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)