Monday, September 29, 2008

Foiled by Ramazan

We have been enjoying the people, food and culture of Turkey, but ended up visiting a few less areas than we had hoped. Our bus travel has been rerouted due to the end of Ramazan, a Muslim holy month where fasting occrs during daylight hours. I didn't spell it wrong either... it's spelled Ramazan here in Turkey as opposed to Ramadan elsewhere. Same holiday, different spelling.

We thought we wouldn't be affected, as the festivals don't start until Ramazan ends, which is the day we leave. The problem is, everyone wants to travel to their celebration destination in the days leading up to the final celebrations, which means all of the buses are booked solid.

Oh well, we only had to cut out one location, and we got more time in ─░stanbul, which is where we are at the moment.

The Blue Mosque:



It's our first time in a Muslim country, so we've never experienced namaz, the call to church which occurs here five times daily. The first call comes at 5:30 every morning... it's an interesting way to wake up, that's for sure. They blast the chanting from loudspeakers at every mosque and it lasts for 2 minutes or more.

Before Istanbul,we visited the calcium carbonate pools of Pamukkale (where our camera promptly died... crap!) but you can check out what they look like here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamukkale

Here's our one picture:



From there, we took an overnight bus to Istanbul and have been touring the city, exploring and learning how to barter.... We're not that good at it, but it's actually kinda fun. They're so nice here that bartering is like a game, not pressured really. As one vendor said in response to my 'I'm just looking,'
'I'm just selling.'

The best part of the markets are the colours and smells. It really is an experience not to be missed.

This is the Grand Bazaar:



and the Egyptian Spice Market:



We're coming to the end of our trip and are looking forward to coming home and celebrating all of the birthdays and baby births(?) and whatever else that we missed. See you all soon!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Turkish Delight!

We arrived in Turkey this morning, after a quick ferry from Rhodes Island, and are currently in Selcuk (sort of near Izmir). It's also pronounced Sel-chuk, Sel-kuk makes them all laugh...I'm not entirely sure why.

On the island of Rhodes, we spent our time in Rhodes City, as we had so little of it. We explored the Old Town and walked around the port area and even had a 30 second hail storm while we ate supper. The hail was the size of golf balls and just appeared out of the blue. Luckily, we were under cover and just pushed our chairs back a bit and enjoyed the show. As fast as it came, it passed and the weather returned to cloudy, but nice.



These flowers look like a lily, but they grow on trees, they're quite impressive.



We hopped on a ferry this morning and got two new stamps in our passport and a visa for Turkey (our passports have gotten a lot more interesting on this trip).

We landed in Marmari and then hopped on a bus to Selcuk. The people here are all very friendly, and it feels very safe (to reassure a few parents who may be reading). Everyone invites us for tea and the culture is very family-oriented and welcoming, partly because they want to sell you a rug...

We visited the ruins of Ephesus today and wandered through the remains of the 10th Century city, which is in remarkably good shape, for the most part. However, it's real claim to fame is the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but the remains of this have since been destroyed.



This was the library,



and the theatre.

And, from Wonders of the World, to ancient toilets... Brad will even demonstrate how they work for you.



And on that note, we're off again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Island Hopping

We enjoyed four whole days on Santorini. Rest, relaxation, exploring, it was splendid.

We took a day to explore more of the island and it's surroundings by boat. Our first stop was a volcano just off the island, aptly named Vulcano, which we hiked all over and checked out the five craters that you can see from the surface. There are spots where you can put your hand in holes and feel the heat radiating through the lava rocks that form the 'island' even though this volcano is sleeping.



We then took a dip in the therapeutic waters off the coast, which are a natural hot springs created by the heat of the volcano. Quite lovely. It was like the Dead Sea, so thick with salt and sulphur, which took a few washings to remove.

We then headed to another small island where we stopped for lunch and a quick hike up the steps from the port to reach the towns that lie atop the cliffs.

Lastly, we headed to Oia (pronounced Ee-ah) to watch the sunset. Magnificient.





Oh yes, and we took donkeys up to the town from the port. Quite an adventure, with the narrow, switchbacking steps which you must take. The height you get from being on a donkey's back, just allows you to peer over the walls and see your eminent death.





Otherwise, we've been eating and drinking, touring the towns and enjoying the island life.

This afternoon, we took a quick flight to Rhodes Island and are exploring Rhodes City. Tomorrow, we head for Turkey!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Santorini is the place for me...

We arrived in Greece via a ferry from Italy a few days ago. If you're following on a map, that means we went from Zagreb in Croatia, back to Venice, down the Eastern border of Italy, caught a ferry from Bari to Patras, then a bus to Athens. Whew. Lots of travelling, but the ferries are actually kinda neat. Great big ferry boats with rooms and restaurants and casinos and pools and shops, and all you do is sit there (or sleep) while you head to your next destination.

We spent two nights in Athens and saw the Acropolis, which is fantastic, as well as the Temple of Zeus, and a number of other monuments.

There are ruins here everywhere, but the spectacular part is that they're built high up on 'mountains' in praise of the Gods, so you can see them from everywhere in Athens. We ate supper at a rooftop restaurant from which you could see the Acropolis all lit up for the night. Quite magnificent. \





Now, we're on the island of Santorini, off the coast of Greece. It is perfect here. Exactly what you see in your mind, when you see Greece. White washed buildings with blue arched roofs and beaches that stretch as far as you an see. Perfect.



Plus, the food in Greece is phenomenal. We've had so many Greek specialties, and they've all been great. Moussaka, tzatziki sauce, vine leaves, gyros, greek salad and yogourt and so much more....mmmmmm.



The beaches in Kamari (the village we're staying in) are all black because of the volcanic eruptions that have shaped the history of the island. It's quite beautiful actually, to see the deep blue of the ocean washing upon the black pebbles of the beach.



We hiked up to the top of a 'mountain' on the island for a better view of things and took a shot of the village we're staying in. We hiked over the other side to the next village for lunch and back today in just a few hours. It's a big island in comparison to all of the islands that surround Greece, but it's still small enough to see two coastlines at a time, easily. 132 km squared to be exact.

A few days of rest and relaxation here are quite appealing. Thanks to Martin and Keri for the hotel recommendation as well. What a great spot!

Wish you were here.

Congrats to Matt and Rea, I hear the wedding was fantastic. And Uncle Charlie, so sorry we missed the big birthday. We'll celebrate when we get back!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Currently in Croatia

We're in Zagreb at the moment. Stopping over before our long trek to Greece.

Here are some updates from Dubrovnik:





These are both from the top of the walls built around the 'Old City' to protect from invasion. It's quite impressive, with five forts at each corner of the polygonal structure. Each fort had a seperate leader to protect the city from outside attack as well as from subterfuge within.

We were supposed to go kayaking and snorkeling there, but they had rain for the first time in three months, and the water was pretty rough, so we had to settle for exploring on foot.


This is a 70 m sea organ in Zadar that plays musical notes when the ocean ebbs and flows:

video

It's really quite impressive. We grabbed breakfast and sat out there just enjoying the melodies (it didn't hurt that we were eating chocolate croissants and cherry filled strudel). It's going to hurt coming home and eating cereal for breakfast.

And Plitvice Lakes National Park:





So many waterfalls and gorgeous lakes we couldn't stop taking pictures. We saw so many falls that they actually weren't as impressive by the end of the hike: "Oh look, another beautiful waterfall. It's not thaaat tall though..."

We've been staying mostly in sobe's or apartments rented by locals during the summer months, which has been great, but they are competing for guests now as the season winds down so you are constantly greeted by, "Hullo, lady? You need room? Very clean."

I think we're both happy to move on to Greece for a little change of pace.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dober Dan!

Dober Dan! (Good day)

We're in Croatia still. Spent a few days in Dubrovnik (south), then on to Zadar (west) and we're in Plitvice Lakes National Park (central) tonight.

We don't have a ton of time to spend on the computer so the next update will have more pictures. We've actually run into some chillier weather (even had to pull out the jeans tonight) but we're looking for sunshine tomorrow.

Hope everyone's well.

Brandi and Curtis, any news on the baby??
Grampa, out of the hospital? Feeling better?
Auntie Linda, we got some seeds for you, but I don't know how they'll work...
Kieron, I tried the risotto in Dubrovnik, but couldn't find the octopus ink variety... my plain old vegetarian version was tasty however.

For those having trouble leaving comments, just click on the link below each post that says ˝0 comments˝ or 2 comments or whatever and leave a message there. It may not appear right away, we have to make sure what you're saying is appropriate.... all you dirties out there...

Friday, September 12, 2008

2 new stamps in our passports...

We left Venice last night and took a night train through Slovenia and into Croatia. This required two passport checks within about 20 minutes, kinda overkill, but fattening up our passports none the less.

We crossed over into Zagreb, Croatia's capital and took another train to Split, in southern Croatia. The train ride was absolutely beautiful. One of the best of the trip so far: rolling hills covered in fall foliage and meeting rock jut-outs of grey and red. Lots of skinny strips of corn fields and quaint pumpkin patches. Quite spectacular.

We're in Split now and are enjoying a bit of a relaxing day, enjoying the town and perhaps catching up on some sleep...

So, here's a few quick shots from Split today:





And a catch up of Venice:



The canals of Venice.



You're two super travellers, covering Europe in record time.


Hungry, yet? I wish I could bring you all home some pasta and goodies.

Ah, yes, and Nice, France. Yep, we've been to four countries in three days, we are super travellers.



Did I mention we've seen a few famous folks?? Not Brad and Angelina... but close. We saw Rick Springfield (don't pretend you haven't heard Jessie's Girl...) at the Vatican and the old lady from There's Something About Mary. We saw her on the beach in Nice. Not pretty.

Until next time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Venice!

We arrived in Venice last night after a train delay and a missed train, but found an awesome hotel (toilet, shower and air conditioning included plus two twin beds pushed together to make a double).

We wandered around a bit last night and are hitting the town today to see some of the blown glass and explore the 17 islands that make the city. Sorry no pictures, but the camera battery is dying and we decided taking is more important than sharing at this time. (You'll see them all later, I'm sure).

Thanks for the comments, we love to hear from you all.

Hope you're all doing well.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Next stop...

We haven't written for a while, but we've been making good use of our rail pass.

Can you tell where we ended up?



How about now?



Now?



Now?



That's right, we got derailed (aren't we funny) and ended up in Paris for the day.

Before that, we headed from La Spezia along the Italian Riviera to Genoa, where we hopped onto a train bound for Milan.



This is us in a park in Milan. There was a big band playing in a gazebo and lots of people milling around listening and lounging.

We spent the day walking around Milan and went out for pasta and wine (imagine that). Quite a nice, bustling city. Lots of international stores that we recognized. Even a Ferrari store which Brad drooled in.

We spent the day in Paris, after a night train from Milan. When we arrived, Brad promptly used his Captain Awesome skills and saved a woman from an escalator accident. That's right, I've always had a fear of them and they can be scary. A woman fell backwards with her luggage and took down a line of people like dominoes. Quite scary actually, but everyone got picked up and only one person was hurt badly. Brad will tell the tale when we get back (by then there may be guns involved) :)

We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral (first pic), the Louvre (second), the Arc de Triumphe (third) and then of course, the Eiffel Tower.

Our plan was to detour for a day and then head to Venice, but the train was full, so now we're in Nice. We had a nice relaxing day on the beach and are just on our way out for supper and a stroll along the ocean. (If you've been following our trip on a map you may be wondering, what the heck are they doing? Well, we're winging it... Brad and Kelly style).

Grampa Sackett, good luck with your surgery. We'll be sending hugs your way.
Brandi, I heard you still have a few weeks. Hang in there....

Saturday, September 06, 2008

La Spezia

We're here in La Spezia, on the Northwestern coast of Italy, today.

We just hiked 12km up and down stairs in the burning Italian heat in the Cinque Terre National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Quite possibly the best day of the trip so far, even though it probably doesn't sound fun.





We hiked between five villages that are all perched on the cliffs along the ocean and connected by stone steps, wineries, olive groves and bamboo patches. It was nice to stop in the villages for a quick swim in the ocean to refresh (Our first glimpse of the ocean...)

Brad was happy that we passed 'a ton' of people and never got passed ourselves and even invited me to join Team Awesome, huh, I thought I was all ready on the team.

Yesterday, we left Florence and stopped in Pisa for a quick picture of the tower. It was so nice to just jump off the train, walk across town and take a few pictures and do a bit of exploring and then get back on the train to La Spezia. We're getting much better at using the trains.



These are a few pictures we took in Florence that we didn't include last time.





and, we're a little late, I think, but Happy Belated Birthday Dad Higginson! Hope it was great.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Quick Check in..

I know it hasn't been long since our last post, but we have free internet available to us, so more updates...

We're now in Florence. Took the train from Rome this morning and saw some beautiful countryside along the way. We used our rail pass for the first time which was a little exciting. Eleven minutes before the train arrived we learned that we had to get our passes stamped, which meant we had to wait in a long line up at the ticket booth. We sweet talked our way up the line (which is impressive because so far Italians haven't been wildly friendly) and ran to the train with our huge packs with about a minute to spare. Then, we got off at the wrong train station in Florence.... we're learning.

We visited the Duomo, a few plazas, tons of monuments and statues, a beautiful old bridge, and a rose garden, which had no roses, but had an excellent view of downtown Florence (which is called Firenze here in Italy, another difficulty on the train). Unfortunately, we can't upload pictures from this computer, so you'll have to wait for the next post.

We've walked all over Florence and had an excellent meal again tonight, wine and pasta and vegetables (vegetables, how exotic) and swordfish. Quite good. We are now heading out to a festival downtown and then back to get some of the gelatto we eyed up earlier in the day.

Hope you're all doing well. Any baby news yet, Brandi and Curtis?

P.S. Brad says at the going pace of site seeing, he'll need a vacation from his vacation. Luckily, we have some relaxation time in the books in the next couple of days.

We're here!

Well, we arrived safe and sound and have all ready made the most of Rome.

We got in to Rome at 5:30 in the evening on the second of September and imediately went out for Italian wine and homemade pizza. Delicious, although we've come to realize that bread and cheese are definitely the staples here. No Atkins diet for us.

Yesterday, we saw almost all of the sites in Rome: the Coloseum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Cicus Maximus, and Vatican City (St. Peter's Basillica and the Vatican Museum which included the Sistine Chapel).

This is the Colloseum:



and St. Peter's:



and the Vatican:



There are numerous glorious fountain all over town (which all dispense drinking water) along with beautifully carved monuments. As the Lonely Planet says, "Rome is the only place where there are more ruins than dog poop." You literally stumble upon them at every turn.

Here's a picture of us for posterity. We're alive and well, mom. No worries. Although, at 34 Celcius in the shade, we may melt.



Hope everyone is doing well.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Preparations Complete

Today's the day! In a few hours we'll be flying out to Rome!

I ran all over this weekend getting Bailey all packed and ready for his 'vacation' at the farm, and got to spend some time visiting family and getting a quick visit in with Sam and her new wee babe, Jack.

Here's Jack:





What a cutie!

And... I took lots of pictures of him and his super cute big brother John, so I'll share them, too.













And, Bailey's new hair cut, complete with playoff beard:



Ready for the life of a farm dog!

So, now that the camera card is cleared, we're ready to head out. Next time you hear from me, we'll be in Europe!