Some people support us, some think we are crazy...but Saudi Arabia will now be called "home" by the Haynies.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring break 2013 on the Med

We have had a bit of a dry spell as far as exploring, but now that Jayci’s spring break hit, it was time to pack our bags.  Krishna lined us up on a MSC cruise that took us on the East side of Italy (Adriatic sea).
Because of a last minute flight cancellation, we were rerouted through Athens Greece.  That was fine because we now had a few hours to explore the ancient ruins.

On the ride into the city we saw the Olympic stadium.  It was nice, but a little smaller than expected

Next came the Athens Acropolis museum.  It is a very nice facility that has numerous original artifacts from the Pantheon and other buildings.

Unfortunately, the actual Acropolis site closes at 2:30, therefore we were left to seeing it from the 3rd floor of the museum.  Hopefully next time we will have more time to walk on the grounds.

After a short drive down the hill, we came to the Temple of Zeus.  To really make this meaningful, it helped to pause and reflect on what this structure represented to the Greeks and impact their pagan worship has had on  the world.  The pillars were impressive, but it wasn't until you filled in the gaps with the ancient reality of this place, that it became special.

Again, as a result of our flight change, we then needed to take a 4 hour bus ride to Olympia Greece.  The scenery was beautiful.  It was a great way to see more of Greece

Our bus station was in a small town called Pyrgos, about 25 miles away from Olympia.  What struck me as funny was that the whole town was closed, other than 3 pastry shops.  They were brightly lit and filled with some amazing goodies.  It showed me the important cultural importance pastries have in Greece.

We then took a taxi to our Best western “Europa” hotel.  We were pleasantly surprised at the accommodations, service and views.  We woke up to a spectacular vista of the valley still smothered in the costal fog.  We were able to eat a great breakfast while soaking up the views.

To work off the meal, we decided to walk down a beautiful path to the ancient Olympic site

Because we left early enough, we had the site to ourselves for awhile.  It was really special to once again mentally visualize all that must have happened here and realize the importance of the place.


There was also a museum at the site that had great original artifacts

Now the goal was to find a ride from Olympus to our Cruise boat.  We decided to ask on of the cruise busses for a ride, lucky for us the guide said sure – so we were golden.  Also, as an added bonus, it was a Spanish speaking tour, so I got to habla Espanol with the group!  Finally, we arrived at the dock and boarded our boat 

From Greece we set sail to Izmir Turkey.  The town itself is basically nondescript, but it is a gateway to a lot of impressive ruins.  Krishna had gone online and booked a tour to Ephesus (the home of the biblical Ephesians). 

We were blessed once again with good luck because we were the only 3 customers so we were given a private tour with an outstanding tour guide Nehide (Na-hee-da)


Ephesus was much more than we expected, both from an excavation site as well as the historical/biblical significance.  Rather than give you a pic by pic description, I'll just dump a lot of photos and you can google the history.  (Pic 23-35)

The next day we landed in Istanbul.  I had been here previously, but really wanted to come back to get a refresher course on the history of this great and unique city.  It is the only city in the world where 2 continents join (Asia and Europe).  We met up with Nesime, who guided me last year. 

The main attractions in the ancient city are :
Haga Sophia
BLue Mosque
Hippodrome /  Obelisk

BTW I have a lot more pics of Istanbul on an earlier blog page in case you want to see.

Just in the nick of time, we were given a full day of sailing on our way back north.  We had been going strong for 4 days in a row and really appreciated the chance to recharge ourselves.

We next landed in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  It’s a city with a rich history, unfortunately most of it has centered around conquests.  This city sits in a very strategic maritime location, therefore many countries have coveted it.  To protect itself, the citizens built four forts, connected together with an almost impregnable wall.  We spent most of the day walking atop this wall and exploring the city center.

One of the memories I gained form this trip was the chance to eat breakfast on the upper-deck and watch the City of Venice unfold in front of me.  It almost felt like I was in a movie with a green screen behind me.  Venice has to be one of the world’s most unique creative cities.  From the system of canals, the Gandolas, to St. Mark’s Basilica, I know of no other place to rival it.
Krishna said that our plan is to throw away the map and get lost on purpose.  It worked perfectly.  The endless charm of this place kept me busy snapping pictures and relishing in the ambience.  Pics 57-72

As all good things must come to an end, so must our cruise.  We disembarked in Bari, Italy (this was where we were supposed to board too).  It was a cold and blustery day, so we only spent a few hours exploring.  It had some charm, but certainly nothing to the scale of Venice.  Here a few of the highlights…

Bari lays claim to the resting place of the original St. Nicholas  (St. Nick – Santa Claus)

We are back home now, safe and sound.  It was a fabulous trip and we highly recommend it to everyone.