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The Great Santorini

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I know.  Lame takeoff on “The Great Santini.”  But I have to say, Santorini was great, and everything I had hoped for.  This is the place where all of the images of the blue-domed, white churches are taken with the Mediterranean in the background.  And I took a lot of them.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

When doing my research for this destination, I was dismayed to learn that many of these shots are not easy to find.  Having been there, I am not sure I agree with these readers’ assessment, but a little local knowledge goes a long, long way.  Our guide (“George,” for the second day in a row – not the same George), it turns out, did some time as a professional photographer, and he not only knew where the shots were, but when to get us there so the light was most flattering (within the parameters of our time on the island, of course).  If I were viewing these images as a third-party, I might be inclined to accuse the shooter of overuse of his circular polarizer.  But I did not have a polarizer attached.  The Aegean skies are just that blue.  Like the domes.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

So, let’s get the blue-domed churches out of the way from the get-go.  It looks like Santorini will be a two-blog post.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We started the morning at a spot very near where George picked us up.  It was a spot that he said was not well known, but it was our first blue-domed church, with our cruise ship in the background.  A nice start.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

George took us the opposite direction of most of the other tour groups, coming into Oia, where the churches and view are most prominent, from the back way.  Not only did this get us to the spots before the huge crowds came, but it was really the right place to be for the morning sun (though, as I have noted in previous blogs, we are rarely in a port during the best light of the early morning or late afternoon).

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

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Bumpy Rhodes

Bumpy Rhodes
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I was “mia” once again last week.  I took an unscheduled trip to Vermont to attend the memorial service of a dear friend, mentor, and second father to me.  New England’s fall colors were essentially done, by then, but it wasn’t a photo trip anyway.

Rhodes Harbor
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Bumpy Rhodes.”  Why that name?  Not knowing much about the island, we discovered a tour called “Bumpy Rhodes.”  The guides ran a couple old converted all terrain military vehicles all over the island, on many of its gravel back roads.  Some of them were military and some were park roads, but the guides had contracted for access.  Some of the places we went would not have been passable without this vehicle.

Mountain Top View
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our Mediterranean cruise was, as noted earlier, denominated a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  With Malta and Mykonos, we were now right in the middle of the heart of the cruise.  Our next stop was the Greek Isle of Rhodes.  Rhodes seemed to me to be essentially rural and much of its terrain, rugged.  Honey bee hives were strategically placed all over the island, and we saw olive farms everywhere we went.

Lyndos
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There were some areas in that were more populated, and tended to be resort type areas, with nice hillside homes, and pretty beaches.

Lyndos
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our guide, George, told us that numerous celebrities have from time to time made Rhodes a vacation destination, including Anthony Quinn (who has a beach named after him) and  Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who owned a mansion there.

Anthony Quinn Bay
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

On our way back to the ship, George stopped for a view which is a favorite of mine and asked me to make a panoramic image.  Now I just need to get his information and send it to him 🙂

Mediterranean Panoramic
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

All in all, we enjoyed our day on Rhodes, but I had been looking forward to our next stop for months.  Next up: Santorini

Old City of Rhodes
Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

The Med 2017; Islands that start with “M”

Mykonos, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Malta.  A place I don’t think I ever gave any thought about.  When we originally decided on the cruise, the second stop was Ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.  But cruise ships aren’t going to Turkey anymore.  Sad.  Our world needs to change.  But that’s for another time.  Malta:  my first and only thought was “The Maltese Falcon.”  Turns out there is a falcon native to Malta that middle eastern falconers were partial too.  Which is where any connection ends.  Heck, I doubt Bogart even knew where Malta was. 🙂

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos.  It is a Greek island, which is appropriate, since this was a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  We (my wife and I) were there once before, on our shortened, 2013 Mediterranean Cruise.  Mykonos is very small, so we didn’t book a tour there.  In Malta, we just didn’t know anything about it, and had no idea what to do.  So we had two relatively free days, with an “at sea” day in between.  which was fine, because things got pretty hectic for the remainder of the cruise.

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Photographically, Mykonos is a pretty great spot.  Malta was o.k., but not photographically inspiring.  So most of my images during these two stops were made on Mykonos.  Malta is its own sovereign nation.  It actually played a pretty big role for allies in WWII.  It consists of 3 walled cities.  We were able to see two of them from our moored cruise ship.  Being an island, it is obviously very much a maritime society, and we were impressed with the vast number of small pleasure craft moored in the many harbors around the island.

Mykonos
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is one of the best known popular Greek islands.  It is a popular beach destination for the citizens of the Mediterranean.  Most of the island is comprised of either retail shops, hotels (which are built into the unique architecture), and private dwellings.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There are many backstreets, and all of them are created with the “cobblestone” look (which is really cement).  I am always take by the colors they use to set off the white stucco buildings everywhere.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is also famous for its distinctive windmills (though we did see them again in Santorini and Rhodes).

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

From my perspective, since we had been to Mykonos, I was keying for the next couple destinations, Rhodes, Santorini and the Amalfi Coast.  Some pretty great travel was yet to come.  Next up, Rhodes.

Sicily; 2017

Port of Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

After 4 eventful days in Venice, we boarded a train for Civatavecchia, the seaport for Rome, where we would board our cruise ship.  The  cruise was touted as a “Greek Isles” cruise.  But before we could get to the actual Greek Isles (there were 3 on our itinerary), we had a couple of prior stops; Sicily, and the independent nation of Malta.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As I have noted here in the past, one of the downsides of cruising is that you usually only get one short day in every port.  Knowing very little about either of these destinations, we booked a private tour in Sicily, and nothing in Malta.  With a lot of ground to cover and a few hours, we had to choose some destinations.

Taormina Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In addition to a little bit of time in Messina, we went to Taormina, the quaint and mountainous little town where some of the scenes in Francis Ford Coppola’s original “The Godfather,” were shot.  We happened upon this adorable little Dachshund being photographed.  At first, I thought it was somebody just photographing their pet, but as I looked more carefully, later, it was apparent that this was probably an advertising shot of some type (note the light being held to one side).

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

At the top of the village is a beautiful church, with an incredible view.  As we walked back down, I could see myself sitting and having coffee or lunch at one of the outdoor destinations and seeing the grand view.

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We traveled to Mt. Vesuvius, where we saw the volcano from a distance.

Mt. Vesuvius
Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We also stopped for some honey and wine tasting, before finishing our day back in Messina.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

More Venice; 2017

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Much of what we did in Venice this trip was centered around walking tours, food and drink.  In past trips abroad, we have availed ourselves of a type of a “pub crawl” tour.  This year, they were not operating the week we were there.  So we kind of did our own, walking down one of the neighborhood canals and trying their “small plate” foods, know as chichetta.  We also managed to find a new restaurant with good food each night.

Venice Rooftops
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

During the day, we were able to do a tour of Piazza San Marco, including the Doge’s Palace, which acts basically as a museum with a lot of classic art, some incredible architecture, and the fascinating prison.  While somewhere up in the “bowels” of the Palace, my mind wandered from the talk our guide was giving, and I saw the rooftop scene out the window.  The lone yellow umbrella drew my attention.

Venice, Italy Rooftops
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

When I began post-processing of this image, it occurred to me this might make a nice “watercolor” subject, so I fooled around with it in some of the software I have that I rarely delve into.  I need to do more experimenting. Maybe a good winter project.

Tile Floor
Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I did pay attention to the art and architecture inside the palace, though.  When we were there in 2013, photographs, including the tile floor, were forbidden.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that on this occasion, photography was generally allowed everywhere unless our guide specifically noted otherwise (flash was generally not allowed anywhere).  The illusion created by this floor is pretty amazing.

Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The photo with feet in it shows the detail in the tile and what could otherwise be viewed as a 3-dimensional pile of bricks.

Gondola Factory
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our tour that day took us by foot along the San Marco waterfront, including a walk by the only remaining gondola factory on the island.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There were also some nice quiet neighborhoods we walked through.  There are a lot of photogenic subjects.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

Burano, 2017

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Murano and Burano are part of the Venice archipelago, though they are far enough from Venice that they cannot be connected by bridge. But they are both in the Venetian Lagoon. The very capable Vapparetto (water bus) system in Venice gets one to both of these islands with relative ease. We have learned that the daily pass (we bought a 3-day) works very well on the Venice public transportation system. Each actually is its own archipelago; Murano having seven islands and 8 canals, all connected by footbridges, and Burano having 4 islands and 3 canals, also connected by footbridges. Obviously, boat and foot traffic are the mode here, as on Venice.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Murano, as the story is told, became what it is today because of the very real risk of fire on Venice. Originally known as a fishing port and salt-making venue, it today houses the famous Murano glass makers. There is no land-based fire fighting equipment in Venice and in 1291, all of Venice’s glassmakers were required to move their operations off the island. They went to Murano. The island has become very much a tourist destination, but there is still a thriving industry of glass-blowing (primarily art and decorative items). Murano glass is pretty, and expensive. I spent a very short part of my 2013 blog on Murano, and will not repeat it here. My primary takeaway this trip was how commercial the island has become and just how much the retail tourist shops dominate the landscape.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Burano is a different story. While it certainly has its share of retail influence (some of it very “high-end”), it has impressed me on both trips as a much quieter, more pastoral destination. Perhap the fact that Burano is famous for its colored houses, and they are quite photogenic influenced that. But it just seemed more “laid back.”

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Again, originally probably mainly a fishing port, Burano is today known for its lace production (though we are told that you have to be careful that you are indeed getting locally made lace; and that the local product is expensive). We wandered the streets, stopped for a glass of local wine, and perused some of the lace shops.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

But again and again, what attracted my eye, was the very colorful buildings; particularly along the canals.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Mediterranean; 2017

Canal Reflection
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

It has been a long time since I have posted regularly here.  I just ran out of “fuel” for a while.  :-). As I “teased,” a couple blogs back, I just returned from the Mediterranean.  At the end of August, we flew to Marco Polo airport in Venice, Italy, for our 3rd (actually my wife’s 4th) Mediterranean adventure. This time, we spent 4 days in Venice, and then took the train to Rome’s seaport; Civatavecchia, Italy, to board our cruise ship for a “Greek Isles” cruise. With stops in Cicily, Malta, the Greek Isles of Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, Athens and Naples (where we toured the Amalfi Coast, we had a wonderful time and there were many photo-ops along the way. The next few blogs will contain a travelogue, of sorts, of our trip.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We spent 3 full days in Venice in 2013, and I thought I had shot about all I would be able to find. I planned to see Venice this trip more as a casual tourist, and perhaps partly through the eyes of our friends who were traveling with us. My wife is the master of the itinerary, and had set us up with some great tours. And, we wanted to sample local food and drink. But I did carry the small camera and couldn’t resist some shots 🙂 .

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One planned item, however, didn’t go as well as planned.  When we were there in 2013, we stayed off the island, and I missed the opportunity to shoot at night. Venice is alight at night and with all of the canals, decorations, and lights, presents some pretty great night time photo-ops.  On the first day there (probably from lifting heavy bags), I threw out my lower back and was in a fair amount of pain during our entire time in Venice. About the only comfortable position was laying flat. At the same time, we were out for dinner every night. Unfortunately by the time we returned each night, all I could think about laying down. I did make just a few night time images. The rest of them will have to wait until my next trip to Venice.  The shot below is on the canal where we stayed for our 4 days.  Night images leave a lot of room for expirimentation and I suspect I will play around with these images in future months.

Night Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There is no vehicular traffic (not even bicycles) on Venice proper, and all travel is either by foot, or by boat.  So it stands to reason that there is “a canal or two” on the island (actually 118 separate, man-made islands and 170 canals which require 400-some footbridges to cross them).  With their inherent reflections, boats, and composition opportunities, it is not surprising that they make irresistible photographic subjects.

Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One of the tours we did was a walking tour.  Venice is made up of 6 political/municipal districts, known as Sestieri.  Most of the famous and commercial sights, Like St. Mark’s Square and Bascilica (Piazza San Marco), The Rialto Bridge (Ponte Rialto), the Fish Market and retail district, are in the more popular San Marco Sestiere and and San Polo Sestiere.  But there is a lot of quiet, neighborhoods with lots of small restaurants, housing, and beautiful old churches and other buildings.  The Sestiere Dorsoduro is one of the lesser known areas, with some of this beauty.  We enjoyed the tour and the sights.

Street in Dorsoduro
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Building in Dorsoduro
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Sestiere Cannaregio has the only true “street” (strada) so-named on the island (Strada Nova), which goes along the Grand Canal from the Ferrovia Train Station (the entrance to Venice by train) to the Rialto Bridge, which is partly into the Sestiere San Marco.  There is a lot of activity along this stretch, but as you go north a street or two, it again, becomes quiet local neighborhoods.  Slightly further back in is the neighborhood known as “The Jewish Ghetto.”

Cannaregio
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Contrary to the connotation we Americans get with the term “ghetto,” it is actually neither a perjorative term, nor a “bad place.”  That font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, defines “ghetto” as a segregated part of a city, or a slum.  It also credits Venice for the origination of the term, but is equivocal about it.  The Venetians we spoke to have no equivocation.  The term “getto” (pronounced jetto) is a foundry fireplace.  The jewish population in Venice were metal workers and ran foundries, and were given this area (partly because it was north of, and away from the main centers of activity) for their foundry activities.  At some point, open flames were banned from Venice due to fire danger.  It is for this reason that the glass blowers moved north to the island of Murano.

Housing in Jewish Ghetto
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Finally, I just can’t resist images of the Grand Canal.

Grand Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We also traveled (again) to Murano and to Burano and while I didn’t make any memorable images of Murano, I have a few nice shots from Burano.  Next:  Burano