Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Arcades Provide Sheltered — and Beautiful — Walkways Around the World

Mirogoj Cemetery, Zagreb, CroatiaSuch a simple and practical idea: the creation of the arcade — a succession of contiguous arches, each supported by columns. You’ll see them all over the world, from Salisbury Cathedral in England to the Great Mosque of Damascus in Syria to the Old Town streets of Pisa, Italy. These sheltered walkways, often lined with shops, provide an intermission for pedestrians trying to escape torrential rains, bitter snows, blistering sunshine, and soggy/muddy/icy streets. And they do so with style and elegance. Read about the world’s top five arcades >

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Baltimore’s Best Buildings

Bromo-Seltzer Tower, Baltimore, MarylandOne of the most historic cities on the East Coast of the United States, Baltimore, Maryland, has seen its fair share of ups and downs, from the attack on Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the creation of the world’s first dental college, and the formation of the United States’ first investment bank, first chartered railroad, first post office system, first Sunday newspaper, and first chartered water company, to the destructive Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, some fairly serious crime rates, and a population that has plummeted from nearly one million to only two-thirds of that today. Wandering around the city, I couldn’t help but appreciate its historical significance (as well as the revitalization around the Inner Harbor) and its fine architectural contributions. Read about the top five buildings in Baltimore >


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Five Fun Things to See and Do in Europe’s Emptiest Country

Skógasafn, IcelandHigh in the North Atlantic, Iceland floats just below the Arctic Circle, the perfect resting spot for travelers shuttling between North America and Europe. Here in the Land of Fire and Ice, the most sparsely populated country in Europe, you can easily see both, sometimes in spectacular and awesome displays of erupting volcanoes or calving icebergs. Not everything here is so dramatic, of course, and you can appreciate this island nation of fewer than half a million people with much more sedate activities, like soaking in a geothermal pool and spying the most adorable birds on earth. Read more about the top five things to see and do in Iceland >


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The Signature Churches of Buffalo, New York

St. Ann Roman Catholic Church, Buffalo, New YorkRising on the shore of Lake Erie at the far end of western New York State, the city of Buffalo was once an urban powerhouse thanks to its strategic location. But hard times have hit New York’s second-largest city. Buffalo has suffered from the closure of its heavy industries, losing half of its peak population of 580,000 since 1950. Despite this ongoing struggle, it remains one of the most noteworthy cities in the United States for architecture, and its churches are some of the most beautiful in the country. Read more about the top five churches in Buffalo, New York >


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Amsterdam’s Most Beautiful Churches

Vondel Church, Amsterdam, NetherlandsThe canal houses tend to get all the attention in Amsterdam, and with good reason. It’s impossible to resist the charms of these slender homes that line, sometimes a little drunkenly, the calm canals lacing through the city. But the capital of the Netherlands boasts some pretty impressive buildings of a much larger scale, such as its Royal Palace, one of the world’s most beautiful train stations, and one of the world’s top five post office buildings (which now operates as a shopping mall). Many of the city’s gorgeous houses of worship are of substantial size, too, and their spires and domes can be spotted rising above the canal houses all over town. Read about the top five churches in Amsterdam >


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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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The Eeriest Places on Earth

Nevada City, MontanaIf you’re planning to visit a fabricated haunted house for Halloween, or to attend a party in a costume that’s anything but frightening, I have an alternative: Go to an authentic ghost town. These abandoned places teem with vacated, decaying buildings and with the spirits of a long-vanished population. You’re unlikely to run into a vampire or a sexy French maid; a rolling tumbleweed is more probable, or the hint of an odd susurration carried on the wind that blows through the silence of these eerie, deserted places. You can find them all over the globe, from Chile to Italy to Japan, and they will give you a thrill, and a chill, like no other locations in the world. Read about the top five ghost towns >