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A Taste of Eastern Europe

After saving up our airline miles and accumulating quite a few cruise points, we decided this year was a perfect year to take another Mediterranean cruise. With free Business Class tickets and the majority of the cruise costs covered, it was easy to say yes!

Our trip started off a little rocky, as we found ourselves sitting on the runway in Chicago for over 90 minutes, waiting for the pilot to fix a mechanical problem over the radio…a bit questionable! Luckily we made it to Rome in one piece. During the flight, we enjoyed watching a cute Disney documentary called Chimpanzee. It had some amazing real wild life videography that even made me want to go sit out in the jungle and photograph Chimpanzees!

We arrived in Rome late morning…Rome time. We had a little bit of sleep on the airplane, and we wanted to acclimate to the new time, so we took a bus into downtown Rome and toured the city. A stop in Rome was included on our last Mediterranean cruise, so we were somewhat familiar with the area, but we had a chance to see some areas that we had missed last time, and revisit a few of our past favorites. We did call it an early night, as the time change caught up with us, and sleep was sounding good.

Nothing quite like a Rome birthday for the now 36 year old!

After a fabulous 12 hours of sleep, we awoke ready to go and board our ship! Everything was easy-peasy and before we knew it, we were unpacked, bellies full and relaxing!

Our first stop was in Sicily, Italy. We took a tour into the hills, and at the top we stopped to visit a quaint town called Taramino. Little streets with shops, restaurants and cafes built up on either side, with little alleys shooting off the main street, with even more cafes. It is a bustling little town with lots of history and character. The views of the countryside and back down to the water were amazing!

Our second day was spent relaxing at sea!

Pete’s little slice of heaven:

Brandi’s little slice of heaven:

Our third day took us to Athens, Greece. It was a short bus ride from the port terminal into the actual city and, while the port area and areas in between the port and city were fairly rundown and graffiti covered, the city of Athens was quite interesting. There were old historical buildings mixed in with newer construction all built right next to beautiful green parks and ancient monuments. We took part in a walking tour, seeing sights from the Parliament, to the original Olympic Stadium, to the Old Town shops and the Parthenon Temple situated high upon the Acropolis. We were told the temperatures had just dropped from 110 degrees to the mid 80s, resulting in what was a very comfortable, beautiful day, full of walking and sightseeing.

Now, onto our fourth day in Turkey. The majority of our day was spent in the ancient city of Ephesus, a city founded in the 11th Century BC that has been, and continues to be, excavated and restored. The architectural buildings and artistic talent of the past was intricate and amazing. We also experienced a Turkish Rug sales presentation. While there were some beautiful rugs, I was not quite ready to purchase a rug for $2000 American Dollars! The vendors in Turkey reminded me of the Caribbean…they are there to sell and sell to you they will…whatever you need they have it and they will bargain with you for it. Not really my cup of tea, but as always, it was an experience!

Our last stop was in Crete, the big island of Greece. We took a bus tour with four separate stops; it took us into the hills, into the small country settlements, and into two city areas, one resort tourist area and one a bustling wall to wall city area. On Crete, their main industry is agricultural; they grow olives for olive oil and grapes for wine. They also claim to be the birth place of Zeus! We decided that, of all our stops, we enjoyed our two Greece stops the best…comfortable, inviting, fun shopping and lots of sites to see. Sadly, we had to get back on the boat in the early afternoon. I think we could have spent most of the day exploring the island of Crete.

Our last cruise day was spent at sea, which meant lots of relaxing and doing nothing!! The perfect way to end a vacation! There was only one small exception. In the afternoon a storm started brewing and, before we knew it, there was some intense wind whipping around the ship and the ship was starting to lean! Looking out the window, our horizon line had significantly changed as we were looking out the window the direction the ship was leaning! Luckily our captain adjusted and made some course changes, and we were back to smooth sailing.

The only ugh part of the trip…flying home! When you’re headed home, all you want to do is click your heels and be home. For us, it took almost 24 hours, and required a one hour bus ride, a two hour airport lounge wait, an hour sitting on the plane on the jetway, a ten hour flight to Chicago, an hour trip through the Chicago airport – customs, rechecking luggage, changing gates, security again, a ninety minute airport wait to be delayed for mechanical reasons, finally a one hour flight home, a bus ride to our car and last but not least a one hour drive home. It all was worth it as we were greeted by three very excited, tail wagging, tongue licking puppies!! Priceless!

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3 Responses to “A Taste of Eastern Europe”

  1. Mark N on September 13th, 2012 6:28 am

    Those are beautiful photos Brandi, and it sounds like a perfect trip. We’re SO JEALOUS.

  2. Brandi on September 13th, 2012 8:40 am

    Thanks!! We did have a blast, and are counting down the days to our next cruise!

  3. Mary L on September 13th, 2012 10:36 am

    Brandi, what amazing photographs, and of course the narrative is equally delightfuI! I always enjoy your posts and looking at the beautiful people and places you capture on film.

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