Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
London's financial district and Tower of London, seen from the Tower Bridge

Click on title to view photo in large format. London’s financial district and the Tower of London, seen from the Tower Bridge across the River Thames. Notable among the gleaming skyscrapers, from left to right, are 20 Fenchurch Street, the Leadenhall Building, and 30 St. Mary’s Axe. Nicknamed ‘The Walkie-Talkie’ because of its distinctive shape, 20 Fenchurch Street is a commercial skyscraper with 34 stories, making it the 12th tallest in London. The distinctive wedge-shape of the Leadenhall building has earned it Read More

The long strand of Brighton Beach leads to the world famous Brighton Pier in Brighton, England

Click on title to view photo in large format. Brighton Pier, stretching 1,722 feet into the English Channel, is generally regarded as the most magnificent pier ever built. It began life in 1832, as the “Chain Pier,” used as a landing terminal for ships arriving from Dieppe, France. Over the next six decades, the pier suffered damage from storms that eventually resulted in its total destruction. A new and better pier opened in 1899. Over the ensuing years, amusement machines, a concert hall, and amusement park rides were added. Read More

Two young boys standing in front of me at Helsinki Harbour fidgeted and poked furiously at their mobile phones. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying but their excitement was unmistakable. All up and down the line, kids and parents were waving phones around and gesturing excitedly. Suddenly, one child cried out and pointed toward the ferry boat. My curiosity finally got the better of me and I asked a woman what was going on.

“It’s Pokémon GO,” she replied. “There’s supposed to be a character here at the dock.”

For those of you who have been living in a cave, Pokémon GO is the newest fad in children’s electronic games. Its description, taken from the website of the Japanese developers, states, “Pokémon are creatures of all shapes and sizes who live in the wild or alongside humans…Pokémon are raised and commanded by their owners (called “Trainers”). During their adventures, Pokémon grow and become more experienced and even, on occasion, evolve into stronger Pokémon.”

The search for Pokémon begins at the entrance to Suomenlinna Fortress

The search for Pokémon begins at the entrance to Suomenlinna Fortress

Pokémon uses a mobile phone’s GPS, clock, and camera to display the cartoon-like characters on a cell phone screen. Some Pokemon characters are found in their natural habitats – for example, Squirtles and Poliwags tend to be found in and around lakes. But Pokémon can be found pretty much anywhere. The technology is so advanced that if you’re hunting after dark, you’re more likely to see fairies or night creatures. The goal is to capture as many of the 700+ creatures that inhabit the Pokémon universe as possible. Read More

View down Lai Street toward Saint Olaf's Church in Tallinn, Estonia

Click on title to view photo in large format. The view down Lai Street looks toward Saint Olaf’s Church in Tallinn, Estonia. Though it’s believed to have been built in the 12th century, it was not mentioned in written records until 1267. The church’s steeple has always been exceedingly high. Between 1549 and 1625, Saint Olaf claimed it was the highest building in the world, though this has long been disputed due to differing standards of measurement. What is clear Read More

Traditional Russian Dancers wait to perform at the FEELRUSSIA Festival of Russian Culture in Tallinn, Estonia

Click on title to view photo in large format. Estonia, the northernmost of the Europe’s three Baltic States, shares a long land border with Russia. In fact, St. Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia, is just a few hours away by bus from the Estonian capital of Tallinn. So, it was no surprise that I heard as much Russian being spoken during my visit to Tallinn as I did Estonian or English. It was a delightful surprise, however, to discover that that the FEELRUSSIA Festival of Russian Culture was scheduled during my visit. The day after arriving, I wriggled through Read More

The fuzzy silhouette within the long rod of amber seemed familiar, yet I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. I turned my head sideways and squinted to better focus. With a start, I realized I was looking at the complete body of a lizard that had been trapped in amber. The specimen at the Amber Gallery and Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, is rare. Of the millions of pieces of amber that contain inclusions, only six lizards have ever been discovered.

One of only six examples of a lizard trapped in amber, this specimen can be seen at the Amber Gallery and Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania

One of only six examples of a lizard trapped in amber, this specimen can be seen at the Amber Gallery and Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania

In part, it was these mysterious inclusions that had drawn me to the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. I wanted to know more about the semi-precious material known as amber, and to learn how it became one of the most prized materials of the ancient world. Perhaps most of all, I wanted to understand how plants and insects came to be trapped inside. Read More