Stretched over two chairs atop the skinny passenger deck of a 10-car ferry as it shuttles across Lago di Como, I look south into the haze of Italy. I’m savoring the best of my favorite country with none of the chaos and intensity that are generally part of the Italian experience. Looking north, into a crisp alpine breeze, I see snowcapped Alps...Read more
Here are some thoughts about how and why one of the most rewarding aspects of my travels is connecting with people — old friends and guides who actually lived through the local history and make it real for me.
On one of my earliest trips to Europe when I was just 14 years old, a family friend in a dusty village on the border of Austria and ...Read more
Because I come from a backpacker travel heritage, where a good picnic is the answer to a prayer, it’s taken me decades to recognize the value of a fine meal. Now I can enthusiastically embrace a long, drawn-out dinner splurge as a wonderful investment of both time and money. Nowhere is this truer than in France.
My friend and co-author Steve ...Read more
Alentejo is a vast and arid land — the bleak interior of Portugal, where cork seems to be the dominant industry.
The rolling hills are covered with stubby cork trees. With their bark peeled away, they remind me of St. Bartolomeo, the martyr who was skinned alive. Like him, these trees suffer in silence.
The people of Alentejo are uniformly ...Read more
Guzelyurt, in the region of Cappadocia in rural Turkey, is a town that has changed little over the centuries. Exploring it, I hike steeply down into a ravine, winding through a community in the rough — where the chores of daily life seemed stuck in the Middle Ages. Then, climbing up to a hilltop perch marking the end of town, I survey the view...Read more
I am terrible at foreign languages. Despite traveling around Europe four months a year since I was a kid, I can barely put a sentence together anywhere east or south of England. But with some creative communication, I manage just well enough to write guidebooks, produce TV shows, and enjoy Europe on vacation. And nowhere do I have more fun ...Read more
Strolling through Copenhagen, I come upon a parade: ragtag soldiers-against-conformity dressed in black making their way through the bustling, modern downtown. They walk solemnly behind a WWII vintage truck blasting Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall.” I’ve never really listened to the words until now.
These “soldiers” are ...Read more
Here’s one of my favorite European memories illustrating how, if you know where to look, you can find human bones on display in many corners of the Continent.
Deep under the streets of Paris, I was all alone ... surrounded by literally millions of bones — tibiae, fibulae, pelvises, and skulls, all stacked along miles of tunnels. I was in ...Read more
Leaning back in my lounge chair, I enjoy the heat of the sun on my skin. A vibrant sea spreads out before me, but it’s a sea of wildflowers. I’m not at the beach — I’m on a farm, looking out on Europe’s largest high alpine meadow, manicured by munching goats and cows. In the distance, stark snow-dusted peaks tower boldly against the ...Read more
Submerged in a mucky peat brine, it occurs to me that this must be the strangest bath I have ever taken.
I’m in the well-preserved Czech spa town of Trebon. I’ve decided to supplement my intense time in touristy Prague by venturing south, deeper into the Czech countryside.
Trebon’s biosphere of artificial lakes dates back to the 14th ...Read more
I once met an elfish, black-clad old man in the little town of Ventry, on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. When I asked if he was born here, he paused, breathed deeply, and said, “No, ’twas about five miles down the road.”
I asked him if he had lived here all his life.
He answered, “Not yet.”
When I told him where I was from, a faraway...Read more
Amsterdam is a laboratory of progressive living, bottled inside Europe’s finest 17th-century city. Like Venice, this city is a patchwork quilt of elegant architecture and canal-bordered islands anchored upon millions of wooden pilings. But unlike its dwelling-in-the-past, canal-filled cousin, Amsterdam sees itself as a city of the future, ...Read more
The walled town of Rothenburg, midway between Frankfurt and Munich, offers the best look possible at medieval Germany. And in this theme park of a town, the best ride is the night watchman’s town walk. Each night during the tourist season, with his eyebrows frozen in a raised position, the night watchman listens to the clock tower clang nine ...Read more
One of my favorite European memories is the joy of a pub crawl in Venice — a reminder of the fun that awaits in this popular destination.
Venice entertains millions of visitors during a normal year. It’s particularly crowded with day-trippers when several cruise ships are in port. On a trip a few years ago, I was told by a Venetian friend ...Read more
The Bosnian city of Mostar lies at a crossroads of cultures: just inland from the Adriatic coast, in the southern part of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mostar’s inhabitants are a mix of Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Muslim Bosniaks who lived in seeming harmony before the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, then suffered horribly when warring ...Read more
Biking down a newly paved but skinny one-lane service road through lush vineyards, I notice how the hills seem to be blanketed in green corduroy.
My Alsatian friend hollers at me, “Germany believes the correct border is the mountains behind us. And we French believe the Rhine — you can almost see it ahead — is the proper border. That’s ...Read more
As we’ve had to postpone our travels because of the pandemic, I believe a weekly dose of travel dreaming can be good medicine. Here are a few of my favorite European memories from England — reminders of the fun that awaits us at the other end of this crisis.
On my first trip to Dartmoor National Park, back when I was a student, word of the ...Read more