Sonntag, März 25, 2007

Canals and dykes are a common sight in the Netherlands. They are used not only to keep the land from being completely unusable, but also for security. I took this picture at the Bourtange Fortress, which was used to protect the area to the west from invasion from the east. The stronghold is laid out in the shape of a star. So in order for someone to invade they had to not only cross a set of double canals but as they approached they could be fired at from two sides due to the shape of the dykes. I saw an aerial photo of the area and couldn't believe how perfectly shaped it was even though it was built long before the invention of laser and satellite and other technology that would help to design such a structure.
Welcome to the Netherlands! This was my first time to visit the land of windmills and organs and so many other things. I came into the country by train, and the sun was coming up and things were just beginning to get light. The first thing I noticed was how flat it was! I thought I had seen flat land before, but this was really flat. The second thing I noticed was that Holland was made up of three basic colors, and occasionally a fourth. You can see these colors in this picture. Blue, brown, green, and sometimes gray. Most of the countries I have traveled in have been largely catholic, which might account for the colorful buildings. But here the Reformation cast a very long shadow and most everything is built of brick and very plain.

Dienstag, März 20, 2007

Well, the day has come. I leave my beautiful town of Linz in about 2 hours to go to Holland and visit some friends before continuing my journey to the US. People ask if I'm excited. People ask if I'm sad. The answer is I feel a little lost. I'm leaving a place that has been my home for almost two years, and all the friends and things that go along with that. I am returning to a place I once called home, but in many ways I feel like a stranger there now. I don't know exactly what I will do. Everything is a bit unstable, but I do feel that it is the right choice, so I trust it will all work out. And I know that I will return again. I love Austria, the land, the people, the food, the music. I want to thank everyone that has made my time here so enjoyable and hope we can stay in touch. I won't say good bye, because it's not good bye. It is just 'til we meet again!

Freitag, März 16, 2007

Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,

Where nothing, save the waves and I,

May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;

There, swan-like, let me sing and die...
- Lord Byron

We hiked away from the temple enjoying the view and the very warm sun.
The view from the end of the mainland of Greece.
We added a new side trip after arriving in Greece. We decided to take a bus down to Cape Sounion and see the Temple of Poseidon. It was a beautiful ride from Athens along the coast. And it was very cool to see one of the most complete ruins in Greece. The Greeks sure knew how to pick beautiful places to build!

Montag, März 12, 2007

Across the bay from the port town of Skala. They told us that during the tourist season up to eight cruise ships are docked in that harbor on any given day! Call me crazy, but I was glad to be there while it was quiet and relaxed.
There are four hundred churches on the island of Patmos, none of them very large. The monk we talked to at the monestary told us that the Sunday before we were there was a very important holiday for the church and that on Sunday morning as a procession passed through the streets of the island all the churches rang their bells. It must have been a glorious sound!
View out of a window near the cave.

This structure has been built over the cave. After you go through this door you have to go down many steep flights of stairs to get to the cave, which has been closed in and has a lock on it. We were in the cave during a service and decided to come back later and try to get some pictures, but of course it wasn't open due to the tourist season not having yet begun. But as we were standing at the door a man carrying a carpet came past and held up two fingers, so we decided to wait two minutes and see. Sure enough, he returned with a key and let us in and nodded that we could take pictures and smiled when we expressed in English our appreciation for his kindess. We didn't stay long, but it was nice to spend a few minutes inside.
Inside the Cave of the Apocalypse, where it is said John received the revelation. They have turned it into a chaple and when we went in Sunday morning they were holding a service and some boys were chanting and people were lighting candles. It was a very interesting experience.
We walked into the monestary because the front door was open, thinking that it was nothing uncommon. But as we followed the signs that said Museum we were stopped by two gentleman speaking Greek, which of course was Greek to us! So this gentleman asked if we spoke English and engaged us in conversation. Apparently the monestary is only open during the tourist season, a common theme on the island. But this monk was very kind and unlocked the church and gave a very detailed and personal tour of the church, giving us the history of the monestary and church.
A mosaic on the inside of the monestary.

Some of the frescoes on the outside of the church. The inside is even more vivid but of course I wasn't allowed to take pictures. They have only recently discovered these frescoes and are working to restore them. Over the years they had been covered by paint and dirt and even plaster.
View looking down into the courtyard of the monestary. The monestary was built in stages beginning with the church and working it's way out. It was originally a pagan temple from the 4th century B. C. and you can still see some of the marble in various places.
One of the doorways in the little town of Chora surrounding the monestary. Apparently in the 17th and 18th centuries this town was a favorite location for wealthy Greeks to build.
Looking up at the Monestary of St. John the Theologian from where we parked. The streets in the town surrounding the fortified monestary are very narrow and designed for foot traffic only, but occasionally you will meet a scooter coming around the corner and with the way Greek people drive it is best to jump into a doorway first and ask questions later.
The sun rushing towards the horizon reminding us that our time on Patmos was coming to a close.
A chair, kilometers from the closest house, sitting next to a very typical stone wall.
We drove out to an uninhabited part of the island. It was so beautiful, in an empty sort of way. I wonder if this is maybe what it looked like when John was here?
The dark structure at the top of the hill is the Monestary of St. John the Theologian. Originally the entire island of Patmos belonged to the monestary and the only other buildings were things used by the monks to maintain their existance. But during the Turkish occupation the monks sold off land piece by piece to pay taxes to the Turks to keep them from hurting the monestary, so now there are small communities dotting the island such as you can see in the foreground.
I had been admiring the beautiful water ever since arriving in Greece and here on Patmos I finally had a chance to take off my shoes and sink my toes into the salty sand of the sea. It was a little cool, but that didn't stop me from doing it several more times throughout the day as we visited different beaches.
Some of you may know of my passion for old, cute cars, so I couldn't help but take a picture of this MG spending a relaxing morning by the sea. He couldn't have picked a more picturesque place. Kind of makes you wonder where he sent his owner, though.
Another common critter on the island is the goat. The land is quite sparse and the hills very steep, so the easiest way to maintain it is just let a bunch of goats roam around, and roam they do. We saw a couple guard dogs lounging on the road, but that doesn't keep the goats from wandering across. I heard one of the most amazing sounds as we drove down this particular road. There were probably 200 goats of different shapes and sizes grazing between the valley and the top of the hill, and every one of them was wearing a bell. We just stopped the car and listened. The closest thing I can compare it to would be standing in the shop of a windchime maker when a very gentle breeze is blowing. It was a very cool experience and I wish I had had my recorder with me!
Creatures by far outnumber people on the island. We saw many donkeys, often with this odd attachment, but I never saw them being used to pull or ride. Not sure why they leave it on when they aren't being used.
We decided that since we had a full day on the island it might be nice to have some transportation. We had read in the guide book that there were many places to rent scooters, so that was what we were planning to do. Well, we arrived on Sunday morning about 8am, and with the exception of some people huddled around the port, it was very quiet. The entire population of Patmos is about 3,000, and I don't think we saw 10% of them the whole day. We walked up the main street and saw lots of signs advertising scooters for rent, but of course they were all closed. As we were standing in front of one of the last buildings on the street wondering what to do a man came up to us asking what we needed. We explained and he said "they are closed". Well, we already knew this, but we asked when they would open. He gave a chuckle and said, "oh, 1 or 2 months". Apparently the island operates around the tourist season. "But", he continued, "I have a car you can rent for the day, just put the keys under the mat when you are finished". So we rented a car for an amazing deal, and spent the day exploring. I wonder what he thought when he saw we put 90 Kilometers on his car?!
Disembarking on Patmos. As you can see our ship was quite large and I don't know how many trucks and cars we had on board, not to mention people. Only a few of us got off on Patmos and the rest were continuing on to Rhodes.

Freitag, März 09, 2007

The view from outside the stadium. I know I keep saying how beautiful it was at Delphi, but it really was.
As we hiked through the ruins at Delphi we found signs pointing upwards to a stadium, so we decided to see what it was. As we hiked higher and higher we passed people stopping and turning around before reaching the top. By the time we arrived there were only about 3 other people who had also made the trek. But it was worth the work when we stepped into a huge stadium. It was built in the 5th c. B.C. and it was remodeled several times during the centuries. Its present form is from the 2nd c. A.D. It could seat around 6500 spectators, and it was used for athletic events and for music festivals. Its track is about 550 feet long.

Donnerstag, März 08, 2007

Looking down on the theatre and the Temple of Apollo.
The theatre at Delphi.

The Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi.

As we arrived in Delphi I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the area! I had heard that it was a must-see, but I didn't know just how much of a must! The town was charming, and the area of the ruins seemed completely untouched by time. The views were worth all the hiking involved.
Our bus ride to Delphi was very enjoyable. The scenery changed from the flatter land near Athens to the mountains you can see in the distance. We passed many olive groves and you can see one on the left of this picture.
Night view of the Acropolis. The weather was just lovely even in the evenings. The Greeks are night people, and the town was very alive up until the early hours of the morning.
A closer shot of the Temple of Hephaistos, still in remarkable condition. It has been used for everything from a temple to a church to political headquarters and finally a museum. Sadly, they no longer let people inside it.
The Agora, the main town area, in the foreground with the Temple of Hephaistos on the hill. This temple was built between 460 and 415 BC and was in continuous use until the 1930s. It is probably the most well preserved piece from that time.
After we left the Acropolis we hiked another small hill, The Areopagus, which used to be covered by homes of the wealthy in Greece. It is said that Paul spoke to the people who lived on this hill and many were converted to Christianity.
Temple of The Erechtheion. The ladies supporting the roof on this side are casts of the originals, 5 of which are in the Acropolis Museum and we saw them, and the 6th is in the British Museum.
Looking out across part of Athens from the Acropolis. This is what it looks like 360 degrees around the Acropolis. Athens has a population of over 5 million. People everywhere! But I still found it to be a very clean and friendly city, and the public transportation system is very efficient and incredibly clean.

Mittwoch, März 07, 2007

The Parthenon atop the Acropolis. I couldn't believe how big it was.
The new finding life in the shadow of the old.
Best seats in the house in the Theatre of Dionysus. This theatre was designed to hold 17,000!
The Theatre of Herodes Atticus, set into the hill below the Acropolis. It has been partially restored and they now use it again for plays and things. It was built between 161 and 174 AD and holds about 5,000.
The sun setting across the bay from Santorini. The islands you see are uninhabited, formed completely of lava from various volcanic actions.
Hotel on Santorini. These stairs are representative of what it is like to walk around Fira. Everything is either up or down. The island is a volcanic island which has had several serious eruptions over the years, so there has been a lot of building and rebuilding. You can also see things that have been built out of the volcanic rock that has formed from the lava.
Church on Santorini. We heard the bells ring while we were walking past.
Fira, the capital city of Santorini, and a very pretty city at that. Perched on a hill overlooking the sea, the streets are designedfor foot travel only. I have never been in a place so geared towards the tourism trade. More signs were in English than in Greek, I had to keep reminding myself that I actually was in Greece. A lot of the hotels and shops were closed until the tourist season. But I actually enjoyed being able to experience the local charm without the place being full of foreigners. The architecture and the views were simply breathtaking.
Finally setting eyes on Santorini, our island destination. The sky was beginning to look stormy and I was worried we might not get to spend as much time outside, but it turned out to be pretty nice, although very windy.

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