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Posts from the ‘EUROPE’ Category

Bern: Switzerland’s picturesque capital


Not long after that very first trip to Switzerland in the summer of 2000, my father showed me a picture book on the natural and man-made wonders of the Alpine country. One of the photos that stood out to me most was taken in the medieval heart of Bern, showing a cobbled street that led to the Zytglogge, a whimsical yet stately clock tower capped by a curving pyramidal roof and spire. Read more

Geneva, the crossroads of Europe


It’s a place synonymous with international diplomacy and human rights. But despite its long history and scenic location at the southern tip of the Alps’ largest lake, the Swiss city of Geneva doesn’t register on many travel itineraries. As part of a 10-day work trip, I’m treated to a walking tour with longtime guide and resident Ursula Diem-Benninghoff, who is a fount of knowledge on her adopted home city. Read more

2013: a year in review

Candidasa Sunset, Bali

Candidasa, Bali, Indonesia

I thought it would be hard to top 2012, but the past twelve months have proven me otherwise! The year kicked off with a family trip to Saigon in January as the city geared up for Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year. I loved Saigon for its contagious, effervescent energy and the touches of French influence on an already rich culture. Read more

Ulmer Münster: the stairway to heaven

Almost at the top

The halfway room was a dark, wood-panelled affair. Breathless from the climb up, I stopped at its walls, lined with photographs of the world’s tallest religious towers in ascending order. Outside, a German visitor emerged from a stairwell and entered the room, smiling broadly. She was presumably on the way back down. Read more

The Fishermen’s Quarter, Ulm

Metzgerturm ("Butchers' Tower") and the Münster's spire in the background

Alone, I wandered into a quiet cobbled square, concealed from the Danube by a medieval stone gateway. The soothing, melodic notes of a piano, perhaps a music lesson, drifted in from an adjoining townhouse, lulling me into a dreamlike state. But the reverie was short-lived. Over my shoulder, I heard a sudden, booming yell from a man I could not see. “Haaaaaalt!” Read more

One day in Mannheim

Rosengarten, an Art Nouveau concert hall

Through the curtains, the spire of Konkordien Church struck an imposing silhouette in the golden morning light. After a fitful night’s sleep my brother and I had been awakened by an unexpected phone call from Room 145. “Your sister wants to spend quality time with you two at the salon,” my mother said, “It’s her wedding day.” Read more

Speyer: a Sunday stroll

Speyer in autumn

Beside the pink sandstone walls of Speyer Cathedral, we came across a musician in the shade of a plane tree, performing a personal rendition of Bach. From his glockenspiel the familiar notes of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring rang through the crisp November air, and I breathed in its magic as we admired the changing leaves of autumn. My sister and I had opted to spend a slow Sunday afternoon in one of Germany’s oldest cities, with more than 2000 years of recorded history. Read more

Burgos and the tale of El Cid

Burgos Cathedral, a World Heritage Site

Perhaps no other legendary figure rouses the Spanish consciousness quite like the man known as El Cid. Widely considered a national hero, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was born in 1043 as a member of the minor nobility, in a small town six miles north of Burgos. Raised and educated in the court of Ferdinand I, “Emperor of all Spain”, he rose to prominence as commander and royal standard-bearer for the king’s oldest son and heir, Sancho II. Read more

Streets of Pamplona

Inside Pamplona's old town

“Then we crossed a wide plain, and there was a big river off on the right shining in the sun from between the line of trees, and away off you could see the plateau of Pamplona rising out of the plain, and the walls of the city, and the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches. In the back of the plateau were the mountains, and every way you looked there were other mountains, and ahead the road stretched out white across the plain going toward Pamplona.”

– The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway Read more

Postcards from León

Afternoon shadows in the Plaza Mayor

 “Adiós! Adiós!”  The little boy’s mother waved and laughed as he remained powerless, legs dangling, in the arms of a waiter. Just moments before, the bearded giant had swiftly picked him up, starting down the slope with a mischievous grin. “I’ll take him away!” he chuckled, “I’ll take him away!” Read more