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11 Sep 2008

Crete, Greece

Crete is very beautiful. Unfortunately we just had a day to spend there. We hired a taxi who drove us around the island and educated us on life there.

Tip - A hired taxi is often a great way to learn from a local, and far more enjoyable than a formal tour.

Historically, Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, the oldest Greek and European civilization. While it keeps its own local cultural traits, like music and dialect, Cretans openly identify themselves as Greeks.

Today, Crete's tourism infrastructure caters to all tastes, including a very wide range of accommodations. With a mild climate, the island straddles two climatic zones (the Mediterranean and the North African), falling mainly within the former. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea, and winters are fairly mild.

Given that Crete is known for tourism and great beaches, it made sense for us to find a great beach and just hang-out, taking in all the beauty.

 









09 Sep 2008

Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria is a beautiful city inhabited by beautiful people. We hired a taxi with an (almost) English speaking driver and had him drive us all over town. What a delightful day.

 

Unlike Syria (where we had just visited), it was clean, vibrant, and full of life. Named after Alexander the Great, this city has a population of 6,000,000 and is an interesting mixture of old and new. Their library is world famous beautiful modern architecture.  The port facilities are lovely. Egypt’s last king, Farouk, lived at Montazah Palace here until 1952.

  

Culturally it is, of course, very Muslim, and at noon daily, virtually everything stops for prayer. Although I am not thrilled with my picture, it was telling to see the modern girls walking hand in hand with their boyfriend in modern garb, but also with proper, yet modern, head covering.  There are no automatic stop lights. The lights are manned individually.

   









08 Sep 2008

Syria

One of reasons I like cruises, is that I find myself in places that I would not normally visit. Generally, this works out just fine, with the daily experience trending from pleasant to fabulous. Once in a while though, a port is an absolute zero, and I wonder why the ship would include it on their schedule at all.

A stop in Syria offered one of these xperiences. It is a pit with a capital “P” and scary as well. Nothing says totalitarian government like pictures of President Assad on virtually every vehicle, sign-post and building.

Allyn and I walked all over the city, and did not see any women. I have been to many Muslim countries and even the most conservative have many women around (of course appropriately attired as per their custom).

Every place was filthy. In the photo below, Allyn is standing in front of a typically ugly and debris infested establishment.

We did not feel safe again until we reboarded the ship.









07 Sep 2008

Venice's Jewish Ghetto

The original ghetto was is Venice and is a must see sight for people of all heritages.

We have come to know the word ghetto as urban areas were impoverished minorities tend to live. For those who have knowledge of WWII, from 1939 – 1944 Jews in Nazi occupied Europe were held in ghettos prior to being deported to concentration and death camps.

The original ghetto was is Venice. When Jews were being kicked out of cities all over Europe they were “tolerated” and allowed to live in Venice, but forced to live in the Ghetto from 1516 until 1797.   

It worked because it was an island that was in a non desirable part of town where the people could be locked in every evening.

The word “ghetto” really comes from the Italian word for foundry. The Jewish Ghetto as on the island that previously was the home of the Venetian smelting works.

Jews were not allowed to be employed in many professions besides tailoring, money-lending, some banking, insurance and medicine.

Although many prospered economically, often they were required to wear distinctive yellow clothing and symbols.

Jews were granted full civic status in 1818.

Tip - Do not miss the 40 minute walking tour that starts frequently from the Jewish Community Museum.

 









05 Sep 2008

Venice - Murano Island

Venice is world famous for its gorgeous Murano glass. Not surprisingly Murano glass is made on Murano Island.

It is another must-see activity while in Venice. You will want to see the glass being made as well as view thousands of pieces and maybe even buy one or two.

Tip – Do not get trapped into a “free” trip from a hustler on the street. Any JETSETWAY traveller will be able to arrange a private free water taxi from your hotel concierge.

Allegedly Venice glassmaking was moved here in 1291 for fire safety reasons. Many think the real reason was to keep the artisans confined. Their artistry was a secret well kept for 500 years. They were treated very well but were never allowed to stray.