Monthly Recap: Month 4

Wow! Month 4! The month was characterized by slower travels and more connections! We are also so pleased to announce that we have become first-time uncle and aunt this month. Congrats to Eric’s sister Suzanne on the birth of her beautiful baby girl, Sofia.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 3 (Montenegro, Albania, and Greece)

Beds Slept In: 12

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 7 (Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra, Butrint, Meteora, Archaeological Site of Delphi, Archaeological Site of OlympiaArchaeological Site of Mystras, Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns) Total on RTW: 30

We traveled by 0 planes this month!

We traveled by 0 trains this month!

We traveled by 20 long distance buses.

Top Moments:

~ Our first top moment came at the very beginning of the month! We had been looking forward to our visit to Kotor for a long time. We really enjoyed slowing down in Kotor at the end of last month and the beginning of this month. One of the best days we had there was when we climbed the fortress walls. It was an absolutely gorgeous day weather-wise. We waited until the late afternoon to miss the cruise ship crowds. We climbed up the mountain, enjoying amazing views, and even a sunset on the way down. It was lovely!

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~ Our second moment came in Berat, Albania. We knew almost nothing about Albania when we arrived (though learned a lot while we were there) so we didn’t know what to expect. We had heard that it was not really on the tourist track in Europe. We were so impressed with Berat! Our top moment came when we decided to take a tour of the city offered by the worker at our hostel. He was a native of Berat, and knew a ton about his city and the history of Albania. The tour was particularly personalized because there were only 4 of us. The other couple was an amazing pair of bikers from Belgium. The tour started at 10 am and after seeing the beautiful city of Berat, we sat down for Turkish coffee (tea for us) and then dinner with both our guide and the Belgian couple. It was a fantastic way to spend the day, full of everything we love about traveling – new friends from around the world and learning a lot about cultures we didn’t know much about!

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~ We mentioned above that this was a month where we made some really great connections. The first was our Belgian friends in Berat, the next was a couple of Americans from Washington state (and Idaho). There is almost nothing better than seeing another pair of travelers trying to make the same long travel day as you are. It helps with confidence, knowing that someone else is attempting the same trip, as well as company! It is even better when you find out that you have a lot in common and really enjoy chatting with each other. Our top moment was when we were able to visit the ancient site of Delphi with our new friends. Wow, we have to say, it is a wonderful experience to find another couple who enjoy reading Rick Steves (and other informational signs) as much as we do, and who enjoy talking popular culture, TV, and books (even the Wheel of Time series!!!) in the breaks. What luck! We had a great time!

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Runners up for Top Moments:

~ We already mentioned in this recap that we really enjoyed our time in Albania. Another example of this was our time at the archaeological site of Butrint. This was a wonderful place with a lot of history, but the best part was that we got to experience it practically on our own! We didn’t see any other tourists almost the whole day! What was even funnier was that when we got back to our hostel in Saranda, we found out that 4 other people from there had done it as well, separately, but it was big and empty enough that we didn’t even see each other. This is not to say we don’t enjoy company, but there is something special about experiencing an ancient city (and tourist attraction) without having to dodge the crowds.

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~ Our second runner up was in Meteora, Greece. We were pretty excited to finally reach Greece, which we had been looking forward to for a very long time. Della has dreamed of visiting Greece for as long as she can remember. Meteora did not disappoint. We walked among the monasteries taking in the unique, impressive scenery and imaging what it must be like to make your home on the top of vertical pillar, high above the world. It was especially good when we were able to escape from the tourist bus crowds.

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~ We had a wonderful time with our new friends in Delphi, Greece. One of the activities that we did with them was to take a walk from Delphi, down the mountain, through the olive groves, and to the coast. It is actually the reverse of what many pilgrims did in ancient times on their way up to hear their fortune from the Oracle. We had a magnificent day, with perfect weather. The scenery was shockingly beautiful and our company was grand. It was hard to beat!

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~ As some of you may already know, we celebrated 10 years of being together as a couple this last month. We couldn’t have picked a better locale. Delphi, Greece was absolutely beautiful. It is hard to imagine a better way to remember 10 great years with a person you love while overlooking one of the most fantastic sunsets you’ve ever seen!

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Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added:

Discarded/Broken:

1. Simple Wine Opener

Added:

1. New toothpaste

2. More Complex Wine Opener

3. Butter knives

Packing Update:

We got to use our summer gear a bit this month which made us happy! We also have used our winter and rain gear, so we are glad we have it all. Della hasn’t used her dress since Budapest so is wondering if it is necessary. Eric is happy with all of his contents.

Books Read: (Have you read any of these??)

Della has read Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Eric has read The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters, Black Ice by Lorene Cary, Making Money by Terry Pratchett, Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler.

Eric and Della have BOTH read The Greek Treasure by Irving Stone and Hope of Earth by Piers Anthony.

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3

Connections: Rick Steves, Wheel of Time, and Wine!

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

We were leaving Meteora, a little unsure what the day would hold. We were hoping to make it all the way to Delphi, not very far by distance, but at least 4 bus rides… we were told. We hadn’t even made a hotel reservation because we were slightly unsure that we would even make it all in one day. The first bus left at 8 AM, which is quite early for us. We were sitting at the bus stop, still trying to wake up, while waiting for the bus when we saw a welcome sight. Two more backpackers, heading our direction! As soon as they sat down, they said hello and we quickly found out that we were both planning this long confusing day of travel.

We found out over the course of our loong travel day that they were a couple also from the USA, who we really enjoyed chatting with. When we arrived in Delphi they graciously shared where they were staying. It had been on our list from when we were looking so we were pleased when we also were able to stay there.

The next day, we all left the hotel together and headed off towards the ancient site of the Oracle of Delphi. Here we were even more impressed with our new travel companions. Not only did they really know a lot about ancient Greece (we learned a lot!) but they were equally interested in hearing from our Rick Steves’ guidebook and even reading informational signs. Let me say that again: they wanted to hear from the guidebook AND take the time to read the signs. We were thrilled! There just aren’t that many people out there who can go as slow through museums and sites as we can (and wish to). We enjoyed a lovely day with them. It was so much fun we decided to hang out again the next day.

This time we decided to take a day long walk down from the mountain all the way to the coast. It was a long, lovely walk and we found that enjoyed them even more! They were into all the same TV shows and book series that we were. I mean, let’s be honest, there are not that many people out there who are super excited about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (OK, there probably are… we just haven’t met them!) Another great day.

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We all decided that we were having so much fun in Delphi that we wanted to stay another night. So, we had another fun evening of drinking wine in our hotel.

There was a little wine involved...

There was a little wine involved…

From there, we were all heading to Athens so we took another long journey together. We were fortunate to be able to meet one more time for dinner in amazing Athens, eating dinner practically in the shadow of the Acropolis. Another great connection with some amazing people! We were sorry to have to say goodbye!

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Our last dinner in Athens

Connections: Belgian Bikers!

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

We really enjoyed our time in Berat, Albania. We were able to meet and enjoy a lot of people from around the world. Not only did we meet an amazing Albanian tour guide/hostel worker, but we met another amazing traveling couple. This Belgian couple is traveling from Europe to Asia on bikes! Yes, that is correct, they are biking across the world! Amazing, right? Let’s just say that our trip felt positively cushy when thinking about theirs.

We met them during our tour of Berat and found we had a lot of similarities relating to our trip, age, and interests. We particularly enjoyed chatting about teaching (he works at a university to train teachers) and the differences between Belgium and the U.S. especially related to voting, politics, and other governmental systems.

One of the really fun things about meeting people on the road is being able to share experiences like this. We spent a wonderful day and fun evening with them in Albania. One of the really sad things about meeting people on the road is having to say goodbye knowing that it is unlikely that you will meet again. One of the slightly unusual things about this connection was that we didn’t have to say that goodbye right away. We knew that we were traveling the same directions, from Berat to Gjirokaster, and then on to Greece. They would be leaving ahead of us, though arriving behind us (they’re on bikes remember??) but we discovered we would be in Gjirokaster at the same time. We exchanged contact info and planned to meet up again. Unfortunately, our plans in Gjirokaster fell through. What a bummer! However, that made it all that much more fun when we realized a few days down the road that we would be in Meteora, Greece at the same time! We enjoyed another excellent evening with this excellent couple!

Now, it is hard to expect more than that, so we were especially thrilled when we saw the same couple (ever so) briefly in Delphi, Greece as well. After all of that, I hope we do manage to meet again some day!

Unfortunately, we failed and this was the only picture of us... Boo!

Unfortunately, we failed and this was the only picture of us… Boo!

Connections: Beer Recommendations turns into Business Class!

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

On our last evening in Prague, we decided to try the brewery near the Strahov Monestary. We hiked up the hill, which of course has some amazing views over the city.

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We sat down at the brewery and enjoyed a few of the beers. When we were almost done, a group of Americans sat down next to us. They asked us for some advice on which beers to try, which of course we answered. As we continued to chat, we found out that they were a group of flight attendants… who were working a flight to New York the following day… in the morning… It was the same flight as Donna and Steve were flying on! The flight attendants thought this was just as great a coincidence as we did and insisted on getting their names and a photo!

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We weren’t too surprised to hear that Donna and Steve met their friends again on the following day during their flight, AND got upgraded to business class for their trip home. Talk about a great connection! =)

Connections: New Friends at the Amber Tree

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

We truly enjoyed the Amber Tree Lodge in Cape Town. It had great common areas and a good group of travelers. We met many wonderful people from all over the world. We especially enjoyed chatting with people late into the evening: a new friend from Argentina, practicing his English, another from Chicago, a fellow teacher (so great to get in some good teacher talk), and more from the UK, dentists in training. Wine was consumed and a great time was had by all!

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Connections: Joining a South African Family in Zimbabwe

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

On our tour to Victoria Falls, we had known that we would be joining a group of 14 people. What we didn’t know was that they would be one large group and extended friend and family group from South Africa. We felt a bit like we were intruding on their private tour. But as the day continued, they made sure to take us in and keep us safe! It was such fun to chat with them (2 of them were teachers!) and learn from them.

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Connections: Friends over a Campfire

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

Our first night in Third Bridge Camp in Moremi Game Reserve on our self-drive safari, we were told that we had to share a campsite. We were frustrated because we had pre-booked the camp and no one had mentioned that it was a shared camp. We were also tired and stressed from our drives through deep sandy roads. But, in the end, we were so happy we shared a camp that night.

Our neighbors were three men: a grandfather from South Africa, his grandson from Namibia, and a family friend from England. They were very generous group who we were glad to get a chance to meet.

They shared their campfire with us when our bad wood just wasn’t working. Also, they were very knowledgeable about self-drive safaris as they were on a 6 week trip themselves. And they had done many of these in the past. We learned a lot about the routes we would take, driving in our truck, and game from them. It was a great connection that we were fortunate to have made!

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