Monthly Archives: July 2019

Cycling through Vienna Austria

Our friends had just finished up a vigorous (and rainy) 200 mile cycling trip in Austria and met us in Vienna to start a trip that would span 3 countries and thousands of miles in the coming weeks. You would think they would’ve had enough of cycling but not so — we saw Vienna Austria via bike — what a great way to see the city!

Vienna is one of the largest cities in Europe with over 1.9 million residents. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so there’s lots to see. The State Opera house is a big attraction — you can enjoy opera or just take an inside tour.

We saw an Opera while there but not in the State Opera House. Opera is so plentiful in Vienna, it is easy to catch a show.

If you’re into horses, check out the Spanish Riding School. Here you can watch professional riders training for upcoming events.

Notice the decadent chandelier

As you cycle through town, you will catch glimpses of many churches. One of the most iconic is St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its Gothic architecture.

Another beautiful building is the Hofburg Palace.

If you have a flair for oddities, Hundertwasserhaus checks that box. Its creator Friendenserich Hundertwasser hated straight lines and angles, he was an ecologist and the buildings he designed are a combination of architecture and nature. It reminded us of some of the Guadi buildings we saw in Barcelona Spain.

One of my favorite areas we cycled through was Vienna University of Economics and Business. The architecture of the buildings is amazing. It was a collaboration of architectural firms from Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Austria.

If you have an extra day to spend in Vienna, be sure to visit Wurstelprater amusement park. It’s about like going to Six Flags in America — it has rides for every age.

Seeking Kings Landing in Dubrovnik Croatia

Continuing our journey from Split to Dubrovnik, our next stop was Korcula, my second favorite city in Croatia. It is an old city surrounded by a fortress. Streets and buildings were designed in a maze to keep invaders from quickly exiting the city.

I love this city because of the unique castles and walls and the fact that Marco Polo spent a lot of time here. Some say he was born here (there is a Marco Polo house you can visit) but others say he was born in Venice.

MlJet, Croatia

Our next stop was Mljet, Croatia – a sleepy little fishing town with great seafood restaurants.

Next to it was a national park in an area called Pomena. Here you can cycle, swim or visit a local monastery.  The waters are glacial so the colors are amazingly emerald.

A short boat drive takes you to the monastery and the surrounding area is astonishingly beautiful.

We ended our evening enjoying a sunset in a local restaurant.

The waiter’s fiance’s mother owned the restaurant and he introduced us to her and his fiance. Everyone we met in Croatia were so warm and welcoming. The waiter also looks a little like our oldest son, Cameron.

Ston, Croatia

Ston is a walled city located at the south of isthmus of the Pelješac. Before visiting Ston, we stopped into an adjoining fishing village called Mali Ston.

From here, we took a boat to a local family’s oyster farm, where we tasted fresh oysters.

They explained how they raise the oysters before they gave us a taste.

This was the first time I’ve ever eaten oysters. I didn’t think I would like them but they were quite good.

After eating our fill of oysters, we made our way to the walled city of Ston. No, you’re not in China but they do have a great wall.

We needed to get more steps in for the day so we walked along the wall.

As you reach the top, you are rewarded with a nice view.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Prior to reaching Dubrovnik, we were offered a couple of swims — I took advantage of each opportunity. Living in the Gulf of Mexico, we are used to 80 to 85 degree water. This water was more like 60 degrees — pretty cold! But it was refreshing.

If you haven’t visited Dubrovnik, you’re in for a treat. You can take a walk along the city walls, I highly recommend that — you can take great pictures from there.

This walled city is where Kings Landing (Game of Thrones) was shot. This is the perfect setting for the quest for the Iron Throne.

One of the funnest things we did was to take a Game of Thrones tour. They took us around Kings Landing and showed us where they shot certain scenes and how they pieced scenes together. They also shared funny stories about how locals encountered the stars of Game of Thrones and the cost and intensity of shooting the episodes. Check out the pictures below — I am sure you will recognize some of the scenes (Red Keep, etc.).

Recognize the Red Keep (top left of picture)?
Shot from the Red Keep
Standing at the top of the stairs where Cersei had her WALK OF SHAME

I can’t say enough about how we enjoyed our trip to Croatia and our favorite city Dubrovnik. We also enjoyed the company of our 2 great friends, Kathy and Greg Tawes.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Kings Landing (Dubrovnik), shot from the Red Keep:

Sea, Castles and Game of Thrones in Croatia

We started our Croatian journey in Rovinj, a medieval seaside town in the northern section of Croatia. Rovinj looks imposing but only about 14,000 people live there today.

Inside this idyllic city, you stride along cobblestone streets and you can hear the locals chatting and going about their day. Fishermen unload their day’s catch. Markets are buzzing. Clothes are hung up for drying along the balconies.

We stayed in Rovinj for about 3 days in this impressive hotel (Spirito Santo Palazzo Sterico). It was recently converted from a set of decrepit homes and they did an amazing job with the design and construction (we highly suggest staying there if you visit).

We hired a private tour guide for 2 days who showed us the entire Istria area (the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea) — Rovinj (along with many other cities) are in this area. We had wine tastings, olive oil tastings and visited Pula — a city just south of Rovinj.

When you roll into Pula, you may think you are in Rome, check out the arena.

Split to Debrovnik

After visiting Rovinj and the surrounding areas, we hopped on a small yacht with 36 other people to island hop from Split to Dubrovnik.

Split, Croatia

Split is a beautiful seaside city where many of the Game of Thrones scenes were shot.

They used the Palace of Diocletian as the place where Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons were raised.

The palace is huge and incredibly interesting — it has lots of shops and restaurants. It also has a Game of Thrones museum that I highly recommend visiting. They will tell you where each of the scenes were shot within the palace.

Bol, Hvar, Croatia

When you first sail into Bol, you will see the beautiful beach that lies just outside the city. Seas were rough and we had rain, so we did not get to swim here but it would be great to do if you get the chance.

We strolled a pretty empty city, visiting shops, a local church, and a winery.

Jelsa and Stari Grad, Croatia

We continued our journey to Jelsa and Stari Grad, seaside cities in route to Dubrovnik.

All of these medieval cities have squares and churches. I can only imagine what it was like to live here in older times — probably lots of community and plenty of gossip!

We capped off our day with a local dish called Gregada. Fish and potatoes cooked in the oven for about 45 minutes, it was the best fish I’ve ever tasted.

In an upcoming blog post, I will talk about our continuing journey to Dubrovnik, where we visit Korcula, Mljet, Ston and then Dubrovnik.

I will leave you with a lonely lighthouse we saw during our journey towards Dubrovnik.

Finding St. Paul in Ephesus Turkey

If you’re familiar with St. Paul (he wrote most of the books of the New Testament), then you are probably familiar with the Book of Ephesians. At the time, people of Ephesus worshiped idols (Greek goddess Artemis) and Paul was there to spread the Christian gospel. He spent 3 years there but eventually was run out of town by the silversmiths who created the idols because it was cutting into their business and causing them economic hardship!

Covered up by volcanoes for several centuries, the ruins of Ephesus were discovered in 1863 and are in amazing shape for their age.

As we began walking the cobblestone streets of Ephesus, it felt amazing to be walking the same streets as Paul, Alexander the Great, Antony and Cleopatra.

Ephesus Architecture

The architecture during this time frame was amazing, everything was hand carved — imagine the effort that went into this.

Palaces of Ephesus

If you visit Ephesus, you will have the option to visit the Palaces (for an extra fee) — I recommend you do it. The palaces were the homestead for royalty and many of the palaces are up to 10,000 square feet — absolute mansions.

Nike – Just Do it!

In Greek mythology, the goddess Nike flew around battlefields awarding victors with glory and fame, symbolized by a wreath of bay leaves. There was a carving of Nike at Ephesus:

Oh look, Nike must have lost her hat while flying around and Lynn picked it up:

It’s amazing to know that only about 20% of Ephesus has currently been excavated — 80% of the city still lies below the earth’s ground cover.

Turkish People

We found the Turkish people to be very friendly and warm. Our tour guide was Turkish and he knew as much about America as most Americans (he knew the states, local culture, etc.). They are a proud people but are challenged economically. You will find that many will come up and try to sell you things as you walk around, we did not see that in Greece. But they are polite and will not bother you if you decline their offer.

They also create a lot of knock-off watches, purses and other items. You can buy a Rolex for about $20 but it may not be working by the time you get back home. I love the sign below, how can it be genuine and fake at the same time?

I’ll leave you with our view as we docked at Kusadasi. Notice the Hollywood style sign on the hill and the multi-colored houses: