Batten Family


 

VENICE TO ISTANBUL October 15 - October 31, 2009

Jean and I flew from Houston to Frankfurt arriving at 9:00am on the 16th. We had a 3 1/2 hr layover before we flew to Venice.My Aunt Irene Kraus and her son Tommy met us at the airport and we had a wonderful time catching up on families. Pictures of Aunt Irene are included in the land trips along with our 2012 visit with her.

Venice Italy - We had 3 days to explore Venice. Of course we had to take an evening gondola ride under the stars including the Italian Opera performance on board. The next day we spent time in St. Mark's Square and toured St. Mark's Basilica viewiing its Byzantine architecture. We saw gilded mosiacs, intricatedly patterned floors and the Golden Pall altarpiece embedded with gems. We crossed over the Bridge of Sighs to the ancient prison on the other side. The Square just began to flood as high tide rolled in and some walkways were planks raised above ground. Click here to view pictures of Venice.

Dubrovnik, Croatia - We begin with a scenic drive up the countryside arriving at the village of Komaji where we visited a local vineyard and winery owned by the Crvik family. Mr. Andro Crvik gave a presentation about his wines and the wine producing area of Croatia. The family then treated us to their wines with large glasses of various wines accompanied by bread and cheeses. We then drove to the town of Cilipi where we stopped at a typical (?) country home of the Novakovics family, who have lived in their traditional hoome for many generations, producing grape brandy, olive oil and wine as their ancestors did. After offering us a glass of their grape brandy, we were then treated to meats and cheese and other local favorites while entertaining us with some traditional "Dalmatian" music and song along with some popular American songs such as the Saints go marching in. Afterwards we returned to the Old Town heart of Dubrovnik for a tour of the main street called the Stradun.

Kotor, Montenegro - We drove along the coast to the Seaside Resort of Budva, considered one of the oldest settlements in the Balkans.Budva lies on a island that eventually became a peninsula and is surrounded by ramparts originating from the 15th century. Today the town is a center of tourism and home to theater, festivals and celebrations. We returned to the World Heritage Site of Kotor surrounded by a protective wall that has withstood countless sieges over the centuries. With architecture of distinctive Venetian flair, it is a reminder that the Republic of Venice once ruled it. Among the historically important buildings within its walls is the Cathedral of St. Triphon, a Romanesque basilica built in 1166. In the pictures note its nave is separated from the aisles by alternating square pillars and antique columns.

Taormina (Sicily), Italy - Ascending the circuitous roads as we drove towards the summit of Mt. Etna we past quaint mountain villages until we reached the craters of Mt. Etna. From the slopes of the craters bearing remnants of lava streams from previous eruptions, you have a stunning view of the Gulf of Catania. The restaurant/bar shows the grotto where the lava flow reached the wall of the building without burning it down. The ski lift shows that in spite of the harshness of the surroundings during winter, skiing is enjoyed down the lava slopes. However, I heard that an eruption last year took out the ski lift and the part of the highway supporting it. Condition of the restaurant/bar is unknown. Click here to see pictures of Dubrovnik, Kotor and Mt. Etna.

Villa San Marco - Stabiae ancient Rome port 4km from Pompeii. Stabiae cliffs speckled with villas of Rome's oligarchs and plutocrats perched on the cliffs above the Bay of Naples. Some 6 or more massive villas were clustered on the cliffs with one of the best preserved and under excavation is the Villa San Marco. the villas were built before Christ. Villa San Marco with more than 11,000 square meters of construction was damaged in the earthquake three years prior to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on the morning of August 24, 79 A.D. and was undergoing rebuilding interrupted by the eruption. The Villa boasts multiple dining rooms with panoramic views of the sea, private heated baths, and lavishly decorated libraries, gardens and huge colonnaded courtyards. All the walls were decorated with paintings featuring gods and goddesses, women in flowing gowns, and motifs from nature. The decorations especially to wall paintings are more extensive and better preserved than those found in Pompeii. After an extensive visit of Villa San Marco our guide Piera, a food and wine expert in Campania took us to the foot of Mount Vesuvius to visit the Azienda Sorrentino Winery. The Sorrentino family has been making wine here for over a century. The estate is located along the southern face of the volcano and the soil is said to produce the finest Lacryma grape varietal. The staff hosted a lunch of traditional dishes paired with their famous Lacryma Christi wines.

Naples - Unable to port in Amalfi/Positano, we diverted to Naples for a short port stop while the seas calmed. We had no tour here but justed walked thoughout the city near the port. Click here for pictures of Villa San Marco, Sorrentino Vineyard and Naples.


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