This started as a trip to a church in the southern part of Armenia called Noravank. Not a big deal.
We’re going to get there by the end of this article, but we’re going to take a detour to explain something interesting along the way first. So I’ll drop us into the story right around noon, when I was riding shotgun in a large van, speeding southward along the Armenian-Turkish border.
It was this event that prompted the creation of the term “genocide.” There wasn’t really a word for this before the world started to do business with what happened to the Armenians. I’m going to tell you this story now, and I’m sure you will start to notice some eerie parallels with the Holocaust. In fact, the two aren’t entirely unrelated. But before we dive in, I’m going to warn you, this will be disturbing.
When I made the move to Madrid in 2012, I hadn't done much research. Upon my arrival, I remember being very surprised at how green and lush the city was. This was not what I expected Spain to look like. I was expecting something a bit more arid, a bit more dry, a bit more brown-ish in color. I'm not sure where these preconceptions originally came from, but now I know that TOLEDO is what I expected Spain to look like. This was the image of Spain that I had in my head.
Asheville, North Carolina has little trouble attracting visitors from across the country and abroad on its own. Literally smack-dab in the middle of America’s Great Smoky Mountains, this crunchy enclave is a Mecca for outdoorsmen (and women), beer-lovers, weekend warriors, and hippies from around the country. Indeed, this little Appalachian gem has become a destination in its own rite… but it’s still veiled in a level obscurity. So people are usually surprised to learn that Asheville ALSO happens to be the location of the largest private home in America.
Did you know that? This whole experience was sort of a shock to me!
Today, let me introduce you to the famous Biltmore Estate.
Boston has a lot of cool history. Even if you don't feel like you know very much about Boston, you still probably already knew that. This was the city where the Revolutionary War started! The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's Midnight Ride, the Salem Witch Trials—the early history of the Boston area is rich with some of the most riveting stories that American history has to offer. And moving into the modern era, Boston still managed to be the site of some of America's most interesting historical sagas, from the Boston Strangler, to the Great Molasses Flood. However, to me, one story stands out above the rest, and it didn't happen all that long ago.
The story I'm talking about is the heist of the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum, which happened in 1990.
Catania is the second largest city in Sicily. The population of Catania proper is about 320,000, but there are a combined 1.1 million people who live in the metro area. In Italy overall, Catania is the 10th biggest city, and the 7th largest metro area. This is a major population center for Sicily, second only to Palermo, which will be our last stop on this trip. Catania is not the most well-known place, but it's definitely not small either. It's actually really big, especially by Sicilian standards. But Catania's burgeoning population should be surprising. This isn't exactly prime real estate.
Why? Because of Mount Etna.
The time has finally come. It's time to talk politics. But before that, I'm going to take 2 minutes to make sure that everybody is up to speed on the Cuban Revolution.
The Cuban Revolution was one of the most unlikely success stories in modern history. Although fighting had been going on intermittently since 1953, it wasn't until 1956 that Fidel Castro (you've heard of him, right?) and 80 of his fellow rebels sailed a small yacht called the Granma from Veracruz, Mexico, back to their home country of Cuba...
Matanzas is a small sea-side city that sits 56 miles (or 90 kilometers) east of Havana, on Cuba's northern coast. It's located in the Bay of Matanzas and is the capital of a province that is also called Matanzas, and it was definitely one of my favorite places in Cuba.
We arrived in Matanzas via camione, and then our adventure began...
Spoiler alert: this was one of my favorite places that we visited during our time in Cuba.
From the craggily, black mountains, to the mossy green volcano-scapes, to the endless stretches of artic desert, to some of the world’s last glaciers, Iceland is the stuff of legends. And, as it turns out, Iceland has quite enough legends to go around!
Before leaving for this trip, a friend of mine, who had recently returned from her own journey to Iceland, loaned me a book called A Traveller’s Guide To Icelandic Folk Tales by Jón R. Hjálmarsson. Now that I’ve lived to tell the tale, I want to share with you some of the more compelling tales that (supposedly) occurred in the places that I visited on my trip.
Of all the amazing pieces of civilization subsisting out here in the Westfjords, none sparked my interest like these tiny Icelandic churches. These little structures were often the only sign of human life for miles in any direction. Each time we caught a glimpse of the small pointy steeple from our place on the road, we would come to a screeching halt and dive off down the nearest dirt road to explore. No two of these churches were the same. Each was completely unique, and a few of them had even been left unlocked!