Travels Archives

Chania, Crete, Greece

Now that my first trip to Europe is over, I get to tell you all about my trip!  I already told you about my scary drive up a mountain to a peak sanctuary and my trip to an ancient refugee settlement.  Now let’s go back to before that and talk about my trip to Greece and the gorgeous city of Chania on Crete, the largest of the Greek islands.

Rays of the sunset through clouds over the United airplane garage at O'Hare Airport.

The clouds over O’Hare Airport in Chicago as I waited for my plane.

I started my travels with a late night flight to Frankfort, Germany.  I had a few hours to get to my next flight so I sat down to a quiet German restaurant and had an “Eistee” with my meal.  I guess the term “ice tea” came from English so that is how it sounds in German.  It took me a few minutes to figure that out but the drink was quite good.  After a leisurely meal I headed to my departure gate.  After getting slightly lost I realized that I still needed to go through passport control.  Um, I had a little over an hour until my plane started boarding and I had to wait in a line as people from every non-EU nation in the airport went through the three police stamping passports and making small talk.  I finally got through with less than half an hour until boarding so I hurried to my gate.  Next time I’m traveling through an international airport, I’ll remember to find my gate before eating if I only have a few hours of a layover.  I found the same set up in the London airport I passed through on the way back to the States.

The flight from Germany took me to Athens for the night.  There I explored the airport since I didn’t get a hotel there.  I found it interesting that most of the shops were behind gates that needed boarding passes. In the States people go through the security check to get to duty-free shops on the way to their gate.  In Athens a boarding pass gets you to duty-free shops and you still need to go through security to get to your gate.  I didn’t learn my lesson in Germany.  I got into Athens as the stores were closing so I quickly got a sandwich to go and found a nice quiet hallway to spend the night in.  I wasn’t sure if I could sleep in the airport so I pulled out my e-book reader and finished the mystery I had been reading.  About 6 am I got up and went hunting for breakfast.  It was about 7am that I started looking for my gate.  That was when I learned that I still had to go through security.  Um…opps!  The line wasn’t long so I got to my gate with time to spare.

A bird's-eye view of Athens, Greece.

Saying goodbye to Athens.

In less than an hour I landed on Crete in the Chania airport.  I stopped at the small airport to use the internet for directions and wound up asking the bus station attendant how to get where I needed to go. She gave me a print out that was a map and told me where to go when I got off the bus.  After the bus ride I made the walk as the map said…and couldn’t find the right street.   I finally stopped and walked in circles to find the street names to see where I was.

A tan fortress wall next to a dry moat and topped with bushes and trees.

The city wall of the Old City in Chania

I was walking beside this wall looking for the street I needed.  It turned out that I needed to be inside the Old City. In other words, I should have been on the other side of that wall.  It took me another twenty minutes to get where I needed to be and then I couldn’t find the people who ran the place so I grabbed a chicken salad lunch and waited for them to get back.  By then I had about 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours and knew I would sleep forever so I relaxed online for an hour or two before heading out to wander Chania looking for food.  A few minutes from the place I was staying was the boardwalk area for souvenirs and fancy restaurants with a great view.

A street with multicolored buildings with shops on one side and water on the other side of the street.

The boardwalk area in Chania, Greece near sundown.

It was my first Greek meal so I let him suggest what I should order.  I should not have been surprised that I got a huge meal.

A bowl of salad, a plate of dip, a plate of rolls wrapped in olive leaves, a plate oof toats, and a plate with fries, salad, and rice under beef in cream sauce made up my meal along with a small bottle of wine.

My huge Greek supper

I’m not sure about the dip.  It was yogurt and spices and tiny cucumber pieces that I never decided if it was good or not but it was odd.  The beef in cream sauce was REALLY good and the veges wrapped in olive leaves were good, although too much for one person.  With the meal done and my eyes not staying open, I decided to head back to my bed and sleep for hours.

A view over water of the Greek town by the long walk to a lighthouse.

The view during supper

I slept well all night and part of the next morning until I had to get up to get on the bus for Pacheia Ammos, where I would stay for a month while I explored East Crete and cataloged pottery sherds all week long.

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Kavousi Vronda and the Parrot Place


Ah, the beach… It seems like I will never get sick of watching the waves roll in…
   But I can’t sit around watching the waves all my life, not with so much exploring to do.  That is a picture of where I met my professor and two friends to go exploring Crete at 10:30 this morning.  After admiring the waves for a few minutes (and because it was morning when all of us would rather have still been relaxing) we crawled into my professor’s rental car and he drove to Kavousi, a larger town just up the peninsula from where we are living, and turned up a winding mountain road to go up the mountain. Eventually we got out and walked through trails that had grown over with shrubs to get to the lesser known archeological site of Kavousi Vronda.  It’s not as impressive as Gournia, the site I’m helping do the paperwork for, but it does have some awesome views.


    According to my professor, who played tour guide for this trip, Egyptian manuscripts speak of attacks from “sea people” which were a lot of different people that had taken to the sea for various reasons.  People think that some of those nomads stopped in Crete and set up villages far from the sea.  Vronda is thought to be one of those villages. looking beyond the little rental car you can see how far from the water Vronda is set.


Beyond the site on the other side from the picture above it (maybe to the side instead of directly behind the site) is the other Bronze Age refugee camp.  At some point thousands of years ago they gave up the stone houses at Vronda for the higher and more inland site at the peak beyond Vronda.  (If you look closely, on the closer peak you can see a late Bronze Age village of Asoria, which is an active dig, on the peak between the two refuge sites which are no longer being studied.)  At some point after Vronda was abandoned, it was used as a cemetery and there are a few tombs on the site, one of them was found inside the abandoned shrine.  Most of the pottery and figurines of the shrine were found in a heap down the hill a bit from the shrine as if the grave diggers had merely thrown the artifacts down the hill to get them out of the way.


    Here is an image of the grave they dug in the shrine.  On the left is the ledge that they had put most of the figurines to the goddess (often called the snake goddess but modern scholars think that the snake was merely a reference to her dominion over the underworld, not her only power) and various memorials to dead family and pets.  The Minoan people seem to have worshiped a great goddess and something about bulls (bull leaping seems to have been their national sport and the “horns of consecration” are found in most of the important buildings) and who ever lived in Vronda seems to have adopted that religion since a lot of goddess figurines were found in the heap from the shrine.


   One thing I find fascinating about Crete is how the mountains are covered in terraces.  Now a days the terraces are used to grow olive trees but in Gournia there are terraces from the dark ages that probably were part of vineyards to fill the wine jugs made at the site.  That means that over three thousand years ago people were carrying bricks or stones from place to place to bend the landscape to their desires.  The abilities people had before cars or modern technology fascinates me.


   Of course, if the refugees didn’t farm then there was plenty of land for sheep and goats to graze around Vronda.
    After about an hour of wondering the site, reading the plaques and listening to my professor talk about what had been found and what it said about the people that lived at Vronda we piled into the car and headed to the nearby city of Ierapreta.  We found a parking space and walked to the archeological museum in that city.  (Here I should pause to mention that there are very few parking lots in Crete.  People just park on the side of the road or big stores may buy extra lots to create convenient parking lots for their customers.) No one is allowed to take pictures there (since many of the finds are yet to be published and therefore it’s rude to put up a picture of an item online before it has been officially studied and published for other archeologists to read about first) but we got to walk through it.  Gournia is an early Minoan city so I get to see a lot of what is called Vassiliki ware and crude decoration on the pottery I see every day so it was very nice to see the fancy decorations that most people think of as Minoan art.  There was also some parts Roman statues and a complete Persephone statue but I was mostly interested in their Minoan pieces and the tubs that the Minoans buried their dead in.
   After we got done in the small museum I was hungry and suggested we eat so we went to the “parrot place” as everyone on site calls it and ordered drinks.


   You can guess by the picture why it is called the parrot place.  It actually has a parrot perched by the side walk.  After we had ordered our drinks (an iced tea, a fresh squeezed orange juice, a decaf coffee with ice cream, and a beer) one of my friends noticed that we were at the wrong parrot place.  Two places on that boardwalk had parrots and they were separated by a single cafe!  The one we stopped at had this blue parrot laying on his pillow in the high winds next to the sidewalk area but the other one, run by a friend of my professor, had a big red parrot that had been moved out of the wind into the cafe so we had walked by it!  I expected we were getting food but after an hour or so of talking and sipping our drinks we got up, paid and got back in the car.  My professor dropped us all off at the beach and we went our separate ways, me to one of the restaurants on the beach, my friend to his place, and my other friend to the beach with her book and a take-out salad.   Ah, the beach…

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Terror Route

“I need a hug!” I thought repeatedly last Sunday afternoon.  I was in a small rental car with coworkers trying to go up a steep, rutted “road” to a Minoan peak sanctuary above Anatoli, Crete, the largest island in Greece.

A man wearing a backpack looks up a short incline at the station wagon on top of the dirt path strewn with rocks and ruts.

Sometimes we had to walk up rocky inclines.

It turns out that the mountain roads here on Crete are not the paved roads I’m used to, but more along the lines of a farm path.  I was lucky that my professor, who was driving, was very comfortable on any road, or path in this case, and never got worried.  As you can see, we did have to get out a few times so the bottom of the car could get over rocks or up hills, but we never had to push it.

A view of Crete: the dead long grass beside the road leads to a steep rocky drop. Over the rocks you can see a green hill criss-cut with light gray roads and speckled with dark green trees and dark gray boulders. The hazy bluish-brown mountains beyond fade into the ocean to the left and light blue sky dotted with puffy clouds. All that is framed by the upper edge of a car window.

The glorious countryside of Crete on a sunny day.

This was taken out my car window as we went and can show you how high up we were (along with one of the amazing views we saw on the way).

A black circle emphazes a barely visible white cross peeking over a rocky hill.

So far away…

We were trying to get to the peak of the mountain where a pilgrimage church now sits.  I circled the cross in this picture which I took about halfway up the mountain.

A picture through a windshield of a SUV driving winding mountain roads taken between the driver and passenger of the car.

Our Guide

We had been going on the gravel path up the mountain for about a hair-raising hour when a pair of locals drove up in a Susuki jeep and asked what we were doing.  I don’t speak Greek so I don’t know what they said, but it was agreed that two of the five of us would ride in their car to the peak to make it easier on our car.  A few minutes later the professor decided the road was impassable for our small car and we would have to walk up the mountain the rest of the way.  He backed down the mountain road (“I’m not looking, I’m not looking” was going through my head as I resolutely faced forward) and he navigated to the side of the road to park and we got out.  By then the locals had noticed we weren’t following and came back to see why.  After another conversation in Greek, we got back in the car and drove down the mountain.  They were going to lead us back to the actual road used for the yearly pilgrimage made to the modern church at the top of the mountain.  About forty minutes later we were off the rutted gravel road and onto a road paved in a white stone.  It wasn’t as smooth as an asphalt road, but it was much less nerve-wracking than the gravel road had been.  I never did get my hug that day, but by the time we got to the peak I was no longer worried and didn’t need one.  The professors along all agreed that next time they would try to get a sturdy Susuki jeep instead of the small European car they had gotten this year.  The jeep was much better for the less used roads that archeologists (which we all are this summer) use to go to less traveled sites.

A small white square building sits on a gray stone wall overlooking the mountains of Crete that fade into a faint ocean and vast blue sky as fluffy white clouds roll in from the right.

The pilgrimage church now on the peak of the mountain

Anyway, the locals drove us up to the church, shook our hands, and drove off to whatever had brought them up the mountain in the first place.  Here is one part of the two-part church that was built on the mountain peak.

The bottom of a huge white cross faces the city on the island far below the mountain it stands on.

Overlooking Ierapetra

Do you remember the tiny cross I circled in the picture above?  This is that cross from the peak looking over Ierapetra, one of the biggest cities on the large island.

A lady in a blue shirt and dark jeans stands at the edge of a rock outcropping overlooking the majestic mountains of Crete in the background and the city far below to the right.

Looking out over the largest island of Greece

Millennia ago ancient people made the walk up that mountain to worship someone in some way.  To be honest, I was more interested in the amazing views of Crete than in learning about the archeological finds that had been discovered at the peak.  What I did hear gave me the impression that the ancients came to worship their thundering sky god. You can see why that site is a great place to worship a sky god, so far above the life-giving fields and sea.  Modern people who fly in airplanes may be used to a view from hundreds of feet above sea level, but the ancients who may have traveled on donkeys only if they were rich would never have seen a view like that in everyday life.

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Traveling Days 3-5

Wednesday was a long day. I got up at 6 am in order to get dressed, grab a quick breakfast, and head to my college for orientation day.  I’m glad I spent the day before getting my bearings (meaning getting lost but finding the place in the end) since it took me nearly an hour to get to the college.  Thankfully I had planned for it and got there with a half hour to check in and grab a bite to eat.  Through the rest of the day I learned a lot about my school and answered some of my questions.  It seems I was the only one there with my major (not surprising since it’s a specialized history degree) so no one from my specific department was there to answer questions about my courses.  Still, I’m happy with my classes and rather excited to start them all.  (Okay, not the math class but the sooner I get that requirement done, the sooner I can get better classes.)  I got done around 3 pm and decided to go searching for my dorm before heading back to my room.  As I wandered the campus with a general idea of where I was going, I called my parents and filled them in on my updates.  It was hot out and I finally got sick of wandering so when I saw my dorm in the distance, I turned around and headed for my room.  I stopped at the local co-op for supper, picking up a local shake and a dish of cold Thai noodles.  Weary from the long day with unfamiliar people and two hours in the sun, I kinda zoned out and wandered the internet and channel surfed for the rest of the day.
Thursday was a day of forced idleness.  I got up in time to get breakfast from the hotel and tried to pack everything up.  My usual travel outfit was jeans, since it was recommended for my college trip and dealt with the air conditioning in airports, but that day I had planned walking outside so I didn’t want to wear the heavy jeans.  I hadn’t realized how much space a long pair of jeans took up compared to the lighter summer outfit I chose to wear.  I finally had to just throw everything together and I had my bags closed a half hour before check out at 11.  However, my bus didn’t get to town until 6 pm.  I explained the situation to the lady behind the front desk and she kept my bags while I went to get lunch at Dominoes up the street.  After lunch I came back to the hotel and sat in their small lobby with my Kindle (a definite plus for technology.  I can now easily carry a library with me without extra heavy baggage to tote around.  The electronic book holder doesn’t replace the feel of reading an actual book but for a bookworm like me, it is a must-have for traveling.)  I finally left the lobby at 3 pm to have time to get to the gas station that served as the Greyhound station in town.  Since I’d figured out the map earlier, it was easy enough to get to, just an annoying half hour walk with my suitcase and heavy backpack.  I got there much earlier than they usually let people hangout but it was a slow day so the attendant let me take a seat and I read more.  About 5 pm I had a supper of cheesy bread I had saved from my trip to Dominoes at lunch and waited for the bus.  It was forty minutes late and there were no empty pairs of seats so I shared a pair of seats for the hour long trip to Kansas City.  I finally got there and another long taxi ride to the hotel meant I got there about 8:45 at night.  I freshened up and redid all my packing so I could just leave in the morning.
It didn’t quite work that way.  I didn’t look at the paper the hotel attendant had given me so I wound up getting a forty dollar taxi ride instead of the twenty dollar shuttle ride I needed to book three hours in advance.  I got there as my plane started to board.  I checked in and got through security (both had longer lines than I had anticipated for such a small airport) in time to get on the plane as the line ended.  I was not the last person on the plane, thankfully.  A few people got on after me and the “last person” moniker was an Asian woman about twenty minutes later.  The plane was in the air ten minutes later than expected, but that was due to traffic in Chicago, not anything in Kansas City.  We finally got to Chicago and after a really long walk (I had forgotten how big the place was) I got to baggage claim to wait, and wait.  Turns out my bag had gotten off the plane but somehow wasn’t on the belt.  The attendant assumed it was still on the cart somewhere and would show up so I filled out the paperwork for them to take it to the hotel and went to get my bus.  I grabbed a sandwich and a drink on the way and got to the hotel early afternoon.  The plan for that night was to get settled in the hotel, get supper at the restaurant attached to the hotel, and spend the night de-stressing and catching up on various things I’d let slide while traveling.  Um, yeah, I picked up my Kindle and no work got done.  I did get down to the Harry Carry restaurant attached to the hotel.

A bust of Harry Carry in front of photos of him with famous people.

Harry Carry and his guests

I got down there when there was a half hour wait for the dinning room so I opted for the bar which had self seating.    I ordered a cheeseburger, mainly for the simplicity of the choice (the other options all seemed a little off the normal I would have expected) A burger and fries in a bar with a stick in the burger.  The stick has a face on it.and because it’s really hard to go wrong with a handmade cheeseburger.  When it comes to comfort food, some things are really hard to cook wrong, especially when it says “classic” or “original”.  Burgers are definitely a classic American item I can rarely get enough of now that I’m back in the States.  (I just wish they were healthier.  🙂  )  While looking on the drinks menu I saw something I couldn’t miss: a watermelon martini.  Hm, watermelon and fruity alcohol?  Sounds like a party and it tasted like one too!  What a treasure for a fun Friday night! To not leave you in suspense, I stopped by the hotel lobby on my way back up to my room and my suitcase was waiting for me.  Now on to Chicago!

I'm waering an Chinese inspired shirt, black with red accents, and holding a red martini in front of a window.

Oh, the joys of a Friday!

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Travel Day 2

Ugh, what a day!  Monday ended a little after midnight when I was talking to my sister in our Milwaukee hotel and realized I would get three hours of sleep before getting on the shuttle for the airport.  We sadly but quickly wrapped up the interesting conversation and I finished packing to be ready to get up, get dressed and go a few hours later.

The day started out as planned and I got to the airport two hours before my flight with a very light breakfast (that’s what happens when you leave before continental breakfast is served).  Unfortunately I put my credit card in the self-check-in kiosk wrong and didn’t have my confirmation number with me since I haven’t had easy access to a printer in a few months so I had to pay 9.95 for a month of airport wifi at most airports across the country.  (I didn’t see the point of paying $5 for an hour when $10 was a month long.)  That took nearly an hour and I had some fruit from my kitchen to finish so I sat down to eat them.  The plums were good but the line at the security check point was long.  I finally got through it all when my ticket said they would start boarding.  I got to my gate to Atlanta about ten minutes later and they just started boarding the first people so I ran to the restroom next to my gate and got in line before the line completely disappeared.  I wound up between a college girl immersed in her headphones and an older lady going for a lady’s trip with her friends across the aisle.  I didn’t complain since I slept most the trip, waking up a few times to change positions, but mainly sleeping.

I woke up as we set down in Atlanta and hurried through the airport.  The place was huge, I was still tired and cranky as well as hungry, and I had a little over an hour until boarding time.  As I neared my gate I realized there were no food places near my gate so I grabbed a chicken sandwich and fries with a water from Checkers as I hurried past.The logo on a Checkers take out bag advertising burgers-fries-colas  Checkers is a popular burger joint in the South and one of my favorite fast food places from when I was living in Florida for a year.  Yum!  I had the fries and half the water done by the time I sat down at the gate to eat the burger.  I love those fries (dreamy sigh).  Anyways, I had about ten minutes before boarding started and I listened to a college soccer player discuss her trip with a kid, maybe ten, who was going down to Florida for a while.  Kind of amusing as the boy’s mom or sister sat on the floor nearby comfy among their bags, half listening to the conversation while reading her book.  The plane finally boarded and I was in a window seat with only one person between me and the aisle, a business woman.  That’s all I remember since I slept much better on that flight and was jolted awake when we landed in Kansas City.

From there I left the plane to find myself in a terminal with only one other gate.  Talk about small airport!  Anyways, I got in a Supershuttle van to Lawrence and talked to the driver some during the forty minute drive.  He was an immigrant from Somalia and Kenya that’s been in the US for three years now.  He’s still learning English so it wasn’t the most intellectual conversation but I enjoyed hearing about some of his large family and why he chose to leave Africa when some of his family didn’t.  We got to the hotel about 1pm and I was disappointed to learn it wasn’t on or really near the campus as I had hoped since the hotel used the college name in its title.  Oh well, I relaxed some in the hotel but I was hungry and needed to find the place for my orientation tomorrow.  Good thing I went looking.  After a few mistakes reading the vague map, I found the meeting place two hours later and it took another hour to walk straight from the meeting place on the far side of campus back to the hotel.

I’m rather disappointed in the town.  I’m used to living in a big city or a full town in a small area.  This is the definition of a college town in that the only big thing is the college.  The town is mostly houses for college students, people who work at or run the school, a few locals and two sets of a few blocks on a street that pass as a “downtown” area.  (Luckily there is a local coop so there is a grocery store in town.)   How am I ever going to stay sane and active if school work doesn’t take 24/7 like people seem to tell me?  Oh wait, thank God for the internet and campus wide wifi!  Who needs shopping or games when nature is a great gym (if I ever have the motivation to run the many hills around here) and the internet can show me anything I want to see (and a lot I don’t want to see)?

Oh well, I’m here now.  Tomorrow I have the full day of orientation, then I want to explore the campus some and locate my dorm as well as the greyhound station for Thursday.  Time for bed so G’night world, I hope tomorrow is awesome for everyone.

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The Trip Begins!

Red-haired me in a green dress and green dragonfly necklace with trees in a window behind me.I left my house today to begin my summer trip to various cities in the United States before school starts in August.  Yes, I am finally going to college after six years traveling since high school.  (I’m trying not to think about being surrounded by the stereotypical ditsy female freshmen and hormonal male freshmen.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can find some friends more my style but I know I need to broaden my horizons.  Yeah, not thinking about that yet.)

Anyway, I stayed up late packing (I know how hard it is for me to wake up so it is easier to get most done the night before) but still had to wake up at 8 am to finish my eggs at breakfast, do my last packing, a small amount of cleaning, go to the post office to check mail (I finally got a letter sent to Japan in May when I left), and went to Subway for a second breakfast so I could check my email.  I had an important meeting in the afternoon and I wanted to see if there were any changes.  There weren’t so I didn’t stay there long.  My brother and his girlfriend picked me up in northeast Wisconsin and we made it to my appointment near Milwaukee a little after 3 pm with a few stops.  After a late start to the meeting, we finished satisfactorily and we all went to meet up with my parents nearby.   My mom and dad, my older sister, my brother and his girlfriend, and I all went to a Mongolian barbeque place for supper and ice cream for dessert before everyone went to their homes.  My sister and I went into Milwaukee to our hotel where we are staying the night.  I will be waking up very early to get to the airport two hours before my flight and my sister will be staying in the room until she has to leave for her thing in Milwaukee in the morning.

All in all it was an amusing, if long, day and I will enjoy my bed, but it was good to see family again and begin my newest adventure.  What are you doing this week?

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Naval Museum In Kure, Japan

After my stop at Kintai Bridge and Miyajima Island, I had one more stop to make before my day was up: the Maritime Museum in Kure, Japan.  It is built around a scale model of the Yamato battleship, the biggest battleship ever made.  The Yamato and her sister ship, the Musashi, were “the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed” according to Wikipedia.  The ships were designed to combat the fact that the US outnumbered Japan ships by attacking numerous ships at once.  Yamato’s keel was laid in late 1937, sea testing began in late 1940 and commissioned  a week after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Built in secrecy (which was rather difficult due to US intelligence abilities), the real fire power of the Yamato wasn’t discovered until the end of the war.  Although the ship was built for war, it was used as a transport protector at least as much as it was a flagship.  It was present at the Battle of Midway but was to far away to participate.  Although present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea but only shot at Japanese planes, by accident.  It wasn’t until the Battle of Leyte Gulf that the Yamato finally did significant damage before being chased off by a spread of torpedoes.  As the war came to an end, the Japanese Admiralty made a desperate attempt to protect Okinawa by sending much of there surface craft (ships) to the island.  Yamato’s orders were to “be beached to act as an unsinkable gun emplacement and continue to fight until destroyed.”  It might have lengthened the war if the ship had made it.  Instead the Americans learned of the planand sank her and much o her strike group in-route.  She went down with most of her crew and the fleet commander onboard.

The term “Yamato” came from an old Japanese province.  It had become a term for Japan itself in mythology and many Japanese citizens believed that the war could not be lost as long as the huge ship was able to fight.  Is it any surprise that a museum was created to lament the loss of this flagship and the empire it represented?

That was a good history lesson, let’s get on with the tour, shall we?

I got off the bus a block away from the museum and walked over a walking bridge to the museum.

A Japanese submarine towering three or four floors above the cars driving by it.

A Japanese submarine on display outside the Maritime Museum as seen from the walking bridge.

In front of the museum you can see a huge statue of Neptune and a number of nautical items like the anchor and propeller seen here. Nautical sculptures in front of the Maritime Museum   Inside the museum we bought our ticket and had the option of paying for the audio tour or going through the exhibit alone.  I opted to go by myself instead of trying to keep up with the audio tour and take pictures.  In the first room, the one the museum is built around, sits the 1:10 scale model of the Yamato battleship.
The Yamato battleship scaled model as seen from front to back.
The 26.3 meter long model is a 1:10 scale (that’s one-tenth for those not used to building models) of the 72,800 ton ship that was over 860 feet from bow to stern was revealed in 2005 .
A closer version of the superstructure of the Yamato to indicate size compared to aperson.Can you see the scale?
This is a plastic model of a Japanese military man standing next to a gun on the main deck of the ship.
This guy is the scale of a real person compared to the ship.  Talk about a huge ship, especially for the time.
The Yamato battleship taken from nearly the back of the model.
Here is the ship from behind.  If you look closely at the guns in the middle of the picture you can see the scale sailor.
A model of the Yamato showing an airplane about to take off from the back of the ship via a slingshot method.
While the ship is covered in guns for attack or defense, it could also slingshot a small airplane off the aft of the ship.
A model battleship behind glass
Here is a smaller model of the Yamato to show you just how much they managed to get on this battleship.
Wax Japanese sailors in World War 2 outfits shoveling coal into large heaters.
I didn’t stop to read too much (we only had an hour and I wanted to get all the way through the museum before we left) but this scene implies the Yamato was run on coal.
A model Japanese ship behind glass.

Two model ships, one an aircraft carrier, behind glass.

Four model Japanese World War 2 ships behind glass
The museum had a lot of miniature ships
A model airplane from World War 2and airplanes from World War 2.
The wing and body of a full-size silver Japanese bomber.
There were also much bigger items to examine, like this airplane
A line of torpedo tubes of various shapes and sizes behind a railingand these torpedo tubes.
Four model battleships in a display case.
Another display case on the tour showed off more miniature naval craft.
A colorful playroom for childrento pretend they are sailors at sea.
The last room on the tour was a child’s play room designed to give children (and the young at heart) a hands on experience with naval technologies
A blue and white table with large wooden blocks.
like this Build-Your-Own-Boat table.

I had fun seeing the sights around Kure, Japan but I’ll have to remember that twelve hours is not a very good time limit for being in this gorgeous area.  I’m not sure I’ll ever go back by myself but the history and beauty of the area is something I won’t soon forget.

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Hiroshima Island, Japan

We had signed up for the tour in Hiroshima assuming that we would be seeing things connected with the atomic bomb dropped there years ago.  That’s what you get for signing up for a tour without doing your research first (or fully reading the description).  Most of us on the tour assumed we would be going to the bridge first, the bombing place second, and the museum last.  Instead of going to the memorial after the Kintai Bridge tour, we went to Miyajima, a lovely island just outside Hiroshima, Japan that I thought was called Hiroshima Island. (Thank goodness for the internet to correct me.  🙂  )

After the bus ride from Kintai Bridge, I noticed the famous O-Torii Gate on the water and snapped this picture:

A distant view of the red Tori gate in the water in front of the shrine.

As we pulled up to the ferry station, this guy was ready to greet us.

Ametal diety in green with lots of gold fringe overlooking the road to the ferry terminal

Most of us had to stop at a nearby 7/11 to get out cash so there was a delay in the plan.  I think our group missed the planned ferry and had to get on the one that came a half hour later.  Anyways, this is what we saw as the ferry arrived:

A Japanese attendant counting the passengers as the ferry approaches the pier.

One of the things that Hiroshima is famous for are their oysters, according to our tour guide.

Oysters grow underwater from floating planks

Oyster farm in Hiroshima, Japan

While on the ferry for the twenty minute ride I took a few more pictures of the floating Tori.

A large red Torii gate in front of a sprawling Japanese shrine

My favorite picture in front of Itsukushima Shrine.

Once we got to Miyajima, we instantly saw a deer.  Deer?  In Japan?  Yeah, I was surprised as well.  Apparently they are mainly in Miyajima and Nara, Japan.  Deer are sacred creatures in Japan as they are considered to be messengers from the gods.  Not surprising then that deer are so used to humans and all our antics.  We were warned not to feed the animals but that they have a habit of eating any food or paper in their reach.  The Wikitravel site said they will even go through someone’s backpack that people are wearing if they smell something good.  Beware of the deer!

A wild deer poses for a human who is bent over trying to get the perfect picture.

Needless to say, the deer have the run of the island

A deer is calmly exploring behind two food booths as no human pays attention.

Can you see the completely safe deer near the food?

and are a huge draw for pictures.

People form a loose circle around a japanese deer to get the perfect picture

Smile for the camera!

I wasn’t too hungry when we got to the shopping arcade (their way of saying a few streets and restaurants that open into the same street) since I’d picked up a snack at the 7/11 when I got cash.  I decided that it might be smarter to just buy munchies for the two hours we had instead of a full sit-down lunch.  These fish cakes wrapped in bacon (one was a cheese fish cake and the other was an asparagus fish cake) seemed like a good idea when I bought them.  By the time I was halfway through them both I was sick of the fish taste and they were pretty filling.

Two dough rolls wrapped in bacon on sticks for easy eating

Okay, meal done, I figured I’d probably be good for the afternoon and went strolling on to see the shops.  There I saw a lot of the usual Japanese souvenirs, a lot of dried fish,

Packets of dried fish in barrels next to each other.

and whole oysters for sale (or just decoration, I can’t read Japanese and had little interest in buying raw oysters).

Oyster shells next to a box of oysters in their shells

There was also this umbrella with water dripping down it that I found rather amusing but an interesting advertising option.

A pink cloth umbrella with black edging under a constant trickle of water.

I wondered for an hour before I suddenly realized I was hungry.  I hadn’t seen anything amazing and wasn’t quite in the mood for fish after those fish sticks so I went for the local specialty: okonomi-yaki with oysters.

An image of a menu describing the local version of the dish.

Yes, I took a pic so I could remember what it’s called.

They took my order with a group of people who sat down with me in the family run restaurant and cleaned up the grill from the last batch of customers.

The noodles cook on one side of the huge grill while the vegetables and pork cook on the other side.

This could be interesting…

On the left you can see the vegetables cooking under the thin flour pancake.  The pork is cooking in the middle of each round of veges and meat for the center is cooking under each lid.  To the right you see the Chinese noodles heating up.  They come in single serving packages the cooks rinse and set out on the grill like this.  Then they add a clear liquid and toss each serving like a salad, adding sauce I think is soy sauce near the end of  the tossing.

A cook using two spatulas to toss a set of noodles like one would mix a salad.

Once the veges are cooked and the noodles tossed correctly an egg is cracked on the grill, the veges and noodles are stacked on top of each other with the flour pancake on the bottom.  A quick flip puts the egg on the bottom and the pancake on top. The egg cooking behind a finished stack of egg under veges, meat, and pancake. The dish is left to finish cooking the egg while the rest of the batch is duplicated.  Then the entire pile is flipped onto a deep plate, cut in half, then in thirds the other way, a sauce is added along with the desired meat, and it is all served to the customer.

A close up of Okonomi-yaki with oysters in the center.

My Okonomi-yaki

It was interesting.  I’m not sure I would go out of my way to find okonomi-yaki done Hiroshima style again, it was a lot of flavors and textures mixed together in a confusing blend for my simple Midwestern palette, but it wasn’t bad.  I didn’t force myself to eat the whole thing, though.  I left at least one square because it was filling, along with my earlier snacks, and I had less than twenty minutes to meet up with my tour group again.  However, I did take time to get desert.

A cup of ice cream squeezed out of it's machine driping with dark red berry sauce


This berry honey on soft serve was too much to pass up after weeks with tasteless food and a long day of traveling.

I met up with the rest of the group and we headed to our next and final destination for the day.  However, I’ll leave you with one last glimpse of Miyajima Island as we saw it from the ferry.

A picture of hills aligned in such a way to resemble a human face and chest.

Can you see what I see?

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Kintai Bridge, Japan

The day started out in Kure, Japan where we got on the bus for the tour.

Kure as seen from over a highway fence with mountains behind under a cloudy sky.

As we neared the bridge I saw this over the barrier.  The gold at the points of the roof are statues.

A Buddhist Shrine seen over a highway fence with tiny golden Budhas on the 3 roof points.

As we approached the bridge, this is what I saw out the bus window.

Kintai Bridge as seen through my bus window showing four of five arches.

My first view of Kintai Bridge

Kintai Bridge was built in 1673 after a monk from China showed the local lord a picture of a bridge with five arches in China.  The next year the bridge was destroyed by floods so a special tax was established and the bridge was rebuilt according to a schedule.  The tax to maintain the bridge is now a toll to cross the bridge or enter the nearby museums (which I couldn’t do thanks to time constraints).

We pulled into the gravel parking lot and spilled out for an hour of independent exploring.

All five arches of the bridge as seen from the gravel parking lot.

The bridge is built on stone arches

A stone support for the wooden bridge

with wood arches in the center three arches.  The side two arches are supported by wooden beams

A view looking up of the wooden walkway supported by a woden arch.

and the ends go on the rock of the riverbank.

The end of the wooden bridge goes into a short by nearly sheer drop to the riverbed.

I climbed the short set of steps to the bridge, paid the 300 yen (about $3.50 US dollar) it cost to cross the bridge and come back, and this is what I saw:

A view next to the wooden railings of the top of the first arch of the bridge.

I crossed the center arches not on smooth wood but on wooden stairs.

A lady and child coming down wooden stairs on the bridge in a photo taken from the floor of the bridge looking up.

Even short flights of steps look long from an ant’s view. 🙂

Across the bridge I found a Kikko Park, a Japanese garden  dedicated to the third feudal lord of the area who had designed the original bridge centuries ago.

A tarnished brass statue of a 17th century Japanese fuedal lord.

Kikkawa Hiroshi’s statue at the entrance to Kikko Park.

If you look closely at the picture you can see the landing for the cable cars going to Iwakuni Castle in the upper right corner of the picture as well as some trees in bloom behind the statue on the right of the picture.  We didn’t have much time to investigate the area but here is a link to more things in the area if you go sightseeing to the Hiroshima area in Japan.

A tree with pink blossoms are clear in front of the picture while the castle behind is a blur.

If you look in the center of the picture you can see Iwakuni Castle through the blossoms.

I’m not sure if that tree is an apricot tree or a cherry tree but I like the image it presents.

A gray tabby cat hiding under the tablecloth of a display table.

This feline is hiding from the wind under a display table.

I saw this cutie and had to take the picture.  Stray cats are so common here in Japan that they are often viewed as wild birds are viewed in the States.

By that we had to get back on the bus for our next destination, Hiroshima Island but I took one more picture before getting on the bus..

An arch of the wooden bridge under the distant Japanese castle on a mountaintop above.

This is an arch of Kintai Bridge with Iwakuni Castle seen above it.

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Snorkeling In Okinawa

When I was in Okinawa visiting my sister, she took me to her favorite place for snorkeling.A beach with smallwaves crashing against distant rock formations.She said that she often goes to that spot or one nearby to unwind after a long day at work but doesn’t often go snorkeling there.  High tide in Okinawa is early morning (that day it was at 5 am) or near when the sun goes down and visibility goes way down.

I had never gone snorkeling before so I had trouble putting on all my gear, especially the mouth piece.A close-up of my face as I try to figure out how the mouth piece fits in my mouth.Snorkeling was fun, except that I forgot one thing.  I hate having my face in the water.  It took me a number of tries to force myself to relax, even enough to float on top of the water and look down.  My sister mentioned afterwards that the last time she had come, her friend had brought a lubricant she put on the goggles.  Yeah, my sister didn’t realize how important that lubricant was until our goggles fogged up almost immediately.  It didn’t help my fear of being underwater that things were blurry since I couldn’t wear my glasses with the goggles and I could only see clearly near the edges of the mask.  However, I did see some little fishies that traveled close enough to be seen.  I didn’t leave the cove that we were in for deeper water (I needed to be where I could stand up every time I got water in my mouthpiece or too much water in my goggles) where the better coral is so I didn’t see much besides small coral formations, rocks, and adventurous fish that seemed partially transparent underwater.  Still it was rather nice to float at the top of the water and look down.  I can see why people would get up early to snorkel or spend hundreds on trips to the best snorkeling spots in the world.  I doubt I’ll ever do it again since my terror wil probably ruin the effect for my companions, but it was a fun experience.Me leaving the water with my snorkeling gear in my hands and a rock formation in front of green slope behind me.   After snorkeling we returned our gear to my sister’s car and went to the public restroom nearby.  It was still early so we decided to explore the area and found a hiking path that led down to a picnic area and a lovely spot for pictures of lava rock that had eroded into various shapes with moss growing on it and water in the background.A moss covered rock formationA side view of me overlooking the waves crashing against moss covered rockA view over rocks to a long bay with a city beyondAll in all it was a lovely day although that night the typhoon hit that took out our power for a day, an odd thing on Okinawa where typhoons are so common.  Due to the storm the rest of my trip was limited but it was fun to see my sister again and explore the beautiful island of Okinawa.

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