Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza Italy

Midway between the cities of Venice and Verona in northern Italy, lies a third “V” – the tiny town of Vicenza. Though smaller and lesser known that its more famous neighbors, Vicenza nonetheless packs a punch in terms of history, culture, and especially architecture. In 1994, Vicenza was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its concentration of buildings designed by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. But in my opinion no other place displays the city’s beauty better than its central plaza, Piazza dei Signori. Read More

Strolling along the shores of Lake Garda in Peschiera del Garda in the Lakes District of Italy

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of the Lakes District in Italy. The roots of my fascination may lie in the many movies that have been filmed there. Casino Royale, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, A Month By the Lake, Ocean’s Twelve, and Man on Fire, among others, were all filmed at Lake Como. Though I’d previously spent time at Lake Lugano in southern Switzerland, and viewed Lake Como from a bus on my way to take the famous Bernina Express train to Chur, Switzerland, I’d never actually stayed at any of Italy’s famous Lakes. During a recent trip to northern Italy, I decided to remedy that with a stop at Lake Garda. Read More

When discussing what to do in Munich, Germany, many travel writers wax lyrical about Oktoberfest. Ah, the beer! The sing-alongs! The pretzels, bratwurst, and schnitzel! But the festival also has its drawbacks. More than 6 million visitors descend upon the city every year beginning on the third Saturday of September. If, like me, you’re no fan of crowds, Oktoberfest may not be the best time to visit Germany’s third largest city. Fortunately, Munich has so much more to offer than the world’s biggest beer festival.

Palaces and Castles:

Construction on Residenz Palace (Munich Residence) was begun in the 14th century. From an inconsequential castle, it grew to become a grand palace. Today the building is a museum to its patrons, the rulers from the House of Wittelsbach, who governed Bavaria from the 17th century. Located in the center of the city, its scores of rooms display lavish furniture, paintings, tapestries, treasures, and religious items.

Residenz Palace in Munich Germany

Residenz Palace in Munich, Germany

Nymphenburg Palace, located on the outskirts of Munich, was the main summer residence of the House of Wittelsbach. This magnificent Baroque structure and its stunning gardens are open to the public, however it also continues to be home to the current head of the House of Wittelsbach, Franz, Duke of Bavaria. Read More

Octoberfest is often featured in stories about what to do in Munich, Germany, but I found the city had so much more to offer than its annual beer bash.

Entrance gate at Dachau Concentration Camp features the famous Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free) slogan

We humans are fascinated by disasters. We find it impossible to look away from a car wreck. When a disaster of enormous consequence occurs, our first impulse is to tell someone. Cable news stations are acutely aware of this tendency; they capitalize upon it with round-the-clock coverage of hurricanes, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks. For the most part, I believe it would be healthier not to be quite so fascinated with such events. However, I also believe that some disasters must never be forgotten. Thus, just as I had toured Auschwitz Concentration Camp near Krakow, Poland, and the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I made it a point to visit Dachau Concentration Camp during a recent trip to Munich, Germany. Read More

Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich Germany

There is no mistaking the resemblance between Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland in California. Built in 1886 by King Ludwig II, the fairy tale castle was for years rumored to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney. That rumor was finally confirmed in 2012. A Disneyland representative admitted to an Orange County Register reporter that Walt Disney and his wife had visited Neuschwanstein Castle prior to the construction of Disneyland. It was indeed the template that Disney had in mind when he was designing his Magic Kingdom. Read More

King Ludwig II built Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany in order to withdraw from public life. How ironic that it was the inspiration for Walt Disney\'s famous castle.

Oberbaumbrucke Bridge across the River Spree in Berlin, Germany

The city of Berlin is a dichotomy. It’s not particularly pretty, but I venture to say there are few cities more interesting than Berlin. It is filled with art galleries, museums, and is a magnet for creative types. Unlike Germans in the rest of the country, who tend to be more reserved, Berliners are famous for their ribald sense of humor. Of course, during the years when the Berlin Wall divided the city, East and West Berlin were a study in contrasts. The wall may be gone, but with each visit the dichotomy of Berlin reveals itself to me in myriad ways. Read More