Ercolano, Italia

Herculaneum (Italian: Ercolano) was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows (preserving carbon-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even some 300 skeletons, killed by the 500 deg C heat) from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and named after the Greek hero Herakles. It was buried under 20 m. of ash, and most of the site have still not been excavated (including a number of papyrus scrolls yet to be fully studied). A warning of light ash allowed most inhabitants to flee, before the town was buried by lava the next night. (Wikipedia)

The most beautiful sight of all for me was the numerous wall mosaics. So many animal ones, and such brilliant colors.

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And finally, some panoramas, with great Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background of some.

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~Jessica & Kai-ling

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Aka “whore’s pasta”. Inspired by BuzzFeed but let’s follow Gennaro Contaldo instead:

400 g dried spaghetti
olive oil + unsalted butter
4-8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 fresh red chillies with seeds, sliced (or red pepper flakes if you haven’t)
a small handful of black olives , destoned
2 handfuls very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked
Parmesan cheese to serve
1 large onion, finely chopped
tomato paste (optional)
½ cup dry red wine

I forgot to add the onion, and unfortunately substituted sardines for anchovies as my grocery had none. Had no basil, and added a can of peeled tomatoes for good saucy measure. Excellent heat in this dish.

~Jessica

Ephesus, Turkey

I had never even heard of this archaeological site before our cruise ship landed at Kusadasi, but oh was it impressive. Worth the 40 Turkish Lira (~€13), and a very pretty ticket at that. I skipped the Terrace Houses on account of time. Turkey makes pretty archaeological entrance tickets. To get there was an adventure in itself, as few Turkish people seemed to speak English except for those in the tourism industry, and we took the local “mini bus” (Dolmuş) from downtown to get there (6 Turkish Lira per person each way), which drops you off by the lower gate. Rick Steves’ tour starts from the upper gate, so walk through. I didn’t notice a real schedule, but wait by the roadside until it shows!

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Rick Steves saved the tour by providing an excellent audio walking tour with so many interesting tidbits and plenty of historical context. Ephesus (Greek: Ἔφεσος Ephesos; Turkish: Efes; ultimately from Hittite Apasa) was an ancient Greek city in the 10th century B.C. “The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates, Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor… The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World… The city’s importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River… When Augustus became emperor in 27 BC, he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia (which covered western Asia Minor) instead of Pergamum. Ephesus then entered an era of prosperity, becoming both the seat of the governor and a major center of commerce. According to Strabo, it was second in importance and size only to Rome.” (Wikipedia) Only wish we had had time to visit the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk!

Ephesus — one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire — is among the world’s best ancient sites. Whether you’re strolling its broad boulevards, appreciating the pillared facade of the famous Library of Celsus, peeling back the layers of dust to understand the everyday lifestyles of the rich and Roman at the Terrace Houses, or testing the acoustics in the theater where the Apostle Paul once spoke, Ephesus is a perfect place to time-travel back to the grandeur of Rome. (Rick Steves)

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (Diana), the Library of Celsus, and a theater which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators. The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world. The most memorable sites for me:

“The Library of Celsus, the façade of which has been carefully reconstructed from all original pieces, was originally built c. 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus.” (Wikipedia)

“The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood 418′ by 239′ with over 100 marble pillars each 56′ high. The temple earned the city the title “Servant of the Goddess”. Pliny tells us that the magnificent structure took 120 years to build but is now represented only by one inconspicuous column.” (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately no photo — my bad! =(

“The Temple of Hadrian dates from the 2nd century but underwent repairs in the 4th century and has been re-erected from the surviving architectural fragments. The reliefs in the upper sections are casts, the originals now being exhibited in the Ephesus Archaeological Museum. A number of figures are depicted in the reliefs.” (Wikipedia) On the second semicircular frontal over the door, the figure of Medusa is depicted among flowers and acanthus leaves.

The Gate of Hercules: On these two columns, there are two reliefs of Heracles depicted wrapped in a Nemea lion skin.

Trajan Fountain: “The fountain was erected between 102 and 104 A.D. and as the attached inscription reads, was consecrated to the Emperor Trajan. The tympanum which dominates the upper line is supported by Corinthian columns, in the central niche was located an enormous statue of Trajan, of which only the base with the foot upon the globe [the world] remains.” (kusadasi.biz) Yes, the Earth was round! See the foot-on-ball in the middle?

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Finally, some panoramas…

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~Jessica & Kai-ling

Chinese grilled pork chops

Adapted from No Special Effects and smitten kitchen. Perfect for the barbecue.

Marinade for 4 bone-in pork chops (~ 1 kg total)
rice wine/dry sherry
soy sauce
sesame oil
honey
1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
ginger
oyster sauce
salt + pepper, Five-spice powder (Star anise (八角), Cloves (丁香), Cinnamon (肉桂), Sichuan pepper (花椒), Fennel seeds (小茴香))
scallions
Hoisin sauce (optional)
Sriracha (optional)

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How to marinate
In a nonreactive dish (glass, ceramic, plastic, stainless steel), mix:
ACID + SALT OIL + HERBS/SEASONINGS/SUGAR + TIME
wine + soy sauce + sesame oil + garlic, ginger, honey, oyster sauce, etc.
Marinate pork for 4-12 hours! I also used cornstarch, a classic ingredient for Chinese marinades that keeps the meat juicy.

~Jessica

Blueberry cheese danish

Adapted from Like Mother Like Daughter and Creative Culinary

175 g cream cheese
250 g refrigerated croissants
16 g sugar
90 g blueberries
splash of lemon juice and vanilla extract
tiny pinch of salt
ricotta (optional)
sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Mix sugar and cream cheese well. Add ricotta, lemon juice + zest, vanilla, and salt. Layer crescents prettily on parchment paper, fill in with cheese, top with berries and almonds, and close the top. Bake 10-15 min. Voila!

~Jessica

Athens, Greece

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Modern Greek: Αθήνα, Athína; Ancient Greek: Ἀθῆναι Athēnai

The Acropolis

according to Rick Steves: The most important ancient site in the Western world, where Athenians built their architectural masterpiece, the Parthenon. But the British Museum has the best works, thanks to Englishman Lord Elgin. The mighty Parthenon is the most famous temple on the planet, and an enduring symbol of ancient Athens’ glorious Golden Age nearly 2,500 years ago.

The Acropolis (literally “high city”) is lassoed by a delightful pedestrian boulevard. Winding up the hill you’ll find yourself in an ensemble of grand temples. Led by the visionary architect/sculptor Pheidias, the Athenians built this complex of supersized, ornate temples worthy of the city’s protector, Athena. Unlike most ancient sites, which have layers of ruins from different periods, the Acropolis was started and finished within two generations — a snapshot of the Golden Age set in stone. Pheidias’ crowning achievement was the Parthenon: Simple, balanced, and orderly, this is the finest temple from the ancient world.

“it was Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BC) in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.” (Wikipedia)

The Parthenon

The Propylaia

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The Erechtheion

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The Temple of Athena Nike

Lastly, a panorama…

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360 view from Areopagus

From “the Greek name Areios Pagos, translated “Ares Rock” (Ancient Greek: Ἄρειος Πάγος). In classical times, it functioned as the court for trying deliberate homicide. Ares was supposed to have been tried here by the gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son Alirrothios” (Wikipedia)


Food

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Food according to Rick Steves:

Around 9 p.m., I head to a taverna and order a medley of mezedes (appetizers) and share it family-style. The selection, while predictable, never gets old for me: garlic dip, fava bean dip, tzatziki dip (made from yogurt, cucumber, and mint), or all three on a single serving platter; fried eggplant or zucchini; Greek salad; and big grilled peppers — red or green — stuffed with feta cheese.
Most of my meals also include something from the sea, such as grilled calamari or octopus, sardines, or a plate of fried small fish (three inch), very small fish (two inch), or very, very small fish (one inch).

It was pure delight to dine with native Greeks. And I didn’t think the firewater too bad either! Just wish we could have gone to the Central Market. Would have loved to try Trigona, a dessert. Yeah, we had tsipouro. ^_^

Greeks tend to show hospitality with drinks — often ouzo. You don’t drink ouzo straight; instead, you add ice or water, which turns the ouzo from clear to milky white. When Greeks really want to show hospitality, the drink is tsipouro. Similar to Italian grappa, this brandy-like firewater is about 40 percent alcohol and makes ouzo seem like kid stuff.

Opa!

~Jessica & Kai-ling

The world’s best cuisines

According to…

CNN
10. United States
9. Mexico
8. Thailand
7. Greece
6. India
5. Japan
4. Spain
3. France
2. China
1. Italy

Lonely Planet
1. Thailand
2. Greece
3. China
4. France
5. Spain
6. Mexico
7. Italy
8. India
9. Japan
10. Indonesia & Malaysia

Rough Guides
10. Singapore
9. Mexico
8. Indonesia
7. France
6. China
5. Vietnam
4. Japan
3. India
2. Thailand
1. Italy

This subjective topic came up when I found some Europeans who did not consider French food to be all that special, but most Americans think French is haute cuisine. Do you agree? Bold countries made all three lists! =)

~Jessica

References
“THE BEST CUISINE IN THE WORLD – AS VOTED BY YOU”

“Which country has the best food?”

“The best countries for food”