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Friday, October 28, 2011

Rhodes


Our final stop on our Greek adventure is 4 days on the Island of Rhodes.  We came to see the Colossus of Rhodes which is one of the ancient wonders of the world.  We knew before getting here that this is one of the ancient wonders where there is nothing left to see.  It is believed that the Colossus was a bronze sculpture that spanned the harbor opening; the Statue of Liberty was modeled after this piece of artwork.  Benton and I have made it a goal that we will see the wonders of the world together and since this one is still on all the lists we decided that visiting the site would be appropriate.  To commemorate the site, two bronze deer are mounted on pillars on either side of the harbor.

Rhodes is beautiful.  Many Europeans spend their vacation on this island.  It's a great place to relax and enjoy the beaches and is a perfect way to wrap up our adventure.

We took a one hour bus ride to the small village of Lindos on the east side of the island for our last day adventure.  The public bus route takes you right along the coastline.  Lindos is carved into a hillside with a postcard beach/bay below and an ancient Acropolis above.  We climbed to the Acropolis and then walked down to the beach for some swimming.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back in Athens


Our plan for Friday was to drive back to Athens, drop off the rental car and catch a 2 hour high speed ferry to Hydra for two days on the island.  An e-mail from the port authority let me know that our tickets were being refunded due to strike.  So no Hydra.  We dropped the rental car at the airport and sat down to figure out what to do.  Athens had endured about 4 days of intense protest and I wasn't sure I wanted to venture back into the city.  The tourist information desk at the airport assured me that all was quiet and normal in the city (except the ferries) - metro is running, museums are open, no protests this weekend.  So, we headed back into Athens to stay at the same hotel as when we arrived two weeks ago. 

We checked our the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  We had missed this before due to strikes.  The Arch of Hadrian sits right out on the road as all the cars, buses and scooters fly right by.



Willliam's thoughts on Greece:  I think Greece is a great place for tourism as long as you are willing to climb stairs.  Greece has great food.  I have eaten gyros, beef burgers (little meatloafs) and lots of potatos (french fries).  Greece has crowded, fast moving streets.  Things are very cheap in Greece.  Water is .50 euros for 1.5 liter bottle.  Gyros (meat wrapped in pita) have pork, french fries and onion in them for 2 euros as long as they are "to go". 





Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kardamyli and onto Nafplio


Kardamyli is about an hour drive south of Kalamata.  It is at the northern tip of the Mani Penninsula.  The road south from Kalamata is the most twisted and narrow road we have driven since leaving Athens.  It winds through some cute litte villages where cars are parked on the side of an already narrow throughfare.  But, it is so worth the drive.  Kardamyli is wonderful.  It's just the place to spend time relaxing and observing local life.

It was sunny and clear when we arrived but the weather forcast was for rain.  So first on the list was a swim in the Mediterraian just before the thunder and lightening set in.  We watched the storm come over the hills.




Sunday's in Greece are very quiet.  All businesses are closed and only a few restaurants in this very small town were open.  We headed to the cafe in the middle of town for breakfast and found ourselves emersed in Sunday in Kardamyli.  A group of elderly men were playing cards (I never did figure out the game or the rules) and they sounded like it was a constant argument about whose turn it was and how many points should be written down.  Several other gentlemen were surveying the card game around the edges giving their opinion freely, which seemed to cause even more of an argument.  A Formula 1 race was on the TV (it was blaring).  Formula 1 is as popular in Europe as the NFL is in America.  William and Mark were instantly glued to this and we ended up hanging around until the race was over - team Reneau won.  Thus half a day was spent at the cafe.

Next we headed to Nafplio.  Our plan is to spend 4 nights in this city.  There is a big vote in parlament this coming Thursday (October 20) and the news is forcasting stikes at the airport, ferry terminals, metro and bus as well as all museums leading up to the vote.  So, hanging around in Nafplio until Friday is a great idea.

Our first adventure in Nafplio was to climb the 999 steps to the Fortress of Palamidi.  All of the ancient sites in Greece require a climb because everything was built on a hill for obvious reasons.  The Fortress of Palamidi is a huge site made up of eight Bastions. 



Day two in Nafplio found us day tripping to Epidavros and Mycenae.


The next two days we will be catching up on school work and taking some walks through Nafplio.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Delphi, Olympia and Kardamyli


It's almost scary how easy it was to pick up the rental car and make it out of Athens after watching lots of crazy driving in Athens.  Once you get out of the city, traffic just melts away and driving is fairly easy.  I can say this from the passenger seat.  Mark has actually been doing the driving!



Notes:
-  Driving a car any bigger than our rental would be a liability.
-  Road signs and painted lines on the pavement seem to be just for decoration. 
-  You will be passed regularly going twice the posted speed.
-  Before passing you everyone will drive right up to your bumper.
-  No passing zones don't mean anything.
-  A single lane road can easily handle 3 lanes of traffic.
-  If it's paved you can drive on it.
-  When an old Greek woman gives you the evil eye, you are scared! Again, not me, Mark, but I was there to witness it and I was scared.

Delphi was amazing.  The ruins are set in the hillside and require a 470' elevation gain to see.  After being in the car 2.5 hours, William decided to run all the way up to the top and we were happy to let him.  There were several tour groups there, but I'm sure it's nothing like during the middle of the summer.  Most of the visitors stay near the bottom of the site and avoid the climb. 

We stayed in a great hotel in Delphi for the night before heading to Ancient Olympia.  Pitho Rooms has 8 rooms for rent.  George and Vicki were wonderful.  Their 3 boys were doing homework when we arrived.  George was born and raised in this little town and his family runs most of the establishments so he knows everyone.




The road between Delphi and Nafpaktos on the way to Ancient Olympia is just stunning.  It zig zags along the coast and the views of the Corinthian Sea are amazing.  As we drove along we came around a blind corner to see goats crossing the road.  William and I yelled "goat" as Mark slammed on the brakes.  We were being helpful in case he wasn't sure what those four legged animals were.  Just past the actual goat crossing was the sign warning us to watch for goats - a little too late.

We actually stopped in Nafpaktos and found street parking (it's always a free for all) and decided to walk around and find a snack before driving onto Ancient Olympia.  We found a local bakery that had a great time loading up on all kinds of cookies and breads and one very strange cream pastry.  William pointed to it in the case and the lady smiled and said "very good, fresh", so we tried it.  It may have been fresh but not so good.

Ancient Olympia is a fun site to visit because you can just imagine the first 100 Olympic Games being celebrated there.  The site has a lot of energy.  The boys loved running in the first Olympic Stadium (it's about 200 meters long).  I didn't see any reason to run with them since I would not have been allowed entry to the stadium or the games because of the "no women" rules.  So I volunteered to take photos instead.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Greece - Athens


Our flights to Athens went wonderfully smoothly.  Both boys were pleasantly surprised to find free unlimited movies on the flight from Seattle to Amsterdam and, while I encouraged them to get some sleep, seat back entertainment was a great way to keep all of us occupied for the 9 hour flight.

The boys are really enjoying Athens.  I was really worried about culture shock but both boys are really into the city and investigating the differences they see as we tour around.  Athens is a huge sprawling city with over 5 million people.  It's intense and exciting.



On the day we arrived the metro and bus system workers were on strike.  The only choice from the airport was taxi.  The sign very clearly said (in English) that the fare into Athens was fixed at $35 Euro.  When we got to the hotel the driver insisted on $50 Euro to compensate for the bad traffic and whatever else he said in Greek that I didn't understand.  As I'm trying to be firm on the posted price the backup of cars we were blocking is beginning to honk and people were yelling out their windows and I ended up just paying the $50.  The Metro would have been $24 Euro if the workers had not been on strike.

Today the museums were closed as these workers decided to strike.  It's a good thing we visited the Acropolis yesterday!  Tonight the news is reporting that the metro and bus drivers will be on strike again beginning tomorrow for 48 hours this time.  We watched a protest rally parading down the street toward the governmental square this afternoon.  It seemed to be quite peaceful but the riot police were out and ready for any problems.  We didn't hang around too long!

Our hotel is located in the Plaka which is very near the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus.  We spent an entire day exploring the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.  Benton is in heaven!  The Ancient Agora is just below the Acropolis and was just as fascinating.  William found a story in sculpture on the Temple that depicted the struggle between Thesius and Creet for the freedom of Athens.  He had been reading Greek short stories in school before we left and this is one of the Greek Myths he studied.  He loved the fact that his Literature assignment was tied to something he could actually look at.




The boys love these stands that sell all kinds of donuts and breads.  Everything is one euro and fresh each morning so how could we not stop and get something? 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homeschool Update and Prepare for Greece

At this point we have been homeschooling for about a month.  Last week I decided it was time to check in with the boys on how things are going.  Honestly, I thought everything was going great but was worried that they might think otherwise. 

William had the usual complaints that he didn't want to do so much work and that "math takes all day".  This is nothing new.  William thinks that school should be 2 days a week and weekends should be 5 days.

Benton reported that he was working much harder during the school day but was still not sure what to do with all the free time in the evenings and on weekends.  His workload is big and his days intense with online lessons and more assignments than he is used to.  He was a little surprised when his Biology Teacher reminded his honors class of 11 students that she expected every assignment to reflect honors level work, thoughtfulness and execution and no late assignments/labs will be accepted.  Even with the high level of expectation, he is doing wonderfully and has lots of free time.

We take off for our Greek adventure tomorrow.  This past month has been spent figuring out our tour plans and making sure that our technology will travel and work with us on the road.  We will leave home tomorrow with lesson plans for 3 weeks, 2 laptops with power cords, a wireless hotspot with international data plan and charging cord, a Kindle with all school textbooks loaded onto it along with several literature books and charging cord, one cell phone with international plan and charger, one "Go Green" device charger and charging cord, one iTouch filled with music, one car charger for phone and iTouch, one camera with charger, 3 power converters and a comprehensive map of Greece and Rhodes.  Cord management is horrifying and has kept me up for several nights!

After figuring all this out, driving in Greece will seem like nothing.  I sure hope so!  I've been told and read that driving won't be an issue once out of Athens.  Benton will be the navigator and I'm sure we will get intimate with several round abouts as we go along.  I'm also prepared to be honked at, but will try not to take it personally.  Greek law states that you must be older than 12 years to ride in the front seat, so there will be no arguing since William is still 11.  Three weeks of no one yelling "shot gun" on the way to the car will seem like a vacation bonus!