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25 Secret European Villages

11 Arnis
Technically, Arnis is a city— albeit Germany's smallest. But this spit of land extending into the Schlei fjord—which runs through the east coast of Schleswig-Holstein, just south of Denmark—hardly has the feel of a buzzing metropolis: there's just one main street. Most residents can trace their families back to the generation of fishermen and boatbuilders who helped found Arnis in 1667, giving the Teutonic village the air of a New England coastal town.
POPULATION 382 HOW TO GET THERE Arnis is 92 miles north of Hamburg. WHERE TO STAY The nearest lodging is the Hotel Stadt Kappeln in Kappeln, 21/2 miles down the road (36 Schmiedestrasse; 49-4642/4021; doubles from $78). WHERE TO EAT Schleiperla (Strandweg; 49-4642/2085; dinner for two $62) serves no-frills seafood.

12 Cochem
The Rhine may be Germany's best-known wine region, but there's a stretch of the Moselle Valley that's a little secret among wine cognoscenti—especially fans of the dry white Riesling produced here. On a dramatic bend in the river is Cochem, a medieval village dominated by the neo-Gothic Reichsburg castle (the original was built in the 11th century, destroyed in 1689, and rebuilt in 1868). Surrounding hillsides are covered with 1,200 acres of terraced vineyards, most of which offer tours and tastings.
POPULATION 5,700 HOW TO GET THERE Cochem is 56 miles south of Bonn and 106 miles west of Frankfurt. WHERE TO STAY Most suites at the Moselromantik Hotel Kessler Meyer (12 Am Reilsbach; 49-2671/4600; doubles from $142) command impressive vistas; room No. 53 has prime 180-degree views of the river. WHERE TO EAT Sample that famous Riesling with Arthur Schmitz, proprietor of the Antique Weinstube Alte Gutssehanke (6 Schlossstrasse; 49-2671/8950), who organizes tastings from a vast collection that includes varietals from his own vineyard.

13 Molyvdoskepasti
Molyvdoskepasti sits just below an Albanian border crossing station which reopened last fall after being sealed nearly 60 years ago following World War II and the beginning of Communist rule in Albania. While its neighbor to the north has changed, much of this Greek village is still as it was before the war, with three Byzantine churches, a tsipouro (moonshine) distillery, an 800-year-old monastery, itinerant tinkers shining pots in the main square, and grizzled retirees sipping coffee with young soldiers in open-air cafés. The pristine Voidomatis River, the cleanest in Europe, is not far from Molyvdoskepasti and is perfect for white-water rafting.
POPULATION 103 HOW TO GET THERE Molyvdoskepasti is an hour's drive north of Ioánnina. WHERE TO STAY Townspeople say that their little village is where Europe begins, pointing to the upscale, clubby Hotel Bourazani (30-265/506-1320; doubles from $65) as evidence. WHERE TO EAT The hotel's dining room (dinner for two $54) offers wild boar, venison, and other game dishes.

14 Papingo/Mikro Papingo
There's not a whitewashed house or thong bikini in sight in the most traditional and, some would argue, most beautiful region in Greece. The Zagorohoria, a ring of 46 villages surrounding the 2,950-foot-deep Vikos Gorge (the deepest in the world), are known for their distinctive gray stone architecture. At the top of the Gamila Massif mountain range are Papingo and Mikro (Little) Papingo, two towns that offer something for everyone. Adventurers hike Vikos Gorge; sun-seekers bask on the rocks around a mountain-fed swimming hole; and history buffs wander cobblestoned paths leading to 18th-century churches and slate-roofed cottages.
POPULATION Papingo: 280; Mikro Papingo: 77 HOW TO GET THERE Just one mile apart, both towns are a 45-minute drive up a winding mountain road from Ioánnina, a 45-minute flight from Athens. WHERE TO STAY The rustic Papaevangelou Inn (30-265/304-1988; doubles from $76) has the best sunset views in Papingo. WHERE TO EAT Estiatorio (30-265/342-108; dinner for two $20) serves spanakopita and stuffed tomatoes.

15 Giethoorn
This 13th-century village has rivers and canals instead of streets. At rush hour, about the only traffic you'll encounter is villagers in push boats, taking their sheep out to pasture. Fanfare, a popular Dutch movie, was filmed here in 1958, and the town seems to have modeled itself to reflect the movie's vibrant, friendly spirit: the houses have massive gardens bursting with pink, yellow, and white tulips, and almost everyone sailing by calls out hello.
POPULATION 2,500 HOW TO GET THERE Giethoorn is an easy 93-mile drive northeast of Amsterdam. WHERE TO STAY Experience the town's slower pace by renting a boat and a waterside bungalow. Zwaantje (37 Hylkemaweg; 31-644/070-034; doubles from $48; boat rentals from $16) is a six-bedroom A-frame in the village center. WHERE TO EAT The specialty at the Fanfare Café (68 Binnenpad; 31-521/361-600; dinner for two $66) is baked eel.


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