Flashback Friday: European Sunsets

Flashback Friday is a picture series where we “flashback” to some of our memories – from either from our prior travel or from home. We hope you’ll enjoy some of our remembrances! 

We’ve been experiencing some nice sunsets here in Asia, so naturally, we remembered some of our other nice sunsets from the road. During our self-drive safari in Africa, we saw some amazing sunsets almost every night. We shared some of those in a flashback Friday post. We were in Africa for only 6 weeks and came up with 11 photos we just needed to share. We were in Europe for much longer and saw much fewer nice sunsets. However, there were 14 pictures we wanted to show you. Enjoy some awesome sunsets!

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“The greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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A closer shot of the “greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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Sunset over the Adriatic from the walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Sunset over a mosque in Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina

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Berat, Albania

Pretty sunset

Tirana, Albania

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Delphi, Greece

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Nafplio, Greece

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Fethiye, Turkey

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This one was so good, we had to show you two! Fethiye, Turkey

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Selcuk, Turkey

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Kas, Turkey

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Pamukkale, Turkey

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Antalya, Turkey

Monthly Recap: Month 5

Month 5 has been our slowest moving month yet, with only 2 countries visited. We finished up with Greece and headed into Turkey, saw friends and family from home, and made some big decisions about our future travel plans.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 2 (Greece and Turkey)

Beds Slept In: 11

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 4 (Sanctuary of Asklepios at EpidaurusAcropolis AthensHistoric Areas of IstanbulHierapolis-Pamukkale) Total on RTW: 34

We traveled by 2 planes this month!

We traveled by 0 trains this month!

We traveled by 7 long distance buses.

We traveled by 3 boats.

We traveled by 1 rental car which took us Izmir to Fethiye.

Top Moments:

~ Our first top moment came at Tlos, an ancient Lycian ruin near Fethiye, Turkey. We had been struggling with generally gloomy weather and experienced a crazy rainstorm just the day before, but the day we visited Tlos was grand. It is low season in Turkey and we were the only people at the entire site. It was a neat hilltop fortress and town that had been inhabited from the 2nd century B.C. by the ancient Lycians, through the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottoman Empire up until the 19th century. The ruins are expansive, well preserved, and nestled in a gorgeous mountain paradise. This was made even sweeter as Della’s entire family (sister and parents) were there to share it with us!

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Enjoying the view from the fortress citadel of Tlos

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Lycian rock tombs, Roman walls, and an Ottoman citadel, set on an amazing backdrop – Tlos

 

~ Our second top moment was in Athens. There is something magical about entering the amazing ancient Acropolis through the impressive Propylea, and seeing the Parthenon standing before you in all its (scaffold-ed) glory. We had been spying on the acropolis from different areas of Athens for a week but had stayed away, waiting for Della’s family to join us, so entering it (finally) was pretty awe-inspiring! It is definitely on the beaten path, and it really is disappointing that the Parthenon is so covered with scaffolding (Della’s parents said it had been when they visited 35 years ago as well), but despite that, it was pretty great to see!

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Entering through the Propylea

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Our first glimpse of the famous Parthenon

 

~ We also really enjoyed seeing the glorious Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It was our first full day in Istanbul, and the family headed straight to the famous church/mosque/museum. It was such an impressive building that was exquisitely decorated on the inside. It also felt massive, definitely awe-inspiring. It was the type of place where you come back with a huge crick in your neck from having spent hours allowing your eyes to explore the giant domes and impressive ceiling artwork.

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IMG_3125 Inside the Hagia Sophia

 

~ We were so fortunate to have another visit from family! This time Della’s sister joined us and brought their parents along for the ride. It was really special for Della to get to celebrate her 31st birthday in Fethiye, Turkey surrounded by family. What a treat!

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The whole family together!

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One of Della’s bday presents- Peanut Butter!

 

Runners up for Top Moments:

~ We spent several days in Nafplio, Greece before heading back to Athens to meet up with Della’s family. We enjoyed all of our time there, visiting nearby sites such as Mycenae and Epidavros. We also did NOT enjoy being left stranded by the Greek bus system KTEL on two different occasions. But, really, one of our favorite things about Nafplio was climbing the Palamidi Fortress. We got a late start on the climb and ended up having to book it up at top speed because it was closing quite soon. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend as much time IN the fortress as we had hoped. However, even after we were kicked out of the fortress, we were still on the top of this mountain, overlooking the beautiful town of Nafplio, with fortress walls surrounding us, witnessing a gorgeous sunset. We sat and relaxed, read our books, and watched the colors change, feeling on top of the world!

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Feeling on top of the world!

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Beautiful Nafplio

 

~ We both read a book last month called The Greek Treasure which was the story of Sophia Schliemann, a Greek girl married to the famous archaeologist Henry Schliemann, who discovered the ruins of ancient Troy. We actually only semi-enjoyed the book, but it did get our imagination running and give us a good background for some of the archaeological sites we would shortly be visiting. The book described how Henry and Sophia Schliemann built an amazing mansion in Athens where they lived and displayed the gold treasure that they found in Troy. The building was an homage to Homer’s stories and everything related to ancient Greece. We were super excited to discover that their mansion has been preserved as a museum. It has a small exhibition about them and their lives and discoveries, but is really dedicated to Numismatics. We visited! We loved seeing the place in our novel brought to life… and learned a whole lot about ancient coins!

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Exhibit sign about Henry and Sophia Schliemann with us reflected

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The mansion, dedicated to everything related to Ancient Greece. Those are quotes from Homer on the walls

 

~ We had a great experience this month when we semi-randomly ran into a friend from back home in Selcuk, Turkey! It was so much fun to stay at the same location and catch up with her! One evening, the entire group headed up to a small “Greek” town called Sirince in the mountains above Selcuk. The town is know for its sweet berry wines. As we explored the semi-dead town that evening, we ran into a local sitting on a bench drinking a bottle of wine. After striking up a conversation, he brought us back to a wine tasting bar where we enjoyed yummy wine and the great company of family and another familiar face from home!

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Chatting with our new friend

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Family and friends together drinking wine!

 

Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added:

Discarded/Broken:

1. Swiss Army Knife (we’re not entirely sure where we lost this knife…)

Added:

1. New sandals for Della (a birthday present)

2. New pair of smartwool socks for Eric, brought from the US by Della’s family

Packing Update:

Eric was excited to receive a new protective bag for his backpack. Della’s parents brought this bag from home so that Eric could use it to wrap his backpack in while flying. It helps keep all the straps safe! We have continued to use our cold weather gear so are so pleased we brought it all. We still have not used much of our warm weather gear and are tempted to strip it out of the bags… Though we think we will need it in Asia.

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

Della has read Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler, The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire  by Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (OK, so these last three are rereads of stuff she has already read, but she was getting ready for the new Mockingjay movie AND Kindle Unlimited is good…), and City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare.

Eric has read The Bookseller of Kabul by Asme Seierstad, Snuff by Terry Pratchett, White Death by Clive Cussler, Animal Farm by George Orwell, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, and I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

Eric and Della have BOTH read nothing this month.

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3, Monthly Recap 4

Nafplio, Greece

Our final stop in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece was the town of Nafplio. We chose to visit here because it made a good base to visit Mycenae and Epidavros and because it is a pretty interesting and historic town in its own right.

Where We Stayed

Since we were staying for five nights, we wanted to stay someplace that would allow us to cook a few meals on our own. So, even though it was a little more expensive than we are used to staying, we booked a nice studio apartment through Airbnb. It was nice and spacious and was located not too far from the Old Town.

Taking advantage of having our own kitchen!

Taking advantage of having our own kitchen!

What We Did

Day Trip to Mycenae

Day Trip to Epidavros

Walking Tour of Old Town – As we said, Nafplio has quite a bit of interesting history. Our first day in town, we spent a few hours following the Rick Steves self-guided walking tour. This started out near the harbor, where we could admire the small fortress outside the harbor and also the large Palamidi Fortress looming above the town, both built by the Venetians during their occupation of the town.

The tour took us through the main square, called Syntagma Square. This square is interesting for the variety of different influences you can see as reflected in the buildings: the old Venetian arsenal,a bank that is decorated like a Minoan palace, Neoclassical buildings from Nafplio’s heyday as the first capital of Greece after independence from the Ottoman Empire, and former mosques from the Ottoman period itself.

The walk continued on through the pedestrian-only streets of the Old Town. We felt a bit like we were back in Croatia, since that was the last time that we had been in cities with that feature. But, we could definitely tell we were in Greece, since we passed a few different Greek Orthodox churches. The most interesting church that was passed was noteworthy because the first president of Greece (after its independence in 1828) was assassinated outside of it in 1831.

Climb Up Palamidi Fortress – We took an afternoon to visit the largest of Nafplio’s Venetian fortresses, which doesn’t have much in it but provides excellent views of the surrounding area. You can take a taxi up to the fortress at the top of the hill, but we decided to climb the steps. We didn’t start heading up until 2:00… and were disheartened when we saw a sign at the base that the fortress was closing at 3:00! We raced up the stairs and made it at about 2:30. The good news was that admission was free since it was the first Sunday of the month. We just had time to explore one of the seven bastions, but were quite impressed with the structure. (We think they should film Game of Thrones here!) We were kicked out at 3:00, but we found a piece of the walls that was outside the gates to sit on, and read our books while looking down over the Old Town.

Coastal Walk – Another simple activity we chose to do was to walk along the coast. This was broken up into two sections: first we left from Old Town and walked along the western edge of the peninsula to the pebbly Arvanitia Beach. From this beach, we then took a gravel path another few kilometers, going further southeast along the coast. We headed back into town as the sun set.

Where We Ate

We enjoyed cooking in our Airbnb so much that we ended up just cooking for ourselves every night! We made some interesting pasta and rice dishes. We also enjoyed appetizers of tzatziki and pita bread on multiple nights.

 

Enjoying a nice meal in our apartment

Enjoying a nice meal in our apartment

Mycenae, Greece

Our final stop in our tour of the Peloponnese was the city of Nafplio. We spent multiple days here, so we’re going to break up our activities into multiple posts. The first activity we did was a day trip to the archaeological site of Mycenae. This site contains the palace and tombs of this culture that pre-dates what we normally think of being the “ancient Greeks” by more that 1000 years!

Getting There

Conveniently, KTEL runs a bus from Nafplio to the entrance to the archaeological site. Since we tend to spend quite a bit of time at sites, we caught the 10:00 bus to give ourselves plenty of time. The bus was on time and got us to the site by about 11:00. So far, no KTEL drama.

The Citadel

The citadel of Mycenae

The citadel of Mycenae

The highlight of the archaeological site is the palace of Mycenae built on top of a hill with views looking out over the valley. To enter the site, you go through the famous “Lion Gate,” named for the decoration above the entrance. This was also our first chance to get a close view at the massive blocks that made up the “Cyclopean” walls that surround the structure.

The Lion Gate

The Lion Gate

Lion Gate Jelfie

Lion Gate Jelfie

Inside the gate, we found “Grave Circle A.” We were excited to see this because we had read about its excavation by Henry Schliemann in the book Greek Treasure. He believed that Mycenae was the home of the civilization that sacked the city of Troy during the Trojan War (using the Trojan Horse), and that this grave must have been the grave of King Agamemnon, the leader of the Myceneans described in Homer’s Iliad. Currently, the evidence seems to disagree with this being Agamemnon’s grave, but it does seem to indicate that this site is the home of a civilization that defeated Troy.

Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A

At the top of the acropolis, there aren’t many structures left, but we were able to see the outlines of the ancient palace, built in the structure of a traditional megaron. We were a little disappointed that we could only see this from a distance.

At the east end of the site, we saw an entrance that led to an underground well. We like caves, so we decided to explore. We did have a flashlight along, which came in handy as we descended the 77 steps down into pitch black darkness. It was actually Halloween, so we were a little nervous that we would encounter some scary creatures. But, we aren’t in a horror novel and we made it out safe and sound!

Sure, let's check this out. What could possibly go wrong?

Sure, let’s check this out. What could possibly go wrong?

Boo!

Boo!

Back on the surface, we walked through the ruins of a few more residential buildings and then headed out the North Gate.

The North Gate

The North Gate

The Museum

Like all of the other sites in Greece, Mycenae has an archaelogical museum at the site. The Myceneans didn’t leave behind any amazing sculptural relics like the ancient Greeks, so the museum was a little light on content. But, it did provide a nice glimpse into the culture of these people that pre-dated the ancient Greeks.

One of the figurines found in Mycenae

One of the figurines found in Mycenae

The Graves

Outside of the main walls, archaeologists have uncovered a number of large tombs, called tholos tombs. These tombs are also called beehive tombs based on their structure: they are built with large, domed interiors. Some of them have lost their tombs, but two of them are still intact, including the largest, which is called the Treasury of Atreus. The entrances to these tombs are also built using the giant boulders, so it is fascinating to imagine how they managed to put it all together. We were also very intrigued by the acoustics inside of the beehives themselves.

Getting Away

The KTEL timetable clearly stated that there was a bus at 1:00 and 3:00 leaving from the site. Since, as we mentioned, we like to take our time, we didn’t rush and aimed for the 3:00 bus. We were a little worried because a taxi driver at the entrance had implied that the 1:00 bus was the last bus, but the bus driver that dropped us off said there would be a 3:00 bus.

We were in position by about 2:30, and waited… and waited… Till about 4:00… There were a few other people waiting as well, and everyone was pretty frustrated. One group pitched in to get a cab, but there wasn’t room for us. We were stuck there with one other traveler, who turned out to be a fellow American. Luckily, he had a local friend who graciously offered to pick us up and take us back to Nafplio. We aren’t sure what we would have done if she hadn’t agreed to take us as well!

 

These cats were able to catch a bus at the site faster than we were,

These cats were able to catch a bus at the site faster than we were,