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Two recent trips that confirmed my belief in just how cool the world is were to the Czech Republic (Prague and Brno) and to Japan, where my wife and I visited Kyoto, Nara, and Himeji Castle.

Prague (the first three thumbs below--click for a larger version) is one of the most historically intact cities of Europe.  Because it was not destroyed in either WWI or WWII, and because the Soviets left the central buildings largely alone, it is really like taking a trip back in time to Europe of the 1600's.  Truly an amazing city that I highly recommend that everyone see!

This photo is taken from the "old town" side of the river, with Charles Bridge to the right and Prague Castle and Cathedral on the hill in front.  The Charles Bridge was shown in a scene of Mission Impossible and also this part of Prague was in the movie XXX.

This photo is taken from almost the same spot as the one on the left, but with the focus on the area to the left of the castle.  In this area of Prague many of the foreign embassies are located.

This is on the Charles Bridge during the night.  It had been raining (cold rain since it was early February) which resulted is really great sheen on the bridge.  It is one of my favorite shots of all time.

This is in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic.  I'm positioned on top of the Brno cathedral (I had it all to myself) and you can see Silberk Castle in the background.

On the other side of the world we had a totally different travel experience in Japan, my wife's home country.  While I discovered that almost all of the pictures we took reflected the "old" Japan (see below), I was also struck by the amazing mixing of the ancient with the modern in cities like Kyoto. 

Amida shrine on Mount Hiei.  This area of temples and shrines is surrounded by thick forests of Japanese Maples.  The day we were there started with a wonderful thick mist.

Garden bridge in one of the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.  The Imperial Palace was the home of the emperor which Kyoto was the capital and to this day the palace itself is not open to the public.

Himeji Castle, located in the town of Himeji.  This castle is called the best preserved in Japan and was featured in the Bond movie "You only live twice."  Cool.

Miyama-cho is in the mountains near Kyoto.  The village contains one of the largest collection of traditional thatched cottages in Japan.

Nijo Castle, located in Kyoto.  In the middle of that bustling city, near to the the Imperial Palace.  The walls and gardens are truly impressive.

This was taken in Nara, the really old capital of Japan.  The historically intact center of the city is full of temples and shrines and is basically a huge park.  One of the nicest features is that these deer run free in the park.  You can buy packet of "deer biscuts" for about $1.  As you can see, the deer also love to eat maps!