Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The Firehouses That Burn the Brightest

Jasper Fire Hall, Jasper, AlbertaThe word “hero” is employed far too often to describe someone who simply does his or her job, or someone you might have a shred of admiration for. In fact, the word is quite in danger of verbicide. The shortstop who makes a great catch is not a hero; your favorite reality star is certainly not a hero. In a world that is seriously lacking in true heroes, it’s heartening to know that there is one group that deservedly earns the accolade every day: firefighters. And societies have acknowledged their selfless bravery and critical role by constructing some highly impressive buildings for them from which they perform their duties. Read about the world’s top five firehouses >

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Fine Finnish Food, Served With a Story

The small city of Oulu, Finland, seems to be made for walking, and I couldn’t resist the lure of crossing over the little bridges connecting bucolic islands around the historic city center and simply wandering. During that meandering stroll, I ended up on the little island of Pikisaari, in front of Sokeri-Jussin Kievari, an inviting and cozy restaurant housed in an old, red, hand-carved log building that used to be a sugar warehouse — and that was the scene of the owner’s almost comedic near-death. Read more about this Northern Ostrobothnian restaurant that pairs fantastic food with a great history >


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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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Dream Bigger: White Is Not Only for Christmas

Church of St. Charles at the Four Fountains, Rome, ItalyAs winter wonderlands start to pop up around the globe, white takes center stage in the form of unique flakes, shiny skating rinks, and Santa’s beard. But snow, ice, and St. Nick’s facial hair don’t hold a monopoly on the pure, unspoiled beauty of white. In fact, some of the world’s best occurrences of white have nothing to do with gelid winters and aren’t seasonal at all. Read more about the world’s top five whites >


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Turku Castle Reigns Supreme

Turku Castle, Turku, FinlandFinland’s oldest city and its former capital, Turku is located about two hours by train from where I was staying in Helsinki, the superior Hotel Kämp. The country’s sixth-largest city has plenty to see for a full day trip, from its 700-year-old cathedral to a fantastic museum built over a 14th-century archaeological site, but Turku’s most famous landmark is the one I wanted to visit most — the largest castle in Finland. Read more >


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Five Train Stations That Will Make You Rethink Flying

Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin, New ZealandNot that long ago, when travel by train was the preferred and quickest way to embark on a vacation or business trip, railroad companies made sure their passengers were impressed by and made comfortable in their stations, whether it was a charming small-town depot or a massive big-city terminal. Many of these stations are still in use today, offering a far more pleasant experience than generic, isolated airports with countless hassles, endless lines, and crushing rules and regulations. Although some have been repurposed to function as everything but what they were originally intended for, they remain architectural jewels in our urban landscape. These are my five favorite train stations in the world. Read more >


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Getting Hooked on Helsinki’s Best Seafood

Havis, Helsinki, FinlandWith 780 miles of coastline and 187,888 lakes, Finland is a seafood lover’s delight. The creative chefs in Helsinki take full advantage of the country’s maritime resources and produce some imaginative results from what is pulled from the water. Located across the street from the old food market and the busiest harbor in the city, Havis combines its highly appropriate setting with an alluring menu that has earned it warm regard as one of the best seafood restaurants in the city — a reputation it well deserves. Read more >