Veni Vini Amori We came. We saw. We loved!
  • Day66

    Tower of Winds, Athens

    November 3, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Opposite the Gate of Medrese is the site of an ancient octagonal weather station named for the eight Greek gods of wind. Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes or the Tower of Winds, is an octagonal Pentelic marble clock tower in the Roman Agora and is considered the world's first meteorological station.

    The structure features a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane. It was supposedly built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus around 50 BC, but according to other sources, might have been constructed in the 2nd century BC before the rest of the forum. In summer of 2014, the Athens Ephorate of Antiquities began cleaning and conserving the structure; restoration work was completed in 2016.

    The octagonal structure was made almost entirely out of Pentelic marble, the same kind used for the Parthenon, which is rare to find in any structures other than temples. Built to measure time, it is also known as a horologion, meaning timepiece.

    Each of its eight sides faces a point on the compass, and features a frieze depicting each of the eight ancient Greek wind gods, giving the tower its name. They are: Boreas (north), Kaikias (northeast), Eurus (east), Apeliotes (southeast), Notus (south), Lips (southwest), Zephyrus (west), and Skiron (northwest).

    Beneath the friezes are eight vertical sundials where the shadow was cast on hour lines that, while faint, are still visible today. The building was originally topped with a bronze weather vane depicting the Greek Messenger of the Sea Triton, his hand pointing in the direction from which the wind was blowing.

    The interior of the structure contained a complicated internal clepsydra, or water clock, which was driven by water flowing down from a large well under the Acropolis. This was essential for use on cloudy days or at night when the sundials were ineffective.

    Once again it is amazing to see a structure built so long ago and even better to see that the people of Athens take the restoration of these sites very seriously.
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  • Day62

    Gate of Medrese (Madrasah), Athens

    October 30, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    There are so many ancient ruins throughout Athens that are just a part of every day life here. So much history and so many interesting things to see. On our way to the Acropolis I saw this beautiful door and decided to photograph it. It stood out, probably because of its colour or its position, and it wasn’t until we were back at our room that I discovered the importance of that door.

    It is called the Gate of Medrese and is a visible reminder of dark times. The doorway is all that remains of the Ottoman era Islamic Madrasa (Theological School) of Athens. In the center of the courtyard was a large plane tree that became a gathering place for leaders of the Muslim community. Over time, this tree became the symbol of the Madrasa.

    The school was built in 1721 and was later converted to a prison. During its years as a prison, the living quarters became overcrowded, inhumane prison cells, and the plane tree became a hangman’s tree for hundreds of executions. Those not executed were subjected to torture and slavery.

    The Madrasa was nearly destroyed during the early part of the Greek War of Independence. After the liberation of Athens, the Madrasa was rebuilt and used as barracks by the Greek Army for the remainder of the war. After the Greeks’ victory, it was converted yet again, this time into a prison for both Turks and Greek political prisoners. The new Greek government revived the hangings on the plane tree for “deserving” Turks and traitorous Greeks.

    The prison was finally closed right before the 20th century, and the Archaeology Department began demolition in search of older and more important artifacts. By 1915, all that remained was the main door and a small portion of the adjacent exterior walls. The tree was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1919, appropriately closing a chapter on the horrific things that took place on and around it.

    The door is now a symbol of its history, a dark reminder of what has been before.
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  • Day59

    Oia, Santorini

    October 27, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Another easy morning with a very delicious breakfast on our terrace. This is such a beautiful place to wake up to and we are loving the ease of staying here. We had a very relaxing morning lazing in the spa and just chilling out.

    We decided to go to “our local”, the Golden Sunset Cafe for lunch and Brad once again ordered his favourite, grilled squid, and I tried the local tomato balls which were delicious. Brad has been enjoying the local beer, Mythos, and the local white wine has been very easy to drink. Initially we did think €5 per glass was expensive but it was a big glass and they fill it to the top. Great value.

    After lunch we decided to catch the bus to Oia to check out the other well known town of Santorini. The bus ride was interesting as we were crammed in and stood in the back stairwell for most of the journey.

    It was very interesting seeing the contrast between the “tourist” towns and the local areas of Santorini. It is very dry here and arid looking and we did wonder how the locals survive as there was very little farming. The other thing we were unaware of was that the majority of the towns close down once the tourist season is over. As it ends at the end of October we only just scraped in being able to visit Santorini. Many restaurants and cafes were running their stock down and the staff were counting down the days. The best part about coming this time of year is that there are a lot less crowds and we got to really enjoy the laid back atmosphere.

    Oia is a very pretty town and different to Thia (Fira) in that there is more colour in the buildings and a slightly different style. I loved wandering through the shops as they offered different things to what Fira offered. We walked into an art gallery and walked out with a lovely canvas picture of one of the many interesting doors in Oia. We love taking home a piece of art to put on the walls as it is a constant reminder of our wonderful adventures.

    We spent a very relaxing afternoon strolling the laneways, patting the cats, and taking some great photos of the vista. Viewing the sunset from Oia is meant to be the best vantage point to see the sun setting on Santorini but we decided we didn’t want to hang around as the town was filling up with more tourists and we were very happy with the view from our terrace.

    We caught the bus home and spent the rest of the day enjoying our down time on our terrace. Another excellent day in Santorini.
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  • Day52

    Teatro Antico di Taormina

    October 20, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    First stop for today was Teatro Antico di Taormine, the Ancient theatre of Taormina. The Teatro antico di Taormina is an ancient Greek theatre built in the third century BC. It is built for the most part of brick, and is therefore probably of Roman date, though the plan and arrangement are in accordance with those of Greek, rather than Roman, theatres. It is believed that the present structure was rebuilt upon the foundations of an older theatre of the Greek period.

    With a diameter of 120 metres (after an expansion in the 2nd century), this theatre is the second largest of its kind in Sicily and is frequently used for operatic and theatrical performances and for concerts. The greater part of the original seats have disappeared, but the wall which surrounded the whole arena is preserved.

    The view from here was amazing and added to the pleasure of visiting this site. It is still so hard to fathom that we are standing in something that was built so long ago.
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  • Day52

    Taormina's Treasures

    October 20, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Okay, so these aren't officially treasures of Taormina but these are things I loved about this town. Even though a lot of the buildings looked a little worse for wear and a bit run down, almost every balcony and alleyway was decorated with some form of ceramic statue or planter. And I just loved it. I loved the colours and vibrancy these pieces added to the town and I just wish I could replicate some of these settings at home. For that reason alone, it needed it's own post.

    One of the figures we saw everywhere was the three legged lady. This is called Trinacria which means triquetra and refers to the shape of the island of Sicily. Sicily was known by the Romans as Trinacrium, meaning “star with three points”. The Trinacria symbol is the head of Medusa (a gorgon with a head of snakes), surrounded by three bent running legs, and three stalks of wheat. Due to the island's distinct triangular shape, the symbol has also been adopted by the Sicilian government and is located on the centre of Sicily's flag.

    #colourislife
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  • Day52

    Taormina

    October 20, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    After a late check-in and a night of rain and bad weather forecasts, we woke to a beautiful sunny day. A hurricane had hit Sicily two days before we arrived and the weather forecast hasn't looked good but for some reason the forecasts seem to be wrong as we always end up with sunny days. Very lucky. I really wasn't sure what to expect from Taormina after our arrival last night and have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.

    After a delicious breakfast on the terrace overlooking the bay, we hit the streets and started touring. First stop was the ancient Roman Amphitheatre - more on that shortly. After the theatre we decided to just wander and explore the town. By now we have seen a lot of "tourist" towns and while Taormina had the usual tourist shops, there was also a lot of variety and some pretty cool things to see. If only we lived a lot closer and didn't have to worry about excess luggage. I would have bought so much. There was a nice feel about Taormina and it was a pity we didn't have a bit more time here to explore a bit more.

    We found our way down to the main square, we had no idea how big the town was, and got to enjoy the view, check out some of the old churches and buildings, and listen to some Sicilian buskers. A very pleasant afternoon. There were lots of cool restaurants and cafes tucked away in the alleyways and we found a lovely one to stop and have a light lunch. We had enjoyed a very delicious Arancini ball on the ferry on the way over and had discovered they were a staple in Sicily and we wanted more. Lunch was an aracini ball and a glass or two of local wine. We also happened to start chatting to a couple sat next to us and had a lovely time exchanging stories and getting some gossip on some stars from a tv show we watch as they knew the cast members. It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

    We ended our day in Taormina with a delicious Sicilian dinner at Bella Blu, a great restaurant overlooking the ocean. I love that we get given a shot when we pay the bill at the end of the night. Tonight's shot was a lemon vodka slushie and it was delicious, except for the brain freeze that followed from drinking it so quickly. Another great night with great food and company. Thankfully Brad and I aren't sick of each other yet.
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  • Day51

    Messina

    October 19, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Well everything I’ve read about public transport in Sicily is true - nothing runs on time and most services get cancelled. But I thought I could plan my way around that. Unfortunately not to be.

    When researching how to get to Sicily I read we could get a ferry direct from Reggio Calabria so that is where I organised for us to drop our hire car off at. Thankfully the lady at Europcar mentioned that the ferries weren’t operating from Reggio Calabria port so we didn’t waste time and money getting there only to discover that. Instead we had to get a taxi to Villa San Giovanni, a €40 trip. We managed to get straight onto a ferry to Messina but I think that was the only easy part of the day.

    When planning the trip google maps had the distance from the ferry port to the train station as a short walk, when in fact it was going to be about a 40min walk. Luckily for a us a lady took pity on us and offered to drive us to the train station herself. Funny thing was she didn’t speak a word of English, and I mean not a word, but we (meaning I) happily jumped in her car and trusted she would get us there. Brad was a bit more apprehensive, he was thinking along the lines of serial killer. I was even able to use my valuable Italian lessons. Lol. Not really. I barely managed to introduce myself. Anyway my trust in her was fulfilled and she happily dropped us at the train station. She restored my faith in people.

    Next step in getting to Taormina, our destination for today, was to catch a train. Google and the train sites said trains leave every half hour. And how gullible was I to believe that. We had about an hour and a half wait and then had to cross our fingers it wasn’t delayed or cancelled like the earlier two trains. It eventually arrived and we finally made it to Taormina, only to discover a shortage of taxis. Another long wait but finally we made it to our accommodation for the next two days. Very weary and regretting adding Sicily to our trip, we hope our day tomorrow makes this long travel day worthwhile.
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  • Day51

    Reggio Di Calabrio

    October 19, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Wow, what a long day already and we have only completed the first step of our travel day. We left Maratea at 9am for what should have been a three and a half hour drive that turned into a four and a half hour drive.

    We saw a few accidents today, not surprising because Italians all drive like they have a death wish, lots of police doing radar, first time we had seen that, and ridiculous speed limits in odd places. And some of the roads we drove on were very scary, so high up and sticking out the side of mountains. It was a very stressful drive.

    We then arrived at the car hire place to drop the car off and while most place had been relatively easy to park the car, we drove into a major traffic area. There were cars everywhere. We have never seen traffic like it and there was no way we could find a park. I jumped out to find out if the car to find out from the car hire company where to go. The lady came out, just stuck her hand up to cross the busy road, (and the cars just stopped for her), and thankfully she then took over the driving. She did a u-turn in the middle of all the traffic and parked the car outside her office across the driveway. She then told us it was school pick up time which was why it was so hectic. Ten minutes later and it was as quiet as anything.

    It amazes me how the Italians just drive wherever they want, park any which way and everyone seems quite calm about it. We have heard very few horns blasting (except the odd one at us for obeying the speed limit) and haven’t witnessed any road rage. Us Aussie drivers need to learn a thing or two about patience when driving.

    I think Brad was extremely relieved to be able to hand over the keys and call it a day. Due to the stress of driving today, we changed our future travel plans to exclude anymore driving adventures. Brad breathed a big sigh of relief. He has done an amazing job driving and we have seen so many more places because he was brave enough to give it a go. ❤️
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  • Day50

    Cristo Redentore di Maratea

    October 18, 2018 in Italy

    Well what a road trip today. Brad’s GPS was determined to take us on the road less travelled and that certainly wasn’t the easiest at times. I can’t believe how narrow some of the so called dual lane roads are over here. It was certainly a bit daunting at times.

    In saying that the changes in the landscape today have been quite dramatic from rolling hills of fields either recently harvested or ready to be plowed to mountains covered in trees and bush with a rainforest like feel. I am loving the southern end of Italy.

    We finally arrived at our location in Maratea for the night and while it was a confronting drive the view when we got here was amazing. Maratea is approximately 32 km of rocky coastline with 20 beaches but we are staying further up from the coast. This is just an overnight stop to break up our drive towards Sicily. Maratea is also known as the town of churches as it has 44 of them!! Shock, surprise we didn’t visit any of them today.

    Our only tourist stop today was the Cristo Redentore di Maratea, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, at the top of Mount San Biagio. After the drive we had I didn’t think anything could be worse but I was mistaken! Not only did we drive down narrow laneways through town, we then had the treacherous windy drive up the mountain. I didn’t think I was scared of heights but I really had to reassess that belief this trip and today certainly challenged me. Not only was the road windy, the drop from the edge of the road was daunting and the guard rails minimal. Definitely an experience but not a drive I want to repeat.

    The statue of Christ the Redeemer was erected in 1965 and is the tallest statue in Italy, the second tallest in the world. Created by Florentine sculptor, Bruno Innocenti, it is 21 metres tall and 19 metres wide. Made from reinforced concrete covered with a mixture of white cement and marble from Carrara, it makes a striking figure on the mountain top.

    I had read there was a car park towards the top of the mountain and then a shuttle bus would take us the rest of the way, however there was no mention about it not operating in October. Thankfully (or unfortunately) we were unable to drive past the carpark due to it being a traffic limit zone and while I was disappointed we couldn’t get to the top the road to be travelled would have been the scariest by far. We made do with walking as far as we could and grabbing some photos from as close as possible. The view was breathtaking and I was shaking just getting close to the edge for photos.

    I was relieved when we had made it back to town. Having decided we (Brad) were done with driving we stopped in town, after driving around a round about the wrong way and making an Italian laugh, grabbed a takeaway pizza and enjoyed an early dinner with some local wine sat in the lovely outdoor area of our B&B. Another interesting day on our Italian adventure.
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