Category UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Porto: you can skip ahead to the sardines

Every country has what I call “the circuit.”  The circuit is the travel itinerary most tourists follow (Rome-Florence-Venice-eat lots of gelato-fly home).  When I put together our Portugal itinerary, I stuck to the circuit much more than I usually do.  HOB was having problems with his foot and I couldn’t anticipate if he’d be able […]

The gods at Shuanglin temple are caged panthers

Before visiting someplace I’ve never been, I need to first project myself there in my imagination.  I do this by picturing one essential cultural experience.  It could be seeing an artwork, walking through a cathedral or listening to a particular sort of music.  Without this initial mind-travel, I can’t conceptualize doing something so strange as, […]

Pingyao: a dozen boring museums and one magical city

Pingyao, in the Shanxi province of Northern China, combines two of my favorite things: a walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Normally we don’t go walking around on city walls because HOB has a fear of heights.  However, Pingyao’s wall, which was built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, is low with a […]

Bracket envy and an introduction to traditional Chinese wooden architecture at Pingyao’s Zhenguo Temple

1000 years ago, back when Europe was clawing its way out of the dark ages, China already had a well established system of building standards.  The Chinese consulted manuals to standardize the building process and did so with remarkable success considering the enormous size of the country.  The basis of their traditional architecture was modular:  […]

The ratio of children to gingerbread in Torun is more than acceptable

Our guidebook lied about Torun. Oh, it didn’t lie about Torun being lovely—it is a gorgeous medieval Polish town.  No, the lie was that it is somehow an undiscovered destination, free from tourists. Torun, at least when we visited, is loaded with tourists.  And 95% of them are children.  Children are streaming through gates of […]

There may be teeth in the walls of the wooden churches of Southern Małopolska

The region in Southern Poland called Małopolska has several UNESCO listed wooden churches. These churches are scattered through six different villages which aren’t reachable by public transportation and, since HOB and I don’t drive, we were in quite a pickle.  I mean, it’s not like I would ever want to miss out on a UNESCO church […]

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: shrines in the mist

Imagine it’s the early 1600’s, you live in Poland and pilgrimages to the Holy Land are all the rage.  Oh man, do you ever want to go to Jerusalem.  But it’s not going to happen: you don’t have the money, your health is poor, and your boss won’t give you enough vacation time.  Hey, don’t […]

Centennial Hall, Wrocław: every landmark Modernist building should have an erupting Wagner fountain

By the time we got to Wrocław, a college town in the western side of the country, we were full on loving Poland. Usually we make up a local name for HOB: in Poland he was Józef Burlequeski.  I decided I also needed a Polish name, so I was Pani Slutski. Well anyway, Józef Burlequeski and I were […]

We’re in Zamość full of Renaissance joy (and kluski)

Okay guess where we are right now: Okay, you’re thinking “Looks Renaissance-y, bet you WOB and HOB are in Italy”. Nope.  This is Zamość, in Poland. Yep, we’re in Eastern Poland.  Here’s how we got here: ate breakfast at our hostel in Warsaw this morning and took a train to Lublin.  Jumped off the train […]

Where to store your bags of weed in the Ottoman houses of Gjirokastër

If you want to visit Zekate House, a traditional Ottoman home in Gjirokastër, Albania, walk up a steep hill, make a right, ask directions from a man tending his grape arbor, go up hill a bit more and then find the building with it’s two wood-capped towers and go inside.  No, Zakate house is not locked and no one works […]