Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Member of the Swedish Royal Guards stands at the entrance to the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedish Royal Guards have been protecting the Royal Family for nearly 500 years. First assembled in 1523, the guards were initially tasked with maintaining law and order in the city of Stockholm and serving as fire-fighters. Over time, their mandate was narrowed. Today the 50-60 soldiers who serve in the Royal Guards are responsible safeguarding the Royal Palace of Stockholm and Drottningholm Palace. They also act as an honorary guard to King Carl XVI Gustav when required, as well as performing honorary functions at state ceremonies.

This elite unit performs a changing of the guard ceremony every day from April 23 to August 31. On weekdays it starts at 12:15 p.m. in the palace outer courtyard and lasts about 40 minutes. On Sundays it begins at 1:15 p.m. During the fall and winter the ceremony is held several days per week. On special occasions the event turns into a full-blown parade through the streets of Stockholm, including a military marching band and a mounted Cavalry unit. Read More

From an early age, I was fascinated by the art of glassblowing. In those days, my exposure was limited to visiting tourist shops during family vacations, where glassblowers created a menagerie of crystal animals. I was transfixed each time an artist extracted a molten blob of glass from a blast furnace and fashioned it into a lifelike creature by forcing air through a blowpipe. To this day I have a box of those precious hand-blown glass animals, wrapped in tissue and stored in a safe place. My glass animal collection is one of the few things I couldn’t bear to part with when I sold my house to travel the world full time.

Glass works of art produced by the Glassblowers at Kosta Boda Glassworks in Sweden

Glass works of art produced by the Glassblowers at Kosta Boda Glassworks in Sweden

Glass blowing is an ancient art. Hand blown glass bottles have been found in excavations at a 2nd millennium B.C. Iranian archeological site. During the Roman Empire the art of glass-blowing achieved great popularity, eventually spreading throughout Europe, the Middle East, and into north Africa. By the 17th century, glass was being blown into shapes in many parts of the world. Still, most glass-blown pieces tended to be functional. That changed forever in 1962, when Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor, and Dominick Labino, a chemist and engineer, burst onto the scene. During two workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art, they began experimenting with melting glass in a small furnace and creating three-dimensional glass sculptures. This “studio glass movement,” as it became known, launched glass blowing into the realm of fine art. Over time, the techniques were adopted by the likes of Tiffany and Steuben in the U.S., Hoya Crystal in Japan, and Kosta Boda Glassworks in Sweden. Read More

Video of the talented glass blowers at Sweden\'s Kosta Boda Glassworks, who make crystal wine glasses, from melting the glass to adding the bases.

Frederiksborg Palace near Copenhagen Denmark

Though I’m usually quite lucky with weather during my travels, an occasional storm is unavoidable. But inclement weather isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it evokes a mood that seems perfectly suited to a site, and that’s exactly what happened during my tour of Frederiksborg Palace. Within moments of our arrival, thunder rumbled overhead and fat drops began to splatter the gravel. Cruel clouds roiled and descended upon the palace. Surrounded by bruised light, the green copper roof and spires glowed wickedly, like the inside of a witch’s cauldron. Read More

View down Frederiksholms Kanal in Copenhagen, Denmark

This view down Frederiksholms Kanal is one of the prettiest sights in Copenhagen. The canal runs along one side of the small island of Slotsholmen, which is home to Christiansborg Palace and the Royal Stables. The Prince’s Mansion (upper left) once served as the official residence of the Crown Prince of Denmark. Today it houses the National Museum of Denmark. The three-arched Storm Bridge at center is named after the “Storm on Copenhagen,” a military action that occurred during the 17th century Northern Wars. The bridge stands on the very spot from which Swedish troops mounted an unsuccessful siege on the city. Read More

Like thousands of tourists before me, I made my way to Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark. But rather than join the queues waiting to visit the Parliament and Supreme Court, I decided to stroll around the exterior. At the rear of the palace, an electrified fence surrounded a pasture where two enormous white Kladruber horses stood.

The one nearest me rolled his big black eye, scoping me out. “Beauty,” I said quietly. Curious, he trotted over to get a better look. I began to talk to him. He shook his mane and sprinted away, but was soon back. We played tag for 20-minutes. With each approach he came just a bit closer, but he always skittered away whenever I looked at him directly. I was completely mesmerized.

The Kladruber Horses of the Danish Royal Family

The Kladruber Horses of the Danish Royal Family

I had discovered the Royal Stables, home to the famous Kladruber horses. The lineage is more than 450 years old, making it one of the oldest and rarest of all breeds. Kladrubers originated in the Czech Republic. With their high-stepping gait and musculature, they were bred specifically to pull carriages. In 1994, the Royal Family acquired six young Kladrubers to pull the Queen’s carriage. Read More

In 1994, the Danish Royal Family acquired six Kladruber horses to pull the Queen\'s carriage. See them at the Royal Stables behind Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Boardwalk along Copenhage Harbour

Since its founding, Copenhagen, Denmark, has been inextricably linked to water. The earliest written mention of the Danish capital is found in a 12th century book, which referred to the city as “Merchants’ Harbour.” This was undoubtedly a reference to the waterway we now know as Copenhagen Harbour. This broad and sheltered inlet, which provides the best approach to the Baltic Sea in all of Europe, allowed Copenhagen to develop into a powerful trading center. Unfortunately, as the city grew and prospered, the harbour became ever more industrialized and polluted.

Fast forward to 2015, when the City Council adopted the “Metropolis for People” proposal. The five-year plan had a simple goal: to make Copenhagen the most livable city in the world. A primary focus of the project was redevelopment of the land surrounding Copenhagen Harbour. This past summer I enjoyed the fruits of this project as I strolled down Inderhavn, the most central part of the harbour. Read More