Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bucharest-our first morning with Christie & Andrei, Chuck & Alina

Andrei's owl will go to school with him today.

Two silly boys

Andrei must eat an egg before Coco Puffs.

Christie & Alina discuss the merits of brown vs. white bread with the truly fresh eggs.

Chuck, Alina, Christie, and Andrei live on the top (4th) floor of a nice apartment block in a close-in suburb of Bucharest. Across the street is a huge park with a lake, amusement park, restaurants, and green space that's all too precious in this city of 3 million. They bought and renovated this 3 bedroom, 2 bath flat when Christie and Andrei were babies. Since it has been two years since we saw the kids, we thought they might be shy at first. NOT so! They were thrilled to see us and gave us huge hugs right away. Don't get no better than this.

Delphi, where the Oracle prophesied in the Temple of Apollo, June 1, 2008

Model of Delphi in its prime. Temple of Apollo in the center with the city-state treasuries surrounding it.


Hadrian's boyfriend, Antinoos, a gorgeous Greek boy

Delphi's fine museum features this Sphinx.

up the hill from the Athens Treasury

Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle breathed "medicinal" smoke from laurel & bay leaves before feeling faint and giving out prophecies.

Reconstructed Athens Treasury where loot was stored to pay for the very expensive prophecies from the Oracle. All the major city-states had treasuries at Delphi.

Gymnasium (meaning exercise training in the nude!) ruins down hill from the Oracle's home

Arachova half way up the mountain - now a major ski resort

Mountains begin beyond the ancient (now modern) city of Thebes.

Athens, Greece, May 31-June2, 2008

We're trying to use up our remaining USAirways points and then avoid the declining airline forever. So, we upgraded our outbound flight from Philadelphia to Athens to business class. That made all the difference in the ease of the overnight and the smoothness of our arrival in Athens on Saturday morning. The 30 minutes from touchdown to when we were inside the taxi made this the easiest and quickest arrival of any trip we’ve made abroad. The legendary Athens traffic was also light and easy on a Saturday morning.

The Athens Cypria Hotel is a small, mid-rise on a quiet, tiny street, centrally located in Syntagma near the Parliament House. Our fifth floor room is modest, but surprisingly large, including a balcony with a view of a very old, tile-roofed, tumbling down Greek house inhabited by lots of pigeons. The view includes lots of newer, taller buildings, but the old one is charming, somehow.

Diogenes Cafe just above the Monument of Lysikrates

Monument of Lysikrates, which became a Capuchin Monastery and housed Lord Byron on his trip to Athens

with Melina Mercouri near the entrance to the Plaka neighborhood (lots of restaurants & shops)

Hadrian's Arch at the entrance to the temple ruins - that guy got around (York, England to Greece and beyond!)

Olympian Zeus Temple ruins we stumbled on near the National Gardens

This trip was undertaken on behalf of our dear friend, Christie D. Vernon (who died May 19, 2002), to visit her Romanian grandchildren. Oh well, it's REALLY because we want to have a chance to be surrogate grandparents for little Christie (5) and Andrei (3).

But, hey, since we were coming this far, we wanted to see some other places we've never visited before. That's how we ended up with the following itinerary spread over 3 weeks: Columbus-Philadelphia-Athens-Bucharest-Istanbul-Athens-Columbus, with some auto travel in Romania to visit Transylvania (yep, Dracula) and Alina's family in Baia Mare up near the Hungarian border.