Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Finland’s 10,000-Year-Old Time Capsule

National Museum of Finland, HelsinkiThe National Museum of Finland encapsulates the history and culture of this Nordic country in a nutshell — an extremely large nutshell. The shell itself is striking, an Art Nouveau architectural treasure that reflects the strong period of National Romanticism and beckons you to explore. Once I cracked that shell, I found a bounty of fascinating, interesting, and informative exhibits, including some arresting frescoes as soon as I stepped inside to purchase my admission ticket. Read more about it >


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The Curious Castle of Manitou Springs

Miramont Castle, Manitou Springs, ColoradoI couldn’t decide if it was beautiful or an eyesore, the creation of an imaginative designer or a lunatic. Either way, it most definitely was unusual. In Manitou Springs, Colorado, Miramont Castle stands as its oddest yet most irresistible attraction — a fantastic mansion, or the setting for a movie director’s spine-tingling chiller. With a convoluted history and a schizophrenic architectural style, I found it impossible to categorize what Miramont was. But I was most definitely glad that I saw it. Read about Miramont Castle >


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Michigan’s Memorable Museums

Michigan winters can often be brutal. For those who prefer not to have frozen appendages while strolling around the excellent Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park or the grounds of one of the most beautiful capitols in the United States, the state offers plenty of indoor diversions, including its assemblage of hundreds of museums. They run the gamut, from traditional art and history museums to the bizarre Pickle Barrel House Museum and the astoundingly specific Nun Doll Museum. Scattered around the state, from its southernmost border to the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula, these repositories will reward you with new knowledge. Read about the top five museums in Michigan >


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Beautiful Buildings in Vermont’s Top City

College Street Congregational Church, Burlington, VermontPart university town, part commercial center, part New England perfection, Burlington, Vermont, the largest city in the state, feels like a close-knit community, a palpable vibe I detected in the congenial farmers market, where I purchased butternut donuts, and along the Church Street Marketplace. Its pedestrian mall, championed by an architecture student who was inspired by the people-only Strøget in Copenhagen, Denmark, is part of the city’s handsome built environment that includes fine structures on two college campuses, a restored Art Deco theater, plenty of churches, and a hotel that used to be a newspaper office. Read about the top five buildings in Burlington >


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Going Directly to Jail

Prisoner's Gate, The Hague, NetherlandsGoing to prison while on vacation is not exactly on anyone’s itinerary, especially if you’ve seen Midnight Express. But sometimes a look at life behind bars is a worthy way to pass an hour or two, especially when the jails themselves provide some fascinating history and some pretty impressive buildings. Read about the top five jails >


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The War That Didn’t End All Wars

National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MissouriOn July 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb nationalist. Exactly one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and within a month, almost all of Europe was embroiled in a vicious “war to end all wars.” That, obviously, did not pan out. Combined, combatant and civilian deaths totaled 22 million, making the First World War one of the deadliest modern wars. Overshadowed by the Second World War, it often doesn’t receive its rightful respect. But the National World War I Museum and Monument in Kansas City, Missouri — one of the best history museums in the United States — gives it the honor and recognition it deserves. Read about it >


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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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Denver’s Most Noteworthy Buildings

Malo Mansion, Denver, ColoradoWhile attending a meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians in downtown Denver, Colorado, I had ample opportunity to duck out before, between, and after sessions to explore — what else? — the architecture of Denver. While the mountains and fantastic natural surroundings come to mind first when thinking about the Mile High City, its built environment is pretty noteworthy, too. Read more about the top five buildings in Denver >


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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 >