Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #8 – Monday, April 22, 2019: Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro. Even more spectacular mountains. We drove along the coast to Parest where we took a boat to a tiny island to see Our Lady of the Rocks, a maritime church. Dianja was our guide, pronounced Diana.

Long hair, looked like Liberal Chick. There was an Arab girl with very distracting short-shorts in our group. Decorum prevents me from posting a photo of her.

The little church is positively stuffed with relics and donations.

We also toured the walled city and another church, with the wrapped Jesus (wrapped for shipping, no doubt). It made me think of that artist Christos, who wraps buildings and whatnot.

There is only room for one cruise ship in the port, so we stood at anchor and the passengers took a tender (small boat) to the port. So, in Montenegro, we went from a ship to a boat to a bus to a boat to a bus to a boat to the ship.

The translators do their best, but often get it wrong in telling ways, we still encounter phrases like “Cruises Ships”.

Below, a pretty shot of the port. Montenegro, of course, means Black Mountain, a reference to the dark pines.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #7 – Sunday, April 21, 2019: Split, Croatia

We rode a bus along a river valley among spectacular mountains. We had an early lunch with wine at a winery which was originally a mill. The river is a favourite of rafters. We mixed a bit with some  ladies from Maryland, and “The Girl from Ipanema”, a young lady from Brazil. We ate prosciutto, cheese, and olives, and were serenaded by a guitarist and accordionist, who both sang.

After lunch, we returned to Split.

Split was the retirement home of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, one of the very few emperors to actually retire rather than being murdered. Most of his palace survives, and is now occupied by townspeople. It’s gone from a slum to very desirable lodgings, but with very little privacy. It fronts directly on the water.

An episode of “The Game of Thrones” (Season 5, Episode 3, they tell me) was shot in the ruins of the Emperor’s palace. The below is one such locale. It turns out that our guide Alexa, was an actress who played a part in that episode.

Alexa

A larger-than-life statue of a Bishop Gregory of Nin, just to the north of the palace. You’re supposed to rub his toe to make a wish. His toe has a nine inch nail, pun intended.

We wandered around in our free time, seeing the local sights:

The mural contained plastic objects that had been recovered from the harbour and elsewhere on the coast.

Spectacular mountains (this is a photo from the bus).

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #6 – Saturday, April 20, 2019: Koper, Slovenia

Our first bus had no A/C, and the windows were painted over with soccer ads. So, I couldn’t get many photos from the bus.

Stuffy, painted bus

We toured Koper a bit, then drove to Izola, then Piran, then Porterose (pink door?) which was the real Riviera of Slovenia. Hotel after Hotel.

Pocket four-valve trumpet for sale at the market in Izola

Piran is the birthplace of Tratini, a famous baroque composer, violinist, and teacher. There is a statue of him in the square, which is named Tratini Square.

Fun fact: that square was originally the harbour and fish market. It became silted up and smelly, so it was filled in and paved over.

Guiseppe Tartini

I shot most of the pictures that day with the exposure compensation set wrong on the camera — I accidentally moved the dial — so that all the photos were too dark. Easy to fix in Affinity Photo. An exposure setting of 4 is about right, but I tried different settings to see which is best for each photo. The sky’s a little dark in this one.

We loved watching the kids play in the squares, in all the towns we visited. They didn’t have parks or playgrounds as in Canada, so it seems.

We eventually got a fresh bus with A/C and unpainted windows.

It looks like there is little poverty in Slovenia, none that we could see anyway.

Slovenia, by the way, is the only country in the world with “love” in its name.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #5 – Friday, April 19, 2019: Leaving Venice, Italy

We found an ATM in a square seemingly dedicated to banks. It looked empty at first, but it looked bankish to me, with more modern facades.

The posters we saw around Venice often had little surprises if you looked for them.

On the neck?

Aboard our water taxi on the way to the MSC Opera.

All aboard!

Betty on the walking track

Full Moon taken from phone

Full moon taken with Canon EOS-M5. A bit better.

We did a bit of a pub crawl that night. One band had a robot rhythm section, though the piano player played a little. We wound up in the “piano lounge” where there was a lone guitar player, accompanying himself. It was true live music, at least.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #4 – Thursday, April 18: Murano and Burano, Italy

Our hotel, the Palazzo Sant’Angelo.

We took a tour boat to Murano, the glassmaking centre. The glassmakers were banished from Venice to the island of Murano because of the fire risk, but the glassmakers accepted the banishment because it made it easier to keep their processes and methods secret.

A horse, still hot from the furnace.

All the glazing on the glassware we saw had an abstract design. No little flowers or curlicues.

Similarly, the island of Burano is a lace-making centre. The houses are painted brilliant colours, like in St. John’s, and for similar reasons.

Betty on a bridge at Burano.

Laundry day in Burano

Talk about letting it all hang out.

While we were strolling about, a model was on a photo shoot by a canal. While the photographer was changing lenses or whatever, I snapped her from behind. She just happened to turn around the instant I took her picture.

Some of the Burano lace

On the way to and from the islands, the guides pointed out the many abandoned monasteries. Clearly, the heyday of Catholic fervour is gone. We also noticed many shoals and tiny islands, the scene of many a shipwreck, no doubt.

We visited a third island, but didn’t tour the church as suggested by our guide. We did tour the bar, though. It came with a petting zoo and a weird sculpture garden.

On our way back, I spotted a  crane that looked like a crane.

And I took some arty photos of locks on a bridge. Aperture priority is such a gift to photographers.

We ate dinner in a restaurant near the hotel, called Bodega. It was run, seemingly single-handedly, by Andrea, she of the frizzy hair. Everything in Venice seems to come served on a bed of salad greens, instead of them serving the salad separately.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #3 – Wednesday, April 17: Venice, Italy

A typical Venetian canal

The Venice islands were constructed to be defensible: The shallow canals and low bridges meant that invading naval vessels would run aground or get stuck.

It’s easy to get around Venice by canal. By street, not so much. You can’t navigate by landmarks like the San Marco tower, because the whole city is a maze with four-or-five storey buildings blocking the sightlines. Navigating the city was sort of like those old text adventure games: “left, right, left, cross bridge, straight for fifty paces…”

Police, garbage collection, ambulances are all boats. No horses, no scooters. No cars, of course. No grass. No wild flowers, no fields, few trees. Very little litter. No hills. Only bridges.

The gondolas’ paddles double as poles. There are regulations limiting how ornate a gondola can be. They need something like that in India and Mexico.

At the entrance to San Marco Palazzo, pigeons landed on my head. Fortunately for both of us, I was wearing a hat.

We toured the prison that’s attached to the Doges Palace. Prison cells, torture chambers. Our guide had stories about a legendary prisoner, none other than Casanova. How he dug through his floor to discover some metal obstacle. He asked his keeper for vinegar, which would dissolve the metal, probably aluminum.

One of the prison cells. At least this one had a bed.

Stairs in a torture chamber

The inquisitor would climb these stairs to have a face-to-face chat with the victim, who was undergoing strappado, that is, hanging by his or her hands by a rope tied behind the back.

Another fun fact: The Doges employed immigrants and prisoners to copy their important legal documents. The scribes didn’t understand Italian (or whatever they called their language in those days) so they just copied the letter shapes and therefore never knew what they were copying. I quipped that this is like Facebook: People copying things they don’t understand. I got an appreciative laugh for that.

Different courtrooms had different artwork and décor. One would have stern artwork suggesting a punishing God. Others featured Madonna and Child artwork, suggesting a merciful God.

Our guide to the Doges palace

A graffito near our hotel

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #2 – Tuesday, April 16, 2019: Venice, Italy

It was a long wait, and a long walk, to reach the water taxi. I remember a mom and her daughter or possibly granddaughter interacting in the lineup behind us. The mom was so patient and witty, the daughter so daring in her climbing on things and running about. We couldn’t see much of the outside world through our trip to the hotel without standing up and trying to peer through the windows. This is because these boats have to be very low to negotiate the Venetian bridges.

A view of the Grand Canal from the Accademia bridge.

Barbara was our concierge at the hotel Palazzo Sant’Angelo, which is right on the Grand Canal. I believe Barbara is originally from England, though much Venetian speech sounds English to my ears. I didn’t think to ask her. I don’t ask enough questions on vacation. The hotel is part of the SINA chain of Italian hotels, also part of a network called, I think, “Small Luxury Hotels”, though I don’t know how they qualify to be ‘small’ or ‘luxury’, or even ‘hotel’.

The walls of the dining room were upholstered, not wallpapered. The Muzak was all bebop: Clifford Brown, Modern Jazz Quartet, Sarah Vaughan’s “Lullaby of Birdland”, “Laura”, “Blue Moo”n.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #1 – Monday, April 15, 2019 – Departure

Ship: MSC Opera

I’m going to blog our recent trip to the Eastern Mediterranean. This first post is pretty boring, but it gets better.

Richard was our driver. Nice guy, but talkative. He runs a limousine service, but lately has abandoned events like weddings and proms in favour of airport runs, which pay the bills but don’t involve drunks, etc. His method on arrival is to wait for us in the Arrivals area on foot, then take us and our luggage to his parking spot in the parking tower. This nicely avoids the chaos at the Arrivals traffic area. Very smart, and all you have to pay for is the 1-hour parking fee. We will use Richard again. I think his service is called Affordable Limousine. Check with Patti.

The guy sitting in front of Betty put his seat back for the whole flight. Almost no-one else put their seat back.

I watched the new “A Star is Born”, “Asterix and the Olympics” (live action) and the first half of “Mary Poppins Returns”.

I left my prescription sunglasses on the plane. ASAP, I should write to Air France to try to recover them. I’ll need the flight information, including flight number, date, and seat number, as I think all information I can supply should help. (I went on their website after I got back.)

Long walk to transfer in Paris. Security was easy.