The New York City–based scholar, whose new book, The Parthenon Enigma (Knopf), is rewriting ancient history, spills the dirt on a few of her favorite spots.
Q: Are there any great sites in Europe that are lesser-known? A: At his villa in Sperlonga(39-0771/548-028),75 miles south of Rome, Emperor Tiberius created a fantasy world based on Homer’s Odyssey, filling a seaside cave with marble sculptures depicting the exploits of the Greek hero. The Neolithic outer ring of stones at Avebury, in Wiltshire, England, is the largest megalithic circle in the world—bigger than Stonehenge.
Q: Tell us about your dig on Yeronisos Island, off the coast of Cyprus. A: Our excavations have shed light on the period of Cleopatra’s Cyprus rule (47–30 B.C.). We’ve found amulets, potsherds inscribed with Ptolemaic Egyptian script, a stone lion’s head, and more.
Q: Can anyone dig with you? A: I’m proud of our Exec-U-Dig program, which allows one or two donors to come out for a week of exploration each season. Bill Murray joined us in 2006.
Q: Where does a lover of ancient history go on vacation? A: I rarely go anywhere that is largely contemporary. I always travel with a pair of vintage Newmarket riding boots—I’ve galloped on an Arabian horse past the Pyramids in Egypt; fox-hunted in Northumberland, England; and cantered across the French countryside. There’s no better way to travel.
Berlin resident Gisela Williams explores the proud new zeitgeist taking hold in her adopted homeland.
Like so many German words, Heimat is impossible to translate. Some describe it as a “homeland” or sense of belonging—your roots, so to speak. The French might liken it to terroir. But after the Nazis hijacked it, Heimat became a loaded term—all but erased from the German lexicon. Until a few years ago, I’d barely heard it uttered. Today, however, the concept is making a comeback, thanks to a cadre of artists, chefs, and thinkers who are trying to rescue Heimat from its nationalistic undertones and bring it up-to-date.
Follow a woman’s incredible 1,700 mile, solo journey through the Australian outback in the upcoming film, Tracks.
In 1977, Robyn Davidson made a 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of Western Australian with her dog and four camels. Davidson had no intention of documenting her adventures until she eventually agreed to write about her trip in National Geographic magazine.
The headlong rush of Beijing’s booming scene, as seen by T+L—old-school restaurants, futuristic architecture, Internet entrepreneurs, and over-the-top nightclubs.
In Beijing, the past trembles before the future. Nowhere on earth is the fast-forward button pressed with such might and frequency. Nowhere else do the centuries disappear into the night, handed over to starchitect Zaha Hadid’s Galaxy Soho, a building that looks like four UFO’s have landed around a traditional Chinese courtyard, or to shopping malls called the Place or the Village, or to ring roads that encircle the Forbidden City carrying millions of cars, each barely inching forward through the haze of pollution that the government euphemistically likes to call “bad weather.” And yet even as you slide past the ghost buildings that line the impossibly wide boulevards, broken up only by flashing billboards of Western beauties hawking Dior, you start to think: This is where it’s at. Beijing, China’s political capital, is where the future will be partly decided and packaged and presented to large swaths of the globe. Even a few of the foreign denizens of the financial capital, Shanghai, tell me they’d rather move to Beijing, if only to better grease the palms of those who actually wield power, the functionaries of China’s Communist Party. I’ve met many Europeans who proudly announce that they’ve never in their entire lives visited New York. To participate in the 21st century and not know Beijing will require similar pride. Or foolishness. In fact, the saddest flight in the world is from America’s decrepit Newark Liberty International Airport, essentially a giant bathroom with airplanes, to the gleaming and sinuous Norman Foster–designed Beijing Capital International Airport.
Where to go now—neighborhood by neighborhood in Istanbul.
On my first visit to Istanbul, in the mid 1980’s, donkey carts still trundled across the iron Galata Bridge between the historic Old City and the Europeanized Beyoğlu quarter. And right away I was hooked...on faded Byzantine frescoes and smoky kebabs and tulip-shaped glasses of tea. I’m even more smitten today, as I gaze over the Bosporus boat traffic from the window of a little apartment I bought in the leafy Cihangir quarter. Istanbul is a global megalopolis now, a place where grit and gloss, East and West, secularism and Islam all collide with a jolt—or just as often cohabit gracefully. This is my Istanbul.
Fresh from touring exhibitions in Japan, the United States, and Italy—and a starring role in Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel—Carel Fabritius’s Goldfinch returns to the Hague on June 27. That’s when the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis reopens after a major renovation and expansion, doubling the exquisite museum’s floor space. Keeping the iconic bird company: Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft as well as a peerless trove of other Dutch Golden Age paintings.
The National 9/11 Memorial Museum, located in lower Manhattan, on the site of the World Trade Center, opens to the public today, Wednesday, May 21.
Except for the handsome entry pavilion designed by the Norwegian architects Snøhetta, the greater part of the vast 10,000 square feet of exhibition space is 70 feet below ground level, at the foundations of the original twin towers. Visitors are drawn into the chasm through a series of ramps, escalators, and viewing platforms that lead to the Manhattan core, its bedrock, where the museum—the thoughtful design the work of Davis Brody Bond, a New York City firm—divides into two, large square aluminum structures with a luminous sheen.
Back in the 1930’s, John Christie—a wealthy English music lover—married a Canadian soprano, built a small theater in the gardens of his 16th-century country house in the Sussex Downs, and founded the Glyndebourne Festival, an annual summer season of opera. Today, Christie’s grandson Gus (himself married to a soprano, the scintillating American diva Danielle de Niese) heads the prestigious festival, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. From May through August, Glyndebourne presents six operas, meticulously produced, and staged by a host of directors, from traditionalists (Franco Zeffirelli) to gleeful iconoclasts (Peter Sellars). Above all, the festival is famous for engaging great singers early in their careers, among them Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, and Renée Fleming. Yet not all the magic occurs onstage. Performances, which begin in the afternoon, include a leisurely dinner intermission—long enough for a picnic on the lawn. This season’s new productions include Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, led by Robin Ticciati, the company’s dashing new music director.
In March a rare camera used by artist Winslow Homer to create studies for paintings was donated to Maine's Bowdoin College by the grandson of the Homer family's electrician. The college houses an extensive collection of the painter's photography and archival materials.