Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

I was completely and utterly exhausted. A couple of months earlier, my right hip and knee had begun to ache constantly and walking long distances was becoming increasingly difficult. I booted up the laptop, opened my calendar, and began counting. It was mid-October, 2016, and I’d visited 23 countries so far that year, some of them more than once. No wonder I was tired. I needed to slow down and rest.

My friend Dorothy, whom I’d met years ago during a Yoga Retreat in India, came to my rescue. “I know the perfect place,” she said. “We’ll go to EcoYoga Scotland.” Since Dorothy lives in Edinburgh, I didn’t doubt her recommendation for a second. A few days later, we were headed into the highlands on the west coast of Scotland.

I could have looked at this gorgeous view at EcoYoga Scotland for hours

I could have looked at this gorgeous view at EcoYoga Scotland for hours

Happy to have someone else handling the travel arrangements for once, I relaxed and enjoyed the drive through through luxuriant green hills splotched with crimson and gold foliage. At Loch Awe, the paved road ended. We rolled our windows all the way down and followed the narrow, one-lane dirt road along the cobalt lake for the next two hours, breathing in the pure air. I thought it couldn’t get any better, until we arrived at EcoYoga Scotland. Read More

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