Athens to Venice - 2015
Linda and I along with Joyce Kirby ventured on a 15 day trek from Athens to Venice. This trip started on August 20 with flights from Columbus to Athens via Philadelphia. It ended in Venice on September 4 with a return flight to Columbus.
This was one awesome trip. I made 4743 images. The following is an attempt at creating a set of images that captures the people, places, and things we saw.
We spend the first 2 days in Athens. We connected up with the Azamara ship Jouney in Piraeus, the port for Athens on August 23. The first two stops were in Turkey, Kusadasi and Bodrum. The next 4 ports were back in Greece: Fira in Santorini, Chania on the island of Crete, Katakolon the port near Olympia, and Corfu. Next we visited Kotor, Montenegro followed by Dubrovnik, Croatia. The last port of call was Venice where we spent two additional days before heading home.
The images below are grouped by city.
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The view from the rooftop restaurant at our hotel in Athens was awesome. We were near the base of Lycabettus hill. We walked almost everywhere including the couple miles over to the Acropolis. We ate well either in local restaurants or by purchasing sandwiches at small local stores or eateries. We watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown located at the Parliament building. They let people stand with the guards - no touching and no saluting. We visited the Olympic stadium from 1896. Turns out the day we were traveling the Greek Prime Minister resigned. So some places like the gardens were closed. there was lots of security everywhere but locals suggested it was always like that in the government district.
The Acropolis was amazing. It was hot with little shade and packed with tourists (like us). If you go make sure you have plenty of water and go early in the day (and maybe not on a weekend). The views of the city were astounding. We walked there from our hotel and passed many interesting shops and plenty of tourist traps and trinket sellers. Certainly lots of sidewalk eateries. From there we hopped on a sightseeing bus (hop on hop off) and went to the National Archeological Museum. That place is loaded with many interesting ancient pieces of history.
Our last day in Athens found me hiking up Lycabettus for the sunrise view. Well, clouds mostly obscured the sun but the view was none-the-less stunning. The sprawling city spread out before me. Being Sunday the church bells were chiming everywhere. It sent chills up my spine. At the top of Lycabettus is The Chapel of St. George. It was a great way to end 2 days in Athens. It's definitely a city to return to for more exploration. Later that day we embarked on a 10 day cruise aboard the Azamara Journey from the port of Piraeus to Venice, Italy.
Kusadasi, Turkey and Ephesus
Our first stop was at the port of Kusadasi, Turkey. The plan for the day was a tour of Ephesus.
Ephesus is the site of several ancient civilizations. In the 2nd century BC it was the 4th largest city in the eastern Roman Empire. The place is amazing. I recall cresting a small hill on the main street and seeing this old city unfold before me. It is only partially excavated. As one tour guide said: "we can't afford to dig it all out, so there will be surprises for future generations as money and time presents itself." Clearly this was an elite place at several points in history.
At the end of the day we were entertained at a night concert in the Odeon at Ephesus. It was build by Publius Vedius Antoninus in the 2nd century AD. Wow!
The plan for day 2 was to be in Mykonos but the wind gods were not cooperating. Due to hurricane force winds at Mykonos the ship needed to find a safer place to spend the day. So plan B was Bodrum, Turkey. It is purported to be the playground of the rich and famous from around the world. Lots of wooden boats. Many huge sailboats and very interesting "party" boats as you might see in the images.
There were miles of beach and lots of tourist shops and restaurants.
Chania, Crete, Greece
This seaside town was beautiful! Medium sized market to wander through and many back streets where only people, bicycles, or motorbikes will fit. Then there is the old port area where many tourist shops and restaurants are to be found. They all want your business and are there to make you happy. Good food and good drink with an awesome view.
Fira, Santorini, Greece
What an amazing beautiful place. Clusters of homes, churches, hotels and shops clustered above the sea. You could get there by donkey, foot, or cable car tram. We chose the tram. But once up we walked and walked like there was not tomorrow. Lots of steps, small passages and hidden jewels await around every corner. So many things to photograph. So much beauty it kind of overloads the sense of sight.
The port of Katakolon was simple. But it was the gateway to Olympia where a couple thousand years ago the first olympics were held. It was simply overflowing with history. You could see the stadium and the original starting/finish blocks where the athletes raced. The museum held original art work from the buildings that once stood on the grounds. It was simply amazing. It's here where the olympic flame is lit for each of the modern olympics.
Corfu was the last Greek city we visited. It too was setup for the tourist and is on an island. Luckily there was a high vista point on the old fort. So before it got too hot we paid the entrance fee and wandered around the fort. I climbed to the high point for a view of the harbor and city. In the old fort there were a couple piles of old cannons simply lying there. Also noticed that sometimes cannons were set in the ground and used as posts. There were several forts to visit but there was also the back streets that were barely wide enough for one car let-a-lone car and a person. You had to duck into a doorway at times to avoid an oncoming car. People were awesome and we found a restaurant in the back paths to have a nice lunch at. We were treated well. The lunch started with a shot of ouzo for me and a special fruit brandy drink for Linda and Joyce. I remember very clearly the shrimp in garlic sauce and of course the hummus, bread and Greek salad that never seemed to end. We were full when we left.
Kotor is a small town secluded away from the sea on a fjord. Well, maybe not really a fjord in the strict definition but it was "fjord like". I guess the proper term is a "ria" - a submerged river canyon.From when we left the Adriatic to port was well over an hour snaking around the water. Kotor is said to have one of the best preserved medieval old towns in the Adriatic. The old town is surrounded by walls part of which is open to walking. You can also hike to the top - which none of us did. Did I say it was hot? And inside the walled town there was little breeze. But it is a beautiful place. Lots of cats, narrow walkways and alleys, many small restaurants and Beautiful churches. One benefit of small ships they can dock in many places the larger ships cannot. After an awesome dinner on the ship I was able to venture back into the old town for some night photography.
Dubrovnik is another beautiful walled city on the Adriatic. The wall around the city dates to the 16th century. In this harbor the ships had to tender guests to shore. Luckily I was able to hop a ride on one of the early shuttles arriving on land before 8:30 am. This gave me barely 45 minutes before hoards of tourists from our ship and others crammed into this place. It's beautiful. It's full of tourists. But you can still find some peace if you walk the streets/alleys while most everyone else tries to walk the wall (you had to pay for that) or toured the buildings at the lowest level.
We made it to the end of the cruise. One more night on the ship while in Venice then 2 more nights the hotel Savoia & Jolanda a couple hundred yards from St. Mark's Plaza. From the hotel we could venture all around Venice without much hassle. You have to remember, Venice is built on water and is surrounded by water. All transportation if not by foot is by some form of boat. There are no motor vehicles in most of Venice. The bus system is a boat. The ambulance is a boat. The garbage truck is a boat. The taxi is a boat. You get the idea. Venice is a fascinating place. Friendly people, awesome food, and outstanding architecture and art everywhere.
The first day there we took a "sight seeing" tour of the city. (of course by boat) Linda and I got off the tour at St. Mark's Plaza and went to our hotel to inquire about how best to get there from the cruise ship dock. We needed to take bus #5.1 from the ship at San Basilio to the bus stop just about in front of our hotel. (yes the bus is a boat - a really big boat that kind of looks like a bus on the inside). On the second day after checking our bags at the hotel until our room was ready we went to Murano and Burano. The hotel in conjunction with one of the glass factories arranged a private taxi to take us there (for free). From Murano we took the public bus system to Burano where all the houses are painted in a colorful scheme. For lunch I had squid and Linda and Joyce split a pizza. Yum! We took the public bus back to the main part of Venice and walked 20 minutes or so to our hotel. We rested for a few minutes then went for a nice dinner "around the corner" along one of the canals. Yum! "Around the corner" has an interesting meaning when no street (walkway) is straight for more than a hundred feet or so.
On our last day I was able to get up and out early and make some images before the throngs of tourists emerge from where ever they were hiding for the night. The Venice film festival was about to get underway and a sail boat regatta was about to begin so there were extra people around. 3 days in Venice is simply not enough. We wandered around until we could no longer wander. We had another nice dinner in a different part of the city on Via Garibaldi. We headed back to the hotel and packed up one last time.
We left Venice via water taxi to the airport. It was a bit more expensive than the "airport shuttle" (a special water bus). But the taxi was 20 minutes and the shuttle was 75 minutes. All good things must end and here we are back home putting together these images in my website. I hope you viewing all of these images as much as I enjoyed making them.
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