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Beauty = Happiness: My Trip to Central Europe

My husband and I just completed a trip to Bavaria followed by stops in cities and villages along the Danube River in Central Europe. This has been a dream come true trip for me. My husband dubbed this my “roots” tour of the area from which my paternal grandparents immigrated.

German architecture

Beauty of Rothenburg

Our route took us first to the town of Rothenburg described by Rick Steves as Germany’s fairy-tale dream town. This picturesque medieval town was perhaps my favorite stop.  From Rothenburg, we meandered along the Romantic Road (its real name!) in route to Fussen, a small town nestled in the foothills of the magnificent still-snow capped Alps. In route we discovered an improbably located pilgrimage church to the “scourged saviour”, featuring the art of Rococo.

Church of the Scourged Savior

The Art of Rococo

We toured Bavarian kings’ castles, including Neuschwanstein, the castle after which Disney’s Cinderella Castle was modeled.

German Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle


St. Stephen’s, a Baroque church in the little town of Passau, houses the largest pipe organ in the world.

largest pipe organ in Europe

St. Stephens’ pipe organ

I was transported to another place as we listened to the gorgeous organ music during a concert and admired the paintings and sculptures decorating this sacred space.

church in Passau Germany

St. Stephens’ Church


The world’s largest museum of Bohemian glass is also a part of this little town with its collection of 33,000 iridescent pieces.

Glass from Passau

Bohemian Glass


glass from Passau Germany

Bohemian Glass


We must have visited at least ten churches and almost as many palaces, each one more glorious than the one before.

European church artwork

Tapestry in Brataslava church


The art and architecture in Vienna, the synagogue, and beautiful bridges in Budapest overwhelmed our senses. Many of these places and their people suffered greatly from invasions, wars, and hostile occupations.

Vienna architecture


Vacations provide time for contemplation. Early in our tour I found myself contemplating and researching the concept of beauty. Beauty literally, not figuratively, nourishes my spirit. I can be transported from an ugly state to a state of wonder and awe in the presence of beauty (as can we all, of course).

From ancient to current philosophers, beauty has traditionally been counted among the ultimate values, along with goodness, truth, and justice. Plato called beauty a universal value.

Synagogue in Budapest

Synagogue in Budapest


In The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton weighs the feeling of walking into a McDonalds in the Westminster area of London compared to the feeling of entering Westminster Cathedral across the street. He theorizes,

“Because of the harsh lighting, the plastic furniture, and the cacophonous color scheme, one tends to feel anxious in the McDonalds. What one feels in the Westminster Cathedral, however, is a calmness brought on by a series of architectural and artistic decisions. The cathedral helps people to relax and reflect, whereas the fast food restaurant causes one to feel hurried or even stressed.


Beauty conjures up feelings associated with happiness.”

Beauty incorporates an aesthetic attitude which is described as, “The state of contemplating a subject with no other purpose than appreciating it.” The 18th century French writer Stendhal said beauty was “the promise of happiness”.

Vacations by their very nature help us escape the tensions and stress of every day life. But I can’t help feel the relaxation and refreshment I experienced on this trip was also due to the beauty I was privileged to experience. It’s not just our senses that are impacted by beauty — but our very soul.

Appreciating all the beauty I was privileged to behold not only fulfilled the promise of happiness, but the actuality.

Check Republic

Walled City on the Danube

(Notice how de Botton’s quote about beauty mentions architectural and artistic decisions that are intentioanlyl made by artisits to create beauty. Reminds me of our previous blog post when I discussed the Golden Ratio and the Seven Dimensions of Wellness!)

liz-kitchensLiz Kitchens is a writer and blogger.  Her blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige, reaches out to Lady Boomers, women of the Baby Boomer generation. Liz also blogs for Growing Bolder and Vibrant Nation, two sites devoted to aging issues. Liz conducts workshops on the health benefits of creativity and is an ambassador for the Creative Caregiving Initiative sponsored by the NCCA, The National Center for Creative Aging. Liz founded the Jeremiah Project, an after school and summer creative arts program designed to foster self esteem and encourage creative thinking among at risk middle school aged students.

Check out Liz’s blog, Be Brave. Lose The Beige, and follow her on Facebook.

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