Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Rucksack Honeymoon Adventure: The Whirlwind Tour Part 1

Now that we’ve talked about the ship, let’s take a look at all the places Mr. Rucksack & I visited on our whirlwind adventure!

Our first day and a half was spent in Corfu, Greece - an island I cannot wait to get back to. 
It was so quaint and lovely that it could have been created by Disney himself. The air smelled like Greek doughnuts and espresso, the buildings looked like they were painted onto the sky, and there was even accordion music being played by street performers as we walked through town and sat for dinner. Of course, we were also on a honeymoon high which I’m sure helped! 

We chose a small bed & breakfast for the night since it was in the Old Town and just a quick couple of miles away from the port. While small, the Siorra Vittoria was just lovely and a perfect place to rest before the rest of our trip.

Stop 1: Saranda, Albania
After spending a night of the ship, we left Corfu and sailed off to Saranda, Albania. From a little online travel forum research, I learned that there wouldn’t be much to see in port and that it would be smart to go on Variety’s excursion – even it did mean spending a bit of extra money. 
I do have to say that visiting Albania was extremely humbling – and I’m glad that it was our first stop. Albania was a communist country and completely closed off to the rest of the world until 1992. Once travel was finally allowed, many Albanians went to Greece to find work and sent money back to Albania. The country went through a huge rebuilding phase which was sadly put to an end with the Greek economic crisis. Now the coastline is full of empty and unfinished construction.

The excursion took us through town by bus to the Butrint ruins which were built by the Greeks in the 7th Century BCE, and later rebuilt by the Romans in the 2nd Century BCE. What remains is a really interesting combination of Greek & Roman architecture - including statues, baths and a baptism site. 

On the way back to the ship in the afternoon, we stopped by Lëkurësi Castl, built in 1537 and now converted into a restaurant, for a quick beer and views of Saranda.

One of the things that most fascinated me throughout our trip was how combined historical sites and modern life are. Everywhere we went former castles were being repurposed as restaurants, shops and hotels, and concerts were performed on walls built hundreds of years ago. In the US, our historical sites are so preserved that it was really cool to have modern life built up around ancient buildings.

Stop 2: Kotor, Montenegro
Sailing into the fjord of Kotor was amazing. We were all called onto the deck as we entered the bay and given a little history lesson by our cruise coordinator, Dietmar as we took in the incredible views.

We opted out of the excursion here and spent the day wandering the old medieval town. It was definitely a good decision – we had so much fun exploring the shops and cafés.

After dinner we headed out with the “Jetsetters” (the other young American couples on board) to hear a cover band just outside the old town walls. This was the ship crew's favorite stop and they all joined us late at night for drunken fun.
The drink of the evening? Absinthe Side Balls: Gin, peach liqueur, absinthe, and energy drink (Eek!)
Stop 3: Dubrovnik, Croatia
I was so excited for our stop in Dubrovnik. We had initially wanted to visit Croatia for our honeymoon, and I assumed Dubrovnik would be our favorite stop. I was wrong. I do have to admit that it was partially our fault since we headed straight for tourist central and took a bus to the old town. Perhaps if we had stayed outside the town walls, we would have had a nicer time. Instead, I immediately became claustrophobic with all of the crowds. Mr. Rucksack said he’d never seen me that way, but stuck in very crowded alleyways with international tourists shoving me in 95 degree weather – yeah, I freaked out. One of the benefits of our tiny ship was that we were able to stop in places where bigger ships couldn’t. Dubrovnik was one of the big ports though, so there were a few very large ships docked with us that all descended on the town at the same time. Because of this, Dubrovnik felt the most “toursisty” out of all of our destinations with lots of souvenir shops and extremely high prices. I don’t even want to think about the extremely expensive and very disappointing lunch we had.

But there were great things too! Like walking the city walls with their incredible views:

And this amazing Cliffside bar that we happened upon while walking up the residential side of the old town walls:
Literally just chilling on an 8 foot wide cliff

At this point in our trip, we were in the groove of things and a typical day went like this: early morning wake-up time of 7:30am, breakfast at 8:00am, exploring as soon as we were docked, lunch, afternoon nap, toss-up between lounging on the sun deck or more exploring, dinner, and then drinking/mingling on the ship. It was a good ship life.

Next up: We continue on our journey through Korcula, Croatia; Bar, Montenegro; Paxos, Greece; and back to Corfu!

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