A Walk Through Athens Greece

As a hardcore history nerd and amateur cultural anthropologist (yes, I’m only two classes away from having a bachelors in Anthropology), Athens was the perfect opportunity to finally live out my fantasy of exploring and studying ancient cultures and their ruins. It was an honor to have a personal experience with one of the most prolific civilizations that has ever graced this planet.  Think about it!  Without Athens modern democracy wouldn’t exist!  The idea of forums and a government by the people for the people was a concept that arose from the Athenians who, like the goddess Athena for whom


Port of Hamburg: Photo Essay

Sorry Philadelphia, but I’m having a love affair with Hamburg, Germany.  I love its old traditions balanced with a spirit of new ideas, its humble, working class beginnings, and this port city’s seafaring feel.  Where Philadelphia’s shipping history was almost snubbed out because of America’s highway system (in recent years, there’s been a huge push to revitalize it), Hamburg’s is still thriving 826 years later.  Honestly, a life at sea is not complete with a stop at Hamburg Harbor. This past winter, I took a trip back to visit Hamburg and was welcomed by unseasonably beautiful weather.  As a result,

Heini Hiltunen Timo Kaukonen, left, sweats it out at the Sauna World Championships.
From ESPN "Sports from Hell"

That Time I Almost Died in a German Sauna

There are two types of people in this world: there are those who go to saunas for relaxation.  Then there are those who turn relaxation into a competition.  Yes, there are literally people who go to saunas to challenge one another on who can stay in a sauna the longest.  Back in 2010 I read a story about that Russian guy who died in a sauna competition in Finland.  The relaxation aspect of it I can get, but I think it’s a bit crazy that people take it to a whole new level and put their bodies through stress just

dall sheep

Have You Seen the Dall Sheep?

Alaska is teeming with wildlife.  In fact, Denali National Park & Preserve is home to 39 species of mammals, 169 types of birds, 14 fish, and 1 amphibian.  Amongst them are wild bears, moose, coyotes, wolves, eagles, and other creatures worth excitedly wiping out your camera and accidentally dropping it for.  But no animal in Alaska gets the older male tourist population more pumped than the Dall sheep. When compared to the other majestic creatures that you encounter in Alaska, the Dall sheep are simpletons.  You can usually observe them far off in the distance, hanging out on the peaks

Sun Rise

From the Darkness Comes Light

Hey there readers, On A Travel Broad, I tend to focus only on the positive and exciting side of my life and travels.  I share with you pictures from my time living in Germany and stories of my jaunts through Europe and North America in hopes of inspiring you to go out and experience the world for yourselves.  But I hardly ever discuss the difficult times I sometimes face.  Some of these challenging times are by my choice because I love traveling and sharing my travels with you gives me purpose.  In the 5 years since I’ve started this blog,

deutsche bahn

How to Navigate Germany When Deutsche Bahn Train Drivers Go on Strike

If you want to tick off a group of Germans, tell them that the train is going to be fifteen minutes late. But if you tell them that none of the trains will be running due to a strike? Utter chaos! Hundreds of thousands of travelers depend on the Deutsche Bahn to transport them to airports, cities and neighboring countries in Europe. But as Deustche Bahn train drivers prepare to go on strike tomorrow through Monday, these travelers, many of whom will be converging on Berlin this weekend for the 25th anniversary of its fall, are scrambling for an alternative.

roma kids

Playing with Roma Children

Below Acropolis in Athens, Greece, Roma children work as street performers, playing accordions, drums and the bouzouki, a type of Greek guitar, for money.  They purposely target marketplaces and tourist areas, knowing that that’s where the cash flows the fastest.  There are several levels of aggressiveness when it comes to begging.  Some casually perform on the street corner — in fact, the older kids are very talented at playing folk music, turning street corners in to concerts.  Then there are others who go from cafe table to cafe table playing music while simultaneously begging for money. Some get creative by

favorite place in the world

Answer to the Infamous Question, “What’s Your Favorite Place in the World”

“What’s your favorite place in the world?”  It’s often the first question that everyone asks when they learn that I’m a travel writer.  In my younger years, I often answered with a place I had recently gotten back from, mostly for the sake of conversation.  “Oh I was surprised how much I loved Denmark” or “I loved Barcelona for the food”. But the more I travel, the more I realize that there is no definitive answer to this question.  People sometimes expect me to pick a favorite place because of the sites (“isn’t Paris the best because of the Eiffel

York Post

York: England’s Most Haunted Town is Actually Charming

York: England’s most haunted town.  Seems like a bold claim, but when you look at York’s gruesome history of the Black Death, murder, poverty, war, and genocide you can kind of see where these ghost stories come from.  As a result, many businesses in York are cashing in on things that go bump in the night.  Nightly ghost tours take upwards of 75 thrill-seekers at a time to go ghost hunting at famous sites, hotels offer premier rates to stay in their “haunted suite”, and pubs have banners and signs claiming York’s most haunted pub, not because of any quantifiable

cats of athens

The Cats of Athens

People often talk about how many dogs are roaming around Athens, but let’s take a moment to enjoy the cats. With the picturesque views and the natural coyness of cats, I have enough photos to do a 15-month “Kittehs of Athens” Calendar if I wanted to.  Here’s a few of my favorite felines so far.

Philadelphia: A Summary of Mummery

MummersMost people celebrate New Year’s Day by drafting their resolutions, gearing up for the  year ahead and, most importantly, recooperating from the night before.  But here in Philadelphia it is a different story.  While everyone else has moved on, we are still carrying on from the night before.  The city of Philadelphia shuts down so that large groups of people can dress up in flamboyant outfits, play crazy music and strut down Broad Street.  Yes, I’m speaking of the Mummers.

The Mummers Parade in Philadelphia is America’s oldest folk festival.  There are many different groups who spend the entire year on Second Street in my neighborhood of Pennsport (also known as “Two Street) preparing their themes, sewing their costumes, crafting their props and designing their floats for one epic parade on New Years Day.  But it’s not just a parade — it’s also a heated competition.  There are four categories:  The Comics, The Fancies, The String Bands and The Fancy Brigades.  And what are they competing for?  I guess it’s just television air time and a year’s worth of bragging rights in the Mummer community.

The Mummers might be a once a year kind of deal for the world… but living in Pennsport, the Mummers is a part of every day life.  I pass by the Mummers Museum, a popular meeting place for Mummers throughout the year, on my way to work everyday.  I watch the String Bands practice under the I-95 overpass and along Dickinson Square Park.  I’ve even infiltrated their super secret Mummers meetings held not-so-secretly at the local pub.  Ah, yes, the Mummers is a part of my all day everyday living here in South Philly.  So it’s really nice to see their dreams come to life on New Year Day.

The HistoryMummers

The Mummers roots can be found all the way in the mid-17th century.  Apparently, it was the Swedes, Philadelphia’s first settlers, who brought the tradition over.  They would begin partying down on December 26th, calling it second Christmas, and just party loudly in the streets until New Years Day, dressing in comical attire and would march all the way to the neighborhoods of Tinicum and Kingsessing.  As Philadelphia became more diverse, the English and Welsh communities began bringing in their customs by reciting poems and traditional songs to the streets of these neighborhoods.  Soon after, the Germans began dressing like Belsnickle, one of the first original depictions of Santa Claus, who was dressed almost like a clown.

Indeed, the Mummers Parade is truly where world traditions collide.  Even when George Washington took office in Philadelphia he made sure the tradition continued.  Flamboyantly clothed Mummers would run around the city reciting poems and singing songs in exchange for cakes and ales.  As the years went by, this custom took on many names — it was called “the cakewalk”, “the 2nd Street Strut” and eventually we arrived at “the Mummers’ Strut”.  Mummers would go from door to door reciting the traditional Swedish poem in exchange for left over holiday treats:

“Here we stand before your door,
As we stood the year before;

Give us whiskey; give us gin,
Open the door and let us in.
Or give us something nice and hot
Like a steaming hot bowl of pepper pot!”

Eventually, by 1906, cash prizes were given… and that’s when it got organized.  Because we all know, introduce a little bit of cash and everyone gets organized starts taking it seriously.  Teams began to form, plans were made, and the Mummers Parade became something of a methodical art form.


Jan and I and some Mummers

Where to catch the Mummers?

If you have plans of doing anything that is not Mummer related on New Years Day, then forget about it.  Seriously, last year, I thought I would go out to breakfast on New Years morning and nothing was open.  You can pretty much catch the Mummers everywhere in the city, roaming the streets east of Broad Street, but the coolest place to see them is in their natural habitat strutting on Broad Street.  Later in the day, the Mummers migrate over to Second Street, stumbling through Old City, Society Hill and all of those other fancy neighborhoods.  They party down around 2nd and Washington and south from there.  It’s quite festive, and I guarantee the most creative way to spend your New Years Day.


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