Richard Serra’s Afangar

Is this Lewis, Shetland, or Orkney? Nope: It’s the island of Videy, near Reykjavik. And these are not millennia-old monoliths but sculptures erected in 1990 by Richard Serra.

Called Afangar (“Standing Stones”), this is a site-specific installation of nine pairs of basalt columns ranging from nine to 13 feet tall.

Serra was asked to create a public work for Reykjavik but found inspiration in the wild and rugged terrain outside the city. Extracted from a nearby quarry, the stones are carefully positioned in an area of this small (.7 square mile) island, spread out to elicit wandering and viewing from different perspectives in a landscape that includes water, a working harbor, plentiful bird life, tiny beaches, a great expanse of sky, and windswept grass.

Afangar3Scoreand More

Uninhabited since 1943, this island had a population that peaked in 1930 with 138 residents.  With archaeological evidence of settlement dating to circa 900 A.D., Videy has witnessed many changes. Over the years it has housed a monastery, wool mill, printing press, dairy farm, and fish factory. In addition to Afangar, now visitors find one of Iceland’s oldest stone houses (now a café-museum), its second-oldest stone church, and an installation by Yoko Ono called Imagine Peace Tower, a circular monument from which a beam of light sometimes projects into the sky.

Travelers on September’s “Fire & Ice: Iceland Natura” program will visit the tiny, pristine island of Videy. Led by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Pari Stave, an Icelandic art expert, visitors will discover Serra’s largest landscape project, meet local artists, and marvel at the aurora borealis.

Photo courtesy of 3scoreandmore

Architecture in the Spotlight

By Anastasia Mills Healy

As all eyes are upon London for the Summer Olympic Games, our thoughts turn to the architectural legacy the Games will leave behind and the noteworthy structures in other cities, that fans may want to visit.

Aquatics CenterThe most lauded structures built for the 2012 London Olympic Games are Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre and the Velodrome, designed by Hopkins Architects.

Pritzker Prize winner Hadid created an Aquatics Centre whose most stunning feature is an undulating roof that emulates a wave. Columnless, this inspiring building will be much more true to its inceptive vision of openness and clear sightlines when the two wings of temporary seating that increase capacity from 2,500 to 17,500 are removed and replaced by glass walls.

Riverside Museum, GlasgowOf 950 projects in 44 countries, other recent Hadid buildings of note include the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, Scotland, a fluid design for a museum of transportation that opened in June 2011 and welcomed its one millionth visitor six months later; and in China, the Guangzhou Opera House, whose twin boulder-like buildings overlooking the Pearl River opened in 2010.

VelodromeLondon’s venue for all things cycling, the Velodrome ranks alongside the Aquatics Centre in the category of breathless architecture and has received equal high marks from the public. The architectural firm succeeded in modeling the design of the building to reflect its use: “We wanted to express the geometry and drama of the track in the outside form of the building,” Mike Taylor, senior partner, Hopkins Architects, told the Financial Times. Some critics compare this elegant structure to a cedar-covered Pringle potato chip (in the best possible way) and others liken its design to that of a bicycle – streamlined and nimble.

Dubai and Cyprus are two locales with current Hopkins projects. The Dubai World Trade Centre is a vast mixed-use urban area with offices, apartments, hotels and, of course, stores. There will be tree-lined streets, rooftop gardens and, the focal point, two tall towers. Shifting focus to the Mediterranean, the Cyprus Cultural Centre will be a wonderful place for arts lovers to gather to enjoy music, dance, opera and theater in state-of-the-art performance venues. Being built in tandem with Civic Square, the Cultural Centre will be linked to the proposed House of Representatives, the National Gallery and a park beyond by an outdoor performance space.

Guangzhou Opera HouseGreat architecture becomes truly transcendent when buildings create beautiful and useful spaces for a community’s (or a world’s) important moments, and become so integrated into the fabric of their surroundings that it is impossible to imagine the locations without them.

Beyond ‘Brats

By Anastasia Mills Healy

When thinking of a meal in Germany, if you conjure a picture of a bratwurst in a beer hall, we have a few surprises for you on an upcoming trip to Dresden and Berlin.

Kempinski Hotel DresdenAt the five-star Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais in Dresden, dine on roasted duck with vanilla carrots and hazelnut potatoes at Restaurant Intermezzo, whose elegant courtyard turns into an ice skating rink in winter. Enjoy a crêpe filled with salmon, chive crème fraîche, broccoli and arugula on the terrace of the hotel’s Palais Bistro, which has spectacular views of the historic Frauenkirche.

The Kempinski also operates the highly acclaimed restaurant Lesage, housed in the glass-walled Volkswagen factory. In this distinctive setting, watch workers in white lab coats assemble Phaetons while working your way through a meal that might include a salad of chanterelles and truffles, followed by saddle of veal on turnip cabbage with spinach gnocchi and cassis butter.

Berlin Reichstag domeIn Berlin, lunch at Kaefer’s, on the roof adjoining the stunning Reichstag dome, will be memorable both for its panoramic views and decidedly non-diet fare such as foie gras-stuffed fillet of beef wrapped in bacon.

Fischers Fritz at the Regent BerlinYou won’t want to say “Auf Wiedersehen” at the farewell dinner in our Berlin home, the deluxe Regent Berlin. For five years running, the hotel’s Fischers Fritz restaurant has earned two Michelin stars for cuisine such as skate with lemon, caper butter, and caramelized parsley root, presented with impeccable service in an elegant oak-paneled dining room.  “Probst!” to new German cuisine.

Travel Wisdom from Pico Iyer

By Anastasia Mills Healy

Recently I had the good fortune to hear the accomplished writer and world traveler Pico Iyer speak in Manhattan as part of a new lecture series presented by the World Monuments Fund.

Being a good writer does not automatically make one a good speaker, but Iyer was engaging and inspirational, charming and wise.

Travel writer Pico Iyer

He peppered his talk with travel quotations, my favorite being one from Henry David Thoreau: “No place is uninteresting when looked at with interested eyes.” Think of that the next time you get antsy when your travel companion is lingering somewhere.

Iyer spoke glowingly about locations including Kyoto, where he lives, and Dharamsala, where he has spent time with the Dalai Lama. But in response to a query from an audience member who asked him to name some of his favorite destinations, Iyer quickly responded that Cuba was a place he has visited many times and which he finds intriguing, and an island of dichotomies. Iyer called it “mesmerizing” and “beautiful,” albeit poor and laden with crumbling infrastructure. The warmth of its people, the intricacy of its history, the loveliness of its Caribbean setting all lure him back time and again.

Cuba by Sarah Wharton

A poignant story he told concerned a trip to Yemen some years back. His return flight was postponed four days, a delay that meant he was to miss an important event. He spent a lot of time with a gracious and helpful airline agent who finally was able to get him on a sooner flight, which left at 6 a.m. the next morning but from a different city, many miles away. He hired a genial, toothless old man as a driver and together they pushed on through the night, climbing and winding their way up mountains with precipitous and unsecured slopes, stopping every so often for roadblocks manned by masked gunmen who demanded payment. He made his flight and his important event thanks to the tenacity and helpfulness of the airline agent and the bravery and benevolence of the driver. Several weeks after his return, the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred and Yemen was discussed as a hotbed of al Qaeda. Iyer said that although Yemen as a country has been proven a threat to Westerners, he was so very grateful to have had such lovely encounters with its citizens. He had an opportunity not many have of putting a friendly face on that country.

Tourists in Yemen

Of course the masked gunmen won’t be plastered on any tourism posters, but Iyer’s point was that the “people to people” interactions that travel can create often teach us more about a country than its most celebrated art treasures.

The Wonders of Paphos

By Anastasia Mills Healy

What do Aphrodite, St. Paul and Richard the Lionheart have in common?  They all have left their marks on the amazing island of Cyprus.

Inhabited since the Neolithic period, Cyprus has an extraordinary history. Focusing just on Paphos, UNESCO named this southwestern area a World Heritage Site for its ancient architectural remains and remarkably preserved mosaics.  Paphos is also noted for its association with Aphrodite. According to legend, the goddess of love and beauty was born at Petra tou Romiou (Rock of the Greek), one of several massive rock formations just off shore.  A sanctuary was built to worship her and it became an important place of pilgrimage, attracting the Roman Emperor Titus and eventually making its way onto coins issued by Emperor Caracalla.

Kourion, Cyprus

A millennium later, St. Paul is mentioned in relation to Paphos several times in The Bible, most notably for converting the proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity there. It is also believed that one of the pillars outside the church of Agia Kyriaki is where Paul suffered one of his five beatings.

Fast forward yet another millennium, to when Richard the Lionheart conquered Cyprus and was married in the more eastern port city of Limassol. He sold Cyprus to the Knights Templar who in turn sold it to the French knight Guy de Lusignan, all in the space of a year.

All this is remarkable stuff, but what has left the biggest impression on Arrangements Abroad’s own Eleni Papachristou, a Cypriot?  The Tombs of the Kings, rock cut catacombs that date to the 4th century B.C.E.  Some of the approximately 100 tombs have Doric pillars and frescoes adorning their walls while others are marked by decorative archways. No actual kings were buried here – just men of high rank – but the majesty of the necropolis gave rise to its name.

Buried here you won’t find the remains of Aphrodite, St. Paul, Richard the Lionheart or any of the other legendary figures whose stories are intertwined with the history of this magical place. But the tombs are testament to the engineering prowess and masonry skills of ancient Cypriots, who honored their own deceased in a style fit for the gods.

The Mother of All Universities

By Anastasia Mills Healy

Those who know Italy well find it remarkable that no one they know has been to Bologna. A hidden gem, an undiscovered treasure…Call it what you will, but do put Emilia-Romagna on your itinerary. The tortellini de zucca, spaghetti alla bolognese and other regional specialties are worth the journey. Then there’s the lovely centro storico with porticoed walkways. But what has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to Bologna for nearly one thousand years is its university.

As the classes of 2012 from around the globe are spreading their wings, thoughts turn to higher education. Most agree that the University of Bologna was founded in 1088, which makes it the oldest in the Western world and gives credence to its motto, “Alma mater studiorum” (“Nourishing mother of studies”).

University of Bologna

Before the university was officially established, students hired professors and kept them accountable, which worked out very well. This gathering of eager students and highly motivated teachers evolved into a center of learning whose reputation for high quality tutelage was second to none.

Famous thinkers from a variety of fields who studied at the university include several who are known by one name – Dante, Petrarch, Copernicus – as well as the likes of Albrecht Dürer and Umberto Eco.

In some ways Bologna is a typical college town, full of young people, cafés and bookstores. In other ways, its unique history permeates everything. Today the campus includes many buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries and some dating even to the 15th century.

Bologna

Take the Museo di Palazzo Poggi, the most interesting of the university’s museums. This imposing palace displays a fascinating array of wonders, including ancient Roman weapons, ship models dating to the 16th century and thousands of fossils, plants, minerals and other items now categorized as “natural history.” Don’t ignore the exquisite murals and architectural details throughout the palazzo. A perfect blending of art and science.

Note: Bologna was not damaged by a May 20th, 2012 earthquake whose epicenter was 22 miles northwest of the city.

Two of Antalya’s Classical Sites

By Anastasia Mills Healy

Situated in one of the many picturesque inlets of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is Antalya, gateway to the important cities from antiquity, Aspendos and Perge.

Antalya harbor

The main draw of Aspendos, approximately 30 miles east of Antalya, is its impressive 20,000-seat theater, which has presented everything from gladiator battles to recent opera and ballet performances. Built in the latter half of the first century C.E., it is exceptionally well preserved, beautifully proportioned and boasts excellent acoustics.  In the 13th century, the theater was converted into a palace by the Seljuk Turks, an act that in some ways preserved the structure by covering it with bricks.  In addition to the theater, seek out the remains of structures including a 50-foot-tall aqueduct and the nymphaeum (sanctuary to water nymphs).

Sarcophagus in Perge

Closer to Antalya is Perge, which was founded in 1,000 B.C.E. and is name-checked in none other than the Bible. According to the book of Acts, St. Paul visited Perge twice in 46 A.D., once giving a sermon there. After the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity, Perge became an important ecclesiastical city. But the vestiges of buildings here are mostly not related to religion. Instead, visitors can see a theater with wonderful marble reliefs detailing the life of Dionysus and a stadium with shops identifying their proprietors and wares with inscriptions. The Pergeans enjoyed their shopping: In addition to an agora (marketplace), Perge also had the precursor to an outdoor mall. A covered walkway once housed shops on both sides of a long reflecting pool that acted as air-conditioning.

Back in the city, don’t miss the Antalya Museum, which has a sizeable and excellent collection of statuary from Perge in addition to ancient coins, icons, mosaics and much more.

The Crown Prince of Cabaret

By Anastasia Mills Healy

“The very personification of savoir faire,” according to one of his many rave reviews, Steve Ross is known as the “Crown Prince of Cabaret” for his elegant, clever and insightful performances of the works of Noel Coward, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim, among others.  Sondheim attended and enjoyed one of his shows. And the Noel Coward Society so appreciated his tributes that it bequeathed Ross one the legend’s smoking jackets, in which he often performs.

Steve Ross

Ross began his career in the 1970s at a Theater District venue where the likes of Liza Minnelli and Ginger Rogers were known to join him in song. He has a long history of celebrated performances at the Oak Room in New York’s Algonquin Hotel and regular engagements in Australia, Britain and Brazil. Ross was the first American cabaret artist to appear at the Paris Ritz and he has taken the stage at prestigious venues (including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center) and festivals (such as Spoleto and the Caramoor Music Festival) across the United States and abroad. Ross has hosted radio series both for NPR and the BBC and lectured at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Oxford University. An Off-Broadway veteran, he made his Broadway debut in 1997 in “Present Laughter” with Frank Langella.

You can catch Steve Ross in New York City May 23 and 24 at the Metropolitan Room. We are also lucky enough to have him aboard two summer cruises: a July 17 sailing from St. Petersburg to Copenhagen and a July 28 trip from Edinburgh to Dublin.

Steve Ross has this to say about his upcoming Arrangements Abroad adventures:

“I began my sea-faring life with many contracts on the late, great QEII
moving on to other ships on other lines, but I have to say the size of the
Clipper Odyssey and the relatively small number of passengers is very
appealing. I love to make new friends at and away from the keyboard. New
conversations, new places to learn about and visit—that’s the ticket for
this wand’ring minstrel! As far as what songs I’ll choose—at least two of
the composers I sing a lot of, Messrs. Porter and Coward, practically lived
on the great liners in the Thirties and wrote several songs about traveling
(“Shooting Box in Scotland” and “Sail Away”). The classics from these and
the other writers of the American Songbook (the Gershwins, Irving Berlin,
Lerner and Loewe) will make frequent appearances at my shows.”

For more information about Steve Ross, click http://www.steveross.net.

The Stone Beauty

By Anastasia Mills Healy

The word “Trogir” sounds like the name of a fearsome Tolkien troll king and its ancient Greek meaning, “isle of goats,” does it no favors either. But the Croatian town of Trogir enchants visitors with its small island charm and meticulously preserved buildings that tell its 2,300-year history.

The Greeks first settled this island in the third century B.C.E. and its nearly uninterrupted human occupation since, with architectural vestiges from many eras of rule (including Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian), earned this delightful spot a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is unusual to find a gathering of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, all beautifully maintained, within such a small radius. But Trogir is not only remarkable for its edifices: urban planners are fascinated by how the streets still follow their original grid and that its two main roads have been in use since the town began.

Trogir city view

Meander through Trogir’s narrow, winding streets, lined with churches and palaces. Of particular note is the main square with its medieval loggia and clock tower, the graceful façade of Cipko Palace and the pièce de resistance, St. Lawrence Cathedral.  The cathedral’s western door is an outstanding Romanesque work by the famous Croatian architect and sculptor Radovan. Study his masterful carvings: scenes from the Nativity, the life of Christ, and Adam and Eve on either side of the door, both perched on lions.

After exploring the highlights of Trogir, linger over a coffee, an ice cream or a lunch of freshly caught fish at one of the cafes dotting the waterfront promenade. As you sit back and admire the homes and streets built from ancient sun-soaked stones, with their exquisite architectural details, you will understand why locals call Trogir “The Stone Beauty.”