Once we got a bit closer to the city center, the vibes quickly became more difficult to categorize. Fast forward a few hours and I was in my happy place: out on the streets with my camera. I was eager to jump to conclusions, but the further I walked the less I sure I became of what I thought I knew. Some times I would pick up Middle-Eastern vibes from open-air restaurants in city squares, other times I would get European vibes from the little Armenian bakeries tucked away somewhere on every block. And the architecture on those blocks sometimes seemed to be European-adjacent… but then on the next block the buildings were giant, brutalist concrete blocks, serving as a striking reminder of Armenia’s Soviet past.
First up is going to be Armenia. I think Bourdain touched on something very interesting in his episode here—when you think of Armenia, most of us think about an Armenian. That’s definitely true for me (what’s up Tyler!), but it seems that this is a more common experience than I had realized. Even if you don’t know an Armenian personally, you’ve probably heard of the Kardashians. Or how about the band System Of A Down? These are two great examples of Armenians in Western pop culture. Everybody knows an Armenian.
For my American readers, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that there is no way in hell that you don’t know what Napa Valley is. But for my readers from abroad, I’ll explain just in case. Napa Valley is America’s postcard wine country. There are pockets of vineyards all over the country of course (Oregon is a notable wine producer as well), but Napa Valley is the epicenter of wine culture and cultivation in America. Napa Valley refers to a large fertile valley full of vineyards in Napa County, California, which just on the north side of the San Francisco Bay. Driving north through Napa Valley, there are a few towns that you will pass through, the first of which is also called Napa. The next major towns before the northern end of the valley are Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
I could talk about the history of San Francisco for ages, but this article is about what has been happening much more recently. Historically, the Mission had been home to a large part of SF’s Chicano/Latino population, but starting as early as the late 1960s, the LBGTQ community began to play a much more defining role in the neighborhood’s identity. You are probably already familiar with San Francisco’s reputation for being the gay capital of the U.S., but what you might not know is that much of this reputation was built right here in the Mission.
However, by the late 1970s, the Mission had become a much more multidimensional haven for fringe culture. It actually developed a thriving punk rock scene, and helped produced such bands as the Dead Kennedys, Jawbreaker, Rancid, and Green Day! Even today, you’ll see remnants of this scene walking around the streets of the Mission with colorful mohawks and studded belts.
First off, what I’m defining as “Richmond” here is actually made up of 4 smaller districts: Inner, Central, and Outer Richmond… and a little area to the north called Lake Street. This neighborhood (or group of neighborhoods) is essentially a big grid system, which, despite occupying an extremely urban area of San Francisco, is surrounded on almost all sides by nature.
Prague is the historical capital of Bohemia. Through the last few hundred years, the boundaries in this part of Europe have been notoriously fluid. The map here has been redrawn quite a few times as Empires have risen and fallen, but Bohemia has always been a notable region with a strong cultural identity. Today, Bohemia is more or less synonymous with the Czech Republic (formerly part of Czechoslovakia, and recently renamed to simply “Czechia”). With 2.6 million people living in its metro area, it’s the 14th largest city in the European Union. However, what it lacks in size relative to other European capitals, it more than makes up for in clout. When it comes to history and culture, few cities pack a punch in quite the same way Prague does.
In July of 2012, a few friends and I were leaving Spain and embarking on what would be my first ever Euro-trip. In deciding where we wanted to go, I'd be lying if I told you that Amsterdam's famously progressive drug laws did not play a role in our decision to come to here. So our motives may not have been entirely academic, but once we arrived, I was enraptured. Amsterdam turned out to be one of the most beautiful cities that I had ever had the privilege of exploring. I’ve traveled a lot more today than I had back then, and Amsterdam is STILL one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen. We spent 5 days here, and in that time, I took more photographs than I had of any place I had visited prior.