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.
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.
Recently I wrote about the incredible Matthias Church in Budapest which along with Castle Hill has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Given the astounding decorations inside the church, I was definitely going to pick up something from their gift shop. I thought maybe some note cards or a bag or a book, but I found something way better. Half-hidden on a shelf at knee level was the most random but also the most incredible “souvenir” I have ever encountered in all my travels. You better believe I bought one which is how I managed (legally) to bring home a piece of the church itself.
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 Festivals! Take a look at all the great stories at the bottom of the page.
I’ve seen some amazing places in my travels and have always had excellent timing. I’ve met the right person and ended up getting a private castle tour or been in the right place and got swept up in religious procession. Somehow recently I just happened to be in town during a national holiday or religious celebration. But unlike Carnival in Rio, Venice or New Orleans which are internationally know parties, the festivals I found were mainly for the locals. Seeing how a community celebrates with their own customs, foods, and crafts makes for an incredible cultural experience. It has convinced me that if you really want genuine travel, then you have to include local celebrations in your travel plans.
To enter the Scrovegni Chapel, you have to spend 15 minutes in a “environmental equilibration” chamber and video introduction before passing through two air locks into the chapel. Shockingly, visitors only get another 15 minutes to look around before being rushed out by security. However, if you are a clever art pilgrim (like yours truly) and book multiple back-to-back tickets, the museum escort chases everyone else out but leaves you alone for a few glorious minutes within the chapel.
Standing at the altar looking down the rows of painted vignettes, the rich pastel colors glowing warmly from the morning sunlight, has got to be one of the most profoundly beautiful art experience I have ever had. To say I loved the Scrovegni Chapel would be an understatement.