With the jackboots and tanks a long time gone now, Hungarians embrace their free society with a determined vigor, with the homes of Buda looking down and across the Danube at the chic and colorful shops of Pest.


To walk in the city of Prague at night, with the mist lying wet on cobble-stoned alleys, is to walk in the footsteps of Mozart, Kafka and Good King Wenceslas himself.


Big yellow mechanical cranes painstakingly remove layers of history. This is no ordinary museum and I am no ordinary visitor. My need to sit and rest, my need to quench a thirst, my wish for a cooling plunge in a bath grabbed the inner soul and took it back 2,000 years.


In the Galata Tower nightclub, we got a double dose of Turkish delight, contrived to titillate the tour-bus circuit. For what it’s worth, the belly dancers, the chanteuse, the never-ending rush of soups, breads, meats, liquors and sweets, worked magically. As we left, I nodded farewell to the major domo. He bowed stiffly. Was that a gat he had stuffed in his cummerbund?


The old and the new, the splendor of the Czars, the upbeat attitudes of the young Russians who refuse to go back. A two-week riverboat tour of the countryside of the Volga Waterways.



At the Arctic Circle, a Disney-like Santa Claus theme park, adventurous woodland safaris by dog sled, Northern Lights, ice castles, good hotels and underground shopping in Rovaniemi, a sophisticated city of 35,000. In the Christmas city of Turku, they celebrate Christmas and Santa like in no other place.


In an unromantically cold, wet drizzle in mid-November, we traced the footsteps of Casanova through the narrow alleyways of Venice, a major difference being that we finished the trip with our britches on and our reputations intact.



By 9:45 P.M., the last of the sun's red glow is wiped away by a dark but starry night, and the torrid heat of the day seems finally exhausted. On the north side of the broad Piazza Verdi, groups of farmers and merchants sit at the outdoor cafe tables of the Ristorante Bar del Teatro, arguing crops, weather, politics, money and maybe even music.


It is something akin to a first sighting during a whale watch. A yelp! Some “oohs” and “aahs”! To the left, bleeding red to the horizon, a tulip field. A clamoring and bustling to get a better view, a better camera shot.


We know of King Tut, popularized in movies, song and quiz shows during the 80 years after the discovery of his tomb at Luxor. Not until visiting Egypt do you learn that Tutankhamen was the Millard Fillmore of Ancient Egyptian politics, an ignoble noble from birth to death.


Down the road from Robert Frost’s cabin in Vermont, the screen door slaps behind you as you enter the Ripton village store, where it is dark and the old pine floor groans and sags because of yet another visitor.


Vermont inns have a well-deserved reputation for being snug and comfortable. Cortina Inn, near the hiking trails and mountain views of Killington/Pico ski resort, is no exception, but raises the appreciationlevel of its guests by being commodious enough to qualify as a four-season resort.


Playa del Carmen, Mexico--Mexican plumbing notwithstanding, a good time was had by the both of us. After five visits in 15 years to the Yucatan, specifically Quintana Roo, the state next to the sea. . .


NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario---First of all, my barrel would have a tiller and a rudder to steer me away from the treacherous American Falls, where a descent of any kind would meet with boulders the size of my hotel room.


Observed from the air, Virgin Gorda is shaped like an ant, so thin-wasted that a strong-armed man could heave a stone from the Caribbean Sea on the East to the Sir Francis Drake Channel on the west.
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Page updated January 13, 2011