Tag Archives: dubrovnik

Ephesus

We had a full day at sea between Dubrovnik and Ephesus and it was spent full of a variety of activities (working out, pool time, Bingo!, etc.).  It was quite relaxing and the day seemed to zoom by.  When the night came around, my sister and I stayed up at the bar chatting and drinking the night away.  She woke the next day just fine… Me on the other hand, I was a wee bit hung over.  We had a scheduled tour to get to however so as we approached the port town of Kusadasi, it was time to buck up and sober up!

Our tour was to the Virgin Mary’s house (where after the crucifixion of Jesus she escaped and lived in hiding from persecution by the Romans) and to the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus.  We met for our tour abroad the ship then were all escorted out onto the tour bus and off we went.  We were each given a little welcome package including a pin of the eye of Turkey for good luck, a bottle of water (I really needed that!!), a postcard and a little ceramic container with an impression of the Virgin Mary on the front and a cork top.

We were also issued little headsets so we could hear our tour guide throughout the tour as we wandered around.  I had seen other tours use these before and always thought them a great idea.  However, after actually having used them, I’m not so much a fan.  The reason being that the guide was many times speaking about things way ahead of where I physically was (I was lagging a bit with my crazy picture taking) so I would hear her explain something, but it wasn’t until 5-10 minutes later that I’d catch up to the area where the information was relevant.  Just goes to show that even with those little headsets you still have to keep up with the guide!

Leaving Kusadasi, we drove up the winding mountains of Turkey, past the large golden statue of Mary, watching the terrain turn from almost rugged, drier land to lush green forest land.  It somewhat reminded me of being in New Mexico, driving from Albuquerque to the mountains of Santa Fe in the summer time.  We arrived at Mt. Koressos, the site of Mary’s house.  The house was originally discovered because of visions that Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (a book was later published about her visions) had of the Virgin Mary and her home in hiding.  Searches ensued to find the home seen in the vision and was indeed found as described by Blessed Ann Catherine Emmerich.  Today the home is a shrine for both Catholics and Muslims who flock to see the very simple but functional home.

Outside the home a church has been set up and today people come to pray and even hold regular masses.  The home itself has been visited by several popes and has been blessed by them during their visit.  Outside her home, three taps of spring water exist, Holy Water, for visitors to drink, bathe, or fill up their little ceramic containers:)  I filled mine up, and though we weren’t supposed to drink from the ceramic container, I took a sip figuring it could only help with the hangover:)  Further along the wall from the Holy water were hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of cloth, each with someone’s prayer or hope or dream written in scores of different languages and tied onto the wall.  It was quite powerful to visit this site.  It is also a beautiful setting and a feeling of calm and peace is very present there.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside her house, but my favorite bit on the inside was a very faint and almost unnoticeable chalk drawing on the wall, just before the exit that seemed to be the face of, what looked to me like Jesus.  I can’t be 100% sure that it was Him (that’s how faint it was) but it made me wonder the history behind that.  I loved the simplicity of it.

From Mary’s house we were escorted back on the bus and down the hill to the shopping area (Genuine Fake Watches!!) just outside the ruins of Ephesus.  Ephesus was an ancient Greek city that long ago was actually a port town!  It is the same Ephesus where Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians (thanks mom).  It was founded in the 10th century BC but was devastated by an earthquake in 614 AD.  The earthquake strike along with the harbor slowly silting up by the Cayster River declined the cities importance as a commercial center and was eventually abandoned (Thanks Wikipedia!).

Today only about 25% of the city has been excavated and it is only in the past 100 years or so that excavations have been taking place!  It was amazing to hear about how modern the people of that time really were!  They had indoor plumbing, a library, a theater, a brothel (the foot and heart imprint could be found throughout the city leading the way there) a gymnasium, there was even evidence of surgeries having been conducted!  Pretty much anything you could want in a city was there and everything was so stylishly done in marble or brick!  At least in my mind, it’s hard to envision civilizations from thousands of years ago being so modern.  We like to think with our technology that we are so much more advanced than people were back then… After visiting these ruins, I’m really not so sure!

From the ruins we were taken to a very touristy spot where there was nothing but shops and food and a little play depicting the days of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony enjoying some gladiator action between soldiers (no lions involved;)).

Cleopatra & Marc Anthony
Cleopatra & Marc Anthony

We had some kebabs, drank some beer then it was back to Kusadasi for a demonstration on how the famous Turkish rugs are made.  The presentation was fascinating and the store owners very kindly provided us all with some refreshments during the showcase of the rugs.  According to the store owner, making Turkish rugs is a dying art.  Not many people know how to make them or are trained to make them any more.  In an attempt to get people trained again in the art, the government got involved and developed a program that allowed stay-at-home moms to learn the art.  They were then allowed to work from home on the rugs:)  Love it!!  I had no idea how intricate each rug could be!  One silk rug we were shown had a million knots per square meter!!  Absolutely incredible!!  My sister ended up buying a very lovely rug after some hard bargaining, then we were off on the streets again, wandering around checking out the Kusadasi for more gifts and things to buy, then back off to the ship.

On to Santorini

Back to Europe

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Dubrovnik

What a beautiful place!  Nestled right along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is uniquely located on a very narrow, yet long stretch of Croatia that borders with Bosnia.  They are so close, in fact, that the surrounding mountains are actually in Bosnia.  The Old City is quaint and kept in fashion of how it was hundreds of years ago, and today is the setting for where they film The Game of Thrones.  I’m honestly not entirely sure what that show is all about, but our local taxi driver was very pleased by this little bit of trivia:)

As we disembarked the ship we were all met by a line of taxis.  For 10 Euro they would take you to the Old City, for 50 Euro you would get an hour taxi tour of Dubrovnik… We were on vacation, why not??  Off we went with a very passionate and clearly patriotic older local from point to point around the city getting out to take pictures at the best locations.  Being in the taxi while he navigated the narrow roads was somewhat of a roller coaster ride for me, but he was obviously very used to the ways of the road there and navigated beautifully.  He took us up to the top point of Dubrovnik so we could get a panoramic view and he pointed out the Bosnia mountains.

The history of Dubrovnik, as explained to us by our taxi driver, was quite a tumultuous one.  While they preferred to simply set up a port town where ships could come and go to trade various goods, they were constantly being bombarded by one country or another who were interested in taking them over and involving them in war.  Dubrovnik has bounced back and forth between one power and another but are now free to trade and live as they please.  Hopefully they continue that trend and are able to stay out of the wars, unlike their neighbors…

After our tour, we were dropped off at the gates to the Old City and bid farewell.  We wandered in, stopped for some lunch, sampled some Rosé wine (which Dubrovnik is famous for and apparently is the birthplace of Zinfendel…) then headed down the main street and side streets to shop:)  I of course didn’t pick anything up, since I can only carry so much in my travel backpack, but my sister and mom had a blast!  My dad thankfully tolerated us going into almost every single store looking for things to buy, and would stop to befriend random street cats every so often just to get a little shopping break, lol!

After walking the Old City streets, it was definitely easy to see why this spot was chosen for The Game of Thrones as it is very medieval!  The streets are made of smooth stone, (I’m not 100% sure but they may have been marble) it’s entirely surrounded by original walls and even the old gates that guard the entrances to the city are well intact!  I couldn’t help think when seeing the numerous steep stairways leading from the main road of the Old City to the new area of town, just how great a workout it would be to just walk up and down side streets daily there, lol!!  Random, I know:)

After our walk through the Old Town we grabbed a taxi back to the ship, shopped for a few more last-minute items then headed back on board.  Side Note: I was obviously very trigger happy with my camera on this trip… LOL! 🙂

On to Ephesus

Back to Europe

Venice

Venezia!  I’ve been there a few times before and each time not only love the uniqueness of it, but something new seems to happen every time I go.  This time, it was the flooding of the streets!  While we were able to avoid most of the flooding into the streets, it was still rather wet all around and they even had the planks around on standby just in case.  The second night I spent there we were all woken up at 3:45 by the flood warning siren, joy!!  I adore San Marco’s Square, as well as the church in the square with the most unique multicolored marbled columns and warped mosaic floor!  I adore how a city built hundreds of years ago on water is still standing today!  I adore its romantic history rich with courtesans, beautiful gowns and Carnival!

This trip was unique for me however as it really wasn’t as much for me as it was for my family… Specifically my mom and dad:)  You see, each hit a major birthday milestone this year (70 & 75) so my two brothers, sister and I all chipped in to do something a little extra special for them.  My mom was the one who actually found the trip: a 7 night cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean “Splendour of the Seas” leaving from Venice, Italy with port calls to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Ephesus, Turkey; Santorini, Greece and Katakolon, Greece.  My mom obviously knew all of this information, however my dad was only told that the family had chipped in for a birthday cruise for only him and I to go on.  He had no idea that my sister and mom would be joining too…

For almost 3 months prior to leaving for the cruise my mom, sister and I exchanged probably about a hundred emails going over details and how we were going to spring the surprise on my dad.  There was a ton of confusion at first because the website for Royal Caribbean is absolutely bonkers!!  You would think that they would get it together and create a site that actually works!!  But no… It seemed that just about every day for almost a straight month something was wrong with our reservation because of that idiotic site.  But thanks to some nice customer service operators, things smoothed out well.

So the plan was for my dad and I to go to Treviso (where he has a cousin) and stay with them for a couple nights.  Then he and I would go to Venice where we would stay overnight the night before having to board the cruise.  My mom and sister were to arrive in Venice mid-afternoon) from the States the day before the cruise as well.  Then they were going to meet us “randomly” at a restaurant (one we would pick in advance so I could be sure that my dad and I would be there) and the surprise would be revealed:)

That’s how it was supposed to go… Now how it REALLY went is as follows:  My dad and I did go to Treviso to see family and were dropped off in Venice mid-afternoon.  Now, the WiFi in the family’s place wasn’t quite all there all the time… At some point in the morning before leaving for Venice I just happened to refresh my email and suddenly several emails showed up saying “flight was delayed”; “stuck in Heathrow”; “missed flight due to idiotic security people at Heathrow”; “trying to leave from Gatwick”; “hope to take the 4pm flight out”…

At this point I’m a bit panicked… I’m the only one who knows they are coming, so I can’t say anything to my dad about them being off track… They are supposed to be a surprise… But now I’m a bit worried because I can’t contact them…  I checked the airport site but had no luck with any information there…

We got to Venice where my first move was to get my tablet hooked to the WiFi so I could search for any updates… Nothing, nil, zilch… I still have to play it cool however so I spend the rest of the afternoon acting as if all is well (when really I’m a bit worried on what to do in case they didn’t show, lol!) strolling around beautiful Venice with my dad.  We walked quite a bit and opted to take a canal taxi back to the hotel.

Once there, we started to get ready to go out for dinner.  I shot off a quick email to my sister and mom, hoping they would get it, about where we were planning to go.  At this point I still hadn’t heard whether they had even made it on the 4pm flight to Venice!  Before heading out for dinner, I even filled in the hotel receptionist on what was going on in case my sister and mom stopped by there!

So off to dinner we went…  It was about 8pm at this point, and though Italian meals tend to take a bit of time, I was purposefully trying to drag this dinner out as long as possible.  9pm rolled around… “sure I’ll have another beer”… 9:30 came about… “Dessert?  Why not?”… almost 10pm was upon us…

At this point I was already out of reasons to stay any longer AND I was starting to wonder if they had made that 4pm flight after all??  For, if they had, then certainly they would have been in Venice and would have been able to make it to the restaurant by now!  I thought that I better not drag dinner out any more, but rather I’d better get to my email to see what’s going on…

Just as I went to walk out the door with my dad behind me, my sister came walking in the door!!  We saw each other, our eyes widened and we immediately did an about-face, her out the door, and me toward my dad so I could try to shield him from seeing her, lol!! Unfortunately he just happened to see her face as she was coming in and the gig was up!!  She came back in (on her own as my mom was hiding around the corner as a second surprise) to greet my dad and all the details started to come out as to why she was there.  Then my sister said “you wouldn’t believe the day WE’VE had getting here”… We??? my dad asked… Who’s we???  Lol!!  Ooopppss!!  So out the door we went and my mom came out of hiding, lol!!

So while it wasn’t exactly how we had planned the surprise, it was still a great surprise for my dad nonetheless:)  My dad said after the surprise that he had been feeling tired from dinner, but was now very wide awake, lol!  I’m just glad my sister and mom made it!!

In any event, the next day we all boarded the ship and waved goodbye to Venice as we headed out to sea.

By the way, I do have to make a mention about Hotel Canal in Venice… It’s located just across the street from the train station and both times I stayed there it was a very pleasant experience!  The staff were beyond accommodating, the location was unbeatable in my book, the rooms were very spacious (both times we ended up with a room that faced directly on the Canal) and while it could probably use a tiny facelift, I really enjoyed its old style Venetian charms:)

On to Dubrovnik

Back to Europe