about We are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
Browse by Travel
Browse by Food
Tag: Europe
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

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.

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

. . . keep reading balsamic glazed cipollines after the jump
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

October 2013

win 200 euros from go with oh! + go with oh to vienna
October 23, 2013

mcdonalds menus round the world (volume 1)
from australia to zambia
October 2, 2013

September 2013

prague in black and white
timeless grandeur
September 12, 2013

August 2013

santorini doors
colors in rectangles
August 28, 2013

on not really picking that perfect greek island
beach hopping
August 21, 2013

July 2013

bulgaria: the low-down
a wrap up
July 23, 2013

June 2013

touring southern bulgaria
highlights by photography
June 20, 2013

where communism was better
on tobacco and cars
June 12, 2013

May 2013

schonbrunn castle in pictures
May 31, 2013

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

April 2013

beginning in bulgaria
in ivailovgrad
April 18, 2013

January 2013

chewy and abby do europe
January 21, 2013

October 2012

chewy and abby in austrian sunflowers
October 29, 2012

three years!
October 16, 2012

September 2012

go with oh to venice
living like a local
September 13, 2012

turkey: the low-down
a wrap up
September 7, 2012

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

August 2012

being on the aegean
in turgutreis
August 24, 2012

scenes from cappadocia
mars on earth
August 14, 2012

July 2012

how to make baklava
at karakoy gulluoglu
July 24, 2012

hot air ballooning in cappadocia
July 13, 2012

traveling in catalonia
diversity in one region
July 12, 2012

vegetarian food in turkey
yummy veggies
July 10, 2012

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

grilled meats of turkey
in istanbul
July 4, 2012

June 2012

something beautiful
in cappadocia
June 29, 2012

adventuring in barcelona
from the sea to the road
June 22, 2012

catalan cuisine
fresh and inventive
June 20, 2012

the flag of turkey
patriotism in pictures
June 15, 2012

beyond sultanahmet
istanbul's diverse neighborhoods
June 13, 2012

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

lamps at the grand bazaar
in istanbul
June 1, 2012

May 2012

delicious istanbul cooking class
May 31, 2012

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

istanbul's tulips
flower frenzy
May 24, 2012

why take guided tours
as an independent traveler
May 22, 2012

portrait of pisa
leaning and straight
May 4, 2012

what travel bloggers eat
at tbu umbria
May 1, 2012

April 2012

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

san gimignano towers
views of vineyards
April 20, 2012

truffle tutorial
in tuscany
April 19, 2012

wake up to the olive trees
in radicondoli
April 17, 2012

budapest: the low-down
a wrap up
April 13, 2012

understanding hungarian wine
tokaji and more
April 12, 2012

opulent opera house
in budapest
April 10, 2012

budapest great market hall in b&w
gray shaded market
April 6, 2012

eat budapest
goulash, paprika, and more
April 5, 2012

let me fall in love
with budapest
April 3, 2012

March 2012

croatia: the low-down
a wrap up
March 30, 2012

tuscany with color
at motovun
March 29, 2012

the undefeated dolac market
in zagreb
March 27, 2012

plitvice national park in the winter
March 23, 2012

ummm croatian food?
between two cultures
March 22, 2012

where everyone speaks your language
in zagreb
March 20, 2012

hundred shades of gray
in county clare
March 16, 2012

off-season istria
chilly beauty
March 15, 2012

sledding in switzerland
winter fun
March 13, 2012

spain: the low-down
a wrap up
March 6, 2012

mercat de la boqueria
at the market
March 2, 2012

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

February 2012

cook and taste cooking class
paella and tortilla espanol
February 28, 2012

brilliant fonta magica
in barcelona
February 24, 2012

casa batllo
gaudi's genius
February 23, 2012

the unvarnished truth on travel with pets
February 21, 2012

scenes from parc guell
in barcelona
February 17, 2012

eat espana
February 16, 2012

changing perceptions in madrid
between ages 19 to 32
February 13, 2012

england: the low-down
a wrap up
February 10, 2012

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

a week of good eats in london
from high tea to iraqi
February 7, 2012

museum hopping with context london
on history and future
February 1, 2012

January 2012

london at night
motion in light
January 27, 2012

yuki's kitchen sushi class
January 24, 2012

chewy at the leaning tower of pisa
January 6, 2012

December 2011

the magic of stonehenge
prehistoric secrets
December 6, 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

not a rose by any other name
stratford upon avon
November 17, 2011

essential cotswolds
a little bit of perfect
November 15, 2011

beautiful bath
in photos
November 11, 2011

an ode to cream tea
in devon & cornwall
November 8, 2011

weekly photo: light on bark
November 4, 2011

rainbow cotswolds
colors in the country
November 2, 2011

October 2011

changing lifestyles
in the cotswolds
October 21, 2011

dining on the queen mary 2
good eats
October 7, 2011

September 2011

the taste of two years
September 30, 2011

a history of luxury
on the queen mary 2
September 15, 2011

weekly photo: a dog in bilbao
September 9, 2011

July 2011

easycanvasprints giveaway + we're off (again)
July 27, 2011

March 2011

sprightly irish love
in the connemara
March 16, 2011

March 2010

breaking hearts
March 18, 2010

August 2009

carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichokes)
August 18, 2009

July 2009

walking in sunshine
July 16, 2009

the vino, the vino
July 6, 2009

June 2009

happy stomachs
June 28, 2009

white whole wheat pasta with porcinis
June 23, 2009

moving forward
June 21, 2009

the duomo
June 6, 2009

June 3, 2009

when the sun goes down
June 1, 2009