Flashback: Mycenae, Greece 2011

In my ongoing effort to add posts about previous trips, I am continuing along our trip from Greece in 2011. After leaving Corinth, we drove for over an hour (but in reality should be about a 45 minute drive) after we went the wrong way trying to get back on the main road and then we weren’t able to turn around for the longest time. Eventually we reached Mycenae, another of the Peloponnese area’s top sights. Mycenae was one of the major cities in Ancient Greece from around 1900-1580 BC. The royal house of Atreus was located here and his descendants, including Agamemnon, helped lead the Greek expedition against Troy before tragedy befell the majority of his family.

One of the most famous sights within Mycenae is the Lion’s Gate. The Lion’s Gate is the monumental entrance to the citadel. The Lion’s Gate is estimated to have been built somewhere between 1350-1200 BC. It’s amazing what the Ancient Greeks were able to construct without a lot of technology.

The Lion's Gate Lion's Gate

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Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an (China Day 4)

We woke up early and took a taxi arranged by our hotel in Beijing to the train station to catch a bullet train to Xi’an. The train ticket buying system in China can be complicated, especially when coupled with the fact that the majority of workers at the train station will not understand English. We booked our tickets to and from Xi’an ahead of time using China DIY agents. They made the process easy, and yes they do add on a fee for booking through them but it wasn’t outrageous and they saved an incredible amount of frustration at the train station. As it was, even with having pre-booked tickets the train station was a bit frustrating. You have to pick up your tickets in person (unless you have a Chinese address) and we walked up and down the train station several times before eventually someone was able to point us in the right direction. The China DIY agents had emailed us some helpful sayings in both English and Chinese that we were able to point to at the ticket counter to communicate with the ticket counter worker. Eventually we were able to pick up both sets of tickets (an additional fee if you are picking up at a different train station than your departure station, but again worth it to not have to do all the pointing again) and were able to enter the train station.

Once inside the train station, it was pretty smooth sailing and we boarded the bullet train and were off to Xian on time. We departed Beijing at 7am and were in Xi’an a little before 1pm (a total 1,216 km or 756 miles) at a max speed of 300km/hour (or 187 mph). The train was clean and incredibly smooth. Bullet trains are obviously more expensive than regular speed trains and thus the majority of locals don’t take the bullet trains. After a wild ride with a taxi driver who didn’t speak English and even with printed directions in Chinese, she seemed to be confused about how to locate our hotel, Grand Mecure Renmin Square. The nice thing we learned in China (at least Beijing and Xi’an) is that you can get 4-5 star hotels at 3 star price in many cases.

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Garden at Lama Temple Cooking Class (China Day 3)

On all of our travels, we have talked about attending a cooking class but had just never gotten around to it. While I can’t cook anything save grilled cheese and waffles (eaten separately of course), Brian is quite the chef. It’s why at home we eat in more than eating out and why we usually are okay with spending more on eating out on vacation than most as we don’t do it at home often. But all that changed during a cooking class at Garden at Lama Temple. Well not everything as I still can’t really cook, but I can make a decently looking dumpling at least. I found the cooking class online via Trip Advisor.

She offers cooking classes during lunch and dinner on odd number days only, though I don’t think the lunchtime option is offered year round. We chose the dinner cooking class which started at 5pm and lasted slightly over 3 hours. We made several types of dumplings (both a meat and a vegetarian option) as well as having the dumplings cooked in several ways (steamed, boiled, and pan fried). We also made some noodles. We met Joyce at the coffee shop near the subway stop (close to Lama Temple) which is close to her cooking school. Her kitchen is located back in a hutong and on the walk there she offered some insight into the hutong culture and how it is changing.

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Flashback: Corinth, Greece 2011

While I continue to work on current travel posts, I am finally getting around to making our photobook of our Greece trip from September 2011. I figured while I work on putting that together, I might as well upload the pictures and info here. While it won’t be as detailed or likely as useful as the information is almost 5 years old already, I figured it might be fun to post some old travel trips on here also. It’s fun to look back at my early photography days before upgrading to a nice camera. I actually had just borrowed a friend’s DSLR for the trip but it only had a very small memory card with it, so I was very careful on rationing my pictures I took on the DSLR. The rest are taken by a Canon point and shoot that I had at the time.

My first post in the flashback series for Greece is the Corinth area. We passed through the area on our way to Nafplio after landing at the Athens airport. It’s a little over an hour drive from the airport and provided a nice opportunity for breaking up the drive while offering some nice historic attractions.

We made a brief stop at the Corinth Canal area for a viewpoint over the canal that cuts through the Isthmus, before heading to the main attraction in the area Ancient Corinth. In 5th century BC, Corinth was one of the three major powers in Greece, took part in the battles against the Persians, and eventually become only a secondary power after the growth of Athens. Corinth was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC and later resettled by Julius Caesar in 44 BC.

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Lama and Confucius Temples (China Day 3)

It was still only early afternoon and we didn’t have to be at our cooking class meeting point until 5pm, so we decided to take the subway to the Lama Temple. The Lama Temple was on our list of maybe to see on this day depending on time as it was located near the cooking school. In hindsight, we did too much this day and were entering building and temple fatigue by the time we got to the Lama Temple and I don’t think we fully enjoyed it as well as would have if we would have just gone back another time.

We took the subway from the Bell Tower to the Lama Temple area. The Lama Temple is also known as Yonghe Lamasery and is a Tibetan Buddhist Temple. The Lama Temple dates back to 1694 from the Qing Dynasty and was originally the residence of the soon-to-be emperor when he was still a prince. However in 1744, it was converted to a Lamasery. It’s a beautiful complex of buildings, Buddha statues, with the aroma of incense wafting everywhere. After entering the Lama Temple, you first pass through a wide lane lined with trees as you make your way to the main cluster of buildings.

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Jingshan Park to the Bell Tower (China Day 3)

After spending a few hours at the Forbidden City, we were looking for a bit of a break before moving on. Luckily the 57 acre Jingshan Park is located just across the street from the Forbidden City. Originally the park was part of the imperial gardens attached to the Forbidden City, but was given to the public in 1928. The most popular sight within the park is the artificial hill made from the dug out dirt from the moats surrounding the Forbidden City. The view from the top of this hill offers a stunning view of the Forbidden City, especially on less smog filled days (which we luckily had).

View of Forbidden City from Jingshan Park

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Forbidden City (China Day 3)

The Forbidden City is arguably Beijing’s most famous attraction. The Forbidden City is officially known as the Palace Museum and is seeped in history and fascination. It is an immensely popular attraction even for Chinese nationals. The Forbidden City was built between 1406-1420 during one of the Emperor’s in the Ming Dynasty reign. It was then the home for the following 24 Emperors through the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Forbidden City gets it’s nickname because the Palace was forbidden to anyone without the Emperor’s permission and if you entered without that permission, you could be executed. The palace itself covers an immense amount of space (74 hectares) and includes just over 8,700 rooms.

The Forbidden City is located off of Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen Square is the largest public square and is under heavy security. There are often long lines to enter the square as you have to pass through security and X-Ray machines before allowed in. There are also said to be multiple undercover policeman wandering around the square. Tiananmen Square is home to the Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People, National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. While we didn’t visit any of the sights in the square (other than seeing the Monument itself), we did wander about the square a few times during our visit in Beijing.

Tiananmen Square

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