The Lesson of the Great Bavarian Wine Harvest

Has anyone ever told you how lucky you are regarding something for which you've worked so hard? Even when they're trying to pay you a compliment, it stings a bit, doesn’t it?

After a visit to a family winery in the Bavarian region of Lower Franconia this past October, I imagine that’s how winemakers sometimes feel.

During a weekend crush event at Bickel-Stumpf winery, we helped pick the season’s Cabernet Sauvignon. We enjoyed the blazing autumn sun, we ate heartily, and we tasted far too many wines. And like any roundly fulfilling experience, one of life’s lessons was reinforced along the way: the best in life is often less about glamour and more about hard work, mettle, and passion.

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Every Döner Tells a Story, Don’t It? It does in Berlin.

Berlin döner kebabs, a local classic

Istanbul is like Kreuzberg, but less Turkish.

— A Berlin cabbie puts the city's Turkish neighborhood in perspective.

Take a walk down any street in Kreuzberg, Berlin and you'll find scads of döner shops offering shaved, spiced meat (usually lamb) served inside rolled flatbread or in a bread pocket. At a distance, all döner shops look similar – meat sears away on a giant spindle, colorful salads await, and a few guys of Turkish origin zip around putting it all together.

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Berlin on a Bicycle: The World in an Afternoon Interlude

Berlin, cut clouds moving quickly. Crisp autumn air. Wide streets. Unfathomable history.

We set out on borrowed bicycles. They give me pause: Audrey’s back tire has a leak and my handlebars wobble like something out of the Wizard of Oz.

I begin to move. My apprehension fades, those handlebars steadier than I imagined.

It's like riding a bicycle,” I laugh to myself.

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Life Lessons from A Tuscan Wedding

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.

–- Carl Sandburg

Are you visiting Tuscany for your honeymoon?” Lorenza, our wine tasting hostess at Avignonesi winery, asked over a swirl of 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

No,” I laughed. “We're actually here for our 10th anniversary. We were married just down the road in Pienza in 2000.

Even as the words came out, I thought: Ten years? Really?

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The Berlin Street Artist: A Parable of Passion and Practice

berlin street artist

Andy has been a street performer for over fifteen years. He’s originally from Britain, but he’s called Berlin his home for the last four of those years. We watched his show at a festival in Berlin’s Westend neighborhood this past weekend. In his performance, Andy combined juggling, balance and slapstick – all suffused with his dry British humor.

His finale: fire juggling on a tightrope held by members of the crowd.

While I enjoyed the wit, the feats, and the crowd reaction, it was a post-performance chat with Andy that really left an impression.

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Back to Baltics: Images of a Former Soviet Dream

The Baltics. Reminiscent of a bargain property on the original Monopoly board; not to be confused with the powder keg Balkans; a region whose history features intermittent eras of independence and occupation; and a place whose emotional pendulum swings between the almost white nights of its brief summers and the steel wool grayness of its long winters.

Estonia Travel, Song and Dance Festival
Song and Dance Festival in Tallinn, Estonia.

Home to over seven million people and three distinct languages and cultures, the Baltic region comprises the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Now, a virtual show of hands: who knows where the Baltics are?

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Budapest: Exploring the Markets, Baths and Architecture

Hungary stands distinct in Middle Europe: it doesn't resemble its Slavic, Germanic or Romanian neighbors in language or features. Even more rare for this region, Hungarians like heat – in their food, in their baths, and even in their relationships (Hungarians are known to take public displays of affection to a whole new level).

Budapest Markets
Spicy peppers all around the markets of Budapest.

Although we visited Budapest, Hungary's grand capital, several times in 2000 as we transited from Western to Eastern Europe, our visit this year proved more rewarding.

From the fresh markets to the grand open baths, here's why.

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