Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey, Croatia and back again!

We also did our homework on Turkey and decided that if we were going to have time to see anything worth seeing, specifically Ephesus, we needed to go with a tour group.  Let me state for the record, that Nate and I are not “tour group” kind of people and had relished the fact that we were not one of the hundreds in Greece following a feathered stick or umbrella (group leaders) like sheep.  Nevertheless we hopped on our designated tour bus bright and early the next morning and followed the giant silver “magic umbrella”.  While it was similar to being herded like sheep, I must say, I’m glad we did the tour.  We may have found our way to Ephesus (about an hour drive from our port in Izmir), but I don’t know that we would have made it back in time to board the ship.
Hmmm... I don't know about this...
gettin the headset ready for the tour

Our tour guide and the "magic umbrella"

         We didn’t know a lot about Ephesus prior to learning we’d be traveling there, but it turned out to be a highlight of the trip.  We walked among the remains of one of the great cities of the Greeks in Asia Minor that once laid right on the Aegean Ocean.  The ocean is now 8 km away!  As we walked along the mosaic streets, we viewed the Great Theatre where St. Paul was dragged to face the crowed because of his famous letter to the Ephesians, the Temple of Hadrian, the impressive Ephesus Library, the Gate of Heracles (Hercules), and the Odeion (small theatre) built as a council chamber in 150 AD, among many other ancient structures.  

Athena Nike

Ephesus Library

We were quite amused to learn about the Latriana, or public toilets of the time.  Apparently these stone seats were kept warm by servants whose only job it was to sit until their higher up came to relieve himself.  Now there’s a fun fact!
Public toilets.... not much privacy

         After walking the length of the streets of Ephesus we were treated to a battle reenactment with Cleopatra present and all!  We then headed back to the bus and were on our way.  Next stop was a Turkish carpet school where we were shown how the silks are harvested, dyed and used to make the elaborate and famous Turkish carpets.  We watched as several young girls worked on their carpets and learned that some carpets take several years to complete even with 5-10 women working on them.  We were then “treated” to a huge sale pitch by the schools owner (at least they served us Turkish beer and wine), and then encouraged to buy, which we thought about, until we saw the price.  Maybe 10 years from now J
The ocean used to meet this street.... now it's 8km away!

Christian symbol... the Holy Trinity

Silks drying in the sun

         Back on the ship we set sail for our final port… Split, Croatia!  After the full, hot days in Greece and Turkey, we decided to make Split a beach day. We set out with some friends from Vicenza, who were also on the cruise and found a nice spot right on the water.  By nice I don’t mean soft sandy beaches… I mean a rock ledge with hundreds of people.  However, the water was gorgeous and refreshing!  After witnessing jet skiers in Dubrovnik we made it our mission to find the same in Split and were successful!  We had a great time flying around the Adriatic and seeing more of the coastline.  Nate may have even been thrown off a few timesJ  It was a wonderful relaxing day and the perfect end to a great vacation before Nate headed off for 2 months of training in Germany. 

Jet skiing!!!

Goodbye Split!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Croatia, Greece and Turkey....

I'm sorry that this comes so long overdue, but neither Nate nor I have been in Italy for over a month.  I just got back from visiting Oregon while Nate spends two months in Germany doing in-field training exercises.  Nate won't be back until the end of October, but I returned at the beginning of the month with my mom, dad and brother and spent the past two weeks traveling around Italy, Austria and Germany.  Phew... less than a week to go until Nate gets back!!!! YAY!
Prior to leaving Italy for Oregon, Nate and I took a week long Mediterranean cruise.  We had a great time, departing from the nearby port in Venice and heading first to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Much like Slovenia, which we visited earlier this year, Croatia is a beautiful, lesser-known country and the people are extremely friendly.  Upon arrival, Nate and I set out to explore the town that lays within the walls of old town Dubrovnik.  We visited the city center and drank from Onofrio's Fountain, which has been supplying the city with water since the mid 15th century, then wandered through the various small streets and alley ways, trekking up hundreds of steps and snapping views of the Adriatic Ocean that could be seen peaking through the red rooftops.  
Onofrio's Fountain

We decided we couldn't miss the opportunity to walk along the top of the old wall so we paid the fee and walked atop.  What a view! We stood above the never ending, closely scattered red roofs that were replaced after the siege of 1991-1992, and gazed out to the beautiful blue ocean. 
Old Town Dubrovnik

Up on the wall

 It wasn't long before the hot sun and hours of walking took their toll and the novelty of walking around the entire wall was lost.  Nate was quickly more intrigued by the groups of European vacationers jumping from the seaside cliffs below and made it his mission to find a way off the wall and down to the cliffs.  Twenty minutes later we had found two small openings, one in the wall and one in the side of the cliffs that led out to a cliff-side bar and several ledges perfect for jumping into the Adriatic. Nate was giddy and immediately leapt into the refreshingly cool water.  I later followed and then spent much of the rest of the time taking pictures of Nate jumping from higher and higher cliffs.  Before heading back to the ship, we enjoyed drinks at the small outdoor bar.  
Nate cliff jumping

Cliffside Drinks

The sunset over Dubrovnik was spectacular as we watched the seaside town disappear and cruised back out to sea.
Sunset over Dubrovnik

Our second day was spent at sea, so Nate and I took advantage of the sunny weather and enjoyed reading and napping on the deck.  We enjoyed spending the evenings playing shuffleboard and listening to an excellent guitar player/singer in the Atrium.
Early on day three, we arrived in Greece.  Nate and I had done a little homework prior to our arrival and plotted the best way to visit the Acropolis and Athens on our own without a tour group.  We arranged to be one of the first off the ship and speedily made our way to the train station.  After a bit of navigating, we successfully made our way to the entrance at the bottom of the hill leading up the Acropolis.  There was already a line, but we found out later that we had beaten the majority of the crowds, though our pictures might suggest otherwise.  The Acropolis was definitely a sight to be seen, although different than I expected.  There was a lot of renovation/maintenance underway and the crowds were nearly impossible to move through.  (Unfortunately, this is pretty much the case throughout all of Europe’s most popular cities during the summer months.)  We made our way through, visiting all of the most noteworthy sites… the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, Theater of Dionysos, Theater of Herodes Atticus, and Porch of Caryatids
Theater of Herodes Atticus: Still holds concerts


Temple of Athena Nike

Mars Hill

Paul's Sermon on Mars Hill

We then made our way over to Mars Hill where Paul once preached.  Under the hot sun and high temps we were extremely thirsty and tired by the time we made our way back down to town.  We walked through the plaka or Greek marketplace for a bit then settled on a place for lunch.  Of course we had authentic Greek gyros for lunch J.  Then, to top it off, the best baklava I’ve ever had and some kind of Greek liquor on the house.  

Gyros and Greek Beer :)

Our time at lunch and wandering through the market was the best… relaxing, leisurely and pleasant.  The area just below the Acropolis is actually quite nice and much quieter compared to the rest of Athens, which seemed crowded and dirty. Once we’d had our fill of meandering through the market we hopped back on the train and made our way back to the ship.  It was time to set sail once again.  This time, headed to Turkey!  (next post Izmir and Ephesus, Turkey and Split, Croatia)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wedding Memories

So, obviously I still have not brought the blog up to speed on our Mediterranean cruise.  I will work on that:)  I have, however, been working on this video with shots from our wedding in Maui just before we moved to Italy.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Where to begin...

We’ve been back now for nearly a week following a whirlwind two weeks, so I figured I should be updating the blog.  Nate is back to work now after two weeks of block leave and things at work have been pretty hectic since the brigade’s return.  To add to the craziness that follows a two-week break, the brigade is getting ready for some big training exercises in the next couple of months.  Needless to say, I have not and will not be seeing much of my husband. 
Good-looking guy :)

            We did, however, take full advantage of his time off.  Just before Nate’s first week of leave, my mom and sister arrived (Yay! Our first visitors!).  We had a great time showing them around Vicenza and taking them to some of our favorite places- including the gelato shop down the street, where they too became well known by the girls who work there.  

While they were here, all four of us took the train down to Florence for three days.  It was a welcome return for the three ladies who have all made the trip to Florence several times before, but it was Nate’s first time, so I was excited to show him around one of my favorite European cities.  We of course toured the Duomo and climbed the Campanile Tower that overlooks it, and made a special visit to see David.  And I must say that I am still in awe of Michelangelo’s masterpiece even after four visits!  I think I can also say that Nate was quite impressed as well… especially by David’s chiseled abs.

My husband breaks rules and took a picture:P

Our "fabulous" faces... all the Italians pose very seriously for their pictures.  We tried to fit in.

Nate and I agree that we will have to make another trip south when it’s not the peak of tourist season, as the crowds were some of the worst I’ve seen while visiting.  We did however enjoy our hike to the top of the Campanile overlooking the Duomo, meandering through the outdoor market, walking across the river to gaze at Florence from the hilltop, and eating at some of the best restaurants in Italy.

We think we're so funny:)

After three days of the crowds, we were all happy to return to the quieter Vicenza, however.  Once back, my mom, sister and I traveled to nearby Nove, which is known for their ceramics.  Factories there produce pottery for Williams Sonoma, Tiffany’s, and many others and we had a great time browsing the aisles and finding great deals on items that go for 5 times as much in the states!  One of the highlights of the family visit was the trip to the Piovene Porto Godi winery, which is Nate and my favorite (written about in a previous post)!  I think after the visit, it is now my mom and sister’s favorite too.  We all came away with several bottles that posed packing dilemmas as the visit came to an end. It was great to see part of my family, though the visit flew by and seemed short.  I’m looking forward to both my parents visiting in October, when the weather is cooler and the crowds have thinned.



Wine tasting!


            Following the quick week with visitors, Nate and I set sail on a Mediterranean cruise to Croatia, Greece, and Turkey…..  More on those adventures to come.