Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The Legacy of Carl Ludvig Engel

Pulpit, Turku Cathedral, FinlandI had no idea who Carl Ludvig Engel was. But as I made my way around Finland, his name kept popping up. I would be awed by a fantastic cathedral and later on find out Engel was the architect. I would admire a stately municipal building and then discover that Engel was the architect for that, too. And his name kept reappearing, in houses and theaters and parks. I was soon on the hunt for more of Engel’s works, and they were pretty easy to find. Read about Engel’s top five works >


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The Best of Annapolis Architecture

Anne Arundel County Circuit Courthouse, Annapolis, MarylandA day trip from my wonderful accommodations in Dover, Delaware, brought me across state lines to Maryland. I was immediately enamored by Annapolis, now one of my favorite small U.S. cities, thanks in no small part to some outstanding structures, from utterly charming homes along brick sidewalks to impressive churches to the spectacular campus of the United States Naval Academy. Read about the top five buildings in Annapolis >


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Staying at the Gates of Namibia’s Best National Park

Giraffe, Etosha Safari LodgeI was traveling from one desert camp in Namibia to the next. From the fantastic Doro Nawas Camp in Damaraland, I drove north, for about 200 miles, through surrealistic landscapes. With fresh memories of a flawless stay at Doro Nawas, I was setting up my next destination, Etosha Safari Lodge, for some very high expectations. Within striking distance of Etosha National Park, the lodge met every single one of them. And when the very first creature to greet me was a curious giraffe, it did, indeed, surpass them. Read about it >


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Amsterdam’s Architectural Treasures

Concert Hall, AmsterdamIt’s easy to fall into one of the 165 canals that course their way around Amsterdam, especially when you’re gawking at everything surrounding you. On average, 100 people do so every year (as well as about 35 cars and thousands of bicycles). I was careful to keep an eye on the often unprotected drop into the drink as I strode around the largest city in the Netherlands, admiring both those wonderfully characteristic slender canal houses with gabled roofs and the much grander megastructures that make this city so memorable. Read about the top five buildings in Amsterdam >


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The Highest-Quality Art in Norway

"The Scream"One of the world’s most renowned paintings is also one of its most disturbing and mysterious. Almost as famous for its history of thefts as for its quality and impact on the art world, The Scream anchors a tremendous collection of excellent art at Oslo’s National Gallery, Norway’s biggest and best art museum. This one piece alone makes a visit here necessary, but I found so many others that made a wonderfully lasting impression. Read about it >


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Busted: The World’s Best Heads

Bust of Queen VictoriaAn artist’s ability to carve a human head and have the result bear an uncanny likeness to the model never fails to impress me. Such busts may very well cause you to do a double-take, as you question yourself whether that is the real flesh-and-blood person, or their image re-created in marble, copper, stone, or whatever other material the sculptor has chosen to employ. Some, of course, rise head and shoulders above the rest. Read about the world’s top five busts >


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Scotland’s Spectacular Churches

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, ScotlandSome are so ancient, you can almost hear the ghosts of worshippers from nearly a millennium ago. The churches of Scotland, like much of the nation’s architectural inventory, are astoundingly sturdy-looking, as if nothing could ever destroy them. They’re also exquisitely beautiful, with the most delicate details that often belie their bulk. They continually impressed me as I made my two-week loop around this irresistible land. Read about the top five churches in Scotland >


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A Lakeside Dinner in Dover, Delaware

Root beer, McGlynns, Dover, DelawareFrom State Street Inn, my exceptional bed and breakfast in Dover, Delaware, I strolled through the Victorian Dover Historic District. Past Lakeside Cemetery, with an unsettling Hitchcockian number of black birds of prey perched on bare tree branches, I crossed over the adjacent placid Silver Lake. My destination was McGlynns Pub, my choice for this night’s dinner. A cool, slightly breezy evening drove everyone else inside, but I chose an outdoor table for its views of the lake and handsome waterfront houses, and the company of a forlorn injured Canada goose. Read about it >


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Canada’s Choicest Churches

Cathedral Church of St. James, TorontoBy 2029, an estimated 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost—victims of harsh weather, evaporating congregations, abandonment, deterioration, and deliberate razing. That’s nearly one-third of all the ecclesiastical buildings in the entire country, so you better hurry if you want to see some irreplaceable structures before they’re gone forever. Fortunately, my favorites (except one) seem pretty secure…for now. Read about the top five churches in Canada >


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Bourbon on Saturday, Church on Sunday

Georgetown Baptist Church, KentuckyKentucky produces approximately 95 percent of the world’s bourbon. That’s a lot of booze. And perhaps if Kentuckians imbibe a bit in what they don’t export, it may explain why, at last count, there are 5,011 churches in the Bluegrass State. That’s a lot of worshipping. And people in Kentucky are doing it in all sorts of structures, from what is barely more than a cabin to what could pass for an old Holiday Inn to cathedrals that easily rival anything in Europe. Read about the top five churches in Kentucky >