Europe 2008
Europe 2010
Other Countries

The Vatican City is a country of its own surrounded by Italy. The sculptures of the Roman Caesars and paintings, especially by Michelangelo are amazing (below). But I must say the famous 'creation of Adam' on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a lot smaller and less prominent than I expected. Posters, books, TV, and the movies almost make you believe it is this huge thing taking up the whole ceiling in its own room. It was crammed in between tons of other works, you could easily miss it. The accommodations were of the most culturally authentic I’ve seen. Check out the narrow elevators in Rome (left).


St Peter's Basilica is enormous! (above). All around Rome are the ancient ruins lying around like junk (below). It's pretty incredible that they have withstood so much time and still lay there like they did when they originally fell. Check out the car completely covered with bird shit (left). Italians are very serious about their coffee. Make sure you say cafe latte instead of just late. Also, because of the way restaurants and cafes pay taxes, it costs more to have your coffee sitting down in a chair than it does standing up. So make sure you order to stand if it's just a coffee. The towns of Tuscany are all perched up on top of these hilltops like fortresses (below).


Venice is a giant lagoon, which I guess is flooded like a quarter of the year. It seems to be a normal thing, they just bring out the ramps, and raised walkways as the water crashes over the barriers and seeps up through the drain holes and cracks. It's an enormous group of tiny islands connected by thousands of tiny walking bridges. The movies make you believe you can't get around without a boat, but actually it's all walking down alleys and bridges. And they say you WILL get lost walking the alleys in Venice, which is absolutely true. You can try to memorize certain paths, and follow maps, but still - it's inevitable. But its fun lost.


Along the way to Lucerne, Switzerland was a stay at the Bates Motel (left). Actually it was a very cool hotel with very nice accommodations. Entering Switzerland it looked like plastic model houses on a model train set (below). Switzerland is divided by mountains between the German, Italian, and French sides. The style, culture, and language come from each without much of an actual Swiss culture of its own. But they take their chocolate very seriously, in fact they have laws to enforce the percentage of cocoa in it. Also they take wrist watches seriously too. Check out the tiny church perched on top of the snowy mountain all by itself (below).


The French take their wine very seriously. Actually, the French take everything seriously. Especially not taking the time to learn their language. Even though they all know english, they consider it an insult if you assume they know english and don't start off by trying to speak french. Especially if you’re American. The food is extraordinary. Paris is amazingly beautiful. The buildings downtown aren't allowed to be more than 5 stories high, and they all keep to the original architecture style that makes Paris so alluring. The Notre Dame sits on the Seine river which is much prettier than the Thames in London, England.


London is a pretty massive city with a lot of old and new culture and architecture. It seems much of the activities focus around nightlife and drinking in pubs. I guess most of the pubs in London acknowledge the fact that British food isn't very good and serve many other cultures food instead. It's actually very hard to find bangers and mash or any British cuisine. It's all mostly bar food or some other ethnic food. The ‘underground’ subway is good, but the Paris ‘metro’ is better. The parliament building and 'Big Ben' seemed a lot smaller than they do in pictures and the movies.



Budapest seems to be full of buildings made of large bricks and stone. It's also filled with hot springs and steam emanating from the ground all over the city (below). Along the river is the amazing gothic Parliament and Chain Bridge. I always thought Budapest was named after Buddha, but in fact the Hungarian word buda means water and the pest is from the bakeries that once crowded the city. They are also obsessed with paprika, and not only the powder but the whole pepper, stuffed or otherwise. Almost all their food has it, especially the goulash and wild game dishes. The center market is filled with tons of paprika along with fresh meat.


Vienna's buildings were so grand and majestic. Most of these buildings and cathedrals are around the city's center 'ring'. They re-channeled the Danube River and parts of the old one is still there. Beethoven, Freud, and Mozart were all in Vienna, and you can still go to Mozart's home. St. Stephen's cathedral, where Mozart got married, has underground catacombs beneath it. Like in Mozart's time, there are still many horse and carriages around that area. I had some of the best coffee here. They speak German, and there's plenty of schnitzel on every corner, in fact more than I saw in Germany. I also had some great bratwurst and currywurst in Vienna.

   Czech Republic

Prague is an amazing medieval city that seems to have stayed in that era and resisted the constant updating and modernization of architecture which usually dilutes the personality or character of an ancient city. With tight cobblestone streets, towers, steeples and spires everywhere, and the largest castle in the center, it really makes you feel like you're playing World Of Warcraft or Dungeons & Dragons. And being one of the few cities undamaged from WWII, it's pretty authentic. The Charles Bridge has an amazing view of the castle. If you like wild game, there are so many restaurants serving venison, rabbit, and boar. The taxi cabs are a bit corrupt, so be careful.


Prague seems to have this reputation of being dirty and dangerous, but I really didn't see any evidence of that at all. In fact, I didn't even see a 'bad' part of town like I would be used to seeing in cities like Shanghai, New York, or DC. The subways here as well as Budapest and Vienna all seem to run on the 'honor system' where there is no turnstile and nobody really checks if you have a ticket. There is this shrunken human arm that hangs in this cathedral (above right). Outside of Prague is a small town named Kutna Hora where the Sedlec Ossuary, or skull church is. It is packed with skulls and bones from like zillions of people. There are so many skulls that there are just piles of them. Many are artistically arranged and made into wall ornaments or chandeliers.


It's funny how Germany tries to hide or forget about its WWII history, but there is still plenty of history remaining or rebuilt to see, as well as from the cold war. The remaining strip, and chunks of the Berlin Wall and ruins from the Third Reich are scattered around Berlin. Berlin is a diverse city with such a mix of historical sites and modern architecture. The train system in Germany is outstanding and the luxurious ice trains make the ones in the US look archaic. Dresden had great cathedrals, and Nuremburg has been completely rebuilt accurately and remains an amazing sight to see with it's medieval feel, tight streets, cathedrals, castle, and the Nazi rally grounds (below).


The beer in Germany is the best in the world, especially in Bavaria. Munich reminds me of New York City with its diverse culture and urban streets. The regional weisswurst (white bratwurst) with sweet mustard and a pretzel are a fantastic meal. The Hofbrauhaus is legendary and a great destination for beer lovers (right). Outside of Munich is the infamous Dachau Nazi concentration camp. Much of it is still standing including the crematorium ovens. Frankfurt is a big modern almost futuristic city, and Rudesheim is quite the opposite - a small traditional town along the Rhine River (below). There is an astonishing amount of incredible castles along the Rhine.