Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The Best Museums in the U.S. Capital

National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C.Most national capitals are their nation’s largest city. The American capital is a bit of an anomaly: Washington, D.C., doesn’t even crack the top 15. Yet, despite its comparatively smaller size, it has an embarrassment of riches, including more than 70 museums. Covering a wide array of topics, they can entertain and inform you on everything from art to postage stamps to espionage. Read more about the top five museums in Washington, D.C. >


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On the Wall

One of the world’s great fortified cities, Dubrovnik, Croatia, is unforgettable, from your arrival there to every moment you spend sheltered within the impressive defensive walls of the Old Town, drinking fine Croatian red wine, exploring ancient churches, admiring unique doorways, and popping into one of its museums. To get a different perspective of this unmistakable city, I went upstairs and took a 1.2-mile walk atop the walls that kept Dubrovnik safe for centuries. Read about it >


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Malbork Castle Will Hit You Like 10,125 Tons of Bricks

Malbork Castle, Malbork, PolandAs soon as I learned about the major attraction in Malbork, Poland, I knew I had to take a side trip from my base in Gdansk, an hour to the northwest by train. I couldn’t resist seeing the largest brick structure ever built—Malbork Castle. At the size of about 40 U.S. football fields and with its oldest parts going back to the 1200s, this massive complex had the sudden and significant impact on me that its statistics assured me it would. Read more about Malbork Castle >


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Denmark’s Five Best Churches

Holmen Church, Copenhagen, DenmarkWhen it comes to castles, Denmark is one of my favorite European nations, whether they’re watching over the coastline or dropped smack in the middle of the capital city. When it comes to churches, however, Denmark has some serious competition from its European neighbors. Despite that, this little nation of just under six million people has constructed some spectacular churches. Too bad only 3 percent of the population regularly attends services; they’re missing out on surrounding themselves with beauty. Read about the top five churches in Denmark >


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Milwaukee’s Gilded Age Glory

Germania Building, Milwaukee, WisconsinStaying at a hotel in downtown Milwaukee that used to be a Gimbels department store gave me easy access to many of the city’s best attractions, including the remnants of its Gilded Age. Industrious immigrants, including a tidal wave of Germans and other Eastern Europeans, boosted the city’s population so that, by 1900, it was the 14th largest city in the United States. The work of these determined newcomers coincided with America’s explosion of industrial achievements and economic expansion, and they left behind a legacy of fantastic structures in their “German Athens.” Read about the top five buildings in Milwaukee >


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How Great Thou Arch

Queenstown War Memorial, New ZealandThey seem simple: vertical curved structures that span an open space and may, or may not, support weight above it. Of course, arches are much more complicated than that, a complex balance of compression, stress, thrust, bracings, and transference. The Mesopotamians got the jump on them four thousand years ago, but it was the Romans who used them systematically in a wide range of structures, leading eventually to a worldwide adaptation of this most beautiful form. Read about the top five arches >


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Superb Structures in the “City of Soul”

Standard Life Building, Jackson, MississippiThe capital of Mississippi was within easy striking distance from my accommodations in Vicksburg, the wonderful Baer House Inn. In less than an hour, I had pulled into Jackson and was wandering its peaceful streets. In this city that is celebrating its 200th birthday this year, I found very little of its pre–Civil War built environment, thanks to its nearly wholesale destruction during that bloody conflict. However, a handful of survivors and some newer additions, all concentrated in a small walking distance, keep the city architecturally interesting. Read about the top five buildings in Jackson >


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Finland’s 10,000-Year-Old Time Capsule

National Museum of Finland, HelsinkiThe National Museum of Finland encapsulates the history and culture of this Nordic country in a nutshell — an extremely large nutshell. The shell itself is striking, an Art Nouveau architectural treasure that reflects the strong period of National Romanticism and beckons you to explore. Once I cracked that shell, I found a bounty of fascinating, interesting, and informative exhibits, including some arresting frescoes as soon as I stepped inside to purchase my admission ticket. Read more about it >


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The Curious Castle of Manitou Springs

Miramont Castle, Manitou Springs, ColoradoI couldn’t decide if it was beautiful or an eyesore, the creation of an imaginative designer or a lunatic. Either way, it most definitely was unusual. In Manitou Springs, Colorado, Miramont Castle stands as its oddest yet most irresistible attraction — a fantastic mansion, or the setting for a movie director’s spine-tingling chiller. With a convoluted history and a schizophrenic architectural style, I found it impossible to categorize what Miramont was. But I was most definitely glad that I saw it. Read about Miramont Castle >


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French Flair in North America

Maillou House, Quebec CityA French enclave on an English-speaking continent, Québec is a wonderful anomaly. Although Montreal is the Canadian province’s economic powerhouse, Québec City is its solid, more obvious connection to its French past, and its present — French is still the native language of more than 90 percent of its half-million citizens. Roaming its streets and alleys of low-rise stone houses, magnificent churches, and tempting cafés, I couldn’t help but feel transported to 18th- and 19th-century France. Among its beautiful edifices, there’s one building that’s so iconic to the city that it’s impossible to think of one without the other, and that you’re anywhere but in the capital of Québec. Read about the top five buildings in Québec City >