Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Four Centuries of Churches in Delaware

First and Central Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DelawareSince the 1600s, religion has played an active role in the state of Delaware. Over time, log and wood structures that served as houses of worship morphed into more substantial brick and stone buildings. Steeped in history, these churches were often the hub of not only religious activities but also social life. Read about the top five churches in Delaware >


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Living Under a Foreign Occupier

Phone Booth, Museum of Occupations, Tallinn, EstoniaIn light of Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, I’ve been thinking about my visit to the Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom in Tallinn, Estonia. Note the plural. This fascinating museum tells the story of how little Estonia was forcibly occupied three times in the 1900s—once by the Nazis and twice by the Soviets—and how it emerged as sovereign nation in 1991. It’s a timely lesson in heartless brutality and inspiring resistance, and a good reminder of how one insane madman can change world history—and what must be done to stop him. Read about the museum >


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Scotland’s Spectacular Churches

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, ScotlandSome are so ancient, you can almost hear the ghosts of worshippers from nearly a millennium ago. The churches of Scotland, like much of the nation’s architectural inventory, are astoundingly sturdy-looking, as if nothing could ever destroy them. They’re also exquisitely beautiful, with the most delicate details that often belie their bulk. They continually impressed me as I made my two-week loop around this irresistible land. Read about the top five churches in Scotland >


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Malbork Castle Will Hit You Like 10,125 Tons of Bricks

Malbork Castle, Malbork, PolandAs soon as I learned about the major attraction in Malbork, Poland, I knew I had to take a side trip from my base in Gdansk, an hour to the northwest by train. I couldn’t resist seeing the largest brick structure ever built—Malbork Castle. At the size of about 40 U.S. football fields and with its oldest parts going back to the 1200s, this massive complex had the sudden and significant impact on me that its statistics assured me it would. Read more about Malbork Castle >


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A Literal World of Treasures in the Heart of Wichita

Museum of World Treasures, Wichita, KansasEgyptologist? Archaeologist? Paleontologist? Historian? Numismatist? Photographer? Mineralogist? No matter what (or how old) you are, it seems the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, Kansas, has something for everyone. Since its founding in 2001, the museum has assembled a tremendous number of riches from around the world, from prehistoric fossils to Frank Sinatra’s tunes. Read about it >


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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 >