Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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In a Glass by Themselves

City Hall, Buffalo, New YorkWe rarely give much thought to the ordinary glass objects around our homes—our windows and mirrors, baking dishes and light bulbs, orange juice pitchers and cereal bowls. But once you start to consider its myriad uses, from the mundane to the extraordinary, you’ll develop a new appreciation for this versatile material that begins with melted sand and ends up as fantastic artwork. Read about the world’s best glassworks >


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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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St. Stephen Rocks

St. Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo, New YorkAt last count, there are at least nine St. Stephens, including a Byzantine monk, an English abbot, and a Russian painter and missionary. I’m familiar with only two: Stephen I, the man who united Hungary into one nation a millennium ago and served as its first king for nearly 40 years, and my namesake, the Biblical Stephen who was stoned to death for his faith, thus becoming Christianity’s first martyr. With the latter’s feast day coming up, on December 26, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look at how this Stephen is presented in art—very often, but not always, holding the rocks that were used to kill him. Read about the top five depictions of St. Stephen >


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The World’s Best Urban Parks

Watching a group of Asian senior citizens practicing the slow movements of a choreographed dance. Making friends with a red squirrel. Hearing someone rail against the evils of plutocracy. Standing under a 165’ Douglas fir. You never know what you’ll find in a city park, and that’s one of their many attractions. And the best parks that make all that possible smack in the middle of a city do it in unforgettable style. Read about the top five urban parks >


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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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Tallinn’s Top Churches

Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, Tallinn, EstoniaWithin, and just outside, the walls of the Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, you’ll find an abundance of fascinating sights, from resistance and architecture museums, to archery demonstrations, to medieval towers, to fantastic restaurants serving traditional Estonian meals. There’s also an extraordinary concentration of churches that stretch over a long range of centuries. You could see a good dozen of them all within a day, thanks to their close proximity to one another. But, of course, that would mean rushing through these outstanding structures. Instead, choose two or three per day, and you’ll get the full experience of Estonian spirituality. Read about the top five churches in Tallinn>


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A Good Deed Portrayed in Art Around the World

St. Veronica, National Gallery of Art, Washington DCJuly 12 is the feast day of St. Veronica, one of the most identifiable saints in the Christian canon. Whereas so many saints can be hard to recognize by sight according to their symbols (for example, a lily is associated with at least 10 saints; a book accompanies more than 20), the veil with Jesus’ face is assigned only to Veronica. She was especially revered in the 14th and 15th centuries, but her simple act of kindness — offering to wipe Christ’s face — is just as relevant, and as necessary, today. Throughout the world, she has been portrayed in myriad ways and materials. Read about the top five depictions of St. Veronica >


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From 1322 to Today, Tallinn’s Town Hall Was Built to Last

Town Hall, Tallinn, EstoniaIn 2005, the Town Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, received second prize in the category of Conservation of Architectural Heritage at the European Heritage Awards. Located in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, Town Hall isn’t the largest one I’ve ever seen, nor the grandest or most elaborate, but it’s certainly charming and irrefutably resilient: For nearly 700 years, this structure has weathered everything from its critical role in the then-independent city to its subordination under Soviet Communism to its rebirth as Tallinn’s hub. And, so, that award was very well-deserved. Read more about it >


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Memorials to Remember

Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, AlabamaOn the last Monday of every May, Americans celebrate Memorial Day, a national observance of the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. Of course, other countries have their own version of this day, and throughout the world you’ll see memorials dedicated to those who have fought for their country. Although war seems to be the most popular subject, it doesn’t hold a monopoly on memorials, which could commemorate anything from a famous leader to a national movement. Read about the top five memorials >


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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 >