Prague Could be the Best City in the World, If Everyone Didn’t Know It

I MET A POLISH COUPLE at The Beer Museum, a pub renowned for serving more than 30 specialty Czech draughts. The man, an architecture student with floppy blonde hair and a zip-up wool sweater that he wore as a turtleneck, was waiting for his girlfriend over a creamy stout; I ordered a five-beer sampler for myself, and had tipsily asked him his thoughts on Prague’s … Continue reading Prague Could be the Best City in the World, If Everyone Didn’t Know It

Some Ways in Which Vienna Goes Totally Batshit Crazy Over Christmas

NO CITY ON EARTH gets into Christmas like Vienna. Fairy lights spring on, store owners pull out their trees, and something like 25 Christmas Markets—an unnecessarily huge number for a city of under 2 million—open colourful displays of strudels, pretzels, donuts and chocolate. It is a veritable winter wonderland, and it isn’t even December. I found it fascinating because you could simply never get away … Continue reading Some Ways in Which Vienna Goes Totally Batshit Crazy Over Christmas

My Meta Viennese Breakfast

TWO MEN WITH SLRs and wide-angle lenses were photographing the cafe. The waiter, a balding man in a blue-and-gray argyle sweatervest and red skirted apron, brought them drinks to shoot: a small cappuccino, a frothy latte, a mélange topped with milk. They snapped photos of the decadent chocolate and jam cakes, the curved chandeliers and the broad dark wood walls that framed the morning light … Continue reading My Meta Viennese Breakfast

What Budapest Calls Terror

THE SIGN SAID “EXHIBITION”, and the arrow pointed down. A wide and wrinkled woman in a blue uniform stood in the way. I began to walk past her, but she shifted to block me. She droned something in Hungarian. I apologised and clarified that I spoke English. She stared at me with half-closed eyes. “Elevator, four minutes,” she said. “I’ll take the stairs,” I answered, … Continue reading What Budapest Calls Terror

Budapest Will Swallow You Up and Look Very Serious About It

THERE IS NO SUCH THING as small in Budapest. In Chiang Mai, V and I stumbled across a closet-sized nook called “The Tiniest Bar in the World”; this could never exist in the Hungarian capital. There are no nooks. Its central downtown is made up of row after row of elaborate Gothic apartments, all towering in the same tightly bound order, shadowing their courtyards hidden … Continue reading Budapest Will Swallow You Up and Look Very Serious About It

Serbia’s Gen-Yers are Black Comic Geniuses

THESE SERBIANS HAVE SEEN SOME SHIT, like NATO bombs falling from the sky and exploding their neighbourhoods and the collapse of an entire global political structure. I don’t want to generalise after spending only a single night with a few liberal-arts types (excuse me as I do anyway), but it seemed to me that they have internalized all the ridiculous conditions of their upbringing—the wars, … Continue reading Serbia’s Gen-Yers are Black Comic Geniuses

Stories Left Behind in Asia

I WRITE THIS FROM the last frontier of Asia, Turkey’s eastern half, before flying over the divisive Bosphorus River into what is securely the First World, and the second half of this four-month journey. I have a few thoughts leaving Asia, where V and I spent the last two years living and travelling; mostly I wonder if I will miss it (and the solid income) … Continue reading Stories Left Behind in Asia

Jerusalem is a Dizzying Disneyland of Religion

IN A SINGLE AFTERNOON, it is possible to see what some claim to be the sites where Jesus was crucified, where the ancient Jewish First and Second temples once stood, where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into Heaven, and the tombs of half the characters from the New and Old Testaments. Perhaps anticipating the plausibility of a 21st-century tourist boom, very few Biblical folks did anything … Continue reading Jerusalem is a Dizzying Disneyland of Religion

A Long Way Back

THERE ARE TWO directions from South Korea to Canada: a long way back, and a short one. I’m not speaking in metaphors here: one is literally 10,799 kilometres, while the other is closer to 15,444. According to this online distance calculator, when I tried to drag the location marker across to Toronto from Busan over Europe, by around Iceland it simply suggested flying over the North Pole … Continue reading A Long Way Back