Europe

Country no. 51 on my World Karaoke Tour: a Bohemian rhapsody in Prague

A view of Prague’s Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí).

I’ve fallen a little behind — okay, a lot behind — in updating this blog to keep pace with my international karaoke appearances. Prior to this post, my last blog entry chronicled my karaokeing in Dubai that occurred all the way back in January — which, at the time, brought the tally of countries on my World Karaoke Tour to 46. Since then, the Earth has completed a large portion of a revolution around the sun, and my country count has increased to 51.

Part of the reason for my recent quietness on the writing front is that I’ve been travelling much more often on weekends. Most of those weekend excursions have taken me to various parts of my home country, the United States, as I pursue the accomplishment of karaokeing in all 50 U.S. states. That’s an accomplishment to which I’m well on the way; as of this writing, I’ve been to 40 of those 50 states, and karaoked in all 40 of them. (I’ll recount all of my 2017 domestic travels in a post to be published in December.) But since weekends have traditionally been my most productive part of the week for writing, my “50 states of karaoke” project has contributed to the slackening off of the pace of new posts appearing here at H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke.

With my excuses out of the way, it’s way past time to catch up on telling the story of my 2017 karaoke travels. Although my last post discussed the 46th country, I’m now going to jump ahead to the 51st country, Czechia. Then, in the coming weeks, I’ll circle back to cover the 47th through 50th countries in which I performed. (Incidentally, when I speak of “Czechia,” I’m referring to the country that until 2016 was known to English speakers as the Czech Republic, but which then re-branded itself. Technically, the official name of the country remains “Czech Republic,” but “Czechia” is its intended name for everyday usage — in much the same way as, for example, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is commonly called “Luxembourg.”) Continue reading

Categories: Europe, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Country no. 43 on my World Karaoke tour: I’m Hungary for singing!

15179134_10154185271582198_7860121907890043812_n-1Budapest, the Hungarian capital, is a classic Eastern European city. Grand architecture; coffeehouses in abundance; and relics of the days when the city lay behind the Iron Curtain and under Soviet control. Budapest’s history, like that of so many European metropolises, harks back to Roman times; the Roman settlement was called Aquincum, and was itself preceded by a Celtic town whose inhabitants had dubbed it Ak-Ink (meaning “Ample Water”).

Adding to its allure, the modern incarnation of Budapest is bisected by the storied Danube River (the source of the “ample water” of which the Celts spoke); and that river — along with the Chain Bridge that spans it — make for some spectacular scenery. (The hilly area of Buda rises on one side of the Danube, while the Pest section is situated on the opposite side. In 1873, Buda and Pest, which had previously both been independent towns, merged to become the single magnificent city that we know today. True story.) During my first visit to Budapest, in November 2016, an additional attraction presented itself: Budapest is home to one of the Christmas markets that Europe is known for.

While I desired to thoroughly sample Budapest’s charms, there was one further, high-priority, item on my agenda when I descended upon that city. Since you know me, you know that it was inevitable that I would want to sing karaoke there. 🙂 Continue reading

Categories: Europe, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A classically good time in Rome: how I spent my third visit to the Eternal City

wine with dinnerMy third visit to Rome, which happened in late November 2015, wasn’t only about karaoke — although I did go singing on multiple nights, thereby finally managing to add Italy to my World Karaoke Tour after a previous failure to accomplish that in 2004. 🙂 Enjoyable pursuits also filled my daytime hours. This post is about the ways in which I occupied my time when I wasn’t descending upon the karaoke bar. As you’ll see, my activities constituted a mix: I experienced new attractions that I hadn’t made it to during my 1993 and 2004 excursions to the Italian capital, while also stopping by to say “Ciao!” to some of my favourite landmarks in the city built on seven hills. There was, however, one commonality among the various sights I took in: if you’ve been reading this blog for any significant length of time, you’re aware that I’m passionate about history. Throughout my stay, I indulged that passion in a city that’s as steeped in history as any other.

The Spanish Steps: at least I was able to look at them

Situated just off the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps (Scalanita di Spagna) consist of 135 stairs linking the plaza to the Trinità dei Monti church above. They were installed from 1723 to 1725 and are a renowned meeting place and a mecca for people-watching — somewhat akin in both respects to London’s Trafalgar Square. Continue reading

Categories: Europe, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Ten things I’m looking forward to in 2016 (and a couple more that I’m hoping for)

42762094_sI think it’s fair to say that any year when you undergo heart surgery is a rough one. By that standard, 2015 was challenging for me. Not that the year was without its magical moments; seeing Angkor Wat and Mount Rushmore in person were certainly bucket list experiences, and after I recovered from my operation I increased the number of countries on my World Karaoke Tour to 39 by singing in Rome.

On a non-travel-related note, in July I moved to a new apartment — still in Manhattan, but in a much better building, with far superior management to the slumlords who own the apartment that I vacated, and in a nicer neighbourhood. My new residence provides me with more pleasant surroundings — a big plus, since on the vast majority of my days I’m not off globetrotting, but am hanging out in my home base of New York City where I work full-time as a lawyer.

Me at Mount Rushmore in July 2015.

Me at Mount Rushmore in July 2015.

So with my surgery 110 days in the past, 2015 is ending on a high note for me; and as the world prepares to begin using its 2016 calendars, I have heaps of exciting plans for the year ahead. Here are the things that I’m most looking forward to in the upcoming 366 days (remember, ’16 is a leap year!):

1. Charleston, South Carolina for New Year’s

Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Charleston, South Carolina; it’ll be my first-ever visit to this city in the southern U.S. that I’ve long sought to experience. In 2014, readers of Conde Naste Traveler magazine voted Charleston the no. 1 city in the U.S. to visit, and the no. 2 city in the world to visit. I look forward to finding out firsthand why Charleston makes such a spectacular impression on its visitors. While in town, I’ll be taking in historical sights as well as reconnecting with some old friends who reside in the area. And Charleston is where I’ll be ringing in the new year. Because this is a karaoke travel blog, I feel obligated to mention one more aspect of what’s in store for my sojourn in Charleston: either in the last days of 2015 or the very beginning of 2016, South Carolina will become the 21st U.S. state in which I’ve sung karaoke! (Technically, my tally will then stand at 20 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, which lacks statehood status. But I’m trying to keep things simple here. 🙂 )

Stock photo of some historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina.

Stock photo of some historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina — the city in which I’m going to start 2016!

Continue reading

Categories: Asia, Europe, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 54: a Dutch windmill

Greetings on this Sunday afternoon. This evening I’ll be attending a meetup here in New York City in which attendees will tell stories about their travel adventures. But I also like reliving my travels here at H-Bomb’s World Wide Karaoke! With that in mind, it’s time for another picture drawn from one of my previous trips.

This week’s featured image comes from the Netherlands. Before I visited Amsterdam, one of my top goals was to see a traditional Dutch windmill. I accomplished that during a day trip that took me to Zaanse Schans, a village in North Holland that abounds with windmills and traditional workshops. While my tour group was being subjected to a boring demonstration at a wooden shoe factory, I slipped away to get more photos of windmills, including the one that you can see here:

windmill

This photo was taken during my visit to the Netherlands that took place from August to September, 2004. To get this shot, I had to overcome my fear of heights and climb a nearly vertical ladder to the loft in an adjacent windmill.

Has a photo opportunity ever motivated you to overcome your fears?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Sunday photo | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Places that captured my heart: the top 5 cities that I long to return to

8079727_mWhen I venture forth from my home base of New York City, I tend to prioritize visiting destinations that I’ve never been to before. It’s my goal to explore as many different places on the planet as I can (and, along the way, to sing karaoke wherever in the world I can find it). If I had my druthers, I would travel as often as possible to the spots that I most enjoyed in the past, while constantly adding new locales to my itinerary. Due to time constraints, however, first-time destinations tend to win out when I’m planning my next holiday. There are few overseas cities that I end up getting to more than once. But some metropolises have made such an impression on me that I’m fervently hoping to find a way to spend more time in them. This post is about the five global cities that I would most like to return to.

Note that in compiling this list, my focus was on international travel, and accordingly I only considered cities outside my native United States. I’m certainly always up for going back to American locations such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami Beach, and Seattle; but that’s a discussion for another day.

This post was written in response to a challenge by Arnab of the blog Travel Andy. Anyway, here are my top 5!
Continue reading

Categories: Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and South Pacific, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 52: a mural of Mandela in Belfast

Hello on a cold Sunday in New York. Today was this city’s annual marathon. I don’t participate in those races myself; running 26.2 miles is far beyond my capabilities. But as I traditionally do, I cheered on some of the runners from the sidelines. (The marathon’s course runs along First Avenue in the Upper East Side, the neighbourhood where I live.)

Now that I’m safely inside my warm apartment, it’s time for a new photo of the week! This week’s featured image comes from Belfast, Northern Ireland. In Belfast, which until recently was riven by strife, a “Wall of Injustice” contains murals depicting various perceived injustices around the world. One section of that wall includes a mural showing the great Nelson Mandela, the first South African President after the crumbling of that country’s apartheid regime.

Mandela mural

The text on the mural quotes Mandela as saying, “In my country we go to prison first and then become President.” (Of course Mandela was imprisoned for over 27 years, including nearly 18 years served on his country’s notorious Robben Island, prior to being elected President in 1994.)

This photo was taken during my visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland that took place from December 2013 to January 2014. Now that peace has finally come to Northern Ireland, Belfast is newly ascendant as a tourist destination.

Would you be interested to visit Belfast?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Sunday photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 51: a river view in Prague

Greetings on another fine Sunday. So, last weekend I was supposed to be auditioning for the American quiz show “Jeopardy!”; but on the night before the tryout, after having already arrived at the hotel in Pennsylvania where it was to take place, I came down with a stomach flu (medically described as a norovirus). That type of ailment is never a pleasant thing to experience, but in this case the timing was particularly subpar. 🙂 Given how I was feeling as well as my desire not to expose others, I had no choice but to postpone my audition. The staff of the show was understanding; a producer told me that I’ll be rescheduled for another audition slot as soon as possible, probably within the next few months. So I’ll still get my shot soon enough!

In the meantime, there’s lots to do. For example, it’s now time for another photo of the week! This week’s featured image comes from Prague, Czech Republic. It’s a view across the Vltava River that bisects the city, looking towards Prague Castle and St. Vitus’s Cathedral. The view is from the city’s Old Town district, just north of the famous Charles Bridge.

Sunday on the Vltava

This picture was taken during my visit to the Czech Republic in June 2006. Sadly, the Czech Republic is one of only four countries that I’ve been to without singing karaoke (as opposed to being one of the 35 countries in which I have managed to sing). So I’m just going to have to make it back there sometime!

Would you like to be riding one of the pedal boats in this picture?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Sunday photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 50: a waterfront plaza in Venice

I hope you are having a fine weekend, wherever you’re reading this from. My latest news: I’m just a few days away from putting a deposit down for a trip to North Korea! I know it’s a controversial destination, but it promises to be a very interesting tour. In the meantime, I have a new picture of the week to share with you. This week’s featured image comes from the incomparable Italian city of Venice. It shows a plaza called the Piazzetta San Marco.

Bella Venezia

On the left side of the frame is the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace); on the right is the Libreria Sansonvino (a building erected in the 16th century as the state library, which the great Renaissance architect Palladio once described as the richest and most ornate building ever constructed). Dead ahead are the famed columns of San Marco and San Teodoro; and in the background is the Lagoon, with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore partially visible across the water on the left.

This photo was taken from the balcony atop Basilica San Marco. It was taken during my visit to Italy in August 2004. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 10 years now. I really need to get back!

Have you been to Venice? If you’ve been there, do you miss it?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Sunday photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 42: a Russian palace to rival Versailles

Hello everyone, and another happy Friday to you! This weekend I’ll be attending the New York Times Travel Show right here in New York City. I’m excited to learn more about potential future destinations for my World Karaoke Tour, and to reconnect with some of my favourite people from the travel world!

While I look forward to the travel show and related festivities, it’s time for me to share with you a photograph from travels gone by. Today’s featured image comes from the Russian Federation. Peterhof Palace is a spectacular complex of palaces and gardens on the Gulf of Finland, 19 miles from St. Petersburg. This is what its main building looks like:

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof was laid out in the 18th century by Peter the Great, who used it as his summer home. In its opulence it’s been compared to the great French palace at Versailles. An easy day-trip from St. Petersburg, Peterhof can be reached from that city via a 40-minute hydrofoil ride down the Neva River. The reason everyone’s back is to the camera in this image is that the folks in attendance were all watching a show marking what the palace’s website described as the “celebration of opening fountains.” (In front of the main palace is a cascading series of fountains.) That celebration included fireworks and martial music. When I set out for Peterhof on the day of my visit, I had no idea that such an event would be taking place; it was really nice to stumble into it and experience such a festive atmosphere.

This photo was taken during my trip to Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova in May 2013.

Do you enjoy visiting grand palaces like this one?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Friday Photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, Week 37: the Monument of the Discoveries in Lisbon

Happy happy Friday! Yesterday I visited my travel doctor and got a typhoid vaccine. I’m now fully immunized for my upcoming trip to Peru and Panama. That vacation is less than four weeks away!

It’s time for me to share with you my newest featured photograph. This week’s chosen image comes from the Portugese capital of Lisbon. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) is a marble sculpture that commemorates the Age of Exploration in which Portugese mariners played such a huge role.

Monument of the Discoveries

Also known as the Age of Discovery, the Age of Exploration occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries. This monument includes statues of leading Portugese contributors to the achievements of that era: monarchs as well as explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists and missionaries. Among the 33 luminaries depicted are Ferdinand Magellan (the organiser of the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe); Vasco da Gama (the commander of the first expedition to sail directly from Europe to India); Bartolomeu Dias (the first person to round the Cape of Good Hope); Pedro Álvares Cabral (the discoverer of Brazil); and the great poet Luís de Camões

Standing 164 feet in height, the Monument of the Discoveries was completed in 1960 and stands on the north bank of the Tagus River. This photo of it was taken during my trip to Lisbon that took place from December 2011 to January 2012. During that visit, Portugal became the 24th country on my World Karaoke Tour.

Are you interested in the Age of Exploration?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Friday Photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 36: an exquisite church in St. Petersburg

On Tuesday evening I dined on scorpion. Not just scorpion, in fact, but also grasshopper, ant, and mealworm. The place where I enjoyed these entomological hors d’oeuvres was the Explorers Club, right here in New York City — thus proving that you don’t have to travel far from home to do adventurous things!

Of course, I do also enjoy roaming far and wide in search of the best of what this planet has to offer. This being a Friday, I will now share with you a new featured photo from my worldwide adventures. Today’s image comes from St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. Gorgeous onion-domed churches abound in Russia; but of all the ones I saw, my clear favourite was the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood, also known as the Church on Spilled Blood and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.

St. Petersburg church

Completed in 1907, this church began construction under the direction of Tsar Alexander III, and it was erected on the spot where his father, Alexander II, was assassinated in 1881. I was blown away by the intricate detailing of the architecture, which melds elements of Baroque, neoclassical, and Russian medieval design. Further enhancing the building’s charm is its setting; as you can see, it’s is situated on one of the canals that give St. Petersburg its distinct character and beauty. Not pictured here is the church’s interior, which is as much of a masterpiece as the exterior and contains over 7,500 square metres of mosaics.

This photo was taken during my visit to the Russian Federation in May 2013, during which that nation became country no. 28 on my World Karaoke Tour.

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Friday Photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 34: a Greek lighthouse at sunset

Hellooooooooooo! Another Friday is upon us. Yesterday was a pretty good Thursday for me; I got my passport back, with 48 blank pages inserted. Now I’ll be able to continue to travel internationally, for years to come, without running out of pages for passport stamps. And I can turn my attention to my next passport-related errand: applying for a tourist visa for my March 2014 trip to India!

But first I must turn my attention to the fact that it’s time for a new photo of the week! Today’s featured image comes from Crete, the largest of the Greek islands. Specifically, it comes from Chania (spelled “Χανιά” in Greek), a charming harbour town that features Venetian-style architecture. In Chania’s harbour stands a lighthouse. One of the oldest lighthouses in the Mediterranean, the structure was first built around 1600, and assumed its present form circa 1839. Here’s what the lighthouse looks like at sunset:

sunset lighthouse

This photo was taken during my visit to Greece in August 2004. During that trip, Greece became the fifth country on my World Karaoke Tour. It’s hard to believe there was a time when I’d sung in so few countries. 🙂

Would you like to visit a Greek island?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Friday Photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 32: lamps for sale in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Happy Friday! This week began with me being a contestant on an American quiz show. It was one of my best experiences ever! More about it in a new post that’s coming on Sunday! And tomorrow afternoon, I’m heading to JFK International Airport — but not to embark on any travels. What’s bringing me to JFK is my in-person interview in connection with my application for the Global Entry program. Assuming that I’m approved, whenever I return to the United States from overseas travel I’ll be able to bypass the immigration line at the airport — at least so long as my point of entry to the U.S. is one of the over 30 airports participating in the program.

So it’s going to be a fun-filled weekend. But now it’s time for me to share with you a new featured photograph. This week’s Friday Photo comes from the exotic city of Istanbul, and specifically from its sprawling covered marketplace known as the Grand Bazaar. Within the confines of the Grand Bazaar you’ll find over 3,000 shops; and 61 covered streets criscross its 75.8 acres of floor space. Many of its vendors sell glass lamps, which tend to be stunningly beautiful and colourful. Here’s a look at the merchandise that was available from one such purveyor of lanterns on the day of my visit:

lamps

This photo was taken during my trip to Istanbul that took place from December 2012 to January 2013.

Would you like to go shopping in the Grand Bazaar?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Friday Photo, travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 28: an abandoned amusement park near Chernobyl

Happy Friday, people! This week I decided that in the spring of 2014, I will finally make it to India. A visit to the Taj Mahal, is, of course, an entry on many bucket lists; and I know that the mausoleum that Shah Jahan built for his wife is just one of many unforgettable sights that await me in that exotic land. Naturally, I’m also looking forward to checking out the Indian karaoke scene! 🙂

Now that this blog is up and running again, the end of the work week means it’s time for another weekly photo from the travels that I’ve already completed. Today’s featured image comes from Pripyat, a ghost town near Chernobyl in the Ukraine. In Pripyat there’s a small amusement park that was supposed to open on May Day (May 1), 1986. Due to the catastrophic accident at Chernobyl’s nuclear plant on April 26, 1986, Pripyat was permanently evacuated and the amusement park never opened.

One of the attractions at the park was to have been a bumper car ride. Those bumper cars never carried a single paying passenger, and have been decaying for over 27 years:

decaying bumper cars

This scene is a reminder that in the end, nature always reclaims her own. This photo was taken during my visit to the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, and Moldova in May 2013; and it’s easily my favorite photo from that trip.

Oh, and one other thing: Ben Affleck??? I mean, really?

Click here to follow me on Twitter! And click here to follow me on Instagram!

Categories: Europe, H-Bomb's Friday Photo, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: