Summer 2017 − Wandering around Europe

After nine years of travel, I've seen 45% of our planet.

Only 45%?! How did I come up with this number? I started with a list of 193 members of the United Nations. To this list, I added 136 territories, colonies, islands, protectorates, enclaves and administrative regions that seem like separate destinations from the countries that own them. These are places like Bermuda, Gibraltar, Scotland, Greenland, the Canary Islands, Sardinia, Mayotte, Zanzibar, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Antarctica, to name just a few. This brings me to a total of 329 global destinations, which is almost the same list of destinations used by The Century Club.

I tally the places I visit differently from The Century Club, who say that a short stopover counts − even if it's only a port-of-call, or a plane fuel stop. That's not good enough for me. I don't count a place visited unless I've spent at least a day there, had a meal or two, and talked to someone who lives there. Short visits are okay for places like Macau, Monaco or Midway Island. But with most countries, you simply can't do the place justice with a one-day visit. And some places, like Spain, are so magical that a single visit would never be enough.

As of June 2017, I've visited 148 of the destinations on my list. This leaves me with 181 more places to see. At the rate I'm going, it's going to take at least 10 more years to see the remaining 55% of the world. Whew! This will mean many more travel blog updates for you to read. Be patient ... and thanks for reading.

May 31, 2017: Hungary

Friends have been telling me for years what a wonderful, charming, historic, inexpensive and hospitable place Hungary is. I went there last month. Surprise, surprise! They were right.

I started with Budapest, which is actually two cities, separated by the Danube. Buda is a fortress town perched on a hill upon the west side of the river. Pest is the financial, political and cultural center spread out across the flat, east side of the river.

Budapest's Neo-Gothic Parliament Building, on the banks of the Danube

Matthias Church on Castle Hill in Buda
Hungary has a long and colorful history of being invaded from all directions: Romans, Huns, Germanic tribes, Slovaks, Ottoman Turks and Habsburgs have all left their mark here. Consequently, Hungary is an architectural treasure trove, with Roman ruins, medieval town houses, baroque churches, neoclassical public buildings, and Art Nouveau bathhouses and schools.

Like everyone else who comes here, I spent a few days wandering around Budapest awed by the stunning buildings. Matthias Church − named for Hungary's most successful king − is a popular destination. It sits on top of the hill overlooking Pest.

Due to a fault line shaping the Danube Valley, more than 100 thermal springs come to the surface in Budapest. From Roman times, these springs fed mineral baths.

Today, Budapest has about twenty public baths, from traditional Turkish baths to modern water parks. Some of these public baths are like soaking in a hot tub inside a cathedral. You can get a good massage at these places, too.

After a long day of site-seeing, I enjoyed relaxing in the baths and getting a massage before venturing out to eat and drink at one of Pest's ubiquitous sidewalk cafés.

Széchenyi Baths in Pest's City Park

Saint Stephen's Basilica
Pest is rich with culture at great prices: Swan Lake at the Opera House for $24, and a Bach+Mozart concert at the Basilica for $8. Hearing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor in such a gorgeous setting gave me goose bumps. As the choir sang Mozart's Requiem, I counted 137 angels above me.

By the way, I found a really good AirBnB apartment in Pest, halfway between the Basilica and the Opera House. When traveling, it's good to find clean, quiet, comfortable places to sleep at night.

Saint Stephen's Basilica interior

Central Hungary's countryside

Lake Balaton, seen from the overlook on the Tihany peninsula
Budapest has excellent public transportation. But to see the rest of Hungary (and Croatia, too), I rented a car. Hungary and Croatia have good roads and beautiful countrysides.

My first stop was Lake Balaton, the largest lake in continental Europe. Click here to book your stay at a stunning cottage overlooking the lake.

From the lake, I continued to Keszthely and Pécs. These are both delightful towns with art museums, palaces, historic churches and delicious food everywhere. The biggest difference between these country towns and Budapest is that there were no tourists. It was nice to see "real" Hungary.

The 18th century Festetics Palace in Keszthely

Graduation ceremony

Pécs’ main square with the Mosque Church in background

Mosque Church interior


From Hungary, it was an easy drive across the border to Zagreb, Croatia's capital. Here is a tidy, attractive city with lots to see and do, as well as eat and drink. Zagreb takes at least three days to explore fully. I confess that I stayed here only one night. To see the whole world in one lifetime, sometimes one has to keep moving.

The downtown area, in particular the Old Town, is for pedestrians and electric trams only. It was a pleasure to be able to walk through the cobblestone streets without having to compete for space with cars. (I wish that more cities in the US would create pedestrian-only districts.)

Zagreb's Old Town is dominated by a twin-towered 13th century Gothic cathedral. Outdoor art is everywhere. Leafy parks are full of statues, fountains and flower beds. Good restaurants are on every street.

Zagreb's Upper Town

Inside Split's Old City
Next, I drove to Split, Croatia's second largest city. 2000 years ago, this city was full of Roman merchants, nobles and soldiers. Today, it's full of tourists.
The harbor in Split, with ferries to other points on the Dalmatian Coast

Fishing boats in Hvar's harbor
Finding free parking in Split was so difficult that once I found a place to put my rental car, I left the car there for a week and continued my journey by boat.

Split is a convenient port for ferries up and down the Adriatic, as well as to Italy. I sailed first to nearby Hvar, one of many incredibly picturesque islands on the Dalmatian Coast. Hvar is a popular anchorage for the yachties because of its perfect little bays, idyllic restaurants and bars, and white sandy beaches.

Okay, so what's so special about the Dalmatian coast? Picture hillsides covered with pine forests, vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards, and fields of lavender and rosemary. The winters are mild and the summers are nothing but sunshine.

Ancient Greeks founded colonies here, making these settlements some of the oldest towns in Europe. Many of the Dalmatian towns are fortified to protect against pirates and the Ottoman armies. For centuries, the fishing villages supported themselves by building boats and making wine. Today, they have the added income of hotels, apartments, restaurants, marinas, museums, galleries and cafés.

I used my time in Hvar to rest and plan onward travel. Hvar is a great place to walk along the water's edge, feel the history in the stones, or watch the sun set.

Saint Stephen's Square, Hvar

Sailboats and crystal clear water in Hvar

A nice place to toast the sunset

Looking down on Dubrovnik and the Adriatic from Mount Srd
From Hvar I cruised to Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic." Wow! How come nobody ever told me about this place?

(Actually, if I'd paid more attention to the news in 1991, I'd have remembered that Dubrovnik was besieged by Serb and Montenegrin soldiers for seven months and suffered significant damage from bombardment. Thanks to restoration works in the 1990s and early 2000s, Dubrovnik is once again one of the top tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.)

This is a beautiful medieval city full of fascinating history. It caters to tourists with museums, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops everywhere. It's not particularly cheap. It wasn't too crowded in June, but it's packed with tourists in July and August. Whenever you can come here, this place is definitely worth seeing.

A visit to Dubrovnik isn't complete without doing the 2km walk around the top of the walls that surrounds the old city. These walls are up to 6m (20ft) thick and 25m (80ft) high. The views from the tops of the walls are spectacular. The narrow alleys down below are a great place to get lost in.

I can see why Dubrovnik is a legendary tourist destination. It has a great vibe, lots of delightful things to see and do, and great tourist services.

I found a superb AirBnB apartment just outside the old city. Contact the hosts Marilyn and Livio directly at

The main street in Dubrovnik's Old Town, known as the Stradun

View from Dubrovnik's city walls

Dubrovnik's harbor and waterfront

The plaza in Trogir
Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik aren't the only seaports along the Dalmatian Coast with ancient walls, marble streets, baroque buildings, seaside promenades lined with bars, cafes and yachts, and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic.

After returning to Split, I stumbled upon the town of Trogir. Note the lack of tourists in the photo to the left.

For my next visit to the Dalmatian Coast, I dream of sailing here by yacht and anchoring for a few days up at every unknown fishing village along this coast.

Plitvice National Park

Waterfalls in Plitvice National Park
I ended my roadtrip through Croatia at Plitvice National Park. This seems to be where all of Croatia's waterfalls are gathered together. It's an excruciatingly scenic place to take a hike.

Here, I had the added pleasure of meeting rural Croatians at an inn just outside the park entrance. Dragista is an artist in the kitchen. Neijo makes a killer plum vodka. We had no language in common, but we communicated very well.

This new round of travels reminds me how thankful I am to have the health, the energy, the time, and the resources to continue my quest to see the world. Travel can be incredibly enriching. To be able to see and know first-hand this beautiful planet and the people who live on it is a great blessing. I'm thankful for this continued opportunity.

My hosts in Plitvice: Dragista and Neijo

Palace of Culture & Science with ♫ crosswalk

June 30, 2017: Poland

Poland didn't exist during the 19th century. (It had been 'partitioned' by Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary.) During World War II, Poland was reduced to rubble, while millions of Poles died in gas chambers. After the war, Poland endured 45 years of Soviet control. Yet through all this, Poland emerged with an intact culture, a strong economy, and a warm welcome for tourists.

Poland's restoration is complete. Fortresses are full of shining armor. Castles are ready for royalty. Old towns look just the way they did four centuries ago − albeit with insulated windows, modern plumbing, and wifi.

I flew to Warsaw on a one-way ticket, planning to spend a week in Poland. I ended up staying two weeks in this delightful country. I could've stayed longer.

Warsaw's Old Town Square
Poland is proud of its history. Chopin not only has an entire museum dedicated to his life and work, and an international airport named after him, but piano-themed crosswalks in Warsaw. (see above) There are statues and paintings of Copernicus everywhere. Cathedrals show off photos of enormous crowds gathered during Pope John Paul II's visits. It's amazing to think that Poland wasn't on any map of Europe in 1914.
From Warsaw, I took the train north to Malbork to see the largest fortress built anywhere during the Middle Ages. The Marienburg (Fortress of Mary) was built by the Teutonic Knights and was the headquarters of the order for almost 150 years. Today, it looks just as it did six centuries ago.

Knights? Fortress of Mary? Yes, the Teutonic Knights were an armed religious order. As reflected in the carvings and murals throughout the interior of the fortress, their mission was to spread Christianity through armed conflict. Interesting ...

Malbork's massive 14th century castle on the banks of the Nogat River

The bustling wharf next to Gdansk's restored Main Town
To the north of Poland is the Baltic Sea.

Shipping has been a primary industry here for centuries, especially Gdansk.

Classic Polish borscht for lunch in Gdansk

The shipyards in Gdansk, where Lech Wałęsa's Solidarity Movement began in 1980

The animated organ in Oliwa Cathedral
History was my least favorite subject in school. But learning history by visiting places like Gdansk is a pleasure.

Gdansk is where World War II began. Hitler recognized that, by capturing Gdansk, he could control shipping to eastern Europe. The German invasion of Poland began here on September 1, 1939. Gdansk is also where shipyard workers went on strike against their Soviet masters in 1980. This was the beginning of the Solidarity Movement, which eventually led to the break-up of the USSR.

Just up the road from Gdansk is the town of Oliwa which features a very special mechanized organ. If you ever get a chance to see this amazing instrument, you'll see carved wooden angels move as they blow their horns. Click here to see a video of the animated angel sculptures (watch carefully).

Keep going along the coast to the picturesque seaside towns of Sopot and Gdynia. If you go far enough, you'll end up in Hel, a village at the end of the Hel Peninsula. It's a nice place to go for a walk, but I didn't see anyone swimming. It was freezing in Hel.

The beach at Hel and the chilly Baltic Sea

My friend Arek and a Polish Fiat (not his)
Traveling is a good way to meet interesting people and to make friends from other places. Often, you'll get invited to someone's town for a visit. Arek and I first met in South Africa. When I got to Gdynia, it was great to have a friend to show me around his town.

As with people, animals are different from place to place. Out at the end of the Hel Peninsula is a place like San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, where you can learn all about Baltic seals.

Making friends with a Baltic seal

St.Mary's Basilica in Kraków
I'd nominate Kraków as one of Europe's most beautiful cities. The architecture is stunning and varied. Historic buildings and monuments are everywhere. The Old City is ringed by a leafy, green park with benches and bicycle paths. The central plaza is huge (200m x 200m). It's the largest medieval town square in Europe.

Kraków's town square is packed with outdoor cafés, perfect for morning coffee, a beer and salad at lunch, or a delicious dinner. At all times of day, you can hear the bells chime in the basilica and watch the horse-drawn carriages roll by.

St.Mary's altar, Poland's largest piece of medieval art (13m x 11m)

More hearty Polish food in Kraków
Near Kraków is a huge salt mine, with 300 kms of tunnels. In extracting the salt, the miners often got creative, carving underground cathedrals decorated with altars, statues and chandeliers.
Chapel of St.Kinga inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine
My last stop in Poland was Auschwitz, a 40-minute bus ride from Kraków.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the largest of the German extermination camps built during World War II. Here, the Germans murdered more than a million Jews, Poles, Hungarians and Roma from April 1941 until January 1945 in the pursuit of Nazi ideology.

Visiting the complex is an unsettling but deeply moving experience. There are two parts: Auschwitz, where many of the original brick prison blocks are still standing; and Birkenau, with the remains of four huge gas chambers, complete with crematoria. Birkenau is where most of the killing took place.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a grim reminder of history’s greatest genocide.

This was my last stop in Poland. From here, I took a train to Prague.

Auschwitz, where more than 1 million people died

Easy booking, fast trains, clean stations
One of the challenges of independent travel is figuring out how to get from one place to another. Thanks to an excellent rail network, travel in Poland is easy.

I rode trains all over Poland. As an American, I appreciate how convenient an efficient rail system can be ... and I wish the U.S. had one.

Many cars have bicycle storage areas.

Wheelchair accessibility and dogs allowed
I love Europe's trains because ...
  • You can book your ticket last minute (or the day before) on-line or at the station.
  • Train stations tend to be in the middle of cities. So, there's no need for a long trip outside of town to the airport.
  • There are no luggage or security hassles. So, you can show up at the last minute for your departure.
  • There's lots of legroom and headroom. The seats are wide, especially compared to airplane seats.
  • The windows are big and clean. There's always lots to see.
  • Without turbulence, you don't need a seatbelt.
  • You're free to walk around, use the loo, or visit the dining car at any time.
  • There are no restrictions on using your phone and other electronic devices. Each seat has a 220v electrical outlet.
  • The on-board wifi is fast and free.
  • You can take your dog and/or your bicycle on board with you.
  • Good food is available at a modest price.
  • If your trip is less than 500 km, it's faster and cheaper to take the train.

The Czech Republic

I'd heard that Prague is the equal to Paris, London or Rome. It's true. Prague is a gorgeous city, full of beautiful buildings, great art, fine dining everywhere and famously excellent beer. Judging by the number of tourists I saw here, a lot of people seem to know this already.

Having said this, here's a useful travel tip. If you'd like to see − and enjoy − Prague, I suggest that you come here in spring or fall when the queues to enter the castle are short, it's easy to find a free table at a café on the town square, and you can take a selfie and be the only one in the photo.

Prague's Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) with swarms of tourists

Old Town Hall's Astronomical Clock
In Prague, there are four sights on everyone's list:
  • Old Town Square
  • Astronomical clock outside City Hall
  • The Charles Bridge over the Vltava River
  • Prague's gothic Castle overlooking the city

Saint Vitus Cathedral, inside Prague's hilltop castle

Medieval armor for adults and children
The Guinness Book of World Records says that Prague's Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, at 570m long by 128m wide. It takes all day to see it.

No medieval castle is complete without a collection of armor and weapons. The armory in Prague's castle includes armor for children.

The best parts of Prague are its curving cobblestone back streets with historic gardens, medieval cottages, small breweries with hidden cafés, and a surprise or two, such as monks who appear to float in the air like magic.

Floating monks performing in Prague
I enjoyed several strolls across the Charles Bridge. It's one of the essential Prague experiences, and the views are great, too. Legend claims that the bridge has survived more than six centuries thanks to eggs mixed into the mortar.

By day, the bridge is filled with tourists who give their money to portrait artists, street musicians, postcard sellers, jewelry vendors, and magicians. At night, the famous baroque statues loom like solemn ghosts over the pedestrians returning from the bars.

Compared to the rest of eastern Europe, Prague was more expensive and less hospitable. During the summer, central Prague can feel like it's populated entirely by tourists. I suspect that the locals were all at a football match or picking wild mushrooms in the mountains.

The Charles Bridge with its baroque statues, built in 1357
To escape the crowds in Prague, I took a bus 2 hours south to the magical town of Český Krumlov. My Lonely Planet guide said that this is the only other world-class, must-see sight outside of Prague. National Geographic named this Renaissance fortress town one of the "world’s greatest places". Wow!

An illustrated map of the Bohemian town of Český Krumlov

This is what Český Krumlov actually looks like.

Paddling down the Vltava River in Český Krumlov
The same Vltava River that flows through Prague flows through Český Krumlov. Here the boats use paddles, not diesel.

This town has a unique theatre with seating which rotates the audience from one scene to the next. This makes for great chase scenes!

Český Krumlov's open-air revolving theatre

Náměstí Svornosti, Český Krumlov's 17th century Old Town Square
Český Krumlov is a small town. You can tour the castle, climb the tower, and walk every street in just one day. In the evening, after a dinner of fresh trout by the river, you might wander into the town's Old Square for a free concert. (Note the lack of crowds in the photo to the left.)

I appreciated the fresh air, peace and quiet of this town. I spent only a day here, but it was just what I needed. This really is the fairytale town the tourist brochures promised.

St.Michael's Church, Špilberk Castle in background

Brno's spacious Náměstí Svobody town square

WW-II Soviet tank #23, painted pink
Continuing into eastern Czechia, I came to the city of Brno, which is Czechia's second largest city. Here, I was starting to get off the tourist trail. I saw only one other tourist getting off the bus in Brno. I also noticed that prices were lower here, too.

Whereas Prague and Český Krumlov are in the province of Bohemia, eastern Czechia is known as Moravia. Bohemia in the west and Moravia in the east feel like different countries. If Bohemia is about towns and cities, Moravia is rolling hills and pretty landscapes. If Bohemians love beer, Moravians love wine.

Like most European cities, Brno is compact and pedestrian friendly. I spent a day wandering through downtown, entertained by shops, restaurants and street art. One item really caught my attention. The tank shown to the left was a gift to the city after the Soviet army liberated Brno from the Germans in 1945. It became a hated symbol of Soviet occupation until 1989, when Czechoslovakia finally gained its independence. As soon as the Soviets were gone, a local artist painted the tank pink in defiance of the retreating Soviet bosses. It's a colorful statement as to how the Czechs feel towards their former landlords.

From Brno, I took a train deeper into Moravia to the city of Olomouc. I was now definitely off the beaten path. There wasn't much English spoken here. With very few tourists, the locals were even friendlier and the prices still lower.

I enjoyed seeing Prague and all that it had to offer. But I also appreciate visiting places where I can see what a country is really like.

At Olomouc's castle, I started learning about the Great Moravian Empire, Europe's first Slavic kingdom.

The view of Olomouc from the top of St.Moritz cathedral

Holy Trinity Column in Horní Náměstí I (Olomouc's main square)
The Great Moravian Empire? Is someone making this up? I'd never heard of this empire until now.

Way back in the 9th century, a series of Slavic kings united and controlled Bohemia, plus most of Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine. That's a lot of territory under one rule. As has happened to me many times before, I wondered why I'd never been taught this chapter of history in school. Travel is a great way to fill in the gaps in one's education.

Soon, I was going to learn even more about Great Moravia at my next stop in Bratislava.

Incidentally, I had one of my best meals in Europe at a café on the square shown in the photo to the left. The café had no menus in English, so I just told the waiter to bring me whatever he thought was good to eat and drink. I love ordering a meal this way.


On arrival in Bratislava on July 5th, I noticed that most businesses were closed. People were dressed in traditional costumes. There were musicians and dancers in every square.

I quickly learned that July 5th is one of Slovakia's biggest national holidays: Cyril & Methodius Day.

Sunset over Bratislava, with the Danube in the foreground

Slovakian folk dancing
Cyril & Methodius Day?! More history to learn:

In 863 AD, two Byzantine missionary brothers named Cyril & Methodius came to Moravia to create an alphabet for Slavonic liturgy.

If the name Cyril sounds familiar, it's because their alphabet evolved into the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia and eastern Europe. Thus, July 5th is a national holiday to celebrate literacy. I love it!

Traditional Moravian costumes
I found Bratislava to be another comfortable and elegant eastern European city with excellent public transit, a huge pedestrian area in the middle of the city, art museums, concert halls, shops, and restaurants and cafés everywhere. Here's a spacious AirBnB apartment in the old city, in case you're thinking of visiting Bratislava.

I took a boat trip up the river to see the ruins of Devin Castle, with its commanding view of the Danube. The Hungarians regarded this fortress as the western gateway of the Kingdom of Hungary. The fort was a strategic stronghold for almost 1000 years until Napoleon's troops blew it up in 1809.

It's been a pleasure to wander through eastern Europe for the past two months. I have a couple more stops to make before I return to the states. One more blog to go.

The Maiden Tower and the ruins of Devin Castle

Southern Spain revisited

Before returning to the US, I spent a couple of weeks in one of my favorite countries: Spain.

La Costa del Sol is a world-renowned tourist destination near Málaga. Until the 60's, this part of Spain was a quiet province of fishing villages along the sandy shore, with pueblos blancos (white villages) in the hills above. Today, La Costa del Sol feels a little bit like southern California with high-rise condos, golf courses, trendy bars and restaurants, and busy highways along the beach. Still, if you know where to look, you can find a few quiet beaches and charming villages. It helps to have a friend who has retired here − with an apartment overlooking the Mediterranean − who's willing to be your guide and drinking companion.

Fuengirola, on La Costa del Sur

Quiet Benalmádena
Benalmádena is where I spent most of my time. Its fountained plazas and narrow cobblestone streets are an ideal place to escape to on a hot afternoon. Life is calm and civilized here. Prices aren't outrageous ... at least not yet. It's easy to see why many ex-pats have retired here.

Benalmádena features a Quixotic castle dedicated to Christopher Columbus. I think the guy who built this castle must've spent a lot of time sitting in cafés in Benalmádena, gazing across the sea towards north Africa, snacking on a plate or two of tapas, sipping tinto de verano, chatting with good friends, and daydreaming. I did the same.

Castillo Monumento Colomares dedicated to Christopher Columbus
Up in the mountains about 100 km from Málaga is the exquisite medieval town of Ronda. This is another of those places where I had to ask myself "Why didn't anyone ever tell me about this place?!" If I'd read Death in the Afternoon or The Dangerous Summer, I'd have known about Hemingway's fascination with bullfighting. He spent many afternoons sitting in the stands at Ronda's Plaza de Toros. The two photos below will give you a hint of what a remarkable place Ronda is. But I recommend that you go there yourself to stroll along the clifftops at sunset.

Ronda, with Puente Nuevo over El Tajo Gorge

Ronda's legendary 18th century Plaza de Toros

Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Africa

To satisfy my curiosity − and to check another destination off my "bucket list" − I took a 40-minute flight from Málaga across the Mediterranean to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, which is a little piece of Spain on the north coast of Morocco.

Melilla has been Spanish territory ever since Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand stole it from the Berber fishermen in 1497. In spite of numerous attempts by Morocco to reclaim this territory, Spain has managed to hold onto Melilla for more than 500 years.

Melilla is tiny − just a little larger than Mackinac Island in Michigan. Legend has it that the Spanish defined Melilla's boundary with Morocco as being the maximum range of their canons from the fortress they built on an outcrop overlooking the harbor.

Melilla's La Vieja fortress

Plaza Héroes de España
What makes Melilla special is its architecture, designed by Enrique Nieto.

Who is Enrique Nieto? He was a student of Antoni Gaudí, famous for the Modernisme style of La Sagrada Família, Park Güell and many other imaginative structures in Barcelona.

In 1939, Melilla appointed Enrique Nieto as its city architect. Consequently, Melilla is like a mini-Barcelona in terms of its palaces, parks and plazas.

Modernist apartments at Menendez Pelayo square

Plaza de España, in the center of Melilla
In Melilla, there are undulating park benches decorated with broken bits of ceramics, plazas with playful paving stones and festive fountains, and apartment buildings with ornate and organic structural features. There are touches of Nieto's designs everywhere.

Walking through Melilla is like walking through an art museum. I read that Mellila's collection of modernisme-style buildings constitutes the second largest concentration of representatives of the style outside of Barcelona.

One surprise about Melilla was that there were almost no tourists. Unlike La Costa de Sur, the sidewalks were empty and I never had to wait for a table at a restaurant.

Melilla's marina at twilight, with La Vieja fortress in the background
This is my last blog posting for this year. From Málaga, I flew back to the U.S. to reconnect with family and friends, and to see the Great American Eclipse of August 21st. But don't worry. This won't be my last blog. Not by a long shot. I've still seen less than half the world. I'm already thinking about where to go next year.

This past year of travel − which included eating my way through Taiwan, growing a business in Thailand, island hopping across the Indian Ocean, bouncing through East Africa, wandering around eastern Europe, and relaxing in southern Spain − has been a "trip of a lifetime." Every year for the last nine years, I've had journeys like this. Next year, I'll have another. How many "trips of a lifetime" can one have in one life? I don't know the answer to this question. But I do know that life is short, and my time on Earth is finite.

Happily, I've learned a way to make my limited time on this planet feel as though it's lasting longer. It's simple: Live as fully as possible. Take chances. Get out of your comfort zone. Push the envelope. Follow your wildest dreams. The years go by more slowly when you fill them with memorable experiences and unforgettable adventures.

Having visited about 100 countries, I'm often asked which one I like the best. I can't choose just one place, so I've nominated my favorites and posted a music video on youtube. Click here to see my Top 15. Click here to return to the world map. Feel free to email comments or questions.