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    Fab Europe Travel

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    My Fab Fifties Island Girl Life

    Location: South Aegean Greece

    What a wonderful decision it was for us to spend three weeks on the tiny island of Antiparos in the south Aegean.  We have truly loved our time here.

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Antiparos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Delos

    Using Antiparos as our home base for island hopping wasn’t really what we set out to do, but it worked out well for us to take short day trips to some of the other islands around the area. However, something to note – because of the unusual weather pattern (around the world) the ferry from Antiparos to Paros was shut down for two days due to wind while we were here.  Something to think about if you plan to stay only a short time.  We had lots of time so it did not affect our plans.

    Santorini

    You can hop to Santorini from here, but the off-season ferry schedule makes that tough.  During the summer more boats run.  But we had already spent three days there so no need to go back.  But if you visit and want to do a day trip to Santorini check out both the ferry schedule as well as the privately operated tour boats.  The private boats run more frequently. When we took the ferry from Santorini to Paros it costs us 58 Euro for both of us (one way) and took three hours, stopping at Ios along the way. We used Minoan ferry line for this trip.

    Mykonos and Delos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Delos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Mykonos

    We used a private tour boat to visit Delos and Mykonos together on one day.  We took the ferry from Antiparos to Paros and we got on a van that transported us to Naousa (the van transfer was included in the tour price).  Here we hopped on a boat that could carry about 200 people.  It wasn’t full, but perhaps 100 people.  It was an hour ride to Delos where we spent three hours touring this amazing island and its significant ancient ruins.  Guided tours were available  but we did the tour on our own and really enjoyed it.

    Back on the boat we motored 15 minutes to Mykonos.  We had three hours to wander here.  We had a fantastic lunch at Salparo, sitting on the rocks overlooking the harbor.  We then enjoyed sauntering around the historic blue and white village, visited historic sites and looked at shops.  Three hours was just enough, since we had been to Mykonos once before eleven years ago.

    That trip to Delos and Mykonos was an all-day adventure and costs us 50 euro each. We booked this through Polo Tours in Paros.

    Paros

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naousa,Paros

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naousa, Paros

    We visited the island of Paros twice. The first visit we had a car and we headed to Naousa in the north part of the island.  The weather wasn’t great but we still enjoyed exploring the tiny alleys and hidden shops and homes in the old chora (village).  Naousa also has a charming and picturesque port.  We  drove up into the mountains to visit the teeny village of Lefkes.  This ancient town, far from the water, is unusual in how green it is, unlike most of the brown island landscape, and is home to a small agricultural population.  Lefkes is one of the few remaining chora that retains its authentic roots.

    The next time we visited Paros we spent several hours discovering Paroikia, the port town where the large ferries come and go.  The port area is bustling and noisy, but hidden back behind it is an incredible old chora that many people miss.  It once again had some fascinating buildings, tunnels and passageways, a spectacular old castle and temple of Athena, many lovely shops and of course, cats.

    Naxos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naxos

    We traveled on the lovely Blue Star Ferries to the island of Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades Islands, about a 45 minute ferry ride from Pariokia.  We paid 42 Euro total for both of us round-trip. It was a very windy day and I  worried about the boat ride, but the Blue Star line runs large, almost cruise-ship style boats, and I did fine with my motion sickness issue.

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Pariokia, Paros

    It was also very windy in Naxos, and this port town is very exposed, so we spent a lot of time wandering the old chora up to the ancient castle and trying to stay out of the wind.  It’s another beautiful ancient town.  We enjoyed having a drink at the rooftop of 1739, which was out of the wind and offered a spectacular panoramic view.  We had a nice lunch of simple souvlaki at Yasouvlaki.  We then braved the crashing waves to cross the pedestrian manmade causeway to walk out to the famous ancient portara (door), site of an unfinished temple from 530BC.  We got wet.  Like I said, it was very windy. But it was worth it.  The Naxos Portara was worth it.

    Antiparos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naxos

    At the end of the day in Naxos I told my husband that I have really enjoyed visiting all five of the islands, but in the end, I am so glad we stayed three weeks on Antiparos.  It has everything we want; quiet and peaceful, small village, beautiful secluded beaches, a handful of shops and is still close enough to visit the surrounding islands.

    I do hope to return here someday.

    Where to next?

    But now its time to leave.  Next stop – ten-day tour of Egypt and Jordan.  A definite bucket list destination for me ever since I was a child.  We hope you will continue to follow along on our Fab Fifties Adventures.

    Farewell Greece and Antiparos.   I love you.

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    Fab Europe Travel  --  Fab Food

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    It’s Not Greek to Me

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Skid at Skala Restaurant in Santorini

    I’ve been to Greece before, and one of the things I was most looking forward to about returning here was the cuisine and enjoying my favorite greek foods and recipes.  Fresh, local and fabulous, it’s easy to see how healthy the Mediterranean diet is.  Copious amounts of olive oil, ocean to plate seafood, salty mouth-watering feta, and produce from local growers including gorgeous red and yellow tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, purple eggplant, greens, beets, onions, potatoes. Lemons, limes, pomegranate and other seasonal fruit figure prominently.

    What’s not to like?

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Dolmades so delicious and easy to make

    My favorite greek foods and recipes were enjoyed in restaurants on Antiparos, Mykonos, Paros and Santorini. I have enjoyed squid several times, it’s best I think when simply grilled with lemon and olive oil.  I’ve also had octopus with orzo (tasted very much like a risotto) and lamb souvlaki.  We’ve tried dolmades (I love these lovely little lemony pockets of deliciousness and have made these at home several times), anchovies, sardines and fried cheese called saganaki. We also enjoyed moussaka, pastitsio, rabbit stew and many choices of salads.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Making Humus

    I usually like to take a cooking class in every country I visit.  But here on tiny Antiparos there is no such thing.  So instead I have set out to cook several Greek recipes I’ve found on  (where else) Pinterest.  Everything from sandwiches to salads to spanakopita has made its way out of our Airbnb kitchen these past three weeks.  So here are my successes (and one fail) from my self-taught Mediterranean Highlights Menu from Antiparos.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes;

    Salads

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Salad

    In most restaurants you can find many choices of salads.  Most popular are Eggplant Salad, Tomato Salad and of course, Greek Salad.

    Greek Salad is fairly simple and usually includes the following ingredients; feta, olives, tomato, red onion, capers and cucumber.  Sometimes it will have lettuce, but the Greek way is without lettuce.  The dressing is olive oil (of course), lemon, salt and pepper.

    Greek Salad Recipe

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Chickpea Salad and Eggplant Chips

    Chickpea Salad is also very popular.  Chickpeas grow in abundance in the mediterranean region. Chickpeas find their way into many recipes, not the least of all being hummus.  This salad I made included lots of delicious fresh veg as well as the chickpeas.  I had left over chicken from our Greek Chicken (see below) so I shredded that and added it to the salad.  It was delicious served with the fried eggplant chips.

    Chickpea Salad recipe

    Mezes

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Bujurdi

    In Greek small bites or appetizers are known as mezes.  You will often find mezes on menus to be served with a glass of wine.  You can also enjoy mezes before your meal.  We ordered several mezes when we ate out and especially liked saganaki (a fried cheese), octopus in vinegar, and bujurdi an incredible cheesy dip.  So I decided to tackle bujurdi.  It’s amazing.  Try it.

    Bujurdi Recipe

    Light Meals

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    My homemade spanakopita

    Spanokopita has always been one of my favorite Greek dishes.  And it is so easy.  Don’t fear the filo! It is very easy to work with.  Spanakopita has simple ingredients; filo (purchase it ready-made fresh or frozen), spinach, onions, feta and dill.  Bake and enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

    Spanakopita Recipe

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Sandwich

    For lunch one day we ate the most delicious, and very filling, Greek Sandwich.  This sandwich could easily be dinner, with a side salad or dolmades which is how I served it.  It’s a very tall sandwich, so be sure to get nice fresh bread that can hold up to the numerous ingredients.  I will definitely make this recipe again.

    Greek Sandwich

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Olives at every meal

    At most of our lunches we ate very simple mezes of canned sardines (so many choices available in the store) or fresh anchovies in oil and lemon along with pita, hummus, feta, olives, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber and fruit. A very simple and easy meal and totally satisfying.  Here in Antiparos we have really fallen in love with lemon hummus.  Bright and nutty and delicious.

    Delicious Dinners

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Roast Chicken

    Most any country you travel to you can find a version of roast chicken, and since we were blessed with an oven in this Airbnb I was well prepared to try this recipe.  We purchased a beautiful plump and organic locally grown chicken and with some simple herbs and lemon, created a fantastic dish. We had left overs for two additional meals. I served the chicken with a warm potato salad with feta.

    Roast Chicken

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Moussaka

    I’ve always been one to experiment boldly in the kitchen, and I tackled a full Greek meal for guests when I was just 23 years old and we were first married. This was my first attempt at moussaka.  It was a smashing success and I have made it many times over the years (35 years since!). So cooking it here in Greece seemed appropriate, even though we had enjoyed it in a restaurant. This recipe gave us lots of left overs.

    Moussaka

    Dessert

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Baklava

    I didn’t make any desserts but I must mention how much the Greeks like their sweets.  Fortunately (or unfortunately I’m not sure) the little village here in Antiparos has an amazing bakery…which we visited several times.  Of course you know baklava, but there are many other cookies, pastries, custards, pies and amazing bread available fresh every day.  We made a point to partake – of course all in the name of research!

    The Big Fail

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Seabream fail

    I love seafood, but I admit, it can be difficult to cook.  I wanted to grill a whole fish on our BBQ, but the wind has been so high we couldn’t use the grill.  We bought a whole fish, frozen, because the fishmonger has closed for the season.  I think that was our biggest mistake.  It just didn’t smell or taste fresh.  Despite the deliciously fresh herbs (dill and parsley) and lemon and garlic we stuffed the fish with – we hated it.  I didn’t even eat mine. I think the recipe isn’t at fault here – or the cook for that matter.  The fish wasn’t fresh and so it was a fail.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Saganaki fried cheese

    We haven’t eaten out much during our time in Antiparos, and now many of the local restaurants have closed for the season.  But we enjoy creating in the kitchen, and we have learned a lot about the local cuisine in doing so.

    So there you have it! My favorite Greek foods and recipes. Fabulous Greece.  Fabulous Food.  Fabulous Life. Opa!

    Check out some of our other blogs about Fabulous Food Here!

     

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    Fab Europe Travel

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos Greece

    The Tiny Island of the Cyclades

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos – The Tiny Island of the Cyclades

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos

    Fishing boats in the harbor

    Greece (official name Hellenic Republic) is a diverse country geographically.  It consists of the mainland which  borders Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as a vast number of islands (between 1200 and 6000 depending on the definition you are using for island).  Only 227 of those islands have inhabitants.  Some of the inhabited islands, like Antiparos (pronounced Anti- Pear-osh) are quite small, but still have a village that thrives.  Today Antiparos, like most of Greece, thrives from tourists.  I wish I could have visited here two decades ago, when the village had no shops with trinkets or cafes for coffee.  Just locals, fishermen and families.

    Greek Islands

    The islands of Greece are categorized in regional clusters; Argo-Saronic near Athens, the Cyclades in the South Aegean, the North Aegean cluster off the coast of Turkey, the Dodecanese between Crete and Turkey, the Sporades off the coast of the large island of Euboea and the Ionian Islands west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea.  Antiparos is in the Cyclades.  Other prominent islands in the Cyclades include Santorini and Mykonos.  

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos

    Streets of Antiparos

    But, if you are looking to find a place in Greece where fewer tourists go, exploring Antiparos is a great option.  It is so diametrically opposed to somewhere like Santorini, it doesn’t even seem like the same country. (Want to learn about other Greek Islands that aren’t overrun with tourists? Read this.)

    Arriving in Antiparos

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    The ancient castle

    We arrived by ferry to Paros from Santorini.  At the port in Paros the rental car agency we had booked in advance met us with a car and driver.  He drove us to another part of Paros where we walked on to the smaller ferry that crosses throughout the day between the larger island of Paros (196 square kilometers) and the tiny island of Antiparos (35 square kilometers).  This half mile crossing takes ten minutes and costs 1.60 Euro for walk on and 6 Euro to take a car.  We made the crossing and found on the other side an agent from the rental car agency waiting with our little car.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    The caves

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Antiparos Time

    This is also where we met our wonderful Airbnb host Xanthippy.  Xanthippy lives in Athens, and owns a beautiful home on Antiparos that she rents as an Airbnb.  She is not always able to come from Athens and meet her guests (a four and half hour ferry ride), but she was able to on the day we arrived.  Luckily for us, because we learned on arrival that there are no addresses on either Paros or Antiparos.  Crazy.  Apparently this is true on many of the small Greek islands.  So Xanthippy led us to the grocery store for supplies, before leading us to our spacious Airbnb with a spectacular view.  We found our accommodations even better than the photos. It’s a beautiful villa.

    Xanthippy gave us some important instructions; don’t drink the water, don’t flush anything that doesn’t come out of your body, take the trash and recycling to the conveniently placed bins around the island, don’t use the grill if its windy.  She also showed us how to use the little combination stove and oven, a style of appliance we have not encountered until arriving in Greece. And it works great.

    Antiparos Time

    We have now been in Antiparos for eleven days.  We have enjoyed the laid back island life and being on “Antiparos time”.  Although we have had sun everyday, some days quit hot, we have also experienced unusually high winds.  In fact so high we had to cancel our planned boat trip to the deserted island of Despotiko (an archeology site of immense historical significance, second only to Delos in the Greek islands, just across the bay from our Airbnb) and a day on the island of Paros to visit the colorful city of Naousa.  We plan to reschedule both of those when the wind dies down and continue exploring hidden Antiparos.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Agios Georgios Beach

    The wind has not stopped us from visiting several of the islands local beaches (there are at least a dozen public beaches on this small island that boasts 57 km of coastline), hiking to the local stalactite cave, visiting the tiny village (also called Antiparos but usually referred to as the village; it’s the only one on the island) and the ancient Kastro (castle) from the 15th century and just walking, walking, walking as we train for the upcoming Camino de Santiago.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Sunset at Capt Pipinos

    Because we are trying to stay on budget, we have only eaten dinner out one time.  We ate a wonderful seafood meal at Captain Pipinos, a seaside seafood joint within walking distance of our house.  It was delicious, and watching the sunset from there was really special.  However, if we want to dine out anymore, we better do it soon.  Many of the islands restaurants and shops close down at the end of September, what is considered the “end of the season”.

    We didn’t realize when deciding to come here that Antiparos, unlike the larger more well-known islands, has a tourist season.  Basically from May – September.  The rest of the year there just aren’t enough visitors to make it viable for most businesses to remain open. When we picked up our rental car the agent told us when we return the car October 8th they will close down for the season.  We are their final customer. Fingers crossed the grocery store will stay open.  We don’t mind cooking.

    In fact, since I haven’t been able to find a cooking class on this small island, I’ve been teaching myself and trying out several Greek dishes.  Watch for a blog coming on this soon.

    Antiparos day eleven. Heaven on earth. Fabulous. υπέροχο 

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    Fab Europe Travel

    I Will Go Where the Wind Blows Me

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.    -Dolly Parton

    I Will Go Where the Wind Blows Me. That is the motto for the day.  We will go where the wind blows.  But today, that means going nowhere.

    High wind is common in Antiparos – but not common this time of year.  Since arriving here ten days ago we have had about five windy days.  And right now we are in the midst of a very unusual weather pattern (according to the locals) that has shut down the ferries off the island.

    Today’s forecast is for winds of 38mph with gusts up to 60pmh.  To be truthful, I don’t really want to go off the island enough to get on a boat today…yikes.  Luckily, we have lots of time left and we can rearrange our schedule.  I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t have that luxury.  If you have a flight to catch today, well, its not going to happen.

    “Unusual weather” is a topic that comes up often, in every signal country we have visited.  This can no longer be attributed to coincidence.  The weather of the world has left the “normal” pattern behind.  No matter where you are – a tiny island in Greece or in the heartland of the USA – there is no normal weather anymore.  

     

    I am not a scientist or a meteorologist.  But I am a world traveler with what I don’t think is unfair to say, a “vast” experience of encountering unusual weather around the world.  Cyclone in New Zealand, heat wave in Australia, flooding in Thailand, cold in Vietnam, fires in Croatia and Portugal, early trade winds in Seychelles,  chilly in India, wet in Hawaii. And extreme wind in Greece.

    We go with the flow, because, well, what else can we do?  But it’s interesting, and it should be of interest to you too.  The world weather is in turmoil (along with a lot of other things).  It’s clear to me.  I don’t know if we can fix it, or even if we should.  All I know is we better get used to it.  I personally think the worst is yet to come.

    Meanwhile, here we are.  Writing this blog in text editor because the wind has taken the wifi out.  Hoping I can post at some point later today.  Or not?  We are lucky we have the luxury of time on our side, to wait it out, and just enjoy the ride.  Although a bit bumpy ride.  Sails up and going with the wind.

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    A windy day in Antiparos Greece

     

    Fab Europe Travel

    Santorini Short and Sweet

    Location: Santorini Greece

    The Grand Adventure follows a pretty strict budget, and unfortunately places like Santorini definitely don’t fit that budget.  But here we are anyway.  We made the choice to blow the budget for three short and sweet days on the stunning island of Santorini.

    Our budget is usually $200 a day all-inclusive.  Our Airbnb’s usually average around $75 a night.

    Santorini short and sweet

    Our airbnb is in the middle of this photo

    Here in Santorini, our teeny tiny cave house is $250.  But it comes with the most spectacular view.  At about 250 square feet, it is likely the smallest we have ever had.  But add the outdoor space and the expansive crater view, well, suddenly it seems like an emperor’s palace.  Worth every penny.

    The villas here are all new, this used to be a desolate trail.

    Santorini has changed significantly since we were here eleven years ago.  Our main goal here was to walk the Oia to Fira trail – to experience again as we did before.  That however wasn’t possible.  Oh you can still walk it, but it is not the same trail.

    When we walked it eleven years ago in 2007 it was

    Santorini short and sweet

    Top 2007. Bottom 2018 – older, wiser and way more fabulous!

    remote and desolate along the crater rim.  Miles of nothing but brown volcanic pumice trail hugging the edge of the spectacular trail. Fast forward to the walk we did yesterday (round trip 14 miles) we were shocked to find only a short part of the trail still remote.  All of those miles of nothingness now covered with high-end luxury villas and hotels.

    Santorini short and sweet

    Sunset from our airbnb

    When we walked it eleven years ago we saw two other people walking.  Yesterday we decided to count how many people we passed on the trail.  We stopped counting at 200.

    Please don’t misunderstand me – it is still stunningly gorgeous and unlike anywhere I have been in the world.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to walk this trail before it became developed.  A unique experience few people have had.  My Fab Fifties Life is fabulous because of that

    Santorini short and sweet

    Today on the trail high above Oia.

    experience.

    The village of Fira, seemed about the same to me, although it now extends a mile or more from the borders of eleven years ago – completely with luxury villas.  The village of Oia seemed significantly different.  Before it was a sleepy town.  Now your can find Versace and Michael Kors.  A decade ago, its tiny cobble stone narrow streets were authentic.  Now we find the wide paved paths lined with high-end jewelry stores and boutiques.

    But most astonishing to me is this – when I visited in 2007, in both Oia and Fira you could see the tiny Greek homes of the average Santorini people mixed in among the shops and along the caldera.  None of that in here any longer.  I don’t know where they live now – somewhere out in other parts of the island.  The victim of tourists like me, willing to pay $250 a night for a 250 square foot cave house.  All the locals moving away from the tourist centers.

    Other than Venice, this place is the most striking as far as what tourism creates.  And I am part of the problem.

    Santorini short and sweet

    Oia

    We want to see these places, just like everyone else.  Santorini, short and sweet, is spectacular and surreal.  So here I am guilty of contributing to the loss of authenticity.

    I found two particularly irritating things about our Santorini short and sweet stay.  The first is watching young people trying to get their “instragram” picture and in doing so trespassing and doing dangerous things.  But of course doing so in a fabulous designer dress and posing like a fashion model.  For all the good social media has done, this habit of getting the perfect “selfie” I find appalling. This isn’t the only place we have seen this behavior, and it’s always people of the same generation. We watched in horror as young visitors trampled the sacred Uluru area in Australia for their perfect selfie.  We watched terrified as others ignored the danger signs at the Cliffs of Moher, in Ireland, to walk out to the edge of the cliffs for a selfie.

    The second thing we have found aggravating is the drones.  Hovering over our deck starting at 6:30am, buzzing around the caldera and over all the houses.  Another sign of our media obsessed world. I read an article that says the drones are banned in Santorini.  But still it persists.  I don’t have a drone, but I admit I have considered getting one. I certainly take a lot of photos and I love to share them.  But I will never trespass, do anything dangerous, or wake up someone at 6:30 am to get the

    Santorini short and sweet

    Top 2007. Bottom 2018 Still with the same fabulous guy

    perfect shot.

    It’s a hard pill to swallow.  It reminds me to try really hard to look for undeveloped places to visit.  But then do those places eventually become tourist centers and overrun?  I don’t know what the answer is?  We live in a world with a lot of people who have the means to travel.  And travel they will.  And post on instagram they will. And learn to live with it I will.

    As I sit here on our last day in Santorini short and sweet, I am looking forward to our next stop in Greece, the tiny island of Antiparos.  I know this is not the kind of destination Santorini is, but it still has the same sun, the same island beauty, the same Mediterranean sea and the same delicious seafood.  For a third the price and probably no social media self proclaimed “influencers.”  Sounds pretty fabulous to me.

    In Antiparos we will rest for three solid weeks.  We are ready.  After being on the road for six weeks, Antiparos will be the first place we have stayed longer than 6 nights.  We have broken all our own rules over the past six weeks as far as slow travel and budget.  It’s time to regroup and recoup before we continue on the Grand Adventure.

    What an amazing life it is.  My Fab Fifties Life.  I welcome your comments and ideas. Fabulous!

     

    Fab Europe Travel

    Our Return to Santorini

    Eleven Years in the Making

    Location: Santorini Greece

    Two weeks shy of eleven years since we visited the incredible island of Santorini.  And nearly everyday since we have wanted to return.  Today that happens.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    We only spent one day on Santorini, since we were on a Mediterranean cruise and it was one of our stops.  We loved all of our stops on that cruise, but Santorini was, well, magical.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    It was magical for its stunning beauty – that shot the world thinks of when they think of Greece.  It was magical for the view – and one of the most memorable meals I ever had overlooking the crater.  It was magical for the authentic villages – like a movie but better.

    But more important than any of that, it was magical because that day I changed.  It may seem silly, but it’s not silly to me.  That magical day on Santorini I discovered a new person within myself.  The beginning of finding my Fabulous Fifties Life.

    See it happened like this:

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    Laying on the cruise ship at the pool the day before arriving in Santorini I was reading the guidebook about things to do in Santorini.  In the book it suggested walking from Fira (where the ship tenders) to Oia on the far end of the island.  The walk was six miles and went all along the crater rim.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    As soon as I read it, I knew my husband would want to do it.  Should I tell him?  Should I keep it to myself?  Hike six miles?  Yikes I don’t think I can do it.  In the hot sun?  I was torn.

    But I love my husband so I said “Honey, there is this hike on Santorini maybe we can do.”  He was all over it.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    That day I was nervous since I hadn’t done a hike in YEARS.  But we left the ship really early and got started before the heat of the day – and well, the rest is history.  That hike changed my life.  Not only was it SPECTACULAR, but it was inspirational.  We saw only two other people (today this rim walk is much more popular) as we maneuvered our way on this rocky island in the middle of the turquoise blue mediterranean sea.  During that six miles and about three hours I became someone who could hike six miles, who could adventure in the unknown, who could feel alive and free in the wild.  A new person emerged who had been hidden inside of me all those years.

    And that is how it began.  Without that hike I would never have tackled hiking from Cusco to Machu Picchu. I would never have tackled walking 486 miles on the Camino de Santiago.  I would never have tackled many of the things I now do everyday, knowing I am capable and not afraid.

    Magical Santorini shaped me and I’m going back to say

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    thank you.  Just for three days this time, but long enough to remember and pay my respects.  A beautiful and magical place where I was transformed, and my Fab Fifties Life was born.

    Fabulous!

     

    Fab Europe Travel

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Romania’s Beautiful Preserved Medieval Villages

    Location: Transylvania, Romania

    We could have easily spent a month in Romania.  But we only had ten days, and so we decided to focus this time on a Transylvania Highlights Tour – Romania’s Beautiful Preserved Medieval Villages.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Map shows the three regions from 1648

    We will come back again, because there is a lot more to see in this sleepy little country that tourist are just beginning to discover.

    History

    In the Middle Ages, what we know as Romania today, was split into three distinct regions; Wallachia in the south where today Bucharest is, Moldavia to the east, now split into Moldova and Romania and Transylvania in the west.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Map shows the Kingdom of Romania

    Today these regions are often referred to as Greater Romania, the Kingdom of Romania.  A growing interest is to reunite the region and bring Moldova back into the Romanian speaking states.

    “Romanian is an Eastern Romance language, descended from Latin with some German, French, English, Greek, Slavic, and Hungarian borrowings. Romanians are by far the most numerous group of speakers of an Eastern Romance language today. It has been said that they constitute “an island of Latinity”[5] in Eastern Europe, surrounded on all sides either by Slavic peoples or by the Hungarians.” (source Wikipedia)

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    View of Brasov from top of Mount Tampa

    Our time in Transylvania was wonderful.  We had good weather and enjoyed visiting four of the region’s main medieval towns; Brasov, Bran, Sighisoara and Sibiu.

    Romania sustained minimal damage during World War II, relative to how much the rest of Europe sustained.  Romania’s capital Bucharest was bombed as was the oil industry in the town of Ploiesti.  Which means, luckily for us, the fairytale castles, medieval villages and citadels survived and are intact today.

    If you had come here 25 years ago, just after the fall of communism, you would have found these villages much as they had been for centuries.  A square in the center surrounded by tiny streets that spoke out to the high wall surrounding the fortification.  The center square would likely have a church and a clock tower and the townspeople going about their daily business. Village folk would be selling the produce from the garden, the freshly made bread and cheese.  There would still have been horses and carriages and local artisans. Think  “Beauty and the Beast”.  But today, these towns function primarily for the tourists, just like so many other places in Europe.

    But despite that, we found the places we visited enjoyable, beautiful, friendly and full of wonderful history, architecture and food. Well worth a visit.

    Architecture

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Peles Castle, in Sinai, home to several generations of Romanian royals and still occupied today by Michael I of Romania

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Bran Castle in Bran, occupied for generations by Romanian Royalty and the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula castle

    Much of this area’s habitation is traced back to the Saxons arriving in the 12th century.  They are responsible for developing many of the villages during the middle ages in Transylvania, including the towns we spent time in.  The fortified towns, amazing castles and fortresses and churches and houses still standing hundreds of years later are a result of the craftsmanship and fortitude of the Saxons.

    The Gothic style is prevalent in parts of Transylvania and seen distinctly in the 14th century Bran’s Castle in Bran (the castle that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula), and the 14th century Black Church in Brasov.

    The middle ages also brought the fortified towns to Transylvania, with Sibiu, Sighisoara and Brasov being exceptional examples of how the design focused on functionality and protection.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Brasov’s only remaining fortress gate

    The city of Brasov today is a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture representing the centuries of development in this mountain town.

    Sighisoara is a nearly completely intact 15th century fortified citadel and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This tiny village is where Vlad the Impaler Dracul was born, the character that Bram Stoker turned into a fictional vampire.  For the tourists, you’ll see some Dracula kitsch here, but luckily it is not overdone.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    One of several fortified towers in the amazingly preserved town of Sighisoara

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Houses in Sibiu

    Sibiu is the grandest of the three towns, with a main square boasting a fabulous variety of Baroque and Renaissance as well as Gothic buildings and churches surrounded by parts of the remaining fortress and towers.  Sibui was an important trade center with powerful guilds dominating the regional trade.  Houses remain along the cobbled street and are brightly painted.  The historic Journeyman house, where the wood carver guild once reigned, maintains the pole full of sharp objects often left for luck.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Beautiful mix of architecture in Sibiu

    Food

    Transylvania enjoys many of the same foods you can find throughout Romania, but it also has it’s regional specialities.  While in Transylvania we enjoyed;

    Mititei – small rolled sausages without casing grilled and served with mustard

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Eggplant Salad

    Eggplant Salad – we had this two ways, the first mixed with Mayonnaise, the second mixed with red peppers.  Both were the consistence of dip like humus.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Pork Ciorba (soup)

    Ciorba – means soup and the Romanians love soup.  So filling, warm and delicious you can find many delicious soups including a bean soup often served in a bread bowl, chicken noodle soup ( a favorite of the locals), goulash soup, lamb stew, pork sour soup, cabbage soup and many, many more.

    Sarmele is cabbage rolls, similar to cabbage rolls we have enjoyed in other Eastern European countries but slightly different with a sour rye taste and dill.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Cabbage rolls with polenta and pork

    Jumari – deep-fried smoked pork belly or bacon.  I couldn’t stop eating this.

    Placinta – means pie and the word is used for a pastry filled cheese item, but also used for other kinds of pies including savory pies similar to Sheperds Pie.

    Transylvania Highlights Tour

    Papanasi with sour cream and berries

    Papanasi – possibly my favorite of all the foods we tried is this lovely little dessert.  I’m actually not much of a dessert person but this one is so delicious.  Translated as Romanian Donut, the cheese filled dough is deep-fried, crispy on the outside and very moist and delicious on the inside.  Served hot and then covered with yogurt or sour cream and berries. We had it once with blackberries and once with blueberries and both times so yummy good.

    We have learned so much during our short visit to this beautiful, interesting and delicious country.  We will return again someday to explore more.  But until that day, we thank Romania and its wonderful people for such a pleasant visit.

    Thank you! Multumesc! Fabulos!