Category Archives: Other Travel

Trips not taken by EV.

On to Paris, the final lap.

Heading down the Rhine, we enjoyed the many castles perched on crags and of course, the Lorelei Rock. 

Interesting trivia. During WWII the Allies generally tried to avoid bombing churches or old castles. So, suddenly, lots of railroad tunnel mouths and other points got converted into “churches.” And so they remain to this day, with trains running through them every day.

The “church” of Our Lady of the Tracks!Great RV campsite!


A Viking sistership.


… and an older style Rhine boat.



The Captain, piloting the boat from one of two outside conning stations.



For those of us old enough to have stood a bridge watch with a wheel and lee helm, the high tech controls of the Viking river boat are amazing!



Yes, people are THAT close!

Passing on to the Moselle River, we stopped at Cochem, where the highlight of our visit was the eleventh century Reichsburg Castle high on a hill, overlooking the town.


The final highlight of our tour and one that was totally unexpected was our visit to the city of Luxembourg.  We began at the American Military Cemetery just outside town and were much moved by the simplicity and yet emotion inspired by the rows of white crosses.  More than 5,000 US Servicemen are buried there including General Patton. (


Patton reviews the troops.

After this visit, we headed into town, where we explored on a walking tour the Chemin de la Corniche with its spectacular view of the 17thcentury wall and city, the main market area and the Notre Dame Cathedral.  



We returned to the Cathedral for a wonderful, thirty-minute organ recital. You can see and hear a bit here. (Hint: Crank up the volume!)    


And having left our boat, we headed to Paris by bus.  Once there, we visited a Moroccan restaurant near our hotel which we knew from previous visits had a long lunch the following day with a friend from Bangui. Then back to the US after a great trip.


Some views of Paris are eternal.

Rollen auf dem Fluss (With apologies to Creedence.)

We unfortunately left the sunshine behind as we entered Germany. The transit from the Czech Republic to Germany was by bus and our first stop was Nuremberg. This turned out to be a bit of a loss as a rock concert prevented us from visiting the (in)famous “Triumph of the Will” stadium ( and the trial museum was not open either. We had to content ourselves with a visit to the market and a sample of the famous local sausages.


Nuremberg market square with the 14th century Schooner Brunnen fountain in the front and the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in the background.

It was difficult to imagine this square as the site of Hitler’s final speech in “The Triumph of the Will.” May it always be remembered today for sausages and Lebkuchen, gingerbread cookies.



The Männleinlaufen, an animated clock on the Frauenkirche



We finished our visit to Nuremberg with a view of the town from the Castle.

After Nuremberg we arrived at the boat in Bamberg and spent our first night on board. The next morning we set off in the pouring rain to see Bamberg.  As it was a Sunday, a lot of museums were closed and we were unable to enter the Cathedral due to Sunday services, but we had a pleasant, if damp, view of our first German town and would certainly return.


The Fuersten gate to the Bamberg cathedral has two interesting statues; “Ecclesia” and “Synagoga.”


Ecclesia is crowed with heaven. She used to carry a staff with a Crucifix, symbolizing the power of the church on earth. (Original statues were removed in 1937.)


Synagoga is, however, blindfolded and carries a broken rod. (A not too subtle message!)



According to legend, the bishop of Bamberg would not grant the citizens any land for the construction of a town hall. This prompted the townsfolk to ram stakes into the river Regnitz to create an artificial island, on which they built the town hall they so badly wanted.


The bridge over the river runs right through the town hall. (On the inner wall is a plaque dedicated to Claus von Stauffenberg. From the Bamberg area, he was one of the leaders of “Operation Valkyrie”; the plot to assassinate Hitler.)


Beautiful statue on the bridge

We ended with coffee and cake (yes, there is a theme here!) in a Konditorei and returned to the ship, feeling warmer!  We left around midday heading for Wurzburg down the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal.

We traveled several rivers during this cruise and enjoyed them all! We are total lock and canal fanatics, having transited the Panamá Canal, the Suez Canal, and parts of the Kennet and Avon Canal. If the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal is less well known than Suez or Panamá, it is an amazing engineering accomplishment with a long history. Read more here:–Main–Danube_Canal

For those who are wondering, the Viking river cruise boats are very much like miniature ocean liners. They are carefully sized to fit the locks but despite being very long and narrow, they do not feel cramped at all. Indeed, the general feeling is one of extreme spaciousness. Because of low clearance, the bridge, and indeed everything on the top deck, can be lowered.

The clearances on the canal are so low that the top deck was closed for most of the first part of our trip.  The cabins are lovely the bathrooms are a textbook layout for a semi-dry bath. Great ideas for our next camper! Our boat was the a tour here:

The next day, we took a full day excursion to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  The rain was not constant and we enjoyed an extended walking tour of the town, which is one of the best preserved of the old towns, many of which suffered extensive bomb damage during World War II.


The medieval feel is quite strong and included a costumed minstrel band singing, drumming and asking for beer up and down the high street.  Great fun.

We spotted a stork’s nest and walked the town walls and visited the Hauptkirche of Saint Jakob (high or main church).

The church contains the Altar of the Holy Blood, a reliquary said to contain the blood of the Christ.


On our return to Wurzburg we visited the Bishops’ Residenz, a UNESCO listed site built between 1720 and 1744 by the prince bishops.  A very opulent palace created for some very powerful men of their time, with extensive marble, gold stucco and frescoes.

Nothing modest about this palace

The ceiling frescos were later featured in the PBS series “Civilizations.” Beyond the theme of the superiority of Europe, they feature amazing trompe d’oeil elements like people who begin as paintings on the ceiling and end as statues and figures painted so that they appear to be standing outside of the fame of the ceiling; an amazing 3-D effect. Religious scholars could use this palace as the setting for a discussion of the doctrine of the poverty of the Christ. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)


Grand Stairway (Photo from the Web.)

We declined the all day tour to Heidelberg as the sun was peeking through and we preferred to sail on the river and enjoy the view.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a quiet day on the river.

Lumpia, pancit, ribs!

The cuisine on board was excellent European food, so we were surprised to learn that the chef is actually a Filipino. When he learned the Fred had lived in the Philippines, a Filipino feast was prepared for lunch.

We stopped briefly in the small town of Collenberg. At one time it had an interesting motte and bailey castle. The motte was a hill overlooking the Main River and the bailey extended down to the river’s edge, allowing it to control traffic.

Local official checking out the river boat. He collected a toll in cookies.

The following day we were due in Mainz in the mid morning but were delayed because of heavy lock traffic on the Main River.

Tied up at Mainz. You can see how long these river boats are.

This messed up the guides that Viking had booked so we headed out alone for the Gutenberg Museum, which was the highlight of the day for us.  We viewed the Gutenberg Bibles on display in the museum, which are amazing and still so colorful after all this time. We watched a printing demonstration in German, which was fun for both of us and showed the color techniques. (Denise speaks German, but Fred does not. He had the greater challenge!)


Been a long evolution from this to an inkjet on your desk

If they can fit, so can we!

With our plans to ship our camper to Europe, we were always alert for signs of campgrounds and campers. It was interesting to see this beast parked on the street in Mainz.

Memorial to the cruiser “Mainz” sunk at the Battle of the Heligoland Bight. Note the graffito of a peace symbol. (

Mainz is known for beautiful architecture

That afternoon we visited Rudesheim am Rhein.  We wandered the town and headed for the Rheingau Wine Museum at Brömser Castle. museum, located in the 1,000-year-old castle, was itself interesting and dealt with the history of wine making but the fabulous part was the castle tower itself.  This was accessible to those wishing to climb it, which we of course did, and enjoyed spectacular views of the river and town from the top.

Threatening skies

We love prowling the winding stairways of medieval castles, cathedrals, and other buildings. This little tower was one of the best textbook cases of how these passages were laid out to favor both communication and defense. For those of you who are not medieval fortification nuts, the stairs were built as a clockwise spiral so that an attacker climbing the stairs would have his sword arm blocked by the central support. A defender, on the other hand, would have his right hand free. The steps were also often uneven, so as to cause someone not familiar with the stair way to stumble. And, of course, they were only one person wide so that attackers could never take advantage of numbers.

We missed the two museums devoted to torture and crime, although the toy and railway museum might be a better bet. A good reason to go back? Of course! Where else can you find an inn with a medieval tower flying the Harley-Davidon flag?

Prague to Paris, Starting in Prague

In May of 2017, we were temporarily without a camper, and Denise decided that she needed a trip somewhere! So, as we are loyal PBS viewers and as several friends had enjoyed a Viking River cruise in Europe, we made a last minute decision to cruise with Viking on their Prague to Paris jaunt. We gave Viking only about three weeks notice, but we were pleasantly surprised that they managed to fit us in with a minimum of fuss and bother, both on the cruise, and on our various flights. We first flew, via Amsterdam, to Prague, a city that Denise had always wanted to visit. We were greeted with lovely sunny weather and thoroughly enjoyed our ramble around the city on the afternoon of our arrival. It was such a lovely day, we just had to have cake and espresso! It was at this point that we discovered that, despite being in the EU, the Czech Republic is not a Euro country. Worse, most ATM’s in Prague only accept local cards! Finally we were able to exchange US$ cash for sufficient local currency and the coffee and goodies were ours. The moral of the story is that it is always a good idea to have some local currency on hand! Not all of Prague was dignified and classic, we enjoyed several oddball sights as well: Being quite tired, we had dinner in a restaurant in our hotel, which served local specialties. The “queen” of Czech cooking is said to be roast beef with cream sauce, Svíčková. Certainly the dish we had was out of this world. When we looked it up in our European cookbook, we realized that the book dated from the Cold War and noted that this dish, along with the famous Prague Ham, was unavailable locally. Reminded us of Cuba – Cubans would look at a Cuban cookbook from Miami and comment, “Yeah, my mother would talk about those dishes.” How times change!  We found a recipe in a cookbook on our riverboat and photographed it!  You can also find various recipes on the Internet: A tour the next morning showed us some of the city’s highlights, including the Prague Castle with its spectacular views and interesting history. (See photo at top of post.)  (

St. Vitus Cathedral. (This church was used as a background in the movie “A Knight’s Tale.”)

Parts of the Prague Castle as still used as government offices. (We had flashbacks was we watched a motorcade arrive!)

Ah, memories! And this time we don’t have to do anything!

Then we simply joined the crowds to enjoy the spectacle of the ceremonial changing of the guard.

Love the old goose step, Soviet style

Prague, like many medieval cities sits astride a river. _ND86822 One way to cross the river is the Charles Bridge, famous for its many statues. Two are especially interesting. It is a crucifixion scene, labeled in Hebrew – an incentive for Jews to convert. (We were to see more of this theme.)

The caption on this crucifix is in Hebrew and exhorts Jews to convert to Christianity.

And if you weren’t ready to convert, there is a statue on the spot where John of Nepomuk is said to have been martyred by being thrown off the bridge. Notice that the image of the saint and the cross are shiny – you touch them for luck. ( _ND86877 Both were reminders that history has its rough side.

Charles iV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor. Note the incredible detail of his clothing.

The bridge is named for Charles IV:,_Holy_Roman_Emperor Once back in the city center, we chose to leave the tour and enjoy a quiet lunch a little off the beaten track. We duly admired the famous clock striking the hour off the Market Square. In addition to telling the time and various astronomical data, it features saints and apostles appearing at the windows. Of course, you need a degree to understand all of the data presented – and this thing was built in the 1400’s! Read more here:

Click on the image to enlarge and see St. Peter, with his key to Heaven, in the window

And we tried the local delicacy of Tredelnik, a charcoal roasted pastry. ( Keeping up with the times, it is now available filled with soft ice cream. A divine mess!

Baking over charcoal on spinning wooden rods.

And another famous street food, Prague Ham.

Prague Ham

The pastry/Ice cream fix accomplished, we had to find a horse carriage for the obligatory tour. That night, we went to a tourist dinner with local dishes and traditional dancing.  The music was great, the dancing was fun, and the costumes lovely, but the food at our hotel was better! _ND86962_ND86961 The next morning we headed off by bus to Germany to board the Viking Alsvin. We spent the first night tied up to an industrial dock at Bamberg.


A visit to the island of Malta was also on our “Must Visit List” as Denise had spent a month there with her family when she was twelve and she was keen to see how much she recognized. In fact, Floreana and Valletta had not changed much at all but most of the old decorated buses with crucifixes hanging from the rear view mirrors were nowhere to be seen, only a few preserved as tourist attractions. The island’s history is long and varied. Held by the Arabs from 870 AD, it was given to the Knights of St. John in 1530 by the Holy Roman Emperor.  Charles V. Napoleon captured it in 1798 but left in 1800 after British involvement. It was an important British naval base during World War II and British influence continued until independence in 1964. You can read more of Malta’s amazing history here:

The day dawned cool and cloudy and we watched as the island came into view. We took on the pilot and then approached the breakwater. The Queen Elizabeth maneuvered slowly into the port and made a compete 180 degree turn to her docking space. Valletta is a challenging port to enter with hard turns and minimal clearance. Fortunately, the winds were low. I grew up traveling by sea and later served briefly as a Midshipman. Put bluntly, the maneuverability of modern passenger ships, equipped with pods and thrusters is amazing. And it is generally all done without tugs.

Armed with our sweatshirts, we set off to Mdina, along with the rest of an organized tour. Mdina flourished under the Romans, and was held by the Saracens until the Normans took over in 1090.


View from Mdina looking back towards Valletta.

We liked Mdina with its curved streets and small squares and escaped from the group for a short wander around.

The doors of the traditional houses were fascinating. Each door, with its individual lock and knocker, almost certainly led into a lovely and unseen courtyard. Some were in better shape than others but all were interesting.


Knock or ring the bell.

We also came across a lovely little church with ornately painted ceilings and paintings.

It has been written that some church ceilings were intended to be literal representations of looking up to heaven – this church certainly reflected that image – the Virgin, the Christ, and the angels were looking right down on us.


We then returned to Valletta where we were shown the main street, the new outdoor theater and we visited St. John’s Co-Cathedral. The Cathedral was completed in 1577 and was dedicated to the patron saint of the Knights of Saint John and linked to the Cathedral in Mdina. ( The interior is incredibly ornate and there are many great works of art.


Not exactly the same as the typical American protestant church interior.



Highest of High Baroque.


We then seized the opportunity to escape from the tour and set out to find lunch. We ate al fresco (and it was windy and chilly) in a small restaurant behind the Cathedral. Lunch was excellent, Denise’s swordfish was fresh and Fred’s ravioli with Maltese sausage was tasty.

We noted that the sun was finally breaking through so we decided it was time to head out. As always we did a little shopping and then we headed for the Lascaris War Rooms 40 meters underground.

We had heard that the War Rooms had recently been restored and opened to visitors and, naturally, Fred was keen to see them, having seen them in any number of WWII movies.

The War Rooms are located in a network of tunnels and chambers, which housed Britain’s War headquarters in Malta. Operations rooms for the Air Force; for Anti Aircraft Gun Operations, for Cyphers and Code Encryptions etc. can all be seen. The War Rooms were used by General Eisenhower and his team during the Allied advance on Sicily and they remained in use throughout the Cold War until 1977.

We received directions towards the port and set off through a Government ministry to the street. The offices were all open to a wide verandah through which we walked, which felt rather odd but no one seemed to mind! One advantage of Valletta is that ships dock very close to the city and no transportation is needed to return to our ship. We had planned to take the Barrakka Lift to carry us down the cliff but we emerged much further down than we had expected so we went for a cup of coffee and an ice cream instead in a little café beside the water.


The famous lift. Note the massive scale of the fortifications everywhere. Malta was besieged many times and the Knights took defense very seriously.

We then returned to the ship on foot.



Denise had  visited Athens in 1964 and had memories of a coach tour to the Acropolis with Beatles songs playing in the background. Remember Eight Days a Week?!!


Porch of the Caryatids (Denise Photo from 1964. We had a nicer day.)

We chose to join a Cunard tour here and while we are now sure that we are not big tour people, in Athens this worked, as viewing the Akropolis was part of a group effort with at least 25 tour guides and buses at the same time. No way to get far from the madding crowd. Also Athens was basically closed for the Orthodox Easter weekend, so options were limited anyway.

We stopped first at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.athens-18


The honor guard performs an interesting, slow motion, drill.

Our first view of the Acropolis.athens-17

We fought our way up onto the hill in company with all the other tour guides speaking various languages and bus loads of tourists from all over the world. All seemed to concentrate on the Parthenon and it was impossible to hear anything! The Parthenon was finished in 432BC and dedicated to the goddess Athena, the patron of Athens. Considerable renovation is being undertaken on the site to stabilize it and give a better idea of how it looked. It is fascinating to see the new column pieces waiting to be put into place.


We managed to escape the crowds on the rear side, where there is a view over the city of Athens towards the port of Piraeus. We could admire the Queen Elizabeth in the distance.

We also managed some photos without the hordes near the Erectheion, an ancient temple to Athena and Poseidon built around 406 BC. Supporting part of the roof are the famous Caryatids, or female figures as supporting columns. All are replicas as the originals are kept away from the corrosive air of Athens in the Acropolis Museum. One original can be seen in the British Museum, as it was appropriated by Lord Elgin, along with the Parthenon marbles, back in the 19th century.


Compare with Denise’s 1964 photo, note that the steel supports are gone.

We then took advantage of free time and wandered the streets before finding a café, where we could sit outside and enjoy a sandwich.

A little more wandering and then back to the ship.


Taking on Fuel from a Lighter


Unfortunately the weather was dull and overcast as we passed through the Dardanelles but the sun came out as we reached Istanbul. We were going to have a beautiful day in one of the most spectacular cities on earth!


The Dardanelles with Gallipoli on the left.

Istanbul’s two most famous mosques as the sun rises.


Istanbul’s two most famous mosques.

Denise had visited Istanbul in 1964 and had really enjoyed her visit. So we splurged and ordered a private vehicle and guide so that we could see as much as possible and not be constrained by a coach tour. And it proved to be an excellent choice as we were able to add an extra visit to our day.

We started our visit by walking up the Hippodrome to the Blue Mosque. Another “Ben-Hur” moment. Byzantium was famous for chariot racing:

The Blue Mosque is everything you expect; simply stunning. (


Couldn’t resist a bit of moon/aircraft/minaret.

We passed muster with the guards at the entrance and Denise was not required to add a long skirt to her outfit though she did cover her head. Part of the interior is reserved for Moslem men, of course, but there is a large area for tourists and the beautiful mosaics of the interior can be admired.


Perfect place for the family tourist shot.

We then headed to the Hagia Sophia, which was built as a Christian church, then used as a  mosque, and is now a museum and under extensive renovation. It is simply huge. (



Almost nothing can prepare you for the sheer volume of Hagia Sophia. Expand this image and take in the size.

It is also interesting in that the Turks are removing some of the Moslem frescos, which had been placed over the Christian mosaics to hide them so that you can see the building in two styles. Quite fascinating.



Politicians never change – the emperor and empress making offerings to the Virgin and Child. Politics aside, the mosaic artistry is amazing.

We wandered through and also climbed the stairs to the upstairs balcony for the best views.

Finally, we came to this, the cenotaph of Henricus Danolo was the Doge of Venice who directed the sacking of Constantinople in 1204. ( Ironic that despite all of the conflict between Christians and Muslims, it was the conflict between Christians themselves which caused the greatest damage. (And, of course, made it possible for the Muslims to take Constantinople.)

And, for a bit of human (and bird) scale:


Hot lunch!


Clean, and happy, bird.

Our next stop was the Cistern. Denise had not visited this previously so neither of us knew of it and we added it to our itinerary. A most interesting part of the former water system for the Topkapi Palace, it is no longer in use except as a tourist site. Fascinating to visit and see the carp swimming in the water in the dark. (


One of the most amazing sites we have ever visited.


And on to the Topkapi Palace Museum. Here we saw various exhibits of life under the sultans and grabbed a sandwich at the snack bar. The views over the Bosporus were amazing, but we found the palace itself a bit flat.


Apparently the tulip beds are famous but we were a little too late to enjoy them. One shady bed at Topkapi was still in flower so we appreciated that!


Finally, after a quick visit to the souk, we returned to the ship.


Istanbul’s answer to Tyson’s Corner. (Denise got lost here as a child!)

The weather was perfect, we had an excellent guide and had enjoyed an excellent visit.


Denise and Guide.

Suez Canal

One of our reasons for returning by sea was the itinerary of the Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, which included calls at Istanbul, Athens, and Malta, all of  which Denise had visited as a teenager and wanted to revisit. (Cunard was also offering a really good rate so we had made arrangements with Cunard to join the Queen Elizabeth at Aqaba.)

After living in Panamá, we were really looking forward to a transit of the the Suez Canal. We started our transit early in the morning, following the Europa II (which we had seen in Aqaba) and the Queen Mary 2, which we would join in Southhampton.


Line ahead through the Canal. Note the tugs close by in the event that the side winds cause problems. (The winds can be so strong that the ships actually “crab” just like airplanes.)

As ships cannot pass in much of the Canal, ships are grouped in convoys and timed to pass in the lakes or the new double section of the Canal. In the early days, ships tied up to piers on the banks in order to pass. We had 24 ships in our convoy, beginning with three liners of which we were the third. The entire length of the transit we were greeted with cheers, whistles, and a cacophony of horns. Three liners in a row, two of the from Cunard, was quite a spectacle and the folks loved it.


Container ships falling in line to follow us through the Canal.

There was plenty to see. Various monuments, security outposts, ferries crossing the canal and lots of towns, all with trees and green plants in contrast to the desert elsewhere.

At one point ships were travelling south on a different channel and their stacks and containers could be seen through the sand dunes. Quite an interesting sight as there was no water to be seen!


Ferry. Notice the container ship going south in the other channel. Zoom in to see all of the people on the ferry cheering and whistling. 

In addition to  opening the second lane, there is constant maintenance all along the Canal. The sheer amount of sand is impressive. Not the mountains of Panamá, perhaps, but still a lot of work.


The lakes were full of ships.


Never one to miss a photo opportunity, we maneuvered with the Queen Mary 2 after we left the Canal.


After the transit, we headed for the Dardanelles and Istanbul.



Heading for the desert

After leaving Petra, we headed for Wadi Rum, a desert area with spectacular scenery made famous by Lawrence of Arabia, the man and the movie, and by filming for various other films including the recent “The Martian”. Fred was skeptical – “We’ve done the Sahara, the Kalahari, and even the Great American Desert. Why do you want to go to the Valley of the Moon?” Denise held firm and we had wonderful time! (

Everyone goes to Wadi Rum to see the desert. But, in fact, the Bedu have stayed at Wadi Rum over the years because there is so much water. You won’t see it immediately, but once your eye gets trained, the signs of water are everywhere.

Wadi Rum-15

Water Trap

We stayed in a luxury Bedouin camp (or tented hotel) novel and quite comfortable. We arrived rather early and found the place deserted. Probably should have made a stop en route but we were a little short on information at that point. A little more Arabic would have been useful at times!

Wadi Rum-5

View of the Dining Area

However, once we sorted out what was happening, we crashed a party of Italian tourists and enjoyed a great buffet lunch of salads with chicken and rice. The meal was cooked traditionally – buried in the sand with a wood fire on top.  This, of course, made for great photo ops. The meal was further enhanced by a dancing waiter! We then relaxed for the early part of the afternoon in the shaded divan with the desert coolers running.

As the temperature began to cool, our driver arrived to take us on a tour of the desert. We made ourselves comfortable in the back of the pickup truck and headed out to our first stop; the site of the filming for the “base camp” in the movie “The Martian”. Our guide had been present at some of the filming so was very enthusiastic about it all.

Wadi Rum-9

Site of Matt Damon’s base camp

We also saw several sites relating to Lawrence of Arabia (the person, not the movie) along with scenic sites like a natural rock bridge.

Our guide stopped just before sundown and made us tea in the desert before our return to the camp just after sunset.

Wadi Rum-16

Tea on the Sands

Wadi Rum-17


Dinner was a traditional meal called sarb, cooked in a fire pit in the ground. We were served an excellent chicken and mutton with assorted vegetables and pilafs. The temperature was starting to drop so we headed back to our tent for the night.


After an excellent Arab style breakfast with hard boiled eggs, bread, foule and toppings, we headed out. We made a stop along the way at the historic train station of the Hejaz Railway where  old carriages and a locomotive could be seen. The Hejaz Railway was an engineering marvel. It was a tragedy that it was never really rebuilt following the First World War. And, in today’s political climate, it probably never will be. (

A modern train still runs, carrying potash, we saw it several times as the camp is close to the main line.

And on to Aqaba where we hope the Queen Elizabeth awaits us! Our driver had arranged access to the port and he left us right beside the ship. Other than the fact that we were trying to go up the gangway while thousands of passengers were coming down, it was the easiest ship boarding we have ever had. We were greeted by the Purser’s office and escorted on board to our cabin. We had hoped to visit Aqaba a little before boarding but we seized the moment and a nearly empty ship to do laundry and settle in.

Wadi Rum-23

As we waited to sail, we watched the Europa II depart.

Petra from on High

Our second full day at Petra was one of the highlights of the trip. Fred had been impressed by several  photos taken of the Treasury from above and he had heard rumors that there was actually an easy route to get to the vantage point. The challenge was to find a guide who knew the way. A visit to the guide office found Achmed, who would guide us. He recommended taking horses to make the climb easier for Denise and although Fred was very unsure about this, we agreed. It proved to be a wise and most enjoyable choice. Achmed discussed horses just inside the gate and procured three excellent ones, complete with their owners, and we set off. The horses ambled at an easy walk, except for when the track was too dangerous for them to carry anyone and then we dismounted and walked beside them.

At this point we pause for a quick aside. Tourists today enter Petra through the narrow and spectacular Siq, but the site is, of course more easily accessible from the north and south as the city actually sits in a broad valley. And, of course, any invading army could easily climb over the mountains. So why is Petra where it is? Water. The mountains around Petra actually get a fair amount of rain and the Nabateans were experts at channelling that water into the city where it was stored in cisterns. And, while it is not immediately obvious from the tourist route, Petra is surrounded by large, flat plateaus which are perfect for agriculture.

It was quite fascinating to be up above the Petra Valley on the flat agricultural lands. The Crusaders destroyed the olive groves and they have never been replanted.


A project is currently attempting to recreate and reestablish the Nabatean water control methods with a view to irrigating for agricultural purposes. The Nabateans grew grapes and olives and traded wine and olive oil from the Petra valley.


We had quite a scramble to get to the viewpoint above the Treasury but it was worth it.


The first view was spectacular. (Like all of the images, this one is quite large, click and zoom.)


And then, when you climb down, you come to this: Notice the people on the left, they have come up one of the steeper climbs. If you zoom in and look directly in front of the facade, you can see the underground rooms that have been unearthed.


Denise paused to take in the view.


And what can she see? Zoom in on the next picture and see if you can guess. Hint: Look for something man made. (Answer at the bottom of this post.)



Back on the horses and off to the Place of High Sacrifice. After more riding, walking, and scrambling, we came upon the site from behind. The Nabateans weren’t adverse to digging and carving – notice that the two pylons are carved out of the mountain, not erected. Can you imagine the work it took to smooth the cliff faces on the right of the image?


Back in the day, it looked like this.

High Place

The High Place of Sacrifice.

The point of a high place is to build an altar and the Nabateans did some beautiful stone work with channels to carry liquid. We can simply imagine what liquid. From the stone work still remaining, it is likely that much of the site had walls at one time.

We wandered and took photos before beginning the descent of the steps. It was certainly an easier descent than it would have been to climb up. Fred was never able to find the section of stairs that had scared him so as a child.


Back in the valley, we admired the theatre. By this time, after Amman, Um Qais, and Jerash, we were about theatered out!


We made our way back to the Treasury to hit the refreshment stands and to indulge in a bit of people watching.

Achmed composed and took a great shot of the Treasury in Fred’s glasses.


Fred took one last stab at a slightly different take on the classic Treasury-through-the-Siq shot.


Goddess through the Siq.

We hiked, OK, trudged, our way back up through the Siq, stopping to admire what had been a fabulous carving of a camel caravan. Complete with a person leading. Sadly, the soft sandstone has washed away, but you can see that the water course actually ran behind the camels’ legs.

We were back to our hotel by about 4.00 pm. Again after a shower and a rest, we headed to the buffet for dinner. Afterwards, we stopped to chat to a gentleman putting sand in bottles in various patterns and designs. Fred remembered these from his childhood and he was happy to purchase a couple. Sadly, he had closed up by the time Fred went back for his camera.

And what could Denise see? The top of the Monastery. Amazing! Actually, if you know where to look, you can see it from several of the higher points around Petra.

And on to Petra (Part One)

Why does one go to Petra? Simply put, it is one of the more unique historic sites on earth and near the top of anyone’s bucket list. The Wikipedia has lots of background:

In Fred’s case, it was another chance to go home. Back in the day, the road looked like this:

The Road to Petra

The old highway to Petra.

This translates to a lot of grinding in low range! 4×4 geeks may be interested to know that the trip was made with a Land Rover and a Jeep Station Wagon. Today there are excellent paved roads, complete with travel centers.

We had booked a room at the Movenpick Hotel, which is right at the gate to the Petra ruins, which proved to be an excellent idea. The hotel was lovely and we checked in thinking that we had picked well.

Movenpick Lobby

Beautiful lamp in the hotel lobby.

As a point of reference, back in the ’50’s one stayed in the ruins themselves, either in caves or tents.


Fred at Petra in 1957 or 58. Visitors stayed in tents (on left) or in the caves at the back of the picture.

The accommodations were a bit more Spartan, but as we discovered, you were a LOT closer to what you wanted to see.

We then went off to look for soap powder and drinking water as hotels provide a small bottle per person in each room but it was hot and dry and we were in need of water to both drink and carry with us on our adventures. We had success and returned to our room to wash some of our dirty clothes and hang them on the line over the bathtub to dry. Then we wandered over to the main ticket office for the Petra ruins for a general reconnaissance as we had been told it was necessary to show a passport and we wanted to check this. We had considered signing up for a “Petra by Night” visit but had not been sure. However, we discovered that we had only one chance to see Petra at night and that was the same evening. So we signed up quickly and headed back to the hotel for an early dinner at the evening buffet. This proved to be amazingly good, especially the excellent Jordanian dish that we both enjoyed. They even had lots of vegetables!

The Treasury by Night

We were back in the courtyard by 7.30 pm to head off towards our first glimpse of Petra. And what a glimpse! The Treasury is a 40 minute walk from the entrance, through a more open section and then through the famous Siq, a 1.2 Km canyon and the way was lit by candles which gave a romantic atmosphere but made it hard to see the way over the rough stones.


The Siq by starlight.

But we made it in one piece, ankles intact, and we took our place on the mats and watched the different color lights playing on the front of the Treasury.


Treasury by moon and candle light.

One local performer played a flute and another played a rehbab. A bit touristic, perhaps, but both were very evocative. At the end of the performance, we walked back to our hotel.

Into the City

We decided that our goal for the first full day at Petra was the Monastery (El Deir), a fairly steep climb. So, we bought our tickets at about 8.30 am and headed off to the ruins. The first part was an easy stroll down the hill from the down of Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses), where the hotels are located, to the city of Petra itself.

A quick map reference:


All of our rambles start at our hotel, next to the visitor center on the right of the map and then continue down through the Siq. The map is not to scale, but as you can see, it is a (long) hike to get anywhere! This leads to a thriving business of carriage, donkey, horse, and camel rides.


It was interesting to see the early part of the walk, which had been invisible the night before, and where there were three  monuments known as the Djinn (A djinn is a spirit, the origin of the word “genie.”) blocks as well as the Obelisk tomb.


We then came to the mouth of the Siq. There had been an arch here.

Gateway Arch

The arch has since collapsed.

But now little remained.

We continued on through the Siq and Denise takes credit for our best version of the obligatory classic shot:


The Treasury through the Siq. A classic shot.

Fred was fascinated by the changes that had occurred since he had last visited.


Tourists at the Treasury.

Perhaps the greatest changes are that:

— One of the columns (third on the left) has been restored, and,

— The space in front of the Treasury has been excavated.

In the old days, even up until the 1950’s, the ground was much higher and most of the outer parts of the Treasury were deep underground

The Treasury

The broken column is clearly shown. Note the river and the level of the ground. At least twenty feet of dirt and spoil has been excavated and they have found rooms in front of the facade.

Two views of the center of the facade. My camera gear and skills have improved a bit over the years.

Many complain of the crowds, but, in reality, the people watching was fun. And the steady flow of tourists certainly helps the local economy.


We then made our way down the main street or Street of Facades towards the steps for the Monastery.


Ancient garage.

Denise decided to take a donkey part of the way, though Fred climbed the entire distance. Denise was impressed.


Donkey Riding.


Fred, just as tired as he looks!

The climb is long, but offers amazing views back down the valley.

Looking Down

The main city center is down there on the valley floor with a wall of tombs in the background.


Towards the top we stopped for a lemon with mint from a really pleasant vendor with a lovely shady divan where we could rest for a while. It was very hot and sunny and we carried two bottles of water but were consuming them fast. And then, we turned the corner.

The Monastery

First View

Your first view of the Monastery as the trail comes around the corner.

The Monastery has long been one of the classics of Petra. The painting is by David Roberts:

The Monastery

The "Classic" View

Comparing the two images, the  realism and accuracy of some of these old images is simply amazing. As always, expand the images for more detail.

We paused for photos and to admire the wildlife.

Once at the top, Fred climbed even higher to a lookout where a man was playing an oud.

Oud Player.


View from the Top of the World.

This view would inspire anyone to practice their scales!

Denise remained gazing at the Monastery frontage and ate an apple, which was to be lunch for the day.

Denise and Friend

We started back down and again stopped at our friendly vendor for a very gooey Kit Kat and more mint lemon drink . Then we started the descent, step after step after step (more than 800) and the descent alone took almost an hour.

Trail to the Monastery

Fallen rock tunnel on the trail to the Monastery.

We then visited the Grand Temple. This temple is actually larger than the Temple of Artemis at Jerash, but at Petra, most of the attention is focussed on the rock carved structures. It is easy to forget, that back in the day, the free standing structures were even larger. Sadly, most were damaged or destroyed by an earthquake.



We continued down the Street of Facades in front of the tombs and found a vendor with shade and ice-cream. So we stopped for a mint and lemon drink and an ice-cream (you may be noting a pattern here!).

Orange Press

Fresh Orange Juice.

We were tired and decided to return to the Treasury on camelback. It was a short ride, about 10 minutes, but it was something that Denise had wanted to do. However, Denise is delighted to say that having done it, she will not do it again as her back did not enjoy it as much as she did! Fred enjoyed it and was only sorry the ride was so short.

Denise and Camel Driver

Denise finishing her camel ride. (Beats walking at the end of a long day.)

Camel Ride

Heading into the lower Siq.

Then it was time for the hike back to the hotel. We made it back to the hotel by 6.00 pm, showered and staggered down to the buffet again. The Jordanian dish was different on this evening, but still excellent, and we were too tired to even walk to an outside restaurant. We were exceedingly glad that we had picked the Movenpick Hotel right at the gate to the ruins; ten hours, and 800 steps up,  is a long day!