Museo Borghese, Roma: 100 percent Concentration of Beauty

 

Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Museo Borghese, Roma, Italy.

Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Museo Borghese, Roma, Italy.

“Startling concentration of beauty.” A very bright phrase. I heard it in one of the series of Michael Portillo’s “Great Continental Railway Journeys.” He used it in his description of a famous city. Guess which one? Of course, it was Venice, the city with a startling concentration of beauty. However, I should add, “but only from a distance.” When you immerse yourself into Venice, you start to find some flaws in its beauty: dilapidated houses, peeling facades, street sweepings…. What can we do? This is a city with a very complicated fate.

Do places with flawless 100 percent concentration of beauty exist anywhere in the world? Of course. We found one such place in the city of Rome, Italy, with the help of Saga Travel. This is the Museo Borghese which is housed in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. When you pass the ground floor, buy tickets, and go up to the first floor, you find yourself in the kingdom of good taste, luxury, and incredible beauty. Everything is beautiful here: floors, walls, ceilings, paintings, and, of course, sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. I have already been to many museums of the world; this one was the smallest, but the most beautiful I can remember.

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Bayon: The Most Mystical Khmer Temple of Cambodia

By Irina

The Khmer temple of Bayon. The Angkor Complex, Cambodia.

The Khmer temple of Bayon. The Angkor Complex, Cambodia.

When in 1633, forced to recant his belief that Earth revolves around the sun, the famous astronomer and natural philosopher Galileo Galilei spoke his catch phrase “Eppur si muove!” (And yet it does move!), Bayon, the most mystical Khmer temple near the village of Siem Reap in Cambodia, was lost in the jungles already 300 years. The Bayon Temple is a temple-enigma which scientists argue about to this day. It was found in the deep forests of Cambodia in the 19th century, and once more showed us that our ancestors knew more about the starry sky than we know now.

Three great pyramids of Giza correspond to the three stars in Orion’s Belt. Angkor Thom—the ancient capital of Cambodia—is a manmade reflection of the Draco constellation on our planet. The Bayon Temple—the most beautiful and mysterious of the Cambodian temples—stands in the heart of the ruins of the former Khmer capital. By some unexplained accident or fate, Bayon was the last temple built in Angkor. After that, the epic Khmer city full of palaces and temples was deserted for five hundred years.

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How Spanish Toledo Revived European Civilization


Toledo, Spain.

Toledo, Spain.

From 712 to 1085 the Spanish city Toledo–now one of the most visited tourist cities of Spain–belonged to the Moors, who called it Tulaytula. By that time, Europe had slowly forgotten all the achievements of the Greeks and Romans, having deteriorated into some muddy backwater of overall illiteracy and grubbiness, but the Arab world kept rapidly developing. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine that back then science prospered in Bagdad, Cairo, Cordoba, and Toledo, rather than in Rome, London, or Paris.

In 1055, the Russian knyazhna Anna, married to the French king, wrote in horror to her father, Yaroslav the Wise, the Grand Prince of Kiev, “Dear Father, they wash themselves only once a year here!… The dwellings are gloomy, the churches are ugly, and the mores are terrible… No king here is able to read… Where did you send my sinful soul? To this stinking hole, to France, to this damned city of Paris!…”

By the way, Anna Yaroslavna knew three other languages apart from Russian: Greek, Latin, and French.

Meanwhile the work of translating all writings of the Greek scientists that could be found during trips to Asia Minor was in full swing in the Arab Muslim Caliphate. All the bright minds of the empire assembled in Bagdad. They were well paid only for a single purpose–to keep developing science and art. Moreover, nobody ever demanded proof that the research would result in practical use.

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