Sfinks Festival in Boechout

The principle reason Tourism Flanders invited me to Antwerp was to cover the Sfinks Mixed music festival in Boechout. Sfinks bills itself as a festival “for young and old, families with children and adventurous music lovers… an exploratory excursion into enriching cultures.”

Starting in 1975, Sfinks Mixed began as a small folk festival in a local school park. Since then, it has grown into a three-day multicultural smorgasbord of musicians with a few circus performers and cultural acts thrown in to spice things up in the open areas.

Even approaching Sfinks, the world culture atmosphere is obvious. A small market for visitors has formed outside the gates with a funky Bohemian multi-culti vibe which hints at what’s to come. A man dressed in Touareg garb hawks silver jewelry to tribal teens and grannies with bongos Continue…

Flanders is a Festival

Belgium has a special place in my heart. Why? Because it was the first foreign country I ever set foot in. (OK purists, I had been to Mexico, but that was only 15 minutes from where I grew up, so that doesn’t really count.) In my mind, Belgium represents the beginning of my international travels.

So I was thrilled when Tourism Flanders invited me to attend one of the events in the “Flanders is a Festival” summer series. I chose Sfinks, a multicultural music experience in Boechout just outside Antwerp. In addition to inviting me to Sfinks, Tourism Flanders is graciously hosting me in Antwerp as well as Mechelen to allow me to highlight some of what makes Flanders so incredibly unique. Don’t worry readers Continue…

Neighborhood Graffiti

When I think of Berlin, I think of graffiti. The colorful spray paint art is everywhere in the city. Although the most famous canvas is probably the Berlin Wall, massive works of art can also be found under bridges, on subway cars, on facades, and down narrow alleyways. Walking around my neighborhood, I snapped away as I encountered giant aliens, cartoon character cocktails, and amazing sunflower fields.

This is just a small sampler of Berlin’s graffiti art, but I know there will be a lot more to follow. 😉

Prague Virtual Tour

The real thrill of Prague is simply getting lost in the city’s narrow lanes and side streets taking in the history. So for those of you who have never had the opportunity to explore Prague (and, of course, for Prague fans), we put together a little virtual tour using full-screen Google street views. We’ve chosen six popular starting points, but don’t be afraid to set out on your own and explore. Guide to Google street view controls

Just Click a Starting Point Below

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  1. Old Town Square (Dlouhá) – This is the heart of Prague’s stunning old town. The striking Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn rises up on the far side of the square when the street view first loads. Take off in any direction. If you want a challenge, walk to the clock tower at the 14th century Old Town Hall to check out the astronomical clock, and then head south by southwest and follow the crowds towards the Charles Bridge.
  2. Charles Bridge – Prague’s most lively and photogenic bridge over the Vltava. When the street view loads, if you turn to your right, you can see the famous Continue…

Prague’s Dancing House by Gehry

Every time I come to Prague, I have to walk by Gehry’s Dancing House, a once controversial and now essential addition to the city’s architectural scene. Designed along with Vlado Milunić, the two halves of this unique building literally seem to dance along the banks of the Vltava, which is why the building is also known as Fred and Ginger.

As I mentioned when we visited the Disney Theater in Los Angeles, I’m a huge Gehry fan. I hope to visit all of his masterpieces one day. In the meantime, once again, fans can check out an amazing gallery of his creations at the Flicker group dedicated to his architecture.

Bohemian Prague

As I mentioned in the last post, Prague has not lost its artistic soul; Bohemia still very much lives up to its name. True, the once plentiful galleries devoted to Eastern Europe’s cutting edge art scene are a little thin on the ground these days and Prague’s counter-culture edge has been a tad dulled by commercial interests.

But Bohemians continue to fight back with thought-provoking artistic statements meant to tear holes into that thin veneer of tourist kitsch. And those statements are not hard to find. Car-sized pistols suspended mid-air in a silent Baroque courtyard Continue…

Prague

And, with one small step off a plane, ContemporaryNomad.com returns to Europe. It’s a bitter-sweet return. Bitter because jungle-clad temples, isolated Himalayan monasteries, and bus-sized sharks seem so far away. Sweet because we’ve got a whole new set of adventures ahead of us here. And what better place to start than in one of my favorite cities on the planet, Prague.

Sure, many travelers put Prague on the short list of European tourist traps. And in many ways it is. But as is the case with Paris, Venice, or Dubrovnik, it draws in the hordes because it’s simply too good to pass up. Half of humanity is compressed into a river of people flowing through the old town because the old town is simply so stunning. Every trip I make to this city (and there have been a lot of them), I discover something new. Step off into a side street, and Prague’s artistic soul is still very much present.

Hiking Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

San Diego is famous for its beautiful coastline, but there are many natural attractions away from the ocean which deserve acknowledgement. As Tony mentioned in his previous post about Ocean Beach, islands of real California still survive. Some of those are islands of nature, such as the green canyons which criss-cross much of the county. Although many of the canyons have been filled in for housing developments throughout the years, others have been turned into preserves and serve as refuge for endemic animals such as coyotes, mule deer, raccoons and the occasional mountain lion as well as for birds and native plants.

When we were in the States in 2009, our friend Evelyn took us for a hike to Palomar Mountain State Park. This time, she introduced us to Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve just north of Mira Mesa. The 7-mile canyon starts at the I-5/805 merge and meanders east to Continue…

Ocean Beach

Locals and visitors alike often bemoan the fact that old-world California has been lost under a cement sea of commercialization and homogenization which has eroded the once-so-famous California character. While there is some truth to these complaints, islands of “real” California still survive. One of my favorite is Ocean Beach.

For Thomas and me, Ocean beach is a ritual that goes way back. We always start with early-morning coffee and donuts at one of our favorite San Diego institutions, O.B. Donuts. We proclaim O.B. Donuts the best donuts in all of San Diego – it certainly has the most eclectic mix of customers. (Sometimes, in Tibet or Sumba or some other exotic location Continue…