Europe


MY 10 FAVORITE CITIES

I love cities. As a traveler, I never feel alone in a city I enjoy, as cities themselves are a bit like people- slowly revealing their personalities, all imperfect and forever changing. Some are beautiful, some are ugly, but none can get by simply on their fine appearance or lack thereof. A great city needs a great personality; something that makes it truly unique and irreplaceable.

Beach destinations often disappoint, with promises of crystal clear waters, blue skies and smiling faces. The truth is often overcast skies, brown murky water, first-time tourists on pre-paid packages, and little adventure. A city, however, cannot lie. It is what it is and it will always be there, ready for you to engage and explore 24 hours a day, in whatever weather or budget.

These are my favorites:

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BEIJING, China

I like how Beijing remains unglamorous amidst China’s … Read More »



SAN GIMIGNANO: a MEDIEVAL MANHATTAN

Posted on December 22nd, by Steven in Italy, Uncategorized. No Comments

(photo by Miheal Grmek)

Located in the Tuscan region of Italy, San Gimignano is a small, medieval (largely built in the 14th and 15th centuries), walled town. It is perched timelessly on a perfect little Tuscan hill and features a perfect little skyline of medieval stone towers, built due to a perfect little pissing contest between the local merchant families. In an attempt to outdo each other, the towers rose higher and higher, up to a height of nearly 70 meters (200 feet). At its peak, 72 towers graced the skyline. Today, fourteen remain. Tuscany was the world’s Manhattan 700 years ago and San Gimignano is the best place to experience its past heights.

I’d seen a picture of San Gimignano is one of my urban planning textbooks when I was a freshman in college. It was the “Skylines” chapter of The … Read More »



10 CITIES TRAVELERS LOVE TO HATE

Every good traveler should have, and is entitled too, his or her own unique opinion about what makes a certain place good or bad, likable or repulsive, worthwhile or overrated. Opinions are fun. I like hearing them as much as I like giving my own.

Some of my own opinions are atypical:

I have never enjoyed the Thai islands
I have not left my heart in San Francisco, even after visiting hundreds of times
I am not moved by high, jagged mountain ranges
Nebraska has the best landscapes of any American state
Chongqing, China- a polluted, hazy mess of a city- is spectacularly gorgeous and worth returning to again and again (I miss it as I type…)
I have a hard time finding a good meal in Italy

Throughout the globe, when groups of travelers meet up to discuss travel, opinions and superlatives often come out (I hate…..I … Read More »



Český Krumlov and Kutna Hora: BEARS, BEERS AND BONE CHANDELIERS

Posted on October 12th, by Steven in Czech Republic, Europe, Travel, Uncategorized. No Comments

In October of 2004 I was living in Holland and keeping an eye on the budget flights that were springing up around Europe at the time. A relaxed schedule at the Universiteit van Amsterdam allowed for 4-day weekends and few deadlines. One day a 39€ fare (each way) from Amsterdam Schipol to Prague opened up on the new Germanwings airlines. For the following weekend, I booked a four-night trip into Prague with no particular plan in mind. Onto the Czech Republic.

I’d been to Prague, the Czech capital, once before in the previous year. So, I had little want for more than a night there. A Hungarian flatmate of mine recommended a small town (pop: 13,000) called Český Krumlov, a 3-hour bus ride south of Prague. I looked at one picture, learned of a museum devoted to artist Egon Schiele and … Read More »



EXPLORING 10 GREAT CITIES THROUGH ICONIC MUSIC VIDEOS

Generally clocking in between three and five minutes, a good music video is a wonderful little escape from wherever we’re sitting. Many videos just feature bouncing cars, bouncing women and sleeveless drummers. However, some take us on fun journeys around the world. Let’s take a look:

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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA:
Solange, Losing You (2012)

The city as fashion. Inspired by the colors and textures of Cape Town’s townships, Solange and her video-friends are looking like beautiful curtains while bouncing around at the pool, the tailor, a barbershop and other ramshackle Cape Town locales. They explore local transportation in a taxi van and from atop the handlebars of a bicycle. Looks fun, eh?

The video was filmed around the neighborhood of Langa in Cape Town. Langa was established in the 1920s as a designated black African community and is today both poverty-stricken and colorful, as seen in the … Read More »



DRIVING IRELAND’S SEASIDE ‘RING OF KERRY’

Posted on May 17th, by Steven in Ireland, Travel. No Comments

Few places on Earth meet all of a traveler’s expectations. In my imagination, Ireland was colored by impossible greens, canopied in rainbows and peppered with clouds of tiny white sheep and gray, crumbling castles. Could it all be true?

I picked up my rental car at Hertz in Dublin City Centre. My requested Bentley had not yet arrived, so I settled on a little Opel. Disappointments aside, I had a nice talk with the guy working at the Hertz:

“Never ask for directions when you’re outside of Dublin” was his first piece of advice. I was intrigued. “You’ll be seen as shrewd. Instead, say to someone: ‘Good afternoon! Have you ever been to Castle Donovan? ‘ or ‘Would there happen to be a castle near here worth having a look at…?’”.

I knew I was going to like the Irish countryside before I even got the keys. … Read More »



10 BEST LOST-IN-A-FOREIGN-COUNTRY MOVIE CHARACTERS

 

10. DAVID LOCKE (Jack Nicholson); The Passenger (1975)

Native of: USA
Lost in: North Africa and Spain

Travel may be defined by leaving one’s established location. For some, it offers an opportunity to also leave oneself.

David Locke (Nicholson) is a cynical American journalist stuck in a North African desert struggling to make a documentary on political rebels. After a frustrating day of failure and now back at his sandy ramshackle hotel, he finds his new Englishman friend in the next room has suddenly died. Wanting a change, he decides to check out of the hotel, but only after stealing the Englishman’s passport and identity. As the movie trailer cliché goes “he would soon find out that he got more than he bargained for”. Finding an appointment book in the Englishman’s belongings, he soon goes on a bizarre, rather subdued (for Nicholson) adventure through urban Barcelona and … Read More »



TOURISM MEETS URBAN PLANNING: OUR LONG, HOT SUMMER IN CRETE

Posted on April 17th, by Steven in Europe, Greece. No Comments

Way back in 2003, when a young Nelly was still making hits (Hot in Herre was barely a year old and slamming the speakers in the Hersonissos clubs), Bill and I spent a long summer on the island of Crete in Greece. We were there with faculty from our university (the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program) as part of team to define, and provide solutions for, a fast-growing coastal municipality of 10,000 called Hersonissos.

Civilization on the island of Crete had prospered for thousands of years in a climate of blue skies, pristine beaches and time-honored olive groves. The traditional towns and villages had withstood centuries of colonialization and more recent changes in economic modes. When we arrived with the team of planners, the island was facing a new challenge – the onslaught of 10 million rowdy European tourists flocking to … Read More »



DISCOVERING (by accident) THE PALIO DI SIENA IN TUSCANY, ITALY

Posted on April 17th, by Steven in Europe, Italy. No Comments

Back in college I visited Sienna, Italy during a car trip through Tuscany and got much more than I expected.

Underwhelmed by the touristic atmosphere of Florence, I opted to rent a litte VW Golf (expensive for a 21 year old, at 90 Euros with insurance) to explore Tuscany and its famous hillside towns of San Giminiagno and Sienna, along with the wine region of Chianti.

I had no idea I’d be accidentally stumbling upon Tuscany’s biggest event, the biannual Il Palio horse race. Before I’d even arrived in the main square of Piazza del Campo, I could see the other spectators dressed up to represent their district of town walking through the side streets in the direction of the center. Passionate viewers were already crying and becoming emotional. Celebrities were arriving in limos and paparazzi were snapping away. I still had … Read More »



IS SWEDEN A ‘THIRD WORLD’ COUNTRY?

Posted on September 16th, by Steven in Asia, Europe, Sweden, Travel, Uncategorized. No Comments

‘Third world’ is a term that came to use during the Cold War. The term was applied to delineate nations that were not aligned with capitalism, and also not aligned with communism. Today, this geopolitical stratification has become outdated.

FIRST WORLD: capitalist, NATO-oriented nations (USA, UK, Canada, etc…)

SECOND WORLD: communist nations, aligned with the USSR (Russia, Vietnam, Cuba, etc…)

THIRD WORLD: those nations unaligned with the 1st or 2nd Worlds (all others)

Considering the amount of open anti-Americanism I encounter abroad, I believe that most travelers who use the term ‘Third World’ would certainly cease to, if they were to become aware that the ‘rankings’ were drawn from a US-centric perspective.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Worlds were divided so not by their wealth or industrialization, but rather by their political alignment. For example, at the end of the American War in Vietnam (1975), Sweden and Finland were considered third-world countries, … Read More »





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