Monday, July 30, 2012

Bari, Italy

Our first port of call on the cruise was Bari, Italy.  I’m not exactly sure what is so special about Bari, other than it is a port town.  I would have much rather stopped at Dubrovnik or someplace along the east side of the Adriatic, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?  Bari was pretty, it just wasn’t anything that we haven’t seen in lots of other places in Italy or Europe.

We decided that it would be fun to rent bikes, and it was, although on my bike you weren’t able to change gears at all, so it was a little difficult at times.


Bari has a walled “old town” section and in that section is the Basilica of St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas is buried here, and I guess that’s a big deal for Catholics.  I’m not sure since I’m not Catholic.  Wikipedia says that on St. Nicholas’ Day (Dec 6) they lower containers into the tomb to extract myrrh somehow (????) and then they spend the “myrrh” all over the world and apparently numerous miracles happen when people are anointed with this myrrh.  Whatever works, I suppose.


Most of the cathedrals we’ve been in have been very beautiful, and a bit grandiose and this one followed suit.


St. Nicholas is buried underneath the Cathedral.  There were a few people down there praying by his grave.  Mark and I lit candles for the kids, who we were already missing.  Kinda.


We rode around Old Town for a bit and then rode to the downtown area of Bari.  It all felt very tropical, which was fun.  And it was really hot, so we were sweating like pigs, for sure.


Next we rode down to the beach.  It was a decent bike ride there, but it was pretty.  There were little sets of stairs all along the sidewalk we rode down where you could go down and take a dip if you wanted to.  It was very tempting, but I didn’t want to leave my camera unattended.


For being a Friday afternoon, there were quite a few people at the beach, which was really rocky.  People just put their towels right on the rocks.  I wonder what they would think of the beaches in Florida, with actual sand.


After our ride along the beach, we went back to Old Town and decided to pay to go in it, which was a waste of money.  There really wasn’t anything spectacular to see, and we got bored pretty quickly and decided to head back to the boat and take a nap since we were hot.


Bari was our least favorite stop of the cruise, but it’s good because we got the “worst” out of the way first.  Our next stop was Corfu!  More on that tomorrow!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Miramare Castle

The last time we were at Miramare Castle, we didn’t go inside at all.  We just walked through the gardens and around the outside of the castle.  This time we were able to go inside, but didn’t do much of the outside.
I don’t think I would ever get tired of the views surrounding the castle.  There’s a great view of Trieste, and the coastline by the castle is beautiful.
It was Shelly and Donna’s first time in Trieste and at the castle.  I think they enjoyed it.  Donna (Mark’s mom) would have been happy any place the kids were.
Our contemplative little guy.
The castle was built by Maximilian of Hapsburg, who was a commander in the Austrian military.  He was killed when he was 35 years old, so the fact that he was able to build a house like this that young was pretty impressive.
The inside of the castle was beautiful.  I took a ton of pictures.  The floors and ceilings were incredibly ornate, along with most of the furnishings.  It really made me wonder what it would have been like to live there 150 years ago.
It was a super hot day so we decided to dip our feet into the water.  The water is so pretty here, I would have loved to swim here.  I think it would be fantastic to have a house right on the water like that, and have your own personal “swimming pool”.
This was our family picture last time we were at the castle.
And this is what it was this time.
It’s amazing how much can change in 2 years.  Wonder what the next two years will bring? 
Abbie likes to think she’s a big girl, but she’s still not above having daddy carry her when she gets tired.
I’m glad the weather was great during our visit to the cave, Trieste and the castle.  I think it actually rained while we were in the cave, but by the time we got out of it, it was sunny.  Perfect!
Could all 3 year olds spend half their day upside down given the chance, or just mine?
If you’re ever in the northeast part of Italy, stop by Miramare Castle!  I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Trieste, Italy and the Grotto Gigante

On Thursday before we left for our cruise, we took Donna and Shelly to Trieste.  I had heard about the Grotto Gigante a couple times and seen all the signs for it, and we wanted to check it out.  I guess I was thinking a grotto to be… a grotto.  Like a big cavern with a flat floor and a high ceiling, maybe in the side of a hill.  I was wearing flip flops and a long maxi dress.  Apparently “grotto” means “cave” in Italian, because it wasn’t at all a grotto like I was thinking of.  In fact, it was like 100m down and 100m back up… (Translation of that means it was about 30 stories down and about 30 stories back up…)

So let me preface this by saying, again, that it is incredibly hard to take decent pictures in a cave without a tripod in the first place.  Add to it that I ended up carrying Ben on my front so Mark could carry Abbie (again we weren’t at all prepared for this), and that the ground was slippery because it was wet and I was wearing flip flops…  Just not a good combo.  I was tip toeing around, so I didn’t slip and fall with Ben, and doing stairs is hard enough without adding all of those factors.  So the pictures aren’t as clear as I would like, but they were as good as I could get with Ben on the front of me bouncing all over the place.


It’s hard to tell exactly how big the cave was from these pictures, but it was HUGE.  It is over 14 MILLION cubic feet and is one of the largest in the world.  It is so big because it was actually 2 levels of subterranean rivers, but the floor collapsed a long time ago and made it one big cavern.  It is over 10 million years old and has been open to the public for over 100 years.


The stalagtites and stalagmites are formed from rainwater dripping down on the limestone and they grow about 1mm every 15-20 years.  The width of the ring that they form (especially visible on the big ones) is dependent on how much rainfall occurs that year.  It’s all pretty fascinating to me.


I’m not sure how these ones were formed, but I would guess that it has something to do with water running down the walls of the cave, making the ribbon like structures.


They call this one the palm tree and it is over 200,000 years old.


The two big tall things in the middle of the cave are called geodetic pendulums and they measure the Earth’s tides.  They are so sensitive that they can pick up the minute shift in the tilt of the Earth when there is a lot of snow on the Alps.  In the zoomed in picture on the right, those are the stairs we came down.  You can barely see them on the picture in the left, but that’ll give you a little bit of a perspective as to how big this cave actually is.  It is beautiful.


After the cave, we headed to downtown Trieste to grab some lunch, which took us a bit to find, but we figured it out eventually.  Downtown Trieste is really pretty.


We sat along the canal for lunch and ate some really good food, but I can’t remember the name of the place now.  Some of the dishes were created by a famous chef in Italy and they were really good.



And no outting is complete without some gelato.  Abbie is a chip off the old block since chocolate is her favorite and she thinks the very bottom tip of the cone is the best part!



We took a few pictures along the shore before we headed to Miramare Castle.  More on that next!!