Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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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The Highest-Quality Art in Norway

"The Scream"One of the world’s most renowned paintings is also one of its most disturbing and mysterious. Almost as famous for its history of thefts as for its quality and impact on the art world, The Scream anchors a tremendous collection of excellent art at Oslo’s National Gallery, Norway’s biggest and best art museum. This one piece alone makes a visit here necessary, but I found so many others that made a wonderfully lasting impression. Read about it >


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The Best Museums in the U.S. Capital

National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C.Most national capitals are their nation’s largest city. The American capital is a bit of an anomaly: Washington, D.C., doesn’t even crack the top 15. Yet, despite its comparatively smaller size, it has an embarrassment of riches, including more than 70 museums. Covering a wide array of topics, they can entertain and inform you on everything from art to postage stamps to espionage. Read more about the top five museums in Washington, D.C. >


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Marking Mark’s Feast Day

St. Augustine Catholic Church, Montpelier, VermontApril 25 marks the Feast Day of St. Mark, one of the Four Evangelists who wrote one of the gospels and spread the Word of God. His life mission took him around the eastern Mediterranean, to Cyprus and northern Africa, and his death, in 68 AD, is the stuff of legend. Over the centuries, he has been portrayed as both a young and an old man in just about every form of art imaginable. Read more about the top five depictions of St. Mark >


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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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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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Royal Yet Modest at Oslo’s Oscarshall

Oscarshall, Oslo, NorwayOn the western side of Oslo, Norway, the enclave of Bygdøy occupies a scenic peninsula that has become home to some of the country’s wealthiest citizens, residing in one of the most fashionable areas of Norway, complete with its most expensive properties. So it’s no surprise that when the royals wanted to build a summer palace, they chose this area. Today, that palace, named Oscarshall after its founding king, is open to the public, and I headed there on a gorgeous April day to see how the royals lived, royally yet not overtly sumptuously. Read about Oscarshall >


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Viewing and Creating Art at the World’s Best Glass Museum, in Corning, New York

VasesUpstate New York is often shunted aside by visitors who tend to descend on downstate, on New York City, and unjustifiably so. In this vast expanse I explored the magnificent State Capitol in Albany, had a blast in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, hiked in the gorges in Ithaca, marveled at outstanding architecture in Buffalo, and soaked in Niagara Falls, one of the world’s top five waterfalls. On my way home from this romp around my home state, I made a stop in Corning, a small, charming city of about 12,000 people that means one thing for most of us: glass. Here, glass is far more than just a mirror or your orange juice pitcher. And nobody explains, demonstrates, and shows it better than the Corning Museum of Glass. Read more about it >