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In Europe/ Outdoors

Sintra-Cascais Natural Park: Hiking to the End of the World

Sintra to Cabo da Roca Hiking Trail

“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes in variegated maze of mount and glen.” — Lord Byron, Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage

Sintra is one of those places that comes up when you’re looking for something else to do in Portugal besides the two cities you’ve heard of ––Lisbon and Porto. You’ve wandered the winding, hilly streets of both Lisbon and Porto, avoided the infamous 28 tram and fell in love with the melancholic music of Fado. What now?

Sintra.

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In Europe

Bergmann Brauerei and the Dortmund Beer Festival

Bergmann Brauerei at the Dortmund Beer Festival

This story was produced in cooperation with Dortmund Tourismus. As always, all opinions are my own.

“Harte Arbeit. Ehrlicher Lohn.” That’s, “Hard Work. Honest Wage.”

So read the white block letters on the wall at Bergmann Brauerei’s Stehbierhalle (standing beer hall) in a formerly industrial corner of Dortmund’s Hörde neighborhood. The Stehbierhalle harkens back to a tradition of grabbing a quick beer someplace affiliated with your favorite brewery. It was part of everyday life 100-plus years ago, strategically placed next to major public transit stations and market squares.

The Bergmann Stehbierhalle of today might seem familiar to craft beer aficionados from the U.S., accustomed to heading out to the sparsely populated corners of the warehouse district where some enterprising brewers have grabbed cheap, disused factory space. If the beer is good, drinkers will follow, and soon the food trucks aren’t far behind.

That’s the Bergmann of the 21st Century, with a pack of lycra-clad cyclists out front, replenishing their calories post-ride, and thirsty tourists trickling into the cube-shaped building for a local brew.

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In Europe

12 Things to Do in Lisbon (and One to Avoid)

Things to do in Lisbon

“By day Lisbon has a naive theatrical quality that enchants and captivates, but by night it is a fairy-tale city, descending over lighted terraces to the sea, like a woman in festive garments going down to meet her dark lover.” — Erich Maria Remarque, The Night In Lisbon

Portugal has gone from the Spanish neighbor with a chip on its shoulder to the top of international travel wishlists. The naive, theatrical quality is that it’s a city built for tourists. It has everything most want out of an urban European vacation. Scenic, walkable streets, street art, and a smattering of enchanting ruin porn to excite Instagram audiences. The food, the drink, and the music keep people around the Portuguese capital for an extra couple of days.

Filmmaker Fabio Petronilli covers the danger in Lisbon overly embracing its newfound tourist reputation in the brilliant documentary short You’ll Soon Be Here. Watch it here. I implore you to do so before booking your trip. If you follow one tip in this post, make it that one.

Everything I’m recommending here is based on personal experience, including only what I’d recommend to a friend. If you’re the kind of traveler who tries desperately to ditch crowds in a popular city, but also understands that some things are touristy for a reason, then I suspect some of these tips for things to do in Lisbon will be helpful. Boa viagem.

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In Europe/ There Must Be Order

The (Not So) Awful German Language

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

Mark Twain once penned an essay titled, “The Awful German Language” that originally appeared in his book A Tramp Abroad. The book takes place in the late 1870s shortly after the unification of Germany’s hodgepodge of kingdoms in 1871 by Otto von Bismarck, a frumpy Prussian man with an overhanging mustache, with the assistance of Kaiser Wilhelm I, another Prussian man but this time with a curly mustache and mutton chops that looked like a loofah.

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In Europe

Hermannsdenkmal and Brauerei Strate in Detmold

Hermannshoehen Trail Fog

I traveled to Detmold for this story as a guest of Nordrhein-Westfalen Tourismus (www.nrw-tourism.com). As always, all opinions are my own.

“Normally you can see it from here,” our host explained. “But with this fog…”

Our small group of writers followed her along the paved path, unable to see much more than fifty yards ahead. There was some freshly quenched green grass on either side of the path, but that’s about it. Otherwise, there was the feeling of walking into the abyss. Such a setting could’ve been used for an apocalyptic film, but in reality, we were just making our way to the popular monument.

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In Europe

How To Visit Auschwitz On Your Own

Visit Auschwitz train tracks
Photo by Filippo Bonadiman on Unsplash

I visited Auschwitz in March of 2019 and was surprised to see just how many people had made the trip. Later I did a little research and found that over two million tourists visited in 2018, a record for the memorial and museum. I was fortunate to find out early on that visiting Auschwitz takes a bit of planning if you’re doing it without a travel service and don’t want to stress out about the details at the last minute.

In the end, I’m glad I traveled on my own and did the necessary research in advance. I’m hardly the first (nor will I be the last) to travel solo from Krakow to Auschwitz. To spare you some of the headaches, I’ve detailed how to plan your own visit to Auschwitz.

But first, a bit of history.

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In Europe/ There Must Be Order

Reserved

Inside Hamburg German Train Station

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

Germans take their reservations seriously. You’re a fool if you go out at night, expecting to just waltz in and grab a table at anything above a decent restaurant. Anyone who does so on a Friday or Saturday night is escorted out and sent immediately to solitary confinement at an asylum to think about what they did.

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In Europe

Hermanns Highway: A Weekend Getaway to Bielefeld and Teutoburger Wald

Hermannshoehen Hiking Trail in Winter

A monstrous, dirty white telecommunications tower poked through the naked winter forest. It looked like a space ship, the kind you might find in cheesy sci-fi films from the 70s, had been stabbed by a pike. (An ominous warning to future spaceships, perhaps?) We crunched our way up the frosted, leaf-covered trail to have a closer look. A sign promised that the tower — the Fernmeldeturm Hünenburg — was open, but it looked as quiet as a Sunday morning in a German village.

I was hiking the sixth stage of Hermannshöhen — a 226-kilometer trail through Teutoburger Wald (Forest) in northwestern Germany. My wife and dog, Moses, came along for the weekend excursion, yearning for an opportunity to stretch our legs for the first time in the new year and to breathe the kind of fresh air only the woods can provide. With the bigger-than-you-think city of Bielefeld serving as our base, we bundled up and headed out to take our first glimpse of January sunshine.

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