Venice, Italy (2018)

Centuries of history have taken place on this wide, flat open space -- Piazza San Marco (St. Mark_s Square) -- the symbolic heart of Venice that Napoléon called “the drawing room o

Centuries of history have taken place on this wide, flat open space — Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) — the symbolic heart of Venice that Napoléon called “the drawing room of Europe”; The Basilica di St. Marco is located at one end, and the Campanile di San Marco bell tower rises in the middle and cafés, restaurants and shops can be found on the piazza’s three sides and adjacent narrow streets; Venice, Italy

 

Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea.  It has no roads, just canals – including the Canale Grande (Grand Canal) thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces.  The central square, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), contains Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica), which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile di San Marco bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs.  Only about 55,000 people live in the historic city of Venice, with about 260,000 in the greater Venice commune area.

 

Basilica e Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark_s Basilica

Basilica e Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica and Bell Tower) is one of Venice’s most iconic attractions, Venice, Italy

 

“The Republic of Venice was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century.  The city-state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial center which gradually emerged from the 9th century to its peak in the 14th century.   This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history.    It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period.   After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, following a referendum held as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence.  Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.  Venice has been ranked the most beautiful city in the world as of 2016.   The city is facing some major challenges, however, including financial difficulties, erosion, pollution, subsidence, an excessive number of tourists in peak periods and problems caused by oversized cruise ships sailing close to the banks of the historical city.” – Wikipedia

 

Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark_s Basilica) celebrates Byzantine architecture, featuring marble floors, gold mosaics, elaborate sculptures, red porphyry stone, and the Pala d_Oro alt

Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) celebrates Byzantine architecture, featuring marble floors, gold mosaics, elaborate sculptures, red porphyry stone, and the Pala d’Oro altar piece, Venice, Italy

 

A Gothic architectural masterpiece, the extravagant Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) housed Venice’s rulers for more than 1,000 years and was a popular gathering spot for Venetian dignitaries.  Marble decorations, grand staircases, gilded ceilings, ornate sculptures by Jacopo Sansovino, and paintings from Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and other Venetian masters adorn the palace.  The Museo dell’Opera exhibits original sculptures from the palace’s 14th-century arcade.

 

The enclosed white limestone Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) – the smaller, elevated bridge, not the one in the foreground -- was built in 1641 to connect the extravagant Palazzo D

The enclosed white limestone Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) – the smaller, elevated bridge, not the one in the foreground — was built in 1641 to connect the extravagant Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) that housed Venice’s rulers for more than 1,000 years (building on the left) with the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), on the right; Venice, Italy

 

As our ship sailed west towards our dock, on the main shipping channel (Guidecca Canal), we passed the beautiful domed Basilica di Santa Maria dell Salute (Basilica of St. Mary of Health

As our ship sailed west towards our dock, on the main shipping channel (Guidecca Canal), we passed the beautiful domed Basilica di Santa Maria dell Salute (Basilica of St. Mary of Health) with its entrance facing the Canale Grande (Grand Canal), Venice, Italy

 

From the main shipping channel, you can_t notice the lack of streets in Venice, Italy; it_s only when you start walking around the city (or riding in water taxis or gondolas) that yo

From the main shipping channel, you can’t notice the lack of streets in Venice, Italy; it’s only when you start walking around the city (or riding in water taxis or gondolas) that you find out that Venice has no streets – only canals (and sidewalks)

 

The long and sleek waterbuses in Venice, Italy – called vaporettos in Italian – pull in to regular “stops” (piers) along the major canals on different bus routes; one is pulling

The long and sleek water buses in Venice, Italy – called vaporettos in Italian – pull in to regular “stops” (piers) along the major canals on different bus routes; one is pulling into the pier in the photograph

 

The restaurant on the right has al fresco dining not on the sidewalk, but on a pier in the canal, Venice, Italy

The restaurant on the right has al fresco dining not on the sidewalk, but on a pier in the canal, Venice, Italy

 

Boats and gondolas are parked all along the canals everywhere in Venice, Italy

Boats and gondolas are parked all along the canals everywhere in Venice, Italy

 

A typical small canal with an adjacent pedestrian sidewalk, Venice, Italy

A typical small canal with an adjacent pedestrian sidewalk, Venice, Italy

 

The Canale Grande (Grand Canal) is the main aquatic route in Venice carrying the bulk of the city_s transportation; the sides of the canal are lined with palaces, churches, hotels and

The Canale Grande (Grand Canal) is the main aquatic route in Venice carrying the bulk of the city’s transportation; the sides of the canal are lined with palaces, churches, hotels and centuries-old buildings (now housing government offices, international banks and art galleries) in diverse architectural styles; Venice, Italy – this photograph was taken from the from the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge), an architectural and engineering Renaissance marvel in the center of Venice

 

Just off the Canale Grande (Grand Canal) is this “parking” area for the gondolas that are awaiting their turn to queue for a fare, Venice, Italy

Just off the Canale Grande (Grand Canal) is this “parking” area for the gondolas that are awaiting their turn to queue for a fare, Venice, Italy

 

Little Known Fact:  All gondolas are painted black, the result of a 17th-century law to eradicate the then-rising rivalry among noble families for the swankiest vessel.  The ironwork design on the front of the gondola represents Venice’s six districts, the Ponte di Rialto and the Doge’s hat.  There are more than 400 gondoliers in Venice; the first female did not appear until 2010.

 

Near our ship_s pier was this canal with an interesting business located on it – the city_s main gondola repair and painting company, with several gondolas “dry docked”; Venice

Near our ship’s pier was this canal with an interesting business located on it – the city’s main gondola repair and painting company, with several gondolas “dry docked”; Venice, Italy

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

With occupation dating from 50,000 B.C., up to the 19th century A.D., Butrint (originally called Buthrotum) is located on a small hill surrounded by the waters of Lake Butrint and the Vi

With occupation dating from 50,000 B.C., up to the 19th century A.D., Butrint (originally called Buthrotum) is located on a small hill surrounded by the waters of Lake Butrint and the Vivari Channel (pictured here), flowing into the Ionian Sea; Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

Situated in a national park in Albania, just south of the Albanian Riviera resort town of Sarandë, Butrint attracts nature lovers as well as those with an interest in archaeology and history.  From Corfu, Greece, where our ship was docked, we took a commercial hydrofoil boat across the 8.7 miles (14 km) of the Ionian Sea separating Corfu from the southern coast of Albania.  After clearing Albanian Immigration in Sarandë, our small group was driven south to Butrint.  (Our tour organizers had noted that “Albania’s infrastructure is less developed than other European countries; transportation may not meet normal standards.”  That proved to be an unnecessary warning, as we found the infrastructure to be fine – in fact better than a lot of the U.S.A.!)

 

Remains of the original city walls facing Lake Butrint near what is now the entrance to the historical site, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

Remains of the original city walls facing Lake Butrint near what is now the entrance to the historical site, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

Occupied before Greeks, the Butrint settlement was abandoned late in the Middle Ages when the region was slowly engulfed by encroaching marshland.  Described by UNESCO as “a microcosm of Mediterranean history,” the archaeological site bears vestiges of its ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian history; it is a UNESCO World Heritage Center.  We had private guides to walk us through the National Park historical core area and spent about an hour and a half exploring the peaceful site, rediscovered in 1927 by Italian archaeologists.  Among the highlights: a Greek theater and Temple of Asclepius, a Roman forum and public baths, a paleo-Christian baptistery and basilica, and a museum housing numerous relics.

The National Park brochure has an interesting historical story about the founding of Butrint:  “According to classical mythology, the ancient city known as Buthrotum, was founded by the exiles who left the city after the fall of Troy.  In the epic poem ‘Aeneid’, the Latin poet Virgil narrates to Aeneas, who visited Butrint on his way to Italy”.

 

A Venetian guard tower at the city walls built in the 15th and 16th centuries, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

A Venetian guard tower at the city walls built in the 15th and 16th centuries, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

The UNESCO World Heritage website has an excellent summary of the history of the site: “Butrint, located in the south of Albania approximately 20 km [12 miles] from the modern city of Saranda, has a special atmosphere created by a combination of archaeology, monuments and nature in the Mediterranean.  With its hinterland it constitutes an exceptional cultural landscape, which has developed organically over many centuries.  Butrint has escaped aggressive development of the type that has reduced the heritage value of most historic landscapes in the Mediterranean region.  It constitutes a very rare combination of archaeology and nature.  The property is a microcosm of Mediterranean history, with occupation dating from 50,000 BC, at its earliest evidence, up to the 19th century AD.  Prehistoric sites have been identified within the nucleus of Butrint, the small hill surrounded by the waters of Lake Butrint and Vivari Channel, as well as in its wider territory.  From 800 BC until the arrival of the Romans, Butrint was influenced by Greek culture, bearing elements of a “polis” and being settled by Chaonian tribes.  In 44 BC Butrint became a Roman colony and expanded considerably on reclaimed marshland, primarily to the south across the Vivari Channel, where an aqueduct was built.  In the 5th century AD Butrint became an Episcopal centre; it was fortified and substantial early Christian structures were built.  After a period of abandonment, Butrint was reconstructed under Byzantine control in the 9th century.  Butrint and its territory came under Angevin and then Venetian control in the 14th century.  Several attacks by despots of Epirus and then later by Ottomans led to the strengthening and extension of the defensive works of Butrint.  At the beginning of the 19th century, a new fortress was added to the defensive system of Butrint at the mouth of the Vivari Channel.  It was built by Ali Pasha, an Albanian Ottoman ruler who controlled Butrint and the area until its final abandonment.”

 


A drawing of what archaeologists believe Roman Butrint looked like in the late 1st century A.D., Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania; the late 1st century A.D. was a prosperous per

A drawing of what archaeologists believe Roman Butrint looked like in the late 1st century A.D., Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania; the late 1st century A.D. was a prosperous period for Butrint and its inhabitants – its citizens enjoyed a high standard of living with fine glass and tableware being common in many households

 

Roman statues of the imperial family that were displayed in the theatre and other public spaces in Butrint, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

Roman statues of the imperial family that were displayed in the theatre and other public spaces in Butrint, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

Lonely Planet guides has a good summary of the site and visit: “The ancient ruins of Butrint, 18km south of Saranda, are famed for their size, beauty and tranquillity.  They’re in a fantastic natural setting and are part of a 29-sq-km national park.  The remains – Albania’s finest – are from a variety of periods, spanning 2,500 years.

“Although the site was inhabited long before, Greeks from Corfu settled on the hill in Butrint (Buthrotum) in the 6th century BC.  Within a century Butrint had become a fortified trading city with an acropolis.  The lower town began to develop in the 3rd century BC, and many large stone buildings had already been built by the time the Romans took over in 167 BC.  Butrint’s prosperity continued throughout the Roman period, and the Byzantines made it an ecclesiastical centre.  The city then went into a long decline and was abandoned until 1927, when Italian archaeologists arrived.  These days Lord Rothschild’s UK-based Butrint Foundation helps maintain the site.

“As you enter the site the path leads to the right, to Butrint’s 3rd-century-BC Greek theatre, secluded in the forest below the acropolis.  Also in use during the Roman period, the theatre could seat about 2,500 people.  Close by are the small public baths, where geometric mosaics are buried under a layer of mesh and sand to protect them from the elements.

“Deeper in the forest is a wall covered with crisp Greek inscriptions, and the 6th-century palaeo-Christian baptistry decorated with colourful mosaics of animals and birds, again under the sand.  Beyond are the impressive arches of the 6th-century basilica, built over many years.  A massive Cyclopean wall dating back to the 4th century BC is further on.  Over one gate is a relief of a lion killing a bull, symbolic of a protective force vanquishing assailants.

“The top of the hill is where the acropolis once was.  There’s now a castle here, housing an informative museum.  The views from the museum’s courtyard give you a good idea of the city’s layout, and you can see the Vivari Channel connecting Lake Butrint to the Straits of Corfu.  There are community-run stalls inside the gates where you can buy locally produced souvenirs.”

 

Roman baths (thermae) of the 2nd century A.D., Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

Roman baths (thermae) of the 2nd century A.D., Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

The ancient Roman theatre, arranged according to the Roman style and equipped with a Roman scene, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

The ancient Greek, and later Roman, theatre, arranged according to the Roman style and equipped with a Roman scene, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

The seating area of the ancient Roman theatre, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

The seating area of the ancient Roman theatre, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

The Greek Agora and, later, the Roman Forum, that formed the civic and commercial epicenter of the city, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

The Greek Agora and, later, the Roman Forum, that formed the civic and commercial epicenter of the city, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

A baptistery of the 2nd century A.D. with a well preserved mosaic floor, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania; the Butrint Baptistery is one of the outstanding early Byzantine monum

A baptistry of the 2nd century A.D. with a well preserved mosaic floor, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania; the Butrint Baptistry is one of the outstanding early Byzantine monuments of the central Mediterranean – its complex structure ranks it alongside the large free standing baptistries of late antique and medieval Italy, and its extraordinary mosaic pavement is the best preserved and by far the most elaborate of any of these

 

The Gymnasium, perhaps a pagan shrine, later transformed into a chruch, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

The Gymnasium, perhaps a pagan shrine, later transformed into a chruch, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

The exterior walls of the Great Basillica – a cult establishment of the early Chrisian period, built in the 6th century A.D., Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

The exterior walls of the Great Basillica – a cult establishment of the early Chrisian period, built in the 6th century A.D., Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

An arched exterior wall of the Great Basillica, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

An arched exterior wall of the Great Basillica, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

The interior of the Great Basillica, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

The interior of the Great Basillica, Butrint National Park, Sarandë, Albania

 

Following our tour, we were driven back to Sarandë where we had a local-cuisine lunch at one of the tourist restaurants along the waterfront.  Working with our guides, they arranged an addition to our program — a drive south to the hill that is home to Lëkurësi Castle, now in ruins and partially restored.  The hill proved to be strategic.  The castle on it was built in 1537 by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, who had attacked Corfu and needed to control the harbor and the road connecting Sarandë to Butrint.  [See our photographs from the hill in our previous blog post, “Sarandë, Albania”.]  Later, back in Sarandë, we had time to walk along the promenade at the central city beach and observe local life (and try the local ice cream).  Our return to Corfu was by hydrofoil; as noted earlier,  the boat and engines were built many decades ago by the Russians and we hoped the tape and chewing gum that held it together lasted for our round-trip journey.

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Sarandë, Albania

The city of Sarandë is a resort on the Albanian Riviera, in southern Albania, sandwiched between the Ionian Sea and hills of olive groves; the town is on a horseshoe-shaped bay, edged

The city of Sarandë is a resort on the Albanian Riviera, in southern Albania, sandwiched between the Ionian Sea and hills of olive groves; the town is on a horseshoe-shaped bay, edged by beaches and a promenade

 

Despite its proximity to the tourist haven Corfu – about 8.7 miles (14 km) east of the northern end of the island of Corfu — Albania remains largely unexplored.  Less than an hour away from our ship’s pier in Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece — by regularly scheduled hydrofoil boats — Sarandë (population ~ 33,000) is the gateway to one of the country’s highlights, the National Park of Butrint, our morning destination.  Described by UNESCO as “a microcosm of Mediterranean history,” the archaeological site bears vestiges of its ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian history [see our next blog post, “National Park of Butrint, Sarandë, Albania”].

 

Our hydrofoil from Corfu, at dock in Sarandë, Albania; the boat and engines were built many decades ago by the Russians and we hoped the tape and chewing gum that held it together last

Our hydrofoil from Corfu, at dock in Sarandë, Albania; the boat and engines were built many decades ago by the Russians and we hoped the tape and chewing gum that held it together lasted for our round-trip journey

 

All along the promenade are new hotels catering to the large number of tourists in Sarandë, Albania

All along the promenade are new hotels catering to the large number of tourists in Sarandë, Albania

 

The city of Sarandë is a resort on the Albanian Riviera, in southern Albania.  Sandwiched between the Ionian Sea and hills of olive groves, the town is on a horseshoe-shaped bay, edged by beaches and a promenade.  In the center are the archaeological remains of a 5th-century synagogue, later an early Christian basilica. Intricate floor mosaics are still evident. The 16th-century Lëkurësi Castle is on a hilltop above the town.

 

The central beach and bay in downtown Sarandë, Albania

The central beach and bay in downtown Sarandë, Albania

 

“Saranda [the English spelling] is the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera, and come the summer months it seems like half Tirana [Albania’s capital and largest city, with a population of 420,000] relocates here to enjoy the busy beach and busier nightlife along its crowd-filled seaside promenade.  What was once a sleepy fishing village is now a thriving city, and while Saranda has lost much of its charm in the past two decades, it has retained much of its charisma.  The town beaches are nothing special, but Saranda is a great base for exploring the beaches of the riviera if you have your own transport.  The town’s name comes from Agioi Saranda, an early monastery dedicated to 40 saints; its bombed remains (including some preserved frescos) are still high on the hill above the town.  The town was called Porto Edda for a period in the 1940s, after Mussolini’s daughter.” — www.lonelyplanet.com

 

A view down the promenade back to the east, toward the pier and the central business district of Sarandë, Albania

A view down the promenade back to the east, toward the pier and the central business district of Sarandë, Albania

 

Regarding Albania’s status, Wikipedia reports that “The Republic of Albania has been an official candidate for accession to the European Union (EU) since June 2014 and is on the current agenda for future enlargement of the EU…  Albania applied for European Union membership on 28 April 2009″.

 

After lunch we were driven up a strategic hill overlooking Sarandë, Albania, to Lëkurësi Castle, now in ruins and partially restored; it was built in 1537 by the Ottoman Turkish Su

After lunch we were driven up a strategic hill overlooking Sarandë, Albania, to Lëkurësi Castle, now in ruins and partially restored; it was built in 1537 by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, who had attacked Corfu and needed to control the harbor and the road connecting Sarandë to Butrint; this is the view from the castle to the east — farmlands

 

This view of Sarandë, Albania, looking northward from the hill that is the site of Lëkurësi Castle, shows how strategic the location was to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent

This panoramic view of Sarandë, Albania, looking northward from the hill that is the site of Lëkurësi Castle, shows how strategic the location was to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent

 

The road down the coast, southward from the hill that is the site of Lëkurësi Castle, heads to the National Park of Butrint, our destination earlier that morning, Sarandë, Albania;

The road down the coast, southward from the hill that is the site of Lëkurësi Castle, heads to the National Park of Butrint, our destination earlier that morning, Sarandë, Albania; Corfu Island, Greece, is the large island in the upper right of the [panorama] photograph

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

Set atop a rocky peninsula, the most famous castle on the island – Palaio Frourio (The Old Castle) -- was built by the Venetians and was reclaimed by the Greeks in 1864, Kerkyra, Corfu

Set atop a rocky peninsula, the most famous castle on the island – Palaio Frourio (The Old Castle) — was built by the Venetians and was reclaimed by the Greeks in 1864, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

 

To think of Corfu is to think of a stunning Greek landscape with beaches on the Ionian Sea lapped by indigo waters, green hillsides draped in subtropical flora, and endless patches of gnarled, centuries-old olive trees.  Known by its Greek name Kerkyra, the island displays centuries of Venetian rule in its architecture and its local history, along with Turkish, British, and French influences.  Kerkyra (Corfu) Old Town was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Historically, Kerkyra (Corfu) is different from the rest of Greece:  “Corfu completely escaped the oppressive effects of Ottoman Turkish rule during its nearly 400-year occupation of most of the rest of Greece.  Therefore, it belongs, as no other place in Greece, to the West, rather than to the Levant.” — www.grekomania.com

 

Designed as a symbol of the old Corfu aristocratic society, the Liston – an arched colonnade -- remains a significant landmark of Corfu, Greece

Designed as a symbol of the old Corfu aristocratic society, the Liston – an arched colonnade — remains a significant landmark of Corfu, Greece; it was built in 1807 by Lesseps, an engineer whose son opened the Suez Canal, and emulates the arcade-lined rue de Rivoli in Paris and houses several coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants

 

The main clock tower, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

The main clock tower, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

 

Little Known Fact: Famous for having more than three million olive trees, some more than 400 years old, Corfu produces 3% of the world’s olive oil.  It is said that there are 20 olive trees for every woman, man, and child on the island.

 

With a group of friends we had a tasty, typical Greek cuisine luncheon at the Bougainville Restaurant (named for all the flowering bougainvillea plants), Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

With a group of friends we had a tasty, typical Greek cuisine luncheon at the Bougainville Restaurant (named for all the flowering bougainvillea plants), Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

 

We skipped dessert at the restaurant, instead finding this excellent bakery with local Greek pastries, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

We skipped dessert at the restaurant, instead finding this excellent bakery with local Greek pastries, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

 

One of the main shopping streets in Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece, where there were many purchases by our group

One of the main shopping streets in Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece, where there were many purchases by our group

 

Many stores selling jewelry also sold religious paintings and icons, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

Many stores selling jewelry also sold religious paintings and icons, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Gaïos, Paxos Island, Greece

Gaïos on the small island of Paxos, Greece, is surrounded by turquoise waters and back-dropped by thriving olive groves and ife centers around the busy waterfront

Gaïos on the small island of Paxos, Greece, is surrounded by turquoise waters and back-dropped by thriving olive groves and ife centers around the busy waterfront

 

Wrapped around a horseshoe-shaped harbor, the postcard capital of Gaïos on the small island of Paxos, Greece, is surrounded by turquoise waters and back-dropped by thriving olive groves.  Life centers around the busy waterfront where sleek yachts rest alongside fishing boats and open-air cafés, and lively tavernas fill the brightly painted 19th-century buildings around the main square.  One day in Gaïos, with a small group from the ship, we chartered an excursion boat and sailed around Paxos Island and then south to the neighboring island of Antipaxoi.  There we had the opportunity to take a swim.  Afterwards we pulled up to Vrika Beach on the isle of Antipaxoi where we went ashore and had a relaxing luncheon under umbrellas on the terrace of a local restaurant overlooking the beach and sparkling blue waters of the bay.

 

Agioi Apostoli (Holy Apostles) church is said to have been built on the location of the tomb of Agios Gaïos who was responsible for bringing Christianity to the island; the church —

Agioi Apostoli (Holy Apostles) church is said to have been built on the location of the tomb of Agios Gaïos who was responsible for bringing Christianity to the island; the church — albeit small — is located on the Gaïos waterfront and features interesting religious frescoes and an old cistern; Paxos Island, Greece

 

Sleek yachts rest alongside fishing boats and open-air cafés, Gaïos, Paxos Island, Greece

Sleek yachts rest alongside fishing boats and open-air cafés, Gaïos, Paxos Island, Greece

 

An interesting landform (reminiscent of a camel?) as we sailed around Paxos Island, Greece

An interesting landform (reminiscent of a camel?) as we sailed around Paxos Island, Greece

 

Local fishing boats, Gaïos, Paxos Island, Greece

Local fishing boats, Gaïos, Paxos Island, Greece

 

Vrika Beach on the isle of Antipaxoi where we went ashore and had a relaxing luncheon under umbrellas on the terrace of a local restaurant overlooking the beach and sparkling blue waters

Vrika Beach on the isle of Antipaxoi where we went ashore and had a relaxing luncheon under umbrellas on the terrace of a local restaurant overlooking the beach and sparkling blue waters of the bay, Greece

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Cook Local and Eat Local: Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

Our hosts and chefs, Vassiliki and George, at Chez Vassiliki cooking school, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

Our hosts and chefs, Vassiliki and George, at Chez Vassiliki cooking school, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

Since we weren’t fortunate enough to have a Greek mama or yia-yia to teach us traditional Greek cooking, we signed up for a Greek cooking class on Kefalonia Island.  We joined a small group from the ship and were driven about an hour from the pier in Fiskardo all the way south on Kefalonia to the small hamlet of Karavados, tucked away on the lower slopes of mount Aenos, to the home of Vassiliki and George, world travelers and hosts at Chez Vassiliki cooking school.  Mrs. Vassiliki welcomed us to her home with a glass of Greek ouzo and snacks while she described their lesson plan.  Using locally sourced ingredients, we all got to help prepare several dishes over the next few hours.  After we completed our cooking, we pitched in for plating and adjourned to the terrace where we shared the meal we had helped prepare, along with some (i.e., many) glasses of local wine.  On the drive back to Fiskardo and the ship’s pier, we had a chance to stop at the overlook on the road above picturesque Myrtos Beach (featured in the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin).

 

From its elevated position on the south coast of the island, the terrace at Chez Vassiliki commands a spectacular panoramic view over the Ionian Sea, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

From its elevated position on the south coast of the island, the terrace at Chez Vassiliki commands a spectacular panoramic view over the Ionian Sea, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

Mrs. Vassiliki welcomed us to her home with a glass of Greek ouzo and snacks (tomatoes and feta cheese) while she described their lesson plan, Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island

Mrs. Vassiliki welcomed us to her home with a glass of Greek ouzo and snacks (tomatoes and feta cheese) while she described their lesson plan, Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

Cooking herbs as the base for the main course, chicken with egg-lemon sauce (Avgolemono sauce), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

Cooking herbs as the base for the main course, chicken with egg-lemon sauce (Avgolemono sauce), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

Vassiliki and George demonstrating the making of lamb meatballs and the egg-lemon sauce (Avgolemono sauce), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

Vassiliki and George demonstrating the making of lamb meatballs and the egg-lemon sauce (Avgolemono sauce), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

One of the final dishes (that we ate!)- lamb meatballs with tomatoes and feta cheese, Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

One of the final dishes (that we ate!): lamb meatballs with tomatoes and feta cheese, Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

One of the final dishes (that we ate!)- chicken with egg-lemon sauce (Avgolemono sauce), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

One of the final dishes (that we ate!): chicken with egg-lemon sauce (Avgolemono sauce), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

One of the final dishes (that we ate!)- a liquor-soaked cake (desert), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

One of the final dishes (that we ate!): a liquor-soaked cake (desert), Chez Vassiliki, Karavados, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

Picturesque Myrtos Beach (featured in the film Captain Corelli_s Mandolin), Kefalonia Island, Greece

Picturesque Myrtos Beach (featured in the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Fiskardo, Kefalonia Island and Ithaca Island (mythical home of Odysseus), Greece

Fiskardo, located on Kefalonia Island, Greece, epitomizes the postcard-worthy beauty and tranquility of the Greek islands

Fiskardo, located on Kefalonia Island, Greece, epitomizes the postcard-worthy beauty and tranquility of the Greek islands

 

Located on the island of Kefalonia, Fiskardo epitomizes the postcard-worthy beauty and tranquility of the Greek islands.  Pebbly beaches front the Ionian Sea, flowers flow over pastel buildings, yachts and small fishing boats ring the waterfront, and friendly taverns serve local cuisine.  Water sports oriented visitors can snorkel the coves of Emblisi Beach or dive the wrecks and caves around the island’s coast.  Others may lounge on picturesque Myrtos Beach (featured in the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), or swim at remote (and local favorite) Agia Ierousalim Beach.  Other popular activities include hiking in Mt. Ainos National Park, biking through valleys and the Mediterranean countryside, and exploring the depths of Melissani Cave.  Venetian-style architecture sprinkled throughout the town is a reminder that Fiskardo is the island’s only village to have survived the 1953 earthquake.

 

Boats in the harbor of Fiskardo, Kefalonia Island, Greece

Boats in the harbor of Fiskardo, Kefalonia Island, Greece

 

From Fiskardo on Kefalonia, we set sail directly east to the island of Ithaca, the mythical home of Odysseus (documented by the Greek poet Homer in his Odyssey), Greece

From Fiskardo on Kefalonia, we set sail directly east to the island of Ithaca, the mythical home of Odysseus (documented by the Greek poet Homer in his Odyssey), Greece

 

We ventured out for the day with a small group on a chartered motor boat to visit the nearby (just to the east) island of Ithaca, the mythical home of Odysseus (of Greek legend), where he was king of the Island (documented by the Greek poet Homer in his Odyssey).  Docking briefly, we then set out on a late morning hike down the coast to the tiny coastal village of Frikes, nestled at the head of a narrow bay and home to just 100 or so full-time residents.  In Frikes we had a relaxing seafood luncheon under umbrellas at a harbor-side restaurant

 

Homes on a hill viewed on our hike down the east coast of Ithaca Island (mythical home of Odysseus), Greece, on the way to the tiny coastal village of Frikes

Homes on a hill viewed on our hike down the east coast of Ithaca Island (mythical home of Odysseus), Greece, on the way to the tiny coastal village of Frikes

 

The tiny coastal village of Frikes, nestled at the head of a narrow bay and home to just 100 or so full-time residents, Ithaca Island (mythical home of Odysseus), Greece

The tiny coastal village of Frikes, nestled at the head of a narrow bay and home to just 100 or so full-time residents, Ithaca Island (mythical home of Odysseus), Greece

 

Sailboats in the harbor of Frikes, Ithaca Island (mythical home of Odysseus), Greece

Sailboats in the harbor of Frikes, Ithaca Island (mythical home of Odysseus), Greece

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.