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!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Transit Time

June 24, 2013

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 photo 1044397_zps105df9f4.jpg Dusseldorf

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Transit Time

After a fun and fast moving stay in Albania, it was time to head back across the Atlantic to get back to my home and wife and pets. The way back was the same path as I took on the way over, in reverse and without the benefit of company as Effie and Lee both remained in Albania to complete the scientific dive class before heading to Montenegro and Croatia to participate in the field schools that were going on there.

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I caught the ferry from Saranda to Corfu, thankfully it was the faster ferry, the Kristi and I was able to make the tight connection at the airport. The bad news is that somehow my camera was stolen while going through security at the Corfu airport, which sucked. I had thankfully already downloaded all the photos, but the camera was lost. It was really the only downer of the entire trip.

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The flight from Corfu to Dusseldorf went well and I arrived in Germany early enough to enjoy an entire afternoon and evening before spending the night at the airport Sheraton and catching the morning flight to Miami the next day. I have spent so much time in Dusseldorf transiting that I almost feel like a local and I took full advantage of my knowledge to seek out and find some good breweries to occupy my time.

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Dusseldorf is a fun city to explore on foot, it is full of fascinating architecture, mostly more modern since much of the old city was destroyed during World War II. What remains of the old city is found in the downtown Allstadt area where historic breweries, restaurants and stores can be found clustered along the banks of the Rhine River.

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The mix between super upscale stores like Prada, Ralph Lauren and the like and the small touristy boutiques is interesting as both types are well represented in the shopping district.  It makes for some excellent shopping opportunities for all sorts of budgets and tastes. I picked up some souvenir gifts and spent the time that I wasn’t eating and drinking shopping.

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The flight from Germany to Miami was just over nine hours and I was thrilled to get back to the states, even though I still had the long drive down the Keys to actually get home. It had been a great trip, but it was so nice to sleep in my own bed and to see my wife after such a long time apart.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Blue Eye

June 23, 2013

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The Blue Eye

One of the highlights of the scientific diving class is a field trip to a beautiful natural spring known as the Blue Eye, which is known in Albanian as Syri Kaltër,  located on the road between the cities of Saranda, and the inland city Gjirokastër. About a 30 minute drive up in to the mountains, the Blue Eye is the most famous of a number of natural springs in the area, which feed rivers and streams that flow down into Lake Butrint and then into the sea.

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We hired a taxi to load up the class and staff and make the short drive to the Blue Eye, packing dive gear for Derek & Chris who were making a scuba diving excursion into the spring while the rest of us packed wetsuits for a snorkel around the Blue Eye and down the swiftly flowing river that flows from the Blue Eye.

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Once reserved as a vacation spot for the communist elite, the Blue Eye is now sort of a National Park and is open to all to visit the incredibly beautiful and lush area. The Blue Eye is a 45-metre deep water spring set amid a forest of hazelnuts, walnuts, cherries, pines and fir trees.

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The water in the inner part of the spring appears very dark blue, like the pupil of an eye, and a lighter color of blue as an outer ring – the iris, which gives the impression of a blue eye. Various Legends surround the origin of the Blue Eye, the coolest involves a Dragon to which nearby villagers once sacrificed a local virgin, until being killed by one of the intended sacrifices angry suitor. The Blue Eye represents the eye of the dragon forever crying tears in the spot where it finally crashed to earth.

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Whatever legends surround it, it is a powerful gushing spring with water pouring out of the spring at an incredible rate, creating a fast flowing, crystal clear beautiful river that rushes away from the spring. As Derek and Chris braved the actual spring in full dive gear, the rest of us geared up in wetsuits to combat the very chilly (54 degree) water for a snorkel ride down the river.

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It was an amazing and beautiful experience as the water is completely clear and full of life, ranging from tadpoles and frogs, snakes and various fish including delicious lake trout which are caught and served fresh at the restaurant just downriver from the spring where we stopped for lunch after our snorkel.

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The Blue Eye is a beautiful, tranquil and really special natural refuge. The place seems like a wonderful tropical rainforest and seems to teem with life. Beautiful blue dragonflies dart among the foliage and the entire area seems cool and refreshing in spite of the intense summer sun. I really love it there.

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My time in Albania ended on this trip with a wonderful going away party that was thrown for me at the hotel where the students were staying. The family that owns the hotel, prepared a wonderful meal for everyone, mostly prepared by the matriarch Alma. The fantastic meal was followed by an amazing party highlighted by a lot of dancing- ranging from traditional Albanian and Greek folk dances to more modern dancing to the beats of Shakira. It was a truly special way to wrap up this visit to Albania and it sealed in my mind a decision to try and get back before the season was over and bring Kathy as well.

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