Reichstag

Busy in Berlin

I have just spent a luxurious eight days in Berlin, in a bright and modern little apartment on Grosse Hamburgerstrasse. Not long ago, I wrote of my first trip to this remarkable town. It was 1988, the year before the wall came down, and I was thunderstruck by both the raw creative power of West Berlin, and the stark quotidian realities of the East. For this […]

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Shetland: How do you get a pony on a cruise ship?

It must be hard to be a citizen of Shetland. I’m not talking about the isolation, the harsh North Atlantic storms, the long dark winter. It must be infuriating to have your whole cultural identity associated with adorable ponies and wee sheep dogs, particularly when you have a long, proud and very interesting history to present to the world. We arrived in Shetland by cruise ship tender. Tendering […]

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Welcome to Tórshavn and The Faroe Islands

Tórshavn and the Could-I-Live-Here Index Every so often I find myself in a place I never dreamt I’d visit. These unpremeditated travels are among the most interesting in my life: it’s one thing to travel to a storied place like Berlin with high expectations; it’s quite another to wash up on the shores of the Faroe Islands (figuratively speaking) with no prejudices whatsoever. Well, few […]

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Sculpture, Oslo

Oslo, Sunday Morning

What to do on a quiet Sunday morning in Oslo? Revel in stunning public art, for starters. I’d been looking forward to seeing Oslo for some time. My travels in Norway had been exclusively by cruise ship, and the capital figures on very few itineraries. Norway is all about the gorgeous fjords for most travellers; if you want beautiful cities, you take a Baltic cruise […]

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Stavanger Morning

This bustling oil town has managed to keep its unique Norwegian charm, thanks to one architect’s vision. In my recent travels to Nova Scotia, I pulled into the beautiful small town of Yarmouth to find that a big old brick church had just been reduced to a pile of rubble. The dust was still settling, literally, and some of the townspeople were enraged. They’d laboured […]

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Geirangerfjord

Goats and Glaciers: Gorgeous Geiranger Fjord

This world heritage site in western Norway just may be the most beautiful fjord in the world. The first time I cruised around Norway as a ship’s naturalist, I was asked to get on the ship’s PA system and give a narration about the fjords. Great! So up to the bridge I went, only to discover that there, um, weren’t any fjords out there. It […]

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Alesund, Norway

Dances With Kittiwakes: An Encounter With The Coolest of the Gulls

A visit with the kittiwakes of Ålesund, Norway. Any travel guidebook will tell you that a visit to beautiful Ålesund is all about the architecture. And I suppose they’re right; it is quite something. This town on the outer Norwegian coast has a legitimate claim to fame in its buildings: in 1904, most of Ålesund burned to the ground. Fortunately for the townspeople, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany […]

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Farmhouse, Flam, Norway

Fleeting Flashes of Flåm

Flåm, the village at the head of the fjords   Imagine living in a town of 500, and getting over 500,000 visitors on your doorstep every year. That’s life in the Norwegian fjords, and we got our first sampling of that strange dynamic in the pastoral village of Flåm (rhymes with Tom) in the Sognefjord region of western Norway. Flåm lies at the head of […]

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buekorps boy marching

On Parade with the Buekorps of Bergen

A spring Sunday morning in Bergen, Norway wouldn’t be the same without the boisterous boys (and girls) of the buekorps, keeping tradition alive… and themselves out of trouble. It rains a lot in Bergen, Norway. I mean a lot. Three days out of four, in fact. And while this isn’t what you’d call a small town—it’s actually Norway’s second-largest—the last thing a concerned parent needs […]

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The Other Side of Amsterdam

Despite its reputation as a hedonist’s delight, Amsterdam is charming, refined, diverse and beautiful. You just need to know where to go. Whenever I tell people I’m off to Amsterdam, I get pretty much the same reaction:  “Oh, Amsterdam. Off for a little fun, are you? Nudge, nudge.”  Please. First of all, I come from Vancouver. I can have pretty much any kind of “fun” […]

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