Lifestyle

Mediterranean journey continues: Smooth sailing

As the first portion of our journey comes to a close, I am happy to report that our errant bag misplaced by Delta Airlines finally arrived after taking a three-day side trip to Vienna, Austria.

I have now been made whole and can dress appropriately.

Venice, Verona and Vicenza have produced some great memories and enjoyable experiences. If I had to summarize the best of each, it would be as follows:

• Verona: An elegant city with a rich and colorful history. The ancient arena and walled city highlighted by the Hapsburg fortress is very impressive and makes this city a great destination.

• Vicenza: The 15th century Teatro Olympico is fascinating with its ornate sculpture, design and construction. The Teatro was the opening stage for Oedipus Rex to 3,000 Romans in 1580. It is so overwhelming in its construction and beauty. I would strongly suggest this as a side trip on your visit to Venice.

• Venice: Everything about Venice is so unique that it is a place you have to visit to appreciate. After boarding the Celebrity Millennium and sailing out through the Bella Giudecca Canal to where it joins the Grand Canal and into the Bacino di San Marco, the views of the city are outstanding — and it is probably one of the most unique sail-aways you will ever experience. This view of Venice and all its surrounding islands can only be seen from the decks of a cruise ship or from the air. It is picturesque and truly one of the world's great cities.

As we sail southeast across the Adriatic Sea, we find our accommodations on the Millennium quite comfortable and well situated. We are in a stateroom with a private veranda, which always adds a lot to the cruise experience and something we always recommend to others.

The next morning we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. As we sail into the harbor, you are struck by the varied landscape that includes beaches, bays and soaring cliffs in this mountainous region. Known as the “Queen of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik is renowned as the most flawlessly preserved medieval city in Croatia, unmatched anywhere in its medieval and Renaissance architecture.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its magnificent stone walls, monasteries and palaces make it a living monument to its days as an affluent merchant state and give you the experience of the medieval world of Stari Grad. A pair of massive stone walls 6,364 feet in length built between the 8th and 16th centuries encircles Dubrovnik.

In 1667, a great earthquake nearly destroyed the city and killed many of its inhabitants. The city rebounded and prospered during the Napoleonic Wars as a major trading center. Dubrovnik boasted one of the world’s premier merchant navies with over 200 ships in its fleet. The walled city has a unique character with its flat main street with steep stairways going up to the residential areas. It is very picturesque. Dubrovnik is famous for inventing the men’s necktie and is also the origin of Dalmatian dogs, bred and raised by the ancient Dali mates.

We took a Panoramic Dubrovnik and City Tour, which I would highly recommend. The tour takes you high up onto the mountainside where you get a stunning view of the city and its surroundings as well as the bay. It is breathtaking. The tour was very informative and helped us learn a lot about the history and culture of the city as well as the sad side of the struggle against Serbian aggression where severe damage was inflicted on the city during 1991 and 1992.

Dubrovnik rates a solid number 1 as a place to visit in my opinion. Our next stop takes us into the Aegean Sea to Santorini Greece.

Not only is Santorini (also called Thera) one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it is also geologically and archaeologically one of the most dramatic. The island is shaped like an enormous pair of jaws encircling a lake filled with pure blue water. The lake is the core of an ancient volcano which, according to legend, destroyed the lost continent of Atlantis when it erupted over 3,600 years ago. The volcano is still active and you have outstanding views of the caldera from the city.

Santorini’s two towns, Fira and Oia (Ia) are precariously perched on the cliff tops at the highest part of the island. The 600 plus steps up to Fira can be physically challenging but if you prefer you can go up and down on donkey back or cable car. Santorini was first settled around 3000 B.C. and became the site of important civilization around 2000 B.C. That civilization disappeared after a massive eruption of the volcano and around 1000 B.C. the Phoenicians resettled it as a Dorian colony. Santorini is well known for its spectacular sunsets and the black sand on its beaches. The narrow and steep cobblestone streets are lined with merchants specializing in gold jewelry, artwork incredibly beautiful orthodox cathedrals.

While each of the ports I have described to you are fascinating and beautiful, I should caution you they are not well suited for those with mobility impairments. The cobblestone streets, steep stairs, bridges and other obstacles could be quite challenging.

Next stop coming up is Athens. I’ll continue our adventure next week.

Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations in Federal Way and can be reached at jvaughn@worldvoyagervacations.com.

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