In the Belgian village of Oustduinkerke on the North Sea, a 500-year-old tradition endures: shrimp fishing on horseback. It is the only place on record in the world where this unique, UNESCO-recognized practice still occurs. It is also one of the most difficult fishing practices in history, requiring mastery of both large horses and tiny shrimp.
The USSR was a communist state and federal union of 15 national republics spanning Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. These republics included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. All formed independent states by the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
Bulgaria in the Balkan Peninsula is one of the last members of the European Union (2007), a big geopolitical change for this former socialist republic. Traveling there is a step back in time with folklore, ancient sites and older architecture eclipsing modernity. You can also step in time in traditional group dances and smell the roses that abundantly grow in this southeastern European country.
Kyiv, Ukraine was a golden child of the Golden Age then was destroyed twice, most recently, during World War II. But it rose like a phoenix, becoming an important city of the USSR then the capital of independent Ukraine. Today it’s a hub for glorious churches, coffeehouses and clubs, turning its ashes into golden dust.
Paris, the City of Light, has been a light in my life for decades. Its romantic reputation upholds as the capital of France, which exemplifies “joie de vivre,” and as the world’s epicenter of art, architecture, fashion and gastronomy. My love affair with Paris began many years ago and continues to this day.
Hamburg is Germany’s northerly darling that’s a gateway to the world as a major international port. It accesses the North Sea via the Elbe River and rivals Venice with its web of canals and waterways. More than 15,000 ships from over 100 countries pass through Hamburg each year. The city-state also has a lake (Alster, divided into inner and outer parts), massive shipping and ship building industries, and maritime culture from water “buses” to a weekly fish market. This explains why Hamburg is Germany’s second most populated city after Berlin and has more consulates than almost any city in the world.
Discovery is a dream rooted in nature … who knew Heligoland archipelago north of Germany had such stunning cliffs and fluffy cows! This once Frisian then Danish hideaway was taken over by the British in 1814, which ceded it to Germany in 1890 in exchange for Zanzibar and other African territories. The Germans used Heligoland as a naval base during both World Wars and as a tourism spot in between. Today it a site for navigation, wind-energy production and scientific research, namely orinthology.
Beach, wind and fire sum up the Canary Islands of Spain from La Palma to Fuerteventura. Made from fire, these islands all have a fiery temperament. Mother Nature creates and destroys parts of them like a symphony. Stunning beaches and wind for sports are her gifts in between movements.
Lanzarote, the most volcanic island in Spain’s Canary archipelago, is comprised entirely of volcanoes ranging from 15 million to 300 years old. The newer landscape was largely created by a volcanic eruption in the 1730s that covered it with lava and ash, expanding it several square kilometers and destroying villages. Today, this eruption is frozen in time, giving life to a black “moonscape” of craters and bizarre shapes with streaks of red, orange and yellow. Driving across this island brought “Thelma and Louise” back to life as well.
Contrary to popular belief, Spain’s Canary Islands west of Western Sahara do not take their name from birds, rather dogs. While the songbirds were named after the Canary Islands, the latter was derived the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning “Island of the Dogs.” Ironically, these windswept islands, notably the kitesurfing hub Fuerteventura, will transport you away from the “dog eat dog” world and make you sing like canaries.