Just a few hours’ drive east from Venice, one of the most-visited places in Europe, lies a magical land that few Americans ever consider: Slovenia.
While Europeans have discovered Slovenia in droves, there are reasons for its obscurity among us Yanks. Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is hard to pronounce — Lyoo-blee-YAH-na — and impossible to spell. Many of us secretly sympathized with President Bush when he confused Slovenia with Slovakia, another country that didn’t exist when most of us learned geography.
My mother always counseled us not to have a nervous breakdown in August. “That’s when all the psychiatrists go on vacation,” she explained. If you needed medical guidance in the month before Labor Day, she added, your best shot was to hang out on the beaches of Cape Cod and the Islands, because that’s where they all went.
There’s something about the sight of snowy peaks that instantly cools you off, even in the midst of a long, hot summer.
Whether wandering around the stately red-brick buildings of downtown Denver or prowling its pretty Victorian neighborhoods, one never loses sight of the shimmering Rockies that make the Mile-High City so picturesque. Amid the bright, clear mountain sunshine, Colorado’s capital offers a breezy, verdant summer retreat, along with plenty of culture to fill the non-skiing months.
Barcelona may be famous for its elegant and surrealistic architecture, but in summertime all the action is out of doors.
The city has its interior pleasures too, of course, but its museums take second place compared to the allure of its beaches, parks and neighborhoods adorned with Gaudi buildings. (Madrid, in contrast, is an indoor city the way New York is: its top sites are museums, and I once spent a half-hour vainly searching for a park — even just a shady bench — to enjoy a picnic lunch.)
If you prefer the strains of Mozart and the strokes of Picasso to the feeling of sand between your toes, head to the Berkshires this summer.
New England’s most storied arts retreat is nestled into the deceptively rural swath along the New York-Massachusetts border, a region named for its lush green mountains. I say deceptive because the bucolic setting, with its fresh breezes and homespun clapboard buildings, has a low-key vibe that belies the intensity of its fine-arts scene.