Vega: Norway’s Island Kingdom

Vega: Norway’s Island Kingdom

A crown rests gently on its soft cushion of crowberry bristles. Amid the early morning air tinged with the tang of sun-dried kelp and cracked crab, the urchin’s chassis is an echo of a once underwater aria. In the eons since the Vega Islands were lifted from the ocean, soft shales and hard granite have moulded this Norwegian archipelago into a kingdom whose curling hillsides, sharp peaks, white sands, and capricious coasts have enchanted, protected, and, on occasion, terrified humankind. Continue reading “Vega: Norway’s Island Kingdom”

Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida

Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida

Ask any Latvian what the most charming town in the small Baltic country is, and chances are you’ll hear the name Sigulda. Situated in the Gauja River Valley at the entrance of Latvia’s largest and oldest national park, Sigulda is a place steeped in mythos and natural beauty. More so than the historically Hanseatic Riga and the preened seaside of Jūrmala, Sigulda elucidates Latvia’s close connection to nature.  Continue reading “Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida”

Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera

Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera

Thirty minutes outside of Riga is Latvia’s favorite seaside resort, where miles of silica sand finer than powdered sugar sooth the soles and the sultry fragrance of bristly pines boosts the spirits. It’s a place where families, friends, and lovebirds flock to embrace a slower pace of life. This is Jūrmala. Continue reading “Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera”

Exploring Riga’s Past and Present

Exploring Riga’s Past and Present

On the flat, sandy plains where the Daugava River rushes into the gulf lies Riga, largest of the Baltic cities. At first sight, the Latvian capital looks worn around the edges and none too cheerful, but gently peel back the frosty layers of chrome and steel and an inner vibrance will reveal itself. Continue reading “Exploring Riga’s Past and Present”

The Obersee Valley

The Obersee Valley

Drive an hour to the southeast of Zurich and you’ll arrive at the foothills of the Alps, where the flat plains of the Swiss Central Plateau starts to pinch into pleats. This transition zone, the Voralpen, is home to some of Switzerland’s most beautiful terrain. What it lacks in staggering altitude, it makes up for with charm: limestone peaks with trailing capes and lakes mirroring the summer’s hues will captivate the heart of anyone lucky enough to lay eyes upon them. Continue reading “The Obersee Valley”

Gold Coast Dreams: From Coolangatta to Surfer’s Paradise

Gold Coast Dreams: From Coolangatta to Surfer’s Paradise

My very first coup d’œil of the Gold Coast was not of the coast, but of green, undulating hills. Squinting just a little, I could imagine myself having landed on an Amazonian airfield. The humidity wafted into my cotton shirt and dampened it almost instantly. It was a precious feeling to be someplace warm again, although I knew my appreciation for wet air would quickly dissipate, unlike the sweat that was slowly forming under my arms. Continue reading “Gold Coast Dreams: From Coolangatta to Surfer’s Paradise”