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The New Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, now gives Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” more space.
The New Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, now gives Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” more space. (iStock)

While the return of tourism might not have been quite as triumphant as we would have hoped for back at the start of 2021, this past year still saw plenty of infrastructure for leisure and culture come on line throughout Europe. When the time is right to travel again, here are a few new places and activities set to educate, thrill and delight us.

Absorb art at the New Munch Museum: The tormented soul depicted in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” has one less source of frustration since he moved from cramped quarters to a spacious waterfront building named after the artist behind this grim series of paintings. Oslo’s 13-story, state-of-the-art museum which cost $260 million to build opened to the public on Oct. 22. The slick gray tower, which appears to be bending over backward, houses more than 26,000 pieces of art and personal effects, making it one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist. Munch’s best-known work, The Scream, appears here in three different guises – painting, crayon and lithograph – but only one version at a time is on display. The works of art switch on an hourly basis. Thematic exhibitions introduce viewers to the various media in which Munch worked and display everyday objects from his life, while the temporary exhibition space pairs his work with other prominent artists. Online: munchmuseet.no

Hike the Asia/Europe divide: This summer saw the opening of a 40-mile section of the Transcaucasian Trail. The trail, which is meant to be completed over four days, passes through the ancient and mystical country of Georgia. Hikers pass along the vast plains and towering peaks of the mighty Caucasus Mountain range at heights reaching 6,500 feet above sea level. Overnight stays on the route between Mestia and Ushguli take place in remote guest houses, including those in the land of a people known as the Svaneti, where 8th-century stone “skyscrapers” still stand watch. The trail is part of a much larger project set to span three countries (Azerbaijan and Armenia) and stretch close to 1,000 miles between the Black and Caspian Seas upon completion. Online: transcaucasiantrail.org/en/home

Moonbike in France: Those who find snowmobiles off-putting due to their loud engines and noxious fumes can now enjoy an experience closer to nature by hopping on board a moonbike, an electric motorbike with a track on the back and a ski at the front. Riders achieve speeds approximating 26 miles per hour as they zip along the snowy pistes. The bikes are now available for rent at more than a dozen French ski resorts, including La Plagne. Tours led by a guide are offered in the early evening, after the slopes have closed for the day. A half-hour session goes for 60 euros. Online: tinyurl.com/4wsmn26v

Surf the Alps: Since May, Alaïa Bay in the city of Sion has brought surfing action to the heart of the Swiss Alps. Wavegarden’s fifth such facility worldwide is billed as the first of its kind in continental Europe. The waves generated here are suited to all ability levels, from pros to newcomers to the sport. Air and tube riding sections are also offered. The wave garden will operate throughout the year. The cost of a 90-minute intro to the sport, including half an hour of coaching and one hour in the water, starts at 129 Swiss Francs, about $140. Online: alaiabay.ch

Tiptoe through the treetops: The Senda dil Dragun, or Dragon’s Path, is a milelong walkway built at the height of the surrounding treetops. This treetop path in Laax in southeast Switzerland, which opened in July, is described as the longest such walkway in the world. The family-friendly facility offers a tower with a slide and three viewing platforms for taking in the local flora and fauna. The trail remains open, weather permitting, throughout the winter season. Adult entry costs 16 CHF, about $17.40. Online: tinyurl.com/2p8hewu6

Ride the rails while asleep: Since mid-December, the Austrian Railway (ÖBB) sleeper train between Vienna, Austria, and Paris, France, has been back on track. Passengers along the 870-mile route can choose from three comfort levels, from a seat in a six-person compartment to a single cabin. Solo travelers can rest assured they’ll be assigned cabins with same-sex roommates. Trains run three times weekly, and the journey takes about 10 hours. Prices for seats booked well in advance start at just 29.90 euros. Online: tinyurl.com/hphu6xet

Catapult to happiness: The massive, trippy Tomorrowland electronic dance festival held in Boom, Belgium, has its very own roller coaster, which makes its permanent home in the Plopsaland De Panne amusement park, also in Belgium. The attraction, voted the best new coaster in Europe in 2021, is described as the continent’s first extreme spinning coaster. Passengers on "The Ride to Happiness by Tomorrowland" are catapulted to speeds of up to 55 mph as they’re flipped over backwards in the freely rotating cars. A special soundtrack reminds passengers of the ride’s festival connection. Online: tinyurl.com/ycyypuvy

Relive history at Puy du Fou Espana: Puy du Fou is a special kind of theme park that debuted in France in 1977. Rather than offering the traditional attractions, the parks’ draws are lavish portrayals of fictional events set against historical backdrops. Elaborate costumes and special effects have made these shows hits with the public. In 2019, a new show opened in the Spanish city of Toledo, a night spectacle offering a mesmerizing trip through the history of Spain. In 2021, a theme park made up of four themed villages, including a medieval marketplace, was opened there. Six shows inspired by real events and legends play out several times a day. The original evening show, The Toledo Dream, offers 1500 years of Spanish history brought to life by 200 actors. The shows are acted out in Spanish, with simultaneous translation into English offered via visitors’ own smartphones. The 2022 season is set to open on March 19. Online: tinyurl.com/4rm5ddjv


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