A Travellerspoint blog

High School Friends on a Weekend Idyll in Canada

A cabin on a lake in Ontario plus my best friends equals priceless memories

sunny 68 °F

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The lake at sunrise

Want to see a motley crew? Well, when five high school friends and I spent a week in a cabin on an island in the middle of a lake in northern Ontario, things were bound to get pretty ugly. The scenery was gorgeous, though, as this view of the lake at sunrise shows.

The cabin was a cool little place to stay. There were several rooms, so with some creativity in sleeping arrangements, and with the liberal use of sleeping bags, we made do. Some of my better memories of the place were stargazing with a friend's telescope at night, pointing out Saturn, Jupiter and Mars to my friends, the daily games of frisbee golf, back and forth across the island, lounging in the lake on intertubes (with a separate intertube for the beer cooler, of course!), and simply spending time with my best friends.

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The cabin on the lake

We did take time out from being lake bums a couple of times during the week -- once for dinner at the lodge across the lake, and another time for a trip into town to the Japanese steak house. Believe it or not, I am the short guy with hair on the right. Notice the oh-so-stylish pale blue pants and tinted glasses. Too cool. And hair! Contrast that with my picture on the home page for a laugh.

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My high school friends all dressed up for our night in town

In case you're curious, from left to right, it is Todd Dove (whose Dad owned the island and cabin), Dan Stephens frowning in back (he didn't want his picture taken), Doug Lockhart posing in center, John Blum next to him (our Moms all LOVED John), Dave Hawkins behind John (the prototypical "Gentle Giant"), and of course, me. Yeesh! I can't believe I put this picture on my web page...

However, it was a week that will live in my memories forever. Sadly, I've lost touch with the gang. We still run into each other maybe once every couple years, but we don't all hang out like we used to. Hey, come to think of it, perhaps I'll see them all at our next High School Reunion...

The lake at sunset

Posted by world_wide_mike 07:26 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Scotland Serves Up a Feast for the Eyes

Remembering this as my most amazing trip, after all these years!

rain 60 °F

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Sunset on the Isle of Arran

What can I say about something which, a decade and a half later, still remains the most magnificent journey I've ever taken? "Trip" or "vacation" are too mild of words for the five weeks I traveled across Scotland. It was simply a feast for the eyes and heart. My favorite ingredients in a destination, History and Scenery, Scotland serves up in platters.

Russell, Tom and I left Columbus in late summer, splitting up or recombining during the five weeks as we each sought out corners of the country that enticed us. Our first stop was the Isle of Arran, off Scotland's southwest coast. We then hitched our way past Glasgow to the bonnie (and rainy) banks of Loch Lomond, to the port city of Oban, then on to the Isle of Mull. This stark, gorgeous island was my favorite. We rented mopeds, which, though not glamorous, are an excellent way to see the countryside. You can pull over at any time, whether to clamber across the rocks to a waterfall or hike to some ruins -- without having to find a parking space, like with a car. You are still close to nature, hearing the crash of the waves, smelling the flowers -- but you aren't exhausted when you finally arrive at your destination, like you might on a bicycle. It is a great combination of speed and experiencing the land.

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Isle of Mull

On Mull, we saw castles, brilliantly-colored double rainbows, deep blue lochs and green, sheep-dotted hillsides. Side trips to the isles of Iona and Staffa brought somber images of ruined, windblown monastaries, Scotland's graveyard of its kings, and oddly-shaped caves on islets tossed amidst the cold, majestic sea. Back on the mainland, I lingered beneath the green slopes of Ben Nevis (Scotland's highest mountain), and ferried to misty Lismore and its shrouded Viking castle.

From there, it was across the water again to scenic Skye. Gorgeous panoramas greeted us there, especially hiking in the Quirang, which for all the world looked like a a mountain range trying to poke up through a billiard table. The hillsides were a closely-cropped olive color, with brownish rock peeking through. Low areas were covered with still, silvery lakes that reflected the hazy sky. Waterfalls plunged down the cliffsides to rocky beaches. We also hiked cairn-topped hills that gave oil painting-like glimpses of the dragon-backed Cuillen Mountains.

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The Quirang, Isle of Skye

Another ferry from Skye took us further west to the remote Outer Hebrides and the isle of Harris and Lewis. We were drenched on our bicycle ride to the Standing Stones of Callanish. On the way, we roared at the sight of me "frothing at the knees," as old soap was worked into a lather in my soaked jeans by my pumping legs. We grew silent, though, as we approached the majestic stone circle. The spindly, 15-feet tall, grayish-white stones were arranged in the shape of a Celtic cross. The historical kicker is that it was built thousands of years before Christ. Callanish is every bit as impressive as the more famous Stonehenge, perhaps more so, because you can walk amongst the stones in relative solitude. As the sun came out, and we stood contemplating it, we were alone. Just the haunting landscape, an occasional gull, and the ever-present wind. Nothing further than the crowds on Stonehenge's Salisbury Plain could be imagined.

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Standing Stones of Callanish

We made landfall at mainland Ullapool, splitting up again. Tom was off to the Orkney Islands, me to Strathpeffer, and then Inverness. I met Russell there, again. Together, we saw the city's sights, toured Culloden Battlefield, and then rented mopeds again for a day-long circuit of Loch Ness. The skies were sunny and the views beautiful: Ruined Castle Urquhart; mountain-clad Fort William at the loch's southern end; and late-summer greenery blooming on the hillsides.

I decided to hang on to the moped the next day, while cost-conscious Russell returned his. When I drove off, I didn't realize it'd be the last I'd see that trip of my companions. My sights were on a grand circuit of the Grampian Mountains. It was a fitting finale to my journey -- scooting through heather-clad hills ablaze with pink blossoms, exploring castles of different shapes and styles, and enjoying a day of Highland Games (caber tossing, bagpipes, highland dancing). I even spent a day with a Scottish Territorial Army unit, photographing and interviewing them for an article for my Army Reserve magazine back home.

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Highland scenery, Grampians

When my grand tour ended back in Inverness, I hopped a train to Pitlochry, where I'd hoped to meet Tom and Russell. I arrived late to find them not there, and the hostel and bed and breakfasts all full. I was tired, and took the last train to Edinburgh, instead. When we pulled in, though, I made the decision to stay on board. It was an express that terminated in London. I was spent -- mentally, physically and monetarily. The last gasp through the Grampians had worn me out. I was ready for home, despite the fact our scheduled departure wasn't for another several days.

It was probably not a fitting end to such a magnificent feast of sights that Scotland had served up to me. Sometimes, though, the meal is so filling that you simply cannot stomach dessert. And oh, what a feast it was! A decade and a half later, I still remember it as my most sumptuous ever.

Posted by world_wide_mike 17:57 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Deployment to Korea an Eye Opener for Young Soldier

A trip to the DMZ and neon Itaewon are highlights

semi-overcast 40 °F

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To be honest, I never wrote a travelogue for South Korea. I visited the country as part of my two-week annual training with the U.S. Army Reserve. We were taking part in an exercise to cover the yearly deployment of American troops to the Korean peninsula. Part training, part deterrent for the North Koreans. Though it was summer, I remember it being freezing cold at night and in the morning. Our large, multi-person tent that we slept in was heated by a diesel-fueled heater. We took turns filling up the diesel can and emptying it into the heater, and generally in the process ruining our gloves. Maybe that is where my hatred of all things diesel began!

It was a busy time, with little chance for sightseeing. However, we did get to visit Panmunjom - the armistice village in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) where North and South Koreans meet to hold talks. A line is painted down the village demarcating North from South Korea. The room where they meet even has a line painted down it. Armed guards watch your every move while you're there. You are warned beforehand it is not the place to joke around. You will be shot if you pretend you're going to cross the line. It was pretty awesome to see it, and hear about the History behind the place. The U.S. soldiers killed by North Koreans while trimming a tree near the line. The North Korean defectors that have sprinted across to freedom, sparking a gun battle as the North attempted to shoot and kill them.

We also got a chance to spend one evening in Itaewon, which was kind of a neon, bar district in the capital, Seoul. For a young man from Ohio, it was quite the eye opener. I had always thought the campus district of Ohio State University was crazy -- especially on a football Saturday night. This made campus look tame. The other thing I remember most about Korea was how beautiful the countryside was in the mornings. The mist cloaking the hills, the temples -- it looked just like a Japanese painting. As interesting as I found South Korea, it is crazy to think that I have not been back in the intervening three decades. Maybe one day. I am sure much has changed, but so, too, have the memories faded.

Posted by world_wide_mike 07:17 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Deployment to Panama Interesting Trip for Young Ohioan

Squeezing in some sights and fun in down time

sunny 85 °F

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Barracks, Camp Henderson

This trip hardly qualifies as a vacation. While in the Army Reserve, I spent two weeks in Panama and Honduras for annual training, or "summer camp." It was hard work -- long days, and not a lot of free time. Here is a picture of what our "camp cabins" looked like -- barracks at Camp Henderson.

However, it was wonderful for the memories. I still remember walking through downtown Panama City, when an Panamanian police truck screeched to a halt next to me and another unit member who were sightseeing. They ordered us in. We were thinking, oh great, kidnapped! But no, they were concerned we were in what they felt was a bad neighborhood, and simply giving us a lift to a nicer shopping area. And on the way to the nicer area, my irrepressible friend Van Kalvakis was trying to find something talk to the Panamanian soldiers about. Neither of us spoke much Spanish and they spoke little English. Van hit on, "Roberto Duran" (a Panamanian heavyweight boxer popular at the time), and the truckload of soldiers perked up, repeating the name. Ah, the memories...and the unintentionally funny things that happen during travel, whether it is as a civilian or military!

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Beach near Panama City

Posted by world_wide_mike 14:13 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Deployment to Honduras Gives Insights to Lives of Locals

Army job as a photojournalist allows me to see some of the world, too!

sunny 82 °F

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Camp Oso Grande, Honduras

A great adventure awaited me in Honduras. The U.S. Army was building a road through rough, hilly terrain. The training mission was to teach our engineer units to do this, the PR mission was to make a road so the farmers could more easily get their produce to market. I was a reporter in a public affairs detachment, sent out with a photographer and officer to do an article on this project. We flew in to a base camp via helicopter that gave the officer strong heebie-jeebie memories of Vietnam. It was called Oso Grande, but its amenities were anything but "oh-so grand."

We were accompanied by an interpreter on two separate days of driving around, interviewing the locals. For a college kid from Central Ohio, the hardscrabble villages of Honduras were an eye-opener. The people were invariably friendly, though, and I enjoyed my time quite a bit.

I definitely remember the young kids of Honduras. They clustered around you eagerly, smiling. We took polaroid photographs of them and handed them out, along with various knick-knacks and trinkets. The photographer who accompanied me, John Wagner, took some priceless photographs that went on to win awards. I was pleased with my story, although it did not win any awards that I know of.

A month or so after we got back, there was a call for more public affairs specialist by the command group. My editor, another specialist, and myself signed up to go back down for two more weeks. I saw WAY more of Honduras this time. We were tasked with creating a "Welcome to Honduras" brochure for deploying soldiers. In addition to giving them good information about the weather, currency, customs, etc., we also did a few paragraphs on local sights that soldiers might get a chance to visit in off-time. This meant I got to see the amazing Mayan ruins of Copan, the capital Tegucigalpa, and other interesting places in Honduras.

All in all, going to Honduras with the Army was an interesting opportunity to experience another part of the world that I might not have otherwise.

Posted by world_wide_mike 14:04 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Beach & Tiny Island Beckons to the Bahamas

First airline trip was to Great Guana Cay

sunny 82 °F

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Map of Great Guana Cay

The first out-of-country trip I took after starting at America West Airlines, was a several-day idyll in the Bahamas. After reading up a bit on the country, I decided that I'd rather visit one of the "Out Islands" -- rather than Nassau or the big, touristy areas. So, I chose Great Guana Cay, a tiny spit of land off of Marsh Harbor in the Abacos. We flew America West to Orlando, then an United Express prop plane to Marsh Harbor. A boat from the resort zoomed us across the water to Great Guana Cay.

As we were to find out, the resort was the ONLY thing on the island, other than beaches, homes of the residents, and facilities for them. The resort was the only restaurant on the island as well. This was no problem, though, as it was an excellent place to dine. The tables were outside overlooking a nice, sunny bay. The photo below shows the view from our breakfast table, the next morning.

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View from the Breakfast Table

The main selling point of Great Guana Cay was its miles and miles of isolated, undisturbed beaches. Although we did try a little snorkeling, our main activity was simply lying in the sun, soaking up the rays and gorgeous views. Back home in Columbus, it was a drizzly, rainy three days. Ours were the dream of every Midwesterner suffering under endless gray skies.

If the idea of a beach to yourself appeals to you, Great Guana Cay is the place to go in the Bahamas.

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Beach, Great Guana Cay

Posted by world_wide_mike 05:56 Archived in Bahamas Comments (0)

Hiking Cornwall's Coastal Path is Spectacular, but Wet

Be prepared for rain, gorgeous views, castles, and charming seaside towns

semi-overcast 68 °F

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View from St. Michael's Mount

I've been to England a good number of times, but the best visit was probably my coast walking trip to Cornwall. I flew in on Virgin Atlantic and six hours later, hopped off the train in Penzance. That night I watched a local Rugby game and had a pub dinner.

The next day I visited St. Michael Mount, crossing the foot path to the islet at low tide. I hiked up to the castle and explored its interior. The views were superb -- it was easy to dream what it would be like to live in this tall, stone house overlooking the Cornish cliffs below. The windows were placed for great views -- you could look down and see the waves crashing against the rocks far below. From the ramparts, as I watched the waves cover the causeway, I decided to take it easy the rest of the day since my hiking began the next day.

I had bought an excellent guidebook/map ("Walk the Cornish Coastal Path" by John H.N. Mason). For the next four days, and a fifth day later in the trip, it was up and down the hills of the coast (and occasionally across a meadow, forest or rocky shore). The scenery was spectacular. Time and again, I thrilled to the waves slamming into the rocks, the wide blue sweeps of bays and the sparkling slices of beach like wedges of melon. And always, looming above, the green hills with their bald brown rocks peeking through and tufts of heather and meadow grass atop.

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Hell's Mouth, Cornwall

The much-billed "Land's End" was interesting and picturesque, but was a cold dash of tourist crowds compared to the solitude of most of the path. And speaking of cold dashes, be prepared for rain showers. My first two days hiking I was soaked through by the end of the day. A Cornish lady had told me, "We don't get weather here -- just 'bits' of weather." A little sunshine, a little cloud, some rain, more sun, more rain, and so on. I hiked from Mousehole (where I'd taken a bus to from Penzance) to St. Ives. My nightly stops on the way were at Bed & Breakfasts at Porthcurno, Botallack, Zennor and St. Ives. I also hiked from Polruan to Polperro after a couple evenings spent in the seaside towns of St. Ives, Falmouth and Fowey. My favorite section was from Porthcurno to St. Just, with great views at Land's End, Pendower Cove, Carn Les Boel and Whitesand Bay.

Although my hike was linear from Mousehole to St. Ives, I'd recommend a different method for those following in my (often labored) footsteps. Take a bus to Botallack, for example, and get a B&B for two nights. Stow your stuff and take another bus to Zennor. Hike from Zennor back to Botallack. The next morning, take a bus to Sennen Cove and hike back to your B&B from the other direction. That way, you treat each as a "day hike," taking along only camera, water, food and rain gear. Keep the clothes and heavy stuff back in the closet of your room. Cornwall's excellent bus network (buy a schedule at the newsstand) will enable you to pull this off.

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Readymoney Cove

Cornwall's seaside towns are a joy, too. Each one's harbor is unique, it seems, but all seem to have the same quaint houses, brightly-painted boats bobbing in the water, and pleasant pubs where you can sip a cider and look out across sea and sky. I spent two nights each in St. Ives, Falmouth and Fowey. Falmouth's castles -- actually Renaissance era "star forts" -- were interesting, and all three were pretty places to wander along the waterfront or check out old churches, watch towers and beaches.

Whether you're a walker, a town shopper or a history buff, Cornwall is definitely worth "taking a hike" to visit.

Posted by world_wide_mike 15:34 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Cold a Surprise, But History a Thrill in Poland

October in Poland seems like December in Ohio

sunny 46 °F

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The view from atop Mt. Kasprowy, Poland

After months of pestering him like a court jester, I finally coaxed a coworker out of his LOT Polish Airlines passes, and made plans to fly to Warsaw in October. I read my usual handful of guidebooks, but missed one important fact in my planning: October in Poland is more like early December in Columbus!

There were no signs of cold when I landed, though. I quickly took a train to the town of Krakow. Since I'd been unsuccessful in picking up rudimentary Polish, I used Lonely Planet's suggestion and wrote down (in Polish) my destination, class of service desired and time of departure. This I handed to the station attendants who promptly punched up my ticket. This method (like the Polish trains themselves) worked perfectly.

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Krakow's Old Town

I found a hotel in Krakow's walled Old Town and set off to explore for the rest of the evening. The main square was huge, with a mix of Renaissance and medieval buildings, including an excellent brick cathedral chiming the hour. My sightseeing began in earnest, though, the next morning. After a large breakfast, I stepped outside with guidebook in hand and camera bag on my shoulder, and gasped. The temperature had dropped drastically. It was a damp, misty day, which gave an additional knife-like edge to the cold. I quickly retreated inside and added an extra layer.

The churches, palaces and museums were heavy with medieval atmosphere and color. My heart soared at the sight of actual cloth banners borne into battles I'd read about. I ran my hands along the armor of Polish Winged Hussars (feather lined wings sprout from the back of the heavy plate armor), walked inside a intricately decorated tent captured from a Turkish general and thrilled at the row upon row of swords, pikes and lances. I reentered the Old Town through the massive, round, seven-towered Barbican fortification that guarded the main gate. Just inside, the town walls were topped by wooden galleys festooned with colorful paintings for sale by local artists. The chill was long forgotten -- it was an excellent day.

Next morning, I caught an early bus to Mt. Kasprowy. As I rode the cable car towards the top, eager for views of forests, mountain meadows and the miles of hiking trails my guidebook assured were waiting for me, I began to wonder at the winter coats of the other passengers. And what were those boards they were holding? As we reached the top, I stepped off...into winter! The mountain was covered in a foot or more of snow. My hooded sweatshirt and windbreaker vainly battled to keep out the cold as I watched the snowboarders trudge through the drifts towards the slopes.

The view was magnificent, though. It was like the Alps or the Rockies -- snow-capped peaks and icy mountain lakes in every direction. I slipped along the trail that ran atop the ridge as far as I dared, stopping from time to time to look around and breathe in the feeling of being on top of the world. Another blast of cold in Poland -- unexpected, but a joy nonetheless.

I thawed out on the ride back to Krakow and was ready for my trek to Church and Hermitage of the Camaldolese monks a few miles outside of town. The monks are supposed to be a particularly grim sort, whose motto is, "Remember, you must die." I spotted one of them hoeing a garden, dressed in an undyed wool robe, red boots and gray hat. The monastery's greenish bronze "onion" domes, orange tile roof and blond-colored stonework gave a pleasantly somber medieval feel. I continued a tradition later (dinner at Pizza Hut in a foreign country) in the cellar of a 13th century building. The medieval flavor of Poland was definitely to my taste.

Next morning, I took the train back to Warsaw and spent the day seeing its sights -- the towering, massive government building, the completely reconstructed Old Town, and a Polish army museum (more winged hussars with fighter jets mixed in!). The following day I took a side trip to Malbork Castle -- the sprawling, red brick bastion built by the crusading Teutonic Knights to guard their Eastern European conquests.

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Teutonic Knights castle, Malbork

It was amazing. I spent hours wandering through it -- across drawbridges, through halls, up the stairs of towers, along the walls -- a history buff's dream! That day was also the first of "off-season," so I nearly had the castle to myself. Once I was done exploring, I crossed the bridge and photographed it from across the river. The dull orange of the brick walls and the brighter reddish tone of the roof tiles shone in the dazzling sun. The flawless blue sky was matched in deeper tones by the lazy, duck-filled river winding past the castle. A more gorgeous day could not be asked for. Krakow's misty cold and the mountain's snows were forgotten in the warm, October sun.

The next day I returned home. Poland had been full of surprises. The brisk cold was notable, but by far more prominent were the warm memories. Castles, cathedrals, medieval town walls -- Poland was steeped in history. I will remember its sights well into the December of my years...

Posted by world_wide_mike 07:09 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Visit to Waterloo Battlefield in Shortest of Belgium Trips

Walking the grounds of the battle opens my eyes to this great 1815 clash

semi-overcast 72 °F

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Brussels Square

My trip to Belgium in the summer of 1996 illustrates why I love the travel opportunities of my job so much. A coworker offered me their Sabena Airlines passes that were due to expire in a couple months. I accepted them, knowing immediately where in Belgium I was headed: Waterloo. As the pictures on this web site of castles and historic ruins may have hinted, I am a huge military history buff. I've read many accounts of Napoleon's defeat there, and jumped at the opportunity to go. The Sabena flights were open enough, so a few weeks later, I stepped off the plane in Brussels.

The striking Renaissance architecture in the downtown square was a nice bonus, along with the historic churches and palaces. The following morning I took the bus to the battlefield, bought a walking guide, and marched off in the footprints of the soldiers of Napoleon and Wellington.

In 1815, British General Wellington defended a ridge against Napoleon's Grande Armee of France long enough for help from the Prussians to arrive and turn the battle in their favor. I expected to see an imposing hill -- a breakwater that dashed Napoleon's last hope. My eyes were opened, instead, to the subtle ridges that Wellington used so ably to win his battles. The hill was almost imperceptible. As I walked from the British position down, across the ground the French advanced, only then could I notice the rise the British commanded. The skill these generals had to notice such slight slopes!

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Barn at Waterloo's Hougomont

As I veered to the farmhouse of Hougomont, defended by the British Guards and Hanoverians, I got another thrill. The loopholes knocked in the walls were still visible. I saw bricks with missing chunks that had to be caused by musket balls. Wow! More than 180 years later, and history stood inches from my hands. Touring the rest of the battlefield, my walking guide brought the battle out of the books into my eyes as a physical reality. It was smaller than I'd envisioned, and the buildings that survive to this day are plain. Nevertheless, the drums of that far off day beat upon my soul and I will remember Waterloo, and Belgium, well.

Posted by world_wide_mike 15:42 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

One Week Not Enough to See Greece's Highlights

Skipping some big sights to go off the beaten path

sunny 79 °F

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The Parthenon, Athens

The birthplace of Western Civilization was an appropriate place to begin a new tradition in the spring of 1996 -- an annual trip overseas with my brother, Brian. We had pored over guidebooks for months, wondering how to pare Greece's wealth of sites down to one week. Impossible, of course. We came up with an itinerary, though, that hit some highlights, some sidelights, and even a detour off the beaten path. we began with the highlights, in Athens.

Despite its cranes and scaffolding, the Parthenon -- high above the city -- was striking. Its cream-colored columns stood out sharply against the deep blue sky. Looking around, the view of congested, modern Athens clustered all around the Ancient outcrop made you realize just how long ago Greece's age of glory was. The Agora and its temples, the Archeological museum and its statues, complete the feeling that you were walking through the pages of a history book.

The next day, we took a bus to Cape Sounion and its temple of Poseidon overlooking the sea. Rising on a hill, its white columns pointed skyward like fingers praying to the gods. We saw the beauty of the Greek coast, where rich orange, green and brown hillsides were sandwiched between the dark blue of the water and the lighter azure of the sky. A gorgeous day trip, and a fitting prelude to that evenings ferry to Crete.

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion

We spent only enough time in the port of Iraklion, Crete, to visit the must-see ruins of Knossos. Then, we escaped westwards along the coast to quieter, pretty Chania. Its pastel-colored waterfront showed this heritage proudly, and it was easy to see why tourists loved its quiet harbor. Three nights there let us relax and enjoy the rhythm of Crete. One of the days was not so relaxing, though. We hiked the inland Samarra Gorge. The rugged Cretan hillsides, laced with olive trees and shallow streams, gave way from time to time to tiny, rocky villages. Bright pink flowers relieved the harshness of the stone houses set amidst the arid climate. The next day, I relieved my sore feet in the Mediterranean, declaring at least one day in Greece must be spent at the beach. Brian disagreed, and explored a nearby town's Renaissance-era fort.

As we sailed back to Athens, we sadly made the decision to further pare our itinerary. Gone were the ruins of the Oracle at Delphi. Our last stop would be off Greece's main tourist trail, northwards instead, to the monasteries of Meteora. A day later, as our morning bus climbed the hills, and I first saw the massive rock outcroppings towering over the plain, I swallowed a lump in my throat. It was one of those moments you knew would stay with you the rest of your days.

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Monastaries of Meteora

The monasteries and nunneries, with their sand-colored walls and orange terra cotta roofs, hundreds of feet above the valley, were simply breathtaking. The long rock cliffsides were streaked with broad, dark stains, like mascara on the face of a mourner. These stripes -- mineral and water and runoff -- enhanced the feeling of height. Looking closely, you could see fragments of the ladders and stairs the monks had to scale in the old days to reach their bird's nest of a home. Some monasteries still had their rope baskets intact, hanging over oblivion. The less hardy would be winched slowly up the cliff face in these. It was a hard life for these medieval monks, I was sure, but one that constantly kept their eyes drifting upwards to the heavens.

As we flew home, I whispered my own prayer of thanks. In a week that went to fast, I had been privileged with a good glimpse of the fascinating, history-rich, beautiful country of Greece.

Posted by world_wide_mike 12:34 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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