Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Top 5 Buildings in Nuremberg, Germany

Church of Our Lady, Nuremberg, GermanyI was spending the second day of my weeklong jaunt through the Christmas markets of Germany in Nuremberg, a city long associated with the trials of Nazi war criminals in the mid-1940s. But this wonderfully charming city with a very deep history has so much more to offer than the notoriety of that brief period, including some very impressive architecture. Read about the top five buildings in Nuremberg >


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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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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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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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Missoula Minus the Mountains: The Best Buildings to See When Smoke Erases the Views

The Babs, Missoula, MontanaWhile spending a couple of weeks in some of the most beautiful parks in the U.S. Rocky Mountains, I took a city break with a couple of days in Missoula, Montana. The smoke from forest fires hung in the air, giving the city an ashy-gray tint that obliterated the views of the mountains. Up close, however, Missoula’s most attractive buildings stand out, and when the smoke clears, you really get to see why this city and its architecture — whether in the historic districts, downtown, or on the campus of the University of Montana — are so attractive. Read more about the top five buildings in Missoula, Montana >


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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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Five Fun Things to See and Do in Europe’s Emptiest Country

Skógasafn, IcelandHigh in the North Atlantic, Iceland floats just below the Arctic Circle, the perfect resting spot for travelers shuttling between North America and Europe. Here in the Land of Fire and Ice, the most sparsely populated country in Europe, you can easily see both, sometimes in spectacular and awesome displays of erupting volcanoes or calving icebergs. Not everything here is so dramatic, of course, and you can appreciate this island nation of fewer than half a million people with much more sedate activities, like soaking in a geothermal pool and spying the most adorable birds on earth. Read more about the top five things to see and do in Iceland >