Wednesday, August 26, 2009
At Sea 8-21 thru 8-26
Saturday August 22 -
Sitting in Munich airport, waiting for my flight to Venice. So close, yet still so far!!! I've been up now for 24 hours and the long flight has made me weary and sleepy, yet I can't sleep. It is the Sherita curse for flying. Doesn't matter if I'm sitting up or lying down, I can't sleep on a plane.
Sat next to a nice man on the flight over from Chicago. Max. He lives somewhere on that hand of Michigan (he rolled his eyes when I put up my hand, palm facing him, fingers closed together and asked him to point out his town....). Anyway, he was on his way to Croatia, where he grew up. The only bad thing about sitting next to Max for 8 hours is that he had the window seat and he's about 6'3" and I guess since he decided we were on a first name basis, he could invade my territorial imperative and proceeded to sleep almost Sam-style during the flight. "Sam-style" means using my shoulders as a head rest, slopping his knees over onto mine, etc. Good grief. I felt kind of bad for him since there was no place to put his knees even in an upright position. The new Airbus 340 plane is nice, but the seating leaves a lot to be desired. Even the business class section looked small. Oh well, what's a little shoulder and knee canoodling among strangers on a plane.
Tuesday August 25 -
We're anchored off of Split, Croatia today. Let me back up a couple of days, however. I arrived Venice pretty much on time, got my bag and as I came out of the baggage claim area I spotted Sam standing there waiting for me! She had arrived Venice the evening before, and she was a beautiful sight to see! 13+ hours of flying and exhaustion aside, I hadn't felt this happy in a very long time. Reunions are very sweet indeed.
We shuttled back to the hotel, I got a little settled, showered, and we were off to a local pizza/pasta place a short walk away. We had a nice meal and then it was back to the hotel and I pretty much crashed. I slept long and well and awoke very refreshed and ready to go. Our ride to the ship came at 12:30 and after a bit of time waiting in line to check in and board, we were in our lovely cabin suite. They hadn't delivered our luggage yet, so we headed upstairs to the Lido deck and had a nice lunch from the buffet. One of the nice things about cruising is the constant abundance of food. Sam mentioned this in her blog awhile back, so I won't repeat it, but you'll never go hungry on a cruise ship. Trust me. Never.
Yesterday we got up and headed into Venice for a leisurely stroll through town. We've both been to Venice before, and we've "been there, seen that." This time we decided to seek out the Cannaregio District - otherwise known as the Jewish Ghetto. While Venice is considered one of the world's most beautiful and romantic cities with its canals and streets remaining the same as they were hundreds of years ago, for Jews, however, Venice is also a place with a dark history. In 1516 the government issued special laws and instituted the first Ghetto of Europe. Jews were forced to live in this area only and could not leave from sunset to dawn. The area was closed by gates watched by guards. Today, you can still see the marks of the hinges from the gates. The quality of Jewish life often shifted with the whims of the ruling power. The word "ghetto" is from the Italian getto meaning "casting" or Venetian geto meaning "foundry." When the doges, Venice's ruling council, decided to allow the Jews to remain in the city, they moved them to the Ghetto Nuova, which was a small island that used to house a foundry. This Ghetto existed for more than 250 years, until Napolean conquered Venice and eliminated every gate and Jews were finally free to live in other areas of the city. Made famous by Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, the Ghetto is now a quiet and pleasant neighborhood where Venice's small (500 or so) Jewish community still lives.
In contrast to Cannaregio, Piazza San Marco, on the other side of Venice, is a frenetic mass of human bodies, pigeons and beautiful buildings. On the canal end of the Piazza sits the massive and imposing Basilica San Marco, a magnificent place to behold. If you stand in the middle of the Piazza, with every turn, there is something beautiful to see - The Clock Tower, Doge's Palace, the Grand Canal. The only thing that spoils it all a bit is the mass of people milling about. When Sam was there a few years ago for Carnivale she told me that when it was over, late at night, as she and her friends walked back to their hotel, the Piazza was quiet and empty. A rare event.
No cars are allowed within the city of Venice, and so everything in the city is transported by boat from the mainland and through the city's many canals to its destination. The fact that there's no vehicles makes Venice a perfect place to walk around and enjoy the old city sights. The city has done a good job of holding up to the march of time. It's not hard to imagine you are seeing the city as it was seen by Marco Polo in centuries past.
Before we leave Venice (and Italy), let's have some fun facts, shall we? The country of Italy is only slightly larger than the state of Arizona. 20% of Italy's population is over 65 years old. The main crops from Italy's farms are grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain and olives. Pinocchio was written by an Italian. Pizza was born in Naples. The piano hails from Italy. Italy is the 4th most visited country in the world. Famous Italian inventions: thermometer, ice cream cone, eyeglasses, telephone, espresso machine and the typewriter. A few "there's no surprise": the national dish is pasta, national sport is soccer, 98% of Italians are Roman Catholic, the average Italian consumes 26 gallons of wine a year - doing some quick math in my head, I think that's about a cup a day.....Every day, about $5,000 worth of coins gets thrown into the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Florence Nightengale was named for her city of birth. Canned herring are called Sardines because they came from Sardinia and cantaloupes are named after the gardens of Cantaloupe, Italy. Finally, it is illegal to make coffins out of anything except nutshells or wood.
Port of call - Split, Croatia - Tuesday August 25th
The city of Split is situated in the warmest region of the northern Mediterranean coast. It's average annual rainfall is just 2 inches. Note to self --- don't ever move to Split. You will be unhappy.
In the 4th century BC, the Greeks conquered parts of present-day Croatia. The Romans succeeded the Greeks until about 800 AD, when the Croatians established their own state rule by princes or dukes. Hungary then governed Croatia until about World War I. In 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed which would later be called Yugoslavia and was ruled by the Serbian royal family, which naturally favored the Serbs and caused a tremendous amount of resentment in Croatia. Fast forward to 1991, when Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, which then prompted Serbian invasion. After 5 years of battle, the country was liberated. Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, and Split lies on the Dalmatian coast of the country. There's about 4.5 million people in the country and the majority religion is Catholic.
Split is best known for the Diocletian Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This palace is one of the best-preserved Roman royal residences in the world. It was built on the seacoast of Split around 295 AD. It's structures cover about 9 acres in area, and houses 16 towers, 3 temples and an emperor's mausoleum. The Roman Emperor Caius Valerius Aurelius Diocletianus built a palace as a summertime residence, but after he abdicated in 305 AD, he spent the rest of his days in his enclave. He was not a popular emperor, because he was well-known for his persecution and torturing of Christians. Tsk tsk, those pesky Romans.
The ship anchored in the bay outside Split and Sam and I took an early tender in. We wandered through the fish market, and then into the palace grounds, which, besides housing the museum, towers and the remains of the Palace, there is also an open-air market where local vendors showcase their crafts, artwork, fruits and vegetables and the usual touristy items - t-shirts, fridge magnets, shot glasses. Croatia might be best known, however, for its neckties, as they were invented here. It is called a "cravat" which is derived from the word "Croat.".
Fun facts about Croatia: the largest truffle ever found was in Croatia, in 1999. It was 7.8 inches long 4.1 inches wide and 5.3 inches tall. Yum!!! Our White House was built out of Croatian stone, coming from the island of Brac. And my favorite fun fact - Dalmation dogs (hi Rox!!!) come from Croatia's Dalmation coast.
I've posted some pictures here of Venice and Split. Today is our first sea day, so we have been perusing the day's calendar of activities and events to see if there's anything that floats our boat (tee hee hee). I haven't worked up much interest in attacking the Daily Quiz yet - I'm not sure I have any fight left in me for it these days. There's a lecture giving an overview of Greek history and architecture but unless the speaker is really good, it makes me feel like I'm back in school and I find myself nodding off. There's the start of a blackjack tournament that I might sign up for. Last time I did that I made the finals and it was a lot of fun. There's also some sports activities, games, and just lazing about or taking dips in the pool and catching some rays. Most of you will recall my write-up last year about my love for sea days, so I won't repeat myself again. All I'll say is that it's a good day.
Do videnja!!! (that's "goodbye" in Croatian)