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25 Secret European Villages

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1 Schwarzenberg
There are countless Baroque ski villages with immaculately groomed slopes in the Bregenzerwald in western Austria, but none of them trumps the superb Schwarzenberg. Every window box is blooming. Villagers would never go to market wearing anything but a regulation loden jacket. Dairy farms scattered across an impossibly emerald landscape enhance the timeless Alpine scenery. Angelica Kauffmann, a founding member of London's Royal Academy of Arts, painted the frescoes of the Apostles in the parish church.
POPULATION 1,637 HOW TO GET THERE Schwarzenberg is 125 miles north of Salzburg; the drive takes approximately 21/2 hours. WHERE TO STAY Gasthof Hirschen (Hof 14; 43-5512/29440; doubles from $194), a post-and-beam house built in 1757, has 34 bright guest rooms filled with antiques, including sleigh beds and simple pine furniture. WHERE TO EAT The hotel's wood-paneled restaurant offers Austrian specialties such as Tafelspitz, a boiled beef dish (dinner for two $108).

2 Korcula
The island village of Korcula is a jumble of colors: gray-green hillsides of terraced olive groves; black-cypress forests; red-roofed town villas; the intensely blue-green Adriatic Sea. Its architecture has a precision that is similarly jewel-like. Crowned by the spire of St. Mark's Cathedral, Korcula is filled with miniature Venetian Gothic and Renaissance palaces whose balconies almost touch above the narrow streets. Some historians question whether native son Marco Polo was actually born here, but locals are convinced—his family home is clearly marked.
POPULATION 3,225 HOW TO GET THERE The village—and the island it's named for—is a three-hour ferry ride from Dubrovnik. WHERE TO STAY Watch lively street life from the loggia of the 24-room Hotel Korcula (5 Obala Franje Tudjmana; 385-20/711-078; doubles from $39). WHERE TO EAT Konoba Adio Mare (Stari Grad; 385-20/711-253; dinner for two $30) serves grilled fish and octopus caught daily on nearby beaches.

3 Telc
People in Telc still talk about the Great Fire, a conflagration that leveled the town in 1530. Luckily, the rebuilt ring of pastel-hued structures has survived almost intact. Two medieval stone gates guard the entrance to Zachariase Z Hradce, a vast square bounded on one end by a late-Renaissance château. There's definitely a small-town sensibility in Telc: Hardware stores and a drogerie selling soaps, mops, and brooms are found alongside a handful of souvenir shops, and locals buying daily necessities almost always outnumber the very few tourists.
POPULATION 6,000 HOW TO GET THERE Telc is less than 100 miles southeast of Prague; it's a two-hour drive from the Czech capital. WHERE TO STAY Hotel Celerin (43 Namesti Zachariase Z Hradce; 420-56/724-3477; doubles from $50) has spacious rooms overlooking the main square. WHERE TO EAT U Marusky (28 Palackeho; 420-56/722-3866; lunch for two $10) serves upscale pub food and frothy mugs of Platan Regent, an excellent Czech beer.

4 Castle Combe
Tucked into a verdant valley in the Cotswolds are a 14th-century house (now a hotel) and a clutch of stone cottages beside a trout stream. Castle Combe was once a thriving center of the cloth trade, but now the most exciting event that's likely to happen here is an alfresco display of a 16th-century folk dance known as a morris: on one recent rainy day, a stalwart troupe in outrageous costumes bounded about while a small audience took shelter beneath a 14th-century carved stone cross that marks the site of the town's former wool market.
POPULATION 347 HOW TO GET THERE Castle Combe is 85 miles west of London; regular train service runs to Chippenham. WHERE TO STAY The castle for which the village was named no longer exists, but you can book a room in the Manor House Hotel (Castle Combe; 44-1249/782-206; doubles from $228). WHERE TO EAT Call ahead for high tea at the popular Fosse Farmhouse (Nettleton Shrub, Nettleton; 44-1249/782-286; high tea for two $13).

5 Chalfont St. Giles
When John Milton fled London's Great Plague in 1665, it took him almost 24 hours to travel the 25 miles to Chalfont St. Giles. Today, the 11th-century village is only 40 minutes away by car. But Milton's cottage—where he finished Paradise Lost—still stands (it was to have been shipped to America in 1887, but Queen Victoria said no). William Penn, the Quaker who gave his name to Pennsylvania, is buried in town as well, alongside his first and second wives.
POPULATION 6,600 HOW TO GET THERE Chalfont St. Giles is west of London; take the A40 to the A413. WHERE TO STAY There are seven classic British pubs here; the best is the White Hart (Three Households; 44-149/487-2441; doubles from $138). Four of its 11 rooms are housed in former stables. WHERE TO EAT Try the smoked salmon fish cakes at the pub (dinner for two $80).


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