Category Europe

Notes From the End of the World

“I BETTER TAKE MY PHONE,” the redheaded farm boy said. “In case we get stuck out there, to call someone to pull us out.” He had done this before. He searchingly patted the pants he’d hung up in the downstairs shed that smells faintly of sheep and dung and eventually found his small cell phone, […]

The Many Cons and Mighty Pros of Iceland in December

THE FIRST THING TO GIVE UP in Iceland’s December is the sun, and with it the loss of humanity’s very conception of time itself. Darkness shrouds the jagged island for 20 hours a day; the sun peeks out only briefly between 11 and 3 o’clock, which forces locals to reconfigure “morning” as a painfully taunting […]

A Brief Guide to Some of London’s Lesser-Seen Museums

LONDON IS ONE OF the great museum capitals of the world, and whereas the Tate Modern and National Gallery may be obvious choices, there is a surfeit more whose aim is so peculiarly niche that I’m a little surprised anyone sporting only a vague interest would bother to pay the admission fee. Then again it […]

The Incredible Hipness of Edinburgh

I WROTE A FEW WEEKS AGO that “there is no such thing as small in Budapest.” If that is true, then the opposite must be said of Edinburgh, where everything is small, and cute, and surrounded by a proud air of uniqueness: things are hand-woven or hand-written or hand-made, arts & crafts, one-of-a-kind, organic and […]

What Parisian Landmarks Are Today

1. The Arc de Triomphe A short man bent over in front of me as I was sitting on a bench slathering goat cheese on a piece of brown bread for lunch. The Arc de Triomphe stood brightly in the sun behind him, and I had been enjoying the view, which he interrupted by standing […]

Notes From a Paris Cafe

WATCHING PARISIAN WAITERS is watching an angry, anxious modern dance where things break and crash and no one ends up happy. Two young men will determinedly stare ahead and chug towards each other quickly, like rushing into a mirror, and at the last possible moment stomp down hard on the black-and-white tile floors and leap […]

What Happens to a Tiny Luxembourgish Commune in the Winter

THERE ARE SOMEHOW SIX HOTELS in Berdorf, Luxembourg, a commune with a population of not quite 900. Most of them were closed. I stepped into an open one, the Famille Defive, for a coffee. Everyone knows everyone: this was immediately clear as I made eye contact with the waitress, a hefty woman with spiky red […]

Luxembourg is a Weird and Beautiful Place

LUXEMBOURG IS, IN EVERY WAY, a mishmash of other countries. Its ads are mostly French; its language sounds German; its radio mostly Luxembourgish. Even the just name “Luxembourg” sounds like a conglomeration of other words smushed together: luxurious, emboldened, smorgasbord. (All of which, strangely, are perfect descriptors of this tiny European nation.) Contrary to what […]

Frankfurt is a Great Place to Go Somewhere Else

I HAD BEEN IN FRANKFURT three hours when I met up with my friend and host. Have you seen the Old Town yet? she asked. I said I had. And the church? Yes. And the other church? Yep, that too. And the River Main? Well, sure, I said; it’s just down the street. She laughed. […]

In Berlin: A Tale of Two Museums

STANDING ALONE IN THE HOLOCAUST TOWER, by some uncertain primal instinct, I drew my arms around myself and shuddered. I don’t remember thinking about it. It was cold, as cold as Berlin gets in November, and without a jacket or scarf or direct sunlight I hugged myself immediately, shrinking up. The Holocaust Tower is an […]