The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

Located about 12 miles outside of Šiauliai, Lithuania, it's not exactly clear when people started bringing crosses here. Wikipedia said it's believed to have started after the November Uprising in 1831 between Poland and Russia, and it has turned into a kind of pilgrimage since then. 

The Jewish Ghetto of Vilnius

The Jewish Ghetto of Vilnius

The term Ghetto, might be associated with urban dwellings nowadays, but its a historic practice civilizations have used on their Jewish populations. In confined spaces you make with what little you can, I guess you can that ghetto. Lithuania and Vilnius in particular is famous for its Jewish history, known even as Jerusalem of the North. In World War II its population was devistated. 

Vilnius from Above

Vilnius from Above

To view the nuclear power plant Belarus is building on the border with Lithuania, we took a hot air balloon ride. With Clear skys at magic hour, there is no better way to see Vilnius's UNESCO World Heritage preserved Old City. 

The Old City of Vilnius

The Old City of Vilnius

The 14th Century Castle, Cathedral and Tower in the foreground, and is one of the oldest surviving medieval old towns in Europe. 

Belarus NPP

Belarus NPP

600 meters in the air above Vilnius, only 20 miles away from the city center, ominously rests the brand new, almost operational Nuclear Power Plant. Lithuania is concerned with a series of construction accidents that have not been immediately reported. Read more in my report on National Geographic Voices.

Hot Air Balloons They don't tell you about the landing.

Hot Air Balloons They don't tell you about the landing.

If you don't hold yourself steady in the center with the ropes in the along the inside of the basket, you can get the ground equivalent of rug burn. Given that this is where we landed, you definitely wanted to hold on tight. Lucky for us, there weren't any injuries.  The view at the end was beyond worth it. 

Magic Hour Fairy Tale

Magic Hour Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale is basically the best phrase that could be used to describe Lithuania. After we landed, and started to the lengthy process of packing up the vessel we just glided over in, the sun began to turn, and the field began to glow.

Zagare, Lithuania

Zagare, Lithuania

My attaché allowed us to visit my mother's ancestral home town of on the border of Lithuania and Latvia. Four hours, from Vilnius by car. I imagined my old relatives taking days to visit the big city. Zagare too was ghettoed during WWII. We visited the mass grave. Most of my family left years before the war reached Zagare, those who didn't were buried there. I asked my host, out of curiousity what the current ethnic makeup of Lithuania was. She told me quite frankly, "90% Lithuania 8% Pole, and maybe 2% Jewish. Jews have never been considered Lithuanian, despite hundreds of years of history living there. 

Lithuanian Sunset

Lithuanian Sunset

Driving Back from Zagare, the flat Lithuanian countryside allowed the wispy clouds to take up the frame and put on a show. 

Grand Centraal

Grand Centraal

Touching down to Amsterdam can be overwhelming during tourist high season. As the fall turns the leaves and people take leave for the holidays, tourists flood to the Dutch capitol known for its liberal proclivities. 

Rembrandt Square

Rembrandt Square

Amsterdam is proud of its artists and its museums. Rembrandt is commemorated with his own square. According to Wikipedia, he owned a house nearby from 1639 to 1656. 

Wanderpark

Wanderpark

One of my favorite things to do in this world is to wander the streets of Amsterdam. For some reason or another my path has intersected through Amsterdam many times. The winding canals and the pedestrian friendly walk ways make for some of the best walking in the world. Just make sure you wear shoes with good support. 

the Jordaan

the Jordaan

One of those hip neighborhoods you want to afford to live in but never will. 

Dam Canals

Dam Canals

Narrow, winding stone streets, snake around a grid of Canals that split up Amsterdam. The hip Jordaan neighborhood full of galleries, cafes and markets.

Dam Canals

Dam Canals

Narrow, winding stone streets, snake around a grid of Canals that split up Amsterdam. The hip Jordaan neighborhood full of galleries, cafes and markets.

Peace Boat Sunrise

Peace Boat Sunrise

In Amsterdam, I joined Peace Boat's Global University and cruised from The Netherlands, to Iceland, back to New York and the UN. The whole we discussed a presentation for a first committee side event in regards to a proposed UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. Peace Boat is this weird place where your surrounded by the world's beauty, and at the same time arguing about how it could be destroyed. 

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

For the first time, Peace Boat went through the Aurora Belt during viewing season. With the help of our Aurora Guide Axel, we cruised along the coast of Iceland and had two nights of clear weather and green and purple dancing northern lights. 

LOVE

LOVE

We had fun with lights that night. 

Gateway to Fjords

Gateway to Fjords

The entry to the Fjord inlet we cruised through was ominous and enticing at the same time. Every inch of Iceland we could see was constantly changing, and getting more except. 

Pictures do better than words

Pictures do better than words

Sometimes there is nothing to say that could match the beauty of the land in front of you. You prey the photo can do it a small percentage of justice to it. You can only entice people to go there and see for themselves. 

Icelandic Waterfall

Icelandic Waterfall

Spotted on our cruise through Icelandic fjords–a light house and a waterfall. When we passed by, I was marveling, but I saw one of the crew look dismayed. I asked what was wrong. I was here seven years ago. There wasn't a waterfall there, but it was all ice. 

Gateway to Fjords

Gateway to Fjords

The same inlet we entered through hours earlier had changed to take on a mysterious atmosphere as we made our way down to Reykjavik. 

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

When you try to find a cafe with your GPS and end out in the pastures and outskirts. At least there are pretty views of the city before you turn back to it.

Icelandic Fields

Icelandic Fields

Somewhere along the Golden Circle Route in a particulary rainy day in Iceland. 

Geysir

Geysir

One of the stops on the Golden Circle Route, a geologic tour in Iceland where you can see various formations. You can walk through the rip between North America and Europe, marvel at the frequently bubbling geysers, and get up close to the poundingly beautiful waterfall Gullfoss. 

Geysir

Geysir

One of the stops on the Golden Circle Route, a geologic tour in Iceland where you can see various formations. You can walk through the rip between North America and Europe, marvel at the frequently bubbling geysers, and get up close to the poundingly beautiful waterfall Gullfoss. 

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

The poundingly beautiful waterfall Gullfoss, one of the stops on the Golden Circle Route, a geologic tour in Iceland where you can see various formations. You can walk through the rip between North America and Europe, marvel at the frequently bubbling geysers, and get up close to this majestic waterfall. On a cloudy day at a time with the worst light, it was still this beautiful.