Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May busy-ness

Ben and I started May off with a Mediterranean cruise. We drove from Garmisch, Germany to Vicenza, Italy where we took the train into Venice, Italy and boarded the Norwegian Gem for a 7 night cruise to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Athens, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; and Naphlion, Greece. We had two days on board with no ports so we could lay out on deck and relax...and eat. :) We enjoyed the buffet, some good old American comfort food dining or poolside, and the upscale restaurants (for when we decided to get out of our swimsuits and dress nicely). During lunch one day we saw a school of dolphins swimming and playing in the waves. We enjoyed the on ship entertainment, including the karaoke. No, we didn't sing, but we were great spectators, especially for the Chinese Canadians who took karaoke very seriously and often chose songs in the Chinese language-very beautiful, but a bit difficult to understand. ;)

This picture made us laugh so hard...they took a green screen shot of everyone boarding the ship, but Ben was wearing a green shirt which didn't show up, so it looks like he is wearing the boat/ate the boat/wearing an invisible T-shirt...we didn't pay the $11 for the picture, but couldn't pass up the chance to take our own of it...haha

Upon exiting the Venice train station...what a site!

Leaving the Port in Venice, we watched the city pass by from our room.

St. Mark's Square in Venice was PACKED on the European Labor Day holiday.

We were able to get a last-minute upgrade to a balcony room at a great deal, and very much appreciated the ocean breeze and sounds in our own room!

Our first Port of Call was Dubrovnik, Croatia. A beautiful coastal city at the southern tip of this culture-rich country. We enjoyed the views from our balcony as we docked.

Dubrovnik has an old city that is still completely walled.

There are fun paths around the walls outside of the city that take you right along the water where you might see some locals swimming or jumping off of rocks.

The old city is charming (once you get past the souvenir shops), it is all stone buildings and narrow pathways.

We opted not to pay to walk the tops of the city walls and instead walked the city streets...and then ventured out of old city and climbed to the cliffs with amazing views just beyond the city walls.

Here is Ben above the Sea, with old city Dubrovnik behind him.

Beer on the ship is expensive, so Ben opted to find ways to purchase local beers and enjoy them in each port. So we sat along the outside of the walls and watched the water, surrounded by history.

Town Square

A sandy/pebble beach a few blocks from the old city which you can see curve into the water behind the beach.

There were plenty of cats in each of the ports we visited, this is one of my favorite shots.

One night dressed for dinner on the ship after a day at sea. The blue water is magnificent! Resting up for the next day in Athens, Greece.

Walking out of the train station in Athens, Greece...we are headed up the hill to the Acropolis that you can see on top!

We wound our way up the hills and neighborhoods to find the entrance to the ancient Greek ruins. We found this pretty little chapel along the way.

With the Parthenon behind us.

There is still a lot of detail to see in these ancient places...some of the statues and carvings have stood the test of time high atop this hill, completely exposed. It is amazing.

With the pillars behind Ben, you can get an idea of the magnitude of these pieces of rock, put together to form these buildings and artwork.

You can get an idea of how big and crowded the city of Athens really is spread out behind this theater. It looks the same 360 degrees around!

Local musicians during our lunch on Souvlaki Row.

Greek lunch. Pita, Tzatziki, Cucumber & Tomato Salad (the real Greek Salad) and Souvlaki (Greek grilled meat). Tasty and healthy!

Izmir, Turkey

Izmir is a large, modern city with plenty of history. We saw ancient mosques AND a full size Starbucks store.

A wonderful Mediterranean meal-kabobs, tea, a sandwich with yummy meat and veggies.

Ben enjoying Baklava in front of a store window displaying one of many many gowns sold in this shopping city. I didn't know that Izmir would be as big OR have so much shopping available.

Nice Turkish Gentlemen who work in the bakery where Ben got his Baklava.

This is one entrance to the Grand Bazaar-a maze/labyrinth system of alleyways with thousands of shops selling anything you can imagine. This must have been an older entrance b/c the tiles here are much prettier and older than the patchwork concrete through most of the bazaar.

A view of Izmir's city sidewalks, lined with palm trees.

Our last port of call was the small town of Naphlion, Greece and it's historic buildings were fun to explore at a leisurely pace. This was probably our favorite of the ports b/c the size made it easy to navigate as well as light on tourists (besides our whole ship of course). It felt like the kind of place you could really get to know the modern Greek culture as well as it's history. I guess we'll have to go back someday to find out. :)

A small lunch in the port of Naphlion, Greece was a treat for both of us-fresh bread, veggies, olives, feta cheese, and of course, Ben's beer.

The lovely streets of Naphlion, Greece.

Enjoying a little gelato before going back to the ship. The climb to the hill top fortress behind Ben was our exercise for the day-and the views of the city and the sea were beautiful.

Our cruise friends, Mary and Graham (mother and son) were from Scotland and we enjoyed spending a few evenings with them eating dinner and seeing some shows. We learned a lot about the pride of the Scots, and now have friends to visit when we travel that way. It was fun to make good friends so quickly-who we otherwise never would have met!

After our last day at sea, we docked back in Venice and took advantage of our time to explore the city before heading home.

A nice stroll through the labyrinth of Venice.

The detail of the carved stone and paintings is beautiful on the buildings in St. Mark's Square.

As you can see, it wasn't very crowded-so early May (but not a Euro holiday) is a good time to visit Venice!

After too little time exploring Venice (there is MUCH we didn't see or do) we headed back to Vicenza to stay the night, get our car and drive home to Garmisch the next day. What a blessing to be so close to so many amazing places-and to take advantage of the travel opportunities while we are living here.

The following weekend, I drove to Willingen, Germany with two other women for a conference, and Ben and I just returned from a weekend trip to Milan, Italy and Aix-en-Provence, France where we visited with friends who have been living there for 4 years but are going back to the States this summer. We had a fabulous time, but we'll have to post about that trip next time!


Tami said...

Wow, that sounds like a fun trip! So much history and culture! What a fun experience for the two of you. We still miss you Esther. It isn't the same without you.

Crystal said...

looks like such a great experience! what a blessing to be able to do so much travel!

Allison said...

Wow Esther! I am too jealous for words, looks like you guys had an amazing time. Everything looks even more beatiful there tahn it does in travel books.

Jamie said...

AMAZING!! I am so jealous!! P.S. I love that black dress with the green flowers...too cute!

delia said...

How wonderful you were able to make such a wonderful trip. I was suppose to be in Italy at this very same time and then back to Germany with a stop in Garmisch. But plans had changed and can now live through your photos in the hopes this trip will happen for me.
Esther you take wonderful photos1 Thanks for sharing.