Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The Churches of Pittsburgh: Very Diverse, All Beautiful

From the top of Mount Washington, I took in the fantastic view of the skyline of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of the best urban views in the United States. Connected to the land across the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers by its iconic yellow bridges, this pie-shaped section of the city rises heavenward with its shiny skyscrapers, which (unfortunately) effectively hide one of the city’s lower-rise assets: its gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Pittsburgh >

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From 1322 to Today, Tallinn’s Town Hall Was Built to Last

Town Hall, Tallinn, EstoniaIn 2005, the Town Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, received second prize in the category of Conservation of Architectural Heritage at the European Heritage Awards. Located in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, Town Hall isn’t the largest one I’ve ever seen, nor the grandest or most elaborate, but it’s certainly charming and irrefutably resilient: For nearly 700 years, this structure has weathered everything from its critical role in the then-independent city to its subordination under Soviet Communism to its rebirth as Tallinn’s hub. And, so, that award was very well-deserved. Read more about it >


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Appreciating Alabama’s Architectural Heritage

Steiner-Lobman and Teague Hardware BuildingsIn between outdriving projected tornado paths through central Alabama and enduring a fierce electrical storm that knocked out power in my hotel in Montgomery, I had ample time to explore many of the state’s highlights, from a massive battleship to a lazy cruise on the Alabama River to key civil rights sites. Through it all, I kept admiring some remarkable structures, many of historical and architectural significance that have become national landmarks over the years. Read more about the top five buildings in Alabama >


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The Perfect Place for Your Afterlife to Begin (and Your Current Life to Be Enriched)

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New YorkBefore picnicking here was banned, it was the second most-visited tourist attraction in New York State, luring 500,000 people every year in the 1860s, a number rivaled solely by Niagara Falls. In the heart of Brooklyn, folks would gather to enjoy the pastoral setting of the lush 478 acres, flush with countless varieties of trees and flowering shrubs, ponds, valleys, winding lanes, and open vistas from the highest natural point in Brooklyn of the surrounding communities and as far away as Manhattan. A few of these people might have even been there to acknowledge this place’s primary objective: a chance to visit their deceased friends and relatives buried within its grounds. Now, 181 years after it was founded, Green-Wood Cemetery remains one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, and tourists still come to visit, whether or not they have ancestors resting here in peace. Read more >


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Edinburgh’s Ecclesiastical Highlights

St. Paul's and St. George's Church, Edinburgh, ScotlandEdinburgh, Scotland, was built to last. I’ve never seen a sturdier-looking city, as if nothing could ever destroy it (even though the Vikings, English, and Germans have all tried). Woven into its architectural fabric, I found a tremendous collection of some of the most beautiful bank buildings in Scotland as well as many stunning churches. These houses of worship date back centuries, and many of their towers and spires still serve as both a call to worship and a helpful visual orientation to this city’s wonderful skyline, in both New Town and Old Town. Read about the top five churches in Edinburgh >


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Vicksburg National Military Park: The Civil War and a Lesson in Division

Arkansas Monument, Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, MississippiThe threat of yet another idiotic government shutdown in Washington, D.C., was endangering my plan for the next day while I was traveling around Mississippi. If the shutdown proceeded, national parks would close, and I had already planned to spend multiple hours at Vicksburg National Military Park. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, the shutdown was averted, and I found the gate to the park opened when I arrived — the entrance into one of the top Civil War historic sites in the United States. Read more about it >


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The Five Most Beautiful Churches in London, England

St. Lawrence Jewry, London, EnglandMy first trip to London was back in 1997, when I was covering a conference about corporate image. Wisely, I added a few days onto that business trip for myself. Of course, that wasn’t enough time to explore one of the world’s greatest cities, even if I was trying to limit myself to, say, museums or markets or the theater. Although the tube is a terrifically convenient mode of transportation to reach so many sights, London was made for walking, the best way to experience England’s biggest and best city. Even on my more recent trip to the British capital, I never knew what I’d stumble upon, from rows of bookstores to a museum of clocks. History seems to abound on every street, kept visible by the city’s fantastic architecture, in particular its churches. Read about the top five churches in London >