Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 20, 2017

Syros…sunrise to sunset

After our time in Santorini we took the ferry to Syros, another island in the Cyclades group.

Ermoupoli Syros

Ermoupoli Syros

The early settlement of Syros goes back around 5,000 years. It has had a rich and varied history, including a period of Venetian rule.

We stayed in Ermoupoli, the capital of the island.  The town was built in the 1820s during the Greek Revolution as an extension of Ano Syros, which sits on a hill above the port town.

Ermoupoli Syros

I was up early to see the sun come up quickly over the port.

Ermoupoli Syros

Ermoupoli Syros

Ermoupoli Syros

Much of the town was built in the Neoclassical style merging with Greek Classicism and elements of the Renaissance. A good place to start a walk through the town is in the lovely Miaoulis square. City Hall takes centre stage.

Ermoupoli Syros

The square is lined with cafes shaded by palm trees.

Ermoupoli Syros

 

A statue of Andreas Miaoulis keeps an eye on things.

Someone, it seems, has a sense of humour.

Ermoupoli Syros

The pretty streets are paved with marble. Bougainvillea climbs up buildings and decorates the restaurants dotted around the town.

Ermoupoli Syros

Greek gentlemen like to gather to solve the problems of the world.

Ermoupoli Syros

We found the food market…lots of fresh seafood.

There are dozens of restaurants to choose from, but one beside the water called out to us.

Ermoupoli Syros

We liked it so much we went twice.

One of the dishes was called sea urchin salad. When it arrived it looked like soup.

Ermoupoli Syros

We ate it anyway. When the waitress came to take our plates she asked if we enjoyed it.

We did. When she asked what it taste like I replied that it was like eating the sea…salty deliciousness.

As the sun began to set the lights came on in Ermoupoli.

Ermoupoli Syros

Sunset over Ermoupoli was spectacular. The colours changed constantly.

Ermoupoli Syros

Ermoupoli Syros

Ermoupoli Syros

We visited Ano Syros and hired a car to drive all over the island on day 2 and 3. There will be posts to follow.

Syros is a completely different Greek Island from Santorini. I think it is more authentically Greek. I can see that it would be a popular destination for Athenians to spend their summer holidays. It was relaxed and calm when we were there in spring, with far fewer people than Santorini. I’m pleased we experienced both islands.

 

Ermoupoli Syros

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 16, 2017

Cold and wet in Trentham

Trentham is a pretty town in the southern Australian state of Victoria. It is 97 kilometres north west of Melbourne. I visited on a cold, wet winter day.

Trentham

There are some lovely old buildings in the town.

Trentham

Trentham

Trentham

…and some interesting shops.

We had an excellent brunch at Red Beard.

Trentham

We decided not to eat in the outdoor area, better left for a warmer day.

Trentham

It was warm and cosy inside.

Trentham

Red Beard has a Scotch oven that dates from around 1892. Scotch ovens are a traditional wood fired commercial baker’s oven. They were once the most common commercial ovens in Australia.

Trentham

A Scotch oven has an arched ceiling, a fire box on one side of the main chamber and an oven on the opposite side. The oven’s shell comprises of layers of brick and sand. Red Beards’s oven weighs 75 tonnes and stores enough heat from one firing to bake 800 loaves.

Trentham

Trentham

The oven is a rare and remarkable remnant of baking history in Australia…and the bread is great.

We braved the cold and drizzle and visited nearby Trentham Falls, the highest single drop waterfall in Victoria. The falls on the Coliban River were created 5 million years ago when a nearby volcano erupted. The water falls over a columnar basalt cliff.

Trentham

Even on a miserable day the Australian bush has its charms. I love the enormous eucalyptus trees.

Trentham

The mossy branches reflect the winter season.

Trentham

Wattle about to bloom heralds the coming spring.

Trentham

The next day it snowed in Trentham.

Today in Brisbane we reached 30 degrees. Australia is a huge country with a vast range of temperatures…never boring.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 12, 2017

Fantastic Fira

Fira is the capital and commercial centre of the Greek Island of Santorini. The name comes from and alternative pronunciation of Thira, the ancient name of the island.

The town sits high on the edge of the caldera, the submerged volcano that forms the island. It is a typical Cycladic village with many of its buildings constructed in the time of the Venetian invasion, including some of the blue domed churches. An earthquake in 1956 destroyed much of the island, but luckily some of the 18th century buildings were saved.

There is a panoramic view of the caldera from the town.

It is long way to the port below the town.

Fira Santorini

Fortunately there is a chairlift if you can’t face the steps or the donkey ride.

Fira Santorini

Balconies dotted all over the edge provide a perfect place to admire the stunning view.

Pretty churches are scattered throughout the town.

Always there are lovely old doorways on Santorini.

Sunset is gorgeous in Fira. The giant cruise ships head out for other locations and the town lights up.

Fira Santorini

Fira Santorini

Fira Santorini

Fira Santorini

Fira is a great place to base yourself on Santorini. There is a good bus service to other parts of the island there are lots of shops, restaurants and cafes to keep you busy. I feel another visit coming on soon.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 6, 2017

Santorini sailing

While we were staying on the gorgeous Greek island of Santorini we ventured onto the water twice to sail on the blue Aegean sea.

On our first day we walked down to the port via the very long stairway from Fira. From the top we could see several huge cruise ship anchored of shore while their passengers came ashore for the day.

It is a long way to the bottom.

We chose to walk down rather than take a donkey. I know how contrary those critters can be.

They might look placid but I don’t trust them after watching the donkey race in Torrita di Siena last year.

Finally we arrived at the bottom.

Fira looks impressive at the top of the caldera.

Our first stop was at the thermal pool that emerges from the volcanic island just off Santorini. The water in the inlet is much warmer that the surrounding 16 degree water.

Sailing Santorini

I didn’t take the opportunity to dive in. I was happy to watch the others.

Sailing Santorini

Sailing Santorini

The leaching minerals colour the rocks at the edge of the sea.

Santorini Sailing

The landscape is barren and rocky, a moonscape.

Santorini sailing

There are lots of beautiful boats on the water.

Santorini sailing

We went ashore to see more.

Santorini sailing

We climbed up to a crater.

Santorini sailing

Some people went further into the centre of the island.

Santorini sailing

It was hot and dusty, and not being all that interested in rocky craters I went back to the boat.

Then is was back to Fira, passing some interesting landscapes on the way.

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

 

Santorini sailing

The next day went went to Oia to board another boat for sailing, lunch and a sunset cruise.

The little port at Oia is charming.

Santorini sailing

This time we didn’t walk down the steps to the water.

Santorini sailing

The views from below are stunning.

Santorini sailing

 

Soon we were sailing past more amazing landscapes on bright blue water.

Santorini sailing

We visited the aptly named Red Beach.

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

Apart from coming by boat I think the only way to the beach might be the path in the cliff…eek!

Santorini sailing

While the red cliffs look impressive from a distance, I thought the beach looked pretty ordinary. I was not sorry we didn’t go ashore…better to see it from the boat.

Santorini sailing

We passed a tiny church built at the bottom of the cliffs and there were numerous shelters or storage dug into the sides.

Santorini sailing

I did swim in the sea. The water was cold, but once you dive in it is fine. The sea is clear, but there is not much to see underwater except for a couple of tiny fish, but I couldn’t come to the Greek Islands and not swim.

Santorini sailing

While I was happy to gaze out to sea all afternoon, it seems that some people came along for a different reason. Obviously there was something much more interesting on their phones.

Santorini sailing

Selfies are also a big part of any trip. It kept this girl busy for hours.

Santorini sailing

We returned to Oia as the sun began to set.

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

Santorini sailing

I think it would be fun to hire a boat and sail around the gorgeous Greek Islands for a few weeks…one day.

 

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 2, 2017

Stepping out

We loved our visit to Athens earlier this year. A highlight was watching the changing of the guards in front of the Presidential Mansion and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square.

The guards belong to an elite light infantry unit, the Evzones. The guards change every hour. Each soldier guards for about an hour, 3 times in a 48 hour period. They must stand perfectly still, without any facial expression or movement.

The guards get some protection from the elements standing beside litttle white huts that offer some shade, but not much. We were there on a fine day, but it was already hot on a spring morning.

Just before the change time 3 soldiers march towards the square.

They turn to face the Square and are met by a couple of soldiers who check their uniforms.

The 2 who have been on guard move away from their positions to face the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

2 of the new soldiers then step forward and move to the centre of the square.

The soldiers finishing their shift move off.

This is a very serious business.

The new guards are checked and they take their places.

…and their motionless hour begins.

The uniform of the Presidential Guard has historical meaning. The official uniform is worn only on Sundays and National holidays. On other days there is the doulamas, a special uniform that the soldiers of the Macedonian Struggle used to wear. This uniform is blue in winter and brown in summer.

I was especially impressed by the shoes, called Tsarouchia. They are red, made of leather with a pompon on the front. Each shoe weighs 3 kilos.

I can’t imagine wearing all those clothes in the heat of summer. If I had to do it I would request a sleeveless cotton top, with a lightweight pleated shirt and a parasol to carry…I don’t expect to get a call any time soon.

It would be great to see the full ceremony which takes place at 11.00 am on Sundays…next time.

 

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 29, 2017

A car with a sense of humour

This very flash gold car spotted in Bassano del Grappa came with all the latest equipment.

I especially like the Hawaiian dancer above the air bag.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 24, 2017

Bassano del Grappa

Bassano del Grappa, in the Veneto region of northern Italy, was said to be founded in the 2nd century BC by a Roman soldier called Bussianus, but there is some evidence to suggest it is much older. It sits in the foothills of the Venetian Alps.

The town was originally named Bassano Veneto. It was renamed in 1928 as a memorial to the  thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in the terrible battles on Mount Grappa in WWI.

We entered the town beside the Castello degli Ezzelini or Castello Superiore.

We stayed directly below the castle in the appropriately named Hotel Al Castello.

The entrance to the Duomo is via the castle piazza. Unfortunately it wasn’t open.

Bassano del Grappa is a tangle of narrow streets lined with lovely buildings with interesting detail…come for a walk.

If you look closely at the reflection in the window you will see Jim looking hungrily at the pastries within.

Bassano del Grappa is well known for excellent ceramics.

There are 2 large piazzas in the centre.

The stunning Chiesa di San Francesco is in Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Beside the church is a pretty cloister.

In the Piazzale Trenta is the building containing the council offices. It was built between 1700 – 1726 and incorporates the 15th century Loggia dell Piazza. It wasn’t open when we were there, but the frescoes on the ceiling of the loggia looked impressive from a distance. Unfortunately it was too dark to get good photos.

The astronomical clock was made in 1747 by Bartolomeo Ferracini and it still works.

The town has been involved in several battles. Beside the Ponte degli Alpini there are buildings riddled with bullet holes. Some say they are from WWII, but it also possible they are from the 1796 battle of Bassano.

We had some delicious things to eat in Bassano del Grappa. There was this snack at a very modern cafe.

Ottone is a very popular restaurant in Bassano del Grappa. A house speciality is the white asparagus from the area.

It was excellent as was the rest of the meal.

The town is also famous for Grappa, in fact it gives its name to the alcoholic drink made from the remains from wine making.  Nardini distillery is the oldest in Italy. It began in 1779. We bought some for a friend on the Ponte degli Alpini where there is also a Grappa museum. 40 million bottles of Grappa are made in Italy every year. The name is protected and the drink can only be called Grappa if it is sourced in Italy.

Bassano del Grappa is not on the regular tourist trail. The tourists we did see were mostly Italian. The bridge was crowded, mainly because of the renovations, but the rest of the town was pleasantly busy. We were there on a weekend and it was fun to see people out enjoying themselves. If you are visiting the north, put Bassano del Grappa on your list.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 22, 2017

Ponte degli Alpini

The symbol of the town of Bassano del Grappa is the stunning bridge over the River Brenta. The original bridge was designed in 1569 by Andrea Palladio to replace an old wooden bridge.

The bridge was damaged and restored many times until it was destroyed in WWII. Always a favourite of the Alpini, the famous Alpine Soldiers, it was completely rebuilt after the war. They took up a private collection to enable the bridge to be brought back to life.

When we were there earlier this year it was covered in scaffolding for some much needed renovation, but it didn’t take away too much from the impressive structure.

It is now a walking bridge and the views from the bridge up and down the river are spectacular.

Looking down towards the river reveals the interesting timber foundations.

The bridge is very popular with visitors.

At the entrance on the other side is a large painting of an Alpine soldier.

Bassano del Grappa is a delightful town sitting in the foothills of the Venetian Alps. I will show you more of the town in the next post.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 17, 2017

Winter at the beach

I love coming home to Queensland for winter. The weather has been particularly good lately..time for a Noosa beach visit.

We woke up to this view from the hotel balcony.

The pool looked great, but I prefer the beach just a short walk away. Here is Noosa beach early in the morning.

It just keeps getting better as the day goes on.

I love nothing better than diving into the cool ocean.

Later in the afternoon a golden light descends on the beach, the perfect time for a walk.


…beautiful Noosa.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 14, 2017

All front

There are some stunning building facades in Italy. We came upon one in Bassano del Grappa in the north of Italy with a “For Sale” sign on it.

Upon closer inspection all that was for sale was the facade.

I think it’s great that it was preserved and will  be incorporated in whatever is eventually built behind it.

Bassano del Grappa is a fascinating town…more to come.

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