Picnics and Laughter in a Rhodope Mountain Glade

Plovdiv: Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city

We left the Pirin mountains the next day and entered the vast flat plain of the Maritza River Basin that connects Sofia to Plovdiv and opens out towards the Black Sea. The was the great path from Europe to the Levant. The road to Constantinople and Asia.

Hiking Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains

The Pirin Mountains are a hiker’s paradise…

It was time to move on to the Pirin Mountains, and the off-season ski resort of Bansko, where hotel suites went for bargain prices and half the restaurants were closed. The Thracians knew the Pirins as ‘Orbelus’ (‘snowy mountain’). The Slavs associated them with Perun, god of storms and thunder, the most powerful deity in their pantheon. To us, they promised some of the best hiking this side of the Alps.

Drifting Through The Crossroad of Empires

Rila Monastery

The beginning of the journey didn’t bode well. Bulgaria Air was nearly two hours late. We eventually boarded an unmarked plane with ancient seats and the sort of old-style seatbelts I hadn’t seen in at least a decade.

An unmarked plane didn’t bode well…

The Best Books I Read in 2019

The Best Books I Read in 2019

It’s that time again.

I typically read around 100 books a year. Everything from travel literature to poetry, history, psychology, fiction and memoir.

Wandering Prehistoric Worlds in the Azores

Wandering the peaceful trails of Terra Nostra Park

I circumnavigated the eastern end of the island on minor roads that hugged the rugged north coast, stopping in rural villages that felt a world away from the tourist centres and busy bypass road above. I saw tractors working the fields, and in one village, a cheerful road crew laying down fresh tarmac. But otherwise it was just me and the cows.

Adrift in the Mid-Atlantic

Fields fill the flat land on Sao Miguel’s north shore.

It’s a group of nine islands straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a third of the way across the ocean from continental Europe. The people speak Portuguese, but the islands were undiscovered and uninhabited until 1432. They’ve suffered pirates, invaders, religious persecution and serious crop failures. Today they’re an isolated paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

Will Europe End With Marching Boots — or Malaise?

Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989?

I was sitting in the back room of our old house watching music videos on TV.

We didn’t have the specialty channels back then, but the cable company was running a free promo all week, and we could watch the movie channel and the music channel for free.

So It Goes by Nicolas Bouvier

“So it goes” recurs like a refrain throughout this collection of essays, and I found myself wishing it would go on and on.

Nicolas Bouvier is one of those legendary writers whose name circulates among travelers, but few of my North American road friends had ever heard of him. It was European friends who told me about his classic road trip book, The Way of the World.

Wandering Through the Crucible of Western Civilization

Views of the Acropolis from the Agora

To journey back to Athens was to exit mythological time and step into the historical.

We walked the winding streets of the Plaka in silence, as though on pilgrimage to a sacred place. As narrow-alley Antifioki wound ever upward, I reflected on my first visit to the Acropolis: eagerly awaited and long overdue.

On the road to Epidaurus

On the road in the Peloponnese