Browsing Category

Travel

Magnificent Switzerland

Visiting Switzerland is an experience, with stunning Alpine peaks and gentle valleys, charming villages, and historical architecture. The country is the home of many beautiful medieval castles, which are maintained in perfect condition, spired cathedrals, and abbeys, and centuries-old houses, beautifully restored. The country is small, covering just 15,444 square miles, just a little smaller than New Jersey. 

Switzerland is a crossroads of cultures, a mix of French, German, and Italian. The Swiss are usually fluent in several languages. A diverse country, it has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Romansh is spoken in the southeastern area of the country, with only about 5% of the population speaking the language. The language is believed to be a combination of Latin and Rhaetian, the language of the original settlers. Most people speak a combination of French and German, along with fluent English – a considerable advantage for English-speaking tourists! 

Every region is different in resources, with wooden buildings in the north, stone structures to the south, and in the central region, a mix of both. Each village is distinctly different, and when traveling the country, enjoying the architecture is a never-ending adventure into the aesthetic designs from various times of history. 

The Swiss government has taken significant steps to protect its historic buildings and sites and has 270,000 historical monuments, 75,000 of which are protected by law – about one in every 30 structures. From famous natural landmarks such as the Matterhorn to sparklingly clean mountain lakes, castles, and churches, the country is known the world over as being among the most beautiful and well-tended in Europe. The Swiss value cleanliness and the country is virtually spotless, has one of the best environmental records globally, with the river water so clean that it is drinkable. Street sweepers are busy around the clock, and it is rare to encounter rubbish anywhere. 

Museums

Traveling the country is a journey through various times in history. Still, for even more, you can visit one of the many museums, such as the Landesmuseum (the Swiss National Museum), to see prehistoric artifacts, art created during the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods, along with Swiss clocks, armor, weapons, and folk costumes. Platforme 10 in Lausanne’s art district is a former train station, an architectural wonder in its own right, which has been transformed into an art museum featuring 10,000 works by 19th and 20th century artists. 

The Flavors of Switzerland

Swiss food varies from the traditional in tarts, quiches, sausage dishes, potato pancakes (rosti), and fondue, a melted cheese dish eaten by dipping bread into a shared pot with a special fork, to dozens of fine-dining restaurants that have earned Michelin stars. You may want to try Alplermagronen, the Swiss version of American mac ‘n’ cheese, although richer and served with applesauce, or zopf bread, traditional meat pies, or take advantage of the combination of cultures at one of the many French, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Indian restaurants in the cities, but whatever you do, don’t forget the chocolate! It really is that good. 

Japan

Everything about Japan is fascinating. A visit to the country is among the best travel experiences, as the people are gracious, warm, and polite, and the cities safe and clean. 

Japanese Food

Japanese food has been an influence on chefs across the globe. It is prepared with techniques developed over centuries, the standard diet is so healthy that the Japanese have the longest life expectancy of any country. The cuisine is loaded with fresh vegetables, generally eaten in season. Even in the smallest café, the care with which the flavor profiles are created makes a simple meal a delicious experience. 

Tokyo restaurants are legendary, with 227 achieving Michelin stars – more than any other city on the planet. Acclaimed Japanese chefs create a blend of flavors, textures, and aromas created from the freshest, most flavorful seasonal ingredients. 

A Very Brief History 

The Islands that make up Japan are believed to have first been settled about 35,000 years ago. The first known inhabitants were the Joman, hunter-gatherers. They wore fur, built wooden homes, and created elaborate clay vessels. The second wave of settlers was the Yayoi, who brought metal-working, rice, and weaving to the region. The Kofun then arrived, establishing a network of aristocratic warlords. Buddhism and the Chinese writing system then entered the culture, splitting the population into two major clans, one Buddhist and practicing calligraphy, with the agricultural village people practicing Shintoism. Both religions still flourish in Japan, along with many others.

Next came the Heian era, from 794 to 1194, with the imperial court, a time in which incredible works of art were created. The Samurai lords ruled the area in 1185, holding power in Japan until 1868. One emperor attempted to overthrow the shoguns in 1331, causing a civil war between the northern and southern courts, with the conflict rampaging for decades. In 1868, the power of the shoguns ended, and a constitutional monarchy was established. Emperor Hirohito was at the head of the country during WWII, with the government eventually surrendering, and over the decades, being reborn as the technological giant of today.

The Shinto Way of Life

Ancient Shinto religious customs are ingrained through every aspect of the Japanese lifestyle. It involves worshiping “kami,” the divine power in all things, including trees, flowers, and animals. The religion has no known founder, no sacred books, and is more of a way of life. Shinto festivals and visiting shrines in the New Year is a national event in the country. Human beings are seen as basically good, and any person who practices Shintoism can be a member of any other religion as well. 

Architecture: Japanese Temples

Japanese architecture is rooted in respect for the natural world, and typically involves elevated wooden structures with thatched or tile roofs. Buddhist temples are found in almost every city, with large cities having several hundred, some of which are over 1,000 years old. The Kinkakuji temple was built in 1397, first serving as the home of a shogun, and is completely covered in gold leaf, surrounded by gardens. The Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo was created to honor the goddess of mercy. The Todai-ji temple is still the largest wooden building on the planet, with a massive statue of Buddha within.

Visiting Japan is always an adventure, with super-modern, clean cities, ancient temples, and incomparable food. The best part of the country is the warmth and generosity of the people, who go out of their way to be respectful and helpful to visitors.

Living Like a Local

When visiting another country, it can be tempting try to see it all in one trip – an exhausting way to travel. Rushing from place to place to try to experience a new culture, taste the food, enjoy the art, and see every architectural wonder can cause you to miss out on the real experience. 

Rather than planning this kind of trip, it can be so much more fun to give yourself time to relax, sit back, watch the world go by from a sidewalk café, wander an outdoor market, window shop, and discover something unexpected all on your own. It is incredible what you can find when you are away from the throngs of tourists flooding areas with their cameras and phones. 

Waking up in a new city with a walk to discover your new favorite coffee bar is a great start to an adventure. Take the time to sit down, watch and listen to the locals and absorb the local customs. Some cultures are openly friendly, and others more reserved. In Denmark, you may need several days of buying your morning coffee before you rate a welcoming smile, but in Italy, you are a friend within seconds. 

Once you have enjoyed your morning tea or coffee, meandering through the local can lead to the discovery of unique local shops on the side streets and less-traveled boulevards. I love to relax, wander, and immerse myself in the local culture. Stopping for lunch in an unknown café, where the locals meet can be memorable, whether visiting Italy, France, England, Switzerland, or the other countries on my list of favorites. 

When in Rome…

The old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is good advice – but did you know that this saying goes back a long, long way? Its origins can be traced to the 4th century AD, attributed to Saint Ambrose, who gave his friend Saint Augustine some good advice. 

Saint Augustine had taken a new job in Milan and his new church had some big differences from his former church in Rome. The meaning of the saying, is of course, when visiting another country, being aware of the customs of the area is wise, and means adapting your actions, appearance, and demeanor to the culture, rather than standing out as an obvious outsider. 

English? Maybe, Maybe Not.

Although many countries teach English, with lots of locals speaking the language a little, we have the advantage of smart phones that can translate for us. The locals appreciate efforts to speak their language (although they may smile or even laugh at how we pronounce it). I like to do my best to try to speak the language as much as possible. 

The Tourists Other Cultures Love

Many countries depend on tourism for the population to prosper. The people of the country work at many jobs that serve the tourism industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars, guides, car rentals, and the list goes on. When visiting another country, supporting the local economy helps the people of the area survive. No matter what rumors you may hear about American tourists, you will be welcomed if you are respectful, do your best to use the language however you can, and show respect the local customs – and they are easy to find online. A little study ahead of time can inform you of the do’s and don’ts, which are well worth knowing – after all, we have cultural rules in our country too! 

Magical Ireland, an Island of Many Names

Ireland is often called the Emerald Isle, but throughout history, this beautiful land has been known by many different names from settlers, visitors, and invaders. 

Ireland is believed to have been settled by the Scots about 9,000 years ago, who called the island Scota, and later Éire (still found in the constitution, on passports, on stamps, and coins). It was also called Erin, the Republic, or the “Land of Saints and Scholars.” The Greeks called it Overnia or Iernis, and the Romans referred to it as Hibernia or Terra Finalia for “final remote country.” Settlers from Spain called it Muicinis, or “the Island of the pig,” These are just a few of score of names given to this lush, rainy island nation.

When Goddesses Ruled

The name Éire comes from Irish mythology. The island was settled by the Celts, who believed life and the island were ruled by fairies, druids, and three goddesses, Éire, Fodla, and Banbha. The myth goes that the the three goddesses each wanted the country to carry their names. One of them – Éire – won the honor. Not to be left, out, literary Ireland was named after Fodla, and poetic Ireland after Banbha. You can find Éire spelled as Éirinn, which you may have heard the saying “Erin go bragh” or “Ireland forever.” The name Ireland is a combination of the goddess’s name Éire combined with “land.” 

The Celts

The Celts arrived around 1200 BC. A very artistic and spiritual culture, they wrote poetry, songs, and created magnificent works of art, recognized by the elaborate interwoven swirling designs. The Celtic language, over time, merged with the language of the locals, evolving into the lyrical Irish language.

The Vikings in Dublin

The Vikings settled in Dublin about 841, establishing the city as a busy trading center. Dublin soon became the most prosperous trading center of the western Viking world. They called it “Dubh Linn,” which means “black pool.” At the time, a large pool was created where two rivers met, which was dark in color due to peat staining. 

The Irish Language

Irish is the first language of about 170,000 people in Ireland, and a second language for about 1 million worldwide. When visiting Ireland, you are most likely to hear English spoken unless you venture in to smaller villages and rural areas. Irish is one of the ten oldest languages spoken on earth. It was banned in schools in the 18th century, but the Irish people were engaged in a long and difficult fight for freedom. They fought for their right to self-rule, finally achieving independence in 1937, when the Irish and English became the two official languages of the country.

Ireland is a beautiful island nation with an exceptionally lively and creative atmosphere. It abounds with historical sites with about 30,000 castles and ruins to visit. The people are known for being welcoming, friendly, and hospitable. The art of storytelling, traditional Irish music, and a food scene that is catching attention worldwide makes Ireland one of my favorite places to visit, whether to enjoy the city, the magnificent countryside, or just enjoy a culture that is warm, friendly, and entirely unique. 

Ariel Emrani

The English Garden

The English are passionate gardeners, and their public and private gardens are arguably among the most beautiful on earth. Visiting the UK is never complete without a stroll along lush green lawns, carefully manicured hedges, on winding pathways abundant with foliage and flowers. The great gardens of London are legendary, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Hampton Court Palace, Sky Garden and many more. Roses and peonies are my personal favorites, and I am currently busy creating a classic English garden at home.

A Short History of the English Garden

The long history of English gardens starts with the Romans, who conquered the region in the 1st century AD. These gardens were planted around the largest homes and palaces, and only a few remnants of these original gardens remain. The designs of the age include formal box hedges, gravel walkways, statuary, and lawns. 

When the Anglo-Saxons claimed the region, the art of gardens languished, to be revived in the Middle Ages. The gardens of the age were small, enclosed, and featured turf seats and mounds. During the Tudor rule, from the 13th to the 15th centuries, knot gardens were the fashion. These gardens featured low flower and herb beds, with a pattern of intertwining lines created with low hedges and manicured herbs, surrounding fountains, ponds, enhanced by sundials and statues.

When the Stuarts gained control in 1603, formal Italian and French styles became the fashion among the aristocracy. These gardens featured a wide avenue from the home entry surrounded by formally clipped low hedges. The Dutch influence was evident, with flower beds resplendent with tulips and other perennials and topiary.

English landscape gardens were the fashion during the Georgian age, when a naturalistic feel was considered more beautiful. Treed parkland, temples, statues, and groups of trees created a more parklike experience. The tradition evolved to parklike gardens with wandering pathways along round ponds, with clusters of trees rather than the geometric designs of earlier times. 

Victorian gardens featured masses of flower beds, bright colors, complex bed designs, and large green spaces. This was an era when public parks with gardens and public greens were established for the public to enjoy, which they do to this day. 

Modern English gardens reflect the long history of gardening, now focused on color schemes, with a profusion of flowers and herbs fitted into every possible space, with trellises dripping with vines and flowers. 

The English Rose Garden

Roses are a standby in many English gardens, and the rose was the symbol for the factions that were fighting for control. The white rose was the symbol of the York family, and the red rose the symbol of the Lancaster family, hence their years of struggling for control called “the War of the Roses.” 

Roses were so valuable during the 17th century, that roses and rose water were considered legal tender, used in bartering for goods. Cultivated roses originated in China, making their way to Europe in the late 18th century. New varieties are cultivated every year, with roses in blue, deep pink, white and green, and even black. English roses grow in a shrub-like shape ideal for borders and combinations in flower beds to add a delicate charm and heady scent to any home garden.

I enjoy creating my own secret garden, and being able to enjoy it as it grows, changes, and gets added to over the years – an outdoor oasis of serenity where we can rest, breathe, and restore the spirit.

Ariel Emrani

Morocco, Where Cultures Unite

If you have the travel bug, Morocco should be near the top of your list, as there is nowhere else like it on the planet.

Morocco is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain, and over the centuries, it was visited or invaded by people from diverse cultures. In the fifth century, the region was controlled by Carthage, an ancient city whose ruins are in Tunisia. It later became the most Western province of the Roman Empire. 

The Maghrib

In the late seventh century, the Arabs conquered North Africa, and called it the Maghrib, or “west. ” Their influence spread from southern Spain and deeper into the African continent. Europeans attempted to establish a foothold in the area but failed until the 18th century. Morocco was made a French protectorate in 1912, regaining its independence in 1956. It now stands as the sole monarchy in North Africa. 

Open-Air Markets

The ancient architecture in Morocco is exquisite, and the tastes and scents of Morocco are intoxicating. The open-air markets are an endless source of inspiration, where you can discover piles of olives, meats, herbs, spices, fish, carpets, pottery, natural beauty projects, and traditional Moroccan crafts in an endless array of colors and scents. 

I prefer to stay in a more traditional hotel when visiting Morocco rather than going American style, and many modernized older hotels with Moorish arches, verandahs, enhanced with elaborate geometric tiles on the walls, floors, and in open courtyards with lush gardens and fountains. 

Hispano-Moorish architecture is a blend of the Islamic and Spanish architectural styles, with designs unique to Morocco, with the white walls and red-tiled roofs of Spain, brilliantly tiled fountains, white domes, and decorative arches, and glorious mosques adorned with complex tile designs. 

Fortified cities called “Kasbahs” are cities within a city with thick tan-colored walls, built to protect the people from invading forces. The builders of the past were able to create energy-efficient structures that were cool in summer and warm in the winter. The synthesis of the Mediterranean and Islamic cultures is visible in the ancient mosques, palaces, and ancient designs for close urban living reveal the sense of community that is part of the Moroccan way of life.

Nowhere else will you see snake charmers, acrobats, and street theater as you find in Morocco, with the sounds of traditional music performed by street performers as you wander the streets, which are generally quite safe. Respect the traditions of the country, and you are welcomed.

The flavors of Morocco

Moroccan cuisine is flavored with saffron, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, and orange flower water, for a taste that is as unique as the country. Tagine, a slow-cooked Moroccan stew of meat and vegetables that you eat directly from the pot with pieces of bread is a favorite. You can enjoy a chicken dish with preserved lemons and olives, surrounded by onions cooked to a soft puree, enhanced with saffron and ginger, or lamb cooked with prunes that have been poached in a honey and cinnamon syrup, topped with crunchy roasted almonds, or chicken with apricots, and the list goes on.;

If I have the chance to visit Morocco, I will never turn it down – the food, the architecture, and the culture make it one of my favorite destinations.

 

 

Ariel Emrani

Rainy Outside, Cozy Inside

Rainy days are a fact of life in Oregon, and the cloudy skies and wet weather can go on for days, weeks, or months. When the sun comes out, nothing is more appreciated, with the world spotless and sparkling. The rain is what makes the state so green and lush, and while we might dream about seeing the sun and the clouds breaking up, the winter months are also cozy – and getting used to it is important, as we beat the average amount of rain for a city, with about forty-three inches per year and about 156 rainy days every year. 

The Pacific Northwest

The most extensive temperate rain forests are in the Pacific Northwest, running from Alaska to Northern California. The moist air from the Pacific blows in and is then trapped by the coastal mountain ranges. The heavy rains mean the trees are taller, the grass is greener, and moss and ferns in abundance. Gardening is rewarding in this climate, where roses, peonies (my favorites), apples, cherries, and other tree fruits are the best in the world. 

The forests are alive with black bears, wolves, lynx, raccoons, weasels, bats, beavers, squirrels, and other wildlife. In the city, we are not exempt, and while we might not appreciate a visit from a skunk, many other animals and birds share the city and our yards, trees, and gardens – and when one is spotted, it is an exciting time for Frankie, my French bulldog. 

Within an hour from home, you can travel the winding mountain roads and take a hike through mossy forests, or the other direction, or head for the coast to visit Coos Bay, Gold Beach, Seaside, Depoe Bay or Cannon Beach. A road trip on the coast allows you to see rugged cliffs and rock formations, historic lighthouses and arched bridges with spires and art deco details. Keep your eyes on the water, as you are likely to spot a whale. One difference about the Oregon Coast is that state lawmakers passed the 1967 Beach Bill, which made the entire coastline open to the public, always free.

From the city, you can see the snowy peak of Mount Hood, just fifty miles away and visible for one hundred miles. Every rainstorm down below means snowfall on the mountains, supplying water to the waterfalls, rivers, and streams as the snowpack melts.

The rain is ideal for gardens, and the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Washington Park, Forest Park, the Hoyt Arboretum, and the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden are close by and ideal places to enjoy a treasured sunny day. The Willamette River passes through downtown, crossed by the arched Fremont Bridge and eleven others throughout the city. 

Portland takes its name from Portland, Maine, and as the story goes, was chosen with a flip of a coin. It is now a burgeoning technology center, with many young people working in various industries in the tech sector, including software development and computer production, attracting workers from across the nation and the world. 

When the rain comes, we don’t fight it, we embrace it! It’s cozy inside, and the sun is bound to shine soon.

Ariel Emrani

Space Travel 

Space travel has long captured the imagination of the human race. Something mysterious happens when you see the planet from above.

William Shatner of Star Trek fame broke down in tears after seeing planet Earth from space in a 10-minute flight. Plane travel may not lead to the profound drama of a space flight, but it can strike a chord when you view the incredible natural beauty of the planet, cloud formations, snow-covered mountains, lakes, rivers, and the glow of our towns and cities, from above.

Mankind has been gazing to the skies with wonder since time began.

Myths about flying palaces or chariots are found in the earliest Sanskrit texts. Stories about magic carpets, flying chariots, and other ways to “lift off” are found in most cultures. China and Japan used human-carrying kites, if the legends are to be  believed. 

Leonardo da Vinci was obsessed with the concept of flight, designing several types of flying machines, none of which, if built, would have worked.

Gliders, hot air balloons, blimps… the desire to “lift off” and fly is a never-ending human endeavor. Dirigible balloons, the Zeppelin, and other blimp-like airships were the first controllable flight machines.

When the physics of flight were discovered by Sir George Cayley  back in 1799, his ideas led to the concept of lift  being created by the shape of the aircraft’s wing. This is still the basis of all air plane flights.

The Wright brothers made the first controlled air flight, a historical event, leading to developments that are still the basics of modern air flight.

Travel Technology

Once only a dream, or something that happened in movies and TV shows, space travel is offered by private companies creating rocket stages that can be reused, with the first stage of the rocket returning to earth and landing with precision on a ship at sea – an almost unbelievable advancement.

Airplane manufacturers are constantly at work designing new planes for commercial and military flights. New designs are in the offing, with a supersonic jet that flies at about twice the speed of the fastest jetliners, allowing travelers to travel between New York and London in about 3.5 hours rather than 7, which may soon be available to daring travelers.

The View from Above

A view of earth from the sky can be breathtaking. While air travel is now an everyday event, it is always thrilling to feel the acceleration, the lift as the aircraft takes to the air, and watch the city disappear below.  The vast expanse of blue ocean far beneath, or passing through dazzling cloud formations illuminated with colors that have no name always delights.

The patchwork of farms, vast deserts, and the incredible quantity of empty space is surprising. I always feel a lift to my senses, and an appreciation for the natural beauty of the planet and the endless creativity of humankind. 

Who knows what the future will bring?, But it is bound to be an exciting journey. A person born 100 years ago (and there are some still living today) have seen the development of radio, the automobile, television, space flight, cell phones, and the internet – and that barely covers the changes they’ve seen.

There is no doubt that technology will bring humanity new choices, new adventures, and new ways to travel. I, for one, am up for it!

Ariel Emrani

Ariel Emrani

Favorite Art Museums

Strolling through an art museum and immersing myself in beauty is a favorite pastime. No visit to a city is complete without a trip to the local art museum. Abstracts, Old Masters, Impressionism, classical sculpture, Renaissance – every style and work strike a chord.

Every major city boasts at least one incredible art museum, with some of the most magnificent collections in New York, Los Angeles, Florence, Paris, and London. 

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Situated on the banks of the Seine, across from the Tuileries Gardens, this museum is a visual feast of art from 1848 to 1914 and has one of the most extensive collections of impressionist art in the world. The collection is housed in an architectural wonder built for the 1900 World’s Fair and is breathtaking. As you wander the exhibits, you find works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh, Berthe Morisot, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, to name just a few.

The Louvre, Paris

The Louvre houses some of the world’s most celebrated artworks, with 35,000 objects displayed in 60,000 square meters. The opportunity to see paintings by Leonardo da Vinci (including the Mona Lisa), Caravaggio, Delacroix, sculpture by Michelangelo, the celebrated Venus de Milo, along with Islamic and Egyptian statuary, works by Vermeer… the list goes on. A trip to the Louvre is not a one-day event! 

The Met, NYC

The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents over 5,000 years of artistic creations from around the globe, from the ancient to the most modern. The collections are extensive, and include African art, American art, Ancient Near Eastern Art, Arms and Armor collections Ancient American art, Asian art, Costumes, Egyptian art, European art, Greek and Roman art, Islamic art, medieval and Byzantine art, modern and contemporary art, and a collection of about 5,000 musical instruments, and that just scratches the surface of the experience.

The Guggenheim, NYC

The building housing the collection is a masterpiece designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, first opening in 1959, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Solomon R. Guggenheim had a passion for abstract and contemporary art and founded the museum now bearing his name. Discover works by Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Degas, Picasso, Franz Marc, Pissarro, and countless other artists. 

The Uffizi Gallery, Florence

The Uffizi Gallery is world-renowned, housing massive collection of the world’s finest masterpieces since 1765. The building was designed by Giorgio Vasari, a painter, architect, engineer, writer, and historian, in 1560 for Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, as offices for the Florentine magistrates, and the word “Uffizi” means “offices.” Imagine standing in front of “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli and drinking in the beauty or seeing Michelangelo’s David in all its massive glory. Wander the galleries and experience treasures by da Vinci, Caravaggio, Titian, and a massive sculpture gallery that seems to extend as far as the eye can see. 

The Getty, Los Angeles

The Getty Museum sits atop a hill where you can view the expanse of Los Angeles. The collection of paintings is over four hundred notable European works created before 1900, including the Italian Renaissance, 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings, along with art from Rembrandt, Manet, Van Gogh, Rubens, and Degas, and exhibits of Dada, Surrealist, and Fluxus artworks. 

Norton Simon, Pasadena

In Pasadena, the Norton Simon collection of European paintings and sculpture spans times from the Renaissance to 20th-century works. This museum houses one of the finest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art on the West Coast. Enjoy works by Botticelli, Giorgione, Raphael, Rembrandt, Goya, and other Old Masters as you wander the galleries.

LACMA, Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, has collections of contemporary jewelry, Latin American Contemporary Art, fashions from 1900 to 2000, Greek ceramic, contemporary Middle Eastern art, modern Mexican and Peruvian Silver, Spanish Colonial art, woodcuts, African art, Chinese art, Egyptian art, along with European art and sculpture, Greek, Roman and Etruscan art, Japanese art, Korean art, and modern art. It is well worth planning to spend a day musing at the creativity of humankind across the ages. 

The Muses: Goddesses of Art and Science

The word “museum” comes from the Greek, and meant “seat of the muses,” and used to refer to an institution or place of contemplation, place of study, or school of art or poetry. The muses were nine goddesses from Greek and Roman mythology who were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who presided over the arts and sciences, and has now come to mean a person or force that inspires the creative arts. 

Ariel Emrani

Arches, Arches, Arches, Now and Then

The sweep of an arch has been used by architects throughout the ages. The Egyptians, Babylonians, and Greeks all used the arch form in their designs, but it was the Romans who made it popular, using arches to bring beauty and strength to aqueducts, bridges, and other buildings. They created larger arches with a new invention –  concrete composed of lime and volcanic sand. 

The arch distributes compression through the form, diverting the weight of the stones, and creates much more strength than a horizontal beam. The arch is so stable that it doesn’t even need mortar to hold the stones together, as can be seen in many Roman arched structures that are still standing today, including the Coliseum. 

Early architects, and the masons creating the arches, had a challenge – how to maintain the structural integrity of the arch until the arch was completed in the middle with that final stone (called the “keystone”), and to achieve this engineering feat, complex scaffolding and supports keep the structure in place until that final stone was placed. 

Roman architects were obsessed with the arch, and advanced their skills, creating combined arches or vaults, which are common in cathedrals throughout Europe, and the domes seen from Rome to the Taj Mahal, and the U.S. Capitol building.

Modern architects use the arch shape in innovative ways and have the advantage of steel and concrete to create beauty and strength in design, in homes for windows, walls, and doors, in  huge structures, and to create sweeping shapes to enhance an interior or exterior of a building. 

Triumphal Arches

When the Roman Empire conquered various areas, from the British Isles to Iraq and Egypt, they would build a “triumphant arch” to commemorate a victory or other event. The arch of Constantine was a Roman ruler during a period of decline of the empire. He built this commemorative arch next to the coliseum, enhanced with carvings of battle scenes and his own image. 

  • In Jordan, the arch of Hadrian was built to commemorate the visit of Roman Emperor Hadrian, who is known for protecting the borders of the Empire with “Hadrian’s Wall.” A large portion of the wall is still standing.
  • The Arch of Trajan in Ancona, Italy, was build in 115 CE, and decorated with gleaming white marble, with a unique dramatic staircase leading up to the arch.
  • The Arch of Septimius Severus in Libya was built to commemorate the Roman victories over the Parthian Empire, the rulers of what is now present day Iran. 
  • The Arch of Titus is also in Rome, built by Roman Emperor Domitian to honor his brother Titus. 
  • Hadrian’s Gate in Turkey was a triumphal arch, and a fortified entry to the city of Antalya.
  • Trajan is widely known as the greatest emperor of Rome. Under his reign, the Romans conquered many areas of Eastern Europe, the Caucuses, and Mesopotamia. The arch of Trajan is in Benevento, on the Appian Way, and has some of the most detailed carvings of any triumphal arch created during Roman times. 
  • Triumphal arches built in more modern times include the Washing Square Park Arch in New York City, and the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, built before the 1888 World Fair. The king of all triumphal arches is the Arch de Triomphe in Paris, built as a dedication to the soldiers lost in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, build between 1806 and 1836.

Whatever type of architecture you appreciate, you will always see the arch playing a role in the beauty of the structure, with countless wonders achieved by the creative minds of the artists through the ages.