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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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 >


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A Taste of Russia in Finland at Helsinki’s Šašlik Restaurant

Šašlik, Helsinki, FinlandAll around Helsinki, I kept coming across big and small reminders of Russia’s influence in the city and throughout Finland, which was part of its massive neighbor from 1809 until its independence in 1917. You may still hear some Russian conversations, although, even though it’s the third most spoken native language in Finland, Russian now represents only 1 percent of native languages spoken. You’re more likely to see evidence of Russia’s sway in, for instance, the statue of Emperor Alexander II standing before the striking Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, and the gorgeous Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. You’ll also find it in the cuisine, and one of the top Russian restaurants in the Finnish capital, Šašlik, immediately transported me back to the era of the Romanovs. Read more >