Watch History Unfold – One Year of Family Travel in Europe

In 1995 and 1996 my parents travelschooled my brother and I for a year.  Together, as a family, we made our way across Europe. At times we used Eurail passes, rented a car, or took buses and ferries. Throughout it all, we recorded the journey on a small tape video camera. I recently re-visited the old tapes, 8 in total, and was struck by an odd thought; why not upload them and share them.  While they differ significantly from most normal travel content, my imagination was captured by the recent Norwegian slow travel videos and how people were using them as ambient background entertainment.  So, perhaps these will be of interest to those of you who want to explore what it was like as we learned and explored our way through a Europe that pre-dates the European Union, the Euro, and the widespread adoption of modern Hostel culture and the internet.

For those wondering what the realities of family travel with kids might be, or just want to see mid-90s Europe, these videos will also hopefully be of interest. You can view the full playlist here.

September to October

October to November



January to March


May to June

June to July

I hope you found these interesting. Did they catch your attention or trigger observations?  Have questions about the trip or its impact on me?  Post a comment below and let me know!

We Discovered The World Together – RTW Family Travel 20 Years Later

I was 11, tall for my age, lanky, a bit shy, and perpetually curious.  I wasn’t a huge fan of school and found the whole thing awkward but, I had my core group of friends and powerful interests.  I was introduced to travel before I could walk – carving long furrows in the golden sands of Puerto Penasco’s pristine beaches while joining Dad in our inflatable Sea Eagles for light boating.  That relationship to travel persisted as I grew up first in Colorado, and then moved at the age of six to Sedona, Arizona. We’d camp, we’d hike, and when not making trips to Puerto Penasco, Mexico we’d spend time in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.

It was a great childhood, and yet, I was far from outdoorsy. My passions and interests were equally dedicated to our computer. I spent as many afternoons and evenings as I could hogging the computer, and later as we got access to the web, the phone line as I battled through the nail- biting sounds of an old dial-up modem.  My folks were concerned that my social growth might be impacted or that I was rotting my brain – luckily, they’ve come around and in the interim made sure there was ample non-digital stimulation to keep things balanced.

So it was with some shock and disbelief that I received the news that we’d be renting our house and leaving everything behind for 11 months.  There wasn’t much warning. I didn’t really know what to expect, and at the age of 11, I’m not sure you even really properly understand what a trip 11 months long could possible entail. I vaguely remember thinking it was the end of the world and a grand new adventure.  At a certain level I think it felt like I was moving, more or less never to see my friends again.

A Cat In Kos Castle’s Court – Weekly Travel Photo

Cat Guarding Kos Fortress

While the sound of men at arms, craftsmen  local officials, and traders has long since vanished from the stone walkways and carefully fitted walls that shape Kos Fortress one small army still remains.  The fortress of Kos is manned by a small band of warrior-hunters. Predators that seek out vermin, set upon them, and then plop down in the grass to carefully lick themselves clean, paws stretched high into the air.  Some might argue that they’re the purrrfect guardians for a castle that served its purpose in times of peace and war for generations but which has now retired from service. These guardians casually tolerate visitors – the occasional tourist who makes his way across the site of the old draw-bridge, pays his three lira and gains access to the castle grounds.  Grounds that, at the time of my visit, looked more like a garden for wild flowers than former military instillation. The scent of pollen was thick in the air, mingling with the fresh aroma of ocean salt to add a wonderful sweet perfume to the air. The low rumble of purring cats was accompanied by the audible buzz of the fortress’ airforce – thousands of bees hard at work darting from flower to flower while being equally careful to avoid the casual swat of bored cats relaxing in the late-afternoon sun.

The old crusader castle at Kos, built in part by the Knights of St. John in 1315, was one of my favorite parts of my day-long visit to Kos. The mixture of wild grass-filled moats, and wildflowers so thick they covered the ground with bands of color reminiscent of a rainbow, was deeply relaxing and soothing. It led to an hour of pure relaxation and bliss, made that much better by the nearly complete absence of other tourists.  As far as the guardians?  Well, the cats kept a close watch on me – suspicious but hospitable – as only cats can be.

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

A Possible Origin for the Scylla and Charybdis Myth

Greek Vista from Nafplio

There is an ancient Greek Myth that recounts the existence of two terrible sea monsters.  The ancient stories tell a tale which describes the narrow straight in which these two monsters dwelt. One was possessed of a great maw through which it would take great gulps of water, sucking in anything and everything nearby three times a day.  The other monster, who lived just across the straight and was also anchored in place possessed great heads that would quickly snatch at and kill any sailor who wandered within range.

Minoan Ruins of Knossos

Sound familiar?  They should! Scylla and Charybdis have become two of the great myths of Greco-Roman Mythology.  They were made famous by Homer in the Odyssey, mentioned in Jason and the Argonauts and vividly described in Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

Underwater Scene in Museum

For those who enjoy mythology, there’s typically a second – equally fascinating – element that being the often factual inspiration for the myth.  Though originally assumed to be uninspired fairy-tales pulled straight from the author’s mind – history has shown us that many of the great events outlined in ancient myths may actually have a factual origin.  A prime example is the re-discovery of Troy. Once thought to be nothing more than myth, archeologists were able to use Homer’s descriptions to not only prove Troy’s existence but re-discover it.

Another example is one of my personal favorites. Though still fairly contested the “Black Sea Deluge Theory” suggests that the Great Flood which appears in a number of religious creation myths may very well have been caused by the relatively sudden collapse of a land dam.  The flooding that ensued would have drastically altered the landscape, and may have claimed entire cities which in turn would have generated the myth that the entire world had been flooded as part of God’s wrath.

Greek Statue of Poseidon

The common opinion surrounding Scylla and Charybdis focuses mostly on the straight that these two sea monsters dwelt in, and does little to take into account what inspired the monsters themselves.  To this end, most believe that the straight mentioned in the myth is the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Calabria, in Italy. Frankly, I haven’t thought too much about the myth or its origins since I visited Greece in 2007.

Until, that is, earlier today when I stumbled onto a video clip of the Kavachi Volcano in the Solomon Islands.  Kavachi is one of the most active submarine volcanoes in the world and has been toying with the idea of breaking the surface and becoming a full fledged island for nearly 100 years.  As I watched the footage of eruption as it broke the surface in what appeared to be the middle of the ocean it hit me from somewhere deep in my subconscious.

If I was floating along in a boat thousands of years ago, didn’t know better, and suddenly found myself face to face with hissing, steaming, smelly water boiling up towards the surface with tons of dirt and mud in tow I’d have been more than willing to believe I was coming face to face with a sea monster.  Especially if the undersea eruption damaged the boat, or broke the surface long enough to launch molten lava bombs towards the ship.  I was quite possibly looking at a very probable inspiration for Scylla and Charybdis.

The Acropolis

As I toyed with the idea I quickly started to put two and two together.  Was there volcanic activity in the area and during the period of time leading up to the writing of the Odyssey? You better believe it.  One need only look to what’s left of the Island of Santorini for confirmation that Greece had a volcanic history. A volcanic history that had been fairly active in the period leading up to Homer’s writing.   Though less likely, there’s also a similar history of volcanism in the area around Napals and Sicily adding to the possibility of some sort of underwater eruption several thousand years ago.  No doubt most are familiar with the land based eruption of the volcano near Pompeii, and others may be familiar with the current eruptions of the Sicilian volcano Mt. Etna.

What’s your take?  Have information of your own to share?  Chime in and leave a comment!

Rethymno Part II, Iraklio and Knossos


So, you know that crazy phenomenon that occurs when you’re about 1/2 through writing something that’s difficult to save, and as a result, has not been saved? Well, it struck last night as I was writing this blog update. Unfortunately, the insane thunderstorm that was raging outside knocked out the power not once but twice. It was also kind enough to wait until I’d gotten a day or two into the update each time…oh well. It’s not raining at the moment and I’m going to give it another go – wish me luck!

Castle Gateway

Rethymno is beautiful. Of the big 3 – Chania, Rethymno and Iraklio – I would say Rethymno takes the cake, though Chania is definitely a not too distant second. The difference lies in the city’s layout. Chania’s old city sits inside the Venetian walls but lacks a real castle and is much more cramped. Rethymno lacks the city walls, but still has an intact castle which is in impressive shape and crowns the tip of the peninsula. Between the new city and the castle the old city spreads out along the peninsula in a beautiful mixture of small, cramped, vine-covered alleyways and slightly larger cobblestone streets lined by shops, cafes and restaurants. One of the biggest differences between Greece and the states is the cafe culture. Because the whole town shuts down from 2-4 every day, a lot of people head to the cafes…it’s like our Starbucks…but different in that everyone actually hangs out, drinks their coffee and socializes instead of running off to their next appointment bolstered by their caffeine high. The cafes also take the place of bars in some of the mid-sized towns resulting in a much more laid back bar environment… one not especially geared toward socializing or mixing with strangers, but one great for a group out for the evening looking for a place to hangout and relax.

Castle Wall in Crete

After our first night in the crappy hostel, we decided to re-locate to a hotel. The hotel we found cost us each 3 Euro more. For the slight price increase we got a private room with shower, a TV, and we were one street back from the beach. Using that as a base camp we spent our first full day exploring the town, wandering up to the castle ruins and walking along the castle walls. The interior of the castle is mostly an open field, however, the castle walls are in great shape and have been restored. It’s a beautiful sight looking out from the walls, down over the jagged rocks and over the crystal clear water at the empty horizon. From the castle we explored the city in greater depth, wandering aimlessly through the tiny streets and taking in their beauty and spirit. We eventually found a place to stop for dinner and tried sampling some local cuisine which was delicious.

A Small Cafe in Spili, Crete

Our second day in Rethymno we spent exploring the city, before setting out into Crete’s interior. We picked a small city called Spili located in the heart of the mountains and caught a bus around noon. The town ended up being much closer than we expected and after a 30 minute bus ride across the countryside we found ourselves in a quaint little town that sat at the base of a large cloud-cloaked mountain. The town wrapped along the main road and overlooked a large fertile valley dotted with orange trees and olive groves. The weather was cold and we were forced to dodge a few brief drizzles, however the town in general was fun in a quiet simple sort of way. After exploring the town we had about 45 minutes to kill before our bus left from in front of one of the local cafeneons. We found a beautiful little restaurant cloaked in vines with hanging gourds in it’s rafters and ordered an odd beef stew meal to split. As we ate our snack, several kittens showed up and kept us entertained until it was time to leave.

Greek Kittens

We arrived back in Rethymno, explored the city a bit more by night, then turned in.

Spili, Crete Countryside

The next morning we woke up, found some food, and made our way to the bus station. The day was grumpy and rainy. Once at the bus station we had a 45 minute wait until the next bus left, that wait stretched into an hour and a half as the bus was late. A bit irritable (and soggy) we finally got moving and arrived in Iraklio an hour and a half later. By then it was already about 3:30, raining, and getting dark. We walked around a bit, found most of the budget housing closed, and eventually found a hotel with a room for 20 Euro each. From there we set out for food and to explore the city a bit.

Knossos Monument, Crete

Iraklio is a mess. The city might have had a lot to offer 80 years ago, but the war apparently destroyed a lot of it’s historic neighborhoods. What’s left is mostly run down and unimpressive. The city itself is a large port town with a lot of abandoned areas and ugly streets. A few of the main streets are interesting, but even those are just busy commercial zones. After exploring a bit we eventually found a restaurant that showed some promise. Because of the rain and the delayed bus we had not managed to eat much and were starving. The place we found was a fun little local’s hangout with a two page wooden menu written in Greek. Instead of taking orders, the servers left a pad of paper on the table where we could jot down what we wanted. The prices were great and the portions beautifully presented. Instead of ordering just one thing, it was set up so you could order several, then mix and match.

Eager to try something new, between the two of us, we ordered cheese-stuffed peppers, fried cod, snails and Greek olives. When the food arrived we set to it and were delighted by the food’s quality. Each plate had a distinctly different taste and everything was well prepared. The snails were a new thing for both of us (I’d had them once before but they were cooked differently). Full, we set off to find an internet cafe and quickly got rained in at the one (where the power proceeded to go out twice). Frustrated, we decided to brave the rain and head to a local cafe for a drink. Then, tired of trying to wait out the downpour, we made a wet dash back to our hotel where we called it a night.


Today we woke up early and caught a bus to Knossos – the largest and best preserved Minoan Palace. Also the fabled home to the minotaur and it’s labyrinth. The ruins are impressive, if fairly plain. It’s obvious in the cement reconstructions and pathways that they have been tuned to deal with a lot of tourist traffic and as a result have a ‘polished’ feel to them. Despite this, they have a certain spirit…one reinforced by the rebuilt sections of the palace and reproductions of the fresco/mosaics which were excavated from the ruins. We spent a good hour exploring the ruins before catching a bus back to the city and heading to the Archeological Museum. Unfortunately, the museum is under renovation and all they have up is a temporary exhibit. Despite being very limited it still had most of the main paintings and a number of impressive artifacts which left us feeling satiated.


From there we booked our ferry tickets and will leave tonight at 8:30 for an overnight ferry to Athens. Until then we’ll be exploring the city, trying to find a few books to tide us over on the long, uncomfortable ride, and probably locating some food!

Athens bound! Bye for now.

Chania Part II, Rethymno Part I and A Rome Flashback

Greece - Crete

As I was walking along the castle walls here in Rethymno, I realized I forgot to blog about a fantastic experience I had in Rome. It’s amazing how things that would ordinarily be the highlight of the month have at times become almost daily travel occurrences and blend into the background noise.

While in Rome, Lander and I stumbled across handouts for several operas being performed in one of the cathedrals located near the central train station. Eager to mix things up and sample something different we selected the more diverse of the two programs and found our way to the church that evening. The building was beautiful. It had Moorish influences with a fantastic roof design painted to look like a starry night. In the dome over the dais there was a beautiful depiction of a non-crucified Christ accompanied by angels. Perhaps the most impressive part of the simply decorated cathedral was a small set of 2 thin-cut marble windows and another beautifully presented piece of thinly sliced marble at the very back of the dais. I’m not sure what to call it other than marble-like stained glass – but that’s deceiving. Where stained glass windows had once been there were thinly cut pieces of marble. Each window consisted of two pieces, one mirroring the other and creating winglike patterns. The central piece was the most captivating in that it was back-lit and a horizontal cut brought out the inner color and shapes in the stone creating what looked like a sunset with rays of light bursting through clouds. It was such an fantastic piece that it looked 3d.

The opera was good, though not incredible. There were 2 male and 2 female performers who took turns singing solo pieces with one or two mixed. Of the 4, one older gentleman was terrific, the other male was horrible and the two women, while not exceptional, were enjoyable. The total performance lasted about an hour and a half with intermission. It took advantage of the cathedral’s acoustics. All in all the experience was enjoyable. The music was enchanting and it was a great change of pace from our typical evening activities.

A Doorway in Chania, Crete

Back to Greece!

After finishing my last blog in Chania, Lander and I found dinner and then set out to hit up the town. The evening started fairly similar to the night before as we quickly got ushered into one of the bars by a street promoter promising free drinks. We struck up a conversation with one of the bartenders – a girl from Sweden working for a few months in Chania then traveling. Before long we built a decent rapport and decided to take a break to see if we could connect with the guys back in the states. We hit up the internet cafe, then Lander decided to turn in. I was feeling energized so I returned to the bar and picked up my conversation with the bartender. Time slipped by, I ordered a beer and had several more provided for free by the promoter or the bartender. A bit after 1:00, a few of her friends showed up with one of her co-workers who was off that night. The other two girls were Finnish and Swedish and the guy was from New Zealand.

Chania Harbor and Lighthouse

We all got acquainted and by 3:00 am, as the bar closed, after dancing for a bit (got some Latin in!) we moved over to the bar where Lander and I had spent the bulk of the previous night. There the Romanian bartender remembered me and demanded I join her for a drink. Afterwards we all socialized, danced and relaxed until about 5:30AM when the bar closed. As everyone put stuff up I decided to leave and hang out by the harbor to get some fresh air and sober up a bit before turning in.

I’ve never really figured out why (maybe it’s because I wear my watch on the wrong wrist?), but gay guys tend to hit on me fairly often. It’s never really phased me, if anything I take it as a compliment of sorts, but it still throws me off a bit. I only mention it because as I was sitting down by the dock sobering up a scooter pulled up with two guys on it. I’m a bit on edge because it’s late at night and I’m halfway expecting I’m about to get robbed. Instead, the two guys proceed to try and pick me up, then offer me drugs, before trying to pick me up a second time. After spending a good 5 minutes trying to get rid of them, they finally left. Slightly traumatized I decided to turn in and call it a night. Normally, I’d consider the story to be unblogworthy, but because of what happened in Paleohora the following day I’m gonna go ahead and include it.

Lander Dock Paleohora

The next morning Lander and I woke up fairly early and caught a bus across the island to a small town on the south shore called Paleohora, which we had been told had interesting architecture and was beautiful. Despite being less than 50km to the south, the bus ride took about two hours – which other than my hangover – was great. The bus ride wound up into the mountains and along the mountainside through several medium-sized gorges. The hillsides along the gorges were extremely steep but still terraced in many places. Any remotely flat areas were covered with olive orchards. Several of the steeper areas had also been cleared into fields where sheep grazed. The day was a beautiful partly cloudy dream. Large fluffy clouds regularly shot rays of light down onto the countryside. Because of the light and the somewhat glossy nature of several of the shrubs everything seemed a vibrant green, broken only by the jagged white rocks protruding from the shrubs and the golden-hued trees that dotted the small washes and dry river beds. A number of the small green bushes had berries which were a vibrant red and looked delicious. The rock formations were fierce looking…almost like a white lava. They are sharp…pitted by water, rain and snow in a way that leaves cutting edges and circular indents in the stone.


Eventually we wound our way through the mountains and found ourselves at Paleohora. We disembarked on the main street and immediately had to make a decision. The sign in front of us read <–Beach–> and pointed in both directions. A terrible quandary to face ehh? As it turns out, the city sits on a peninsula and we had been dropped off about halfway up it. We chose left, which dumped us out on a beautiful pebble stone beach. The stones were all decent sized and there was almost no sand. As a result, as the tide washed in it would push stones forward, then as the wave pulled back out the pebbles would fall on each other creating a quiet thunder as they banged and slid back down. It was astounding and fantastically melodious. We paused, took it in, relaxed and then set off to walk out the peninsula following the coast road.

Pebble Beach, Palehora, Crete

After leaving the pebble beach we found a small market and picked up some fresh fruit and a tin of sardines. We walked out to the tip of a large cement dock and sat down to eat our snack. From our perch on the dock we were able to see down through the crystal clear water to the sea floor some 15 feet or so below us. Along the edge of the dock were several large schools of different types of fish. As we sat there throwing in small pieces of banana, orange, kiwi and sardines, the fish schooled to nibble at the food. About 10 minutes after we arrived an old Greek man appeared. This is where the story I was writing about earlier comes into play. He was dressed traditionally like most older Greek men, missing most of his teeth, and he walked with a cane. He hobbled up and said something in slurred Greek. Because of his missing teeth and the way he talked, I doubt I’d have been able to understand him even if I spoke Greek. Never the less, he gestured as we talked and we carried on a brief conversation.

From what we could piece together he was an old fisherman who had had to stop fishing because of an accident which damaged both of his knees, but, in his youth he had caught a lot of big fish out on the sea. We offered him a tangerine as we apologized in English for not being able to speak Greek – all of which was fairly normal and made for a good story. That’s where it got really odd, however. After his fishing story he pointed at the two of us, said something, made a weird inquisitive face then in response to our blank looks held out his two hands in pointer position, then rubbed the two back and forth in parallel side-to-side. Not sure what he was asking or getting at, I decided to play dumb, shrugged my shoulders, made an apologetic face, then said, “Oh, we’re American” – as usually when people ask something odd it’s a cultural question or they want to know where we’re from. He talked again briefly before ambling back up the dock to a chair in front of one of the houses a ways back where he sat staring out at the sea. It wasn’t until after he left, as Lander and I were walking back up talking about the old guy, that I asked him, “Is it just me or did he just ask us if we were gay and hit on us?” It turned out he had gotten the same impression. We tried to think of some other meaning behind the hand motion and couldn’t figure anything out. All around quite the odd day, that made two times in a 24 hour period I’d been approached in some shape or form on a dock…maybe there’s some unspoken Greek rule we should have been told about?

Anyhow, from there the road wrapped around the ruins of an old Venetian castle before turning into dirt at the point which was just open land with a small building or two and a number of goats and chickens. As we followed the track back around the other side, we passed the harbor and eventually ended up by the large sandy beach which was on the other side of the peninsula. There we paused before exploring the town and ordering a horrible meat plate. Disappointed, I pulled off a small piece of hamburger, wrapped it in my napkin and stuck it in my pocket to feed the cats later. As in Chania, there were cats everywhere, some were well fed, others looked fairly thin – despite this, as we left the restaurant and walked around (we had an hour to kill before our bus arrived) there was not a cat to be found. Amazed, I finally gave up and was complaining to Lander about how they had all vanished when I tossed my remnants at a large open trash bin. My aim was poor, it hit the side of the bin, teetered for a moment and fell to the ground. At the same moment there was a huge commotion and a cat flew, practically vertically, up and out of the dumpster. It turns out it had been rummaging inside for food and I’d scared it when I hit the can with the meat. Laughing at the irony, I unwrapped the rest and tossed it to the cat.

The next morning we got up and caught the bus to Rethymno. We arrived at 3 or so and made our way to a hostel noted in the book. By 5, we had two beds, though we were extremely disappointed by the quality of the hostel and atmosphere. Committed to one night, we decided we would switch back to a cheap hotel the next day. We explored the town briefly before finding a nice place for dinner and sampling some of the local cuisine. We found a reasonable restaurant and ordered a delicious meat & artichoke plate which was as tender as could be and came with a side of sliced potatoes. From there we explored the nightlife briefly before turning in and getting a horrible night’s sleep on the nasty hostel beds.

The rest I’ll have to pick up tomorrow. Until then!