Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Croatia’s Best Museums

Croatian Architecture MuseumFor one of Europe’s smaller countries (26th in size; 30th in population), Croatia boasts an impressive abundance of museums. Zagreb alone has 30. They cover the usual suspects — art, archaeological, ethnographic, historical, natural science, and so on — but you’ll also be able to pop into a railway museum, or one dedicated to arts and crafts. Their collective total of more than five million objects reflects the depth of things to see, learn about, and shape your understanding of this complex country — that is, when you can tear yourself away from Croatia’s gorgeous beaches and outstanding national parks. Read more >


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A Good Laugh Is a Mighty Good Thing

Seals in a Bathtub, Portland, OregonHerman Melville said it best in Moby-Dick: “A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing.” Published in 1851, Melville’s statement could not be more pertinent today. Let’s face it: In light of a disturbing pandemic, food and hand sanitizer shortages, insufficient health care procedures, quarantines, and a constant barrage of bad news and “Breaking News” from CNN that instantly makes you think, “What fresh hell is this?!”, we need a good laugh to relieve the tension, if only for a moment or two. Without further ado, from my travels around the world, here are the top five sights that will make you laugh >


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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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Arcades Provide Sheltered — and Beautiful — Walkways Around the World

Mirogoj Cemetery, Zagreb, CroatiaSuch a simple and practical idea: the creation of the arcade — a succession of contiguous arches, each supported by columns. You’ll see them all over the world, from Salisbury Cathedral in England to the Great Mosque of Damascus in Syria to the Old Town streets of Pisa, Italy. These sheltered walkways, often lined with shops, provide an intermission for pedestrians trying to escape torrential rains, bitter snows, blistering sunshine, and soggy/muddy/icy streets. And they do so with style and elegance. Read about the world’s top five arcades >


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War: What Is It Bad For? Images at War Photo Limited in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some people may argue that we live in safer times, that the occurrence of war is less frequent than only a century ago, and that the seemingly endless stream of violence that inundates us is really the result, not of actual rising numbers of belligerent actions, but of manipulative media executives and lightning-fast technology that brings the latest flare-ups into our homes immediately. Others say the world has become alarmingly dangerous, that no safe place exists, and that today’s headlines verify it all: North Korea’s aggressive saber-rattling, an unstable and benighted U.S. president constantly vomiting warlike rhetoric, sanguinary Islamist extremists happily murdering everyone, from senior citizens to infants to themselves, without a second thought.

What does all this have to do with travel? Quite a bit: It has closed off entire countries to us, has put us at unease in even “safe” locations, and has lengthened security queue times everywhere, from airports to museums to arenas. Fortunately, many of us will never experience war firsthand. But if you want a good look at its endless ramifications, War Photo Limited, a fantastic little museum in Dubrovnik, Croatia, is one place where you can experience it — safely — through the work of talented individuals with cameras, an instinctive sense of timing, and a touch of luck. The gripping and disturbing images on display will haunt you, but they will also make you appreciate everything that you have. Read more >


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Day-tripping to Lokrum, Dubrovnik’s Next-door Island Neighbor

Lokrum, CroatiaWhen the enormous cruise ships sailed into Dubrovnik, Croatia, and discharged hundreds of tourists who jammed the main street of the Old Town in search of thimbles and shot glasses with a picture of the city on them, it was time for me to escape for a while. One of the best and easiest ways to retreat from the hordes is to hop on a ferry for the short cruise to Lokrum, the green island just about 2,000 feet — yet an entire world — away. Read more >


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Sunday Driving, Any Day of the Week

Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park, South DakotaRemember when you would get in your car with your family or a friend or two and go for a leisurely drive, with no particular agenda or destination? If so, it’s probably a memory from a long time ago, when driving wasn’t a hassle, when roads weren’t littered with potholes and road ragers, when traffic was light, and when gasoline and tolls were affordable. But anyone eager to hit the road just for the heck of it shouldn’t be discouraged. There are still plenty of places where a casual drive — punctuated by mesmerizing scenery — is delightfully possible. Read more about the top five drives in the world >