Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bari, Bari Cool

Port #3 was into Bari, Italy which is 2nd only to Naples in economic importance to Italy.  It's also a university town as well as an ancient port city.  We stuck to the old quarter, wandering around until we found the Castello Svevo --castles and palm trees:  how cool is that??  The castle was built around 1100, burned and was rebuilt a bit later that century; it's old, no?

The old city/castle walls (define old, hmm?)
Meandering through the medieval streets I was again struck by the marriage of the ancient with the working modern and I caught these:

Me thinks me NEEDS a Vespa!

Remains of the original Roman road--and people just walk around it!

Mary and Jesus--with bling!

Those who know a bit of Spanish can figure this one out, si?
A door onto the street just happened to be opened--look!  So this is where residents park!   I could SO live here, you?

We ended the afternoon at the shore--the water is right over there over that line of cars:
Then back to the ship for some dinner

We got back to our room after dinner, another one of Aldrin's CUTE creations greeted us (he even stuck my sunglasses on him :)

Ciao for Now!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ravenna Rave

 Cruise Day 2 we woke up in Ravenna, Italy to this view:

Ravenna has a crazy quilt history dating back to the Etruscans who settled it Long-Long-Ago-BC--it was accepted into the Roman Republic back in 49BC!  It's architecture reflects Byzantine, Ostrogoth, Venetian and Roman occupants over the centuries. Ravenna with the most outstanding mosaics in the world.   Lots of biggies of history came through here.

The day was overcast so a bit cooler.  Using internet info as a guide, we set off on our own walking tour.  Amazing stuff.  I'm afraid my little Sony camera didn't do it justice--so you really must come see all this for yourself!

Note:  whenever you think you're seeing a fresco/painting; you're not.  Absolutely everything was done in mosaic.

The Basilica of San Vitale--1500 years old--you can tell my looking at the people inside the scale of this place:

 Check out the split and mirrored marble column on the right--the place was full of them.  Belissimo!
This one's for you, little Andreas--here's your namesake in mosaic!

 The split marble up close:

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (she was the daughter, mother, aunt & sister of Roman emperors!)  Note the windows--out of panes of amber!  The mosaics just glowed; but alas, I couldn't capture reality.

An amber window pane up close

The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, began in 521! and "updated" into the 1600's

A pulpit fit for Ben! 
We finished up our day in Ravenna by exploring piazzas and side streets, eating a great lunch with locals, and making a detour to a local beach by the port.  Our feet said grazie!
Caio for Now!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Slovenia & Stallions

On Sunday we sailed away from Venice...
See the two vaporetti water buses I was talking about?  They have the orange stripes at the top.  
...and we awoke to these stunning views of Koper, Slovenia, from our stateroom balcony!

I had read that the city of Koper pretty much closes down on Sunday, the day we arrived; and Randy really wanted to see the stud farm of the famous Lippizan stallions.  So, we joined the tour group the ship was offering and off we went on a 45-minute bus ride into the fall scenery of the Slovenian countryside.  There was a guide on the bus who filled us in on tons of interesting Slovenian factoids.  I have to admit that this tour would not have been on my radar screen (even though my mom had taken me to a performance of the Dancing Lippizans for my 16th birthday)--I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Once again, hooray for the spice of spousal differences :D
This stable was built at the end of the 15th century!

This particular sight of Lipican had been breeding these special horses since around 1400.  The grounds were beautiful!  We enjoyed a tour of the stables, a museum tour and a special performance--they really do dance!

I did not know that these beautiful horses are all born dark and gradually turn white as they mature.  Amazing!

On the way back to Koper, we were treated to a tour of a great winery--and tasting ;).  Slovenia has an ancient wine industry.  Who knew?  Check out this realllly old olive tree outside--not quite as ancient as the ones we saw in Israel, but still impressive

When we got back on ship, we were greeted by this CUTE elephant created by Aldrin, our stateroom attendant!  Ciao for Now :D

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Clampets Do Italy

...and Croatia! ...and Slovenia!  Yep, they actually allowed Randy & I into each of those countries.  Amazing.  Do you think immigration realized I graduated from Kern (aka Korn) Valley High in a class of 99 people??

We just returned (into UB at 6 am after 2 Aeroflot flights; bleck) from 12 days away--7 days spent on a GIGANTIC cruise ship--and an extra 3 days in Venice :) .  The last 2 full days spent in airports and on flights.

We were gobsmacked the entire trip.  What struck me most about Venice was that people actually live in the midst of all this antiquity and beauty.  Be forewarned; I'm planning to blog this trip in installments.

Venice rocks!  We got there after exactly 24 hours of travel (10 hours in Moscow airport--double bleck) and armed with this amazing book that is now totally dogeared and gelato stained:
Rick Steves' Venice 2011
SO much better than Lonely Planet (and lighter, too).  I got one for Croatia, too.

The hotel in Mastre sold us tickets for the local bus into Venezia  (note:  the Desk Dudes were SO Italian and SO adorable!)  I took this pic thinking the bus was crowded--ha!  Shortly after this, it got so crowded that all I could see was Randy's butt (he was standing, wedged into safety)

Then, we got a day pass to the vaporetti, the local water bus that runs around the canals.  Those were super crowded.
bummer...I'm a euro short...
We saw some amazing sights--angels in the architecture!

Wandered back alleys as we are prone to do ;)

ate fabulous food in one of said alleys
....really...the food was good, here, too ;)
made new friends--kept running into these 2 sisters who we met at the bus stop that morning.  They were hunting down a Dali exhibit--that they actually found!. We agreed to share a taxi to the port the next morning as they were sailing, too, though on a different ship.

Back on the vaparetto, back on the bus, back to the hotel

The 1st of 3 trips into Venice--we were dazzled!
Stay tuned--ciao for now!