No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Castle City

June 19, 2013

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Castle City

The second stop on our journey to Albania; was the city of Corfu- the capital of the Greek Island of Corfu and where we were to catch the ferry to Saranda, Albania. Thankfully we were able to stop overnight and spend a little time in Corfu. Staying at the beautiful Cavalieri Hotel in Old Town Corfu, I was stoked to get a top floor room with an amazing view of one of the two castles that give Corfu the name “Castle City”.

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The weather was spectacular as we arrived in Corfu and made our way to the hotel, the hotel is located in the heart of the oldest part of Corfu City, The narrow, winding streets form a labyrinth of small shops, restaurants and bars and make a perfect spot to wonder. And wonder we did, exploring the streets of most of the Old Town area and even venturing into the newer more modern section of the city, where the ladies were happy to find more upscale stores like Sephora.

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The island of Corfu is the second largest of the Greek Ionian Islands, Its history is entangled with that of Greece dating back to the days of Greek mythology. Its Greek name, Korkyra is related to two powerful water symbols: Poseidon, god of the sea, and Asopos,  an important Greek mainland river. According to myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopus and river nymph Metope, and abducted her. Poseidon brought Korkyra to the hitherto unnamed island and, in marital bliss, offered her name to the place: Korkyra which gradually evolved to Kerkyra.

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The island has a rich history of warfare and conquest and is one of the most fortified places in all of Europe. The twin castles which nestle the capital city once provided protection for what was once a completely walled-in city and still today hold outposts of the Greek military. The Corfu airport is also considered a military installation, though it is busy with tourists who provide the bulk of Corfu’s income currently.

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There are abundant restaurants serving a wonderful variety of delicious Greek cuisine which is heavy on Greek Salads, Feta Cheese and other yummy selections. We of course had to try a variety of options, including a wonderful dinner on the rooftop restaurant at the hotel. One of the professors, Dr. Begley, from the Field School was in Corfu at the same time as us and he joined us for after dinner drinks and then decided to join us in skipping the morning ferry so that we could spend a few more hours exploring.

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One of the attractions that we visited was one of the famous “Fish Spas” or as the hawker girl out front would shriek at passers by, “Feeesh Spa, Feeesh Spa, Lady, Lady”. Her heckling worked and we soon found ourselves soaking our feet as tiny fish ate away at the dead skin on our feet and legs. It is quite impossible to describe the sensation, it does not hurt, rather a tickling feeling as the fish go about their business. Amazingly after about twenty minutes, you certainly do feel a measure of relaxation and your feet feel soothed. Whether this is due to the fish or just having your feet resting in water rather than walking around is difficult to determine, but the experience was fun regardless.

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After a massive lunch, we headed over to the ferry terminal to catch the late ferry for the brief ride over to Saranda. There we met yet another student who was headed over to the Field School, Leslie who had been sadly, waiting  around the ferry terminal all day- when she easily could have been enjoying the fish spa with us.

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Our arrival in Saranda was met by the staff and other students from the Field School, many who had already spent a day or more in Albania. We almost immediately headed out to dinner and then to the hotels where the staff and students would be residing for the duration of the Albania portion of the class.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Longest Bar in the World

June 18, 2013

The Longest Bar in the World

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Lee has been working with RPM for five years and was a student in last year’s field school. This year, she has joined the staff and once again we were headed overseas together. This year we were joined by another RPM intern, Effie , who has signed up for the duration and will attend all the classes that are being offered this year.

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Once again, we had to fly out of Miami and in to Dusseldorf, Germany and spend a night there before continuing on our way towards Albania. Dusseldorf is a large, modern industrial city straddling the banks on the Rhine river, It is the capital of the North Rhine Westfphalia section of Germany and is full of posh, modern upscale stores and a very architecturally snappy downtown area.

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We arrived after an overnight flight from Miami, early in the morning and were thankfully able to check in to the Sheraton airport hotel right away.  After a brief rest, we headed out to the old town area of Dusseldorf, known as the Altstadt. It is also known as the  “Longest Bar in the World” because of the proliferation of night life, bars, pubs, breweries and restaurants that pack the entire area.

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One of the biggest sources of pride and biggest attractions of the Altstadt are the various breweries that make the famous Altbier which Dusseldorf is known for. Dusseldorf is well known for its Altbier, a hoppy beer which translates as old style beer, a reference to the pre-lager brewing method of using a warm top fermenting yeast, like British pale ales. Over time the Alt yeast adjusted to lower temperatures, and the Alt brewers would store or lager the beer after fermentation, leading to a cleaner, crisper beer.

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The name "altbier" first appeared in the 19th century to differentiate the beers of Dusseldorf from the new pale lager that was gaining a hold on Germany. Brewers in Dusseldorf used the pale malts that were used for the modern pale lagers, but retained the old ("alt") method of using warm fermenting yeasts.

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The first brewery to use the name Alt was Schumacher which opened in 1838. The founder, Mathias Schumacher, allowed the beer to mature in cool conditions in wooden casks for longer than normal, and laid the foundation for the modern alt – amber colored and lagered. The result is a pale beer that has some of the lean dryness of a lager but with fruity notes as well.

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At present, there are five brewpubs in Düsseldorf which brew Altbier on premises: Füchschen, Schumacher, Schlüssel, Uerige and the newly opened Brauerei Kürzer. We made it a point to visit each one and sample an example of each of their offerings. It was like a self-guided brewery-tour  and was a ton of fun. A great way to spend our first travel day.

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