New beginnings

Where should I begin? These last months have been quite a roller-coaster, with the pandemic brutally changing lives and destroying plans. Needless to say, traveling seemed to be superfluous and a bit dangerous, yet, plans were made and were changed during these months. We had originally planed to travel to Tunisia and revisit the Sahara, but after a while – and as Catherine was worried about traveling amidst a pandemic, I decided to go solo and plan on visiting Romania, while mapping out a B plan on visiting Bulgaria or North Macedonia. Eventually, we decided to remain in Greece and stay at Catherine’s hometown in the Peloponnese, which would once more act as our base in visiting the area. Before that, we enjoyed a great Summer, as I was working for less hours during the pandemic, while I was still getting my salary (even though I had to put a bit of a fight for this to happen)

Nevertheless, the situation at my crappy job was getting lousier and I came close to resigning a day before we left on vacation. I was actually thinking of quitting upon our return home, but a few days before we left Catherine’s hometown in Argos, opportunity knocked. Ever since I graduated from university, I have been applying to work as a teacher of Greek literature. It had been quite some time of frustrating efforts by that time, but this time my phd proved to be a game changer and I secured a contract as a substitute teacher in the Cyclades. So, I left my old job and the toxic people associated with it and I moved to Andros island to start a new career. The downside is that I had to leave Catherine at my hometown where she works and I moved to the island alone keeping in touch through phone and viber. Still, due to the quarantine measures all schools in Greece were shut down and after a couple of months, I returned home where I set up my class teaching from our living room.

As far as the island is concerned, I live in Korthi Bay, which is a very beautiful small place. My colleagues are great and extremely helping people, while my students are remarkably adorable. During these couple of months I visited some of the places in the island including its picturesque main town, Andros or Chora. So, as Greece is slowly becoming a police state (UPDATE: As I was writing these lines I caught sight of footage showing policemen destroying a bouquet of flowers left in honor of a child that was murdered by a policeman ten years ago ) booming with conspiracy theorists, I was trying to adapt to this new island life. What I liked more about Korthi was that some great beaches are near this small village, while I was surprised to find out that the whole island is connected by a network of ancient footpaths that were once the main road network of the island and which is maintained and restored by volunteers (check more on these routes here). The experience was as if walking the via Francigena once more and along with some colleagues I had begun discovering the island’s beauty. I had only stayed there for a couple of months before the schools were shut down, but I had a great time teaching, swimming, walking ancient trails and sightseeing. Although I have visited many places in the island, I am limiting the photos I post to the Korthi area for now and I will discover more of it in a month or so, after the lockdown ends, while of course we will plan a trip to another country along with Catherine. I may also spend some weekends on the nearby islands in springtime and I will try to post about it (after posting on our previous journeys). Have fun and stay healthy!

Arriving at Gozo (First impressions of the Maltese Archipelago)

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Malta and Italy were great, yet there was still a lot of work to be done back home, hence, it took so long for me to post. Besides enjoying a great time on these countries, I’ve also enjoyed a little bit more of Italy and San Marino by myself. I may not have had lots of time over the past year, yet the good news is I’m probably being published! I got a deal for my thesis to be published, but I have to translate it into English first and I’ve been working strenuously on that project for quite a few months now. Hopefully the first draft will be finishe by the end of February. There are some more things that limit my time and it seems that I can’t hold true to my promise of posting more often, yet I ‘ll keep trying. The plan for now is to post more on our last trip to Malta and Italy, and in between describing our travels to Spain and Southeast Asia.

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As far as last year’s journey was concerned, we enjoyed Malta and Gozo, where we visited lots of places (yet, as is often the case, not all the places that were in our list) and we had a couple of days running around Italy, as Catherine only stayed for a while there. During our common stay, we visited Cinqueterre and caught a glimpse of Bologna, while after Catherine’s return home, I visited San Marino, spent a Weekend in Florence, walked Via Francigena (one of the best experiences I’ve ever had) and made a stopover at Pisa.

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After landing on Malta, we purchaced a couple of Tallinja cards, which are cards that can be used to ride the local buses for a week and we headed towards Cirkewwa, where we would catch the ferry to Gozo. The ride took a bit longer than expected and we had to wait a while for the ferry to depart for the short trip to Gozo. Once there, we got on another local bus to reach our accomodation after a couple of stops. It was a small distance by bus, but Gozo is a place that is filled with tall hills and our fatigue made us look at the hill that stood in front of us as if we were gazing at a huge mountain.

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Nevertheless, we settled in our room, had some water and rested for a while before heading for the beach. Sunbathing and swimming weren’t our top priorities in the Maltese archipelago, but still, we wouldn’t pass on that opportunity. So, our first stop once on the islands was Ramla beach, a nice place covered by an orange sand and lots of people. The sea wasn’t much to our liking, as the seabed seemed to be covered with stones and pebbles and there were these barriers that draw out the limit swimmers are advised to go and that always make me feel confined. Yet, it was still a great way to get acquainted with the island before leaving to visit another location. We got to wait for the bus in the company of many others, facing the prickly pears that are scattered all around the island.

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Our next stop for the day was Victoria, at the center of the island, were we walked for a while around the village, before deciding to find someplace to have lunch. After that we simply returned to our room and rested for a while as it was already getting a bit dark and we were too tired to try and stroll around the island any longer. So, we spent a rather cozy, relaxed evening since thenext day we were planning to do as much sightseeing as possible.

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It’s a funny feeling when you ride buses for about six hours to get to the airport and the plane flies at a distance of 50km from your home (This, however, would get even weirder on my return from Italy)

Third Stop – Italy (part 2 – A few more days, more cities, I, myself and me)

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After Catherine returns to Greece, I will remain solo in Italy for a few days. Our ways part in Bologna and my first stop is the small state of San Marino. I admit, it seems a bit like a tourist trap, but I’m curious enough to visit the country and even spend an evening there, when most of the tourists will have left the place for nearby Rimini, which seems to experience very lively nights, as it is situated on the Adriatic shores.  Anyway, the most celebrated attractions of San Marino are its three towers, depicted on the national flag, of which only two are accessible, as Montale is not open to public (De la Fraita and the most famous  Guaita are). Besides that, there’s Palazzo Pubblico (Government seat), the Piazza della Libertà and the Basilica of San Marino as well as the Museo di Stato. There are several museums that seem like tourist traps, but there is also a peculiar site, the San Marino Jinja, far from the main town, but I ‘d like to try and pay a visit if I have the time to do so. It is supposedly built by a controversial Japanese religious group, claiming that the building is the only Shinto temple in Europe, and they built it on the occasion that Japan is the most ancient Empire continuously existing, while San Marino is the most ancient republic.

Be that as it may, next morning I’m off to Florence, where I’m going to spend a couple of days. That is too limited an amount of time to stay there, and I have to plan very carefully, but I mostly have to accept that there are many places I am going to pass. After thinking quite hard about it, I have decided to freely walk the city streets and follow a very loose plan. I can certainly try to visit some very important museums, but the lines that form at their entrances are a deterring factor to visit. There’s a combo ticket for the Uffizi gallery, Pitti palace and Boboli gardens at nearly 40 euro, but you must state the time of your arrival at the Uffizi and that means I have to plan quite accurately and I do not have the time to do so.

Therefore, I’m going to try and spend a very loose weekend at Florence, with the less amount of worries regarding my visit. If I get a chance to visit a place, then it’s ok. If I don’t, it’s still fine. Of course, places featuring in my Florence bucketlist are: Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Campanile and the baptistery of St. John, all three situated close to each other and can be visited with a combo ticket. On the one side of the river, there are Bargello National Museum(many statues created by famed artists), Piazza della Signoria (copies of famous statues and originals of Donatelo and others) , Palazzo Vecchio and of course Uffizi gallery as well as Santa Croce [burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiaveli, the poet Foscolo (influenced our national poet D. Solomos), Rossini, featuring works of Donatello and Giotto], the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella (an early work of Boticelli), Mercato del Porcellino and Orsanmichele (Donatello, Verocchio, Giambologna), San Lorenzo (burial place of teh Medici), San Marco (a work of Fra Angelico, but also the seat of Savonarola). Crossing  Ponte Vecchio, one can find Boboli gardens, Pitti palace (Should pay a visit solely for Artemisia), Basilica di Santo Spirito (Michelangelo’s crucifix among other minor works), San Miniato al Monte, one of the most scenic churches in Italy. Piazzale Michelangelo (Just the view would suffice),

I’ll probably skip the Galleria dell’ Academia, a very popular and significant place, housing Michelangelo’s David.

The trickiest part of this trip will be the next couple of days, which I intent to spend along Via Francigena, an ancient road, leading pilgrims from England to Rome. I’ll try to walk along that road from Monteriggioni to San Gimignano and Gambassi Terme, for my first day there. While on the second day, I’ll try and walk from Gambassi Terme to San Miniato, where I’ll catch a train to Pisa. Time permitting, in case I skip walking and use buses, I may visit one of the following places, Siena, Certaldo, Vinci or Lucca, with Lucca being the most probable city to pay a visit to, since there will be not enough time to get to Siena and Vinci is way out of my way. Certaldo on the other hand is close to Gambassi Terme and a short visit might be possible, in case I skip walking all the way to San Miniato.

Third Stop – Italy (part 1 – A couple of days, a couple of cities, a couple)

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Well, the neighbors… We’ve met many Italians over the years, yet we never had the chance to visit their country. If Italy is half as good and elegant as the Italians we’ve met (we know it is) we’ll definitely have a great time there. I know I will, since half of our stay I’m going solo, as Catherine must return to Greece, while I will be prolonging my stay for a few days. Therefore, the plan is that we are going to land to Genoa, late at night, so we won’t have a chance to view the city, but next day we might head to nearby Pisa, while we are certainly going to roam the five main villages that form Cinqueterre (Map of the villages here).

It will be quite a demanding day, before taking the last bus from La Spezia to Bologna, where we’ll split. Our first day in Italy will begin with a short visit to Pisa, before visiting nearby La Spezia, where we’ll catch a train to the northern of the five Villages, Monterosso al mare and then we will walk south to Vernazza (3,5 km in total) and possibly catch a train to Corniglia (the route seems closed) and then walk to Manarola before using the train to get to Riomaggiore. There are train tickets that are valid for a day (16 euro) and will allow us to move between the villages, while we are also going to walk along the famous paths for some part of the route (current situation of the paths). As I understand the most popular paths, between the southern villages are closed (some until as late as 2021) therefore the train ticket is a necessity. What can we expect to find in that place though? Honestly, I don’t know, but we imagine that the views of the cliffs falling to the sea and the beautiful villages climbing up the rocks as we walk through the natural landscape will be a great sight. At least that’s what we can make out from the pictures we saw.

In the Evening we must return to La Spezia to catch a late bus to Bologna. We are staying near the center and we’ll have a great deal of time to enjoy some morning coffee and a walk to some of the sights the city offers, like piazza Maggiore, Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo d’Accursio and the fountain of Neptune. Of course, there are much more to see there, but time is not on our side, as Catherine will return to Greece and I will go solo for a few days visiting San Marino and Tuscany.

Next stop on our trip – Malta

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Second stop on our trip will be Malta, an island with lots of sun, history, traditions and lots of settings of movies and series. We’ll be staying at Rabat in the mainland, but the island – although bigger than Gozo, is quite small, so we guess that most places will be pretty accessible. Near Rabat, we are close to Mtahleb cliffs, where we can enjoy some trekking and some views of the Mediterranean from these high cliffs that were part of the scenery in GoT. Quite close is another GoT location, Verdala palace, the official summer residence of the President. That is closed to public, but nearby Buskett Gardens and the local village of Siggiewi offer stunning views of the palace. Another GoT location is the Church of St Dominic & The Blessed Virgin, while an interesting location to visit are St Paul’s Catacombs (very interesting Baldacchino tombs there), while more GoT locations lay ahead as Mesquita square, acted as a setting for the facade of Little Finger’s brothel, while the Mdina Gate is the place where Catelyn and Ned Stark last said goodbye. Nearby is also the Mosta Rotunda, a church that was hit by a bomb during Mass in 1942 (A replica of Bomb can be seen inside). Finally, San Anton Palace gardens is another GoT location to visit.

We are definitely going to visit Comino as well, but we have no idea if we’ll be doing that right after we leave Gozo or whether we’ll return up north to visit the small island, famed for its Blue Lagoon. Any visit to the island without a view of its Capital, would be a waste, so we are definitely paying Valletta a visit. We’ve narrowed down our options while there to Teatru Manoel, one of the oldest working theatres, we may also visit Casa Rocca Piccola, but its imperative to view the Valletta Waterfront-Upper Barrakka Gardens for the salutting Battery (12.00 and 16.00) among other things, as well as the Royal Opera House Site. Our visit will be concluded at St. Augustine Church and at the National Museum Of Archaeology.

There are more sites to be found further South, most of them ruins of Megalithic temples like Mnajdra and Ħaġar Qim or the neolithic Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, as well as the Tarxien Temples and the prehistoric Ghar Dalam Cave, before concluding our visit to the Blue grotto.

Of course we are also going to try and attend a Maltese Festa. It is a religious celebration with brass bands and some alcohol is involved in the festivities. There seem to be around five of them scheduled during our stay, Two in Mġarr & Dingli (celebrating The Assumption of Our Lady) another in Sliema (Our Lady Star of the Sea), in Paola (Our Lady of Lourdes) and Birkirkara (St. Helen of Constantinople). Sliema and Birkirkara seem like they would be the most prestigious ones, so we’ll probably choose one of them. Before leaving the island to fly to Italy, we’ll have a full day to spend, as our flight is in the evening, so we are also going to chill out around the island discovering more of it.

 

Scheduling for this year’s journey (A couple of days at Gozo)

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As you know, this year we are starting our journey from the Maltese archipelago. We are going to visit the main island as well as Gozo and of course Comino, which stands between these two larger islands. Now, the plan is to start by spending a couple of days at Gozo, where we are going to stay near the main harbor, at Mgarr. According to the instructions we received from our hotel, we need to get the X1 bus to Cirkewwa ferry terminal and then the ferry to Gozo.  We are only going to spend a couple of days at the island, so we’ll split our Gozo itinerary into two days. As is the case on the main island, Gozo also has a lot to offer to hungry eyes and minds and we’ll spend time swimming in beaches, sunbathing, sightseeing and enjoying a few drinks. We’ll use local buses to get around and thankfully it seems that the bus company has a well informed website (routes 301-309 and 310 – 330 apply to Gozo).

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We expect to arrive a bit early at noon, so there will be plenty of time ahead to enjoy some sightseeing, although we will probably avoid getting to tired. I guess we will visit Rotunda St. John Baptist Church, a 20th century building with a medieval twist as it is the spiritual seat of the Knights of Malta. We may also swim in the nearby Mġarr ix-Xini, a bay where a small restored watchtower reminds of the island’s past. Then we may visit the majestic Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs, to enjoy the scenery and view some of the archeological remains near Sannat before heading to Mgarr El Xini bay and Xlendi Bay for another dive in the water.

During the next day, the last on Gozo we’ll continue our exploration of the island at the temples of Ġgantija the neolithic era monuments that predate the pyramids, before hitting the beach once more, possibly approaching Calypso Cave for a view of Ramla Beach, before moving to San Blas beach for a swim.

After a break we’ll continue with part 2 of this day’s schedule, visiting Wied Il-Mielaħ, window (would be a comfort to see another sea window in Malta, after the destruction of the azzure window) and then visit Ta’ Pinu church and the main square of Gharb village.

Finally there’s a group of sights located nearby, the Inland Sea and the site of the Azzure window as well as the Blue hole (I don’t know whether we’ll do any diving though) and Fungus rock, an islet where a smelly plant grows that medieval doctors used as a prized medicine (because you know, if something is stinky it must be a good medicine – just joking, please do not try this).

PS We haven’t actually had the time to plan everything for this trip. We’ll probably go blind for most of the way. Still we are not getting lazy. Personally, I had an offer to publish my thesis, so I’m currently translating it to English, while I’m also working on a magazine article. There are numerous things I want to do right now and sadly there’s so little time. However I’ll try and keep updating on this trip’s scheduling.

In need of a break

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It has been a rather busy week so far, but thankfully all this hassle comes to an end today and we’ll have the chance to catch some z’s while planning ahead for our trip this summer. At least summer time already dominates our mood and since I have to work outside I get to use some great scenery as an office. I’m mostly visiting the nearby coastal towns and although they are a familiar sight for my eyes, I can never get too accustomed to the scenery’s beauty. Parga and the nearby Acheron river provide some lovely landscape that will please anyone’s eyes.

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So, after a much needed break this weekend we’ll continue posting the newest updates on our forthcoming trip, while recommencing our narrative of our Baltic adventures. I’ve been also planning a visit to the nearby Nicopolis museum and archaeological site, but so far I’ve only encountered closed doors due to a lack of funds (If you don’t allow visitors to enter how on earth do you expect to get funds anyway?). I can’t do much about the museum (hopefully I’ll visit when it’s international museum day) but I might break into the site of the ancient ruins to get some shots (Just kidding, ha, ha…wink, wink!).

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April fool’s day joke? An artist’s controversial approach to a local legend

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The one thing people often complain about the town I live in is the lack of public art and the vandalism that take place in the few works of art that ornament an otherwise empty and dull – artistically speaking, town. One of the greatest projects undertaken over the last fifty years was the building of a statue commemorating Octavian’s victory over Antony’s and Cleopatra’s joint fleet, an event which marked the beginning of a great settlement that finally gave its place after many centuries to the little town we call home.

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The Preveza eye is another controversial construction, as it was supposed to be 500 meters tall, yet the artist produced a smaller scale structure in an attempt to emphasize the embezzlement of politicians

Reknown artist Glaucus Acacius Floruber was the person that undertook the task of offering the city a statue worthy of its glorious past. Floruber’s art is controversial and the artist has often been accused of lacking ability or being provocative just for acquiring a few crumbs of temporary fame. Of course others consider him the greatest artist ever lived and often this debate ends in bloody conflicts as in the 1992 Waga Waga massacre, when the artist’s supporters attacked a group of innocent by-standers as they thought they had heard some awful remarks about the master.

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This time his artwork is a sculpture representing the city’s founding myth. Legend has it that Octavian, the first actual emperor of the Roman empire was in a very very bad place. Egyptian and rebel Roman forces were winning the sea battle of Action and the Roman wannabe emperor was already thinking of alternative plans to world domination, as stated on his memoirs, I Augustus – Ravings of an Emperor. But let’s hear it from the Emperor’s own mouth, in his much preferred third person writing:

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“As he saw his cause lost, Octavian, the Emperor to be, quickly prayed silently and modestly to Neptune. All he asked was a swift death. But, if he managed to survive he would gladly offer sacrifice to the sea-god a couple of oxen. Then he thought that oxen are expensive during such hard times and a smaller offering would be a greater and more adequate gift. So he thought of sheep. Then again. Naahh! Dogs. But why kill dogs? They are cute. Mice! No, wait it’s a sea god. I Know! Tuna, no wait, that’s it! Sardines! Two sardines! Nah! Let’s splurhe! Three as heavy as the larger I will ever see, offered to you, oh marine father”

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Even in the face of fatal adversity the tight-fisted Roman would not break his strict economic discipline that once made every southern European so great. Alas, we that inhabit these lands now spend everything in booze and women, as a wise man said. The bad thing about spending money on drinks and girls (or even men) is that your offspring might become (God forbid!) a Dutch minister of finance and Eurogroup president.

However, Neptune as the story goes was at first angered by Octavian’s stringiness. He even burst into tears and swore to every other god that he would sink the Roman fleet as deep as Atlantis. On the other hand, if the Egyptians prevailed Osiris, Isis and all these eastern circus would take advantage of the situation and everyone would offer sacrifices to them. It was then that Athena, whispered Neptune the solution out of this one. The sea-god, smiled, threw his wavy hair back and as Octavian was drowning, fighting for his life and a coin that fell off his pocket into the sea depths, three enormous sardines emerged from the dark green waters and lifted him on their backs. Then they started attacking the enemy fleet, sinking lots of ships and devouring every sailor unlucky enough to be on their way.

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Thus, Octavian became emperor and the divine sardines were always honored in the city, even to this day, as every summer the sardine celebration takes place to commemorate the beginning of an empire. Octavian kept his promise and even included Sardinerus among his names, being called Imperator Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Octavianus Sardinerus. Of course the part of the story regarding the huge sardines isn’t true and simply represents the emperor’s political adversaries intention to reprimand his stringiness.

The artist however sculpted a marble statue representing Augustus riding two sardines as he decided to marry the third one in a religious ceremony, with his wife acting as a priest. Last month he married himself to a squirrel and animal rights organizations are currently holding an investigation about the incident after the artist’s estranged daughter revealed that Fluffy the squirrel was eaten on the same day. Faultfinders, accuse the artist of lack of originality, as Tracey Emin is already married to a rock in a ceremony that took place in a French garden. The artist’s supporters complain that she didn’t wear such a beautiful wedding gown as their beloved sculptor.

Still, the townspeople paid him for three sardine statues and the mayor demands a refund. A religious conflict is on the verge of breaking up though as the Sheikh abbot of Los Sardineros, a newly sprung religious zealots movement has demanded the artists head for blasphemy against the holy sardine.

An idea about drawing a Comic

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While traveling through Poland, I had the idea of drawing a comic strip about a puppy that goes around sites we visit having some sort of adventures related to the place. Hence, Yippee, the Unhappy Puppy was born but I was always sort on time to materialize this idea. Today, I’m making a first step towards this, since I think I postponed it long enough. This is a rough sketch and I used a shot of Poznan as a background. I made use of Manga studio, which I had used for a short time many years ago, so I am currently trying to learn some stuff about handling this software. Hope we’ll see more of this puppy…

Welcome

Hi everyone. I’m so excited to finally get underway with this blog. It is something I ‘ve been planning on starting for quite some time now. Me and my girlfriend are living in a small Greek town and we enjoy traveling. We strive towards making a trip each year visiting various countries. Anyways, I intent to post as often as possible with a view to describing over the next months our travel arrangements for the next trip. Since that can get a pretty stagnant subject though, I ‘ll interpose information and pics regarding our previous journeys. We cannot splurge out on our schedule since we both get quite menial salaries, so everything has got to be on a pretty tight budget. We are dealing with it as an extra challenge and hopefully we ‘ll manage to achieve our goal for the current year. Hope you enjoy and keep us company on our next odyssey.

 

All photos and sketches are property of nomads’ rhapsody unless stated otherwise ©nomadsrhapsody.wordpress.com