Sometimes it’s good to get out of the computer and into the world. Last week’s adventure was a cruise: Rome – Corfu – Dubrovnik – Kotor – Split – Ravenna – Venice.
But first I have to vent. Europe is seriously overrun by tourists. And it’s awful.
Before my first trip to Europe, I read a book by Rick Steves called Europe through the Back Door. He described his travel philosophy: Go to Europe and live as much a like a local as possible. Meet people. Learn a few words of the local language and learn a little history. Have an open mind about doing things differently. He advocated travelling independently. (He has since sold out and now organizes tours.)
When I travel, I do my best to follow this philosophy whether I’m travelling independently or in a group. I am a curious person in someone else’s home country. I came to learn and experience.
There is also the problem of Things You Must See as if travelling is checking things off list. For instance, when in Rome, you must see Trevi Fountain. Here’s what it looks like. You can’t even get near it. But everyone is checking it off their list.
The nearby architectural wonder of Michelangelo’s Spanish Steps? How romantic! You’re in everyone’s pictures! Check!
After my initial shock and dismay, I decided I would have a good time. And I did!
I’d been to Corfu before (see here) and I wanted to say hello to Moshe, the head of the Jewish community in Corfu. I’m happy to report that in the back alleys of Corfu, you can still find a little piece of Israel.
At the moment, this medieval UNESCO World Heritage town is best known as “King’s Landing” (and sometimes Qarth). I walked the city walls (expensive, but worth it!).
I knew nothing about Kotor before this trip. What a lovely surprise! I hiked 1,350 stairs to get to fort above the city (expensive, but worth the view and the sense of accomplishment!). Also, the city is dedicated to taking care of all the cats that live there. Yeah, it’s my kind of medieval UNESCO World Heritage walled town. (That cat just came up to me and sat down under my legs.)
This town grew up around and into a Roman palace. Everything seems to be both modern and ancient at the same time. It’s not quite as picturesque as some of the other places, but it feels more like a city to live in rather than a city to look at. It’s also a filming location, and it had the best nerd/geek store serving all your fantastical needs from Game of Thrones to Harry Potter to the Lord of the Rings and more.
Ravenna and Venice, Italy
By now we were tired, so we stayed on the ship in Ravenna. The city was an hour away by bus and it had Byzantine mosaics and Dante’s tomb. Pass.
Venice was freezing cold and hailing, so ciao, Venezia!
To be honest, I was a little sad about this. Corfu, Dubrovnik, and Split have beautiful synagogues with almost no Jewish communities. Corfu’s synagogue wasn’t open, but you can see it in the original article I mentioned above.
Next on the agenda: Kiev and Odessa. Stay tuned!