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The Convent & the Hidden Ruins: Where to Stay in Jerusalem

Walking through the streets of Jerusalem crowded with believers of several faiths, you know you’re in a holy place.  During my visit, I wanted to stay in the heart of the old city so that I could experience this energy and spirit.  My early morning walks with mothers taking their children to school and evening strolls among the prayerful were everything I had hoped for.  While in Jerusalem, I stayed at a guesthouse for pilgrims run by an order of nuns which was located on the Via Dolorosa (or the Way of the Cross).  Besides being a welcoming home, the convent had a surprisingly beautiful but quirky church and a basement of archaeological remains dating to the Roman occupation of the city.  What more could I ask for?!

Via Dolorosa and Ecce Homo arch, Jerusalem

The Franciscans and Catholic pilgrims heading down the Via Dolorosa for the Friday afternoon Stations of the Cross. Note the aptly named alley (“The Nun’s Ascent”) and the public entrance to the Lithostrotos at the right.

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12 Hours in London

If you’re someone like me who doesn’t live on the road, it’s important to maximize your travel experiences. I love taking advantages of international layovers to spend a day in “bonus” city, like Paris or Amsterdam. This Spring I finally got to see London with a day-long romp through this fantastic capital.  It turned out to be plenty of time to see the highlights and get the flavor of this historic city.

Tower bridge, London

Good morning Tower Bridge!

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Digging into the Legend of Troy

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are discussing Folklore!  Take a look at all the great stories at the bottom of the page.

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, "The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy"

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, “The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy”, 1773, National Gallery, London (Photo)

Whether it was reading through the Iliad and Odyssey in school or seeing Brad Pitt as Achilles, we all know about Troy.  This mythical fortress city conjures up images of fierce battle, epic warriors, beautiful Helen herself, and of course, one of the greatest tricks of all time, the magnificent Trojan Horse.  Sometimes its easy to lump Troy in with Atlantis, the island of the Minotaur, or the lands of the Amazons – just fantasy places that serve as a setting for Greek mythology.  But what do we really know about Troy?  Along the northwest coast of Turkey are the archaeological remains of a city with walls that just might have been great enough to hold back the Athenian army and Achilles himself.

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Bern’s Historic Old City

If I had to describe a nation’s capital city, I would think of broad streets, massive administrative buildings, and commercial areas.  I picture public art, decorative architecture, and parks too but its all in the context of the greater metropolis at the heart of the city.  So then imagine how unprepared I was to visit Bern, Switzerland’s national capital.  Instead of a booming, modern downtown, they’ve done an amazing job of preserving the historic old city center.  The heart of the city is gorgeous and the perfect place to spend a day strolling.

Bern Old Town

The historic soul of Switzerland can be found in its incredible capital city, Bern.

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The Best Early Christian Tomb Frescoes (Not in Rome)

I love the early Christian catacombs of Rome.  But since you can only enter as part of a guided tour, visits feel rushed.  The frescoes in these maze-like tomb complexes reveal the first Christian images and thus the stories, priorities, and spiritual direction of the early church.  Even more importantly, here’s where artists started to lay out the visual language, or iconography, of the religion which had a huge effect on the history of Western Art.  But early Christian images aren’t all in Rome.  There is a pocket of fantastic early Christian tomb frescoes in the city of Pécs in southwestern Hungary.  It’s an incredible treasure in a very unexpected place.

Burial Chamber of Saint Peter and Paul, Early Christian burial tombs, Pecs, Hungary

“Mary and Child fresco” in the Burial Chamber of Saint Peter and Paul, 4th century early Christian burial tombs, Pecs, Hungary

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