A quiet alley in barrio Malasana. Madrid, Spain


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IMG_20140622_121855620_HDRAmong the heavily trafficked boulevards of Madrid are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. I often avoid the busy places, opting instead for the nooks and crannies. The side streets. The alleys and quiet passages of the city grid. Barrio Malasana is not lacking in this pursuit.

Inside Temple bar- Dublin, Ireland


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Passerby looking inside The Temple Bar dreaming of a cold one.;)

Along the River Liffey, in the heart of Dublin’s cultural quarter you will find the most renown cafe bar scene in Ireland. The place is chock full of interesting beer pubs, restaurants and cafes. The Stag’s Head, The Ha’penny Bridge Inn, Buskers and much more. All offer a vibrant social scene and lots of the foamy stuff to whet your palate. I started at The Temple Bar, the most famous, before I made my rounds. While in Dublin this area is certainly not to be missed. Just watch out for those pesky little Leprechauns. After a few frosty pints i am sure you will see them!~ZTsave_img_118


Berlin, lessons of the past


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Iconic view of Brandenburg Gate, the passage connecting the east and west.

Dark Past
Imagine if someone built a 15′ wall running along Fifth avenue in New York. Or along the Thames in London. Or Champs Elysees in Paris dividing the city in half. Separating the east side from the west. One might think that to be a ridiculous notion. Perhaps borderline absurdity. Well that is exactly what happened in Berlin in 1961. Many people forget this sad chapter of Germany’s past was a part of modern History. Without warning people were separated from their families, their work and many lives were lost in valiant attempts to escape from the east to the west. IMG_4519Both East and West Germany were mired in shadowy conflict and this tug-of-war became the epicenter of spy activities between the US, Britain and Russia resulting in the cold war. During the WWII much of Berlin was leveled.
The infamous Checkpoint  Charlie still sands as a grim reminder the of past
Transportation systems and  service networks ceased to exist. Any infrastructure that remained after the war was so badly damaged it has been replaced or redesigned. So most of what you see in the city proper was built in the last several decades.
Ominous billboard of Russian soldier staring into the west at Checkpoint Charlie
In 1987 an American President gave a stirring speech at the Brandenburg Gate encouraging the Soviets to “tear down this wall”. This incident stands in stark contrast with a current contender for the US Presidency who is trumpeting the virtues of building walls. Berlin is a living reminder that building walls to separate people does not work.
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Present day the Berlin Wall still cast a feeling of gloom in the street light.
Bright future
Picturesque view along the Spree river
The good news is Berlin has overcome its past shadows through active engagement and outreach as a leader in world affairs. Through sweeping reform and implementation of bold  austerity measures it has not only survived but thrived. As Europe’s third largest city Berlin has become a powerhouse and the anchor to the European economy. IMG_4504However, venturing into the eastern side there is still a bit of catching up to do. As a foreign traveler I was amazed at the freedom modern Germans have. They were friendly,  even exuberant and seem to be able to do whatever stroke their fancy regarding freedom of expression and public discourse. IMG_4386 In the trendy  Kruzberg area people were milling about, some dancing in the open air.  Its quite common to see people enjoying a bottle of beer of wine while strolling and chatting.  Many sat by the river Spree enjoying the evening sun and friendly conversation. IMG_4383 The focal points for social gatherings are the numerous outside restaurants and beer gardens lining the river and neighborhood areas. Unlike most European cities there is no real city center in Berlin. Alexanderplatz is a favorite of mine because of the variety of cultures, myriad shops and diverse open air gardens.
Charming outside gardens at Prenzlauer Berg
But Prenzlauer Berg is not to be outdone featuring quaint shops and fantastically colored architecture. The glass facades of Potsdamer Platz, could very easily fit into the skyline ofIMG_4381 Manhattan. Each area showcasing its own unique charm. IMG_4536

Potsdamer Platz

Best of all, Berlin is quite inexpensive to enjoy. For 5.50  to 6 euros you can enjoy a nice meal. A frosty stein of German beer will only set you back 1 to 2 euros. Its a fine thing to return home from travel under budget. I actually returned home with money in my wallet. A rare thing indeed!;) ZT


Tulip Fields of Holland


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“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” -From Matthew 6:28.
This passage is also quoted as inspiration in the movie “lilies of the Field.” One of my favorite Sidney Poitier classics from the 60’s.
These two thoughts flashed through my mind as I strolled the tulip fields of Central Holland.  The fields are drenched in bright yellow, fuchsia, gold, crimson and purple. Some pigment so brilliant they defy description. So rich and colorful they inspired Van Gogh to capture their luminance with his thrashing brush and vibrant palate.
In the Golden age of Holland, tulips were so valued they were even used as currency.  Many Dutch measured their wealth by the amount of financial interest they had in the tulip trade. Until the market crashed in 1637.


Just beyond the outer rim of the North Sea dunes, slightly west of Amsterdam, the bountiful pastel fields spread as far as the eye can see. Strewn aghast, sprawled, multicolored layers of pigment spilling across the lowlands, creating a picturesque kaleidoscope of hues reminiscent of Van Gogh’s master work, Tulip Fields.

The fields, aflush with tulips of of every variety. It is as if the colors of the rainbow exploded and fell onto the open lands of Holland. And it is here they lay, flaunting themselves in the brightly colored beds, like pigmented stars soaking in the sun.

They may not be traded as currency anymore but their richness and value will long endure.~ZT


Castle Muiderslot! A slice of medieval shenanigans!


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IMG_3228One of the things I like most about Europe is the tradition of preserving its artifacts and old structures for all to see and feel, giving you a hands on connection to history. Castle Muiderslot is just the ticket for a pleasing day trip by car, cycling or public transport. Especially if you have a thing for castles. Like I do.
Located mid way between Amsterdam and Hilversum, 17 kilometers from the city center, it should take you little more than an hour by bike.


The medieval castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a mysterious history as colorful as any attraction in the Netherlands. Its first resident was Count Floris V who built the castle in 1285. Floris V was a staunch supporter of the French who later decided to invade the Netherlands. But the reign of Floris V was short lived when he was overthrown and imprisoned in his very own dungeon. Subsequently he was killed in a bloody coup in 1296. His image still adorns the walls in various paintings placed throughout the castle.

Walking form the Herald room to the Knight’s Hall you acquaint yourself with how people lived in medieval times. I was surprised to see the number of toilets they had at their disposal. Go figure.




The winding steps of the south tower spiral upward to the sentry walk where the castle guards kept a watchful eye for enemies. Here you have an amazing view of the courtyard, surrounding meadow and the river Vecht.

In the IMG_3207Armory room you will find a healthy assortment of swords, armor and various weapons used by the gallant knights from the period. Descending the stairs below leads you to the grisly dungeon quarters, eerily equipped with chains, metal handcuffs and other instruments of torture. You can almost feel the pain and suffering of the guests who were imprisoned and tormented there.This fate was bestowed upon Count Floris V himself, later a prisoner in this grim corner of the castle. IMG_3190IMG_3195

Muiderslot Castle has since changed owners many times over the last 750 years. Thousands of souls have traversed its drawbridge into the castle keep. Your imagination runs wild with salacious tales of backroom skullduggery. Stories of the tortured and screams of the damned imprisIMG_3212oned below. The hairs on the back of your neck stiffen. There is a sudden chill in the air as your body succumbs to gooseflesh. Standing alone in the Herald room next to Floris V’s coat of arms you get the feeling that you are not alone. Hmmmm, perhaps you are not.;)-ZTIMG_3229

Dusseldorf, Germany! 25th year reunification celebration.. or, Can I have more bratwurst with my beer please?!


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Sometimes life throws you pleasant surprises. Especially when involving sponteneity and travel.
By chance I found myself in Germany on the 25th year anniversary of its reunification.  Quite unexpectedly I decided to take a trip to Dusseldorf on the first weekend of October unaware of the significance of this historical date.IMG_3788
While walking the Schadowstraße in Dusseldorf center, completely by chance I discovered I had wandered in the midst of an amazingly ruckus street party.  Now I may not be the brightest apple that ever feel from the tree but I know a good party when I walk smack dab in the middle of one. Truth to be told, I came to Germany to sample the exquisite beer selection. But like a blind mouse that walks into a hunk of cheese..well, viola! Suddenly there was German beer everywhere!  In the cafes. All over the streets. And the next thing I knew, even in my hand! This was shaping up to be a serendipitous weekend of infinite possibilities!!IMG_3817

Twenty five years ago the Berlin wall came down. Although the unrest in Eastern Germany began in 1989 the actual demolition of the wall followed by the official reunification declaration was signed in October 1990.


A quiet cobblestone alley

So here I was again, blatantly reminded of the reason I enjoy traveling. And it had nothing to do with the frosty German beer in my hand either!


I started at Uerige Obergarige, a beer garden that brews its own beer since the 18th century. Its conveniently situated at the corner of Flinger and Berger strasser, a main artery of Dusseldorf which acts as a passageway to the city’s other interesting strassen.  The mood was lively and festive but not over the top. Germans can be a bit stoic at times but they know how to celebrate when there is plenty of beer around.IMG_3794
Dusseldorf’s history is a storied one at best. One many Germans would just as well forget. Formally an industrial city of strategic importance in WWII.  So important the Allied bombers dropped several hundred tons of explosives in one night, in effect leveling the city. The intensity was so severe they are still finding unexploded bombs in Dusseldorf today. The last was discovered in August 2014.

The Twisted Tower, dating back to the 14th century

 Rebuilding Dusseldorf has been a monumental, albeit arduous task to say the least. Previously heralded as one of Germany’s chief industrial cities, it has since migrated into a modern municipality of technology and business.  As a result, through the painstaking efforts of the city planners, the architecture is sleek and sophisticated mixed with a blend of neomodern . While traversing the city you feel as though you are in a futuristic, or even, dare i say it, “space age” megalopolis.


Gehry Building, featuring its titanium exterior, Dusseldorf center

Along the Rhine there are mundo cafes lining the promenade. The only question was,

bratwurst or weinersnitzel?   Now I knew this was probably not the healthiest thing to eat. Considering it would probably give me brain cancer, stomach lesions, wreck havoc to my colon and a host of other ailments yet undiscovered by man. But heck, there are worst thing to eat right? Well, maybe not, but I was in Germany,


Futuristic Neomodern design, along the Rhine

and local custom dictates that every wide eyed traveler has to gorge themselves on bratwurst and beer upon entering the country.

  Of course I am not one to break the rules. So without hesitation I proceeded to indulge in the local custom. Over and over again. After a few more foamy glasses of courage my guilt subsided. But if these photos appear to be a bit out of focus, you know why!
So next time you are in Dusseldorf. Forget about seeing the architecture and go straight for the brautwurst. Your colon may not appreciate it. But your taste buds sure will !~ZTIMG_3833