Saturday, August 27, 2011

What about my summer?

Audrey here. Today, Mom and Dad left the computer plugged in so I finally have a chance to let you all know what my summer was like (I haven't figured out how to turn this silly machine on - any tips?) If you've been reading along, you probably know about the glorious trip my "rents" took through the Greek islands. Ruins, olives and beaches...How many of you have wondered what happened to me as they gallivanted around the world?

I was dropped of at Honey's Friends.  Mom and Dad call this place camp and it's great. There are other dogs. I get to play all day and the people are so nice. I guess if I have to be stowed away for six weeks, this is the place to go.

I got dropped off with this huge bag of food
Do you have a dog? This bag represents a form of torture. Yeah, I know that some of my four-legged friends gulp it down like crazy but every day? Twice a day? Come on - could you eat the same thing day in and day out? The food is awful. Crunch, crunch, crunch. No flavor and oh so dry. Plus it turns my stomach into knots.

So here I am, abandoned with a Costco-sized bag of kibble. Yay! It's summer time. Then my problems started. My body just couldn't do it anymore.

Quick! Let's go to the vet (one of my least favorite places) so that I could get poked and prodded. The test results came back and my liver was shutting down. Is that a good thing? It seems like it because the big bag of food disappeared and I was given yummy bones to eat.

Life has been better since then. Mom and Dad returned and the bag of food stayed far away. I wonder who ate it? Each day I now get raw bones to munch on. Oh, it took some getting used to. Mom kept giving me the bone until the whole thing disappeared. Am I supposed to crunch the bone up? Something urges me to and when I finish with the bone I get a bowl of rice and raw, ground meat.

I love it! The boys say that my breath doesn't stink anymore. My beautiful fur doesn't shed like it used to, liver function is back to normal and my stomach isn't upset 24-7.

What's that noise? Gecko - gotta run n catch one of those wall climbers!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Year 2 up and running

It's amazing how one year of experience in a place can mean so much. When Krista and I returned from Greece to the Dakeng area of Taichung, it felt like we were coming home. We moved to this house just a month before school ended in June. When we needed to go into town, we didn't have to rely on the blue dot of our phone's mapping system to show us the way. Some faces were familiar. We visited favorite restaurants.  Our puppy was waiting for pick-up.





From Random Taichung

This photo is from the small walking trail where we live.

After a whirl-wind week, we returned to AST for the school year. We've just finished the first week and it was a good one for both of us. We were excited about seeing the students from last year and to welcome new ones. Here's to a great year!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Delos

We toured the town, we rented a scooter and drove all over the island, we spent a day on the beach in the sun and there was still one more day left.  Why in the world is Mykonos such a popular island?  With high tourist season upon us, the cruise ships dominated the two small harbors.  Shuttle boats ferried back and forth bringing more and more people into the tiny town.

From Greek Trip - Mykonos


Krista decided to take one for the team and board yet another boat.  The ride was only advertised to be a quick 30 minute jaunt, but the seas around Mykonos are consistently choppy due to the high winds. The ride was a rough one - we jolted left, swooped right, bopped up and slammed down - but eventually made it to solid ground. Our destination?  Delos

Potentially the birthplace of the famous Greek twins, Apollo and Artemis, this island has amazing ruins. The famous Naxian lions line up on one of the major thorough-fares as a possible source of intimidation (?)

From Greek Ruins


Recovered mosaics and statues are hosted inside a museum built on the island:

From Greek Ruins


and columns are everywhere.

From Greek Ruins

  

Greek tout / aka Kamaki

Literally everywhere, these guys (and sometimes gals) made their presence known.  The anti-kamaki sign says it all.  The funny thing is that the street where the sign was posted was full of these people.


From Greek Trip - Kos


a few waiting to pounce

From Greek Trip - Kos

Recipe for a Greek Salad

1 humongous block of Feta
1 tomato, quartered then halved
3 bell pepper slices
lots and lots of red onion
1/2 cucumber
4 olives (seriously! these things are everywhere and there are only 4!)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Mediterranean spices



Travel to Mykonos

There is no question that the Greek Islands are stunning.  Clear, turquoise waters reflect the sun in constant blue skies.  Rocky islands rise directly out of the water. Some have a desolate beauty - sun baked vegetation mixed with white rock - while others contain oases of green from olive trees, grape vines and fig trees. When going from one island to the next, we were never sure what visual treat would lie in the next harbor and the surrounding countryside.

As we boarded an early morning boat from Samos Town (the taxi driver from Pythagoria to Samos was absolutely nuts!), we prepared for our last long ride.  Our ending plans of a few days on the island of Naxos were dashed as the ferry schedule made it impossible to visit and return to Mykonos in time for our flight.  So, we're off to Mykonos in the hopes of finding lodging - high tourist season is just shifting into gear - and enough activities to entertain us - Mykonos is big on bars but meager on other servings.


From Greek Trip - Samos

Hera's Home

It's hard to imagine a bustling city over 2000 years ago.  Renting a scooter, we headed west from the town of Pythagoria.  Our route took us through the ever-present olive groves as we first went away from and then returned to the ocean.  The ruins of Herion are rumored to be the birthplace of the goddess Hera.  The entrance to the site is along the "Sacred Way" and as we walked, fortunately there were few other tourists, I tried to envision marble statues lining this paved road.


From Greek Ruins


At the end of the Sacred Way, Hera's temple must have dominated the view.  Today, one column remains and it is thought that this column is only half of its original height.  (I think that this is one temple that I would really like to see reconstructed - it must have been massive!)

From Greek Ruins


The site itself is still being uncovered and many of its treasures lie in the archaeological museum in Samos town and the statues currently displayed at Herion are replicas.

kouros (male statue thought to date from the 6th century BC) 

From Greek Ruins


part of the Geneleos Group (the original is in the museum)

From Greek Ruins

Pythagorous

Is the Pythagorean Theorem one of the few bits of information that remains in most minds after leaving middle school?  Pythagoras was a Greek mathematician who developed quite a cult following and is today immortalized by a2 + b2 = c2

We spent two nights in the town of Pythagorio, which is located on the island of Samos.  It was one of the quietest towns on our trip.  Other than the collections of tourist t-shirts, this statue is the only indication that Pythagoras also walked along this harbor.


From Greek Trip - Samos

24 in Kos

The clock all of a sudden appeared to move with an urgency.  Our three weeks in the Greek Islands were rapidly coming to an end.  Suddenly, the island of Kos was relegated to a ferry stop-over.  A few sights...

Archaeological excavations engaged our wondering eyes.

From Greek Ruins


Hippocrates Plane Tree, which seems in need of some medicine itself, stands in a sheltered plaza.  It was enticing to think of Hippocrates teaching his students under the shade of this tree.

From Greek Trip - Kos


Hanging delicacies made us think about lunch

From Greek Trip - Kos


The massive walls of the Castle of the Knights held many statues.

From Greek Ruins


The cat

From Greek Trip - Kos

Sitting in the Square


A lone light post stands tall in the center
Cafes match up on opposite sides
  split by criss-crossing cobbled pathways
  holding people escaping from the mid-morning sun
  while sipping coffee and smoking cigarrettes

The light post watches many pass its shadows
  a bicycling blur
  slow-moving tour groups
  a young child escaping his mother

People watch people watching
  hats of all shapes
  skin of all colors
  languages of all sounds

When will my shade run out?

From Greek Trip - Kos

Lindos

The coastal views from the acropolis of Lindos are impressive but our eyes were quickly drawn to the turquoise waters held in the natural lagoon at the base of the hill.  This small town is a short bus ride from Rhodes Town and the surprising lack of wind heated up the day.  Dodging donkey-riding tourists, we left the hilltop perch for the cool waters of the lagoon.


From Greek Trip - Lindos (Island of Rhodes)

Rhodes Town

Time passes when traveling. "Hurry up to wait" the saying goes and we've done plenty of it. This time we wait for a boat to spend the next 12 hours of our life on.  The boat is late though this tardiness is welcomed with less frustration than one would expect.  The reason is that whoever dreamed of the ferry schedule between Crete and Rhodes must have had a bad day.  Leaving at 3:00 in the afternoon for a 12-hour transit does not put travelers into port at a decent hour.  So, our boat was fortunately late though by the time we were able to board, people were antsy.

The ferry boats are huge and this one is a dinosaur of the Greek fleet.  It is the only boat comparable to the ones I traveled on during my last Greek Island voyage and the boarding procedures have not changed.  One large Cretan male was in charge of holding back the hordes of people determined to race onto the boat the second it docked.  His personality and yelling kept the crowd in check for some time but we were engaged in a red light-green light game.  Each time his back turned, the swelling crowd lurched forward until stopped by an abrupt turn.  Eventually, he tired and a mad dash ensued.  Not to be outdone, we raced.  I guess this is where packing light and taking only small packs is a benefit.  Unencumbered by wheelie bags, boxes or the like, we were quickly on and searching the boat for our "territory".  As deck passengers, we are meant to fend for ourselves so the open hallway space provided ample room to spread out and enjoy the hard, concrete floor.

From Greek Trip - Rhodes


Grabbing a few hours of sleep, we eventually made our way to the deck to watch the sun rise as we entered the port of Rhodes Town.  Recommended by many people, we were excited to visit this medieval town inhabited by the Ghosts of the Knights of St John.


From Greek Trip - Rhodes


"Good morning.  Did you just arrive on the ghost ship?" greeted Mikail as we hesitantly made our early morning appearance into his domantia.  Fortunately, he had a room and we dropped bags to explore the narrow stone alleys before the tourists and vendors awoke.

Wandering up a deserted Avenue of the Knights, we passed the "inns" of each country.  Back in the day, the Knights of St John lived in this section of the Knights' Quarter.  They were divided into houses based upon origins and at the top of the avenue lies the Palace of the Grand Master.  Today, the palace hosts a museum which we found ourselves touring without much company.
Beautiful corridor:

From Greek Trip - Rhodes


Inside the palace, room after room spread out.  Each room had its own mosaic on the floor, though most were brought from Kos, an future island of visit.

From Greek Trip - Rhodes


The narrow streets of Rhodes Town provided a welcome resting place for a few days as we enjoyed the old town.

Harbor Siesta

The cries of swallows punctuate dynamic swoops
Distant rumblings of harbor boat traffic follows
  a lazy breeze entering windows
High ceilings and wooden-planked floors allows the air
  to explore corners of the room
The town will soon rise from slumber
  hungry tourists seeking Cretan specialties
  vendors hawking knick-knacks
  laughter bouncing off cobbled alleys
But at the moment, it's hard to resist siesta's call


From Greek Trip - Hania

6.29.11 - No Transport Day!

For the first day in what seems forever, we are not moving in any type of transport.  Be it bicycle, taxi, bus, boat, plane or train, we are not doing it.  Instead, we enjoyed the sun, the beaches and each other's company.  How lovely!


From Greek Trip: Paleohora

Hiking the Samaria Gorge

The bookends of this day were beautiful though absolute hell for Krista.  It all began with the rude beeps of a 5:00 alarm.  Aren't we on vacation?  Jarred out of sleep, we pulled on long sleeve shirts - the wee morning hours are surprisingly chilly - and followed our sleepy feet to the bus station.

After buying our tickets from a red-eyed Greek who also appeared to be awake too early, we ordered two coffee freddoes.  The french presses magically appeared and within moments freshly-brewed caffeine coursed through our veins.  This warmth stayed with Krista for the first few minutes of our bus ride but the nonstop curves put her down for the count.  I sat back and watched the sun slowly rise over rocky hills densely planted with olive trees.  The bus snaked back and forth through small villages but the olive trees were constant.  A net lay bunched up at the base of most trees.  My guess is that the trees are shook during harvest times as the nets are spread out to catch the precious cargo.  If I saw thousands of olive trees during this ride and each has hundreds of olives, what are the chances I saw the tree from which the olive you last enjoyed came from?

At the end of the two hour ride, we dipped under an extended row of modern windmills, skirted the town of Omalos and arrived at the entrance to the Samaria Gorge National Park. This gorge, reportedly the largest in Europe, is filled with beautiful scenery from its mountain beginnings to its oceanic mouth.


From Greek Trip - Hiking the Samaria Gorge


The beginning of the hike was hectic as we navigated around many groups of people.  We saw them all - from trekking pole equipped warriors to the grandmother in her nice dress, big hat and large picnic basket to the people who must have been disappointed at the "no-high-heels" sign.  After several steep switchbacks, we finally left the crowds behind and had the rest of the hike almost to ourselves.

At one point, we crossed a bridge and entered the deserted village of Samaria.  In 1962, the gorge became a national park in order to protect the kri-kri (a wild goat).  Though good for the goat, the villagers of Samaria had to pack up and move out of the now-protected zone.  The buildings seemed to be in decent shape after almost 50 years of abandonment. 

From Greek Trip - Hiking the Samaria Gorge



The highlight of the gorge is near the end of the hike as the walls come close together and allow for a narrow passage created by the ever present creek (not as spectacular as Zion's Narrows, but quite nice).

From Greek Trip - Hiking the Samaria Gorge


Finally, we exited the park and arrived at the small coastal village of Agia Roumeli. Hours ahead of schedule, we enjoyed the hiker's beer of reward, went swimming and waited for the boat that would take us home.

From Greek Trip - Hiking the Samaria Gorge


The final bookend?  A bumpy, two hour ride on the Neptoune that provided spectacular views of the Cretan coastline but was only marginally more comfortable than the bus journey many hours earlier.

From Greek Trip - Hiking the Samaria Gorge

Bread

I love it.
Krista loves it.
We could probably eat ourselves out of a room filled with the amazing stuff.  In Taiwan, we are spared the extra kilos caused by bread-onslaught because it is not a common staple.  Arriving in France was beautiful. Bread, bread everywhere.

In Greece, bread is also everywhere but is often used to trick and torment the traveler. In my view, restaurants use bread as an offering to time.  Enjoy our lovely bread as you wait for the meal.  Some Greeks seem to agree but others slide fees into the bill.


From Greek Trip: Paleohora


One day, in an attempt to avoid both our increasing bread consumption and the extra cost, we thought to block the bread basket from the source. "No thank you, we don't want any bread tonight," we said as the waiter brought bread to our table.

"I'm so sorry, but the bread has already been cut for you," he replied.

If you can't beat 'em, eat all their bread

Paleohora

Each day, a bus leaves the Cretan town of Hania and winds its way through the olive groves south to the town of Paleohora.  There is likely less than 10 meters of straight road on the trip, which makes it difficult for a travel-sick-prone person to enjoy the scenery.  Arriving in this little town a sense of relaxation quickly spreads over the travel weary body.  It is easy to explore this small town that is positioned on a peninsula.  A sandy beach, which can get quite windy, occupies one side and a calm, pebble beach the other.


From Greek Trip: Paleohora

Escape to Hania

We again began to relax as our early morning bus pulled out of Iraklio on the way to Hania, a town in western Crete.  In what would be our only morning without bright, blue skies, a few raindrops fell and clouds masked ocean views on the windy road.  In a few hours, we had reached Hania and made our way to the old town surrounding the harbor.


From Greek Trip - Hania


Searching for lodging, we roamed the streets and eventually found a large room on a tiny street.  The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the Venetian architecture and small shops.

Ocean entrance to the harbor

From Greek Trip - Hania


Meeting of cultures?

From Greek Trip - Hania