Mak­ing a few stops on the way home to Canada

More of Our Canada - - Destinations - by Maria Mravinec, Cochrane, Alta.

If you had told me ten years ago that I’d have trav­elled half­way across the world to live for al­most a year and have had the op­por­tu­nity to visit some amaz­ing coun­tries, I would not have be­lieved you. But this is ex­actly what hap­pened when my hus­band Vern and I made the de­ci­sion to live and work in Saudi Ara­bia. Well, Vern worked. I came along for the ad­ven­ture and to sup­port him, of course.

We did some trav­el­ling dur­ing our time in Saudi Ara­bia, which was quite in­cred­i­ble. We vis­ited Bahrain, Croa­tia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. When Vern’s work con­tract ended and we were ready to re­turn to Canada, we de­cided to take some time for more trav­el­ling on our way home.

Our first des­ti­na­tion was Jor­dan. We stayed at the Car­a­van Ho­tel in the cap­i­tal city of Am­man, which was run by a lovely Jor­da­nian fam­ily. Taleb, the owner and fa­ther, helped us with our travel plans. He took the time to sit down with us and sug­gest an itin­er­ary for our three-day stay. His old­est son, Abed, was our chauf­feur for the time we were there.

Abed took us to see the an­cient Ro­man ru­ins in the city of Jerash. The tem­ples, am­phithe­atres and colon­naded streets were fas­ci­nat­ing. We also vis­ited the Ci­tadel, an­other his­toric site with a fan­tas­tic view of Am­man.

Pe­tra was our next stop in Jor­dan. This fa­mous world won­der is the coun­try’s great­est tourist at­trac­tion. The high­light for me was walk­ing through the Siq—a long, nar­row walk­way sur­rounded by colour­ful sand­stone cliffs—that opens up to re­veal the mag­nif­i­cent view of the Trea­sury, a tem­ple carved into the stone. One day was def­i­nitely not long enough to ex­plore all that Pe­tra has to of­fer.

On our last day in Jor­dan, we vis­ited Mount Nebo and the Jor­dan River. Last but not least, we made a stop at the Dead Sea. We spent so much time walk­ing and see­ing so many amaz­ing things that it was nice to take a few hours to re­lax and ex­pe­ri­ence the buoy­ancy of this very salty sea.

Our next des­ti­na­tion was San­torini, Greece. A few years ago, I had come across a pic­ture of some beau­ti­ful white stone build­ings with vi­brant, blue­domed roofs sur­rounded by other white stone build­ings look­ing out onto a gor­geous body of wa­ter sur­rounded by vol­canic is­lands. At the time, I had no idea where this pic­ture was taken, but

I knew that I would love to go there one day. It turns out, this pic­ture was taken in the town of Oia (pro­nounced Eee-yaa), on the Greek Is­land of San­torini. And, it fit into our travel plans, which was very ex­cit­ing for me.

The weather was ab­so­lutely gor­geous while we were in Oia. We spent most of our time walk­ing the cob­ble­stone streets and stairs, re­lax­ing on a pa­tio or by a pool while tak­ing in the glorious views. It was quite breath­tak­ing.

On our last day in Oia, we de­cided to take a cata­ma­ran tour of the is­land. This is a very good way to meet peo­ple. And some­times this is when you re­al­ize how small the world re­ally can be. My hus­band and I met a lady from Aus­tralia on the tour. It turns out that her daugh­ter lived in Moose Jaw, Sask., for a year as part of a stu­dent ex­change pro­gram. It’s re­ally neat that some­one who lives so far away would know of a lit­tle Cana­dian Prairie town in a prov­ince we used to call home.

Our last stop be­fore head­ing back to Canada was Slove­nia. We flew into the cap­i­tal city of Ljubl­jana and spent a few days tour­ing around be­fore head­ing to Nova Lipa, a small vil­lage in the south­ern part of the coun­try. This is where my fa­ther-in-law grew up and where his brother Loiz and sis­ter-in­law Fanika still live to­day.

I’ve been very lucky to have vis­ited Slove­nia a few times now. It gets more and more beau­ti­ful ev­ery time I re­turn. It’s hard to cap­ture the beauty of this coun­try in a pic­ture, with its rolling green hills, ma­jes­tic moun­tains and quaint vil­lages.

Loiz and Fanika have a self-sus­tain­ing farm. They have their own cat­tle, chick­ens and pigs, and have enough farm­land to grow food for their live­stock and for them­selves. They also have their own vine­yard. Apart from see­ing fam­ily, my favourite thing to do while stay­ing in Nova Lipa is help­ing out with the grape har­vest. Enough grapes are picked, crushed and made into wine, as well as juice, to last the year.

By the time our week in Slove­nia ended, I was ready to get back home. I’m so thank­ful for the peo­ple I’ve met, the great places I’ve seen and the op­por­tu­nity to share my ad­ven­tures with fam­ily and friends. ■

Clock­wise from left: The Trea­sury in Pe­tra, Jor­dan; Maria and Vern float­ing in the Dead Sea; the town of Oia in San­torini, Greece.

Bled, a tourist town out­side of Ljubl­jana, Slove­nia. Be­low: Maria pick­ing grapes in Nova Lipa, Slove­nia.

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