers are fighting the crowds of Rome, you can enjoy a relaxing day at one of the several pristine beaches in Noto. When your time in the sun is through, head back to the city for some of the best food that has ever been served. If you’re looking for a truly relaxing Italian getaway, there’s no better place than Noto, Sicily.

Salzburg, Austria

Aerial view of sunny landscape and architecture in Salzburg, Austria
Credit: Rastislav Sedlak SK/ Shutterstock

While everyone is enjoying their trips to Munich or Vienna, Salzburg remains largely under the radar, which is surprising because of its historical and cinematic background. Not only is it the birthplace of Mozart, one of the greatest composers of all time, but it was also the filming location for “The Sound of Music.” Many people might not know that “The Sound of Music” was based on a true story. The von Trapps really did live in Salzburg, and you can even visit their house.

After you’re done following in the footsteps of Julie Andrews, Salzburg is packed with history for you to enjoy. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its outstanding value to humanity. There are cobblestone streets, baroque architecture, elaborate palaces, and Medieval churches to explore.

Inverness, Scotland

Cityscape on the river
Credit: S-F/ Shutterstock

In northern Scotland, far from the busy tourist destination of Edinburgh, lies a smaller city named Inverness. It has retained much of its history, including some interesting buildings like St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Inverness Castle, while also providing all the modern amenities you could want.

For nature lovers who also want the comforts of a contemporary city, Inverness is hard to beat. The compact cosmopolitan center is surrounded by the natural beauty of Scotland. After enjoying the pubs, restaurants, and shopping, head over to the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles and go monster hunting at the famous Loch Ness.

The Alentejo, Portugal

The coast of Alentejo, Portugal
Credit: kingawo/ Shutterstock

If you’re looking to slow down during your vacation, the Alentejo region of south-central Portugal is perfect. There’s not much in the way of exciting nightlife and high energy adventures, but that’s seen as a good thing. Travelers who go to Alentejo go to take their time enjoying the beauty of nature, the pristine beaches, historic buildings and the numerous vineyards. Even the hiking is meant to be relaxing. Most of the area is flat, perfect for leisurely walks, bike rides, and horseback riding.

Ghent, Belgium

Waterway and flowers in Belgium city of Ghent on a clear day
Credit: Porterre/ Shutterstock

If you’ve ever been interested in time travel, Ghent is about as close as you can get. The entire city looks like it’s still in Medieval times. Construction of the city started around the year 600 CE and grew to its peak in the 11th to 16th centuries, right at the prime of the Dark Ages. Much of the architecture has remained the same.

Gravensteen castle was built in the 1100s and is still the centerpiece of the city. It has been turned into a museum that showcases authentic Medieval weapons, armor, and “judicial objects,” a nice term for torture devices. In addition to the historic sites, there’s a beautiful riverwalk, modern hotels inside ancient buildings, and some of the best restaurants in the country.

Family Talk Night Light for Parents

Duration: 365 days


“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24

My (JCD’s) grandmother prayed for her six children throughout their formative years, but her youngest son—my father—was a particularly headstrong young man. For seven years following his high school graduation he rejected the teachings of the church. Yet my grandmother never stopped praying.

One evening my Uncle Willis, who loved Jesus passionately, went looking for my dad (who was visiting his parents’ home) as the family prepared to go to church. “Jim,” he said, “aren’t you going with us to the service tonight?” “No, Willis,” my dad said. “I’m through with all of that. I don’t plan to ever go back again.” Willis said nothing. But as my father sat looking at the floor, he saw big tears splashing on his brother’s shoes. I’ll go, my dad thought, just because it means that much to him.

At the service that evening, James Dobson Sr. invited Jesus Christ into his heart—a decision he never wavered from the rest of his life. God answered the prayers of my grandmother by placing a key person at a critical crossroads. If you pray with persistence and confidence, He will do as much for your children, too.


Do you pray for your kids with persistence and confidence?

How have your prayers already changed the lives of your children?

How can you help each other to keep praying even when you’re tired or discouraged?

Lord Jesus, You have taught us to “pray always and not give up.” Strengthen us, Lord, to do this for our children. As long as You give us breath, help us to pray for the special lives You have entrusted us with, and to never give up or let up until we are all together in Your presence. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Family Talk Night Light for Couples

Duration: 365 days


“Faith is being sure of what we hope for.” Hebrews 11:1

Hope based on the realistic expectation that something can or will change is a powerful, positive, driving force. It motivates us to do our best and helps us achieve what may seem impossible to others. But naive hope that’s grounded in wishful thinking can be deeply disappointing and even destructive. I (jcd) know a woman—I’ll call her Martha—who was hurt repeatedly by her father’s lack of interest in her. As long as Martha continued to hope he would change, she suffered a fresh wound whenever he missed an important family event or failed to consider her feelings. I urged Martha to realize that her father was emotionally blind—he was incapable of seeing her needs.

Once she began to accept his “handicap” as permanent, her pain lessened considerably. Your partner’s temperament or experiences may prevent him or her from fully comprehending your feelings and frustrations. My advice is that you change what can be altered, explain what can be understood, teach what can be learned, revise what can be improved, resolve what can be settled, and negotiate what is open to compromise.

Then determine to accept the rest. As you overlook these few “unresolvables” in your relationship, you’ll develop a perspective that brings realistic hope for an honest and satisfying marriage.


  • What kinds of changes do we hope to see in each other? Are our hopes realistic? ‘
  • Would it help our relationship to accept our “unresolvables”?
  • What in our marriage gives you the greatest sense of hope?

Father, thank You that You are “the God of all hope.” Tonight we look to You for help in bringing honest, healing hope to our marriage. Show us what we can change, show us what we should accept, and bless us with hope. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.