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In Europe

Günter Blömer’s Mühlenmuseum in Bergisches Land

Road to the Muhlenmuseum in Bergisches Land

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

Bergisches Land refers to Berg Country, a region of low mountain ranges situated between the Rhine and Ruhr rivers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Berg here is not to be confused with the German word of the same spelling, meaning mountain. In this case, we’re talking about a duchy (European for ‘territory’) that dates back to the 12th century.

Like much of European history, you can drown yourself in all the details of events that have taken place since that time. You’ve got your Neanderthals over 35,000 years ago; your typical, general awfulness of the Middle Ages riddled with conflict, war (though they escaped any major battles of the Thirty Years War) and the plague; the industrial revolution; Napoleon popped in for a bit to claim it for himself before Prussians took it back with the help of Russian Kosaks and it grew to become one of the largest economic centers in the German Empire of the late 19th century only to be destroyed in the Second World War. Post-war, the Bergisches Land Nature Park was founded (1973) and tourism has since become a focus for the region. That about brings us up to speed.

And like most corners of western Europe, it’s difficult to imagine the conflict and plague that ravaged these lands when you’re standing in a place like the Bergisch countryside, surrounded by woodlands, grassy meadows, streams, and lakes. But for me, that’s what defines this slice of Germany; that and––drumroll please––its mills.

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In Europe/ There Must Be Order

“I Will Practice My English With You”

silhouette of a man in blacka nd white
Photo by Fortyozsteak on Unsplash

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

It started out like so many pivotal scenes from a psychological thriller. The dim festival lighting, the crowds of unwitting drinkers enjoying themselves, the spitting rain on a chilly September night. Then, out of the shadows, the creepily cheery voice of a man who knows something you don’t.


I was at a craft beer festival in Düsseldorf with my friend Chris at the time. We had just debated heading out for some food, having had more than our fair share of brews over the past three or so hours.

“Let’s go back to that one brewery with the guy from Tennessee and talk to him before we go,” suggested Chris. “He seemed like a cool guy.”

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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?


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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 ( 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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