‘Life looks better from the banks of an inland sea’
Sometimes, even the most turbulent seasons can be soothed into serenity by a sighting of waves flowing softly to land. Ask Maxim Gorky. Exiled from Russia in the wake of the Moscow uprising of 1905 (a pre-cursor to the revolution that would ensue in 1917) and his imprisonment in St Petersburg, the great author would find himself at the edge of Lake Saimaa in Finland. And though he was already divorced from her, he would write to his first wife, Ekaterina Volzhina, and tell her: “It’s beautiful here, like a fairy tale.”
He had a point. Life usually looks better on the bank of an inland expanse of water – and Europe is awash with such locations. From Scandinavia to the Balkans via northern Italy and the quieter corners of Britain, the vision of a hot day reflected in the mirror of a lake will always enhance a few days (or a fortnight) of escapism, whether the time is used for relaxation, exploration or activity. The following 20 natural joys are all distinct entities, yet all have something in common. You may want to glimpse them in the coming months. ferry trip to Peschiera at the opposite end). From £561 a head – flights extra. within its territory, 30 miles south of Zurich. Switzerland also specialises in train lines that inch through glorious rocky vistas and Expressions Holidays (01392 441245; expressionsholidays. co.uk) salutes this in its By Rail to Lake Lucerne trip. This seven-night tour rolls in from London via Paris and Zurich, slumbers in a five-star hotel in Weggis on the north shore, and includes a three-day rail pass for wider exploration. From £1,960 per person including train travel. Finland’s abundance of lakes seeps into its urban areas. Tampere is a case in point – the third-biggest city in the country, infused with a postindustrial charm by its position at the meeting of Lakes Nasijarvi and Pyhajarvi (the Tammerkoski Rapids are a splash-and-spray divider). With attractions such as the Nasinneula Observation Tower (sarkanniemi.fi), it makes for a niche but alluring mini-break. A three-night stay at the four-star Grand Hotel Tammer, flying from Heathrow on July 12, starts at £508 a head with Expedia (020 3684 2907; expedia.co.uk). Sweden can boast the biggest lake in the European Union in Lake Vanern, but this tiny (in comparison) neighbour of the 2,180 sq mile behemoth opens a window on to the calm Scandinavian condition. Last September saw the installation of five glass-sided cabins on Henriksholm, a sliver of island in the middle of Lake Animmen (which lies 100 miles north-east of Gothenburg) – the idea being that guests learn to switch off in a pristine rural setting. The cabins contain double beds and can be hired from 3,995 krona (£343) per person for a three-night full-board stay at vastsverige.com/en/72hcabin.
If you tire of the shore, you can always get out on the water
Plan a pilgrimage to the Church of the Assumption on Lake Bled in Slovenia, above; Hotel Eden Roc on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore, below left