Portugal’s Alluring Azulejos

Portugal is a feast for both the stomach and the eyes. It’s a land of irresistible port wine, trayfuls of crispy and creamy pasteis de nata (custard tarts), and buildings adorned with colorful ceramic tiles called azulejos.

When you visit Portugal, you’ll spot azulejos on the outsides and insides of many different types of buildings, including railway stations, churches, palaces, and even everyday homes.

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An Apiary on Malta’s Xemxija Heritage Trail

Since ancient times, the Mediterranean island of Malta has been renowned for its splendid honey. There’s even some speculation that the country’s name has its origins in honey. The ancient Greeks, for example, referred to Malta as “Melite” (Μελίτη), which translates to “honey sweet.” And during the Roman period, the island was called “Melita.” In Latin, “mel” means honey.

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Armenia, a Land of Lavash

We took the night train from Tbilisi to Yerevan. Arriving in Armenia 11 hours later, we were feeling disoriented, groggy, and ravenous.

When Shawn and I chanced upon some ladies baking lavash flatbread inside a restaurant next to our apartment, we immediately perked up. Sensing our curiosity about the baking process, an employee motioned for us to wait at the counter.

She also handed us a plate filled with a bunch of grapes. This was a fitting act of kindness given that wine has been made in Armenia for thousands of years.

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Photo du Jour: A “Stunt Squirrel” Takes on a Croatian Forest

A red squirrel pauses after doing some death-defying moves in the evergreen treetops of Makarska, Croatia. This “stunt squirrel” — with impressive nails and fabulously furry ears, I might add — lives on the Sveti Petar Peninsula, a forested area that overlooks the Adriatic Sea.

When I took this picture earlier this year, I was amazed by how unafraid this fluffy guy was. Clearly, this super squirrel knew there was no way I’d be able to catch him. So he paused near me for a few seconds, allowing me to capture him on film. Then, he was on his merry way. I watched as he leapt from tree to tree. Eventually, I couldn’t see him anymore, but I could still hear his claws digging into the tree trunks and branches.

In some parts of Europe, the Eurasian red squirrel (sciurus vulgaris) is in decline due to the introduction of its invasive cousin from across the Atlantic, the Eastern grey squirrel. The Eastern grey carries squirrelpox, a virus that can kill the red squirrels. The grey species also competes with the red squirrels for food and shelter.

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Brač, Croatia: Hunting for Hercules in a Roman Quarry

For nearly 2,000 years, limestone has been extracted from quarries on the Croatian island of Brač. In the 3rd century, laborers used this dazzling white stone to build the palace of Emperor Diocletian in the city of Split.

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Brač limestone was used to construct the Saint James Cathedral in Šibenik, as well as the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence in Trogir.

In more recent times, Brač limestone has been incorporated into Budapest’s and Vienna’s parliament buildings — even part of the White House.

Not far from Brač’s northern coast, you can visit an ancient Roman quarry used to supply the limestone for Diocletian’s Palace. Inside this old quarry called Rasohe, there’s also a carved relief of Hercules.

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The Windows of Porto, Portugal

The northwestern Portuguese city of Porto is characterized by hilly streets, buildings covered in multicolored azulejos, and a long history of port wine production. Polished townhouses decked out with flower boxes stand proudly beside dilapidated structures covered in graffiti, making Porto just as pretty as it is rough around the edges.

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A Guide to Exploring Oberammergau, Germany

The quaint town of Oberammergau, Germany is best known for three things: a world-famous Passion Play, a centuries-long tradition of woodcarving, and its elaborately painted buildings.

Oberammergau is situated in a scenic valley and is surrounded by the forested mountains of the Ammergau Alps, meaning that it’s also a paradise for nature-lovers.

It’s a community where time sometimes feels frozen, and where modern life meets the traditional. As a result, you’re likely to spot some residents dressed in colorful folk costumes when a local holiday rolls around. (Think Lederhosen, feather-adorned hats, and Dirndls.)

For more than seven years, my parents have called Oberammergau home. As a result, Shawn and I have spent many months getting to know Oberammergau, or “O’gau” as we call it. Along the way, we’ve soaked up some of the town’s history, done a bit of hiking, and gone on the hunt to find Oberammergau’s prettiest painted buildings.

Whether you’re coming to Oberammergau for the Passion Play, or simply to appreciate the ambience of this traditional Bavarian town, I’ve created this Oberammergau guide for you.

It highlights Oberammergau’s main attractions, as well as popular outdoor activities. It also includes general information that will help you with everything from finding a hotel to shopping for souvenirs. Finally, if you decide to base yourself in Oberammergau, I’ve also shared a few day-trip ideas for you to consider.

This is an in-depth post, but you can easily navigate it by using the Table of Contents.

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Waddling Winemakers on Parade in Stellenbosch, South Africa

In South Africa’s Cape Winelands, winemakers at the Vergenoegd Wine Estate have all their ducks in a row — literally.

More than 1,000 Indian runner ducks can be found on the estate. These feathered friends have been an integral part of the winery’s pest management program for decades, as they gobble up snails, slugs, and bugs from the vineyard.

Today, daily parades featuring the animals attract visitors — young and old — to the wine farm’s scenic grounds near Stellenbosch.

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