On Walktober 2016

WalktoberRobinI always look forward to Robin’s Walktober celebration. Below are my past walks:

I had several ideas for 2016 – but then it hit me …. Let’s board a plane for one of the most beautiful and desirable walks in the world. Are you ready to join me in Cinque Terre, Italy!

Cinque Terre is a gorgeous short strip of very hilly terrain (some say rugged) along the amazing blue waters of the Ligurian Sea along Italy’s northwestern coast. The “Five Lands” are five small villages that are unique and outstanding: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Not only is this area an Italian National Park, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Although (three years ago) I have spent an afternoon in this visual wonderland, my wife and I were not only looking forward to visiting each village, but also anxious for the challenge of walking from Monterosso to Vernazza … so I decided to take my readers along to celebrate Walktober. Besides, some of the other paths between towns remain closed from damage suffered in a 2011 severe storm.

For us, we boarded a train to La Spezia where we purchased a Cinque Terre pass for the trails and the local trains … followed by the short ride to Monterosso, the most western village of the five.

Monterosso not only has the longest shoreline of the five, it also has the most beaches. Add the blue sky and the blue water … wow! … wait until you see how blue the sea on this walk!

 

The walkway out of town is obvious, so after a snack, “Good bye Monterosso”

dsc03482

… and discovered a special Home for Wayward Bloggers.

After a short walk and around the corner, we discovered another part of Monterosso that I didn’t know existed .. but we kept moving … after all, we didn’t know what’s ahead … Arrivederci Monterosso.

It wasn’t long thereafter that the terrain and the path changed. Oh crap … we have to go way up there? … and it was straight up with higher than normal steps.

The path is actually an ancient path used by people with mules and persons without a boat. The path can be narrow, steep, rocky, and high steps … so keep moving!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s Monterosso (where we started) …. but no sign of Vernazza …

… yet people live up here to tend to their grapes, olives, and/or citrus.
dsc03490

Along the way, everyone is treated with spectacular views

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally, a glimpse our destination – Vernazza
imag0530

… but the twists and turns caused Vernazza to play peek-a-boo to tease us …



dsc03506

… and Monterosso seems so far away …

Vernazza is getting closer!
dsc03508

What does up must come down – and on this day that means we enjoyed the long descent into Vernazza (while we watched those going in the opposite direction who were wondering if the climb would ever end and what lies ahead).

dsc03513

At the end, I look back to see the start of those who walk in the opposite direction.
dsc03514

To celebrate the journey, my wife chose a gelato treat … of which she says was the best gelato of the entire vacation.

… then let’s sit on the rocks by the water.

After walking and relaxing in Vernazza, we let the train take us to the next town – Corniglia (possibly my favorite village)- which involved 382 steps up to the town from the station. Then we trained to Manarola for dinner, and then Riomaggiore with the sun already below the horizon- so on this day, we visited all five villages of this beautiful part of the world.

If you enjoy fall walks, join Robin and others at her post. All you have to do is click here.

Advertisements

On An Unexpected Cap

This Explore has nothing to do with a hat or cap because Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey. I first heard about this region around 2010 while watching a 60 Minutes segment about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome – the head of the Orthodox Church throughout the world.

The segment captivated me in multiple ways because I don’t know much about the Orthodox Christianity or Turkey – but the part about Cappadocia and its role in early Christianity mesmerized me – especially the landscape and its history.

Today, hot air balloon rides are popular in this beautiful land of historical intrigue – the land whose rock sites are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Below the video are links to additional information about Cappadocia, including the 60-Minutes segment. Enjoy the journey and views courtesy of a drone.

More Informational Videos
Rick Steves segment with information and a balloon ride (3 minutes)
A travel promotion video (3 minutes)
60-Minutes segment that sparked my intrigue (14.5 minutes)

On an Unplanned Journey

When we started our trip, Sintra (SEEN tra) wasn’t on our radar – not even a thought. While on a free walking tour in Barcelona, a couple from New Zealand highly recommended it for our stop in Lisbon.

The cruise ship had tours to Sintra, which several of our dinner-table mates took, but we love to explore on our own. Fortunately, we had American travel guru Rick Steves’ Lisbon book along, which included Sintra – so we followed his suggestions, thus saw sights our fabulous dinner friends didn’t – so this post is for them. (Can you believe I didn’t tell them on the cruise that I was a blogger? … but I have sent them an email about this post.)

Back in the day, the aristocracy loved to retreat to Sintra. The vegetation, hilltop views, the narrow-valley setting turned the area into a collection of palaces and mansions. Lord Byron described Sintra as “glorious Eden”.

It was a 20-minute walk from the ship to Rosario station, where we caught the train to Sintra (11 Euros round-trip for two). After the nice 40-minute ride to the end of the line, we searched for bus #434 that Rick told us to find (10 Euros for 2 on the entire loop) – so up the mountain we went to the first stop. Again, following Rick’s suggestion, we purchased the combo ticket in order to avoid the lines at the next stop – and it worked!

The Castle of the Moors is a Portuguese national treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Moors constructed the castle in the 8th century, and remained in control until the 12th century.

It’s location atop the Sintra mountain provides wonderful views in multiple directions, including the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. The town of Sintra is directly below (with the National Palace), plus one can see various palaces and mansions.

From this location, we could see our next stop sitting atop a nearby mountain – the Pena National Palace – another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

DSC02833

Pena started as a chapel in the late 15th century, and eventually became a monastery. In the 19th century, Portuguese royalty expanded it into a palace of multiple designs and color.

The inside was predictably opulent.

… and we could easily see the Castle of the Moors.

DSC02835

Before ending this post, here’s a quick tour of town. Sintra quaint with many shops. The National Palace (the coned towers) is from the 15th century , was active for 500 years, and is still used today for ceremonial occasions. That palace is in the center of town (see the views from the castle.) Can you spot the Castle of the Moors in a pic?

On a Walktober 2015

WalktoberRobin
Robin (Breezes at Dawn) celebrates October by proclaiming Walktober. Her posts typically feature her wonderful photos of nature, but Walktober invites others to lead a walk. I’ve participated the previous two years featuring a walk in my now-old neighborhood (2013) and a walk in my town (2014). I even turned other photos from my 2013 walk into another post featuring seeds from ornamental grasses.

Robin is a gracious host and a long-time visitor here, so Walktober has been on my mind, especially because I was out of the country during the first half of the month … but while on a tour, the setting for my Walktober became clear.

Welcome to Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex in Granada, Spain (southern Spain in the Andalusia region. Granada is 90-minute drive inland from the port of Malaga.)
DSC02950

The Moors ruled most of Spain for over 700 years, and constructed Alhambra as a small fortress in 889. In the 13th century, a Moorish emir expanded the fortress into a walled town containing a palace. Towers looked over the city of Granada below.
DSC02972

At its peak, over 2000 people lived within the walls. Moorish poets described it as “a pearl set in emeralds”. Although Napoleon’s forced leveled many of the homes, their foundations and passageways remain.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
DSC02981
DSC02997

Not only did Alhambra include a palace and homes, gardens filled with fountains brought peace to the complex.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
DSC02971

DSC02998

The Moors viewed water as precious, so they constructed various pools of water that was gathered by an elaborate water-collection system and stored in a reservoir.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Overall craftsmanship (especially in the Moors’ palace) is impeccable as numerous designs catch one’s eyes – ornate stucco, scalloped designs, beautiful tiles, various colors, and more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After the conquest of Granada by the Catholic forces of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile (1492), Christians rulers used the Alhambra, and eventually built The Palace of Charles V with Alhambra’s walls (1527).
DSC03016
DSC03006
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some consider Alhambra to be the greatest of the Moorish palaces in Europe. Today, Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions. Its website includes an interactive map, photo gallery, history, and more.

Thanks for walking along – and consider taking other walks.

Robin’s Walktober 2015 with pingbacks to other walks
My 2014 Walk
My 2013 Walk
My 2013 Seeds Walk

On Exploring Sagrada

It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time. (David Allan Coe, musician)

He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something; he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all. (Sinclair Lewis, novelist)

The haunting of history is ever-present in Barcelona. I see cities as organisms, as living creatures. To me, Madrid is a man and Barcelona is a woman. And it’s a woman who’s extremely vain. (Carlos Ruiz Zafon, novelist)

On inspection, Gaudi’s architecture isn’t whimsical at all. (P. J. O’Rourke, comedian)

In the Sagrada Familia, everything is providential. (Antoni Gaudi, architect)

Construction of Antoni Gaudi’s Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, commonly known as Sagrada Familia, started in 1882. Gaudi died in 1926 with his project less than 25% complete. Although incomplete, Sagrada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Enjoy the video that the current structure and computer animations of the projected construction.

For those desiring to see more, this second video is an outstanding 9-plus-minute video captured by a tourist, then set it to music.