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Goshka with the Trabant, who would together take us on our Communism tour of Nowa Huta.

A Krakow Tour with a Twist

Crazy Guides’ communism tour advertises a visit to Nowa Huta, a “model communist city.” Built starting in the 1950s, this experiment in communist community-building is considered a landmark of Soviet-era socialist architecture and urban planning. I signed up for the tour with low expectations. I thought that the phrase our tour guide kept using, “worker’s paradise,”…

Ruminations on Auschwitz, Part 2

NOTE: This post is the second of two parts. The first is “Ruminations on an Auschwitz tour.” It would probably make more sense for you to start there. Problems of Auschwitz tourism I have some issues with how the tours of Auschwitz are conducted. I’m not criticizing the Krakow Shuttle’s conduct: their part of the tour…

Ruminations on an Auschwitz Tour

When I was a kid – six or seven years old, I’d guess – my parents decided I was old enough to see a documentary about the Holocaust. With no idea what it was about, I was delighted to be allowed to stay up past my bedtime. If my parents explained it at all, before…

Hacı Bayram mosque in Ankara, Turkey. The small section under the minaret is the mausoleum, and looks older than the rest. One Day in Ankara, Turkey.

One Day of Sightseeing in Ankara, Turkey

The last time I tried to visit Turkey was more than 30 years ago, and my attempt failed. I’ll tell that story at the end of this post. I will tell you, though, that I finally managed to get there recently when I flew to Ankara to lead a workshop. I tacked on one extra…

Jesus washes the disciples' feet in this fresco in Desesti church.

Wooden churches of Maramures, Romania

You’d think that after visiting the UNESCO-listed fortified churches of Transylvania and the painted churches of Moldavia, also UNESCO listed, we’d have gotten tired of visiting historic churches. Romania has yet another collection of UNESCO-listed churches, though. (Maybe Romania’s motto should be “Land of Churches”!) Right up near the border with the Ukraine, the wooden…

The Elie Wiesel Memorial is housed in this modest house in Sighet, Romania

Elie Wiesel Memorial House: a museum with a message

I am ashamed to admit that when we passed through the small city of Sighetu Marmaţiei, in the north of Romania, it was just a place to stop for the night on our way home to the Netherlands. Our GPS was about half a block off in directing us to the hotel we’d booked randomly…

A panel from inside Patrauti church. Look at the detail the painter put into it? Do you happen to know who they are? The Spectacular Painted Churches of Moldavia

The spectacular painted churches of Moldavia

Last week I posted about the fortified churches in Transylvania, eight of which make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another collection of churches in Romania, this time in the northeastern part of the country, Moldavia, are also UNESCO sites, just listed as “Churches of Moldavia.” The Painted Churches of Moldavia What makes these churches…

Viscri fortified church

Fortified Churches of Transylvania

Once upon a time, the King of Hungary, called Geza II (1141-1162), had a problem. His kingdom needed defending, especially in the south and east, in what is now Romania. It was the Middle Ages, and everybody was fighting over territory. So he sent ethnic Germans to settle in Transylvania, and they continued to move…

Bran Castle: Should you visit Dracula's castle?

Should you visit Dracula’s castle?

As the crowds shuffled through the castle, some tourists tried to stake out spots where they could take pictures of each room without people in the photo. Others posed for selfies, their backs to the beautifully restored spaces. One man, reaching high in an attempt to snap a picture above our heads, leaned casually on…