Sunday, 12 June 2011

A hike on the Amalfi Coast and farewell to Italy

The view from the little restaurant we ate at. Great ravioli!

Just one of the amazing views along the trail.

Sentiero Degli Dei.

It was about 5 km each way wrapping around the cliffs, overlooking small towns, vineyards, and various rock formations. The path of the gods did not disappoint (the Amalfi coast rarely does). We left the house at about 8 AM and met up with a few friends. About an hour or so later we were at our starting place, Bomerano. No problem parking and we were pretty much at the trail head. I am glad we did this now and not mid July or August. It was probably about 80 F but the hike is strenuous enough that we were all soaked through from sweat. You pretty much have to stop to look around. If you try to look and walk you will likely trip or slip on the loose rock and tons of steps. Beautiful all around though. We stopped in Nocelle for lunch at a trattoria that was right on the cliff overlooking Positano. Simple menu. Very good. Then the hike back the way we came. Definitely more up hill. Total altitude went from about 1600 ft to about 2100 ft. Up and down; up and up; down and up... Big hills like my parents "mountains." The return hike was late enough that the sun hit some of the cliffs different and we could see the stuff that our back was to in the morning. We finally got back to Bomerano at about 3:30 and rewarded ourselves with gelato.

Two years living over seas. What an amazing opportunity. Anyone that gets the opportunity should jump all over it. International travel is expensive but hopefully we have given enough tips in this blog to save some money and make it more affordable.
Two years ago when I stepped of my boat I told someone "Now I need to and get to reconnect with my family." There is always more you can do but, I think I did, and I hope they think so too.
I should start by saying we really had the best of both worlds. I have a steady job. We lived in the perfect spot for our needs. We had some American conveniences that living out in town wouldn't have provided. And most importantly we LIVED here. Flights or trains from Naples were cheap, convenient, and plentiful.
We were concerned when we first got here about living on base and getting stuck in Little America. 15 different countries. All over Italy. Four trips to Germany. A couple trips to Greece. We averaged getting out of Italy once a month. I think we did a good job not getting stuck behind the gate.
You learn a lot being displaced from your own country. Obviously there are great history lessons that take on more meaning and occupy a larger part of your memory when you are in it vice reading about it.
You start to think in terms of 500 to 1000 years. Settling the NE in the 1600's isn't that impressive anymore...
You learn that just because it’s not American doesn't mean it’s bad. Just because it's done in Europe doesn't make it right in itself either.
You can't compare individual European countries' ways of life to the US. At the risk of sounding republican, I can see why there could be a push to transfer more power back to individual states. European countries are all different sizes, have different populations, have different resources available. They are more like states could be. Each country needs to be able to make their own decision based on their population and resources (some of the European countries aren't making wise decisions but this really isn't political). To compare any single European country to the US is like comparing Alaska to Florida.
I still laugh a little when I go to an airport and there is no ramp to the plane. You take a bus from the terminal to the plane. That really makes sense. A small airport like Naples probably does 5 times the business because they didn't need to build huge buildings just so you don't have to go outside.
I am convinced more than ever that Americans in the states are the worst drivers in the world. For 2 years we have driven as fast as we think is safe, stopped at stop signs only if we were going to hit someone else, shared lanes while on the motorcycle, passed even if there was on-coming traffic, and have even driven on the shoulder to make an additional lane when traffic backs up. No accidents. Why? Because God gave us all two wonderful tools to keep us safe. EYES.
We need smart engineers to design and build useable public transportation. All those trips and we only rented a car three times.
I am looking forward to being able to go to an Autozone. It won't take long for us to go out to dinner to have an American burger. American beef is great. The Germans still do pork better though. I never thought I'd say I'm looking forward to a company (cable, phone, etc.) saying we'll be there between 8 and 12, but at least they mean it and chances are they are going to look to fix the real problem not just try to "make it work."
We've made some incredible friendships here. People I'm sure we will keep in touch with for years to come. I will miss Saturday nights at the neighbors. I know Carey will miss going to the markets and trips to Vietri with the ladies.
Finally, everyone will ask, "What was your favorite trip?" All of them. That sounds like a cop out but each was unique. Our definition of interesting and fun changed the more we traveled. Churches and museums were great when we first got here. Sitting on the beach in Santorini was just as great an experience two years later. We leave with fond memories and a desire to come back. You can't ask for more.
The Stacks

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A long weekend in Santorini Greece

The northern 2/3 of Santorini

The red sand beach. I have another picture of the sand (smooth red and black rocks) that Carey will probably put on facebook.

The beach 50 feet from our hotel...

Here we are at the end of our two years. Wow the time has flown by...
Santorini was as good a place as any to pretty much end it.

We got up real early on Thursday to catch a 7 AM flight out of Naples to Athens via Rome. We got into Athens at about 11:30 and caught the train into the city. After a big, late lunch/ early dinner we got back on the metro to figure out were the port was and to get our ferry tickets for the next day. Time well spent since the ferry was leaving at 7 AM Friday. It worked out to be good timing too because by the time we got back it started to rain and a thunder storm was brewing. So much for the Akropolis that day... It was fine though we played Phase 10 and then got to bed early.
Friday. Another very early morning. When is the vacation going to start? We haven't slept past 4:30 yet!
The ferry got into Santorini about 11:45 and the hotel shuttle picked us up with no problem. I say hotel. I think it was a high end hostel. That's not meant to be bad... The room could have slept six, the kids had the loft, our own bathroom and a balcony. I say hostel because it was dirt cheap and they had awards up for "Best hostel of the year." Other wise I wouldn't have guessed. Did I mention we were about 50 feet from the beach...
We spent the rest of the afternoon laying by the beach (a lot more of that to come). Beautiful water. So blue. So clear. It was like being in the bahamas (the water was a lot cooler though). Black sand.
It really is a small word. The woman waiting on us that night for dinner didn't have any accent so we asked her where she was from. Albany Oregon (where we lived while at Oregon State)... She was born and raised there, moved to Chicago were she met her Greek husband. Three years ago they moved back to Santorini and opened the place. There were several people we came across that we were pretty sure were Americans living and working in Santorini.
Saturday we rented scooters. Fun. We went out to a light house on the south western tip of the island. Amazing views. After that we went to a red beach. Very different. A bit rocky. We laid around there for about an hour and a half and then got some lunch. Next off to another black sand beach on the eastern side of the island. Again, really good timing. When we left the red sand beach clouds rolled in. By the time we got to the black sand beach it wasn't long before the clouds were gone. After a couple hours there we headed back to our hotel for some dinner and then watched the Manchester United/ Barcelona game.
I think Austin ate some under-cooked chicken Saturday night. We woke up to him coming down the stairs to get into the bathroom... By 8 AM he was done throwing up but still felt bad. We got breakfast and let him sleep for a while. Once he took a shower he said he felt better so we got back on the scooters to explore a little more. The first place we stopped was on one of the highest peaks on the island where there was a monastary and amazing views of the entire island. Next, we went to the small town of Fira where we were going to walk around and go through a bunch of tourist shops. You could tell Austin still felt bad though so Carey and Brianna did some real quick shopping and then we went back to the hotel. Guess we'll just have to spend another day on the beach. Yes waiter, you can get me another beer... He eventually felt good enough to come down and sit in the shade. That night Carey and I got back on the scooters to go to the north tip of the island to see the sunset.
Monday we had to catch the ferry back to Athens but not until the late afternoon so... You guessed it... Yes waiter I will have a fruit smoothy... Austin still had an upset stomach but was up and about without much issue.
We got back into Athens at about 10:15 PM and made it back to our original hotel.
Tuesday we had plenty of time before our flight so we went to the Akropolis. You can't really say you went to Athens and didn't see the Akropolis. It is pretty impressive coming through the first set of columns. The Partheon is big and has had a lot of restoration done (still on-going). The whole site was pretty neat and dated back about 2500 years. Several temples, work areas, amphitheaters, and of course the Partheon.
We had lunch at a small restaurant and then got our luggage and headed for the airport. Again, good timing. We had beautiful weather from Friday to Tuesday and then as we were getting on the metro to go to the airport the clouds rolled in and it began to rain.

It dawned on me the other day that my sense of time has changed considerably since being here. A couple hundred years time difference between something like the Akropolis and Pompeii doesn't seem like that big a deal once you have seen Stone Henge (5000 years old), the pyramids in Egypt (3000+ years old) and then all the local stuff ranging from 2000 to 1000 to 500 years old. A couple hundred years is just a drop in the pot...

One of the last things I want to do before we leave is go back down to the Amalfi coast. Just to have lunch and/ or dinner and take in the views. That really is the prettiest place in Italy.
Right before we leave I'll make a close out entry.
It really has been an amazing two years.