Museums, Music and Mea Culpa

I might as well start with a Mea Culpa. Even with the best advice, from three friends, we managed not to be organised enough to go to the Reichstag, the German Parliament building and see the amazing glass dome. The best advice is to do a detailed registration early perhaps online, have breakfast or coffee at the Kafer, the rooftop restaurant and beat the crowds. Visit the official website for information:  The Reichstag books out early, plan ahead.

One other mea culpa was not leaving at least one day for Potsdam. As it turned out, our last day in Berlin, James wasn’t well and so we stayed close to the hotel. Four days for Berlin is not enough. Potsdam is a worthy place to visit by all accounts.

Berlin is a city of museums, galleries, history, music and culture. Museum Island was incredible with several museums of sterling quality on the northern half of this small island.

The Ishtar Gate

My favourite was definitely the Pergamon Museum, with the Pergamon Altar, the  Hittite carvings and the Ishtar Gate. As a young student, we read about Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the king had his 8th magnificent Gate made out of glazed brick. Saying I was overwhelmed seems fairly prosaic but this gate is beautiful and beyond what I had imagined. What do you think? Now I try to imagine what the Hanging Gardens looked like.

Eastside Gallery, Berlin

Near the centre of Berlin, we visited the Eastside Gallery, over a kilometre of the Wall is here and much of it is covered in graffiti and essentially it is a monument to freedom. It wasn’t just a wall but several parallel walls, with glass and barbed wire to keep people in. Visiting the East Side Gallery did let me feel like I was in East Berlin.

Violinist at the Konzerthaus

After visiting several museums and going out to CheckPoint Charlie and the Eastside Gallery, we decided to go to the Konzerthaus and have a look. There was a tremendous outdoor cafe and buskers performing wonderful music. This was my favourite with his violin, his music immersed us into this scene of Berlin life.



Campania and the Amalfi Coast

Fifteen years ago, James and I stayed in Positano; we thought it was magical. However, trying to find rooms for eleven of us, the best value seemed to be in Minori or Maiori. We all found Minori to be less touristy and very friendly. Minori was more like the Amalfi and Positano we visited fifteen years ago. If I was going five-star, I would prefer Ravello but given our budget Minori was perfect.

Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast

Ravello is just an hour’s walk up the hill, but quite a steep lung buster according to Miriam, Ed and Frank. It is incredibly scenic as James, Barbara and I can attest to, as we walked down to Minori after a scrumptious lunch at Enotavola Wine Bar at Palazzo Della Marra in Ravello. Matt and Joseph ran up and ran down; steepness was no barrier for the incredibly fit twins.

View from the Villa Rudolfo
View from the Villa Rudolfo

Ravello was the site of several weddings and we saw bridal fashion from demure to haute couture. The heels were six inches high but the outfits were amazing.

Natalie Chapman, is this wedding wear?
Natalie Chapman, is this wedding wear?

The music festival had not quite started but the stage was set up at the Villa Rudolfo and there were several members of the Ravello Vista Social Club playing wonderful songs and singing. There was an amazing Sonica  gallery of photos of musicians by a musician, Guido Harari at Villa Rudolfo too. Villa Cimbrone was the site of lush gardens and pleasant walks.

Ravello muscian and singers
Ravello muscian and singers

There is plenty to do in Campania, a guided tour of Pompeii was educational and fast paced.  We could see Vesuvius in the background and we were happy to note there was no smoke or activity.

Side trip to Pompeii
Side trip to Pompeii
Walking down to Minori
View from Ravello

Everyday we fall a bit more in love with Campania.

Spinalonga, Crete

Dear Feral Swans,

Remember when we read Victoria Hislop’s ‘The Island’?  That haunting story full of love, life and death had us spell bound.  Spinalonga offers all those feelings and more, but the story starts for us at Agia Nikolas, where we thought we would sail to Spinalonga and anchor there over night.  Before we could depart, the wind started gusting fiercely.  We went to plan B and left Mercier in the marina and took a day tripper boat over to visit the Venetian Fortress and former leper colony of Spinalonga.

Venetian Fortress of Spinalonga
Venetian Fortress of Spinalonga

While the Ostria left the harbour, James second guessed himself and thought perhaps we should be sailing but then we turned the corner and saw what force 7 wind looks like. Just hazard a guess, much better from a large tripper boat than our small yacht.

As you approach Spinalonga, you can see that the Venetians were here circa 16th Century and built a fortress, which managed to keep the Ottoman Empire at bay for over 70 years after Crete had been under Ottoman rule.  Finally the Venetians left and Turkish families found the island a safe haven.

Dantes Gate
Dantes Gate

When Crete regained autonomy in 1898, they asked the Turkish families to leave and after several discussions, in 1903 the Cretan strategy seemed to be, Spinalonga will become a Leper colony. The Turkish families departed.

According to the guide, the Cretan lepers initially lived in caves on the island and then moved into the Turkish homes. As people across the economic spectrum came down with leprosy, so it was not long before one could find several tavernas, a hairdresser, teachers, doctors and priests on the island.

The Walk, this was the area of shops, tavernas and markets.
The Walk, this was the area of shops, tavernas and markets.

They began their own gardens and food production and while they were bereft at leaving their families, Spinalonga became a refuge against the ignorance and hate people had experienced in their former homes. It was interesting to note that the Germans invaded Crete, but they never broached Spinalonga.

The rocky island is harshly beautiful and with all the wind, it seemed spooky at times because the old curtains were blowing in the breeze. You could almost hear a tinkle of a leper’s bell, but the 1948 cure meant that Spinalonga was vacated in 1958.

The curtain blowing out the window added to the haunted feeling.
The curtain blowing out the window added to the haunted feeling.

Our journey so far:

Merhaba Turkey

Merhaba, now you know how to say hello in Turkish.

We have been made most welcome in Turkey in one of the finest marinas we have seen on our journey.  It is tight quarters, so they assist you in and out, with men on the dock and nudges from the man in the rib (Zodiac).  The showers would have Geoff and Deb purring, with big rain shower heads and beautiful fixtures but also with air conditioning. Hair dryers in air conditioned comfort. Being sent to the showers in Bodrum Marina, is more like a reward than reprimanded. It is heaven, mainly because it is so hot.

Turkey isn’t so different from Greece, until the evening call to prayers, which reminds you that you are indeed aren’t in a resort but in a different country with different norms. I have a few dresses and they will be getting more wear because I will need them to visit mosques and actually they are cooler.

Our first afternoon was busy with clearing customs, James went to the marinas’ Customs agent and they looked after everything, including delivering us to Customs hall across the bay via the same rib.

Boats anchored outside Bodrum Bay

We also met the owners of a Sydney 48′ Oceanis called Gumnuts, Shiree and Martin hail from Leura and have the big sister to Mercier, it seemed twice as wide as ours. Nice to say hello and hear about their plans for travel in Turkey, discuss blue cards and transit logs.

The next morning we went across the bay to the castle and high on the ramparts you can see how beautiful Bodrum is with white houses reaching down the slopes of the hill and amphitheaters on the hillside.

Amphora taken from shopwrecks for oil. wine and other storage.
Amphora taken from shipwrecks for oil. wine and other storage.

The Castle of St John is another Crusader fortress and it is so interesting to see the dated heralds on the wall. There is a garden inside the wall and a chapel turned mosque that is now a museum. Another tower houses the Underwater Archaeological Museum which is fascinating.

 Bodrum Bay from the bastion.
Bodrum Bay from the bastion.

Lamb is the national dish, so James is happy and we are looking forward to visiting fruit and vegetable markets.I confess that I was thrilled to see a Starbucks, mainly for the icy Frappuccinos, as I haven’t found gelato here yet.  I spent a few years here in Izmir, Turkey as a kid and a bit of my Turkish came back , I could remember the numbers but didn’t recognise one name of the days. No one has snickered but I do wonder if I can trust my memory.

James and Gaila - Bodrum
James and Gaila – Bodrum

We are so excited to begin the Turkish adventure and also thinking about the friends that will be visiting soon.  Rene and Richard your room is ready.

We now have an idea about anchoring for the next few days and not sure if we will have internet coverage or not. So we will say happy birthday to Ben Samara and Lorraine Samara, hope you have wonderful birthdays and are thoroughly spoiled. We were glad to hear that Geoff and Deb made it home safely. Hope to hear very soon that Clare is 100%

Athens Back Streets

Athens is vibrant bordering on frenetic. There are so many people wandering the streets, but if you stay away from Cruise ship tours, travel the intricate back streets, you will enjoy it.

Anafiotika is near the north side of Acropolis hill and looks like it was pinched from the Cycladic island of Anafi and perched there on a steep site. There were workers who came to Athens in the early 19th century, they became homesick, so built there minute houses to remind them of Anafi.

Anafiotikan church
Anafiotikan church
Anafiotika – see the Acropolis at the top

You often see small children and grandparents on the Happy Train, as we were walking out of Anafiotika, you can see that a badly parked car meant the happy train couldn’t turn the corner. We came upon them pulling the happy train apart car by car and taking each car around the corner. Does the happy train blow its whistle and helpers come running?

Athens Happy Train
Athens’ Happy Train had to be pulled apart and manhandled to get around this corner

We wandered past the Tower of the Winds, which was a water clock on the inside and a sun dial on the outside. It has carvings of the eight winds on each of its eight sides.

Hellenistic Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora
Hellenistic Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora

We visited the wonderful National Archaeological Museum with Leanne and Cam, but on Sunday we visited the Acropolis Archaeological museum. This captivating museum is just five years old and definitely a must see. The architecture is light and open with use made of the subterranean spaces. You walk over glass and view three stories of excavations or a minuscule fragment of tea cups or amphora.

Wikipedia says: The design by Bernard Tschumi was selected as the winning project in the fourth competition. Tschumi’s design revolves around three concepts: light, movement, and a tectonic and programmatic element. Together these characteristics “turn the constraints of the site into an architectural opportunity, offering a simple and precise museum” with the mathematical and conceptual clarity of ancient Greekbuildings.

James at the Acropolis Archaeological Museum
James at the Acropolis Archaeological Museum

Happy Happy Birthday, darling Rene. Hope you are spoiled all happy day long.


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