Friday, January 30, 2009

Stream of Consciousness - The Rumbaba

My stream of consciousness this morning went something like this: book hotels for April trip to Copenhagen and southern Sweden, find excursions, how about a boat trip, remember the Rumbaba in St. Thomas.

In 2007, Chuck and I booked a house in St. Thomas for a week (I can't seem to find a link to the property). My parents and brother joined us. Poor Kasey is a guidance counselor so she had to work. When we were in St. Croix the previous year, we chartered a sailboat and went to Buck Island to snorkel. So, I thought it would be fun to charter a sailboat to snorkel around St. John. We've been on some disasterous large snorkeling trips with 75 other people (Princessa Yelapa in Puerto Vallarta, rings a bell). Chartering a sailboat for just us made more sense and for 5 people it was probably an extra $100 or so to have the entire boat to ourselves.

Enter the Rumbaba. I searched the web and found quite a few different charters, but decided that the Rumbaba and Capt'n Bobby would be perfect for us. It was fab.u.lous. Honestly, it was one of the best things we have ever done on a vacation.

A few pictures from our day of snorkeling. The water was so incredibly clear, even the pictures from the cheap underwater camera turned out!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Planned travel for 2009

After our Athens trip, I didn't have any 'planned trips' in the queue. This is so unlike me. I usually have 2 or 3 trips 'in the works.' It was time to start cracking. Here's where we're heading in 2009...

  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Malmö, Sweden
  • Rome, Italy
  • Sorrento, Italy
  • Venice, Italy
  • Florence, Italy
  • Bologna, Italy
  • Pisa, Italy (the leaning tower)
  • Italian Riviera, Italy
  • Milan, Italy
  • Nuremburg, Germany
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Zermatt, Switzerland (the matterhorn)
  • **Updated** Herning, DK (to meet a fellow blogger)
We are so fortunate to be living in Europe and have the opportunity to see so many things while we are here. 2009 is going to be the year of Italy and my Italian is progressing pretty well.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

2008 - Year in Review

This is a little late, but I wanted to put in some pictures from Athens. Better late, than never. In early 2008 we were well on our way to Denmark. We were packing up, giving things away, storing stuff, and fitting all our ‘must have possessions’ in a 1 cubic meter box for shipment to DK. We said ‘see ya later’ to old friends and ‘mojn’ to new friends; we started learning new languages; making a list of places to visit while we’re in Europe and checking them off...

Here are the memorable moments from our travels in 2008.
*Note: It might take a few moments to load and it has music.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Riots, rioters, riot gear, police, graffiti...

On December 6, 2008 a 15 year old Greek youth was shot and killed by Greek police. Andreas Griogoropoulos was killed by shots fired from a police gun during clashes between police and youths in Exarchia. He was among a group of youths who threw stones at a police car. Since then, there has been rioting in Greece, including throwing of molatov cocktails, rocks through windows, shattering bus shelters, graffiti and tagging buildings and statues.

We were a little worried about going to Athens, not knowing the city, nor what our ‘plan’ would be if there was rioting. After reading several blog posts from locals, we decided to proceed with our trip. I’m glad we did. We saw a few protesters with banners and bullhorns; we heard loud cries and chants from a rally; we saw a lot of graffiti; we saw plenty of armored buses carrying police officers and riot gear; we definitely saw a police presence around Syntagma square; and we even saw a few officers dressed in riot gear with a tear gas can hanging around their neck!

Here are some pictures of rioting and the aftermath from late December 2008. Many shops and banks had rocks thrown through the glass windows, so those were being repaired/replaced; a few buildings were torched and had obvious signs of being charred; and monuments/government institutions/museums were tagged with graffiti.

Regardless of the reasons for the riots and as legitimate of a gripe the protestors may have, the destruction of public property (and in my mind) the spray painting of graffiti on marble statues and buildings is just an infantile action by folks that have no respect for their community.

Use your words, people, not your spraypaint!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Added Service...stray dogs guard National monuments in Athens

On our first full day in Athens, we pulled out the map and decided to walk from the hotel (Hilton) down the east side of the National Gardens, through the gardens and then out the west side near the tourist office. As soon as we exited the hotel there was a pretty big pooch hanging out...which as you know freaked me out a bit, given that I'm not exactly all that fond of dogs (or any animals).

So, the pooch proceeded to follow us around for 3 hours as we got lost in the park, exited on the north side, ended up about a block from the hotel, tried losing the dog by walking in circles (thus getting lost), and crossing the street to lose him. For the record, crossing the street didn't work...he just walked 'with' us on the other side of the street...across 6 lanes of traffic. It was cute, well as cute as it can be when there's a dog involved.

Apparently there are thousands of stray dogs and cats in Athens. Those that have a harness or collar on them have been 'fixed' by the government; however it doesn't sound like shelters are popular.

The strays are all over the place, but I noticed them hanging out at the tourist places; usually laying in the sun 'guarding' the entrance.
Two stray dogs 'guard' the entrance to the Acropolis.

Two more strays guard the entrance to the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Happy New Year


Fireworks bursting in air...over the Parthenon!

Ringing in the New Year in Athens, Greece

We spent about a week in Athens, Greece with our final evening on New Year's Eve. Chuck spent the last decade engrossed in philosophy books and the teachings of Socrates and the socratic method leading him to many modern day philosophers, so going to the 'birthplace of western civilization' has been on our list of places to go.

Athens is full of wonderful sites to see and plenty of museums. However, just because a place has these things doesn't mean it will make a good tourist destination. Athens could be great, but the tourism industry hasn't capitalized on the assets within Athens.

I won't dwell on the negatives...but basically there are hundreds if not thousands of stray dogs and cats roaming the streets, parks, and tourist sites; there is graffiti everywhere, on marble (real smart), on buildings, on statues, everywhere; and walking on the sidewalk was a constant game of chicken against the locals (I felt like we were being challenged to see who would step aside first).

Here's what we did....

Archeological stuff:
Acropolis including the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena
Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Herodeion) near the entrance to the Acropolis
Ancient Agora
Stoa of Attalos
Roman Agora
Half-day trip to Cape Sounion to see Poseidon’s temple
Library of Hadrian near Monistiraki square
Tower of the Winds near Monistiraki square
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Hadrian's Arch near the National Garden

Athens National History Museum
Athens City Museum
Athens Archeological Museum
Archeological Museum of Piraeus
Maritime Museum in Piraeus
Athens National Art Gallery

Other Sights:
National Garden
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Parliament Building
Byzantine Churches
National Library
National Academy
Panathenaic Stadium (used for the Olympics)
Syntagma Square

We took 498 pictures, so sifting through them is taking more time than I anticipated. The general Athens slideshow is posted. Up next is the graffiti slideshow.

Note: Depending upon the speed of your PC and the internet connection, it may take time for all the slides to load. There are just under 50 pictures in the Athens slideshow.