A Travellerspoint blog

Norte da Italia

Belluno, Veneza

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Deixamos para trás as vinícolas e castelos da Toscana e seguimos para o verde e as montanhas do norte da Itália, a mudança da paisagem foi drástica assim que cruzamos para a região do Veneto, a caminho de Belluno entramos em um túnel e quando chegamos ao outro lado haviam montanhas enormes e lagos de água cristalina, imagens de cartão postal. As montanhas que nos vimos à distância são chamadas de Dolomites, são as montanhas mais altas da Itália, localizas na fronteira com a Áustria e de grande atração turística principalmente no inverno. Depois de sofrer com o calor intenso de Roma e da Toscana, nós estávamos à procura de ar fresco e tranqüilidade, mas para a nossa surpresa a temperatura estava mais alta que o normal e o norte também sofria com a onda de calor, por outro lado quase não haviam turistas na região, fazendo com que nos pudéssemos aproveitar alguns dias de sossego.

Entre as razões da nossa visita ao norte a mais importante foi a de conhecer as raízes da minha família, pois na região de Belluno, mais precisamente na cidade de Feltre foi onde a família Conte, a família da nona Carmelinda se originou e foi um privilégio poder conhecer o lugar onde tudo começou.Começamos a nossa visita em Belluno e nos hospedamos em uma casa de família fora da cidade, cercada pelas montanhas dos Dolomites, uma família muito simpática, uma casa de 3 andares e em cada andar morava uma geração da família, sendo que parte do andar térreo estava reservada para o uso dos hospedes, dois quartos um banheiro e uma sala de jantar, usamos o nosso melhor Italiano para nos comunicar com os avós, o filho falava algumas palavras em Inglês e a sua esposa era a única que falava e entendia Inglês quase que perfeitamente e estava sempre querendo praticar a língua com nós dois, mas era mais divertido tentar falar o nosso “Portunholiano”. De carro percorremos toda a região, parando em lagos com água claras de cor turquesa, vilas com estilo metade Germânico/Austríaco metade Italiano, onde a população falava Italiano e Alemão, pois na época de Mussolini .... As montanhas eram imensas e nos picos mais altos havia neve, contrastando com o verde das montanhas, um cenário esplêndido, quando não podíamos mais dirigir embarcamos em um teleférico que nos levou próximo ao topo de uma das montanhas e de lá nós caminhos para o topo e nos sentimos literalmente no topo do mundo. Na mesma noite a família que nos hospedou sugeriu que nós fossemos provar a especialidade da região: carne de cavalo. Pois é, o Jonathan topa qualquer coisa então nós fomos comer no melhor restaurante de cavalo da cidade, e o cardápio não poderia ser mais “cavalistico” (mais uma palavra inventada no meu dicionário) para começar o aperitivo foi um prato de frios, salame de cavalo, prosciutto de cavalo, presunto de cavalo e carne seca de cavalo, aprovado pelo Jonathan, mas eu sem coragem só comi a salada, o prato principal foi um file de cavalo com batatas, e de tanto que o Jonathan gostou eu ate experimentei e aprovei, a carne era de muita qualidade e não tinha nenhum gosto esquisito, segundo o Jonathan essa foi uma das refeições favoritas dele aqui na Itália e no final só faltou mesmo a sobremesa, talvez um mousse de cavalo? Acho que aí seria demais não é...
No dia seguinte seguimos para Feltre, cidade histórica onde as paredes de cada casa continham pinturas do século passado, janelas com venezianas e floreiras, mantendo o estilo de época e as ruas quase todas de pedra. Sem saber muito dos meus antepassados, resolvemos perguntar na biblioteca cívica, no museu cívico e no escritório de turismo, mas infelizmente ninguém tinha informação sobre as famílias que deixaram o país, o único lugar que poderia ter informação seria o cartório, que estava fechado, pois era sábado de manhã, então a nossa breve busca teve que ser abandonada. Mas pelo menos eu pude conhecer o lugar e voltar pra casa pra contar para a minha nona e mostrar pra ela as fotos de um lugar que provavelmente ira trazer lembranças.
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Já estava na hora de continuar a viagem, com destino a Veneza, a nossa ultima parada na Itália, no caminho passamos o final de semana na região vinícola do Veneto, onde o famoso Prosecco (espumante Italiano) é produzido, e assim passamos o nosso tempo, degustando os vinhos e a comida local e de barriga cheia seguimos para Veneza, sem muita expectativa, pois ultimamente tudo que se houve de Veneza é que esta cheia de turistas, que é suja e muito cara, mas para a nossa surpresa apesar da quantidade de visitantes, a cidade ainda conserva muito charme, afinal não existe nenhum lugar no mundo como Veneza. A cidade é formada por 117 ilhas, 150 canais e 400 pontes, o transito é composto de vaporettos (barcos de transporte público) e gôndolas e desse jeito é impossível não se perder, o segredo de Veneza está fora dos monumentos principais como a Piazza de San Marco e as várias Igrejas, essas áreas estão cheias de turistas e andar pelas ruas é quase que claustrofóbico, então se perder pelas ruas da cidade é a melhor atividade, quase todas sem saída, um labirinto de casas antigas, cada uma com a sua própria personalidade e melancolia, típicas de Veneza. De noite é quando a cidade revela a sua beleza, as ruas escuras são iluminadas somente pela luz da lua e ainda é possível encontrar um lugar calmo na beira de um canal, para se apreciar a paisagem acompanhada por uma garrafa de vinho ou encontrar um restaurante no final da rua com comida típica Veneziana, frutos do mar e uma variedade de risotos. Claro que tudo isso tem um preço, no caso de Veneza que é a cidade mais cara da Itália, os preços são sempre mais elevados, mas com muita pesquisa e dor no pé de tanto caminhar nós encontramos algumas exceções.

A nossa visita a Veneza também tinha outra razão, estávamos esperando uma encomenda dos Estados Unidos, contendo os nossos passes de trem para viajar no próximo mês, mas infelizmente a policia federal Italiana resolveu confiscar o nosso pacote por razão nenhuma e depois de varias viagens ao correio de Veneza e varias tentativas frustradas de comunicarmos com eles, nós resolvemos continuar a nossa viagem e seguir para a Croácia (país do leste Europeu), por uma semana e esperar pela boa vontade dos Italianos, tendo que voltar para Veneza e buscar o envelope, se é que de certo, senão a nossa viagem vai se tornar muito mais cara que o previsto. Os passes custaram muito e não podem ser reembolsados sem prova de que nós não utilizamos os mesmos na nossa viagem, mas sem obter os passes do correio nós não teremos prova alguma, ou seja, dinheiro jogado fora. Ainda temos esperanças de que o pacote vai aparecer no correio ate a semana que vem, cruzem os dedos!

Posted by flaviaU 18:49 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Mangia che te fa bene!

Roma - Toscana

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Ahhh Roma…a cidade eterna, com uma imensa bagagem cultural, com suas catedrais, monumentos e ruínas, é uma cidade fascinante, andar pelas ruas de Roma é uma aula de historia grátis, ao vivo! Entre os monumentos mais fascinantes de Roma estão o Panteão, a Fontana di Trevi, o Coliseu e a Basílica de São Pedro no Vaticano, cada qual com a sua beleza e importância cultural. O único problema foi o numero de turistas concentrados em cada um dos monumentos, fazendo a nossa espera ser muito mais longa que a esperada, mesmo assim aproveitamos o máximo da cidade.

No primeiro dia visitamos o Vaticano, chegamos bem cedo para evitar as filas e conseguimos tirar algumas fotos da Praça de São Pedro ainda vazia e a fila para entrar na Basílica ainda estava pequena, se tornou menor ainda quando os seguranças começaram a regular e entrada das senhoras e senhoritas que estavam de ombro de fora e com decote aí foi todo mundo comprar lenço pra se cobrir. Mas o que mais me impressionou foi o Museu do Vaticano, demorou 1 hora e meia para nos conseguirmos entrar, mas valeu a pena, a coleção de arte é extremamente extensa e única, cada sala com magníficas pinturas renascentistas e é claro o ponto alto da visita foram os afrescos com cenas do Velho Testamento, pintados por Michelangelo no teto da Capela Sistina. Claro que eu não posso deixar de mencionar que durante o passeio cruzei com ruas e monumentos com o meu nome, Via Flavia, Domus Flavia, Terraza di Flavia, pois o meu nome tem origem na Roma antiga, do latim “loira ou de cachos dourados” (a minha mãe provavelmente não sabia disso quando eu nasci ou ela tinha esperança que eu fosse loira) é também o feminino da família Romana “Flavius” da dinastia Flavian. O calor estava insuportável, não dava para caminhar por muito tempo sem sentar na sombra por uns minutos para descansar, mas com muita água e muito gelato nós sobrevivemos. De Roma pegamos um trem com destino a Siena, cidade medieval localizada no coração da Toscana, famosa por suas corridas de cavalo e as muralhas que cercam a cidade, Siena ainda conserva suas tradições de cidade medieval, todos os edifícios da cidade são muito preservados e andar pela cidade é surreal, você parece mesmo estar em outra era. Em Siena alugamos um carro e fomos explorar a Toscana e provar os vinhos da região, o Brunello di Montalcino, o Vino Nobile di Montepulciano e é claro o que não poderia faltar, o Chianti, os vinhos são espetaculares e o cenário da Toscana é maravilhoso.

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A mangiare! Eu e o Jonathan estamos sempre em busca da refeição perfeita, ate agora foram poucas, infelizmente quando se é turista não é fácil saber onde comer, a maioria dos restaurantes são caros e a comida não é muito boa, mas eles sabem que os turistas vão comer sem reclamar muito. Eu estou sempre em busca da massa perfeita, gnocchi, Pappardelle, ravióli, mas eu ainda não encontrei nenhuma massa que se compare a massa da minha nona Carmelinda, o macarrão e o tortei da nona são imbatíveis! Os tempos mudaram aqui na Itália e as refeições caseiras quase não existem mais, mas de vez em quando nós encontramos alguns lugares pequenos e escondidos que ainda cultivam as tradições. Mas ainda temos esperança de comer algo inesquecível, quem sabe no norte da Itália, no Veneto, na terra da nona Carmelinda, que pretendemos conhecer na nossa próxima parada. Buon appetito!

Posted by flaviaU 16:42 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Wine and Mountains

sunny 99 °F

I was happy to leave Rome. Both of us really felt like we had big city overload and heading inland to Tuscany seemed like the perfect cure. We jumped onto the train and sped out of town, then maneuvered our way onto a few buses before finding our overpriced hostel in this land of overpriced everything. It was still really hot, as expected, and unfortunately Sienna was just as overcrowded as Rome, packed with tourists, and it seemed to have lost the authenticity that we had hoped to find there. Sienna is absolutely beautiful, there is no doubting that, the Etruscan churches and towers mark a sharp change from the Roman architecture and the pink hued, white marble church in Sienna is truly one of the most beautiful churches in the world. The town is a maze of narrow alleys, fenced in by burnt orange buildings lined with the green and yellow flags of the recent winner of Il Palio, the famous bareback horse race that had taken place in the main square a few weeks earlier. We wandered after a prolonged siesta to avoid the scorching hot sun and enjoyed the slight cool down as the sun set. I was happy here, I’d been wanting to come back to Sienna since I first visited about 15 years ago. I remembered it like it still is, a combination of tourism placed inside the ancient walls, however maybe now I am just a bit annoyed by the overabundance of tourism. We were disappointed to find all the menus in English, and staff that seem perfectly capable of speaking and understanding English and even our Italian until there is a problem. That problem occurred at dinner when I received an unrecognizable small plate of food where my wild boar stew was supposed to be. It’s interesting how one moment of something as trivial as them trying to rip us off for food can ruin an entire town. We went to dinner happy to be in Sienna, happy to be in the wine country, and left wanting nothing more than to rent a car the next day and get out of there!

So that’s what we did. We picked up our little Fiat Panda and sped out of town, heading for the famous vineyards of Montalcino and Montepulciano. Wine tasting in Italy turned out to be a bit more difficult than we expected. The idea of pulling up to a winery, heading to the tasting room and sampling the products doesn’t entirely exist here. Instead, to taste the wine in the two cities we had to head to the tiny ancient walled towns and find the Enotecas. This was fine and in the end we were happy with the wine that we found, but it ruined the romanticism of scooting through a hilly vineyard with a glass of Brunello, hearing tales of grandfather’s grandfather planting the first Sangiovese grapes in the area, and added me trying to negotiate the one way narrow streets. We drove around most of the day, enjoying Tuscany, enjoying being away from the real crowd, and happy when we found a very nice American couple to spend the afternoon with drinking white wine in Montepulciano, as it was just too damn hot for red. It was really hot, hot enough that in the middle of the summer, in wine country, they were saying that it was a good 5 Celsius hotter than usual. We spent one more night in Sienna, and headed to dinner with older Australian couple that we’d met at the hotel. They were a friendly couple, a mix of homeopathic, energetic, and perhaps just a touch eccentric, but in the best possible way! We really enjoyed our meal with them and what’s more, we ended up at the restaurant where 15 years earlier I had really realized the beauty of Italy, a nice plate of pasta and a view of the rolling hills of Tuscany, just what I’d wanted.

The next morning we had quite a day ahead of us, as we started north through Chianti, destined to make it all the way to the north of Italy by sunset. We actually managed to find a winery that had a tasting room, quite an accomplishment and when we stepped into Vescine and when the boisterous winemaker Vincenzo popped up and started telling Flavia how much he loved Brazil, we knew that we had come to the right place. Vincenzo was so Italian that it could have been an act, self assured and perhaps even some would say a bit egotistical, he loved himself, loved the wine that he made, and was so happy to share it with us because he knew that we wouldn’t be disappointed. He spoke almost as if he was dancing, and we sat on a sunlit patio and tasted wine not only from Chianti but from some other vineyards they had throughout the country. The wine was fabulous, the Sauvignon Blanc, as he put it, “made you see Jesus”, and the Chianti was the best, I mean really the best Chianti I have ever had! We walked out a few bottles richer, and got back in the car and onto the Autostrade just outside Florence. The drive was fairly easy, for how difficult driving is in cities and medieval towns, the highways are well signed and pretty empty. We sped through Florence, Bologna, and just inland from Venice and we started to climb into the Italian Alps on the way to the foot of the Dolomites, where Flavia’s Grandmother is from. We arrived in Belluno and settled in, it had been a long day and I was ready for a nice meal. The town of Belluno is pretty sleepy at night. There were some tourists out, but mostly they were from nearby towns in Italy or just over the border to the north, what I’m trying to say is that yes, finally, we had escaped the summer vacation horde!

The owner of a recommended restaurant, Da Contz, welcomed us to his establishment and promised us an amazing meal, and his daughter sat us down and told us what we were going to eat, changing her mind a few times when she looked at Flavia’s size and figured on Antipasti for me, and two meat entrees for the two of us. There was no menu, no prices, and no need for us to say what we wanted. She also told me that I would be eating the house specialty, horse! I have never had horse before, I’ve ridden them, I’ve washed them, I’ve even fed them, but the idea of eating them is taboo, and that’s pretty lucky for them, because MY GOD, they are some of the tastiest animals since we discovered the rabbit! My antipasti was a traditional antipasti, except all horse instead of the usual pig. There was wonderfully fatty horse salami, typical (as typical can get) horse cold cuts, which tasted like a mix between ham and roast beef, horse prosciutto that is salted and air dried for two months until it because a dark purple color, and then the specialty, shoestring horse jerky that was so spectacularly good that I almost called Anthony Bourdaine to come and eat this ASAP. Then the main course came, a huge porterhouse, or should I say porterhorse, a rib section of heaven, perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and in the end the only problem was that I would have looked like a savage if I would have tried to munch every last piece of grizzle and tastiness off of the arm sized bone in front of me. Damn that meal was amazing!

After a wonderful night of sleep where I dreamed of horses and steak, we set out early to explore the Dolomites, the mountain range hugging the border region between Italy and Austria. The weather was unseasonably hot, of course, and we set out through the lush green landscape, the road lined with rivers and wildflowers and dotted with tiny chalet style towns that looked like they would be wonderful to live in for about 5 months of the year. The region was spectacular, surprisingly so, as we really didn’t know what to expect. The mountains we so beautiful, dramatic and welcoming and we stopped to take pictures, listen to the silence, and see the reflection of the peaks in the crystal clear lakes. We drove for hours, until we made it to a ski area and took a chairlift to the top of one of the peaks, where we hiked up through the rocks until we were on top of the world, so far removed from the chaos of Rome, the bad experience in Sienna, and so close to Flavia’s roots. She felt very nostalgic here, so close to where her family is from, and she was eager to share with everyone that we spoke with that she was from here, that her family once upon a time shared bread made from wheat from the same fields. I have to say that for me, that day exploring the Dolomites has been my favorite day in Italy so far, perhaps due to the low expectations and the high results, but also because we had finally gotten away from everything and we hadn’t done that yet.

Heading back down the mountains we stopped in Feltre, the actual birthplace of Flavia’s grandmother, where we explored and found a shoe store with the same last name as her grandma. We continued down to the Prosecco region where, all of a sudden we were engulfed in hills completely covered by thick, tall, green grapes. The region is packed with vines, as it’s a narrow area, bordered on one side by a river and on the other by the mountains, and the farmers have to pack as much as they can into this growing region. The product is great, we love Prosecco, simpler than Champagne, this is an everyday sort of bubbly, approachable, fun, and cheap! After touring the region on the Prosecco Road, we tasted a bit, snapped pictures of the tiny villages surrounded by the huge vineyards, and enjoyed local meat and cheese with our bottle of Chianti back at our tiny hotel.

I am continuing this blog due to lack of internet availability. Basically there is no public wifi or internet café anywhere within 30 miles of our hotel, and I guess we’ve been spoiled by always having access. This wouldn’t be that big of a problem normally except that I have a friend who sent me an email saying that he would be in a nearby city for the weekend with his girlfriend and we made loose plans to see them. Since we could not in any way communicate with them we decided maybe we would have better luck if we just drove to their city and looked to get in touch with them there. When we got into town we went straight for the McDonalds as they all have free wifi. However, for some stupid reason you need to have an Italian phone number to get access so we were out of luck. There were no internet cafes either and I declared that we had a better chance of just running into them on the street then finding a way to actually communicate with them. At that moment at a nearby café, Steve and Mel were looking at pictures of us online and sending us a message to say to meet them at the café around 6pm, it was currently 5:45. 15 minutes later, dejected, frustrated, and on the verge of a fight, Flavia and I walked past the café, stopped and looked around, then kept on, but stopped just long enough for them to wonder if that was us, and I heard a faint “John” from behind me and, bam, they found us. I guess that’s the way it works sometimes! Now we changed plans again and drove to Venice and returned the car, we’ll spend a few days here before finally leaving Italy.

Posted by JonathanU 07:20 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Palermo and Rome

sunny 95 °F

We had slept really well on the train to Sicily, and the streets of early morning Palermo were packed with Africans, Asians, and of course Italians screaming into their mobiles. We navigated away from the tourist area into an neighborhood that felt like Italy. The narrow street where our B&B was located was lined with four story apartment buildings, with kids in the street playing soccer, tight t-shirt wearing auto mechanics, and woman with sound systems blaring out of their homes with Italian pop cleaning up after primi calazione. Everyone was shouting and joking with each other down the street, and each head took a one second turn to notice us walking by with our huge packs. The B&B treated us royally; they gave us free breakfast that first morning, which was the best breakfast spread of the trip. Each morning we were treated to Cappuccinos and about four or five freshly baked pies, torts, or sweets, homemade juices and fruit salad, and of course some nice salami and local cheese.

I was surprised at how beautiful Palermo is. It is off the tourist path because of its southern location, but there were still a lot of tourists here, I guess the secret is out. The Roman era architecture was stunning, and it was the Italy that I had waited for, with older apartments blended into the block with 700 year old churches and 900 year old fortresses and fountains. The other distinguishing monuments here are the demolished WWII relics that are at random points throughout the city, a constant reminder of the many invaders that have thought the best way to reach Rome was through the south. We wandered in the heat, taking the normal tourist pictures, roving through the churches and then heading over to the historic market, where I bought some amazing green olives and we wanted to pick up some fruit to enjoy while we were there. Now I have been to a lot of markets in a lot of countries around the world, but this one was the first one that I have ever seen where you are simply not allowed to touch the fruit or pick which ones you want. I’ve learned that it’s the Italian (or maybe just southern Italian) way of saying, “Hey, this is my fruit, you want to buy it, I’ll give it to you. It’s good, just take the bag and get the hell out of here”. In fact, when I did try to argue about which ones I wanted, I ended up in a yelling match with them ending it by saying Ciao and turning their backs. Finally, we found one guy who would at least allow my input on whether we wanted soft or hard fruit, and when we got back we had three great peaches and an equal number of inedible ones!

The next morning, we were up early and after another great breakfast we headed across town in an absolutely packed bus to rent a car for the day and check out the Western part of Sicily. We rode west towards Trapani after a bit of fun traversing the city, and enjoyed the open road and the stunning mountainous scenery. The green vineyards and blue sea of Sicily are a microcosm of culinary excellence in Italy, simply seafood, fresh ingredients, and a cultural history of wine, in every part of Italy. This is the one country in the world where wine can be cultivated in every region, and the variety of grapes in mindboggling. We drove along the west coast, stopping for a quick picnic lunch, salami, basil, sundried tomato spread, and buffalo mozzarella sandwiches, what else? Finally we made it up to the town of San Vito del Capo, a spotless little village of narrow streets, hundreds of Gelato shops, and a shining beach. The drive home was fine until we had to get back into the city in the middle of rush hour which was one of the most intense driving experiences of my life. Three lanes had cars five across, the streets had no signs, and somehow we managed to find our way back to the B&B.

We spend one more day in Palermo before catching a quick flight up to Rome. At the airport, we quickly learned that there was a public transport strike and only one train would leave per hour, so we crammed into the train, barely fitting in while people continued to push into the car. After 30 minutes they announced that we had to switch trains and since we were already at the door of the car, we were fortunate enough to be the first on the next train and sat comfortably while all the others who had fought so hard on the original train to get seats packed by the door. Once into the central terminal of Rome, we fought our way onto one of the few metro trains leaving the evening rush hour, and got a fair number of expletives shouted at us as we squeezed our packs into the car, then pushed across the car once we reached our destination. Exhausted, stinky, and relieved, we ate a quick meal and slept, knowing that we would only have two days to explore Rome.

Early the next day we rushed towards the Vatican and spent the day doing the normal tourist stuff, St. Peter’s Square, the Basilica, a 90 minute wait in line to see the Vatican museum and get yelled at for taking pictures of the Sistine Chapel. Then we headed to Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Novane, etc. and I was reminded of Rome’s beauty. I felt as if it had changed since I visited when I was 16. The streets seemed a lot cleaner, the traffic was much more courteous, giving the right of way for pedestrians, and everything felt much safer. I remember the first time I was here that the city seemed to be packed with gypsies and scammers, and that at no point did you feel safe to disregard what was going on around your pockets. Now, there didn’t seem to be any of that, and justly the city is absolutely rammed with tourists. In fact, I have never seen a city so full of them, they are everywhere, and the most obnoxious, loud, and rude are the Americans. I have seen in two days why the Canadians feel the need to sew so many damn Canadian flags onto their packs and why Americans in Europe have such a terrible reputation. Whether it’s the refusal to acknowledge that they DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH IN ITALY, or disrespecting the culture by climbing columns to take pictures, or just acting like jackasses, it has been an embarrassment to see, hear, and be around these morons. I am ashamed!

Rome has been expensive, we have had to make lunch in our rooms, just simple sandwiches, and then we’ve taken public transport everywhere. We’ve learned that it’s best to buy daily passes, because you have to buy a ticket ahead of time for the bus or the metro and we found that many of those shops closed early in Sicily, and we were forced to walk or take a taxi. We have also gotten lucky a few times with our ISIC student cards, even though Italy does not give discounts to students outside the EU (never mind that fact that Flavia and I aren’t actually students). We have also saved money here in Italy by filling our water bottles at public fountains. Italy is a country where all of the water is safe to drink, and every few blocks there is a drinking fountain that we can fill up with ice cold water. In fact, Italy is per capita the number one consumer of drinking water in the world. We are also just really watching our spending on everything from dinner to drinking, and not going out at night to clubs or bars where the money goes even faster. We are going to have to continue this as we tour through Europe, always being conscious of value and price, especially with accommodation, which has been way more expensive than we thought it would be.

The following day we braved the ridiculous heat and checked out the Coliseum and Palatine Hill, which overall was a disappointment. Again we were absolutely inundated with annoying tourists, which is expected, but we didn’t think that it was all that impressive after all the amazing ruins that we’ve seen thus far on the trip. Sorry if we’re spoiled, but we couldn’t wait to get out of there and into the shade. Later that day after a nice long siesta we headed back across town towards the Piazza de Popolo and up into the Villa Borghese to the FIFA fan zone to see the final of the world cup. They had set up a huge screen on a soccer field with hills surrounding it and we found a nice quiet place away from the craziness that was going on down on the field. Maybe not, the organizers of this event for some reason hadn’t thought that anyone would come here, and there was no security, no way to organize anything, and when they closed the gates at capacity of 20000 all the latecomers stormed through the seated fans on the hillside, trying to pick their way through and find somewhere to sit. Fights were breaking out, it was hot, people were screaming at each other, stomping on hands and feet, and stopping everywhere blocking the view of the game. Fortunately by the middle of the first half the crowd stopped arriving and we were able to enjoy the rest of the match, and the thousands of flag waving Spanish fans celebrated late into the night when their team won their first world cup.

We delayed our departure to Siena for one day to take it easy in Rome and enjoy a nice dinner before leaving. Two days is too short to do justice to a city like this and it is nice to have the extra day to work on our blogs, catch up on some reading, and stroll around the city once the heat subsides.

Posted by JonathanU 13:01 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

A bela Itália

Sul da Itália - Nápoles/Costa Amalfitana/Sicilia

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Depois de 16 horas de viagem de navio da Grécia, chegamos à cidade portuária de Bari na Itália, Bari não é uma cidade muito atraente, portanto ainda não nos deu a impressão de estarmos na Itália que eu imaginava, mas depois de algumas horas partimos de ônibus em direção a Nápoles, metrópole do sul da Itália. Nápoles é mundialmente conhecida pela famosa pizza napolitana, mas também por ser uma das cidades mais perigosas da Europa, com elevadas taxas de pobreza e desemprego e centenas de mortes por causa das guerras de clãs dentro da máfia local “La Camorra”. A cidade é um verdadeiro caos, o trânsito não tem ordem, me lembra muito das capitais asiáticas onde atravessar a rua é um verdadeiro desafio, as calçadas são cobertas de lixo, problema causado pelo envolvimento da máfia que constantemente paralisa a coleta do lixo devido ao governo local se negar a utilizar as empresas controladas por ela para a coleta. Mas no meio de todo o caos você se depara com edifícios históricos, Igrejas decoradas com painéis e ouro e castelos, a arquitetura é impressionante, o Museu Arqueológico Nacional possui uma das mais importantes coleções de esculturas da época Romana e o Museu de Capodimonte possui uma vasta coleção de pinturas, tapeçaria e porcelana originadas desde 1738. Claro que no nosso tour de Nápoles não poderia deixar de faltar a pizza napolitana, com os principais sabores de margherita (nomeada após a visita da Rainha Margherita a cidade de Nápoles) e marinara, fazendo parte do nosso cardápio diário em Nápoles.

De Nápoles embarcamos em um trem para a bela Costa Amalfitana, pequenos vilarejos da época Bizantina localizados na beira das montanhas do litoral sul da Itália, repletas de penhascos verdes, todos com edifícios e Igrejas antigas pintadas de diferentes cores, com ruas estreitas de pedra e rodeadas por um mar azul turquesa. Nos hospedamos na cidade de Salerno e de barco visitamos a cidade de Amalfi primeiro, a vista do barco é de tirar o fôlego, uma das mais lindas que eu já vi, mas a cidadezinha é muito turística, agora no alto do verão vários turistas de todas as partes do mundo, principalmente americanos e também Italianos, invadem o litoral, mas mesmo assim a cidade tem muito charme, na mesma noite com uma recomendação de um guia independente encontramos um restaurante maravilhoso, onde comemos a melhor massa e os melhores queijos da viagem até agora, o melhor de tudo foi que o lugar era minúsculo, localizado atrás de uma igreja e o único cardápio do restaurante estava escrito a mão em uma folha de caderno, todo em Italiano, mas o dono teve a gentileza de sentar na nossa mesa e explicar cada prato, vagarosamente em Italiano e nos oferecer vinho a noite inteira ate que nós não pudéssemos mais beber, uma refeição memorável. No dia seguinte a caminho do porto servimos de tradutores para um grupo de americanos que tentava alugar uma lancha para ir ao vilarejo de Positano, coincidentemente o nosso barco havia sido cancelado e nós estávamos precisando de uma carona, acabamos embarcando com eles e pagamos uma pequena parcela do valor sendo que eles utilizaram o nosso serviço de tradução, mal sabiam eles que o nosso italiano estava mais pra portunholiano, mas no final todo mundo se entendeu. Em Positano resolvemos fazer uma caminhada no topo das montanhas, onde o cenário não poderia ser mais lindo e romântico (Sentiero degli Dei – Caminho dos Deuses), a cada escada curva haviam cenários diferentes, diversas cidadezinhas escondidas entre as montanhas, cada casa com uma nona na janela, o lugar nos fez sentir na Itália dos nossos sonhos.

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Naquela noite embarcamos em um trem noturno para a ilha de Sicilia, maior ilha do mediterrâneo, depois de uma hora sentados em uma cabine com quatro pessoas, sem ar-condicionado e cheiro de suor e urina dos banheiros resolvemos pagar um pouco mais e mudar para uma cabine privada, com duas camas, onde eu dormi feito um anjo. De manha chegamos a cidade de Palermo, cidade histórica com características árabe-normanda e espanhola, destacadas nas Igrejas e edifícios, alguns destruídos durante a II Guerra Mundial, gravemente danificada pelos bombardeamentos aéreos e ocupada pela 7ª armada americana em 22 de julho de 1943. As igrejas são verdadeiras obras de arte, com interiores cobertos de mosaicos de diferentes cores, magníficas e soberanas, a cada esquina você se depara com edifícios em estilo barroco com cúpulas de influencia árabe, andamos o dia todo de boca aberta, Palermo é certamente um lugar de muita importância histórica e arquitetônica. Para explorar uma parte da ilha nos resolvemos alugar um carro e percorrer a costa oeste, passando por ruínas de teatros romanos e cidades medievais completamente intactas, com castelos e ruas de mármore, um lugar mais lindo que o outro e o mar sempre azul, com varias montanhas de diferentes tamanhos e formatos e praias lindas de areia branca, sempre tentando desviar dos Italianos maníacos que dirigem como se estivessem em uma corrida de formula 1.

A nossa jornada no sul da Itália termina amanhã, seguimos para Roma e depois para o norte, ainda temos duas semanas aqui, queremos aproveitar o máximo possível, tentando equilibrar os nossos gastos da melhor maneira possível, porque a Itália é um país caríssimo. Arrivederci!!!

Posted by flaviaU 19:01 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

The real Italy

sunny 89 °F

The country moves by at a different pace when you are on a train. It’s funny, because in all the traveling that I’ve done throughout my life, last night was the first time I’ve ever spent the night on a train. We are cruising south through Italy right now, heading off the boot and onto Sicily, where we will spend a few days checking out the island, after getting a fairly difficult introduction to Italy. Naples was kind of tough, it’s what the traveler world calls the “Real Italy”. It has “Character”, which I always find means old, run down, and most likely dirty. Naples was all of that and more. The gritty streets are lined with garbage; the traffic is intense, from morning until late into the night, and navigating takes constant pinpointing on a map and avoiding dog shit at every step. The people are ALWAYS YELLING, what are they yelling about, I’m not quite sure! We are getting by with our Spanish and Portuguese skills, it’s just difficult because it just feels like we are one step away from fully being able to converse, I think we’ll get it, just will take a bit of practice. We settled into our hotel in Naples, and Flavia was a bit upset after watching the second half of Brazil’s final game in the World Cup. We rested after the absolutely exhausting trip from Greece, then headed down to the place in Naples where you have to go to get pizza. These small, hot, to go places have tiny dining rooms tucked inside, with an old AC cooling the dough and flour filled air. The street is dark and dank, the Vespas zoom by with the big glass face shield protecting the guy in the clean white suit, blue shirt with the collar outside, and gold chain (yes… really). The pizza was great, it better be, it was invented here. It’s simple, dough, tomato sauce, cheese, a few pieces of basil, a slight pool of grease, a few burned crust spots, one plate, a cold Peroni, and eat! The pictures of a red-faced Bill Clinton on the wall show that even though the place was packed with locals, it’s internationally known as the place to get a pie. We loved it, no English at that restaurant, you better speak at least a bit of Italian, maybe we are in the real Italy.

The following day we walked until our feet were bruised, our faces were caked with dust and pollution, and our stomachs were grumbling. We went to the National History Museum and the Museum on Capodimonte (top of the mountain), which would have been better accessed by bus! The museums were nice, and even though we aren’t museum people, we saw some great roman sculptures that were immaculately restored to great splendor, and some very early paintings and mosaics. At the Capodimonte museum, the highlight for me was the setting in a huge old palace with so many rooms uniquely decorated that it seemed to go on forever. We did have some trouble finding somewhere to eat lunch. A lot of people are fat here, so I know that somewhere, someone is making lunch, but all that we could find was either sit down, full on restaurants, or a reheated chewy calzone or a piece of pizza with some soggy French fries on top which wasn’t what we wanted. We both really started to miss a nice Greek Salad! We ended up settling for the quick bite, promising a more substantial meal later that night, which ended up being seafood pasta and fried calamari and shrimp. Back at the room after an hour long walk and search for a taxi, we packed and were ready to get going from Naples, it was an interesting place to start our Italy journey.

We debated heavily about whether to go south to the Amalfi Coast, as it is supposed to be beautiful, but is also known for being extremely touristy, and way overpriced. We decided on just one night there after a bunch of research which involved raiding the nearby bookstore and reading everything they had in English about the area. The train ride was quick, the walk through Salerno with our packs was hot and uncomfortable, the days of a $2 tuk tuk ride are well behind us now, and dropped our gear since we weren’t able to check in until the afternoon. We changed and realized that we had 7 minutes to get to the port for the last morning boat. A taxi pulled up, we raced across just in time to wave goodbye to the boat as it left the port, giving us three hours to check out Salerno. We had a pizza, some Gelato, and walked along the water, deciding it could be worse, then we took the afternoon boat to Amalfi, just 30 minutes away. We spent the afternoon there picking our way through the hoard of tourists that were here spending too much money for the day. We sat on the rocky beach, with old people giving us the stink eye, and kind of wasted the afternoon, not really sure how we felt about our decision to come here. We made it back to the hostel just at nightfall, and everything was messed up, they couldn’t give us the room we were promised and the hot water didn’t work right, and the room was a prison cell, and we were hungry, and we were tired, and Amalfi was a disappointment, and I had to pee, and things were more expensive than they should have been… we needed a good meal!

We read about a locals place nearby while at the bookshop back in Naples and we searched the narrow alleyways for a tiny sign indicating that the restaurant was somewhere nearby, and we walked into a little and hot room, where the owner sort of floated back and forth from the few occupied tables, then sat us graciously nearby the slowly spinning fan on the ceiling. We waited until one other table had ordered and he gave us the one menu, all in Italian. I was a bit overwhelmed, but Flavia calmed me and we picked out a few words. The owner then sat down and told us what we needed to eat, two plates of pasta, a cheese plate, and some house wine. I watched as he talked wine with two locals over a bottle of wine (ours was served in a carafe), and hoping to have a small taste I asked what the wine was, not knowing that that was the secret password for “Your glass will not be empty for the rest of the night”. It was a red from Montalcino, and it was great! We waited eagerly for the pasta and then we got it, oh man did we get it! Two big plates of pasta, mine was thick macaroni noodles that were softer than pillows, with a simple and remarkably good red sauce with a few olives to add some texture and some cheese that had mixed in perfectly giving it a bit of body. Flavia’s was simple flat pasta with clams and spices and a bit of oil, light and wonderful. We were very happy, and we picked at our plates and each other’s and began to feel a whole lot better about our decision about Salerno. We ate every single bite of food, then scooped up the remaining sauce with homemade bread and washed it down with the seemingly endless glasses of wine. We were feeling it by that point, and when the cheese plate came and the owner, Alessandro, sat down and described each cheese as he would one of his children, giving us its history and accomplishments, we felt that the local cheese could rival any in the world, in fact one of them was probably the best cheese I’d ever tasted. He then brought two plates of dessert, a beautiful chocolate cake and a fruit cake with some really strong liquor inside. We were so happy and stuffed and were amazed that every group that walked in knew Alessandro and he knew them by name. This was the exact kind of place we knew we needed to go to get the best food in Italy. Finally we went to pay the bill, he wrote down a bunch of prices and got a total, then quickly crossed it out, grabbed 20 Euros from my wallet and wished us a goodnight, a good night indeed!

Still riding a high from the dinner the night before, we skipped across town nice and early to catch the ferry to Positano. We walked down the pier and a frantic looking American man was trying in vain to negotiate with an Italian boat captain on a fare to take him, his family, and some of their other people on their huge cruise ship docked nearby to Positano for the day. I assisted in the little Italian I know and walked on to buy the ticket, with still plenty of time before the ferry left. When I got to the ticket counter, I couldn’t even contain myself and cursed loudly at the sign indicating that this ferry was cancelled and that we would have to wait 90 minutes for the next one. Fortunately the American, Paul, that I’d helped was more than gracious in letting us onto their speed boat for the same fare that we would have paid for the taxi, and within two minutes we were flying across the coast while I tried to translate what the captain was explaining. The coastline of the Amalfi region is, for lack of a better word, stunning. Its high peaks that shoot out of the Mediterranean and reach high in the sky, where clouds sit all day, hugging the peaks and shrouding them in a light grey top hat. The water is smooth and the breeze was cool under the hot sun, and along the coast, light colored houses hold on for dear life to the cliffs. This is a land of the rich and famous and mega-yachts cruise by and BMW and Mercedes are the norm on the roads. Everywhere there are arches, the best building technique to anchor and support the buildings and the bridges into the tough terrain. The towns are a cluster of thin buildings with a maze of narrow alleyways and shiny cathedrals reaching high above everything else.

Once in Positano, Flavia and I made our way through the mess of American tourists, who probably chartered our original ferry to take them to the small town (bastards), and we jumped on a bus to Nocelle, where we found ourselves alone and extremely high up in the peaks of the Amalfi Coast. The view was perfect, the surroundings were cool, quiet, and we walked back along an ancient path towards Positano, with 100 foot cliffs to the left and 2000 foot peaks to the right. We made our way slowly and patiently, knowing that the minute we made it back, we would be back in the inundation of everything we tried to avoid, tourist prices at tourist traps. Finally we made it up above the town and we took a deep breath as we began the 800 stairs down towards the downtown and the chaos. Wiped out and exhausted we sought respite on the beach, where we swam and relaxed before taking the speedboat back to the dock.

We showered back at the hostel, ate an uninspired dinner, and made our way to the train station where we sat for two hours feeling the heaviness of our eyelids and the exhaustion in our legs from the day’s activities. When the train finally arrived we went into our small six seat room, and quickly learned that the AC wouldn’t be working at all for the entire 10 hour trip. It was so hot and miserable and we were so cramped, that we made the call to ask to upgrade to a sleeping cabin, where we fortunately got the last one available. By the time we set up our sheets and stored our bags, we were nearly asleep standing up, and it felt so good to spoil ourselves in a wonderful bunk with the tracks zooming along below us and the picky-picky-picky sound of the train, that we soon woke up to the light of the Sicilian sunrise as we neared Palermo, our next destination.

Posted by JonathanU 14:12 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Map Update

Posted by flaviaU 18:10 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

From Feta to Mozzarella

overcast 80 °F

I’m sitting right now outside of an uninspired café next to the Bari train station. It felt a bit rushed to say goodbye to Greece, especially to the Greek Isles. We travelled from Santorini to the nearby island of Naxos, and were greatly pleased with the results. Although Santorini was truly stunning, the prices were a bit above our budget and the beaches seemed a bit limited. In Naxos we paid half the price for a room that was twice as nice, and we refreshed after the day of waiting on the hot port for the boat to leave and then headed out for the night. We sat at a wonderful restaurant and immediately struck up a conversation with the Aussie couple next to us, had a great meal with the natural accompaniment of a Greek Salad, then ended up staying there long into the night with them and another couple, a Brazilian married to an Australian man, drinking complimentary carafes of house wine and shots of Raki between beers. The waiters joked with us and the food was all homemade and we were surrounded by locals, and we really felt that this was one of those moments while traveling when you feel fully engulfed in the culture.

The next morning we took the bus to the nearby Plaka beach, where the water was turquoise and clear, the sand was soft, and the gentle breeze kept us cool. The beach was perfect, except for the occasional tourist who seemed to have forgotten their bikini, but had not forgotten a meal in the past 50 years. I swam happily in the cool water, cherishing the drop in temperature after the hot bathing in SE Asia. Paul and Luiza, the Brazilian/Australian couple were great fun. They had lived in Australia for years and then moved back to Brazil, where for the past few years they had run a small restaurant in the beachside town of Trancoso. Paul provided me with a wealth of information, because, as most know, Flavia and I would like to open a business on the beach in Brazil one day. The bottom line was… don’t do it if you hope to make any money, and if you do it, be sure to have plenty of investments to make money during the nine months of the year when the tourists head away. Flavia, on the other hand, was not talking about business. She relishes the opportunities she has to speak her native tongue, and Paul told me that Luiza had commented that Flavia reminded her of when she was younger. After a cheap and easy lunch of chicken wrapped bacon gyros and Greek Salad, Flavia and I digested our meal with a walk down the beach under the scorching sun. Towards the end of the beach we saw a woman, German maybe, well overweight, lying on her stomach, with her bikini bottoms around her knees, and one of the beach masseurs kneading her butt as if it were the toughest dough in the world. The flapping white flesh and incessant work being put in by the small Chinese hands gave us reason to cringe and laugh, while unfortunately being unable to look away. We walked on, then came back 15 minutes later, and there was the masseuse, still working on that right cheek, pounding and kneading and working on the worlds ugliest canvas.

That night we met Paul and Luiza and the other couple from the previous night, Steve and April, and we went to dinner then went to a nearby bar to watch Brazil play Chile. Again, the journalists were on strike, so the only sound from the telecast was the Vuvuzelas that moaned and whined throughout the game. We cheered and yelled as Brazil played their best game yet, while a Chilean couple hid their heads in their hands. Needless to say, Flavia was pleased with the outcome, but nervous about the upcoming game against Holland. It was an interesting crowd in the town of Hora. It seemed that every Swedish family was off for a vacation in Naxos, and the streets were filled with blonde families enjoying their time away from the north.

Feeling refreshed in the morning we rented a 50cc moto and headed out to explore the island. We were in good spirits and we cruised through the hills, where towering marble quarries had been cut into the peaks and natty rooted vineyards and shimmering olive trees took root on the orange and brown earth. Everything was going well until the first big uphill, when we learned that 50cc’s was not going to be enough for us. As the moto slowed to a crawl and the engine wailed, Flavia was forced to walk behind with her white dress and her big grey helmet, like an alien on Martian blacktop. As some points it barely had enough power for me, and I was forced to hit the throttle while running alongside, then jump on and ride side-saddle once it got going. Mercifully we reached the summit and were thrilled to head down to the town of Halki, where the narrow alleyways are lined with marble and the town plaza had only enough room for a few tables and tree in the middle. Back on the bike, I noticed that even when we were on flat ground we could barely move, and slowly, the bike slowed to only a crawl, and I pulled into the nearest parking lot and realized we had some mechanical problems. The owner of a nearby business called the rental agency and they came an hour later with a replacement bike with 80 cc’s of POWER, ok well not really. Grumpy, hot, and annoyed we headed to Filoti for lunch. There we had the best Greek Salad either of us had ever enjoyed. One of my friends told me that the highlight of her trip to Greece was the tomatoes, and until the first bite of that tomato at that restaurant I had thought she was crazy. There was something mysteriously amazing about those tomatoes, and they were by far, the best tomato I had ever eaten. Combine that with soft feta, fresh olive oil and vinegar, salty capers, and juicy olives, and we had an easy choice to have with each meal.

Back on the bike we rode forever. Now as someone who doesn’t ever ride motorcycles, I have to say that riding the hills for nine hours is really tiring. My butt, back, shoulders, and wrists were sore, and we cruised down hills and struggled back up them, riding the surprisingly long way to the northern tip of the island for a stop at the beach, then an easy ride down the coast. Unfortunately we arrived at the beach late, and didn’t have much time to enjoy ourselves before it began to get dark, then, I was told that there was no gas for 30 km down the coast or 11km back in the direction we came from, and we had just come down an incredibly steep peak that I knew we would not be able to climb with both of us on the bike. Our gas gauge was already in the red when we started back up the steep mountain towards the gas station, and I watched the needle drop well below E as the engine sputtered and slurred, and I counted down the remaining distance on the odometer. Somehow, the bike kept going, and I can only count is as a miracle of the great Zeus that we eventually pulled in for a fill, and opened the tank to see that it was bone dry! There was not time for celebration as a windy and rough 35kms awaited us until we got back to the rental agency where the owner greeted us with a hello and told me that we were lucky that we had taken out the insurance!

We left the next morning on a boat back to the mainland and met Stratos for the quick ride to his girlfriend’s house, where her mother did our laundry, fed us Moussaka and Greek salad, and her dad kept our wine glass full while we relaxed and enjoyed a great night of sleep. We woke up late, headed for a bus at 9am and arrived in Patra at 1, then wasted the day until our ferry left at 6pm for the 15 hour boat ride to Bari, Italy. I slept on the floor, in my silk sleeping sheet (a great buy), and Flavia occupied our two seats, and we had a surprisingly good sleep on the calm seas. That brings us to now, where we officially have just finished our first Italian focaccia and cappuccino as we wait for our bus to take us to Napoli, so we can begin our Italian adventure. We loved Greece, and will be back, we could have spent two months just exploring the islands. The people were so friendly, and I have never been given so much free stuff in my life. It is also noticeably in turmoil as we put up with three journalist strikes (no announcing for the World Cup games), two port strikes, one local bus strike, and a general strike, which paralyzed the country. Something needs to be done, as there is too much nice infrastructure that needs to be paid for, and the middle class is becoming more like the lower class every day. That being said, tourists are welcome here, and needed to keep the country running, and I couldn’t have imagined a better place to begin our trip through Europe.

Posted by JonathanU 17:33 Archived in Greece Comments (3)

Tá todo mundo falando grego!

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Ahhhh...a Grécia, lugar de beleza imensurável, fundamento da arte, filosofia e ciência da cultura ocidental. Desde de a história de Atenas, umas das cidades mais antigas da Europa, terra de Ésquilo, Sófocles, Eurípedes , Aristófanes, Platão e Sócrates até as belezas das ilhas gregas do mediterrâneo, tudo sobre a Grécia é fascinante, as pessoas são extremamente amáveis, sem pedir nada em troca, a culinária é saborosa, simples e feita com amor e as bebidas típicas são o orgulho nacional.

A Grécia moderna não é tão glamorosa quanto à de antigamente, o país está sofrendo uma grande crise econômica, provocada principalmente pelos altos investimentos feitos em infra-estrutura (gastos ainda da época das Olimpíadas de 2004) que até agora não foram pagos, o país sendo parte da União Européia, teve que pedir um grande empréstimo aos outros países membros da união para evitar a falência, com isso quem pagou o preço mais caro foram os cidadãos Gregos, que tiveram parte de sua aposentadoria tomada e muitos trabalhadores receberam cortes nos salários ou pior, não tem recebido salário algum em meses. Tudo isso causou revolta na população, greves e protestos violentos se espalharam pela cidade de Atenas, durante a nossa estada nós presenciamos vários protestos de diferentes setores, um dia foram os motoristas e os operadores de trem, no dia seguinte foram os jornalistas (o que causou com que os jogos da Copa do Mundo fossem transmitidos sem os narradores), a nossa viagem as ilhas gregas foi adiada por um dia porque o porto fez uma greve de 24 horas e não deixou os passageiros embarcarem ou desembarcarem dos navios e barcos no porto e amanha vários setores vão fazer uma greve organizada.

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Greves e protestos a parte, nós estamos amando a Grécia, em Atenas o Jonathan reviu um amigo Grego da faculdade, com um nome mais Grego impossível, Efstratios Apostolis Gonithellis! Ele e a sua namorada Nikki nos levaram para jantar e nos deram varias dicas do que fazer na Grécia. Depois de visitar os principais monumentos e museus de Atenas, incluindo a Acrópole e o estádio Olímpico, nós resolvemos embarcar em um dos navios em direção as ilhas gregas. Não existe lugar no mundo mais perfeito para lua-de-mel do que a ilha de Santorini, um dos lugares mais românticos e fotogênicos que eu já vi e por causa disso os hotéis e restaurantes são caríssimos, mas sempre se da um jeito de encontrar algo mais barato. Alugamos uma dessas motos de 4 rodas e exploramos a ilha de ponta a ponta, cada praia com uma cor de areia diferente, praia de areia vermelha, preta, branca, degustamos os vinhos gregos e assistimos o pôr-do-sol no topo da vila de Oia, perfeito! Depois de três dias em Santorini resolvemos conhecer outra ilha do arquipélago, a ilha de Naxos, uma ilha maior, com vários sítios arqueológicos e muito mais barata que Santorini, la encontramos compania, o casal Paul e Luisa, ele um Australiano e ela carioca, casados a muitos anos e morando no Brasil, em Trancoso na Bahia, também com o mesmo objetivo nosso, de viajar pelo mundo e aproveitar a vida, a viagem deles vai ser de dois anos, eles fecharam um restaurante em Trancoso e saíram pelo mundo de mochila nas costas, um casal muito bacana e uma compania perfeita para a nossa estada em Naxos. No nosso segundo dia em Naxos alugamos uma moto e fomos conhecer a ilha, mal sabendo que a nossa motinha de 50 cilindradas não seria potente para subir as diversas montanhas que formam a ilha, na base de cada subida eu descia da moto e o Jonathan a empurrava ate o topo, e assim foi o dia todo, pelo menos deu pra me exercitar um pouco e admirar as paisagens incríveis das montanhas com o contraste do azul turquesa do mediterrâneo. Depois de três dias já estava na hora de partir, uma pena, pois estávamos apreciando a gastronomia local e adorando as novas amizades, mas devemos continuar a nossa jornada a caminho do nosso próximo destino, a Itália, de navio vamos cruzar o oceano, saindo de Paros na Grécia, para Bari, no sul da Itália, não vejo a hora de chegar.

Vai Brasil!

Posted by flaviaU 16:42 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

OPA!

sunny 85 °F

Greece has been great! We’ve basically been going full speed since we got here, and although we have had decent rooms, we have spent little more time there than necessary for sleeping. Athens was a lot of what we expected, beautiful, historic, awe inspiring, and fun, but it also gave us a few surprises. First, we were expecting to arrive in the most polluted and scorching city in the world, but perhaps it was the swift breeze or the rain clouds that opened for an hour the second day, but we were not overly hot and didn’t feel that the pollution was bad at all. Second, we weren’t sure how angry or rude the Athenians would be, given the current economic situation, but we found people to be incredibly friendly, sometimes even too friendly, when the simplest question could turn into a 40 minute conversation about how every word comes from Greek origin (yes, like in the movie). We were constantly given things for free at cafes, and people we patient and engaging with the two of us. I am lucky enough to have a very good friend that lives in Athens and it was great to hang out with Stratos and Niki while we were in Athens, getting a chance to go where the locals go. The situation here does feel a bit ready to blow up at any point, workers are not being paid for their jobs, many buildings are in disrepair, the dock workers physically blocked ferry passengers from boarding boats one day, and the journalists went on strike and that evening’s World Cup games went on without announcers.

We had a great time exploring the historical sites of Athens. The weather was a nice warm temperature, and we were staying a bit away from the Plaka area, so we could enjoy paying local prices, but only have to pay one Euro for the quick metro ride to the area around the Acropolis. We toured the cobblestone streets and followed the hoard of tourists up the steps to the platform above the city, where the remains of the ancient buildings sit, tactfully restored. It was amazing how many people were here, and the days of complaining because one person dared enter our Angkor Wat pictures are long behind us. From the viewpoints we could see the long white sprawl of the buildings of Athens, all just a few stories tall, and occasionally making way for a hill where an Agora or other historical monument sits peacefully atop. The food, oh the food, wonderful, that’s about all I can say. The ingredients are all fresh, the care is there, the prices are refreshingly below what we’d imagined, and I don’t have to fear leaving a table still hungry. Whether its octopus marinated in olive oil, beets with whipped yogurt and pistachio nuts, or the best damn Gyro on the block, I am happy! For lunch, we normally just have a quick Souvlaki, meat or chicken on a stick, a few pieces of bread, and some fresh fruit from the nearby street stands. We are under a bit of pressure to really control our spending over the next few months, and I think that we are creating a habit where it will be simple to stay within our budget for our time here.

In the evening we went out to the nearest spot to watch the World Cup, and on our second night we went with Stratos to watch Greece play Argentina, in a packed and smoky bar, where mercifully, Argentina waited for nearly 70 minutes before destroying the hopes of the Grecians. The following day, after wandering the city, stocking up on the things we’ve needed since SE Asia we sat and watched the most agonizingly intense game that the American team has ever been involved in, and after our great victory, I ran, American flag in hand, around the nearby Victoria (victory) Plaza yelling USA!

When the one day strike at the Pireus Port was over, we boarded a ferry in the early morning for the eight hour trip to Santorini. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride, even though the water was calm, because we learned that “economy class” means a few patio chairs and a lot of people smoking in an enclosed glass area being baked by the sun. With earplugs in, I engrossed myself in my new book, and read as much as possible, before a restless Flavia took my attention. Finally, we arrived in Santorini and took the quick busride to Fira and settled down in our hotel. Santorini is beautiful; all of the buildings are clay painted white with a bit of blue. The towns are situated high on the volcanic cliffs, creating an infinite amount of postcard photos and also a perfect place for overpriced restaurants to gouge tourists. We did find some great food, and being an island, we had great seafood and local wine, as a nice breeze, volcanic soil, and a dry climate create good growing conditions for grapes. We rented an ATV for two days, and we cruised around the island, stopping at beaches with burnt rust colored red sand, charcoal black sand, and crystal clear waters at the end of long dirt tracks. The water was nice and cool, and apart from a few obese topless sunbathers and obnoxious families, we were undisturbed as we lounged for a short time on each beach before jumping back on the bike and heading to the next one down. At sunset we headed to Oia, where the sides of the cliff are packed with honeymooners and Armani clad Italians, and we searched for a quiet spot to split a bottle of white wine while the sun set behind the clouds. Unfortunately, I hadn’t paid attention to well to the 5 minute lesson that morning and we were forced to drive back to our town, 30 minutes away without any headlights! It’s kind of funny, but while we were here, we were asked by everyone if we were on our honeymoon, and this would be the perfect spot, and it would have been nice for us to be able to spend the money for one of the Cliffside suites with the private pool, but I guess that will have to wait for the next trip.

Our final night turned into a bit of a disappointment, as we headed out to watch the US play Ghana, and as we sat in a bar blaring terrible music next to a whooping (yelling WHOOP WHOOP) Ghana fan, I watched the end of the US run in the World Cup, an uninspired outing, seemingly leaving the worst game for last. I uttered a few swear words into the silent and starry night sky from the rooftop back at the hotel, then collected myself over a cold Mythos, before realizing it could be worse. We are now off to another island, Naxos, for a few days, hoping that this one will be a bit less touristy and therefore less expensive as well. We have only a quick boat ride in store, and after a few days there we have a marathon journey by boat to Italy to begin our adventure there. On Naxos, we are hoping to spend a few more days enjoying the beaches and seeing the landscape created by the ancient volcanoes.

Posted by JonathanU 18:10 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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