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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
Its a great and informative post. I am very helpful from this post. Good work keep it up..
09/07/2015 11:06
Wow, I can't wait to see the place.

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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
This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it .
09/07/2015 11:09
Wow, I can't wait to see the place.

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humbling pompeii


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.



Pompeii Pompeii ruins
Dog at Pompeii Pompeii ruins
Pompeii avenue

Public areas of Pompeii

Pompeii is, ultimately, a lesson in humility.

Gateway Pompeii Pompeii moonlight

Pompeii by moonlight

Patrick and I have seen many, many amazing ruins all across the world: Angkor Wat, Ephesus, and those in Rome immediately spring to mind.  But, Pompeii is unique in that it showed us how the ordinary people --- the people like us --- lived.  In Ephesus and Angkor Wat, we saw the structures built to celebrate the gods.  But, we never thought about the more humble structures necessary for man.  The bakeries, brothels, canteens, and warehouses are lost in those places, tumbled down into rubble and then built over many, many times.

Floor tiles in Pompeii Pompeii tiles
Pompeii Pompeii tiles

Decorations in mansions

These people sold and bought goods at the markets, with products imported from all across the vast Roman empire.  They lived in houses decorated in granite and marble.  They walked streets and stepped carefully over the "speed bumps" built for horse-drawn carriages.

Pompeii Pompeii

As we stood there at ancient Pompeii, looking over the busy city of modern Pompeii, we couldn't help but imagine the tourist of 3,500 AD.  Will they look at our houses, built mainly of the natural materials used for over 2,000 years --- wood, stone, and metal --- and think our architecture is curiously primitive?  Will they stand in front of the remnants of our granite kitchens with gleaming stainless steel appliances and wonder why we would try to preserve our food in such an antiquated mechanism as a refrigerator?  They will surely laugh at our smartphones and computers, and ask how we could build monuments like the Twin Towers with such simplistic devices, in the way that we wonder how Roman architects built huge structures using mental and handwritten arithmetic and an abacus.

It was a strangely humbling place as we realiized that, one day, when we are long gone, the cities and the people of the year 2013 will be ancient in the same way that Pompeii and its citizens are ancient to us.

10/19/2013 05:08
Great post, Akila! Ancient ruins like Pompeii and Villa Almira in Bulgaria do indeed put life in perspective. Mom
10/19/2013 08:41
Thanks for a beautiful, thoughful post on a place often derided as a touristy waste of time. Your photos and words do indeed portray it as far more interesting than I've seen elsewhere - it looks amazing! It's always been on my list, but now it is REALLY on my list. Next time I'm in Italy!
10/19/2013 08:58
Still and always your beautiful writing and carefully chosen words help me see, touch, hear, and smell the wonders of our world right from the comfort of my own home.
10/21/2013 19:02
Chetan Sankar
So well said. I remember when I was young, there was a lot made of
Living during industrial revolution, information revolution etc.
You put history so well in perspective.
10/22/2013 12:27
I absolutely loved this. I've always been fascinated with Pompeii, but you're right about never really seeing photos that do it justice. I haven't been there, so I can't say for sure, but I thought your photos were pretty amazing, and they (along with your description) made me want to go there all the more.
10/31/2013 12:18
I was amazed by your photos. Pompeii looks amazing from your point of you. :) liked it
12/02/2013 03:05
I've never doubted Pompeii, not for a second! It?s almost unimaginable that you can re-live an ancient city like this that is so intact in design. It must have been an amazing place during its most glorious days.. No wonder it was the favorite summer destination of the Rome?s richest.
12/04/2013 08:40
Agreed. Pompeii must have been one of the most beautiful cities in the Roman Empire.
09/07/2015 11:10
Wow, I can't wait to see the place.

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prague in black and white

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 
Prague in black and white Prague building facade in black and white
prague in black and white Prague in black and white
Prague in black and white
Prague Communist monumet in black and white

09/14/2013 05:40
09/16/2013 04:42
I always argue that it's probably the most beautiful city in Europe. On pics it almost looks unreal: these b& w pics just confirms that. STUNNING!!
09/16/2013 05:27
some great photos! I have never seen this side of Prague before!
09/19/2013 06:50
I was in Prague in early August. I spent so much time taking photos that one hot afternoon my husband threatened to throw my camera in the river.
I love the editing that you've done to these photos. The black and white really brings out the detail.
10/01/2013 18:55
Bianca, that's hilarious! We took WAY too many pics in Prague. It's just that sort of city, isn't it?
09/20/2013 11:48
Gorgeous photos. I've been to Prague too many times to appreciate its beauty. These photos provided a stunning reminder. Thanks for sharing!
09/20/2013 20:25
Thanks Peter!
10/01/2013 12:33
Thanks Peter!
10/15/2013 03:17
Beautiful photography and editing! Prague is a truly beautiful city that you capture well here, even without colors.
10/20/2013 16:20
Thanks Andy!
10/16/2013 07:31
Your black and white photos are amazing. We are definitely in awe of your pictures. Prague is also in our bucket list and we can't wait to start our Euro trip already! Same time next year we will definitely be there.
10/20/2013 17:28
Thanks Hannah! Have an AMAZING trip! :)
11/04/2013 12:23
I have never seen Prague in black and white till now. Gives the city a totally different perspective!
12/04/2013 08:15
11/12/2013 04:15
These are stunning! I couldn?t agree more, black and white palette fits Prague perfectly! Just recently, I?ve read Umberto Eco?s The Prague Cemetery and fell in love with the mystery of this city all over again. History, alchemy, conspiracy..these are the associations that I get when thinking about Prague. Can?t wait to visit once more.
12/04/2013 08:16
Thanks for the suggestion! I need to add that book to my to read list.
12/12/2013 21:49
I especially love the photo of the square and statue with that amazing pattern of dappled cloud above. Much more effective than it would have been in colour.
12/16/2013 03:49
Very impressive and a little bit scaring pictures
01/16/2014 08:41
These pictures just wouldn't have been the same in colour. They are truly timeless. Makes me think of a movie set in a time period of decades ago. What was your favourite spot in Prague to photograph?
05/11/2014 02:25
Beautiful photos! Your shots make Prague look empty! Nice captures :D
07/14/2014 15:26
09/07/2015 11:10
Wow, I can't wait to see the place.

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August 2013

santorini doors
colors in rectangles
August 28, 2013

May 2013

schonbrunn castle in pictures
May 31, 2013

the harry potter studio tour
from diagon alley to hogwarts
May 7, 2013

October 2012

chewy and abby in austrian sunflowers
October 29, 2012

September 2012

ruined turkey
ephesus, pamukkale, and aphrodisias
September 1, 2012

August 2012

scenes from cappadocia
mars on earth
August 14, 2012

July 2012

hot air ballooning in cappadocia
July 13, 2012

the wild dogs of turkey
cute and friendly
July 6, 2012

June 2012

something beautiful
in cappadocia
June 29, 2012

the flag of turkey
patriotism in pictures
June 15, 2012

the colors of the spice bazaar
in istanbul
June 8, 2012

lamps at the grand bazaar
in istanbul
June 1, 2012

May 2012

istanbul's tulips
flower frenzy
May 24, 2012

portrait of pisa
leaning and straight
May 4, 2012

April 2012

san gimignano towers
views of vineyards
April 20, 2012

March 2012

tuscany with color
at motovun
March 29, 2012

plitvice national park in the winter
March 23, 2012

hundred shades of gray
in county clare
March 16, 2012

February 2012

brilliant fonta magica
in barcelona
February 24, 2012

scenes from parc guell
in barcelona
February 17, 2012

emerald peak district
green, green, green
February 9, 2012

changing of the guards
at buckingham palace
February 3, 2012

January 2012

london at night
motion in light
January 27, 2012

harrods' sparkling winter
in london
January 20, 2012

chewy at the leaning tower of pisa
January 6, 2012

December 2011

hummingbirds flutter
near poas volcano
December 16, 2011

skirts swirl
at mirador ram luna
December 9, 2011

the famous cornish gardens
trewithen, eden project, and heligan
December 2, 2011

November 2011

on the moors
dartmoor and bodmin moor
November 25, 2011

painswick rococo gardens
in the cotswolds
November 18, 2011

weekly photo: light on bark
November 4, 2011

rainbow cotswolds
colors in the country
November 2, 2011

September 2011

lions wake
in video
September 23, 2011

weekly photo: bonaventure cemetery
in savannah
September 16, 2011

weekly photo: a dog in bilbao
September 9, 2011

biltmore festival of flowers
in asheville
September 2, 2011

August 2011

penguins at boulders
on the cape drive
August 12, 2011

views from table mountain
in cape town
August 9, 2011

July 2011

kirstenbosch gardens
blooming colors
July 11, 2011

fig charleston
new south cuisine
July 1, 2011

April 2011

mabel francis potter's cupcake emporium
in savannah
April 1, 2011

March 2011

weekly photo: a tree in christchurch
March 4, 2011

February 2011

weekly photo: accomplishment
February 11, 2011

weekly photo: antico pizza
February 4, 2011

January 2011

one word portrait + american portraits giveaway!
January 28, 2011

doing now: a chandelier
January 21, 2011

candid canine: war eagle!
January 11, 2011

strange shot: two-headed giraffe
January 7, 2011

October 2010

one year of photography
October 1, 2010

August 2010

rainbow beijing
colors in a city
August 24, 2010

June 2010

kyoto in photos
streets and gardens
June 15, 2010

April 2010

the color of resiliency
the people of Cambodia
April 9, 2010

March 2010

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

just another city
March 9, 2010

February 2010

sukhothai in sepia
filtered ruins
February 19, 2010

elephant beauty
at patara elephant farm
February 4, 2010

November 2009

essential resources for new travel bloggers: photography and SEO
November 5, 2009

October 2009

the red centre
shadows and movement
October 29, 2009

wordless whitsundays
stunning islands
October 7, 2009