Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Italy Pictures At Last

We flew from Salt Lake to Rome and arrived in the afternoon. That afternoon we boarded the cruise ship and left Rome that evening. The next morning we landed in Sorrento, Italy and went and visited Pompeii. We didn't make it back to Rome until the end of our trip - but I have posted all of our Italy pictures in this posting. Enjoy!

We ate gelato everyday that we were in Italy. This is our first gelato in Sorrento - as you can see Oliver was really excited!

A pretty standard Pompeii picture...

The Colesium...

The Colesium...

The Colesium...again...

In the Coliseum with our backs to the Arch of Constantine. You can tell we are both listening to our free Rick Steeves podcast tours on our iPODS - seriously our best trip preparation that we did. (Thanks Reini and Jared for the advice!)

Roman Forum

The Pantheon on our night walking tour of Rome.

It really was a beautiful night!

Trevi Fountain at night.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

Bernini sculpture inside the Vatican Museum. We saw a lot of Bernini work while we were in Rome and I love his sculpture. I am so glad for the recommendation to go the Borghese Gallery (no pics allowed) because it was my favorite museum of the entire trip. (Thanks Michelle!)

Oliver outside the Castel de San Angelo (and yes we did see Angels and Demons the first night we were in Rome and yes Oliver can tell you the discrepancy of the film and the actually places because we checked them all). Yep - more great Bernini work!

The last day and the only two hours of rain our entire trip we went to Villa D'Este Tivoli which is an hour or so bus ride outside of Rome. Beautiful gardens and almost exclusively natural gravity powered fountains.

The steps up and down.

Oliver and the biggest fountain.

Me and the big fountain.

The water was safe to drink...

And there really were fountains everywhere.

Please check back later for pics of Egypt, Greece, Israel and Turkey.

Two Full Days in Egypt

We spent two days in Egypt cramming in all the northern sites. The Cairo Museum and pyramids and Nile and a lot of other stuff. Here are just a few of our hundreds of Egypt pictures.

Me and Oliver at the Step Pyramid of Sakkarah - the oldest remaining pyramid in Egypt.

They are continually working on restoration of the pyramids to try to keep them preserved. Originally they were covered with limestone or marble but as people have come through the centuries and conquered and expanded Egypt they took material from the pyramids to build other things. Here are two of the restoration workers whom were really excited to have me take their pictures.

How come no one told us that the pyramids are right outside the city and not somewhere in the middle of a desert? Look how close they are! If you look at the pyramid on the right you can see that it still has some of its marble coating toward the top that wasn't easy to take and use somewhere else.

But when you go around the back, because of the elevation changes, it still looks like the middle of nowhere - don't be fooled!

We rode camels and I thought it would be pretty pricey - nope - only $4 for both of us - a lot cheaper than a horse at the fair.

Please excuse the bad manners of Oliver's camel.

Just chilling on a camel by the pyramids.

The Sphinx and a pyramid.

Kissing the Sphinx.

We saw a laser light show at the pyramids which told the history of these three pyramids and ancient Egypt. It was really fun but without a tripod we didn't get any great pictures of it. While we were watching the show the prayer cry for the Muslims evening prayer occurred and it was so loud and overwhelming that you couldn't hear anything else but the wail for prayer.

Here we are on our River Nile breakfast cruise. I didn't realize just how big the River Nile really is.

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali (Alabaster Mosque), built in the Turkish style.

These men were our escort all around Egypt. We had a two bus caravan with four truckloads of soldiers watching out for us. Because Egypt has such bad infrastructure and because tourism is so vital to their economy they send escorts with every tour group for ease getting around the country and for safety.

Lastly, some very pretty flowers on the Nile side of our five star hotel - seriously it is the nicest hotel that either Oliver or I have ever stayed in.

We loved Egypt and we will go back one day. We would like to take a cruise on the Nile River from Cairo to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings - but for now we are happy with our introduction to Egypt. We also loved out tour guide and will seek her out when we make it back to Egypt.

Stay tuned for pictures of Israel, Turkey and Greece.

Favorite Stop - Turkey

Turkey was our favorite spot - I guess it is hard to have a very favorite for a trip like this - but everything about our time in Turkey was phenomenal. I really wanted to bring home a hand woven Turkish rug but I just couldn't afford the $4000-$5500 and so we will just have to go back. Our tour guide was great, the weather was great and we just loved it!

This is part of a reconstruction inside the ruins at Ephesus (think Ephesians). Anyway, our tour guide pointed out that this has been done horribly because it is not to scale and oriented incorrectly - but it still looks good.

The city of Ephesus originally was situated west coast of Anatolia and was a port town. They thrived by sea trade and travel. As time elapsed, the city's importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River and was no longer located at the coast. The people of the city (more than 400,000 to 500,00 at one point) were no longer able to thrive and support themselves and they deserted the city.

Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated. This is the Library of Celsus and one of our favorite sites from our entire trip. The facade has been carefully constructed from all original pieces, was built about CE 125 by Gaius Julius Aquila in memory of his father and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls.

Here is Oliver outside the library that is designed with an exaggerated entrance — so as to enhance its perceived size, speculate many historians — the building faces east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light.

Just amazing!

The Theater - At an estimated 44,000 seating capacity, it is believed to be the largest outdoor theater in the ancient world. It may be the location where Paul preached. We also saw the Basilica of St. John which was built in the 6th century CE, under emperor Justinian I over the supposed site of the apostle's tomb. We know better but we enjoyed the grandeur anyway.

We visited The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and we loved the Ephesus museum where almost none of the ancient works are encased in protective glass. Maybe not the best for long term preservation - but you could sure get close.

I can't say a whole lot more about our one day love affair with Ephesus - we are recommending that everyone go and experience that amazing part of the world!

Israel - Not What Heidi Expected

Israel was my most disappointing stop on the entire trip. (Oliver and I don't exactly agree about this view but as I see it - I'm the one updating the blog so you can read what I thought...) I think my disappointment stemmed from the experience in Israel being jammed packed into two days and running like crazy to see everything! The Pope had been in Jerusalem the day before us and then he traveled to Nazareth and some surrounding areas that we again visited the day after him. I had envisioned my time in Israel to have been a moving and spiritual experience and it wasn't. But, all that aside, our tour guide was a native Israeli that grew up as a Jew before Israel was even a country. He fought in several wars and helped win their independence. It was definitely a historically interesting and compelling tour - just lacked a spirituality that I anticipated. It may be different if you are able to spend more time there or if you are with a group that has a different focus, but for me, well I guess I'll just have to try again.

Here I am standing in the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized. There were several baptisms occurring in the River that day and you can choose to be baptized by immersion in the River Jordan and get another baptismal certificate. I am happy with my current baptism and didn't feel that need but it was amazing to see all the people who were getting in the River and making a comittment to God in a way that meant something for them.

Oliver is standing outside the Kibbutz where we ate lunch. All my SMA friends are familiar with this term, but for those who aren't, a kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. It is a form of communal living where you donated your time and talents to the functioning and survival of your community and all are equal regardless of the type of service they provide. Less than five percent of Israelis live on kibbutzim and I view it as very similar to the Law of Consecration.

The next two pictures are trees located on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. Tradition locates Gethsemane in this area but the exact spot remains unknown. According to the New Testament it was a place that Jesus and his disciples customarily visited, which allowed Judas to find him on the night of his arrest. It is also the place where the beginnings of the Atonement occurred. Currently located next to these gardens is the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony.

These olive trees do not date back to the time of Jesus - in fact they are unable to locate any in this region that date back that far - but the significance of the Savior's sacrifice isn't diminished by this in the slightest.

Here is a rock carving portraying that sacrifice and love that the Savior has for us.

Here Oliver and I stand outside the Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall. We both went and visited the wall on our appropriate female and male sides. The Western Wall commonly refers to an 187 feet (57 m) exposed section of ancient wall situated on the western flank of the Temple Mount. This section faces a large plaza and is set aside for prayer. It was a neat place to visit.

Overall, Israel was just okay for me - but it was interesting to see so many sites. I think our favorite part of our Israel experience was driving from Jerusalem to northern Israel where the River Jordan and the Mount of Beatitude are located. You really could sense and feel the "going up" to Jerusalem and we witnessed the great changes in elevation.

Stay tuned for pictures of Greece.

Greece - The Best Host & Hostess

We were fortunate to stop at Santorini and Patmos while we were on our cruise and then we stayed with some friends of ours that live in Athens for 5 days. One of my mission companions was friends with my sister before we ever served in the same mission. We have known each other for a long time and are great friends! Well, her parents live in Greece and her dad is the attaché for the Air Force in Greece. So they were kind enough to put us up, feed us, drive us around and love us! It was so great! So the first few pics our from some of our island stops and then the rest are from our time in Athens and surrounding areas.

Here I am riding on the tender to spend the day in Santorini. Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island, and leading to the creation of the current geological caldera. It is located in the southern Aegean Sea and has all the sites that you see in your head when you picture Greek Isles.

See what I mean - typical Greek Isle picture.

I loved driving around the island and seeing all the windmills.

It turned out to be a beautiful day with a little bit of haze in the morning that burned off to stunning views of the island and the caldera. I want to go back and rent a scooter or 4-wheeler to drive all around the island (it isn't that big).

The next day we went to Patmos and there is NOTHING there worth seeing. It is where John was exiled to and where he wrote the book of Revelations - it is no wonder that he was exiled there we feel that it was a wasted stop. But here we are anyway.

Then, our second evening in Athens, Charity's parents took us to Cape Sounion which is noted as the site of ruins of an ancient Greek temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea in classical mythology. It is one of the best preserved temples in Greece. We watched the sunset and then went out for dinner. Amazing!

According to legend, Cape Sounion is the spot where Aegeus, king of Athens, leapt to his death off the cliff, thus giving his name to the Aegean Sea.


Yep, still pretty. I think that we took more than 100 pictures in less than an hour because you just kept trying to get a great sunset picture that showed the colors of the sky but didn't wash out the detail in the temple and make it only look like a silhouette. No luck - always one or the other.

Two days later we went and drove to see Corinth. In the morning we hiked around Acrocorinth and we even found a turtle. It was a great and hot hike with beautiful views. We also saw the remains of a temple to Aphrodite which Paul criticized.

This is the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth which is a replica of the original.

These are my favorite bugs that we found while walking around Mycenae. I took several pictures of them and loved their coloring. While we hiked around Charity's dad told us great stories and history of the area - it was way better than any tour guide.

This is the Corinth Canal which is a canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland and therefore effectively making the former an island. The canal is 6.3 kilometres in length and was built between 1881 and 1893.

One day while we were in Athens we went on a day cruise to three different islands, Hydra (where we swam in the Mediterranean Sea), Poros (where we at gelato and enjoyed the views) and Aigina where we saw the Temple of Afaia which is another of the best preserved temples in Greece.

Pretty amazing!

On our Athens in the city day we went to Syntagma Square where they have the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Greece and the parliament building. I never knew that lots of countries have a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but we saw the one in Rome too. Did you know when they built the parliament it originally had more than 100 rooms and only 1 BATHROOM - I would call that bad planning!

We also saw the standard ancient Greek ruins that you think of when you picture Athens. The Parthenon is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their protector. It has been under reconstruction for far longer than it originally took to construct.

The Temple of Hephaestus is the best preserved ancient Greek temple. It is a Doric order peripteral temple, located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens. This is a view of the temple from the Acropolis.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympieion, is a colossal ruined temple in the centre of the Greek capital Athens that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Oliver accidentally left our tickets at home and so several things that we wanted to see we didn't want to pay to access a second time. We decided to pay anyway because you aren't in Greece all that often. As we walked up to the entrance gate someone gave us their tickets that they didn't need anymore and we got to just walk in and enjoy. What a blessing!

We loved Greece and we loved Greek yogurt (YUM)! Thanks so much to the Johansen's for making us feel so welcome and visiting sites they have taken many people to before just so that we could experience them for the first time. Our favorite artwork from our trip is from a gentleman who lives on Hydra - you will have to come to our home to see our impressive pieces of art!