One Month in Greece with Two Months Remaining

Stephen F. Dennstedt

In my last blog post from Greece I said of the Muppet Brothers: We’re Still Looking for Quintessential Greece. I think that’s still the case—I suspect most people associate Greece with its many islands, sunny blue skies, and clear blue waters.

So far our experiences have been on the Greek mainland, having entered eastern Greece through Bulgaria. As you may recall we reluctantly decided to give Turkey a temporary pass because of their political situation and views on Syria.

You can read more about the why of our decision if you’re interested: Rethinking Turkey—the Country Not the Bird. After a two-week stay in the big city of Thessaloniki (which wasn’t to our liking) we traveled to the smaller coastal town of Néa Moudhaniá—traveling from a big city of over 1-million residents we escaped to a town of less than 10,000 residents. Much more to our liking but still not the quintessential Greece we were looking for. However, after two weeks in the big city, we did enjoy our restful and relaxing visit to Néa Moudhaniá. We left Néa Moudhaniá Thursday morning for the lakeside community of Ioánnina (113,000).

Morning Rowers on Lake Pamvotida (or Pamvotis) aka Lake of Ioannina

Here are some housekeeping tidbits for you: the taxi fare from our hotel to the bus terminal in Néa Moudhaniá was €5 and our bus tickets from Néa Moudhaniá back to Thessaloniki were €7 pp; our taxi fare from where we were dropped off in Thessaloniki to the main bus terminal across town (remember Thessaloniki is a big city of over 1-million residents) was an additional €23. Once we arrived at the main bus terminal in Thessaloniki we purchased our tickets for the three-hour bus ride to Ioánnina for €30 pp; €5 more got us from the bus terminal in Ioánnina to our hotel—a convoluted travel day for sure but it turned out okay.

Castle of Ioannina

So we’ve been in Ioánnina since late last Thursday afternoon (today is Monday) and we are leaving again after a one-week stay this coming Thursday morning. Our next stop is a one-week stay in Patras before boarding a ferry to the island of Kefalonia and our three-week stay in the town of Argostoli. Finally the island experience is in our future. The three-hour bus trip from Ioánnina to Patras is €25 pp. All of this travel and pricing information might bore the hell out of the average reader but some folks (fellow travelers) who’ve stumbled across this blog have mentioned they find the information useful—just pick and choose what you like.

My preconceived expectations for Greece evolved primarily from the movie Zorba the Greek, USA Greek salads, and Greek gyros sandwiches. My first actual impressions of Greece include the facts that mainland Greece has a lot of mountains (we’ve traveled through and over a number of mountain ranges with snow) with cold winter months, that Greek food tends to be much greasier than expectation (this would be a good place for a well placed pun about Greece versus grease), and that it’s a large and diverse country. I suspect our three-week island experience will be more stereotypical—sunshine, blue skies, warm water.

Field Notes: Please don’t come away with the impression that we’re not enjoying Greece because that’s not the case at all. It just seems to be so different from our expectations that we’re having a hard time reconciling our preconceived expectations with Greece’s actual realities. This is most certainly our problem and should not reflect on Greece at all—again, I suspect our island experience will shift our perceptions yet once again. I captured the B&W images include in this post with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom—a favorite walkabout combination. SFD


Photography 101: Your Gear Isn’t the Problem

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Your photography “kit” is probably not the problem. One of my favorite landscape photographers and YouTube personalities, Thomas Heaton, gets reals about the ups & downs of photography in this recently released video I’ve included.

I think all Creatives, regardless of chosen discipline, suffer from ups & downs in their creative workflow from time to time. Thomas is half my age so I’ve probably experienced them more often than he has to date but maybe not. Checkout his video.


We’re Still Looking for Quintessential Greece

Stephen F. Dennstedt

The Muppet Brothers are still looking for quintessential Greece. You know—the Greece depicted in the now cult-classic film (starring Anthony Quinn) Zorba the Greek. Managing travel expectations is essential to keeping an open mind.

It’s hard not to have preconceived ideas because we are being constantly bombarded with media hype and propaganda. We are on the mainland and I think most people think of the Greek islands when they think about visiting here.

Our first stop after leaving Bulgaria was in Thessaloniki. A big city with all the things we don’t like about big cities. Not everyone feels the way we do about big cities and that’s perfectly okay—to each his own as they say. We just completed our first week in Néa Moudhaniá and have one week remaining here before we move on. We’ve gone from a big city of over 1-million inhabitants in Thessaloniki to a small coastal village of under 10,000 people in Néa Moudhaniá. That’s a huge improvement and being on the Aegean Sea is a real plus. And the weather has turned nice with most days being warm and sunny—adios winter.

Going forward it looks like we’ll be spending some time at a lake community about three hours from Thessaloniki and then traveling to the coast to hop a ferry to one of the local islands. After we leave Néa Moudhaniá we’ll have two months remaining in Greece. I’m confident that we will find the quintessential Greece we’re looking for—it’s out there somewhere and I suspect it’s somewhere in the islands that we’ll find it. Lodging prices haven’t been too bad in Greece but food costs have about doubled from Eastern European prices (€8 EUR or $9 USD pp for a simple Continental breakfast with coffee and juice).


Photography 101: Seeing Beauty in the Details

Stephen F. Dennstedt

There is beauty to be found in the details. I’m a sucker for old doors, windows, and objects disintegrating or rusting into nothingness. Color, texture, shape and form can all make for an interesting photograph. Try looking for the details in a scene.

Thomas Heaton is one of my favorite landscape photographers and YouTube personalities. Thomas keeps it real without all the usual YouTube hype and actually provides useful content. I periodically feature his videos on my blog—so enjoy.

A Bride, Her Dress and a Shipwreck

I originally posted this article about a year ago and just heard from the granddaughter: “I have just come across your article. This was my grandmothers wedding dress and indeed it is very beautiful. She unfortunately passed away three years ago now but I very much remember her telling me the story of her shipwreck. She and my grandfather had 4 children and later 4 grandchildren. They travelled for many years with all of their children and later moved back to Aberdeen to live permanently. Thank you for sharing this, I enjoyed reading it.”

Expat Journal: Postcards from the Edge

Wedding Dress of Miss Margaret Violet Grant

This post is mainly for my women friends around the world. Joel and I spent yesterday morning exploring the Aberdeen Maritime Museum across the street from our hotel. As I was viewing the various displays and exhibits I came across this simple but beautiful wedding dress—what the heck was a wedding dress doing in a maritime museum? As is often my habit when wandering through museums and galleries I took a moment to read the short history (pictured in the placard) of this dress and its owner. When I read it I was compelled to share the story of  a young bride, her dress and a shipwreck.

Wedding Dress of Miss Margaret Violet Grant

The saga of Miss Margaret Violet Grant is now but a minor footnote in history but is full of human interest and pathos. It is not an ancient…

View original post 274 more words

Photography 101: Don’t Pander to Social Media

Stephen F. Dennstedt

As a Creative don’t pander to social media. It will kill your art and undermine your creative confidence. Social approval and acceptance is superficial and is not the same as critical acclaim and artistic recognition—the difference is huge.

Expressing creative vision often risks criticism and censure. True art is not afraid to defy social norms, artistic constraints, and worn-out cliché. Or in the inimitable words of Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek): To boldly go where no one has gone before.

I’m not a huge fan of controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s work but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge his talent. Like Mapplethorpe, in their time, iconic artists Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni and Vincent Willem van Gogh suffered the slings & arrows of their peers, the church, and the general public at large. Pandering to public taste and sentiment often results in mediocre work at best, where true genius often resides in more tortured and challenging circumstances—the oft quoted phrase suffering for your art should not be taken figuratively or lightly. Creative effort is frequently tortured effort.

Sisters – Aberdeen, Scotland

I love quotes that serve to instruct, and who better than William Shakespeare. This phrase is one of the countless famous quotes coined by William Shakespeare. In Act 1, Scene III of the famous play, Hamlet, Polonius says: This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man/Farewell, my blessing season this in thee! The quote, in its entirety, is a bit cumbersome to be sure but the nugget to thine own self be true is a real gem. Therefore, look deeply into your own heart and do not seek validation in social media because there is no truth in the Land of False Prophets.

Technical Field Notes: Rhythm—A strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. There are patterns of movement and sound all around us but of course it’s impossible to photograph actual sound except in a representative way (i.e., a photo of a musician playing a guitar). Movement is easier. I photographed two old ladies (sisters?) in Aberdeen, Scotland one year ago. To me they represent the “rhythm” of life as their unsteady footsteps repeat one after the other. Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens. Settings: 1/160s handheld @ f/8 ISO 100 @ 35mm. SFD

We Have Arrived in Thessaloniki, Greece

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Yes it’s true—the Muppet Brothers have finally arrived in Greece. Thessaloniki on the Aegean Sea to be exact. Unfortunately, we both arrived sick having caught upper respiratory infections in Sofia, Bulgaria—so we crashed & burned.

This was the third time around for me—I was sick in Oradea, Romania, then again in Bucharest, and finally what I caught in Sofia, Bulgaria lagged over into Thessaloniki, Greece. It’s still winter in Eastern Europe and the locals are hacking.

I suppose it doesn’t help that folks in Eastern Europe tend to be heavy smokers which probably weakens their resistance and makes them susceptible to whatever bug is in the air. Joel and I typically travel by bus so we’re inevitably close to all the coughing going on—same thing happens on airplanes. When I travel by plane I almost always come down with something. Anyway—Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were down days for us and this morning was our first real walkabout in Thessaloniki. Our first impression of Thessaloniki is that it is too damn big with over 1-million residents in the greater metropolitan area. Ugh!

Umbrellas a Sculpture by George Zongolopoulos (1997)

I won’t belabor the point (because I’ve done so many times before), suffice it to say the Muppet Brothers don’t like big cities—never have and never will. The up side to this aversion is as tourists flock to the world’s biggest and most congested cities the Muppet Brothers are heading in the opposite direction. Sure we miss some stuff—but heading into our eighth year of travel we’ve seen about as many churches, museums, and iconic tourist sites as we need to. We’re much happier visiting small authentic towns, hamlets, and villages—seeing real people, living real lives, doing real things in real places. Our next stop will be much better.

The White Tower of Thessaloniki (1535)

After breakfast we took our first walk about town. The sky was clear, blue, and sunny. And did I mention it was warm with a high temperature of 18°C/65°F. Just last week, when it was snowing in Sofia, it was also snowing here in Thessaloniki. Locals were still bundled up this morning but Joel and I were sweating in our shirtsleeves—it was WONDERFUL. Our first tourist site and photo opportunity was the seaside sculpture Umbrellas by George Zongolopoulos first exhibited in 1997 and now a permanent landmark. Our second tourist site was the White Tower of Thessaloniki built by the Ottomans in approximately 1535.

Technical Field Notes: I captured both images with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens (my favorite urban walkabout lens). Image #1 (Umbrellas): 1/250s handheld @ f/8 ISO 100 @ 16mm. Image #2 (White Tower of Thessaloniki): 1/125s handheld @ f/8 ISO 100 @ 16mm. I processed both RAW files in ACR and then converted them to B&W using PSE15. Both images looked okay in color but I think they look better in B&W. We will be in Thessaloniki for two weeks but we’re already longing for a smaller venue—our next stop is a small coastal town of less than 10,000. SFD