Thursday, July 8, 2010

European City Power Rankings

Selma Lagerlöf was the winner of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the first woman to ever win this award. Her likeness graces the front of the Swedish 20 krona note. Nice hat Selma.

In the spirit of the "unique" SAFF Division I Power Rankings, David Lassen recently asked me to do a European City Power Ranking after our recent Baltic Sea Cruises.

Unlike the SAFF Power Rankings, I have opted to actually think before I rank the cities and came up with an actual rationale for my rankings that might even make sense to a casual observer.

First, I thought I would try my hand at ranking the capitals of the Scandanavian countries. I figured I'd visited all five of these cities in the past four and a half months so they would be fresh in my mind.


Laurie in Stockholm
My pick for the #1 Scandanavian Capital

1. Stockholm, Sweden - It is visually stunning, has lots of water, green parks everywhere, very good museums and lots to see and do. The Gamla Stan and being the home of Lisbeth Salander doesn't hurt either.

2. Copenhagen, Denmark - Lots of bonus points for the Nyhavn, a great pedestrian shopping street, the Queen's 70th Birthday Bash, the Museum of Danish Resistance, interesting canal boat ride, Tivoli Gardens, the Diana Krall concert and the Chritiania hippie commune. The fact that it is only 90 minutes away by train is a plus as well. A close second, but still, definitely #2.

3. Oslo, Norway - A really great city to walk and ride their tram system, it has good museums, Frogner Park, a great harbor boat ride and the World's Tallest Lego Tower! Their Norwegian Resistance Museum was a cut below Copenhagen's in my opinion. The memory of sitting in a restaurant listening to soothing music on a hot afternoon while eating a burrito will stay with me for a long time. So will the price of the burrito! It is a very expensive city and that is the main reason that it dropped to #3. The people in Skåne are not crazy about Norwegians, that impacted my decision making process.

4. Tallinn, Estonia - I would not think of Estonia as a part of Scandanavia, but if Rick Steves says it is, then "So let it be written, so let it be done!" A day in Tallinn's well preserved Old Town is one that you will long remember. Negative points for their Museum of Occupation being closed the day we were there.

5. Helsinki, Finland - After our overnight ferry ride to Helsinki, I was panicked that we would only have about seven hours to see the city. After about four hours I was ready to get back on the ferry. I did enjoy their Church of the Rock, the multi-onion domed Uspenski Cathedral and people watching over a latté at the Café Kappeli. Compared to the other four capitals, Helsinki just did not grab me.

That out of the way, it is now time to reveal my favorite cities in Europe. Now let's be clear on this, I have not been to every major city in Europe . . .yet.

Here are the 23 cities that I have visited and had to consider: Aci Castello, Athens, Barcelona, Bruges, Catania, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Florence, Hässleholm, Helsinki, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Rome, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Tallinn, Venice and Vienna.


St. Peter's Basilica, Holy Week 2008
Rome is my top European Destination

1. Rome, Italy - The Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museum, the Catacombs, the Trevis Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Campo dé Fiori, the Tiber, gelato and Italian food including rich sauces and aromas -- the list of Roma's highlights is endless! Decadence, romance, history and art all rolled into one big, and sometimes chaotic, wonder of a city. I fell in love with Laurie here for the first time again twice, Ciao Bella!!! Cappuccino anyone?

2. Prague, Czech Republic - I actually had Prague listed as my top choice until I started to review Roma in my mind, it is that good of a destination in my opinion. It was not bombed into the Stone Age during World War II. It does have a Museum of Communism, the Charles Bridge, music in the streets and in the churches, Pilsner Urquell, the Alfons Mucha Museum and the Prague Castle. It is an intimate, inexpensive, underrated and very romantic city. We are going there next week which may erode some of Rome's stranglehold of the top spot, since I went solo the only time I visited Prague back in 2008.

3. Barcelona, Spain - Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, Tapas at Taverna Basca Irati, Catalunyan pride, the Picasso Museum, La Boqueria Market, the Pinotxo Bar, and the gentle breezes on a walk down the harborfront. Barcelona is all about the relaxed excitement and joy of being alive. It is such an energizing, cosmopolitan city. I think I just talked myself into going back for a third visit!

4. Venice, Italy - Canals, gondolas, no cars, vaporetto rides, the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco, and the Rialto Bridge. Name me another city that compares with this great Adriatic Sea town? The fact that this was the very first European city I ever visited came heavily into play on this pick. We also had a great time with David and Gayle Hicks in Venice last year. The fact that many cities in Europe advertise themselves as "The Venice of _____!" (fill in the blank), tells you something about how unique Venice truly is. On the romance scale, Giacomo Casanova hung out here most of his "career" for goodness sakes!

5. Paris, France - Notre Dame Cathedral, les glaces Berthillon, Sainte Chapelle, the Pont Neuf, the Louvre Museum, the Orsay Museum, the Eiffel Tower, a stroll down the Champs Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine, the Versilles Palace -- so much to offer from this magical city. The Romance Scale? Are you kidding, THIS IS PARIS!!!

You may argue that I left a wonderful city out of my Top Five that might make yours or that my order is wrong if you will. That is the beauty of rankings, even SAFF's. They inspire discussion, disagreements and create interest.

I'll be looking forward to your objections on the comment section of the blog.

Meanwhile, back in Lund . . .

We boarded the train for Lund in the afternoon, it would be Laurie's first visit to Skåne's lovely university town that was very quiet now that the vast majority of the student body is home for the Summer.

The Lund Cathedral Atomic Clock

It was closed for repairs this Winter, but was raring to entertain us at 3:00 p.m.

The 3:00 p.m. Lund Atomic Clock Show

She always has to light a candle,
even in a Lutheran church

Richard or Carl Michael?

The debate continues . . .

Andrew Gardner Contreras

If our oldest son came to Sweden, changed his name slightly and became a doctor, then he too might be a specialist in "Läkarmottagning!"

A 30 minute reading time out in the
Lund University Botanical Garden

Wallander Mystery #6

While Laurie is seen reading Wallander Mystery #2, "The Dogs of Riga" above, I finished "The Fifth Woman" today. Another really good read about Ystad's and Skåne's favorite detective.

Now it is on to Vilhelm Moberg's final book in his Emigrant series, "Last Letter Home." Once I finish that relatively short novel, I will begin to tackle the books that the D'Antuono's sent me.

Reading, its FUNdamental!

Nordic Power Walker

"He'll run you over like a juggernaut!"

What are these plants?

They look like the sea mines lining the entrance to Tokyo harbor in one of those World War II submarine movies.

A Riot of Color

Floral Simplicity

We enjoyed this nice peaceful day as we prepare for our second, and sadly final, "Summer 2010 Madcap European Adventure." Next Monday we will fly out of Copenhagen to Berlin, Germany for a few days before flying on to Kraków, Poland and eventually the overnight train to Prague, Czech Republic. We will fly back to Copenhagen after an eight day, nine night hiatus.

The ranking may have to be revised, who knows?

You only live once.

Unless you believe in reincarnation.


Anonymous said...

Hey George the submarine mine flower, is a tistel in swedish latin is tisteln tistlar and english thistle.

see you on the field soon.
// André

George said...

Tack så mycket, André!

JTwice said...


When considering your European power-rankings of cities, I think that unlike the craziness of Sweden football, it might be wise to follow our NCAA American counterparts by using DIVISION SIZE! I mean, how can you compare Vernazza to Paris? Rothenburg to Prague? Agrigento to... wait, that's not on my list. That being said, I propose the following J.Twice ranking:


1. Rome
2. Prague
3. Berlin
4. Nice
5. Vienna (Can't believe you snubbed austria)
6. Barcelona
7. Paris (get better weather!)
8. Brussels (most underrated big city in Europe!)
9. London / Munich (tie)
10. Venice (for an hour)

Also Receiving Votes: Luzern, Amsterdam, Bratislava


1. Vernazza, Italy
2. Rothenburg, Germany
3. St. Emilion, France
4. Taormina, Sicily
5. Bruges, Belgium
6. Cesky Krumlov, Czech
7. Interlaken, Switzerland
8. St. Anton-Arlberg, Austria
9. Salema, Portugal
10. San Sebastian, Spain

And another thing I think you might enjoy - article written by the Tucson sports guy about another guy "Coaching for Pizza" -- although my friend who sent this to me was irate that we didn't get a shout out!

George said...

I like the Divisional style but I can't think that much any more!

I had several telephone discussions with Will Kreamer, the Arizona coach who you mentioned, before and after he decided to go to Milan, good guy!

David said...

I like J2's divisional ranking system as well ... but I'm wondering why Siena doesn't show up anywhere.

George said...

Siena, great call!

A Division II city but Il Palio was one of the best days I ever had in Italy and in Europe for that matter.

Eric Slivoskey said...

Hey George,

I have to agree with you on your "Way Up North" Scandinavian City power rankings. Stockholm just can't be beat.

Here is my top 10 when taking all of Europe into account.

10.Cesky Krumlov

George said...


Good list.

We are going to Kraków this week, your ranking it ahead of Paris makes us both excited to see it for ourselves.

That fact plus Jason having Berrlin at #3 on his Top Ten makes me believe that a possible shake up is in wind by the time I publish the next Power Rankings after this week's journey . . .