Lost and Found

_DSC7326

My dad used to drive this tractor around his own father’s farm in the mid-1950’s. During the Reagan years it was auctioned off as he, along with so many other Minnesota farmers, lost land that had been in the family for generations.

Several months ago, my dad happened upon it again at another auction. That boyhood nostalgia bit him, and he decided to buy it back. He now uses it for odd projects that have nothing to do with farming, but it did my heart good to see that youthful glint in his eye, hauling dirt around his property like he was still a kid on his dad’s dairy farm.

Dubrovnik Panorama

Dubrovnik

It’s not that scary riding in a tiny cable car packed with 30 strangers, elbowing you as they vie for the best cabin position. So what if the cable car didn’t operate earlier in the day because the winds were too strong? It’s only 2,500 feet above Dubrovnik. You’ll be totally fine!

_DSC4898

Dubrovnick

_DSC4914

Corfu Morning

Corfu Morning

One of the things I enjoyed about taking a Mediterranean cruise was falling asleep at sea and waking up at a new port. The best part was throwing back the curtains in the morning and laying eyes on ancient cities like Corfu, Greece, its Venetian buildings and forts huddled along the shore. I would hurry outside to capture the sunrise while the light was still perfect. The quiet moments spent bathing in sea air after that were some of my favorites.

Pulling into Corfu

The Melissani Cave

Argostoli Underground Lake

I wanted to like Melissani Cave, located on the Greek island of Kefalonia. The  Costa Cruise excursion brochure said that our guide would lead a limited number of us down a tunnel and into a subterranean world, where a wooden boat would be waiting on the shore of an underground lake. It sounded like some secret adventure far away from the majority of Costa’s passengers, and it was paired with a winery tour, so I booked it.

One of the cons of taking a cruise is that you are at the mercy of the cruise line’s schedule. You can’t beat the crowds at your destination by avoiding peak hours. There’s no hope of capturing the coveted morning or sunset light (which is a big deal for photographers). You explore when you’re in port, and there are only a few hours to do it. Still, I hoped for a good photo opportunity.

An hour after disembarking from the ship in Argostoli, my bus kicked up gravel in the Melissani Cave parking lot. A line of other tourists, maybe 100 deep, already snaked around souvenir shops.

11951300_10205182276702484_6690243295167741887_n

The Costa Cruise tour guide gave each of its passengers a playing card. This was our admission ticket into the cave. So I grabbed my card and got in line, inching forward under the hot Kefalonia sun. My camera strap dug into the back of my neck, slick with sweat.

Eventually, I found myself at the entrance of a dark tunnel, and at the end of it was the proverbial light. Standing on tip-toe, I caught a glimpse of the underground lake over the shoulders of other tourists. Its teal blue waters reflected light from a hole in the cave’s partially collapsed ceiling (done in by a 1953 earthquake).

I arrived at the dock, immediately  overtaken by the unobstructed view, but there was no time for pictures. An oarsman sung to me, taking my hand and hurrying me aboard along with 10 others. Soon, we’d be rowing over those clear waters and on our way to stalactites and hidden caverns. Great! Lots of photo opportunities! That sense of mystery and excitement returned for a moment…

And only a moment.

Smashed against the oarlock, each rotation of the paddle hit me in the head. Not that I had to endure if for long. The whole boat ride was over 10 minutes – if I’m being generous. It wasn’t enough time to enjoy the cave or even really document it on camera. The oarsman passed around a tip bucket and shooed us away and back up the dark tunnel to buy souvenirs.

I’m not sure it was worth the hour drive from Argostoli.

If I were to return to Kefalonia, it wouldn’t be on a cruise line. And I wouldn’t waste time at tourist traps in the middle of the afternoon. I’d fly in and rent a car. From ancient city walls, fortresses, monasteries, and wineries, there seems to be plenty to do on that island if a traveler has the time to enjoy it. Seems like it’s worth a second chance (especially if a trip to Robola vineyards is included).

_DSC4625

A winery tour of Robola vineyards helped ease my disappointment

 

 

The Red Umbrella Mystery

Red Umbrella

When I went to lunch this afternoon, I found this abandoned umbrella, slightly damaged, lolling in the middle of the sidewalk. Of course, this begged the question – why was it there?

Perhaps the owner went into The Underground, where you get a free straw with every drink. Who could say no to that?!

Or, perhaps the owner was so overjoyed by a brief period of sunshine that she cast off the umbrella and went skipping off down the sidewalk, thinking she’d never need it again? (Sorry to say, a half hour later she did…)

Maybe it was ripped from its owner’s hands by a gust of wind, flying far across Bellingham?

Or, could it be that it is owned by no one? It’s an enchanted umbrella, appearing before a storm to warn residents of an impending downpour. Everyone knows that TRUE Pacific Northwesterners don’t even use umbrellas…

The Climb to Kotor’s Castle of San Giovanni

Kotor Fortress

Kotor, Montenegro. Prior to embarking on a Mediterranean cruise, I’d never heard of it. Now, I can’t wait to return and spend more than a few hours roaming through the old town and climbing the hills. Imagine this view at sunset!