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Uncategorized

15 Reasons to Travel to Istria, Croatia

I love this post by the Adventurous Kate blog and wanted to repost it here to share with you (and keep for myself for revisiting later at my leisure)!

Enjoy! And thanks again to the Adventurous Kate blog!

The first time I traveled to Istria, Croatia, it was on a bit of a whim. I was desperate to finally visit the Balkans in general and Croatia in …

15 Reasons to Travel to Istria, Croatia
Categories
Italy (Venice)

Dear Venice, Get Well Soon

Photo: Marilyn Yung

Best wishes for a speedy recovery

I took this picture of my daughter last June as she and I returned to Venice from a day trip to Bologna. In the distance, you can see Venice in the lagoon poised for the few remaining months of problematic mass tourism that remained in 2019.

It’s quite a reversal of affairs compared to Venice today when the city is coping not only with the COVID-19 quarantine, but also with the residual after-effects of the historic floods last November.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, La Serenissima.


I’ve been to Venice only twice, but am smitten by this elegant city so culturally important that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, many of my posts recently have focused on Venice. Leave a comment with your Venice memories below. Here’s a recent post titled, Venice Doesn’t Need More Tourists Like Me.

Categories
Italy (Venice)

Going to the hospital in Venice

H is for Ospedale

I’m betting that the question, “Wonder where the hospital is around here?” passes through the minds of most visitors to Venice… at least those visitors who stay on the island and think about where they would go if they twisted an ankle or suffered whiplash doing a double-take at an especially handsome gondolier.

Last Sunday, my daughter and I wound up at the hospital without really meaning to. We intended to go see the church, Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo (the Basilica of St. John and Paul). In 2017, I had purchased a little folding picture book of the top ten Venice sights and this church was on that list.

During the week that we visited back then, we simply didn’t get everything accomplished. Back home after our trip, I realized that if I was ever to return to Venice, this church would be on my list of sights to see.

And when one sees this church, one also has the opportunity to see the Venice hospital, the Ospedale SS Giovanni E Paolo Venice. That’s because the church is literally connected to the hospital building. You can enter the hospital from either the black front doors (as seen in the photo above) or you can enter from the backside, which borders the waters of the lagoon.

My daughter and I decided to take the water route around the back of the island. My daughter had never actually ventured on the vaporetto route past her Santa Elena stop, so this was a first-time experience for her, too.

Here’s the sign in the vaporetto bus stop that shows the stop for the Ospedale (Italian for hospital). Note the international symbol for hospital, “H,” below the line.

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Signs like these are posted inside the vaporetto bus stops.
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My daughter has become especially adept at navigating around Venice on water buses, known as vaporetti.

We traveled around the backside of the island to eventually arrive at the church; we didn’t realize it at the time, but the church is joined to the hospital.

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This map is courtesy of The Venice Insider. The “3” in the picture above marks the hospital’s location. Santa Elena is included in the area inside the green oval.

Here are some more pictures from the vaporetto ride around to the hospital and the basilica.

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The park-like Santa Elena neighborhood of Castello in Venice features lots of bright red wooden park benches.
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This is a view of part of The Arsenale, the area within Castello that was once included shipyards and armories.  The unique “Building Bridges” hands sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn has been installed to commemorate the Venice Biennale.
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Almost there! More of the Arsenale area.

According to The Venice Insider, the hospital grounds are not open for tourists. That being the case, I hesitated to take lots of pictures. However, I did snap a few. Here’s a picture of a modern-looking inner garden area you’ll walk through after leaving the vaporetto and walking through the first doors you come to.

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I took this picture after walking through this inner courtyard.

Katherine’s roommate had told us to look for the gardens with all the cats. We thought that this was the garden she meant. We were wrong, as you will soon see.

Before we would find the garden full of cats, we walked by the Emergency Room doors. Here it is, for all you ankle twisters or gondolier gawkers:

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The E.R.

Keep walking past the ER and you will eventually arrive at a beautiful garden, surrounded by loggia walkways and filled with about a dozen stray cats.

Residents and visitors alike care for Venice’s many feral felines. The kitties are quite comfortable during the warmer months. I’ve read that the cat population can become a problem during cooler temperatures and that there are volunteer groups that help with the problem.

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Notice the black and white cat sleeping under the flower pot in the center of the photo. Photo: Katherine Yung
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Photo: Katherine Yung
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This cat is so relaxed we thought he was sick, or worse. No, just very content. Photo: Katherine Yung

After you exit the cat garden, you’ll pass through an exit where you can continue on to the wards of the hospital or turn left to the Scuole Grande, which leads eventually leads outside to the campo with Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

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This is a photo looking back outside from the hallway leading to the Scuole Grande, religious and social groups that provided charitable services, including hospitals. If you turn to the right outside these doors, you will return to the cat garden.

If you continue down these steps, you will enter this grand entrance hall. There are doors and hallways that lead from this hall. This is the Scuole Grande (see caption above). At the end of this hall, is the front door of the hospital shown in the elaborate facade in the first picture of this article.

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Entrance hall just inside the front facade entrance to the hospital. The cat garden and ER are at the far end of this hallway. Most people needing ER services would, I imagine, enter from the backside along the main waterway.

And this brings us to the front entrance of the hospital on the campo, the large square that is the “city center” of this area of Castello.

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In effect, this post has brought you to the hospital from the backside along the water, to the very front door, which is shown in this photo at the far left (see the oval-topped dark door that blends in with the light post).

And this also brings us to the close of this post. I will continue this post tomorrow with our visit to the basilica where you will meet a die-hard Venetian who gave us some very good and timely advice on how to be “better tourists.”


Thanks for reading! Tune in tomorrow for the continuation of our Sunday morning in Venice. Click like, leave a comment, and be sure to follow my blog for the next installment. 

Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi)

Don’t Touch the Marble!

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The Parthenon on the Acropolis. Notice the newer, whiter pieces of marble used to reconstruct the buildings. Photo: M. Yung

What to know before you visit the Acropolis in Athens

“Don’t touch the marble!” a thirty-something woman called out into the distance from her perch in front of the Parthenon. With one hand on her hip, and another shading her eyes beneath her billed beach cap, she waited and watched. About thirty feet below, a woman with short, curly hair had just rested her canvas tote bag on a large, rectangular-shaped stone and was digging through the bag, searching.

“Don’t touch the marble!” the guard called out again. Oblivious, the woman dug deeper into the bag, craning her neck to see into the folds and pockets that held gum, ticket stubs, or sunscreen.

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Looking up at The Acropolis from the Temple of Zeus Olympios, which was even larger than the Parthenon. Photo: M. Yung

“Ma’am! Please don’t touch the marble!” the guard called out for the third time. The woman shifted the bag against the marble stone, and continued looking.

With this final and futile reprimand, the guard hopped down from the boulder and walked briskly down to the offender. When she arrived, the woman looked up, surprised. The guard pointed at the stone, then turned and motioned to the tattered gray ropes that set the limits on the Acropolis. The woman covered her mouth with her hands, slung her bag over her shoulder, and stepped back onto the walkway. Crisis averted, the guard climbed back to her boulder, placed her hands on her hips, and continued scanning the global audience taking in the Acropolis.

Planning to visit the Acropolis yourself someday?

Avoid being “that tourist,” (and get the most out of your €20 ticket, by the way) with these tips for touring the Parthenon, the Propylaea (with the Temple Athena Nike off to the side), and the Erectheion… the most prominent structures on top of the Acropolis, Greece’s most famous landmark.

  1. If it shines, step aside. Other than a paved walkway, the walking surface on the Acropolis is rugged. Stones jut up from the ground to create uneven areas, including some larger ledges and steps. Thousands of people walk here daily and it’s been this way for millennia. In fact, all the buildings you see on the Acropolis were built or rebuilt during the 500-300 B.C. As a result, the rocks are very shiny and SLICK. Walk on the connecting mortar or other stones. We witnessed one husband helping his wife, who had apparently just slipped, return to the Propylea (the first building you’ll walk through and the entrance to the hilltop) for an early walk back down.

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    See what I mean about rough terrain?  That’s the Erechtheion on the left. Photo: M. Yung
  2. Wear good shoes. These should be banned on the Acropolis: flip-flops, any shoe without a tread, a wedge greater than two inches, and heels of any height. Believe it or not, I did see women in heels. In the age of Instagram, some people will wear anything for the perfect post. No, you don’t have to wear orthopedic shoes, but definitely wear something sturdy with a tread.

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    Here are some of the stacks of remnant pieces from the Parthenon area. The closest section contains fragments of Ionic capitals.  Stacks of Doric and Corinthian capitals were nearby. Photo: M. Yung
  3. Be aware of the construction. This is a construction zone and you’ll see a variety of work happening. You may be lucky enough to see a stone carver working on a new marble replacement column. We watched as men strolled across plots of ground covered with mounds of old stones sorted by size, shape, or style.

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    Can you imagine being the sculptor assigned or hired to carve new columns for the Parthenon??? Photo: M. Yung

    Also, you’ll see roped-off pits that contain stone walls and equipment near the Erectheion, the temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon with its five “caryatids,” stunning female sculptures that served as support columns. Other areas on the grounds are filled with huge marble chunks, an iron cannon, and other remnants of past activity.

4. Get there early. Lines begin forming at 8 a.m. in early June, so be there early to avoid crowds. We didn’t arrive at the ticket booths until about 8:45. As a result, we crept up the steps of the Propylaea with a steady stream of tourists.  I can only imagine how much busier it became as the day continued.

5. Bring sunscreen. Obviously, you’ll be in direct sunlight for an hour or more. Put on sunscreen before you leave your hotel room, and take it with you to reapply when you’re on top.

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This photo shows the Erechtheion and a construction office on the right. Various piles of stones, column pieces are strewn about on the grounds. This area was not accessible to the public. Photo: M. Yung

6. Finish your food before entering. Food is not allowed inside the gates. When we entered and showed our ticket to the man at the gate, he requested I finish the cookie I was eating with my dose of Ibuprofen. He was polite about it, but did ask that I finish it before going much further.

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This is a picture of the side of the Erechtheion that shows the caryatid statues on the right. These are exact copies of the originals, which are in the Acropolis Museum except for one that’s at the British Museum. It was removed by Lord Elgin, British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in 1801. Photo: M. Yung

7. Leave your water at home or bring an empty bottle. If you don’t want to lug the extra weight of water in your backpack or purse, you don’t need to. Depending on the crowd, the walk up will only take twenty to thirty minutes, after which you can venture over to a water fountain adjacent to the Parthenon. There you’ll find three bubblers and one bottle filler. The water is clean and cold. In fact, there are water fountains here and there across the grounds, not only  next to the Parthenon, but also below near the Theater of Dionysus.

And finally,…

8. Don’t touch the marble. Avoid the reprimand. If a stone is especially light in color, has an unnatural shape (as if it’s been cut or chiseled), or otherwise appears to have been shaped by human hands, don’t touch it. It’s probably marble. Just think, all those missing stones from the structures have fallen nearby and the walking paths weave among them. If you think a stone could be marble, it probably is.

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Looking down onto the Theatre of Dionysos from atop the walled limestone crag known as The Acropolis. | Photo: M. Yung


We toured the Acropolis on Friday, May 31, and spent about three hours on the site. The top (the site of the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, and the Temple of Athena Nike) occupied about two hours, while other structures on the slopes of the Acropolis (such as the Theatre of Dionysos and The Odeion of Herodes Atticus) balanced out the morning. Following our tour, we lunched at The Cave at The Acropolis, a restaurant in the Plaka neighborhood district around the base of the Acropolis. I’ll be posting more about our trip. Follow my blog for updates!

Categories
Greece (Skopelos) Life lessons

What dream are you trading for new hardwood flooring?

When it comes right down to it, I would rather marvel at a Greek monastery than my kitchen.

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Photo: Anthony Tran on Unsplash

The linoleum flooring in my kitchen is really old. In fact, it’s no longer white. It’s now off-white with an uneven pattern of nicks and dings that has, over the past twenty-four years, resulted in a floor that looks ugly, dirty, and tired. The linoleum, with its four-inch gray grid, was patterned to resemble white ceramic tile. And it did resemble that for the first five years, which was as long as we had originally planned for the flooring to last.

But, if you’re a homeowner, you know how that goes. Often, those initial fixtures outlast their welcome. And for us, that has especially been the case because we’ve never been in a financial position to update our flooring AND pay our bills.

Owning a ceramic studio, freelance writing, college adjunct positions, public school teaching, and an array of part-time retail stints have always managed to pay our basic expenses, but rarely anything additional. Hence, the ugly and outdated off-white linoleum.

So what does one do when one has a dream but also needs new kitchen flooring? My answer: go for the dream.

Yes, in our case, the practical solution would be to update the floor… to build value in the largest investment my husband and I have ever made. But we also know that paying for a new floor will only defer our creative goals. In other words, practicality has its limits and we have quite a dream: one month in Greece next summer.

My husband and I are travelling to Skopelos, a Greek island in the Sporades archipelago east of the mainland. Here, my husband will work a three-week residency at The Skopelos Foundation for the Arts. I, on the other hand, plan to develop a new direction in my writing while lingering on the island for an extended time.

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Photo: Dimitris Vetsikas on Pixabay

Staying anywhere for an extended time requires money, and no, we don’t have the funds right now to go, but we are saving. We have ceased eating out on Friday evenings, for example. We are putting away what we can, and plan to have the majority of our trip paid for before our departure date.

Of course, that departure will lead to a return date. Once home, when I step into our kitchen, flip the light switch, and see the same old linoleum, what thoughts will cross my mind? Will I be glad I still have that flooring because keeping it allowed me to write in a new environment and experience new cultures and people? Or will I scowl at the floor, its ugliness reminding me of what I will still have in my life: uncertainty, bills to pay, the meager income that results when both spouses teach?

Will I be grateful for the dream that we chose to chase? Yes, I think so.

In the end, I believe that one can afford what one wants to afford. And when it comes right down to it, I would rather marvel at a Greek monastery than new hardwood flooring. If I can’t have both, I’ll take the dream.


Many things have happened since I originally published this post last fall on Medium.com. My husband was offered a full-time position at a nearby university, and we are moving from our home (with its aging linoleum) later this summer after our stay in Greece. Since we’re moving into a new home, we’ll pass on upgrading to new hardwood flooring. 

Categories
Italy Italy (Venice)

Dear Venice… We have to talk.

Finally, I’ve found a city I can trust myself with — Ravenna, Italy.

I didn’t mean to fall in love. I wasn’t looking for someone new. I had never even heard of Ravenna until I went to Italy.

But, Venice, I’m torn. In so many ways, Ravenna attracts me.

It’s untouristy. Affordable. Strangely familiar.

And yes, I’ll admit that although our relationship was brief and passionate, it has withstood the test of time, Venice. After all, I still long for your watery passageways and roaring, rushing boulevards. I fantasize over your shimmering lagoon and all those glossy gondolas slicing through the wakes of vaporettos, taxis, delivery boats.

But Ravenna, well… Ravenna is different. It grounds me. Located just three short hour away from you by train, its rugged stability thrills me in a comfortable, predictable way.

Finally, I’ve found a city I can trust myself with.

Ravenna is real. For one thing, there are cars. There are people looking right and left. There are horns blaring instead of gondoliers chanting gondullah gondullah gondullah.

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And Ravenna’s mosaics! That austere 6th-century Byzantine architecture! I can’t deny that jewels such as these drew me in: Sant Apollinare Nuovo, the Basilica of San Vitale, Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum, the Archiepiscopal Museum, and the Neonian Baptistery.

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In Ravenna, the sights are spectacular, seductive, strong, and silent. And a quick glance in any guidebook shows that my new love interest holds thirty more palazzo and churches from antiquity.

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Photo: Katherine Yung

Frankly, Venice, I never thought I would say this, but I see a future in Ravenna, but not necessarily in you. I fear you’re too exotic for a long-term relationship.

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After all, I’ve stood in St. Mark’s, your gold-drenched basilica. I’ve felt the reflections from the ceilings and walls warm first my cheek, my neck and then my shoulders as the afternoon sun dipped below the Adriatic. In fact, you’re so beautiful it terrifies me.

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Yes, Venice, you have the glitz, the passion, the prestige. You have those opulent icons: St. Mark’s, Santa Maria Della Salute, the Grand Canal. Rialto.

What am I leaving out? Oh, your cruise ships. Your crowds. Your selfie-stick vendors on the Accademia Bridge.

And that’s another reason why I’m torn, Venice. You make me dizzy with love and desperate with doubt at the same time. Have those annoying tourist trappings driven me away?

Four words: Possibly and I’m sorry.

Despite your glamour, Ravenna captivates me. This quiet city has stolen my heart with its own brand of starry-eyed elation. Its warm, steady embrace just feels right.

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Thanks for reading! Have you been to Ravenna, Italy? Have you ever traveled somewhere only to find a hidden gem you weren’t expecting to find? Feel free to leave a comment!