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In Essays/ Europe

The Huuva Hideaway Sauna

Originally published in the Next Stop newsletter. Subscribe!

By all accounts in Liehittäjä, Sweden, sauna is as Finnish as it gets. But we were just 12 kilometers from the Tornio river border between Sweden and Finland––a border that’s relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Plus my sauna boss, Henry Huuva, grew up with a Finnish mother, though he more outwardly seems to embrace his Sámi heritage through his father. Sámi, too, have a sauna cultural tradition.

Perhaps that explains why Henry loves him some sauna––it’s embedded in him from two cultural touch points.

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In Essays/ Food

Not Actually An Experience: A Restaurant in Gdansk

I’m generally skeptical of all things Airbnb. It’s not just the questionable things they do to cities i.e. one person buying up multiple properties in a neighborhood and renting them out exclusively to travelers. I just generally feel awkward running up and down the staircase of an apartment building, sticking out as the obvious tourist. I’d much rather be in a hotel, lumped together with my fellow ignorant travelers. To me, a city hotel is a safe space to make mistakes. Nobody expects you to know the cultural cues of a destination when you’re walking in and out of a hotel.

That said, I do from time to time pop on over to Airbnb Experiences when I’m traveling and even when I’m not. When I first moved to Berlin, I found it could be a great source for locating neighborhood interesting tours, cooking classes, and other culinary experiences. So that’s precisely what I looked for when Melanie and I planned our trip to Gdansk to celebrate our anniversary.

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In There Must Be Order

T-Day

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

One of the most memorable events in 20th-century Europe is D-Day, when Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France and started the process of dismantling Nazi power on the continent. But for me, one of my most memorable days in 21st-century Europe was T-Day––the morning (European Central Time) that Donald J. Trump declared victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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In Essays/ Europe

Finding My Jewish Roots in Bardejov, Slovakia

Bardejov UNESCO City Center
Bardejov’s UNESCO City Center

Sit tight, folks. You’re in for a long one. This is a sample chapter I’ve put together on my self-made Jewish heritage trip to Slovakia for a book I’ll hopefully get to write.

Northeastern Slovakia. It’s a place I never gave much thought of visiting. But that changed when I learned of the village, or the shtetl, that my great-grandfather came from outside of Bardejov. I had to go.

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In Essays/ Travel

So You’ve Just Found Out You’re Jewish. What’s Next?

A former Jewish home in Kurima, Slovakia

Thanks to the boom of DNA kits promising to reveal your ancestry, people are starting to identify some surprises within their heritage. A common one is finding Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

When I got my results in early 2018, it made sense. And it didn’t. I knew I had a Jewish grandmother, but I never really thought of her as Jewish. She didn’t raise her kids (my father and aunt) to be Jewish and never celebrated any Jewish holidays within my lifetime––at least that I’m aware of. Plus, I never thought of being Jewish as an ethnicity or heritage. It was just a religion in my young, naive eyes.

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In Essays/ Europe/ Outdoors

Like A Bat Out Of Hell: Running the Panoramalauf Rund um die Burg Are

View of Ahrtal from the AhrSteig

“Fuck this. I’m never doing this again. No more running.”

That’s all I could say to myself as I started another 200-meter climb with about six kilometers to go in the race. My legs wouldn’t let me run up anything resembling even the slightest ascent. They were shot from the previous 800 or so meters of climbing.

I was out of water to boot, having felt a false sense of relief after taking a drink at the last aid station. My throat was so dry, I couldn’t swallow a tiny bite of my Clif Bar without nearly activating my gag reflex. All I wanted in the world was to cross the damn finish line and be done with this mistake.

That said, I’d happily sign up again.

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In Essays/ Europe

On Visiting Auschwitz in the Age of Instagram and Mass Tourism

visit auschwitz
Photo by Filippo Bonadiman on Unsplash

The following is part of my ongoing writing about exploring my Jewish heritage and ancestry through travel, religion, history, language, and food.

Planning a trip to Auschwitz is an awkward experience—and not necessarily for the reasons you’re thinking. First of all, “a trip to Auschwitz?” What is this, the Catskills? You’re not planning a trip, but, I don’t know, a visit, maybe? But it’s also not a nursing home where you might plan to visit your great-uncle, kept alive past his expiration date thanks to the miracles of modern medicine.

Language simply lacks the proper vocabulary for what a contemporary traveler is doing at Auschwitz. Paying your respects is the best option, but you don’t see that in the gobs of tourist material advertising a tour of Auschwitz. And that, in part, is why planning the whole endeavor is awkward. Booking transport in Poland isn’t straightforward and it’s a chore to find the right websites to make your bookings. Then after you schedule your tour at Auschwitz, you might realize your only option for a return to Krakow is a bus because the last train back has already left.

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