My husband’s family planned a trip to Venice, Greece, Croatia, and Turkey. I was resigned to the fact that I was working full time, kids had school, and we had herd of dairy cows that could not be left for very long. No chance. But one day, slaving away at my desk, I got a phone call from my husband. He said I should go on the trip, at least one of us should have a good time. (Husband of the year!) In October or 2012, we headed off on our long three-stop flight to Venice to stay a few days before we met our cruise ship. The picture above shows Arsenale streets where we stayed. This was the military complex for the city. We walked this street many times to get back to our second floor flat. I attempted to learn Italian before we departed, but when I got there the speaking speed was way faster than this beginner was could fathom!
Venice is an island build away from the coast of Italy pretty much on other structures and a little land. The beauty of the historic buildings and the age-old art is extraordinary. You walk the car-less colorful streets and ride around in the Vaperetto (water buses) and just stare in amazement. (And take many pictures!)
We visited a neighboring island, Murano. They are well-known for glass blowing and glasswork. We saw many awesome works of glass, but my quest was for glass beads. Much money was spent for a handful of wearable treasures. (My passion!)
We devoured the authentic cuisine and ravenously enjoyed one (or two) cups of gelato each day. (Ice cream on steroids!) The food was served in many courses, but we Americans want one thing with maybe soup or salad and bread for one price. The food had weird names, and they charged for each course. We were happy to get on the cruise ship with Americanized food that we were familiar with. If you didn’t ask for “stille” water they would bring you sparkling bottled water. (I guess it’s an acquired taste.) When I first got there, I sat down at a sidewalk cafe. I put my feet up on a chair. Big mistake! (Note to self: putting your feet up there is unacceptable!) My mother in-law was my roommate throughout. (My travel buddy!) And I was the designated shopper since I knew a little Italian, I could haggle.
Piazza San Marco is the tourist hot-spot in Venice. It was the ancient gathering place. I found this statue-type head sitting high on the corner of a building with a angry scowl. (I don’t know why? If anyone knows, please comment to tell me the reason.) There is a cathedral, a clock tower, and many other government buildings. I started collecting money, they round up when they give change. So they just give you their small change, they don’t use it much. They use Euros here. They were about 1.30 to 1 dollar.
Our first stop was Dubrovnik, Croatia. I thought it was a war-torn country. It was until about 1991. Now it’s a quaint, European tourist city. I was totally awe-struck at the charm it possessed.
Dubrovnik has new city and an old city. Dubrovnik’s old city is on the coast with a wall around it. The harbor is very famous and picturesque. We rode a tram to see it from on high. The city is very beautiful, and my nephew says the women are the cutest in Europe. (I wasn’t looking!) Croatia’s money is the Kuna, and it is worth about 15 US cents right now! It’s where the necktie was invented. (If you care.)
Our next stop was Athens, Greece. The Parthenon was very historic and all, but they were restoring it. So we were lucky patrons of all the scaffolding, too. There were a lot of photo ops. I’m not sure how I felt about Athens, because you’d see many ugly grey buildings then an lovely peice of history would pop up. On our tour we came across a riot. It made me very uncomfortable. The tour guide said it was not a bad one. It was young people wanting something done about the 55% unemployment rate. We got out to see the old city, Plaka, but I think the tour guide had an ulterior motive. She disappeared, then we were ambushed by little old Greek women selling tablecloths. (They got us all pleading poverty!) I finally found a Dr. Pepper, but it tasted different. The gyros were tasty. Dogs could be seen everywhere. (I hope there wasn’t dog in my gyro, no, probably lamb!)
The next place we docked was Thiebes, Turkey. We took a bus to the site of Ephesus. This is where the Ephesian civilization lived. They were unearthing the ruins. It was quite a large area, with many artistic structures. Paul, the apostle, taught the people Christianity back in the early A.D.s. It was very interesting to behold a site that was in the Bible. Ephesians was the book that talked about “putting on the whole armor of God.” Paul spoke of things they could relate to. They performed a renactment of royalty and soldiers. The countryside looked a lot like Utah, I had to remind myself I was in Turkey-a. (That’s how they say it!) Turkey’s Lira is worth about 28 cents in USD. There were many cats loitering around. The first picture is of the library. We then went to see rug making and silk worms! (I thought they were only in China!)
Coming back, the last town we ferried into was Split, Croatia. It was a very beautiful place. The town was quite interesting with that old-world feeling. I would bet it was very expensive to live there, since most of the cars and people looked high-class. I enjoyed Snickers flavored gelato at the beachfront cafe. There was a famous 28 foot statue of Grgur Ninski, or Gregor of Nin, he was a famous Croatian bishop who was a rebel towards the pope, and made great strides in making Croatian rather than Latin (which no one understood) mandatory in the churches. Legend says, if you rub his toe, you’ll have good luck. It was quite worn and shiny. They had outside fish markets, but the most interesting thing was there were no flies! This was seriously the most scenic place since Venice!
We disembarked in Venice, and took a train to Milan, Italy where we stayed a few days and flew home. The countryside was not much different from Utah, but now and then you would see something that was definitely Italian. Milan was a big city with lots of buildings and traffic! I was feeling ill, so I spent that evening in bed while they saw some sights. I watched “Twilight” in Italian. (With my limited language skills and solid knowledge of the movie, it wasn’t bad!) The next day, we visited the Duomo, which was a large awesome cathedral. They had former popes (or what was left of them) on display. The interior was as spectacular as the exterior. We spent most of the afternoon people watching. At one point, we heard a bunch of teen Italian girls screaming “One Direction, One Direction!” There were all of a sudden so many people around, I couldn’t get close enough to capture a good picture. Then the place emptied just as quickly. We also visited the church where Da Vinci’s Last Supper was displayed and he frequented, but we couldn’t get in. (I guess the tickets are a rarity!) We went to Sforza castle, the fortification and fountain. My brother in law was almost pick pocketed on the subway, but he was too fast. (They felt that in the morning!) Gelato was consumed many times. Milan is supposed to be the fashion capitol, but I went in a few stores and was not impressed.
Aside from being long and arduous, it was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime trip. I would highly suggest! (Get out there and see the world, I’m so glad I had the chance!)
Picture credits: D. Blauer and I