Week 134 October 22, 2016

Before we left Agia Effimia – the coastal town where we were staying on Kefalonia in Greece – we walked the whole way to Myrtos Beach, over an uneven, sometimes flooded trail and some paved road, winding up on a swath full of switchbacks, to walk way, way down to the beach for a gorgeous vista. Overall, it was well worth the effort.
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Loren decided that we would hitch a ride back, and the first car that came along stopped for us. A couple from Germany, though he is originally from Greece, were our friendly Samaritans, and we were back to our guesthouse in no time. For our last full day in Greece Loren and I took a private cooking class. We made a traditional meat pie, Greek salad and tzatziki, and together enjoyed our delicious meal, complete with wine and desert. That evening as Loren and I went out for our last walk, we spied our German friends at an outdoor table of a cafe. We joined them for coffee then beer and the evening quick passed in memorable conversation.
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As we took our leave of Greece, I wrote my latest poem:
The Walk to Myrtos
Claire Adalyn Wright
An unusually muddy, rocky trail
intense sun bakes my face
prickly Live Oak leaves
tear at my hair. Ouch!
Thorns grab, pierce my
clothes, prick my skin, draw
droplets of blood. Oww!
Finally, a long, steep road down
finds the beach is not sand but stone.
A glorious, sunny, fall day calls us forth.
Trees line either side, on the path
through a fertile valley. Beautiful!
Side street proclaims, “The Olive Story,”
a sandwich, soft drinks, make good breaks.
The wide, winding road opens down to
aqua-turquoise water. Frothy white surf
caresses a bleached pebbled white beach.
Easier to walk here in sandals than sand!
We had a 4:30am taxi pickup for our flights – through Athens to Prague, Czech Republic, where our AirBnB host picked us up for the hour long drive to his place where we are staying. Prague is a city that represents what most large European cities would look like if not for the destruction during World War II. It is believed that Adolf Hitler was enamored of Prague so insisted on sparing it. The city is full of spires, statues and cobblestone streets from the Medieval to Baroque eras, and of course there are some more modern buildings too. One day we walked through one of the city gates of Staré Mesto – Old Town, which is one of the four quarters – or the four former separate towns – that make up Prague.
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Prague is a lovely city where it is fine and easy to walk, so we have walked a lot this week. We were surprised to find an Apple museum here, mainly a tribute to Steve Jobs, from what we saw of the free first floor level. 
We also walked part of the Royal Way, crossing over Karluv Most – Charles Bridge to arrive in Malá Strana – Lesser Town or Little Side, of the River where the King once lived. I recognized the familiar Slavic words “Old” and “Most” from Mostar’s Stari Most – Old Bridge, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bridge here is named for King Charles. Both spans are reserved for pedestrians, who flock to them.
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We sought out the John Lennon Wall down one of the side streets. I find it interesting how Steve Jobs somewhat resembles John Lennon, but perhaps it is just because they were contemporaries, wearing similar hair styles.
Then we walked the gentle uphill path toward Strahov Monastery. Along the way we found many of the crafted signs that at one time were used to identify houses – before numbering was introduced. We stopped to enjoy the view of Prague’s skyline over a bowl of soup and a beer at a cafe next to the Monastery on the hill.
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In the evening we took in a Black Light Theater show. Traditional to Prague, this is fantasy and comedy, combined in silence. It was most entertaining! It also reminded me of an outstanding memorial service performance that we had attended some time ago in San Francisco. It honored a friend’s daughter, who was a professional clown. Another coincidence is that the theater building is named Palac Unitaria – Unitarian Palace…
Another day our plans were thwarted to take a bus to Cesky Krumlov as we were misinformed of the transport provider and where to pick the bus up. So, we make lemonade when life gives us lemons. I walked back down to Old Town to take a Bikram Yoga class – my first in nearly a year, since last November, and the first since I broke my pelvis, which was last December. Our delicious lemonade lasted well into the evening, as we were then free to attend a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake that we had thought we would have to pass on. I bought the tickets on my way back from the yoga class. It was delightful, and especially because this troop changed the plot that we had read beforehand to have a happy ending instead – the Evil Sorcerer was the one to die in this version, allowing the Prince and his lovely Swan to live happily ever after.
Last fall at the European Unitarian Universalist Retreat in Cologne, we had met an American who lives in Prague. This week we saw her and another local EUU member, over brunch at an ex-Pat cafe. We have so enjoy visiting with Unitarians on our journey, as it feels like a connection to home, and is wonderful to spend time with people who have similar values. We learned that the Black Light Theater is also where the Unitarian offices are located.
Unlike the former Yugoslavian states that we visited on the Balkan Peninsula who had kept up relations with both western and eastern regimes, what was Czechoslovakia – now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was dominated by Soviet rule. Thanks to our friends’ suggestion, in the afternoon we visited the Museum of Communism. The caption on their flyer is “Dream, Reality, Nightmare.” Just outside the museum is the large square with a statue of the historic Good King Wenceslas and it is the site where the 1989 nonviolent Velvet Revolution took place. Wenceslas hails from the Czech Republic, as does composer Antonin Dvorak.
We finished our week in Prague by attending two classical music performances at St. Nicholas church, with a tasty traditional Czech pub dinner in between. The highlight of the music was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the second concert, which was played by an Historic Instruments orchestra that included a Baroque violinist. It is becoming noticeably wetter and colder during our short stay in Prague, with temperatures down to the 40’s and 50’s Fahrenheit. We are set to travel further north to Hamburg then Berlin this coming week… Brrr!
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PLEASE NOTE: This week we have decent internet coverage, but may not have viable service over the next few weeks. Please check back here, I will share my weekly post when and as often as I can.

Week 133 October 15, 2016

I want start by acknowledging you, our family members and friends who check in with us via this blog, send us email or U.S. mail. It is always wonderful to hear from you and to learn a little of what is happening in your lives too. Thank you!
Still in Chania on Crete at the beginning of this week, we were staying at an AirBnB guest house that took part of its name from Morfeas – God of Dreams. And yes, I had a memorable dream one night there! Last week I had bought a bottle of Retsina, which I had fallen in love with in Greece 25 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it again while we were here! This white wine has a distinct flavor, from the resin of the pine barrels that store it. The only other time I have tasted it are perhaps on rare visits to Greek restaurants over the years, and, for sure when I went out of my way to find it when Loren and I hosted a Greek themed fundraiser for our church. Loren instead preferred to enjoy a bottle of red wine…
The afternoon that we left Chania, we first took a walking tour of several hours. Because it is near the end of the tourist season we had the guide all to ourselves. He took us to see some wonderful sights. As I am enjoying the last glass of Retsina, I want to share two different stories that our guides in Chania told us. They both first asked, “Why do people clink glasses before they drink?”
Our previous guide, who escorted us in a 4 wheel drive vehicle around Chania’s outlying villages last week said that it is to stimulate the fifth of our senses – since we can easily smell the flavor, see the liquid, touch it, and taste it on our tongue, then, the clink, allows us to awaken the sense of hearing. That makes sense! However our second guide, who walked us to several important sites in the city, suggested it was a ruse to spill drops of the liquid into your companion’s glass to be sure it was not poisoned, even though a villain could slyly spill it on the ground afterwards. Hmmm. Which is true? Probably both!
Along the walking tour we stopped for Romeko wine, the one that tastes like cherry sherry, yum! And, more Raki. Raki is quite harsh, a drink I can forego since at least having tasted it. All the Cretan eateries serve it in tiny shot glasses after any food – even breakfast! One waiter, surprised when I declined it, protested, “But it is an herb to help with digestion.” I learned that the appropriate response instead is to accept it, say Yamas! – Cheers!, then just put the glass down without drinking it. However, our guide taught us to actually enjoy Raki by blending it with enough honey to make a big difference in the smoothness and taste. That said, it is still not so good for my continually growing waistline. My pants this week are complaining – the final indication that I absolutely must reverse my trend – now.
A bus ride that took us to stay in the larger city of Heraklion – or, Iraklio, or Irakleio, or Iraklion, Herakleio, Herakleion, and, also spelled with Greek letters which derive from  the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and the ancestor of the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, was uneventful, except for seeing more dramatic mountains along the coast. Our room at an AirBnB overlooked the coastline, offering views of some stunning sunrises and sunsets. We rode an Open City Tour Bus here, that transported us to the ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos, most famous of the ancient sites on Crete. My Western Civilization professor had inspired me to want to see this site too, many long years ago. At one time, there were over 1,200 rooms in this palace that is now mostly rubble.
But there is great controversy here. Sir Arthur Evans who led the initial excavation of Knossos Palace had a few of the rooms recreated to give a more realistic impression. The work even included piecing together artwork from meager chips of the originals. It definitely brought the site more to life for me, and Loren would have liked to have had the whole palace reconstructed instead of just seeing so many piles of old stones.
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Later we stopped at the fort in the harbor, which has survived intact from the time of Venetian rule on Crete – 500 years ago.
The Cyrillic alphabet that we first encountered in Macedonia, and based on the Greek alphabet, explains why the spelling MAPKET – MARKET is advertised by the same spelling here as in Macedonia. But then there is the name dispute over this country of Macedonia and the region of Macedonia that is part of Greece… I also must mention the street art, throughout this post. So often the messages are obscure, but here, written in English, I found thought provoking.
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Somewhere – I think in a magazine on a plane, I had read about a most appealing restaurant in Heraklion – Vourvouladiko Taverna, so I added it to my wish list. One evening Loren put it in our navigation app which helped us find the vicinity but took us in circles for some blocks. He was ready to abandon the effort, then indulged me. We arrived exactly at opening time for the evening meal! Fortunately we were there early, because after the next guest arrived without a reservation, all others were turned away. We dined in a beautiful garden setting, our table and chairs sat directly on the earthen floor. The food was excellent, living up to the glowing review that I had read, so it was well worth the time it took for us to find it.
We then had another full day tour on a 4×4 tour, which followed an ancient Minoan path high up into the mountains, from the Mediterranean coast to a fertile plateau. We stopped at Dicteon cave, the birth place of Zeus (!) with time for a little hike. I was hoping that we would see one of the few remaining Kri Kri mountain goats who are distinct from other goats for their long horns and a long beard, but, we were not so fortunate. We spent the day with a couple from Denmark, and two other couples from England. All lovely people, so in that way, we were fortunate.
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Loren and I then flew from Crete, connecting through Athens, to Kefalonia, an island we had especially enjoyed on our honeymoon 25 years ago. We are occupying one of only two rooms in use at our guest house, grateful that the crowds have already returned home. Early this morning we took the ferry to the neighboring island of Ithaca, so famous thanks to Homer’s and Cavafy’s poetry. Another memorable college class had required me to read Homer’s Odyssey, for which I am also grateful. Loren and I were most enthralled 25 years ago here in Vathi – spelled Vathy too! on Ithaca, with its delightful horseshoe bay.
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The cave where Homer’s protagonist Odysseus buried his treasure, and a romantic night at Gregory’s Taverna in Vathi stand out as highlights from our honeymoon. Now on our 25th year Honeyversary, Gregory’s is no longer in operation. We learned that Gregory had sold the place and is not well, needing oxygen from years of smoking cigarettes. The restaurant is now called Ithaca Mare but was closed for the season. On our visit today we chose to walk the more than two miles of mountainous roads from the port to Vathy. On the way we hiked up one mountain to see ruinous remains of the ancient Ithaca, where Odysseus was revered and pictured on their coins. We also looked where I thought I recalled the path to Odysseus’ treasure was buried, but this time we could not find it.
Today is probably the happiest day so far of our 25th Honeyversary in Greece, because prior to coming to Kefalonia we have mostly visited new places on Crete together. Today in Vathi we reminisced a good bit about our very special time here 25 years ago, and marveled at how the town has evolved and modernized in that time as well.
Later this week we will travel to Prague…
PLEASE NOTE: While this week we have some internet coverage, we may not have service over the next few weeks. Please check back here, I will share my weekly post when and as often as I can!


Week 132 October 8, 2016, 2.5 years!

This week we had unlocked wifi and a refrigerator in our accommodation in Bitola,
Macedonia, but no kitchen. So, we ate many of our noon and evening meals at the nearby restaurant, Kus Kus – said like Cous Cous but their logo looks like Kys Kys, where we also had secure wifi. We holed up there with our devices and the internet for some of our time, to do planning for some of the specific elements of our next few months. Our journey takes work, requiring skills of both vision and attention to detail. And, woo hoo! We marked yet another new milestone this week: two and a half years since we left home. So far in that time Loren and I have managed well together with few disagreements and innumerable precious experiences that bless us with fabulous memories to savor for the rest of our lives.
The International Festival of Classical Music was held in Bitola this week and we were there for the opening and second nights. A wonderful violinist, accompanied by an equally talented pianist, from Kazakhstan thoroughly entertained us, including – if we understood correctly, four encores. It has had my brain trying to come up with words to share it. For example, one’s forefinger plucking and bow flying over and over her strings, while another one’s fingers gaily tripped and pounded on keys, Ajmah – said Aiman, and Capa – Sara, respectively kept our rapt attention for two non-stop hours at their 25th Jubilee opening.
The next evening Phta – Rita a highly gifted Serbian pianist played some of the fastest finger movements and most energetic fortissimo performance pieces that we have ever witnessed. While these three performers were female, there are also male artists scheduled for later in the Festival.
A highlight this week too was taking a taxi to visit Heraclea Lyncestis – a large site, like a complete neighborhood, of Roman ruins. You could see how some structures were built on top of older Grecian ruins. The mosaic floor tiles were especially well preserved. We walked back to our AirBnB from there for a little exercise.
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The next day we rode a bus to Gevgelija through a vast stretch of dramatic tree covered mountains, cut deeply through by a river running alongside our road. This brought us close to the border of Greece and near to Thessaloniki, which will be our first Greek destination of this journey. Gevgelija, Macedonia, is a town of 18,000 people, a fine place to hang around for a couple of nights, which we must do to remain out of the Schengen area for the last of our 90 days visa restriction. Here is the bus sign for our trip from Bitola – the first listed name to Gevgelija the last listed name. Some of the vowels look familiar, and a few consonants, of the 30 character Cyrillic alphabet.
As we leave behind the Balkan Peninsula, I can say that the people we met, the things we did, and the places we saw, gave us new treasured impressions. From two weeks in Croatia, a few days in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many in Montenegro, over two weeks in Macedonia, and part of a day in Albania, once again we have hopes to return, both to these nations as well as the ones we missed – Slovenia, Serbia, and Kosovo. Albania was the only country that was not part of the former Yugoslavia, which I learned means, “The Land of the South Slavs.” And, like parts of Romania, what little we did see reminded us of earlier times in the USA, coupled with unmistakable 21st century innovation. We heard more than a few nostalgic reflections on Socialism while we were here, hearing this sentiment the most: “Everyone had a house and everyone had a car.”
Though we knew nothing of the Slavic languages, nor could we read the signs written in Cyrillic, we were still warmly welcomed and well cared for. I must mention that we have had some of our best belly laughs from hearing our offline navigation app pronounce the names of the local streets as we find our way walking about! We have appreciated the thriving farmers’ markets, and, as in Italy, eating only foods that are in season. We have enjoyed hearing mostly mellow tunes from the USA of the 70’s and 80’s, many with covers by local artists, though some current and older tunes are aired too. I was sorry to see the number of cigarette smokers and smell some smoke inside airy restaurants. I was also quite impressed to see the many solar powered water heaters on buildings’ roofs.
Now, we are in Greece, to celebrate another milestone – the 25th Anniversary of our Honeymoon! When Loren and I were dating and talked about future travel goals, I let him know of my dream that if I ever visited Europe I had promised myself that I would visit Greece first. This was because Sister Coldrick, who taught my first college class – Western Civilization – had taught it so well that not only did I decide to pursue further  studies for a degree, I also dreamed that I would see Greece in person if I could.
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And Loren honored me with our honeymoon there. In 1991, we heeded the sage advice to wait until late in September to visit, since earlier in the month – right after our wedding – would still be quite hot. So, we honeymooned in Greece the last week of September and the first week of October. Now, twenty-five years later, it was such a coincidence that our Schengen visa had expired just in time for us to be in Greece again during the first week of October for this special occasion. We spent our first two nights on the mainland, in Thessaloniki, which is the second largest city in Greece. For some reason it reminded me of being in Manhattan, then I noticed a sign for a club named Manhattan! This city also has Roman ruins and is a port city. We holed up some in Mikel’s coffee shop with wifi while we were here, for more planning work.
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Then we took a short flight to the island of Crete, the largest Greek island, and fifth largest island in the Mediterranean – after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. Crete too has been on my wish list to see forever, or at least ever since taking Sister Coldrick’s Western Civilization class in 1979.
We are now in Chania pronounced HAH-knee-ah, where, so far, we have taken a full day tour to see a knife maker’s shop which introduced us to how the steel blades and then the handles are made, taste olive oil at a very high tech production facility, and, taste wines at a winery with a friendly cat.
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We also saw a 3,000 year old olive tree, and, enjoyed a traditional lunch prepared by our hostess Irini in a village in the mountains. Her husband Dimitri offered traditionally numerous refills of our glasses of homemade wine of golden brown color, sweet tasting like sherry, and, the famous apertif, Raki.
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We finished the day with a drive through one of the steep gorges on this western side of the island.
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We will head to Heraklion, also on Crete, later this week.
PLEASE NOTE: While this week we have had flaky internet coverage, we may not have any service at all in the next several weeks. Please visit here again for our next post which we will make when we can.


REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.