Monday, September 19, 2011

The top ten castles in Europe

best castles in europe

Castles originated in Europe over a thousand years ago. These fortresses were one of the original defense systems, and erecting the structures on hills or just beyond moats was a functional choice. Castles were built to house rulers, impose power, and above all, spurn would be attackers. Conforming to these basic principles of utilitarian design, the strongholds now appear solitary, majestic, and frozen in time. The attackers are long gone, and now a steady stream of camera clutching invaders breach the castles daily, ready to inspect the epic grandeur of the past.

While Europe has hundreds of excellent castles, these ten all have design, character, and history that sets them apart. Some occupy the center of bustling cities, while others lurk in forgotten countrysides. Spanning eight countries across Europe, each of these castles has a story to tell.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The world's most desolate countries

most desolate

According to a Harvard study
, the earth's population will hit seven billion humans in a few months. Earlier this summer, Gadling labs profiled the effects of increasing populations on finite land resources by showcasing the world's most crowded islands. The earth is, in its own way, an island, and 21st century humanity will be presented with the challenge of adapting to rising population levels and static resources.

While countries like India have wrestled with the conundrum of feeding and housing booming population levels in Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai, the countries on this list bear no similarities to the billion strong Indian subcontinent. These countries are the ones with open space - lots of it. Countries like Greenland and Mongolia may someday be utilized for their vast expanses of open terrain, but today they are simply great places to go when you have tired of other human beings.

So while this extraordinarily hot summer may have included elbowing your way through thronged midtown Manhattan in 100 degree heat or hesitantly inhaling the stink rising off the sweaty crowd at Bonnaroo, this list is intended to take you way away from the crowds. From riding a horse through the empty steppes of Mongolia to exploring the glacial highlands of Iceland, each of these countries offers exercises in sweet sweet solitude. None of these countries have more than ten people per square mile.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Underwater Maldives Part One - Feeding the fish, swimming with Turts

Behold, an underwater Maldives picture gallery - these pictures were extremely fun to take.  The snorkeling in the Maldives is so mind-blowingly good that we canceled our last few days diving. This is part one, much more early next week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Maldives - Arrival in paradise

The Maldives are a collection of sandy atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Located between India and Africa, the island nation is the sandy mountaintops of a massive underwater mountain range.  The Maldives boast almost 1200 islands, though only 200 of them are settled with a population of about 400,000.  

The Maldives is one of the most luxurious places in the world, and each resort has its own private island.  We stayed on the island of Kurumba near the capital of Male, which was sort of an entry level and convenient place to stay.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Throwback Tuesday: I was robbed in Quito and all I got was this poo stained t-shirt

Last April, I went on my first real travel assignment to Quito, Ecuador.  My second day there, I was robbed.  My camera was stolen and I was covered in human excrement.  Below is my story as I wrote it for

It began like any other day in the life of a travel writer - gingerly exposing my limbs, one at a time, to the arctic water gurgling out of my hostel's shower head. It was Tuesday morning, and I had just arrived in Quito. My research had left me in a state of premature love with this UNESCO heritage city almost 10,000 feet up in the Andes. While hyperventilating in the relentlessly cold stream, I decided that I would open my Quito story with an interesting historical anecdote.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Qatar's new skyline and old souqs

Doha in Qatar is a strange Arab enclave with modern forests of glass and steel casting long shadows on its much older quarters.  It is a city in transition, where the old will stay old and the new will rise from the ground with each heartbeat of the encroaching future.  The ancient souqs of Arabia are home to narrow lanes and markets where everything has a price.  From fluorescent colored chicks to rusty old desert swords, the labyrinthine souqs of Qatar had us turning our heads around every corner.  We unintentionally bartered for things we did not want, were shouted at by parrots a little far from home, and passed droves of cloaked old men, perhaps jedis.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Al Maha Desert in the United Arab Emirates - Luxury, dune bashing, Oryx, falcons, and horses

An hour outside of Dubai, the Al Maha desert is a  sprawling landscape of shrubs, dunes, and the occasional oasis.  The Al Maha desert reserve is also home to many Oryx and Gazelles.  We stayed at the (very 5 star) desert resort in Al Maha and the animals were frequent guests at breakfast and would also amble up to the pool curious of the strange white creatures thrashing about in the water - us.  The impetus for my entire reason for going to Dubai was to stay at this particular resort and visit with the very endangered Oryx (maybe 1000 or so left in the wild).  These are very interesting animals and the access to them, whether they be staring at us about a meter away from our outside breakfast table or walking alongside us during a desert camel ride, was unbelievable.  They are not scared of people, at all. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Doha - Where Blade Runner meets Arabia

 Doha in Qatar is such a cool place.  Check out this picture of old fishing boats in the harbor contrasting with the modernist skyline.  More later.

Diving in the aqaurium at Dubai Mall

 Dubai mall is the nicest mall I have ever been to, without a doubt.  The quality of the stores is extremely high, which makes sense, because Dubai is where the wealthy go to shop.