Category: Europe

Bran

Centuries before Bram Stoker found inspiration for his novel Dracula, best-selling stories were circulating in Europe about the fifteenth-century Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad Țepeș, or Vlad the Impaler. Vlad’s favorite punishment for invading Turks, recalcitrant Boyars, and highway robbers alike (around 100,000 total […]

Pitești

There is a saying in Romania that, if you walk thirty minutes in any direction, you’ll find an impoverished Gypsy. In the back-country around Pitești, the saying sounds about right. The Romani were the first to be laid off in the industrial collapse that followed the end of […]

Roma

SPQR stands for the Latin phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus and refers to the Senate and People of the ancient city of Rome. In the days of the Roman Republic, the acronym found its way onto everything from grand monuments and legionnaire standards to coins and pothole covers. The […]

English

In Eastern Europe all of the way to the Bosphorus, everyone speaks English–except for the tourists. Whether it’s a French girl talking to her Romanian uncle, an Austrian passenger ordering coffee from a Turkish conductor, or an Italian with a defective passport remonstrating with a Bulgarian border guard, […]

București

Pity the poor Nicolae Ceaușescu. His life was the ultimate expression of the homily that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. On the one hand, we have the hardscrabble, but immensely attractive and handsome idealist who clawed his way to the pinnacle of Romanian socialism. […]

Saint-Loup de Varennes

A massive concrete sign outside this village just north of Chalon-sur-Saone in Bourgogne announces that Nicéphore Niépce invented photography here in 1822. For once, one of these weird historical claims appears to be accurate–as long as you define photography as the permanent imprinting of images on light-sensitive materials […]

Paris

We regret to report that you can no longer recklessly lather up your lips with lipstick and kiss Oscar Wilde‘s tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery. In an unusual gesture for Paris, the authorities have chosen public sanitation over romance in erecting a plate glass barrier around the grave […]