Saturday, June 22, 2013
All that is left of the grand ancient structure is a a few columns in the middle of a raised pedestal. Once, a massive statue of Zeus stood amidst the pillars.
Now, the ruins are situated between a bunch of hotels, and it feels like a spectacle of something forgotten and lost - a courtyard of a bruised memory translated by archaeologists and left for the tourists to fawn over. This is where the west began it says, like a warning or a prelude to a forgotten wish.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Meteora in northern Greece is a land of escape. The orthodox priests stole away to its strange natural rock towers, fleeing the Ottomans and building strange monasteries in the process that look every bit an affront to gravity. There, they were safe.
The towers are still used today. We visited this strange place, weaving up from Athens in a miniature Citroen, stopping to smell the sweet olive air along the way. Escaping.
I hope you enjoy these pictures of odd Meteora as much as I enjoyed taking them.
As the sun began to drop in the sky, we took some old country roads back from Meteora to Kalabaka for dinner. On our way we encountered a street completely filled with goats. It was magical. They all shouted and clonked and stopped to eat trees. Then a small man on a motorbike came and yelled at them and they all ran into a field. Oh goats.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Meteora is a region filled with monasteries and nunneries, built precariously on dramatic rock formations to deter the Ottoman invaders of years passed. In the largest monastery in the region, Grand Meteora, there was this room filled with skulls. It felt very eerie and like something was not quite right in there.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Santorini on a map looks like a dragon embryo, and Oia is the village at the head. It is photographer heaven. I have never been somewhere so small that packs so much punch. It is overwhelming at times, and I had to be mindful of my obsession so that I could actually stop to enjoy its beauty. There are no bad angles or dull walks, only beauty.
If you visit Santorini, then be sure to stay in Oia. Its splendor is best savored over several days of careful inspection and and exploration. Like a movie that needs to be seen again and again with new points seen each time, Oia has a sort of charm that seems infinite.
And here is a big Oia photo dump. I have to move on to our next stop - Meteora.
Before arriving in Santorini, I felt like I had already been. With all of the famous pictures out there, it is easy to conceive what it looks like. Or so it seems. While I did see a lot of familiar faces, like this blue domed church, the sheer impossibility of Santorini is something that must bee seen to be completely appreciated.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
On a clear Santorini night, the stars light up the sky. Kristin and I checked into our room, left, and came back around 10:30pm to find that our cave house was sweltering and our AC did not work. It is not a traditional hotel, so we had no idea what to do, other than sleep in a warm cave and deal with it in the morning.
This was all before two things happened - we got lucky and then we met Rado.
The Bohinj basin is a magical area of Slovenia with old alpine houses, a very clear lake, absolutely perfect hiking. There are many legends associated with Bohinj. The Ottomans thought is was the end of the world. There is another legend that the devil built a bridge here in exchange for the soul of the first to cross it. The locals sent a dog across, enraging the devil.
My favorite, and probably the most fitting explanation for Bohinj is this:
"God was giving land to people and, as he finished, he realized that he had forgotten about a small group of people, who were silent and did not insist like the others. Because of their modesty and patience, he felt pity for them. That is why he decided to give them the most beautiful land of all, which he had set aside for himself. It is called Bohinj."
Sunday, June 16, 2013
I believe Slovenia is the prettiest country in Europe, as far as natural beauty is concerned. This year, Kristin and I have driven in 15 European countries and on some of the most picturesque roads in the world. Slovenia takes the cake. Check out these pictures of us traveling by car through alpine Slovenia.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
In Slovenia, we (Kristin, Grandma, Grandpa, ,me) all stayed at a spot just outside of Bled called Reka Hisa. It is a guesthouse ran perfectly by a London couple named Clive and Myrn. Clive is an ex-fashion executive who always had a dream of running a guesthouse and cooking for guests. As a professional chef, he whips up the best meals we have had all trip. We ate 3 courses every night at a big community table with everyone under the roof. The homemade desserts were a favorite among our clan. It was the perfect arrangement, and we will no doubt be back.
The house is right on a clear emerald river world famous for its fly-fishing. The river is filled with trout and some of the biggest salmon in the world. The Huchen Salmon that hunt these rivers grow up to 5 feet long. Clive told me that when you kayak the river, the Huchen will swim with you downriver like dolphins.
Friday, June 14, 2013
So, I don't know crap about horses, but these white weirdos are the real deal. A few years ago I spent a morning with the Sheikh's horses in Dubai, and I have to say that these white Lipizzaners were way cooler than his divas.
The Lipizzaner horses of Slovenia are a world class breed. This farm in Lipica, Slovenia has been producing the horses for longer than any other horse farm, undisturbed. Many of the lines can be traced back 5 centuries.
The horses are typically used for dressage as they are very powerful, agile, and smart. I did not get to ride one (thank god for that - I would probably fall off), but we hung with the big boys and they were definitely cool.
In the Karst region of Slovenia is one of the largest cave systems in the world. There is an underground canyon that is unsurpassed in size, a strange river that runs through the cave system, and a number of crazy cliffs and growths. We walked through the cave and it opened up into this massive canyon - truly breathtaking. Unesco has even recognized the caves as a world heritage site.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Mykonos at night is a convoluted maze. Literally. When the town was designed, it was designed as a maze to confuse outsiders. It confused us.
My favorite time to really explore a city is at night. At that point, the cruise ships are long gone (usually), the locals begin to come out, and you can get a better sense of what a place is really like.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Paraportiani is the famous Cycladic church you have probably, at one time or another, seen a picture of. It is all curvy and strange, looking extremely "handmade." It is as though someone sculpted it out of clay and just left it to harden in the bright Greek sun. Above is a picture of the church as the sun begins to set and it takes on a golden hue.
The church began its construction in the 15th century, but it took the island Greeks until the 18th century to complete it.
Our first full day in Mykonos, we scooped up an ATV from Fabio's younger brother and headed for a highly recommended beach. We settled down and just sort of wasted the day away. I read Civilization by Niall Ferguson. Kristin read some sort of Jackie Collins book, and that was about it. We spoke little, except when our stomachs began to growl.
Finding the beach was easy. We mounted our GPS on the ATV and dropped a pin where we though we would find the beach across from the island of Delos. An ATV is the perfect way to explore Mykonos.
I believe the key to great travel photography is 30% camera, 30% skill, 20% patience, and 10% creativity. Patience is really critical and it can mean waiting for the right time of day to capture a picture, or even just literally waiting until people move out of the shot. The latter is something that I am constantly bumping up against, and I am known to wait over an hour for people just to move out of a shot.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
In 1958, an injured pelican was nursed back to health by a fisherman on Mykonos. The locals named him Petros and he was a town favorite and a symbol of Mykonos. He was sadly hit by a car in 1985 and died.
Three new pelicans took residence on the island, a male and two females. They named the male Petros in honor of the original and he is found around the harbor in old town daily, strutting his stuff, menacing tourists, and stealing fish.
The Travel Channel voted Tropicana at Paradise Beach the best beach bar in the world. It is set in a perfect bay with clear calm water (above), and every day in the late afternoon the party starts around 5 with Sasa - the King of Mykonos leading the charge.
The wheels come off a bit, and I imagine that it would have been a great and horrible place to supplant a 19 year old Justin Delaney. Should we ever meet via some kind of time travel worm hole, I will be sure not to bring this place up. Kristin and I people-watched for a few hours and then literally drove our ATV off into the sunset. Check out the pictures.
This guy is some kind of celebrity DJ/MC in Mykonos at Tropicana Paradise Beach - which is considered the best beach bar in the world (maybe a bit of a stretch). Check out that bathing suit! There were some guys from Abu Dhabi at the club and he shouted Abu Dhabi every 3.5 minutes into his mic. Good times.