Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


Leave a comment

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 >

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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 >


Leave a comment

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 >


Leave a comment

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 >


4 Comments

Five Doors to Admire Before You Open Them

House of the Blackhead, Tallinn, EstoniaWe pass through doors countless times every day — in our home, our workplace, the subway, elevators, barns, garages. Most are fairly unremarkable, utilitarian means of egress. But every now and then, a masterfully crafted door stands out in the crowd, arresting our attention, hinting at something remarkable behind it and enticing us to go inside and discover the treasures or surprises awaiting us on the other side. These are my top five doors in the world. Read more >


1 Comment

Authentic Estonian Food Among the Tourist Traps

I had spent a full day in Estonia outside of Tallinn’s Old Town — something few tourists to this fairy tale city do — with a knowledgeable private guide who took me to Lahemaa National Park, a few of its outstanding manor houses, and a rustic beach town where we had lunch at a bare-bones cafeteria-style eatery filled with Estonians enjoying a lovely summer day along the coast of one of the bays at the edges of the Gulf of Finland. When I returned to the terrific Savoy Boutique Hotel in the Old Town, I was still in a local frame of mind and began my search for some authentic Estonian food, perhaps not served by a wait staff dressed in medieval garb and setting my place with silver “weapons” to attack my meal. That meant avoiding Tallinn’s beautiful Town Hall Square, but it didn’t take very long at all before I found what I was looking for at Kuldse Notsu Kõrts, or the “Golden Piglet Inn.” Read more >


Leave a comment

My Own Private Estonia

Sagadi ManorAfter three days in the captivating capital of Estonia, it was time to escape from the almost inescapable clusters of day-tripping tourists from massive cruise ships who have inadvertently edged Tallinn toward becoming a Disney-esque caricature of itself. So I hit the road with Martin, a local university student majoring in social sciences, for a private look at the Estonia that wasn’t overflowing with medieval-themed restaurants and countless amber shops. Read more >