aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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Tag: Temples Artifacts
acropolis in progress
mammoth construction zone

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.) 

. . . keep reading standing at the acropolis after the jump


humbling pompeii
roman living


View of Pompeii Amphitheatre

I've never seen a picture of Pompeii that did it justice.  In fact, before going to Pompeii, I questioned whether it was worth the time and energy to go there.  The architecture looked less impressive than the ancient architecture in Rome at the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum.  The scenery was less stunning than that of the gorgeous blue and yellow Amalfi Coast.  But, we went because we were staying in Sorrento, were only 45 minutes away from Pompeii, and it seemed foolish to miss one of Italy's most popular attractions. 

Pompeii mosaic Pompeii mosaic
Pompeii walls Akila at Pompeii


Walking through the streets of Pompeii

And, I'll be the first to admit that our pictures don't do this place justice.  What's missing from the photography is a sense of the vastness of this place.  Pompeii was a living, breathing city with a population of around 10,000 people in about five square miles before 769 AD.  To put that into perspective, that's about the population density of New Orleans, Sydney, or Montreal today, and more dense than Miami, Antwerp, and Las Vegas.  Of course, our cities today are much larger than five square miles but, when we went there, we could feel how the city once bustled.

Pompeii baking Pompeii ovens
Oven Pompeii Pompeii oven

Cafe/restaurant; bakery and ovens

We started at the less touristed side of the city, at the point where most of the populace lived, and walked all the way to the main public areas at the far side of the city.  Like New York or Sydney or any major city today, Pompeii had places for worship, markets, government buildings, and public arenas and amphitheatres.  It had more than 33 bakeries with huge lava mills, turned by donkeys to grind the wheat, and ovens in which the bakers brought out thick flat bread, cut into wedges and sold to the citizens.  It had over 200 cafes where Pompeii citizenry --- especially the poor --- sat at long bars to eat from food ladled out of large jars set into the marble counters (kind of like a buffet).

Akila at Pompeii Pompeii streets

Houses in Pompeii

We walked for hours.  Hours and hours.  Into and out of houses.  Into and out of mansions.  Through gardens with fountains.  Through gardens with statues of gods and goddesses at the center.  Through places where there were vineyards.  Into mammoth buildings where judges and politicians discussed and determined the way in which the rest of the Pompeiians should live, while those ordinary citizens went about their business, raising families, improving their homes, and generally living the best lives they could.

Pompeii roads Pompeii fountain

Marble and temples

It wasn't long before we realized that these people --- these people who lived over 1,500 years ago --- weren't all that different from us.


. . . keep reading humbling pompeii after the jump


prague in black and white
timeless grandeur

Prague buildings in black and white

Street in Prague

We don't often do black and white photography largely because I love color.  I love the juxtaposition of bright against light, sky against tree, and strong against weak.  One of my all time favorite photo spreads on our site is this one with the children and balloons, done in black and white, with pops of color, because the color almost springs out of the computer.  And, our penchant for bright and vivid colors is the reason that we're constantly posting about flowers, trees, gardens, and flower festivals.

But, one of the biggest benefits of black and white photography is its timelessness.  If you look at an old photo in color, you can easily determine the decade in which it was taken by the type of color and the use of the lens.  But, the pictures we took recently in Prague in black and white could have been taken a decade ago or longer.  In monochrome, our eyes aren't distracted by the newness or oldness of the camera technology or other camera distortions.  (It's only a small part of the reason why Ansel Adams' gorgeous scenery photographs looks like it was taken yesterday.)

When I started going through our photography for Prague, I realized that I had to do a photo spread in black and white because Prague has this same sense of timelessness.  Buildings and cobblestone streets are perfectly preserved, down to the ruts used for horse-drawn carriage in the Stare Mestro (Old Town).  A little further away, the city becomes stark and square, with odd monuments built to celebrate Communism and the Communist regime.  There are very few buildings (other than the famous Tancici Dum or Dancing Building) that embrace modern steel and glass.  The city seems to have stood still, with parts of it squarely stuck in the 14th century and others in the pre-Cold War era.


Prague building in black and white
Prague cathedral Prague clock tower

Prague black & white

Prague in black and white church Prague fountain
Prague Communist monument
 Prague in black and white
 Prague church in black and white 

. . . keep reading prague in black and white after the jump


beyond sultanahmet
istanbul's diverse neighborhoods

Sultanahmet by night

Sultanahmet at sunset

"Sultanahmet . . . it's like a big museum," Ceylan Zere, the Context Istanbul city manager tells us of the main tourist neighborhood in Istanbul.  "The rest of Istanbul is where people live."

The moment we enter Sultanahmet, we are transported into Touristland, a place where hawkers push us to buy carpets and Turkish delight, restaurants serve bland fare at ridiculous prices, and English speakers outnumber the Turkish ones.  But, away from Sultanahmet, we discover that Istanbul is a city of a thousand villages.  Each neighborhood is unique, distinct, and dissimilar from its neighbors, so to understand Istanbul, we walked . . . a lot . . . hearing and understanding stories about Istanbul's past and present.

The Galata Neighborhood

Vendor at the Galata market Galata area
Fish at Galata market Vendor at the Galata neighborhood

Scenes from the Galata market

We walk across the Galata bridge in the waning day's light, past the fishermen reeling in their lines, and away from the market where vendors showcase the Bosphorous-caught fish and vegetables trucked in from the countryside.  The Galata neighborhood has been many things: it was a fortified part of the city, held by the Genoese sailors; Armenian and German shopkeepers sold their metalworking in this area; the French high school and Greek Orthodox Churches were located here; and, for many years, the Galata area was the banking center of Istanbul.

Genoese wall

Galata Tower Galata area

Galata Tower; run-down buildings; church in the Galata area

But, then, as happens all too often in many cities, the Galata neighborhood started to slide downhill.  Beautiful buildings and monuments lost benefactors and turned to ruin.  As prices became cheaper, the artists began to move in, reclaiming this portion of the city for their own, as they recognized how close it stood to Istanbul's downtown area and main bazaar area.  Slowly, the Galata neighborhood became the arts and fashion center of Istanbul, and, now, though many streets are full of ruined building, it is easy to find street art (see the Santas hanging on the top picture above), high end fashion stores, great restaurants, and beautiful people enjoying Galata's charms.

Istlikal Street and Taksim Square

Istlikal Street

Istlikal Street Stuffed mussels seller
Istlikal Street Atlas Pasaji Istlikal Street

Views of Istlikal Street and the Taksim historic tram

Istlikal Street is 1,400 meters long and chockful of big malls, shops, and tourist vendors.  But, behind Istlikal Street's smooth exterior lies a turbulent history.  To understand a bit about Istlikal Street, you need to understand a bit about Turkish history. 

Until the 1920s, Turkey was the base of the Ottoman Empire.  Istlikal Street at that time was the homebase for most European diplomats and ambassadors and many Armenians owned high-end stores along this street.  After the Allies defeated the Ottoman Empire in World War I and split up the Ottoman Empire, Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, defeated the Allies and formed the Republic of Turkey in 1923.  This Republic was an amazing accomplishment and Ataturk is to this day revered in the same way that George Washington is revered in the United States. 

Ataturk and the young patriots made many huge changes to Turkey.  The new Republic was completely secular --- and, Turkey, today, is a completely secular nation.  As part of that secularization, all religious symbols in public places were banned, meaning that men and women could not wear crosses or cover their heads with head scarves or fezes and, even today, head scarves are not allowed in public universities and schools.  Ataturk also opened up Turkey to tourism and Istanbul became one of the most popular tourist cities in the world.

Hotel Hotel Londra Istanbul
Hotel Londres Hotel Londra Istanbul

Hotel de Londres, one of two hotels that the Orient Express passengers stayed in, and where Agatha Christie stayed

One of the other controversial changes the nationalists undertook involved the Armenians and the Greeks.  Though much could be said about the Ottoman Empire, they certainly encouraged a diverse population: in the 1890s, 50% of the population of present-day Turkey was non-Muslim.  Following the foundation of the Republic, all persons of Greek origin were asked to leave Turkey and go "back" to Greece, and the Turks were sent back to Turkey from Greece.  At the same time, Armenians were forced out of Turkey back into Armenia.  There's a lot of debate about how many Armenians died during this migration but, suffice it to say, it was a lot of people.  Today, only 1% of the population of Turkey are non-Muslims. 

(This, by the way, is why Turkey is so adamant that the Armenian repatriatization wasn't a genocide: if Ataturk and the first revolutionaries committed such a heinous act as killing thousands of people simply because of their race, then the entire foundation of their republic is at risk.  For us Americans, this would be similar to someone claiming that George Washington brutally killed thousands of black slaves.)

. . . keep reading beyond sultanahmet in istanbul's diverse neighborhoods after the jump


May 2012

intersecting cultures at hagia sophia
with context istanbul
May 29, 2012

portrait of pisa
leaning and straight
May 4, 2012

April 2012

the abbey of san galgano
beauty in ruins
April 27, 2012

opulent opera house
in budapest
April 10, 2012

March 2012

gaudi's personal cathedral
stunning sagrada familia
March 1, 2012

February 2012

casa batllo
gaudi's genius
February 23, 2012

December 2011

the magic of stonehenge
prehistoric secrets
December 6, 2011

September 2011

weekly photo: bonaventure cemetery
in savannah
September 16, 2011

November 2010

crazy politicians
the terracotta army
November 10, 2010

October 2010

when travel sucks
datong to hohhot
October 29, 2010

progress hungers
yungang grottoes and datong
October 7, 2010

September 2010

favorite world expo pavilions
surprising beauty
September 07, 2010

how to do world expo 2010
in shanghai
September 03, 2010

August 2010

arts and crafts
in beijing
August 31, 2010

1.3 billion people
and beijing
August 27, 2010

rainbow beijing
colors in a city
August 24, 2010

the locals' route
at the great wall
August 20, 2010

south korea in a whirlwind
1 week around
August 10, 2010

July 2010

paper cranes and peace
July 23, 2010

buddha deer
July 18, 2010

12 hours in nikko
day trippin'
July 1, 2010

June 2010

kyoto for free
japan on a budget
June 22, 2010

kyoto in photos
streets and gardens
June 15, 2010

rainy days
in tokyo
June 8, 2010

April 2010

unexceptional wonder
kompong chhnang
April 20, 2010

how to avoid temple fatigue
in 5 easy steps
April 14, 2010

March 2010

art of man, power of nature
at angkor
March 31, 2010

just another city
March 9, 2010

how to not be a stupid tourist in thailand
March 4, 2010

February 2010

sukhothai in sepia
filtered ruins
February 19, 2010

January 2010

unexpected funeral
at wat chedi luang
January 26, 2010

at mahabalipuram
January 22, 2010

December 2009

hobbit hunting
across new zealand
December 29, 2009

July 2009

walking in sunshine
July 16, 2009

June 2009

ready to go
June 9, 2009

the duomo
June 6, 2009

June 3, 2009

when the sun goes down
June 1, 2009