The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes Greece has known many civilizations throughout its long history. Inhabited since the end of the Neolithic period (4000 BC), the city of Rhodes prospered for centuries during its Golden Age. In 164 BC Rhodes lost its independence and became a province of the Roman Empire during which time it developed into a renowned center of learning for arts and science.
During the Byzantine period that followed, Rhodes became an important military base and in 1309 BC it was sold to the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The order was originally founded to provide care for pilgrims to the Holy Land but ultimately evolved into a military unit. During the reign of the Knights of the Order of St John, the fortifications were expanded and reinforced.
When the Arabs attacked in the 7th century, they occupied the island for several decades. Then, in 1522 it was the Ottoman Turks who captured the city and during their rule Rhodes lost much of its international character. But the Italians took over in 1912 and set about radically transforming the city into much of what you see today. They completed extensive infrastructure works like roads and electricity, rebuilt the Grand Master’s Palace, preserved the remains of the Knights’ period and removed much of the Ottoman additions.Read More
For centuries the natural beauty of Crete was at the mercy of pirate fleets and the strategic conquests of the strongest Mediterranean powers. From the Greeks to the Romans, Venetians and Turks, each conquering culture left its mark on this eternal crossroads between East and West.
But it was some of the island’s earliest inhabitants who created the ancient sites and palaces Crete is best known for today. The early Minoan culture began to emerge on Crete around 2500 B.C., transitioning to Middle Minoan by 2000 B.C. It was during the Middle Minoan phase when many of the island’s archaeological treasures were constructed. By 1200 B.C. the Minoan culture had mostly gone under and the race for control of the island’s resources and strategic Mediterranean position was on.
The confluence of cultures that define Crete’s history lend it a national identity that is entirely unique from the rest of Greece. Even today when the locals refer to their traditional dishes, or local products like olive oil or honey it’s always as “Cretan,” never Greek.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1913 that Crete formally joined with Greece.Read More
After dedicating our first full day in Sardinia to a day trip to Corsica, we weren’t exactly sure what to do with our other full day. We had wheels (about the only positive statement I can make about the ridiculous Smart Car, it did have wheels) so we had the freedom to go wherever we liked with our second day. But as I mentioned before, Sardinia is a huge island and the driving distances are fairly long, especially with mountain roads, so we needed to narrow down our day to a specific region.
Our helpful front desk clerk at the Hilton Olbia and the car rental guy had both highly recommended the ferry over to Maddalena Island and after a little research we decided that would be a great way to spend our day.Read More
So now we have finally arrived at the “Med” portion of the “Moscow to the Med” summer trip and I couldn’t be happier! For the next two weeks it’s all about the islands of Italy, France and (mostly) Greece. We had three nights and two full days in Sardinia which is not even close to enough time to see this very large island.
So what do you do when you’re already short on time to see a place? Add in a full day trip to a completely different place, of course! (On paper, this logic made perfect sense.) We decided to squeeze in a day trip to the neighboring island of Corsica because it seemed too close to pass up. And in our defense, on the map it is right there, just begging for a side trip.
Who are we to argue?Read More
The original plan for this trip called for an overnight stay in the city of Vilnius Lithuania. But with the flight we needed to get to Sardinia only offered a few days a week, including Vilnius on the itinerary meant losing a day in Russia or eliminating Riga from the itinerary altogether and we didn’t want to do either. But Shannon and I both wanted to at least get a glimpse of Vilnius, even if it would just be for a few hours. And the flight to Italy was much cheaper from Vilnius than Riga so we decided it was a sign that we were meant to make a stop in Lithuania on this trip after all.
The heavy rains from the night before continued for the entire 3 ½ hour bus ride from Riga to Vilnius and we were convinced we’d be spending our 3 hours in the city walking around in a downpour. But miraculously, after a very pleasant bus ride, the rain stopped and the clouds parted just as the bus pulled into the central station. Hooray!Read More
The flight to Riga Latvia from St. Petersburg was a painless 55 minutes on regional low-cost carrier, Air Baltic. After a quick taxi ride into the city, we arrived at the Opera Hotel just on the edge of Old Town. It was a lovely little hotel and the location was perfect, central to everything we wanted to see in our limited time in the city.
The Latvian capital has been on my travel wish list since falling in love with nearby Tallinn, Estonia years ago. Rumor had it Riga was even better. Nicknamed the “City of Inspiration by the Baltic Sea” Riga’s colorful Old Town occupies a well-deserved spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With soaring gothic spires and architectural styles from Renaissance to Art Deco to Baroque, the historic center is a spirited blend of classical European history…without the typical hefty European price tag. In fact, Riga is widely considered one of the top value destinations on the continent.Read More