"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalks again; we had longer ways to go.
But no matter, the road is life." -
Jack Kerouac


A bit of Laos

We started our time in Laos on 2/9, after a 7 hour bus ride through northern Thailand and a boat ride across the mighty Mekong River into the border town of Huay Xi, Laos. After dinner by the river, some BeerLaos (the national beer) and Laap (minced meat with a fried noodle/rice) for me and a Laos noodle soup for Em, we went back to the guesthouse. Later that evening, Em decided that the noodle soup didn't agree with her stomach, and decided to remove it.

The next morning, we caught a minibus to Luang Nam Tha, whipping through some of the curviest mountain roads I've been on. Once there, we put Em in bed at the guesthouse and I went exploring by bicycle. While looking for the Laos Airlines ticket office at the world's smallest airport, a local guy about my age came up and asked if I spoke English and if I needed any help. I said, "Yes, I'm looking for the Laos Airlines ticket office" and waved my arm at the construction-filled dirt strip and single room terminal in front of us. Beaming a big smile, he replied in his best English, "Yes, it's beautiful, isn't it!" Needless to say, I kept searching without his assistance for a while. Back in town, after checking on Em again (still a bit sickly), I signed myself up for a 1-day trek out into the jungle to see some local hill tribe villages.

The next day, up early to go hiking. Besides our 2 guides, both natives to the area and English-speaking, there were 3 other "trekkers": a couple from Hawaii and a lone guy from Paris. We walked a few kilometers through rice paddies until we got to a village of 80 people. They were building a new house for someone, carving the joints of the wooden structure by hand. We learned that almost everyone there made a living planting and harvesting rubber trees for China. This explained the large patches of slash-and-burn (jungle clear-cut and then burned down to allow new plants to be planted) we'd been seeing in the jungle around. After another jaunt through the wild, we stumbled upon a wedding reception in the next village. Apparently, a Laos wedding reception is a 3 day party that anyone and everyone is invited to partake in. We were led to chairs along tables covered in food and drink, and given shots of Lao-lao, the locally distilled rice whiskey, which tasted disturbingly like cheap tequila. After 5 little shots with the locals, I said "no more" and refused their invitations for me to get on the dance floor. That night, Em was feeling healthier, so we booked a 2-day trek with the same company leaving the next day.

Our trek was a party of (once again) 2 locals for guides, and an Israeli couple, 2 Germans, 1 Austrian, and 1 Brit. After hiking through the jungle for some time (luckily not all slash-and-burned), we stopped for lunch. This consisted of dumping bags of bamboo-shoot salad, some chicken concoction, and tomato sauce onto freshly plucked banana tree leaves as a table. Arriving in the village in the mid-afternoon, we kept ourselves busy playing Bocci Ball for awhile and then strolling through the village, spying into the villagers' lives. It was a bit awkward, and had us hoping that the income generated by these well-regulated treks was a positive thing for the people. The locals either don't seem to care that you are there (adults) or want to smile bashfully and wave to you while getting their picture taken (children). The village chief ate dinner with us, and told us a bit about the village (most income from selling rice and animals) and his duties as chief (election every 3 years, been chief for the past 21 years, meetings, etc.) He also poured us some lao-lao to wash down the sticky rice with. Since our guides and the villagers were in bed by about 8pm, the trekkers sat around a fire chatting until a more appropriate bedtime.

The next day, after a breakfast of sticky rice and food that looked a whole lot like lunch and dinner the day before had, we kept moving. At the next village, Em got some great pictures of children fighting over a puppy, a woman pounding the shells off of the rice for the day, and a blacksmith forging a knife blade with a hot fire, a hammer, and a home-made anvil. At the next village a few kilometers further, I bought a small journal of bamboo paper they made there in the village. The rest of the day (and trek) was spent getting back out of the jungle, made quite a bit more difficult by the rain that pummeled us and the Laos' adversion to switchbacks in uber-steep dirt single track trails. Back in town, we were lucky enough to catch Die Hard 3 playing on the TV in our $6/night room before meeting up with the others from the trek for dinner and drinks.

Photos from Huay Xi and Luang Nam Tha.

After an 8 hour bus ride, we arrived the next day in Luang Prabang. This town is French colonial (the French controlled Laos from 1893 to 1949, and are responsible for adding the silent "s" to the country's name), very different in architecture than the more rural areas we'd been to thus far. It also is a bit more touristy, with a lot of restaurants, art shops, and souveneir-type stores. The next day was spent buying a plane ticket from Laos to Cambodia, setting up our Vietnam visas, and getting a bus ticket for the day after. We did get to walk the Hmong night market, where Em bought some hand-sewn story books for her little nieces (don't tell them if you see them!). The little girl helping her mom in the booth had sewn them, and showed how she'd sewn the English, Laos, and Hmong words for the pictures in the books. We ended the night with foot massages, my first. I spent the whole time wondering what the poor girl massaging my callous-covered, dirty, and not-so-fresh smelling feet had done in a previous life to be forced into this, but she seemed plenty happy about doing it.

The following day, we were off to Phonsavan, a city famous for it's Plain of Jars. After another 8 hour bus ride (this one made much less fun by the older guy sitting next to me in the aisle of the bus on a plastic stool throwing up every 10-15 minutes for the entire duration of the trip), we found a place to sleep and got ready for the tour the next day. The short story of the Plain of Jars is that there are thousands of stone jars used 1500-2000 years ago by a group of people that we know nothing about. Theories include food, wine, water, or whiskey storage, and funeral urns. We saw 3 of the 60-some sites (the only 3 currently accessible), a village where they were making lao-lao in the coolest barrel still I've seen, and the shell of a deserted Russian tank. All part of the tour package that we had to join to see the Jars.

Besides being interesting to look at, the jars spread all over the countryside was a chance for me to learn a bit about the US-led secret war in Laos during the 60's and 70's. The short story is that the US thought that if the Communists in the north of Laos spread, all of SE Asia would fall to the Reds and the HoChiMinh trail ran through parts of southern Laos. To prevent this, the US dropped 2 million metric tons of bombs on the country of Laos, more than we did over Germany and Japan in WWII, combined. This was done with over 500,000 missions, 50% more missions than were conducted over North Vietnam. Roughly 30% of the dropped munitions never detonated, meaning that a huge share of Laos is littered with cluster bombs, and the removal effort is slow, tedious, and completely under-funded. To complicate matters, farmers who can't farm their own uncleared land due to the threat have taken to finding, unearthing, and dismantling weapons for the valuable scrap metal they might be able to feed their families with. The story is utterly heart-wrenching and a sad glimpse into one of the short-sighted mistakes made by the US and still impacting lives daily. Worst of all, I had never (that I can remember) heard of the Secret War or it's effects until this trip. If you have a few extra dollars laying around and want to help, you can go to MAG's (Mines Advisory Group) website and donate online.

Photos from Luang Prabang and Phonsavan.

That afternoon, we hopped another bus over a winding, bumpy, puke-inducing road (luckily not Em or I) to Vang Vieng. (Everyone of the Laos people gets sick on the bus, it seems to be the "in" thing to do the ENTIRE trip. The driver's assistant hands little baggies to everyone and they do their business and then chuck the filled bag out the window. It's disgusting. Added by Em) The next morning, after looking at the gorgeous mountains towering over the town, we rented bikes and rode 13km out of town to a site with several caves. The caves were neat to see. One of them had a natural rock that looked strikingly like an elephant, another went down over 1/2 a mile, and the third had big, cavernous rooms throughout. The downside was the guides; although decent guides, one of them had said he couldn't speak enough English when I asked him how much his guide service cost as he walked with us. There was no signs at the beginning saying that you had to have a guide or how much one would cost, so it was a little sketchy. After we'd toured the caves, he and his guide partner demanded (in pretty good English) $10 per person after 1 hour's worth of work. Remember, this is a place where you can 24 oz. beer for about $1. We argued for a bit, and explained that you can't not tell people how much you are going to charge them when they ask and then be pissed when you ask for a huge sum later. We gave them what we thought was fair, and walked off. Luckily, this is one of only a handful of times that we've caught someone trying to blatantly rip us off, so we got over it shortly. That night, a bit tired of sticky rice and such, we found a place with big pizzas and gorged on Western food to resettle our stomaches.

Our second and last day in Vang Vieng, we went tubing down the Nam Song river. Just like back home, we rented tubes, were driven upriver (except this was in a tuk-tuk), and then floated lazily back down. The difference was that along the banks of the river, spaced every 50 yards or so, was another makeshift bar! These bars were complete with ice-cold cocktails and beers, people at the river's edge to throw you a line and reel you in, and (some) had tall platforms from which you could zip-line or swing into the river for kicks. It was incredibly touristy, but such a fantastic way to spend a warm, sunny day (on the river mildly intoxicated) that we debated staying another day!

Photos from Vang Vieng.

Thailand - Part One

We've finally had a chance to sit down and do some blogging. Sorry if it's a little long, but a lot has gone on since we talked to you last!

We got to Thailand in the afternoon and it was so warm and sunny! We went from 30 degrees and snow in Turkey to 90 degrees and sunny in Bangkok. We finally caught a bus to our hostel and thankfully Mike's insulin that he had shipped from home had made it to the hostel before us. After showering, we headed out into Bangkok to get some cooler clothes and shoes after our wintry attire from Europe. We had very little luck with this the first night. We did find some seriously spicy Thai food that had me wondering if I was going to be able to eat for the next three months. After a lot of panting and huge Thai iced coffees, we were able to eat most of our dinners. The next morning, we attempted to go to the Grand Palace. We decided to eat some yummy and cheap street vendor food on the way there. During lunch, some seemingly random guy came up and started chatting with us and welcoming us to Thailand. He also mentioned that the palace was closed due to a Buddhist holiday, but showed us a few sites on our map that were open and that we might like to check out. The guy even flagged down a tuk-tuk for us. It turned out to be a scam, we think. We did see some nice, not very touristy temples, but the tuk-tuk driver also took us to a jewelry shop and a suit shop, where we walked in and promptly walked out. He was obviously getting paid some commission to take us to these grossly over-priced shops. The next stop took us to a location that we could find on the map and we got out and paid the driver, leaving him open handed, waiting for a tip. Mike caught on to the scam right after we got into the tuk-tuk but we weren't positive and the driver was really nice and helpful. And we only lost a little bit of time and the equivalent of just over a dollar so we weren't out much, but may karma come after that first lying thief!

We saw another Wat, or Buddhist temple, and then decided to check out Th Khao San road, which is where most of the backpackers stay. During the day, it is filled with street vendors selling food, drinks, clothes, hair braiding, henna tattoos, and dreads. By night, it turns into a bar/party/other things scene. You name it and they sold it to the tourists and most of it was pretty cheap (we're talking daytime, not shady nighttime). Mike and I both found some clothes for a few dollars and then we sat and had a couple beers and enjoyed the chaos. To top it off, we ate dinner and a dessert of banana and chocolate crepes for around $2-3. We then found a bus stop and waited for the bus back to the hostel. After about 45 min. of waiting there was still no bus. Just as we had decided to walk, a man and his daughter came up and asked excitedly where we were from and where we were trying to go. He welcomed us to Thailand and told us of a different bus we could take. Their bus came and off they went laughing and waving and two minutes later, the bus he told us about came. At least there are some friendly and helpful people left in the world.

The next day, we were able to see the Grand Palace and it was beautiful. Very well kept with guards all around the outside wall. And, curiously enough, there were much stronger dress codes at the palace than at the temples. No shorts, no short pants, no capries, no tank tops or sleeveless shirts. However, if you did not remember to dress appropriately, they would lend you long sleeved shirts, long skirts, and long pants for free. Oh, and on the way in, another guy tried telling us that the palace was closed but we persevered past him. While at the Grand Palace, we also saw the Emerald Buddha, a beautiful and much revered Buddha of Thailand, which is actually made of Jasper. We also saw the Wat Pho where lives Thailand's largest reclining Buddha. He was impressive, a statue that measures 46 meters in length. That night, we ate Thai food from a street vendor. The ladies running the show made good food and they were very nice. On the walk back to the hostel, we passed the tiniest little shop on a little side street where two older ladies begged us to come in as we passed. We turned around, walked through their store, and bought ice creams from them; they were so happy and grateful. Back at the hostel, we sat on the back porch, listening to the fountain and drinking huge bottles of Thai beer. Ahhh.. quite nice. That is until I realized that my ankles were huge and swollen. It was really attractive, I almost had cankles. I couldn't even see the bones on my inner ankles, it was just flat. Don't worry though, because I seem to have gotten used to the weather and the climate and now have real ankles again.

Our endeavors the following day led us in search of a good tailor so Mike could get a suit or two. Rumor has it that hand tailored suits are really inexpensive in Thailand but there are so many tailors to choose from, it's no simple task. We turned to the internet for help and got very little so after a couple hours of searching and talking prices with different shops we just picked one. Then things got really difficult. We had to pick out the materials, the colors, how many suits, how many buttons, pleats or no pleats, shirts, matching ties??? After helping make the crucial decisions, I went across the street for a $5 Thai massage. The massage was very different from any I have gotten before. She started at my feet and worked her way up to my head, stretching and popping and pounding away at me. It was interesting and kind of fun to have someone else stretch you out. Upon leaving the massage place, Mike told me that it only took another 15 minutes to wrap things up at the tailors and he decided he would have a beer while he waited for me. He found a place, sat down, and was enjoying a tasty beverage when he felt a hand upon his shoulder asking him if he was there alone. Apparently, he had walked himself into a brothel and had this girl as a companion for the next few minutes while he sucked down the beer. Poor Mike! We took metro across town and walked through Lumphini park enjoying the night air. After the park, we walked to the other side of the street and found a night bazaar where we decided to eat. This turned out to be a complicated adventure as we had to buy coupons to pay for the food because the vendors wouldn't accept cash. We finally figured this out and ordered. We headed to a table and before we had sat down, we had three or four drink menus in our faces from different girls in short skirts. Interesting, but I am not sure that I would do it again.

Next day was spent buying more diabetes supplies and getting refitted for the suits. Mike has already promised to model them for everyone when we get home. The suits, not the diabetes supplies...

Photos from Bangkok.

The day after this we took a bus to Phitsanulok. The bus ride was really nice, air conditioned with lunch and a drink and lasted about 6 hours. We were then dumped on the side of the road with no map of the city and no inkling where we were. After an hour and a half of walking, we finally came across a guesthouse. It was really cheap, two nights for two people for $9.40 and really simple. Squat toilets, cold showers, and plastic pillows. And yes, we chose to stay here! There was another night market here too, so we ate really cheap Thai food and got purple sticky rice for dessert. We then found a little country bar with Thai guys singing Bob Dylan. I ordered a beer and Mike ordered a wine cooler ("Not knowing what it was and wanting to try something new!" - Mike's note), and I decided to mix the two, which turned out much better than it sounds. We played a couple games of chess and enjoyed the live music and then called it a night. The next morning, we found a great little breakfast spot with as close to a Western breakfast as we had come at that point, which just means that we didn't eat rice or noodles. We then hopped on a couple of buses to get out to the ancient ruins of Sukhothai, which used to be the capital city of Thailand. We rented bikes for less than $1 each and rode around the ruins for the day. That evening, we caught the bus back to town and again ate at the night market. This time, however, I looked up and saw a rat near our table outside. I told Mike not to look but he had already seen it. Then there came another and the first one shot under the table and both of us were on our feet super fast. We shooed them away and sat down again but the one just kept coming back. By this time, Mike was done sitting down so he stood and drank his soup while I sat and finished my meal. The locals started to notice and told us sit down. The rats came out again and Mike was able to point out why he wasn't sitting down. I am pretty sure the locals were seriously making fun of us, we must have looked pretty funny-stand up, sit down, stand up... We headed back to the same bar and the same people were there and greeted us like old friends. Good times.

Photos from Sukothai.

The next morning we were up early and on a bus headed to Chiang Mai. This bus was not at all like the other one. Everything squeaked and after 4 hours, we still had not taken a bathroom break. The bus then broke down and after 30 minutes, they loaded us onto another bus. 30 minutes later and we pulled into a bus station where we were told to change buses again. We finally got Chiang Mai around 5 pm and ended up talking to a couple from good old Boise, Idaho. The only Idahoans we've met; no one from NoDak thus far:( We found a room and walked the city streets, somehow finding ourselves in a red light type area.

We tried to take a Thai cooking class the next day but we were a little late so we rented a scooter instead. The little Thai lady asked Mike if he had ever ridden and he said yes but just as we were getting ready to take off she found out that we hadn't driven in Thailand yet, where they drive on the wrong side of the road. She kept yelling "stay left, stay left" as she shook her head and off we went. No faith. It turned out to be really fun. We rode up into the hills for views of the city, ate at some road side stands, and rode out to a Wat for a Monk chat. The monk chat was really, really neat. Just a chance for people to talk with some monks. We walked in and we were led to a table by a monk who was around our age. His English was pretty good and we talked for about 20 minutes before a couple more young monks joined in. We asked them why they had become monks. We learned that it is a choice, and there are monks of all ages. Most of the ones we spoke with became monks when they were 11 or 12. They were so nice and really seemed to enjoy talking, asking us questions and answering the questions we had for them. They eat two meals a day, are fed and clothed by the people and in return they relay the teachings of the Buddha. They don't participate in sports, dancing, drugs, sex, or alcohol and they aren't allowed to adorn their bodies with tattoos, piercings and such. They do watch TV and keep up with current events. One of them really enjoyed the show TV show "Lost", which we started to get into just before we left. He informed us that season 2 was good and that we will enjoy it. It was such a great and enlightening experience to sit and talk with them. After this, we decided to return the scooter as it was getting dark and we didn't need to add yet another element of danger.

The next morning we were off to Chiang Kong to cross the border into Laos.

More Pictures

As promised, I finally uploaded the pictures from skiing in Nice, France (blog post here) on Picasa.
Gorgeous mountain scenery pics HERE.

And, I found a sequence of four shots of Emily in a Hookah cafe in Istanbul that I thought was pretty cool.
This is the first, click forward through the next three to see Em perfecting the hookah.


Photos (finally!)

Greece photos HERE.

Istanbul photos HERE.


Lost in Laos

Just to let everyone know, we are in Laos and the internet connections are not great and are few and far between so you may not hear from us all that often. Still having a good time and we'll write when we can,
Em and Mike


Just say NO to rugs! (Istanbul, Turkey)

Istanbul was a stitch. Pardon the pun after the rug joke in the title.

The flight from Athens to Istanbul on 1/26 was uneventful, except for the fact that Olympic Airlines served us a full meal on a 1 and half hour flight! Anybody flown United lately and had them try and sell you their $5 SNACK PACK? Assholes... Anyway, we made our way into the center of a city of 16 million at about 10pm and found our hostel, with the help of 3 different maps, 2 differeent street addresses provided to us, and some luck (a lot of luck).

The next morning, we bought fresh-squeezed orange juice from a street vendor across from the hostel, and than went into a 5 seat (maybe 6 if you squeezed) cafe a little further away. A really nice, English-speaking Turk guy around our age was behind the counter. He talked to us a bit, gave us some advice, and most important, seemed really happy to chat with us and share his mother's pastries! This became our new breakfast spot in Istanbul. We went to the Blue Mosque, famous because of it's huge size and it's blue tiles lining the inside of the building. Next up was Aya Sofya, a church that for a long time was the largest Christian church in the world. At some point, the Ottoman empire converted it into a mosque and plastered over all the 15th century frescos painted on the walls and ceilings. In the late 1800's (I think), someone knocked the plaster off and realized that all these beautiful frescoes had been preserved. Walking away from the church in the very touristy district of Sultanahmet, we were confronted by about 100 people selling, amongst a few other things, rugs. We talked to a kid who wanted to practice his English, and then brought us into his store to give us his card (I know, hindsight is 20/20). Upon entering the store, we both had hot apple tea in our hands and had been "dropped" to speak to an older relation of his. He was very personable and asked us lots of questions about where we were from and what we do, but he managed to interject carpet buying back into everything! (Colleen, he even suggested I ship you one as it's a gift that lasts a long time!) After 10 minutes or so, he asked "So, if you are given the chance to buy a high quality rug for a very reasonable price, you won't even consider it," and us answering "No,", he said "then I'm going to sell you a leather coat!" and ran off to the coat racks. We set the tea down and got out before our backpacks became heavier and our wallets lighter. We stumbled upon a small soccer match after we found out that the nearby Topkapi Palace wasn't open much longer. At the match, we found it odd that there were almost as many policeman as there were fans, and that we were the only tourists, and that Emily was certainly the only woman. When the cops broke out the riot shields and helmets, and started patting down everyone coming to watch, we got out.

The next morning, our new-found cafe counter friend told us that Turkish soccer is serious business, with soccer hooligans galour. Back to the Topkapi Palace, we saw a lot of interesting history from the 4 centuries that this palace was the seat of the Turkish Sultan's government. There was an 86 carat diamond, surrounded by littler diamonds, and enough gold and jewels to make a pirate nauseas. The real treat was the Holy Relics of Islam exhibit. They did a fantastic job of explaining the beginnings of all 3 of the monotheistic religions, and the splitting of Islam from Christianity. There, they had the staff that Moses used to part the Red Sea, the gold-encased arm and skull of St. John the Baptist, the turban of the Prophet Joseph, and a tooth and multiple chunks of beard hair, and the cloak, of the Prophet Mohammed. Next we went to the Grand Bazaar, an indoor shopping market with 22 entrances and 4,500 stores! Needless to say, they sold everything, and we got lost plenty. After that, the most harrowing experience in Istanbul: the Turkish Bath. This link is the closest example I can think of to what I experienced. For those who don't know, it is from a British TV show called "Long Way Round", featuring Ewan and Charley Boorman travelling on motorcylces from London to New York City the long way, through Russia and Alaska. Great series if you can find it somewhere and are interested in wild travels.

At the bath, we payed about $30 each and went our separate ways (boys and girls are segragated). I was told to change into nothing but a towel, then went into the bath room. It featured a large, circular marble heated stone in the center and small basins with hot and cold spigots around the stone. After bathing myself with a small metal pan (like a dog bowl), I was told to lay on the rock by my male masseuse. For the record, he was hairier than the guys in the video and also wore a towel instead of a speedo. He scrubbed me with a loofah until I felt like it was a metal file, rubbed his fingers into my scalp until I nearly cried, and surprised me (because my eyes were full of soap and I wasn't supposed to move my hands to wipe it out) with intermittent splashes from a 1-gallon pail of nearly boiling water or nearly frozen water! I might be exaggerating a bit, but it was seriously scary. After the massage, I lay on the hot rock in my towel trying to figure out if I had just experienced something I would ever pay for again, while thinking that it was one of the wildest experiences of the trip! Emily said that her's was a bit gentler and sounded almost like fun. That night, we found a hookah cafe. The hookah, for those who don't know, is a water-pipe frequently used in the middle east and elsewhere to smoke flavored tobacco. We sat and drank our Turkish tea (these people drink a whole lot of tea) and smoked our apple-flavored hookah for over an hour, and then retired.

The next day we took a ferry up the Bosphorus River (the river that divides Europe from Asia and divides Istanbul as well). It was pretty, but there was a bit of snow falling outside and a biting wind, so we stayed inside the covered area except for a few quick picture-takings from the top. That evening, we found a local cafe where the waiter messed up about 3 items of our dinner and we drank Raki (a Turkish spirit, it's like Ouzo but with a punch in the face). Back to a different hookah cafe (I think that Em's hooked) where we played some chess and tried a chocolate flavor.

The next day, we went to the airport to fly to Bangkok, Thailand. We had a 6 hour layover in Doha, Qatar, but we just sat and people-watched, waiting for a 1 am flight. For the record, Qatar airlines is probably the nicest airline I've ever flown on. Full meal with a 1/4 bottle of Chilean red wine, in the headrest TV screens with on-demand movies, TV shows, music and video games, all in Coach Class!

Pictures to come later.

City of the Gods

After flying from Rome to Athens (a 2 hour flight with a meal!), we arrived in Greece in the late afternoon to warm weather and a decent hotel. The Acropolis was already closed for the day but we hiked up the hill anyway for some city viewing. The city itself is not that beautiful but the Acropolis is really pretty all lit up at night, it reminded me of Edinburough with it's castle on the hill. Another thing we noted is that there are non-ferrel dogs all over the city and they seemed to be drugged with NyQuil because all they do is sleep on the city sidewalks and in doorways. Even when eating outside, they just lay there and sleep; strange. We ate lamb, eggplant, and pita bread for dinner along with some Greek wine. While wandering around the city, we discovered a guy selling a Pakistany dessert similar to what we've eaten in Indian restaurants, only better. We tried to remember the name but we've forgotten. The chocolate version tastes similar to sweet walnuts.

We were able to enter the Acopolis the next day, still warm and sunny. There was a temple to Athena built in the mid 6th century B.C. and the Parthenon, another of the more famous buildings. Interesting to compare this architecture to that of the Romans. We also saw the Temple to Zeus, of which there are just a few of the columns that remain standing. And the ancient Agora, which was the center for politics and the marketplace for Athenians. There was also a Roman section from 89 B.C., after the Romans had come in and had their way with the Greeks. We then enjoyed sitting on the terrace of a cafe, drinking coffee and people watching. Mike had a double shot of Greek Ouzo, which he said reminded him of nights at the HaufBrau with Tex Tucker back in Bozeman. Later that night, we were wandering around looking for a place to eat on the map when a local came up and asked, "What do you want," meaning what are you looking for? He then directed us to a realy great Greek restaurant nearby.

The next day we were up and on a bus to the small city of Dephi, 2 hours away. First, we had to take a local bus to the bus terminal. We had no idea where to get off for the terminal but when the stop came up about 5 older Greek men just started looking at us and pointing out of the bus, indicating that that was where the stop was located. Delphi is a small town completely supported by its own ancient ruins and tourism. However, this city used to be the center of the known world and the place of worship for the god, Apollo. This is also where the oracle resided. The ruins contained another theater and a really interesting stadium shaped like a horse shoe. The museum had pictures from the 1800's with the French men who excavated the site and amazing gold trinkets and other sacrificial things made to Apollo. Also, while we were in Delphi, we had more wonderful Greek food including stuffed grape leaves, stewed rabbit, baklava, homemade Greek wine, and a homemade pomegranate liquor. That night we picked up another bottle of Greek wine (it is a really small town!) and headed back to the hotel room. After a few minutes, the power went off (during a really good Van Damm movie!) and the hotel owner's wife came hollering up the hallways holding candles for each of the guests. The power was on again in 15 minutes and the hotel owner then called to remind everyone to extinguish the candles, which was an interesting conversation, because he spoke no English. We then caught a bus back to Athens where we treated ourselves to seeing a movie at a theater, something we've done only once in the past 3 months.

The next day, we went to The National Archeological Museum where we spent most of our time in the Pre Historic section. Most of the items were from digs in Greece from the 1800's and some were dated to as far back as 6500 B.C. Unfathomable! After this, we checked out the Bronze Age section. One of the neatest things here was the display to tell us how they cast bronze statues thousands of years ago (wax investment casting, for all the engineers who might care). We headed out for dinner and got sucked into a touristy restaurant with the promise of a free drink and live music. The wine was good and the music was good but the food left a little to be desired.

The next day, we wandered around the city, hung out in a coffee shop and checked out the markets in Athens. Definitely one of the best places to buy trinkets and jewelry, if anyone is looking. We found an out-of-the way cafe and had an awesome lunch. Mike had octupus in a vinegar sauce and we shared a sampler plate of Greek food. Very tasty and we didn't even know what most of it was! Then it was off to the airport to catch the plane to Istanbul.

Photos sometime later...