Page 2 of rbcameron Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Germany » Bavaria » Munich June 19th 2016

I left the sunny Mediterranean world, and temperatures in the mid-30s, yesterday for cool, rainy Germany. A bit of a shock! It was great to see brother Dave at the airport - our flights arrived at almost the same time. We picked up our bikes - they're a bit clunky, but should be OK for riding along the Danube. We decided to stay a second night in Munich before starting the ride, since Sunday was forecast to be pretty wet (and, as I write, it's coming down pretty hard). Call us wimps, but we didn't fancy getting soaked on the first day of riding! We'll start out retracing some of the route Lynn and I rode in 1987. When I looked at the map I found I even remembered the names of a couple of the ... read more

Europe » Greece » Attica » Athens » Pláka June 14th 2016

I see I have been slacking again on the blog front - sorry about that! Sunday I finally got to ride a Greek train, and it was a great trip. I was in a six-seat compartment - very old-fashioned, but a brand new carriage. The trip was long because the train really slowed down when it was winding its way through a couple of ranges of hills. I didn't mind at all because the scenery was fantastic. At one point we were passing through deeply-eroded limestone with plunging gorges and cross-capped pinnacles. Yesterday was taken up by practical matters, primarily getting the third rabies jab. True to form this proved to involve travelling to two widely-separated places and spending a lot of time waiting. Anyway, it's done. Number 4 will happen in Germany and it will ... read more

Europe » Greece » Central Macedonia » Thessaloniki June 11th 2016

Today I took a day-long tour to the two capitals of the Macedonian kings. Alexander and his father lived in the new capital, Pella, down on the plain but they returned to the old capital, Aigai (surrounding the modern town of Vergina), for ceremonial occasions and to be buried. No one knows for sure where Alexander's tomb is, but by some miracle the tomb of his father, Philip, was found at Aigai undisturbed in the 70s. It yielded an amazing wealth of objects, including the golden box in which Philip's cremated remains were placed and a beautiful wreath made of gold leaf, formed into oak leaves and acorns and my favourite: Philip's greaves (bronze shin protectors) which were mismatched because of an injury to one leg. Unfortunately I can't post a photo from Aigai because this ... read more

Europe » Greece » Central Macedonia » Thessaloniki June 9th 2016

I was rather excited at the idea of taking my first ride on a Greek train this trip. My alarm didn't go off so I scrambled to get to the station for the 6:40 departure. When I got there, it was very quiet. A few homeless-looking guys were hanging around. No train. No one in the office. After a few minutes I went to see if there was anything posted to indicate that something was amiss, and sure enough there was a notice with the dreaded word ΑΠΕΡΓΙΑ - "strike" in Greek. No trains today. Welcome to Greece! I hustled over to the bus station to find I had plenty of time before the first bus of the day at 8:00. I could have used that extra hour of sleep! I've now found a website that ... read more

Europe » Greece » Thrace » Alexandroupoli June 8th 2016

I crossed back into Greece, the EU and the Schengen Area today. A pretty routine bus ride except that I was singled out for special treatment at the border by the Greeks. They searched my bags and asked me about where I was going - and what had I been doing in North Cyprus (the part occupied by Turkey). Aha! Funny how the government of Cyprus seems pretty cool about people crossing over to the North but the Greeks get their knickers in a twist over it. I couldn't help but laugh at how the road surface on the Turkish side got worse and worse as we approached the frontier. I don't think I saw one road sign in Turkey naming Greece or a Greek town. How childish!... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet June 6th 2016

Today is the first day of Ramadan, when observant Muslims don't eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. I found out that this rule doesn't apply to the local stray dogs when I encountered a few on top of the old city walls and one of them gave me a nip on the ankle. This led to an interesting involvement with the Turkish health service. The first hospital I went to doesn't give rabies shots. You may also find this surprising, given that the city is full of stray dogs and cats. They sent me to another hospital where I joined the locals in pressing myself forward for service, despite their attempt to assign numbers to each patient. I eventually got a jab and went to a pharmacy for two kinds of antibiotics. My system ... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet June 4th 2016

I think that Istanbul has as good a claim to be an Eternal City as Rome has - perhaps even better, since Istanbul has been an important city continuously since Constantine chose it has the capital of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, thus driving Rome into decline for centuries. One really visible sign of this continuity is Aya Sofya, the huge Byzantine church built in the 6th century which was preserved virtually intact over the ages because when Moslems captured the city they converted it to a mosque. No building in Rome from that time survives (with one exception) because they were all used as stone quarries by mediaeval peasants. (The exception is the Pantheon which survived because it was made of non-reusable concrete!) I walked around the old core of the city quite ... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Aegean » Selçuk June 1st 2016

I really wanted to visit the sites of Priene, Miletus and Didyma to the south of Ephesus. Priene and Miletus were important Greek cities and Didyma was a wealthy sanctuary of Apollo where an immense temple of an unusual design was built. Normally it's easy to find a one-day tour to all three sites but tourist numbers are so low that no one is offering a tour right now. So I decided to try to do it myself, using local buses (called dolmuses) and taxis if necessary. I set off and quite soon met Al, a man from Edmonton who was aiming to do exactly the same trip. What a stroke of luck! With a combination of dolmuses, hitchhiking and a couple of paid rides we did it and got back to Selcuk in time for ... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Aegean » Selçuk May 31st 2016

Yesterday and today were a tale of two goddesses. After leaving Pamukkale I visited Aphrodisias, a fascinating site originally based on a sanctuary of - guess who - Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. In its heyday it was a major centre for stone-carving, and many beautiful relief panels have been found. Today I saw Ephesus, which was famous for its huge temple to Artemis, the virgin huntress (and no friend of Aphrodite!) The Artemision was one of the seven wonders of the world, but is now sadly reduced to miscellaneous chunks of rock and a single standing column. Very different places, both then and now. Ephesus was command central for the Romans in this part of the world, whereas Aphrodisias became a bit of a backwater. But the most obvious difference was the presence of ... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Aegean » Pamukkale May 29th 2016

The travertine terraces of Pamukkale must have been pretty striking in ancient times, too, because a Hellenistic king founded a city called Hierapolis on the plateau above them. It was quite large and a few parts remain impressive today, such as a theatre on the hillside, the northern city gateway and an enormous area full of fancy tombs. I spent several hours roaming around the city (at a much slower pace than we did on the tour - there were certain people always keen to wrap it up and get to the beer!) The sun was blazing and I got burnt in unexpected places, such as strips on my feet where my sandals have gaps.... read more

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