South Africa:  How a World Rugby Championship has Inspired a Nation

        How can rugby inspire a nation?  It’s worth noting that rugby was long the White Man’s Sport in South Africa, as captured in Clint Eastwood’s brilliant film Invictus.   Which is why non-whites hated the team known as […]

    Tour Update: Russia 2019, Memories of St. Petersburg, Round 2

    On our last full day of planned activity our TourMagination tour went to Peterhof in the early morning.  This is justly claimed as one of the great Summer Palaces of Europe.  Beautifully situated on a cliffbank overlooking the Gulf […]

    Tour Update: Russia 2019, tour leader reflections

    Memories of St. Petersburg Russia is a country that many expect that they won’t like.  That always seems to be the case on tours we’ve lead, in large part because of the negative press that a post Cold War […]

    Tour Update: Russia 2019, Moscow to St. Petersburg

    An interesting bit of trivia, the Bistro is usually associated with either Italian or French but is actually from a Russian word for immediate. During the Napoleon war, the Russian military didn’t travel with kitchens to feed the men […]

    Tour Update: Russia 2019, Moscow: Cemeteries & Art Galleries

    So an amazing encounter just now in Moscow.  We were toward the end of our day-tour.  We were on our own after a rich morning in the famed Tretyakov Art Gallery, after earlier stops at the impressive Christ the […]

    Tour Update: Russia Tour 2019, Day 1

    There is a “hold onto your hats” element to every TourMagination tour that Mary and I have been privileged to be part of, and that is certainly the case with this Russia tour. It began yesterday as we all […]

    Tour Update: Ukraine Heritage Tour 2019, Final day

    So it is 11 June and the Ukraine trip ended yesterday, technically.  Of course, in other ways it is nowhere near the end. But on our final full day we toured the lovely port city of Odessa in the […]

    Ukraine Heritage Tour 2019: Zaporozhye to Odessa

    This morning it was time to leave Zaporozhye and head for Odessa. When Len said the road was bad he wasn’t kidding. There are some spots where we are having to slow to a crawl so we don’t break […]

    Ukraine Tour Day 5 – Day of Contrasts in Chortitza

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader We started our day today at Eichenfeld, now Dubovka, the sight of a terrible massacre in 1919 by Makhno’s anarchist peasant army.  We stopped on the side of a field where a moving monument […]

    Ukraine Tour Day 4 – Chortitza: Connections and Conversations

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader We were in Chortitza today, the so-called Mother Settlement for Mennonites in southern Ukraine.  Of course we saw the big buildings that mark this area for Mennonites (and it helps that our guide Olga […]

    Ukraine Tour Day 3 – Molotschna Day

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader So as not to be a romantic, let me start by saying why a person should maybe not go to the former Mennonite colony of Molotschna on a day like this: -it was hot […]

    Ukraine Tour Day 2 – To Zaporozhye. The Real Pilgrimage Begins

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader Where was I?  Oh yes, we had our evening at the opera yesterday, in a most historic opera house. This morning was a bit more unstructured.  I know that our group rode the Metro, […]

    Ukraine Tour Day 1 – Kiev: Capital City, Ancient City

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader TourMagination’s Ukraine Heritage Tour is up and running for 2019.  We actually met for the first time yesterday evening, almost that is.  “Almost” because two people in our group were actually away all day […]

    Italy tour – Ciao Italy!

    By Len Friesen, tour leader So it has come to this, as it does with all trips and all good things.  We have reached the end of our time together.  We head for the airport in Milan in about […]

    Italy Tour – In the Aftermath of the Notre Dame fire

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader In the Aftermath of the Notre Dame fire: The fire that devastated Notre Dame yesterday is a reminder of how fragile our supposedly “timeless treasures” are.  Beautiful structures can last a thousand years, then […]

    Italy Tour – Venice

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader We have shaped the tour thus far around a key premise:  “Rome, Assisi, and Florence may be Italian cities but they are really world cities.  They are part of all of our heritage.” But […]

    Italy Tour – Florence: Michelangelo, and the Italian Masters

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader We were out the door early this morning as we visited the Academia Gallery.  There we saw Michelangelo’s “David” as we told the story of this remarkable monument.  But we also saw the 4 […]

    Italy Tour – Leaving Assisi. Sitting at the Train Station. Waiting for the Train to Florence.

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader So we’re waiting at the Assisi train station, which really isn’t in Assisi.  We’re waiting for the train that will take us to Florence for the next stop on our most excellent journey.  People […]

    Italy Tour – The Splendour of Assisi

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader I missed a day of blogging and feel as if I am a month behind… so much happens on a trip like this. But yesterday we said good-bye to Rome, a city packed more […]

    Italy Tour – Catholic Rome

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader Today was set aside for “Catholic” Rome.  This meant an early morning start as we made our way (by city bus, then a walk) to St. Peter’s Basilica.   We got there early enough to […]

    Italy Tour – Rome: Ancient Rome, baroque Rome

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader This has been the kind of day (as often happens on TourMagination tours actually) when I’m going to find it hard to write a blog.  It won’t be easy because the day has been […]

    Italy Tour – Rome, the Eternal City

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader So we have arrived and our group is now fully engaged.  We gathered in Rome early today from the east coast of Canada to the west of both Canada and the US, and some […]

    Italy Tour – From Anticipation to Reality

    By Len Friesen, tour leader So this is the first blog entry for TourMagination’s “Bella Terra” Italy trip for 2019.  That’s perhaps odd as the trip hasn’t started yet(!).   In fact, we only head for the airport later this […]

    A Final Russia Blog Post

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader Thursday, 4 October 2018. A final blog entry for TourMagination’s Russia and Ukraine Tours, 2018 I’m writing this from my home, which means that the wonderful Russia-extension to the equally wonderful Ukraine 2018 trip is at […]

    Day 1, Treasures of Russia Tour, St. Petersburg

    Thursday, 27 September 2018  So we made it to St. Petersburg yesterday evening after a morning farewell to Odessa, on the shores of the beautiful Black Sea.  Our routing to Russia took us after that through Minsk in Belarus […]

    Day 10 Ukraine Tour, Last day in Odessa

    Tuesday, 25 September 2018.  Odessa, Ukraine. It’s mid-afternoon here, and our first full day in Odessa.  It’s also our last full day in Odessa. After a half-day city tour I now know that Odessa has been worth every bump and […]

    Day 9, Ukraine Tour

    Monday, 24 September 2018  A shorter entry today, but I want to report that we departed early this morning from Zaporozhe and arrived in Odessa by evening.  It was a long day as we travelled on roads that (we were […]

    Day 7 Ukraine Tour

    Saturday, September 22 ,2018 Today was our “Zaporozhe and Khortitsa day”, which gave us the opportunity to visit the earliest of the Mennonite colonies in Ukraine.  It is now set within a city (Zaporozhe itself) that was a Stalinist showpiece, and winner of both […]

    Ukraine, day 3 – Kiev

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader Wow.  What an evening it has been.  Before we knew it we saw the true Prince of Darkness visit Moscow and drive that city into pure mayhem. There was confusion all about, as if all morality […]

    The Legacies of Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela

    By Len Friesen Robert Mugabe’s recent “retirement” in Zimbabwe provides a good opportunity to reconsider the remarkable legacy of Nelson Mandela, the first President of a post-Apartheid South Africa. There are, interestingly enough, many parallels between them. Both were […]

    2017 Russia Tour Update: The Last Day

    Well well, we have reached that stage of the final day.  We’ve had our final meal in a lovely setting and are now settled in for a whole 5 hours of sleep (!) before we start our journey home.  […]

    TM Russia Tour 2017: Art Lovers’ Paradise in the Hermitage

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017 For many in the group this was the highlight of the trip, at least in advance.  For so many had heard of the Hermitage.  This art gallery, one of the largest in the world, is […]

    Russia Tour 2017: First Day in St. Petersburg

    Monday, October 16, 2017 If it’s Monday it must be St. Petersburg, at least for this fine cohort of travellers.  We arrived in the late afternoon on Sunday, and settled into our Crowne Plaza Ligovsky.  The location could not […]

    Russia Tour 2017: Last Day in Moscow

    Sunday, 15 October 2017 It’s Sunday morning in Moscow, our last morning here.  Some are still getting going, others are at breakfast (and quite a spread it is), while still others have gone to their rooms to pack for […]

    Day one of the tour to Russia

    By Len Friesen, Tour Leader Well, well, the TourMagination tour for 2017 is up and running.  We arrived in Moscow earlier today after a couple of smooth flights across the Atlantic, and then from Frankfurt to Russia’s capital city.  […]