Madrid: A Capital with Heart and Art

Madrid: A Capital with Heart and Art

Compared to the elaborate cathedrals and monuments of Paris, Athens, or Kyiv, Madrid’s most prominent landmarks like the popular plaza of Puerta del Sol or even the royal palace seem modest. But in the absence of abundant loftiness is an affable attitude. The Spanish megalopolis is expressive, tolerant, and surprisingly easy to get along with. In recent decades, it’s earned the title of one of Europe’s great art capitals: three of the continent’s most decorated museums—the Prado, the Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen—can be found within walking distance of one another. The city also hosts one of the world’s largest pride festivals. Every summer, the Fiesta del Orgullo attracts nearly two million attendees for over a week of celebrations centered around the vibrant neighborhood of Chueca. Continue reading “Madrid: A Capital with Heart and Art”

An Ode to Toledo

An Ode to Toledo

Broken fragments of ice hovered motionlessly over a dreadfully frigid Tagus. It was a somber sight all around; the cheerful Spanish glow I had grown so accustomed to was nowhere in sight. On the ground, brown tamarinds lay trampled and suspended between a state of decay and perpetuity under the morning frost. Suddenly, out from the dense fog, a lone jogger burst forward. Swishing silently past in Stygian polyester tights, he vanished as quickly as he emerged, disappearing down a smoky slope. Had I arrived in Toledo, or had I awakened in Homer’s Meadows of Asphodel? Continue reading “An Ode to Toledo”

Porto: An Apéritif for the Senses

Porto: An Apéritif for the Senses

A visit to Porto is a galvanizing experience. You’ll notice it as soon as you arrive. It’s the colors that hit you first. Under the rays of a glorious autumn afternoon, hues of cinnabar, tangerine, and lemon twist and twine—and speaking of citruses, does the orange juice here taste…tangier? The steady sound of chatter fills the air, and you feel yourself swelling up with a wave of joie de vivre, a jubilant exultation of simply being. This is a magical peninsula where happiness pursues you, and in the sanguine center of northern Portugal, delight and inspiration drip down every cobbled street. Bem-vindo ao Porto, there’s so much to discover. Continue reading “Porto: An Apéritif for the Senses”

Finding Bliss on Lake Bled

Finding Bliss on Lake Bled

Situated at the carrefour between Balkan, Austrian, Italian, and Hungarian realms of influence, the Slovenes have managed to carve out a distinct identity for themselves: a unique mélange of Alpine and Slavic heritage with a spritz of the Mediterranean. The country’s landscape is diverse, ranging from hills and vineyards to breezy coastal towns on the banks of the Slovene Riviera.

Bled, located in the northwestern region of Slovenia known as Gorenjska, lies at the foothills of the Julian Alps. (‘Julian’ after Julius Caesar, who founded the Roman town of Cividale del Friuli on the other side of the range.) Here, the mark of the mountains is evident at first glance: wooden chalets with balconies of cascading of geraniums evoke a suspicion that Heidi might be hiding just around the corner.
Continue reading “Finding Bliss on Lake Bled”

Moskenesøya: Mountains, Fjords, and Cloudberries

Moskenesøya: Mountains, Fjords, and Cloudberries

Those last days on Moskenesøya passed by in a blur. Up and down the stairways of heaven I went, pushing every muscle, ligament, and tendon in my legs to their very limits. More mountains, more ferries, more freedom and air and life for my thoughts: friluftsliv for mine tanker, in the words of Henrik Ibsen. I wanted to disconnect, to feel a genuine calm, to find inner tranquility in the wilderness, to get to know another me.

Continue reading “Moskenesøya: Mountains, Fjords, and Cloudberries”

Idyll on Horseid Beach

Idyll on Horseid Beach

On the paved road back to Moskenes, I spotted a solo traveler ahead of me. We walked in synchronization, wedged between the mountain and the sea, our footfalls a hundred meters apart, our boots brushing by countless flutes of large-leaved lupine growing wild along the guardrail. I was content with my long-distance companion, and had already begun crafting a persona for this hiking Viking when he turned his head, spotted me, halted, and waited. Continue reading “Idyll on Horseid Beach”