Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Kraków’s Divine Churches

Church of the Transfiguration, Krakow, PolandKraków, like most other major cities in Poland, has lived through a tumultuous history. From glory days as the nation’s capital to a widespread conflagration that burned it to the ground, from being shunted aside under the Austrian Empire to resurgent pride when its most famous resident, Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, from intense air pollution from Soviet-built steelworks to its role as the country’s leading tourist destination, Kraków is a survivor. And, for centuries, its sturdy citizens have steadily found courage and hope in the city’s gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Kraków, Poland >


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Museum Mania in Stockholm, Sweden

Army Museum, Stockholm, SwedenStockholm, Sweden, invites you to be outdoors, with its perfect blend of parks, water, open spaces, and built environment. But when it’s time to head inside, the city makes that just as welcoming, with well over 50 museums to occupy your time. But which ones to choose? The traditional art and history museums? The ABBA Museum? The Museum of Spirits (of the alcoholic kind, not the supernatural)? The Royal Coin Cabinet? I’ll make it easy for you. Read about the top five museums in Stockholm >


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To See or Not to See: Denmark’s Kronborg Castle

Kronborg Castle Chapel, Helsingør, DenmarkThe decision is easy: yes, see it. But why the modified Shakespearean reference? Kronborg Castle, in the city of Helsingør, Denmark, is the setting for Hamlet. Although both the castle and the city capitalize on that distinction, it’s not true: Fictional Hamlet and his friends and enemies didn’t act out their tragic storylines here. Nevertheless, you can get your fill of their tale here as well as an abundance of history and architecture that has nothing to do with the prince of Denmark. Read more >


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Delicacies and History at Píwníca Rajców in Gdansk, Poland

Píwníca Rajców, Gdansk, PolandNight was already falling when I arrived in Gdansk, Poland, so further exploration of the city would have to wait until the next day. For now, I settled at an outdoor table at Píwníca Rajców, the first of many excellent restaurants throughout Poland (although Gdansk remained the best). Eating al fresco became the norm, a wonderful opportunity to enjoy outstanding meals while watching the daily life of local Poles unfold before me. And I enjoyed it all while listening to the sputtering water of the Neptune Fountain and the sounds of some very talented street musicians. Read more>


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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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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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Gdansk’s Elephant Restaurant Delivers in a Big Way

Elephant Restaurant, Gdansk, PolandEvery night while I was staying in Gdansk, Poland, I would find myself strolling along the Royal Way and the Long Market. Lured by its gravitational pull of meticulously reconstructed townhouses with wonderful facades, the easy mix of locals and tourists, and the pleasant sounds of bubbling water at the Neptune Fountain on one end of the strip and talented street performers creating beautiful violin music under the arches of the 16th-century Green Gate at the other, I found the heart of old Gdansk irresistible. I also found some outstanding restaurants in which to dine, including the very fine Elephant Restaurant. Read more >


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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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Kashubian Cuisine Will Take You by Surprise at Kaszubska Marina

More colorful than I imagined, Gdansk, Poland, impressed me as soon as I stepped out of my hotel, made a left, and stumbled onto the Royal Way and the Long Market. Flanked by gorgeous reconstructed gabled townhouses with wonderful facades, painted in cheerful colors and many covered in terrific artistic details, this strip is the heart of the city. As I slowly progressed, noting all the tempting Polish restaurants along the way, I finally came across one that sounded a bit different: Kaszubska Marina, specializing in Kashubian cuisine. My unfamiliarity with that specialty drew me closer, and once a personable, informative waiter escorted me to my table, I was ready to try something new. And I was rewarded beautifully. Read more >