I had a great time on my vacation this year. We visited six countries – Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece & Turkey – and I took over 600 photos! This was also my first time on a cruise, which was a neat experience that we will definitely be doing again.
I started by taking the train to Milan to meet up with Michelle, and we continued directly to Slovenia for the first weekend. Then we headed back to Italy to get on Royal Caribbean International’s 11 night Greek Isles & Turkey cruise aboard The Splendour of the Seas ship.
There were eight ports of call for the cruise:
- Venice, Italy
- Kotor, Montenegro
- Athens, Greece (Port of Piraeus, which has free wifi!)
- Kusadasi, Turkey (Excursion to Ephesus, the 2nd largest city of the Roman Empire)
- Bodrum, Turkey
- Santorini, Greece
- Mykonos, Greece
- Split, Croatia
The great thing about these ports is that almost all of them are relatively easy to just walk off the boat and find your way around the city. In Venice, there is the People Mover (1€) which connects the port to the Piazzale Roma, which is just across Constitution Bridge from Santa Lucia train station. It was a bit of a walk (about 25 minutes) to get from the port in Piraeus to the train station that brings you into Athens and directly to the Acropolis, but 1.40€ for the metro and being able to wander around the city on your own is how we travel. The only place we actually booked an excursion for was Ephesus, which was a 25 minute drive from the port in Kusadasi. You can easily get there by bus or taxi as well, but we figured we should try at least one excursion to see what they were like.
The villages on the island of Santorini are all up at the top, so you have to either walk up the footpath, ride a donkey (5€) or take the cable car (4€). We took the cable car up and walked down, which actually took forever because my shoes were slippery on the marble steps and because the donkeys were everywhere! Some stand in your way and it can be difficult to get past them, especially if you’re afraid of getting kicked or accidentally stepping/falling in something… Most ships tender in Mykonos, but we actually docked further away from the town at the port which is about a 20 minute walk along a narrow road with no sidewalk. There were even spots along the way that had no barrier between you and the cliff so if you don’t like walking less than a foot away from falling to your death and being passed by huge buses going a bit too fast, it might be better to just wait for a local bus or rent a scooter or car to visit the island.
Everything else went pretty smoothly until I tried to return home, which I think is proof that I just should stay on vacation forever. The train between Milan and Chambéry is only four hours, but we got held up at the last stop in Italy because of passport checks (the concept of the Schengen area is a bit pointless these days…) and some man who had neither a ticket nor a passport was throwing a fit. As soon as we got across the border in France, we had to get our passports out again for the French police and then the train stopped in Modane because of “technical problems” and we all had to get off and wait for another train to arrive to finish the journey. When the new train arrived, we discovered it was the TGV from Paris heading to Milan (the opposite of our train) and everyone on that train had been instructed to get off and switch trains as well! It was a bit ridiculous – and of course the order of cars were reversed so we all had to dodge tons of people walking to the other end of the platform instead of directly across – and I still do not understand why we were told our original train had a problem when it took off just fine from Modane to head back to Italy. Luckily Chambéry is the next stop after Modane and I was only an hour late getting home, but I was thoroughly annoyed by the phantom problem with the train.
I have already uploaded examples of real language use to the Realia section and I am in the process of uploading the travel photos to the Gallery and Flickr. I will work this week on adding more travel tips and advice, especially for train travel in Italy and cruising out of Venice.