Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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 >


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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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Buda or Pest? The Hungarian City’s Best Buildings Stand on Both Sides of the Danube

Matthias Church, Budapest, HungaryCrossed by Chain Bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, in the heart of Budapest, the Danube River divides the Hungarian capital into older, hilly Buda and flatter, larger Pest. Each side has its own special appeal — Buda boasts fantastic views; Pest offers multiple cultural attractions — but to see this city’s most beautiful buildings, you’ll have to visit both, an enjoyable proposition that leads you through one of Central Europe’s most alluring capitals. Read about the top five buildings in Budapest >