Yuri is a big guy, and he has an intimidating stare, which is something I’d expect from a former KGB agent. Right now, he’s toasting the USA across my dining room table. Continue reading
Poland was never on my bucket list of places to see. Not that I didn’t like it-I just never really thought about it at all, even though my travels have frequently taken me near the Polish border. That’s why I wasn’t super excited when I was invited to a Polish wedding. But I am glad I went, because Poland and its people were a surprise and a delight! Continue reading
If you’re like me, the first thing you do when planning a trip to Europe is to consult the Rick Steves country guide. I’ve been buying his popular books for years, and I’m rarely disappointed or confused with the recommendations or itineraries. That is, until I decided to go to Norway…
I just hiked the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and it was a real joy. The Fall weather was perfect, the trail was perfectly clean, and the scenery was as magnificent as any on God’s canvas. Here I’m hoping to provide you with some quick tips if you decide to take the same hike…things that they won’t tell you at the Ranger Station (or anywhere else, so far as I know):
Saint Petersburg doesn’t reveal her beauty to you all at once. To discover her secrets, you must work at it patiently, like a sculptor who reveals the appeal of a cold slab of stone by chipping away at it gently until the statue beneath is revealed in all its glory. So to appreciate this city properly, you must be prepared to spend a few weeks (or months)…impossible for a mere tourist, of course…but there you have it.
OK, to be honest, visiting this capital was never on my bucket list, but it was part of a Baltic cruise I went on recently, and I’m glad it was. To my surprise, Helsinki is worth a day trip at least, offering up a blend of cool Nordic design and neoclassical architecture set against a baby-blue sky dotted with scudding wisps of cirrus clouds. But besides being a nice place to visit, it’s an even better place to live, at least according to the latest survey from the World Happiness Index (yes, that’s a thing), which indicates that Finland is the happiest country on earth.
Most people choose Costa as their cruise line of choice because the itinerary and timing is appealing or because the price is right. And Costa does provide lively entertainment, good food, and a convivial atmosphere on newer ships with an Italian flair for style and design. It’s for those who like a youthful international mix of families, couples, and mostly non-English speaking passengers.
If you’ve already made up your mind to cruise Costa (or if you’re on the fence), here are 5 tips that should help:
I just finished a Costa cruise, which is where I took these photos. I love to travel, and so naturally I get a chance to talk to others like me who enjoy seeing the world. Among those, there is a certain type that will tell you with snobbish disdain that they would never consider a cruise, as if ships (and, it goes without saying, the low-brows and deplorables like me who are passengers on them) are somehow beneath them. Well, I usually prefer land travel myself, but I’ve been on plenty of cruises, and I can say that I’ve enjoyed every one. In fact, I’d say that there are times when cruising is not only the preferred way to travel, it’s virtually the only way unless you’re prepared to mount your own personal expedition.
With that in mind, here are the 7 best reasons you should take a cruise: Continue reading
You’d think, walking around Stockholm (as I recently did), that Sweden’s national flag is rainbow gay. After all, it’s more ubiquitous here right now than the Scandinavian nation’s own beautiful emblem (a bold yellow cross on a royal blue field). Everywhere you look you see the queer colors: as a pennant on top of a hotel, a sign in front of a restaurant, and even flapping as ensigns from the ships in the harbor. The waitresses are sporting the colors on their suspenders, and the waiters have rainbow ties. Rainbow sunglasses, socks, and decals abound. Why, you ask, is Stockholm afflicted with such a bad case of homophilia these days?
Prince Eugene of Savoy was a scrawny, innocuous little runt who nonetheless became a mighty warrior and helped defeat the Ottomans decisively, once at the Siege of Vienna in 1683, and more famously at the Battle of Zenta in 1697. He was thus instrumental in keeping all of Europe from becoming a Muslim caliphate, at least until today, and the riches that came his way as a result were poured into the Baroque masterpiece of Belvedere, his summer palace in Vienna, Austria. Continue reading