Venturing into Pučišća’s Stonemason School feels like entering another era. The soundtrack is the hammering, sanding, and chiseling of stone. A snow-white dust dances in the air, hugging every surface, and carpeting the ground. Classic urns, intricate fountains, and a regal lion fill the school’s sun-drenched workshop. Indeed, the only details that may transport you back to the present are the sweatpants, t-shirts, and earbuds worn by the aspiring stonemasons.
Sitting in a dentist’s chair half-way around the world from ‘home’, I was told the disappointing news: I had my first, albeit tiny, cavity. Shawn and I had come to Subotica, Serbia to devour its delightful Art Nouveau architecture, but I hadn’t imagined that one of my teeth would be wearing a porcelain souvenir upon our departure from the historic city. While we’d read about Subotica’s gorgeous architecture and promising wine in a New York Times article dubbing it one of 52 Places to Go in 2014, we had only learned about the northern Serbian city’s well-respected dental tourism by chance, once we’d arrived there. Long curious about the medical tourism phenomenon, we sandwiched routine dental check-ups in between a Subotica walking tour, market visit and leisurely strolls.
The village of Oberammergau, Germany is well known for the colorful frescoes that adorn the exteriors of its homes and businesses. This painting technique is known as Lüftlmalerei. (Luft means ‘air’ in German. It’s believed that the term illustrates how fresco artists must work quickly to apply watercolor paint to the wet plaster before it dries in the open air.)
During spring, summer and autumn, Oberammergau’s colorful façades are enhanced by overflowing boxes of trailing flowers. And during the most grey of winter months, I find that the Lüftlmalerei inject a much-needed cheerful ambience to this chilly Alpine village.
Artist Claude Monet‘s name is synonymous with his dreamlike paintings which were inspired by his graceful gardens in Giverny, France, where he lived for 43 years. In 1980, his home and garden were opened to the public allowing Monet’s canvases to come to life.
Today, visitors to Giverny can see Japanese-style footbridge that spans the property’s small pond, clusters of water lilies wearing faint pink flowers, and pathways studded with clusters of vibrant blooms.
In a two-room workshop that is dwarfed by the surrounding massive Meteora rock formations, 38 year-old Greek iconographer Dimitrios Moulas demonstrates admirable focus towards his subject – an icon that will soon represent Jesus Christ. With a delicate paintbrush in hand, he carefully draws fine facial hairs. After a few moments have passed, the hairs have been transformed into a wispy mustache. As I quietly watch the process from behind, it seems as though the artist’s and subject’s eyes are locked upon one another, in an intense gaze.
I recently happened upon the beautiful, timeless work of Maurice Sapiro, an accomplished photographer, painter and sculptor who calls Connecticut home. The images from his Europe gallery, circa 1956, are what captivated me: honey-toned scenes of Venetian gondoliers gracefully powering delicate boats across a lagoon; black and white images of Bavarians in frenzied celebration; silhouetted-figures spying London’s Tower Bridge under a veil of fog; and tiny figures standing among the lacy rivets of the Eiffel Tower. When I look at the photographs, they make me yearn to travel back in time. Perhaps that is why I enjoy Maurice’s gallery so much, for seeing its classic imagery makes me feel as though I have.
With vivid strokes and vibrant hues, artists depict Buddha, saffron-clad monks and shimmering banyan trees on delicate paper. This artwork can be found in Luang Prabang’s night market, as well as stands informally set up along the town’s brick sidewalks. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the paper as it’s being made, drying in the sun on a sleepy back street.
When I made my maiden voyage to Laos a few years ago, I purchased a picture similar to these. After exploring Luang Prabang’s markets for a few days, I eventually chose an image of Buddha sitting in lotus position underneath a banyan tree. I rolled the minimalist black and gold painting, tucked it into my backpack, and handled it as gingerly as I could. However, by the time I made it home three weeks (and many bumpy bus rides later) the handmade paper had creases.
Years later, those wrinkles remind me of the journey the picture – and I – went on.
The 1,796 female figures rendered in sandstone on Angkor Wat’s pillars and walls have weathered war, and a harsh tropical environment for more than 800 years. I was first struck by the beauty and individuality of these devatas in 2009, during my first visit to Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious building in the world. During a subsequent visit to Cambodia last month, I was just as intrigued.
How many artisans did it take to carve these bas-relief figures? Are they modeled after real women of centuries past? If they could speak, what stories would they tell?