I have travelled to a great many places in America, but I have never found a tomato that could beat the tomatoes my parents grew in their vegetable garden. This is not nostalgia speaking, unfortunately, it is a longing for taste. Tomatoes should be juicy, sweet with a mild acidity and they should melt in your mouth as you eat them. America seems to have forsaken this summer fruit for year round access in supermarkets. The hybridized result may be good for shipping, but not much else.

Not in Turkey, however. The tomato in Turkey is everything that it should be and perhaps just a little bit more. As a result, I am eating tomatoes at every meal and in just about every form that I can. Dinner last night was a pasta with fresh tomatoes lightly sautéed and breakfast included he largest and sweetest cherry tomatoes I have ever tasted. There is a tomato paste made from dried tomatoes  that is on every table as a spread or as an appetizer. They are everywhere and it is an unexpected pleasure of Turkey.


Ephesus near Izmir on the southwest Turkish coast, is just one of the many far flung capitals of the early Roman Empire, but it is one of the few that is still largely in tact. The monumental library façade, which is proudly reconstructed, is the most recognizable of the ruins from photographs of the site, but it is a small part of the overall site.

Reconstruction is necessary for a site that not only includes the Roman capital, but an earlier Greek town which was saved from the Persians in 338 BC by Alexander the Great, as well as settlements that went back even earlier.  Notwithstanding the elaborate stampede of history that the name of the town evokes, reconstruction with piecemeal restoration is the order of the day.

The Governor’s house at the site is one of those restorations. It is being restored by an Austrian group who are painstakingly re-establishing the house to its glory days replete with mosaics, marble walls and frescoes. The restoration is complete with roof and glass floor walkways so that you can see without touching as you ascend up the site to the top of the hill into which the house was built.

History is interesting. It is interesting to know what went before and it is interesting for it to be visual. A musket from Gettysburg has inestimable power in our imaginations. Two thousand year old ruins are equally if not more powerful. Even English antique furniture has such power. This is history writ large and the story is just waiting to be told.


It is not as if I have waited all my life to find the greatest collection in a museum that I will ever see. You can find both wonderful and meaningful items in small town museums. Grand collections are almost overpowering, making it difficult to fully appreciate every last object or painting. Unless you are lucky enough to live in that town and can re-visit the museum on a regular basis.

One town worthy of moving to is Vienna. Not to mention the plethora of museums that one can visit, really good museums such as the Mak and the Academia, there is the Kunstkammer collection in the Kunsthistoriches Museum. It is an Imperial collection with objects both bought and commissioned by a succession of Hapsburg emperors. It will quite simply blow your mind.

There is too much to list, but suffice it to say that the clear rock crystal vase in the very first room off the museum entry is non pareil. But so is just about every other object in the collection. And there are hundreds of them, ranging from carved stone, wood or ivory to mechanical devices that shoot guns and arrows to rare gold work, tapestries and much, much more.

Of course, there are other towns with lots and lots of great museums. But the pleasure I take in the Kunstkammer is that it is largely objects that are on display. Man’s ingenuity at fashioning extraordinary things never ceases to amaze me. And although I love great painting, I have to say that I am a great lover of objects. For those that share my passion, Vienna has a great deal to offer.

 

http://www.khm.at/en/visit/collections/kunstkammer-wien/