aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Ourminds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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suddenness and stillness in vienna

Vienna Historic District

Vienna Historic District

Travel comes suddenly.  The city hustles us through each spot, each meal, each person.  Each moment changes and we are lost in the novelty and craziness infecting our lives in that out-of-the-ordinary spot.

Time brings stillness.  We have the luxury to reflect on the place we visited and what we did there.  We can erase the rough edges of a place with the lighter golden haze of our memories.  Sometimes, I like the after of traveling more than the during

It is that way with Vienna for me.  Neither Patrick nor I were particularly impressed with the city --- it was too old fashioned, too slow, too ancient.  It didn't have the energy or the vibe of Budapest or Prague.  It was more mundane.  We told friends that Vienna was for our parents; Prague was for the young.

But, now, I enjoy reminiscing about the quiet moments we spent walking through the lovely gardens at Schonbrunn Palace, drinking coffee at Viennese coffee houses (more coming on that soon), and admiring the city's 17th century glamour.  When we return (for we probably will someday), I'll leave my rose tinted glasses on.

Vienna Hausmusic Vienna Historic District
Vienna Historic District Vienna Historic District
Vienna Historic District Vienna Historic District
Vienna Historic District

09/05/2014 21:38
Totally agree with you guys about not being impressed with Vienna. We found it to be a cold and impersonal city. We had a good time, but it just doesn't inspire in the same way as other cities in Europe.
09/09/2014 16:03
I have got to agree with this one. I just didn't seem to gel with Vienna and that was disappointing but looking back, its a beautiful place. Well written article and great pics
09/18/2014 09:42
Disappointing that you didn't enjoy the city but great for sharing with us your perspectives.Great written piece.
09/21/2014 06:49
yeah it's probably true that it's more for the parents than for the young. It still has some "underground" places where you can party till the next morning if you want so. It's just a bit more hidden than other cities like Prague or Berlin.
10/17/2014 18:49
I very much enjoy your writing!! I was pulled in even though it was short. I have never traveled much accept by car and that wouldn't really work to get to Europe, ha! But I think I would like to. I'm a country girl and I like kind, down to earth people and the slower lifestyle. Enjoying a gorgeous view while sipping on a cappuccino with my love or friends is where it's at. With that Vienna is a no for me?
12/14/2014 02:28
The pictures that you have made from Vienna are extremely beautiful and I honestly can't deny the fact that this city is one of the most beautiful (and cleanest) cities in the world.

However, during the time I lived there I was faced with a lot of unfriendly people and more bureaucratic problems than I have ever been faced with in Germany.

There is a saying about Vienna: The city would be so beautiful if the inhabitants would be different.

In my experience this is true.
01/13/2015 00:59
Wow! Just by looking at those images, I feel I'm actually been there at Vienna. I wonder which camera you have used to capture this magnificent view? :)

I'm so impressed with the architectural design of those buildings.

No wonder, why a lot of designer of different structure get idea or inspiration from the beautiful place of Italy.
05/19/2015 06:37
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07/25/2015 00:57
I was at Vienna recently and enjoyed my time there as it was one of the first places I just got to.. without an agenda. Just wandering around, enjoying their sumptious food- Naukt Market, old town etc (Goulash anyone?), and the lack of the maddening crowds- even in Prater Park as elsewhere in Europe was most welcome. Yes, I do agree, never have I seen so many retired couples-tourists than Austria!!
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09/07/2015 10:58
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acropolis in progress

Acropolis Athens

Acropolis (and partial view of the scaffolding)

I mentioned a while back that Patrick and I weren't all that impressed with Greece.  A large part of that unenthusiasm related to Athens and the Acropolis.  If you'd asked me before I went to Greece what is the number-one-must-see attraction in the country, I would have said the Acropolis of Athens.  Right?  It's the one Greek monument that everyone knows.  It's the one attraction we were most excited to see.

 Acropolis views
 Acropolis  Views from the Acropolis

 Views from the Acropolis

You have to understand that Patrick and I love, love, love ruined architecture.  I can see the place as it once was, so many years ago, with the walls standing, the floors in bright mosaics and tiles. 

Amphitheatre outside the Acropolis

Amphitheatre outside the Acropolis

At Pompeii, we walked amongst the ancient common man, so much like us though long since dead.  At Ephesus, we marvelled at the splendors of the ancients.  And, in the tiny town of Ivailovgrad, Bulgaria, we were amazed by intricate floor tiles created centuries ago.  We love ruins, even when nature takes over, destroying the artistry of man.

Acropolis view
The reconstructed temple View of the Acropolis from the Acropolis museum
Walking up to the Acropolis

Acropolis restoration (note the reconstructed Temple of Athena Nike, with the integration of the original stones)

But, the Acropolis in Athens is no testament to ancient man's work.  Right now, it's very much a work in progress.  Cranes and scaffolding cover most of the buildings and tourists are prevented from entering the interior.  Several of the surrounding temples have been dismantled and are being reassembled.  

Acropolis restoration


Acropolis restoration and scaffolding and a restored temple

There are a lot of issues surrounding the restoration project, not least of which whether or not the Greek government has the funds to finish the work.  So far, the UN has paid for 50% of the restoration project (currently running around $90 million.) 

Friezes at Acropolis Museum

Acropolis Museum Acropolis Museum
Acropolis Museum Acropolis Museum friezes

Friezes at the Acropolis Museum

Half of the great marble friezes at the top of the Acropolis are hotly contested because they're sitting in the British Museum in London.  They're the British Museum's most valuable pieces and the other half of the friezes left at the Acropolis Museum aren't nearly as beautiful.  The Greek government claims that England needs to turn over the friezes, while the British government claims that they were rightfully given from the Ottomans to the British.  And all that means that the friezes on the Acropolis itself --- that is, the pictures most tourists are taking --- are simply replications made in the last twenty years.

Acropolis ceiling

Reconstructed roof

And, then, there are also the aesthetic and theoretical considerations: does it make sense to reconstruct the building, knowing that the reconstruction may not be exactly right?  When the marbles weather at different ages (as seen as above), doesn't the change in color and gradation take away from the beauty of the building?  Is it better to leave ruins as ruins?


Views of the Acropolis

Ultimately, like much of Athens, the Acropolis is in a state of modern-day disrepair, in the midst of 30 long years of restoration with at least another 20 years of restoration left.  The restoration process isn't pretty.  Maybe we'll go back to Athens when we're senior citizens and enoying the retired life to see the Acropolis in its splendor.  But, for now, I wouldn't recommend this ancient ruin.

*I'm writing this, knowing that as I speak, hordes of travel bloggers are converging on Athens for the TBEX conference.  I'll be interested to see how Athens spins its city and its attractions to bloggers.

04/19/2014 20:40
Seems fine to me. I know the sight of scaffolds are off putting, but most of the site as you displayed it seems quite remarkable!
04/28/2014 20:17
Your photos actually make me want to visit more than before - Athens is such a stunning backdrop to the Acropolis :)

I would definitely rather go there without the scaffolding up, though. It spoils the authenticity!
05/09/2014 13:00
Athens is a stunning backdrop to the Acropolis and that part is really nice because so many other ancient ruins are very separate from the modern cities.
06/22/2015 03:04
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09/07/2015 11:06
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balsamic glazed cipollines

Balsamic glazed cipolline onions

Venice is still busy in November.  There are tourists everywhere in the bright and sunny days.  (Though, is there ever a time when the tourists leave Venice altogether?  Probably not.)  We like the November evenings better than the summer evenings.  There's less heat, humidity, and stench.  I pull my fleece jacket close around my shoulders and Patrick zips his up to his neck. 

We walk away from the Grand Canal, into small narrow alleyways, away, away, away from the noise.  We see a small door against a wall, light shining out as the door opens and closes, and men with half-filled wine glasses and burning cigarettes standing right before the entry, ushering us in with wafts of noxious smoke.  The decor is minimal, with a few wooden benches and tables crammed against the corner of a wall and men and women standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the long bar. 

Balsamic cipollines

We immediately see the attraction.  Cichetti are arrayed in platters and bowls across the bar.  There is a good variety at this one: peperoni grigliata --- grilled and peeled red bell peppers; baccala --- pureed salted dried cod; carciofi grigliata --- artichoke hearts, marinated and grillled; mozzarella e pomodoro --- fresh balls of mozzarella with sliced tomatoes; bruschetta with prosciutto; calamari; and more. 

Balsamic cipollines

Cipolline onions Cooking cipollines

And, there are the cipollines al aceto balsamico, or balsamic glazed cipolline onions.  The first bite surprises us.  Our mouths pucker from the vinegar and then relax as we taste the underlying sweetness of the reduced balsamic vinegar.  We try another bite.  This time we are prepared for the sensations of vinegar and sweet and we feel the texture.  Soft, billowing layers of onions melt against our tongue and we catch hints of rosemary and butter.  We go back to the counter and order them all.

And, we return the next night and order all the cipollines again.

balsamic cipollines

When we came back to the United States, I tried a whole host of balsamic glazed cipolline recipes including ones from Mario Batali, Deb from the Smitten Kitchen, and Bon Appetit magazine.  None of them had the puckering sweetness of the cipollines we tried in Venice and I realized that the problem is that every single one of these recipes relies on sugar to enhance the flavor of the balsamic vinegar.  I dropped the sugar and simplified the recipe.  The result has a less thick glaze than what you might get if you make Mario Batali's recipe but it is, I think, a purer and superior version of the dish.  It is a fundamentally Italian recipe --- very few ingredients of extremely high quality --- so that the cipollines take on the strong flavors of red wine and balsamic.  We serve it often in the winters, with rich casseroles and soups, as a small plate or side dish, sometimes for the holidays, to remind us of Venice's meandering canals.

Balsamic cippolines



views of siena


View of Siena rooftops

Like pretty much every other person on the planet, we love Tuscany.  Tuscany has everything going for it: architecture, scenery, food, wine, markets, and art.  If you want to rave about narrow streets and yellowing buildings, you can do that.  If you want to talk about churches that dazzle, you can do that.  If you want to eat some of the best meals of your life ---- truffle flecked pasta, prosciutto with melon, pizza singed on coal burned ovens, fluorescent green olive oil and ciabatta --- you can do that.  And, if you want to drink red wines that are earthy, smooth, fruity, or nutty, you can do that.  Tuscany is amazing.

The funny thing is that, though we love Tuscany, it took us a long, long time to visit Siena, the second most important city.  I think we expected it to be another Florence, another city overrun with tourists, where we wouldn't be able to see the charm through the throngs.  But, we did. 

The charms of Siena were almost immediately apparent in dull brick red and cobblestone streets, through the meandering alleys, over and across hills and stairs, and under bridges.  The Duomo stunned in black and white. 

It took us time to come to this city but, once we came, we came again and again.

Siena Siena
Siena Duomo Siena walls
Siena Siena
Siena Duomo
Siena Duomo Siena Duomo
Siena Duomo Siena Duomo
Siena Duomo
Siena Duomo Siena Duomo
Siena Duomo ceiling
 Siena Duomo  Siena Duomo
 Siena Duomo  Siena Duomo

12/06/2013 14:39
I have traveled with you to two magnificent cities. Those trips were my first exposure to enjoying different cultures. I was able to see how previous civilizations lived, what their priorities were, how the times affected their life styles. Experiencing those wonders continue to take my breath away even years after being there. I am honored, humbled, and privileged to have walked those paths.

What man created springing from their own dreams, hard work, and drive is none too awe-inspiring. You've witnesses nature at it's most magnificent to the tiniest, most delicate petal. My question to you is, which tall, short, elaborate, plain, monumental, infinitesimal sight evokes the strongest feelings within you - man's creations, or God's?
01/20/2014 12:36
Along with the rest of the world we too are in love with Tuscany for all of the reasons you pointed out. Your images bring back many fond memories and we can't wait to return. Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos!
02/07/2014 13:46
Thanks Barbara!
01/27/2014 00:43
Great photos! They really show off the the richness and opulence of the Duomo.
02/26/2015 01:00
As far I can remember the place look like one of the scene in Twilight where in Bella chased Edward to be away from the sun. This is it!
05/27/2015 05:15
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09/07/2015 11:09
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October 2013

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September 2013

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July 2013

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June 2013

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May 2013

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April 2013

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January 2013

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October 2012

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September 2012

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June 2012

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May 2012

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April 2012

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February 2012

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February 17, 2012

eat espana
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January 2012

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December 2011

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November 2011

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October 2011

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September 2011

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July 2011

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March 2011

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March 2010

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August 2009

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July 2009

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June 2009

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