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Vasa Museum: The Most Impressive Ship Which Never Sailed

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What happens when you build a ship so armed to the teeth, that it was meant to be the most powerful vessel of its time; laughing at the face of the scientific theories of buoyancy and weight distribution? 
It sinks, of course! And during its maiden voyage too! This is the story of the Swedish warship, the Vasa. 

* And for over 300 years, the Vasa peacefully rested at the bottom of the sea until being successfully raised, whole and intact, in 1961!

The Palaces of Kyoto: Home of the Emperor

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Along with the futuristic megacity of Tokyo and the foodie heaven of Osaka, no trip to Japan would be complete without visiting its cultural capital, Kyoto.
Home to the Japanese imperial court for over a thousand years, Kyoto is full of palaces, temples, shrines, and gardens; which thanks to not being targeted by Allied bombing during World War II, has been preserved in all its authenticity. This is Part 1 of our Kyoto Series: Palaces.
Kyoto Imperial Palace

* From 794 AD to 1869, Japan was ruled by its Emperor from his Imperial Palace in Kyoto.

Plaza de Espana: A Tribute to the Spanish Empire

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At the peak of its height, the Spanish Empire ruled supreme over territory that now includes Western and Southern United States, Mexico, half of South America, the Philippine Islands, Naples and Southern Italy, and the Low Countries (Netherlands and Belgium).
To showcase the diversity and cultural richness of its formerly vast and far-reaching empire, Spain held the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929 with the city of Seville playing its host. 

* And at the center of the Exposition, stood the splendid Plaza de EspaƱa, one of Sevilla's main landmarks and an icon of Spanish tourism.

Crossing No Man's Land: A Journey from Finland to Russia

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The end of the Cold War in the early 90's ushered in a lot of positive changes for Europe: military deescalation, the emergence of democracy in the former Soviet Bloc countries, a more relaxed atmosphere across the continent, and the opening of tourism. Finally, Western tourists found themselves being able to take a peek behind the Iron Curtain and actually visit Russia itself. 
From Finland's capital, Helsinki, we drove past the densely wooded countryside of Finland, into the no man's land that signified the neutral zone between the former adversaries of the Soviet and Western powers, and finally into Russia.

* Unlike border control procedures within the European Union, the experience of entering Russia is an adventure in itself! Entry can take over a couple of hours with immigration officials having the discretion to take as much time as they wish.

Riddarholm: Burial Place of the Swedish Kings

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Continuing on my personal fascination with medieval European monarchs (their stories, homes, and final resting places) I had the pleasure to spend some time at the burial church of the Kings and Queens of Sweden, Riddarholm Church.

* And what a fantastic-looking church it is! Located on the island of Riddarholmen, one of Stockholm's fourteen islands, the structure is a nice walk from the Royal Palace and the old medieval area of Stockholm, Gamla Stan.