Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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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Memorials to Remember

Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, AlabamaOn the last Monday of every May, Americans celebrate Memorial Day, a national observance of the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. Of course, other countries have their own version of this day, and throughout the world you’ll see memorials dedicated to those who have fought for their country. Although war seems to be the most popular subject, it doesn’t hold a monopoly on memorials, which could commemorate anything from a famous leader to a national movement. Read about the top five memorials >


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A Royal Park for Commoners in Tallinn, Estonia

Kadriorg Park, Tallinn, EstoniaThe built environment of Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, is a treasure trove of architectural grandeur and styles, an enchanting conglomeration of beautiful churches, defensive walls and gates, towers, museums, palaces, and houses with eye-catching weather vanes. There are parks, too, particularly along the eastern fringe, but I wanted to spend a full day experiencing the city’s best park — without the tourist crowds that fill the streets of Old Town — so I hopped on a convenient tram and headed to Kadriorg Park, built by a Russian czar and open to the public ever since it was established exactly 300 years ago. Read more >


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Skeletons and Skulls That Will Keep You Up All Night

St. Peter in Chains, Rome, ItalyAs Halloween approaches, children — and more than a few adults — are deciding on their costume for this spooky holiday of ghosts, goblins, candy, and horror flicks. Skeletons have always been a staple costume, whether it’s a glow-in-the-dark bodysuit variety or a mask or makeup job largely hidden by an oversized hood on a Grim Reaper outfit. As for the other 364 days of the year, real ones have long been put on display for the devout to revere, and fake ones for Mexican communities to celebrate on the Day of the Dead. Skeletons and skulls have been depicted in art or gravestones for centuries as a symbol of our finite time on earth, fighting a guaranteed losing battle against the sand hourglass. They could be positively frightening (say, in the promotional poster for the movie Evil Dead 2) or rather amusing (as in a Scooby-Doo episode). However you react to them, they invariably promise the same denouement: The end is always near. Read more about the top five skeletons and skulls in the world >


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Affordable Luxury in the Heart of Tallinn, Estonia

I wanted to stay within the walls of Tallinn, Estonia’s Old Town, a top UNESCO Heritage Site, but a bit removed from the tourist bull’s-eye of Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square). Upon my first glance at the Savoy Boutique Hotel, I knew I had found what I was searching for: a surprisingly affordable luxury hotel in a perfect location with an enviable list of amenities and services. Read more >


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Peeping Into Kitchens and Hiding From the Soviets in Tallinn’s Kiek in de Kök

Kiek in de Kok, Tallinn, EstoniaDeclared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, survives as one of Europe’s best preserved medieval fortifications. As I emerged from my hotel, the wonderful Savoy Boutique Hotel, every day, I was completely enchanted by its beautiful churches, cobblestone streets, old merchant houses, and medieval gates around its perimeter. The city’s most distinctive feature — the defensive wall around it — incorporates a couple of dozen towers. One particular tower, Kiek in de Kök, boasts an unusually wild history. In the 16th century, soldiers joked that they could look through the windows on the top level into the kitchens of the homes beneath them, and, in the 20th century, criminals and punk rockers could flee from police during the Soviets’ crushing 50-year-hold on Estonia in the tunnels underneath the tower. Read more >


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The Best Clocks in the World Tell More Than Time

Holy Spirit Church clock, Tallinn, EstoniaWhen you fall back this weekend, take a good look at the clock or wristwatch you’re adjusting. Is it a strictly functional device that displays the inexorable march of time? Or is it a work of art? Clocks have come a long way since sundials and do more than merely inform you that you have arrived early at an airport or overslept again. The best ones also tell great stories — or have great stories told about them. Read more about the top five clocks in the world >