Thursday, September 22, 2011

Greek Kindness in Katakolon

Beach-combing in Katakolon w/cruise ships in background.
This past summer I made a promise to a Museum curator in Greece. My husband and I had been traveling and arrived that morning in Katakolon, Greece. Katakolon might not roll off the tongue, but most of us have heard of Olympia about 90 minutes away.

Having spent his traveling cash on airfare when he missed the ship days earlier, he had only 10 Euro in pocket change as we waited for the tiny high-tech train we'd just missed.

With an hour's time to kill we noticed a humble little museum across the tracks. So we traipsed through the weedy adjacent field, and peered in.

Katakolon Museum, Greece
"How much?" we asked. Although it didn't matter because we didn't have a spare Euro, so we shrugged and said "oh, we haven't any money", and prepared to sit in the sun waiting for our train.

"Come on in," she offered, with genuine hospitality. That was our first surprise. What awaited us inside was no less inspiring.

"I'll let you know when the train comes," she offered in perfect English.

She then stood up from her seat behind the entrance booth and proceeded to give us a one-hour private tour of the museum's artifacts, wooden models, dioramas and ingenious inventions.  At each well-marked display she shared the history, demonstrated the invention and even let us handle select items in spite of the 'do not touch' signs. She even posed for this photo with my husband. What heart! And we hadn't paid a cent to visit. Such are the kindnesses we experienced from the Greeks.
Early Greek sundial-style clock adapts to the season's light.
High-tech, tiny train.
An hour later, we and 20 others crowded into the two-car train destined for Olympia, with ancient ruins larger, more spectacular and more preserved than I could have imagined.
Olympic Field, Starting Line.
We walked most the day and barely saw a fourth of what was to been seen, the context of the archeological site made richer by our morning visit to the Katakolon Musuem.

In addition to the traditional tourist stuff, like my husband pretending to launch off the starting blocks, we had Gyros for lunch in Olympia, and pulled money from an ATM as the train had cost double what we'd expected. By end of day, we again had only 5 Euros left.

Upon our return to Katakolon, we headed across the train track to present those few Euros as compensation for our earlier museum visit. The museum was now closed.

Museum of Ancient Greek Technology
At that point she was setting out beverages in a cafe-style tent adjacent to her museum. She was pleased to see us, and said that we had 'touched her heart' by coming back. We know the truth. She made our day, our visit, our trip. Our hearts were the ones touched. I promised to blog about her museum. We shook hands, and prepared to head back to the ship.

And after a day of sightseeing, I really wanted an ice cold Coke in one of those little glass bottles, but alas, didn't have a single Euro left.  Best not to push our luck.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If Dogs Could Tweet, We'd All Know Where to Find the Best Dog Parks

Sparky awaits his entrance to Walnut Creek - Shramm Park
Sparky the boxer-doodle turned four this summer -- 28 years' old in dog years. It was time I let him off leash.

He didn't want me to have to drive all the way to Hefflinger Dog Park in Omaha, but wanted to celebrate by finding a park nearby where he could run, play, and maybe make a new canine pal. Sparky doesn't have Facebook so the whole friend thing requires I provide him face-to-face sniff time.

We set out on an unusually hot day, having searched online for DOG PARKS in Plattsmouth, then Cass county, then Sarpy county, finding nearly nothing to satisfy his pent-up desire for a birthday romp in tall grass. After about 30 minutes online, we found a three parks near the Bellevue, Papillion and LaPlatte areas off 370. Sparky asked me to share what we found with the other Cass County dogs on my blog, since he doesn't have his own Twitter account either.

Bellevue, LaPlatte, NE / Capehart Off-Leash Dog Park
Sparky had a good run at Capehart and 23rd in Bellevue
This expansive, fenced, well-maintained field has fresh water, a large shade tree, a long hill and a bench. It's double-gated entry provides safety for dogs coming into and out of the park. Shrubs around two sides provide privacy and lots of interesting areas to hide. However, this park in plain sight was the most difficult to find based on directions. It's right off 370 and I-75, on Capehart, near 25th street, but very poorly marked. Look for what appears to be abandoned basketball hoops and tennis courts near the military housing and way at the back you'll find the park entrance. Sparky liked this park, but it wasn't his favorite. Additional photos, map and directions can be found here.

Bellevue, NE / Jewell Off-Leash Dog Park
It's clean, it's nice. But it's not interesting enough to hang out.
This dog park is near the trail head of the Jewell Trail in Bellevue, NE.  Separate fenced areas are available for dogs under 30 pounds, and larger dogs. No one is on site to enforce the distinction, so use your best judgement based on your dogs' temperament. The two fields appear to be nothing but well-mowed lawns. There are no trees, no landmarks, no benches, and only one table inside the fenced area. However the surrounding park and trails make this worth a day trip if you also want to bring along a leash. This was Sparky's least favorite park, but it may be he was picking up on my frustration at finding no shady place to sit and watch him play. Additional photos, a map and directions can be found here.

Omaha, Papillion, NE / Walnut Creek - Schramm Off-Leash Dog Park

Due to a mix of short and tall grasses, dry prairie, waterfront, mixed width paths, and three seating areas, the off-leash park at Walnut Creek was Sparky's and my favorite. Trash bags are provided to tote out any leave-behinds, parking is close and shaded, and this park provides multi-season interest. It felt like the largest of the three parks we visited.  We've been back several times, finding mid-week peaceful with rarely another dog in sight. Sparky loves the long runs, tall grasses, sounds of crickets and plant diversity with trees, shrubs, shade, water and several interesting pathways. Additional photos, a map and directions can be found here.

Sparky's fourth birthday was a hit.

He's hoping other dogs will benefit from what he learned while off leash.

He'd share adventures on his own blog, but he's barely learned how to sit, and typing is out of the question.