Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Faith and Fun in Helsinki’s Finest Churches

Karuna Church, Helsinki, FinlandStrong incense emanating from censers in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. An organ concert in an iconic Lutheran cathedral. Utter silence in a modern chapel in a busy area of Helsinki. A wedding in a church built into a rock. A chorale by Finland’s most famous composer ringing from the bell tower of an Art Nouveau church. My experiences in the city’s churches continually surprised me, surpassing mere architecture, history, and religious tradition (although all of those abound in Helsinki’s houses or worship), and visiting them became one long series of unexpected delights. Read about the top five churches in Helsinki >


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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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Hidden Jewels Far From Croatia’s Coast in the City of Varaždin

Keglevic Palace, Varazdin, CroatiaWhether you’re traveling by car, bus, foot, or sailboat, the spectacular coast of Croatia, with its beaches, islands, and coastal cities and towns will etch its way into your memory as one of the most beautiful spots in Europe. But I also wanted to see the interior of the country, where the vibe is decidedly un-Mediterranean and you know you’re in Central Europe. That meant time in Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and a day trip to the lovely city of Varaždin. A two-hour train ride from the capital affords views of the countryside and the occasional pheasant wandering by. Once I arrived here, however, it was all about the flowers and parks as well as a wonderful collection of baroque and rococo architecture. Read more about the top five buildings in Varaždin >


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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 >


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Visiting the Best Churches in Detroit, Michigan

Fort Street Presbyterian Church, Detroit, MichiganConsistently ranked among the top 10 U.S. cities known for their architecture, Detroit, Michigan, boasts a wide variety of fantastic structures: private mansions, corporate skyscrapers, legendary hotels and theaters, and spectacular churches. This latter group has been painfully decimated by retreating populations, but, although their congregations may have withered, their edifices remain stalwart evidence of the city’s admirable built environment. Read more about the top five churches in Detroit >


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A Baroque Masterpiece in the Center of Ljubljana, Slovenia

St. Nicholas Cathedral, Ljubljana, SloveniaThe city of Ljubljana seems to have been created for its residents and visitors to spend a lot of time outside. Whether you’re kayaking down the lazy Ljubljanica River, exploring lovely Prešeren Square and one of the top five bridges in the world, climbing the hill up to the castle, or romping around some fantastic parks, Ljubljana inevitably draws you outdoors for long stretches at a time. But the capital of Slovenia is also one of the wettest cities in Europe, which means you’ll be spending some time indoors as well. And one of the best places to do that is the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, a truly spectacular Baroque house of worship in the heart of the city. Read more about it >


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The Best Artistic Depictions of Palm Sunday

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New YorkThis coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, a key date in the Christian calendar when millions of Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem — a fateful day that launches Holy Week. Depicted in art for centuries, Palm Sunday is an unmistakable scene, whether it’s been rendered on a canvas or, as in most of the ones that really impressed me, stained glass. Read more about the top five Palm Sundays >