Santorini, Greece

Welcome everyone to out newest installment of Where To? Wednesdays. Last week seemed to skyrocket in popularity. Maybe it was my Grandma Precious as the guest. Maybe it was the interview? Who knows?

This week’s guest is a lady that is very important, not only to Rome Across Europe, but to me personally as well. She is a full-time teacher, RAE’s Editor in Chief, and my wife. Everyone please give a great big round of applause and welcome for Jennifer Norris.

Rome Across Europe – Hi, Honey. Welcome home. I know that after talking all day long and teaching the youth of America the last thing you probably want to do is talk some more.

Jennifer Norris – If it’s about travel, then I’ll talk about it anytime.


RAE – Great because we will need you to read over this interview before publishing to make certain no errors were had.

JN – (laughter)

RAE – So where are you taking us this Wednesday?

JN – Greece, baby!

RAE – I thought you were going to say that, but I wanted to give you a fair chance first. Why is this your pick for today’s trip?

JN – Well, a big reason is because it was my first international trip. Plus I took it alone.

RAE – I know you love Greek history/art/mythology as much as I love the same about Rome’s. What got you started with this topic? Was it the trip or had you always had this passion?

JN – I always had this passion. Since I started reading Greek mythology in 4th grade I began to love all things Greek history. And on my solo trip is where I found my sense of independce. There’s just something about being out in the world, on your own, in an unknown place to make you really grow up.

RAE – That’s exciting and good to know for the younger members of our audience. When did you go? What time of year was it?

JN – I went in June. It was the begining of the high season.

RAE – For those not familiar with that term, can you please explain a bit more?

JN – High season is the time of year when all the tourists are there. It’s usually because the weather is nice. Lots of people are there. There lots to do..festivals, activities, etc. It does come with a higher price tag though.

RAE – That’s some great information. Did you have a specific place in Greece that really stood out?

JN – As far as cities or towns go, I’d say Santorini.

Santorini, Greece

RAE – What made Santorini special for you?

JN – It was a combination of the things I did and the people I met. Some of the people I came across were the friendliest I’ve ever met. So helpful and generous.

RAE – That’s awesome. Can you share any moment in particular?

JN – In Santorini I stayed at a pension, Hotel Pension George. It was about 10 – 15 minutes outside Fira, Santorini’s capital. The pension was so cute, clean and cheap. It only cost about 35 Euros per night. The room I stayed in had these double-doors that opened up onto some lemon trees.

Pension George

The pension’s owner belonged to an organization that basically amounted to ex-pat women who feel in love with a Greek man and then never left. That organization was having a wine and music festival that night to which she invited me. So my first night there, I spent drinking wine in a Greek vineyard on the side of cliff. Being under the stars listening to music amounted to one of the best times ever.

So much fun was had that I ended up missing the last bus back to the pension. One of the ex-pat women offered to drive me back. No problem. It was as if we’d been friends forever.

RAE – Sounds like you really enjoyed yourself, and fit in well with the locals. Is there any place the locals suggested you visit?

JN – Santorini is really the only place I interacted with the locals. They told me I had to visit the black sand beach. It was amazing.

Black Sand Beaches of Santorini

RAE – Seems like you can go on about this trip for quite some time. Is there any advice that you would care to share for anyone looking to visit Greece?

JN – Yes. Watch out for the taxi drivers. They are friendly, but they’ll charge you an arm and a leg for a ride that should only cost about 3 Euros. Be aware of the distance from where you’re going. They seem to want to charge those appearing to be tourists a set fee. Just think, cabs here in the states don’t give rides for set fees, why should they do that abroad?

Oh. If any Albanian men offer to take you back to their apartment, just say “No”.

RAE – Anything else?

JN – Even in Athens, about half of the businesses did not have air conditioning. In the morning buy a liter water bottle and carry it with you. You will finish it. Easily. And your body will acclimate pretty quickly to the heat and humidity.

RAE – It’s been a pleasure to hear about your little paradise. Any parting words?

JN – If there are multiple places you’d like to travel to, ask yourself “If I could only go one other place in my lifetime, where would it be?”. Your heart will tell you where you want to be. Start there and then work your way down the list.

RAE – Wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to share about Santorini and Greece. Now go relax, Honey.

Just like the rest of Greece, Santorini or ancient Thera was once controlled by the Romans. When the Roman Empire split in two, Thera was controlled by the Eastern Roman Empire known today as the Byzantine Empire. Most of the island’s architecture reflects this eastern feel.

If you’d like to know more about traveling to Santorini, or Greece in general, just click Here.

Thank you again for spending time with us today on this Where To? Wednesday. We will be back next week with another journey and a new guest. In the meantime, remember to keep on Rome-ing!


Delos, Greece

Delos is located near the center of Cyclades archipelago. In mythology, the island is thought to be home to Apollo and his sister, Artemis. There were temples to them which then made Delos the home of the Oracle of Delphi.

Apollo is known as the “God of Music, Poetry, Art, Oracles, Archery, Plague and Medicine, the Sun, Light, and Knowledge”. Artemis is known as the “Goddess of the Hunt, Archery, the Moon, Forests and Hills”. The Oracle of Delphi gave prophecies supposedly inspired by Apollo.

Delos was taken over in 88 BC by the Romans and converted into a free-trade port. For more information, please check out the UNESCO World Heritage site.



A Wonderful Experience

There are many people, both living and passed, that I admire for different reasons. I have previously mentioned how I look to Julius Caesar for all he was able to accomplish while having seizures, since I too live with a similar condition. My Granda Precious is who I thank for getting me interested in studying history. And I would be lying to myself if I did not mention that I respect former Texas Longhorn Colt McCoy for his athletic ability and hard work ethic.

Last night, due to my verying loving wife, I was able to meet the man who inspired me to create this website. He also gave me the idea that possibly traveling and teaching others about culture and history could be an actual career. This man is Richard “Rick” Steves of the PBS show Rick Steves’ Europe.


He was giving a presentation in Downtown Austin at the historic Paramount Theatre about his experiences, travel tips, tours, paramount-theatre-austin-texabooks, and anything else one could wonder about when traveling abroad. The evening was a complete delight. Rick was quite engaging. He was exactly as I imagined him to be from seeing him on his shows. Rick was upbeat, entertaining, and packed full of information.

During his talk there were slides shown on the theatre’s large screen to provide visuals. This was a perfect accompaniment while he Rick Steves Ticketshared, of what I am sure in only a fraction of, the many stories he has. After the intermission, Rick also had a brief Q and A session. With the theatre being two levels, I thought for sure only those closest to the stage would be noticed. Wrong. Rick made it a point to make sure even those in the balcony, like Jenn and I, had some questions answered.

He came on promptly at 8 o’clock, as scheduled, and the time flew bye. In the lobby there was not only his latest book, Europe Through the Back Door 2015, but he also had a couple of free handouts. Everything there would provide great information and tips from the veteran traveler, like Rick, to those wondering if traveling was right for them.

With my head spinning from all of the new things I learned, upon the conclusion of his talk Rick said he would meet anyone in the lobby for autographs and pictures. Having done many of these signing sessions before, Rick’s approach was very “European”. Instead of sitting behind a table, Rick stood in the middle of the room and just rotated in a 360-degree motion. Once a person got an autograph he or she stepped away, he kept turning, and a new person filled the void.

Rick Steves Stuff

What a cool thing to do! Rick Steves was so friendly and enjoyable, I would make sure to see him whenever he returns to Austin. My advice is take the time and see him if he ever comes anywhere near where you live. It is definitely worth the time and money.

If I had to briefly sum up everything from what Rick shared it would be that a bit of planning and some basic information will make any trip easier and a lot more enjoyable. You may even save some money on the front end so you have more to spend on a special meal or shopping while on your trip.

I feel even more excited and inspired to keep working now. Thanks to my spectacular wife, Jenn, for the ticket and lovely surprise. And another “Thank You” obviously goes to Rick Steves for the lessons.

I appreciate you reading this and remember to keep on Rome-ing!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Hi and welcome to the first edition of “Where To? Wednesdays”. These posts are going to be all about you, the audience members. Rome Across Europe is going to share your stories, as well as your favorite places to visit when in Europe.

For this inaugural post I chose my grandmother, Flora. WhileChuck and Flora Carlberg 11-11-46 growing up, her and my Grandpa Chuck were the two people I knew who traveled across the world. When I thought who should be the first interview there was no doubt in my mind it should be her. I refer to her as Grandma Precious, or GP (this name is another story that does not pertain to traveling). This one’s for you GP!

This Wednesday our destination is…Edinburgh, Scotland. For those that are not aware, Scotland was built around seven hills following the Seven Hills of Rome.  Edinburgh is the 2nd largest city in Scotland and the 7th largest city in the UK. The Romans arrived here in the First Century AD. Just like everything else the Romans did, their influence stayed well after the collapse of the Empire.

View from Calton Hill

Rome Across Europe – Hi Grandma. Welcome to Rome Across Europe. You and Grandpa traveled to so many places, where would you like to take us today?

Grandma Precious – That’s a hard one. We went so many places together. How about Edinburgh, Scotland?

RAE – Sounds good! Our audience wants to know, what was your favorite place you visited on your Scotland trip?

GP – That would have to be Edinburgh Castle.

RAE – Castles are always interesting since they typically withstand the tests of time, both from humans and nature. What stood out to you in particular?

GP – You have to walk through 6 or 7 tunnels to get there.

RAE – I heard a tale warning University of Edinburgh students not to pass through the castle gates or they will fail their final exams. So I guess not too many followed in your path. How did you choose Edinburgh and Scotland as a place to visit.

GP – We always got lots of brochures and made a sheet to compare and choose before locations going to the travel agent. This was the best for when we wanted to go.

RAE – I know that you two went in the earlier part of the 1980’s. Was the trip pricey?

GP – The cost was a little over $3,000 at the time, but our trip also included England, Ireland, and Wales. It was a whirlwind tour of the UK. I don’t know what it would be now. I’m sure it would be much more though.

RAE – Probably so. What time of year did you make this trip?

GP – It was around the Fourth of July. The locals even had American flags flying to greet us at the hotel. Entertainment was provided by a local drill team. We were served a special cake after dinner and more musical entertainment.

RAE – Wow! That’s impressive, especially since the American holiday was a celebration of freedom from the United Kingdom. Apparently time has healed their wounds. What else did you do while in Edinburgh?

GP – Since the weather was very nice we did a lot of walking around. Our own tours of the town and local scene. Of course we did some shopping too. Plus the locals were very helpful if we had questions.

RAE – I imagine sharing a common language helped you out?

GP – Oh, yes.

RAE – How was the food? Did you eat anywhere special?

GP – We first had lunch at the Rose and Crown, a local pub. For dinner we went to Hotel Oratava where they served Haggis. Only a bite was enough for me. They put on a show for us with lots of singing and, of course, some bagpipes. One lunch to remember was at The George Hotel. It had so much elegance and traditions. They also served very good food.

RAE – Sounds like a pretty good adventure.

GP – That’s the best part of traveling. Each place has it’s own charm.

RAE – Indeed. Well, thank you for sharing your experience and I hope your sharing will inspire others to venture across The Pond.


For more history of Scotland during the Roman Empire, you can click here. To see more about Edinburgh Castle and get specific information you can visit its website.

I appreciate your reading this post and please contact us here at Rome Across Europe if you want to share your trip to a place that fell within the boundaries of Rome’s Empire. Till next time, keep on Rome-ing!

Adventus – The Arrival

As I reflect upon yesterday’s mass, I began to wonder if peopleSJV really know what this time of year is really about.  Jennifer and I are aware, along with fellow Christians. Even most people who do not have a faith are at least familiar with “The Christmas Story” with Mary, Joseph, and the birth of Jesus. But do most folks really know what this time of year is called and how it came about?

In English, the time of year is known as Advent. The season is ADVENTobserved in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The color associated with this event is purple. That is a good jumping off point.

Advent comes from the Latin Adventus, meaning arrival. Adventus was a term actually used before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Adventus was an ancient Roman ceremony in which an emperor, or Caesar, was formally welcomed into a city. This was typically after a military campaign, often (but not always) on the way back to Rome.


With the amount of military campaigns throughout Roman history, the Adventus was rather commonplace. Ceremonies welcoming Caesar were a way to show both loyalty to the Empire’s leader, as well as the man that was the link between them and their Roman deities.

So now, as we celebrate Advent, you will know what is truly happening. We welcome both the coming of the baby Jesus and the arrival of Christianity’s leader to our homes.

Have fun while you enjoy and this festive season. And remember to keep on Rome-ing!

Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church

St Martin’s Church, located outside the walls of Roman Durovernum, existed in 597 when the monk Augustine was sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great to bring Christianity to the Saxon kingdom of Kent. The church was built for the most part before the 8th century. It undoubtedly includes a Roman structure from the 4th century.

Inside the city walls, which St Augustine made his cathedral (probably at the very spot where Christ Church now stands) nothing has been conserved. However there is St Augustine’s Abbey.

Another great Christian pilgrim was Thomas Becket. He chose what is now Canterbury Cathedral, and the county of modern-day Kent, for his holy work. After being murdered by followers of King Henry II on 29 December 1170, Becket was canonized by Pope Alexander III.

The Siege and Battle of Alesia (or Julius Caesar Conquers Gaul)

I have made it no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Julius Caesar. And why shouldn’t I be? He was only one of history’s greatest soldiers, generals and politicians. However, it was in Gaul that Caesar truly made his mark. Here he was Consul in the First Triumvirate as well as Governor.


Caesar was in debt for power he had acquired. In the ancient world power came at a price. In order to conquer as much as Caesar did, a leader needed to pay his soldiers well. This way the soldiers also remained loyal only to that leader, and in this case the leader was Caesar.

Where could somebody get enough money, and ager publicus, to pay off one’s debt PLUS keep all the soldiers happy? The answer was easy…Gaul (present day France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switzerland, the alpine region of Northern Italy, including parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the Rhine). At the time Gaul was part of the Roman frontier. The land was comprised of various chieftains, princes, kings, etc. but it all still fell under the Roman umbrella.

Gaul on the eve of Rome’s conquering

Caesar, and the legions under his command, had been in Gaul since 58 BC. The Roman force stormed about Gaul taking over the lands, and sending the conquered warriors east to become part of the legions around the eastern portion of the Mediterranean. This was a common practice to send those newly conscripted soldiers to the opposite ends of the Empire so they would never be stationed in their homeland, thus never fighting against their own people. Seeing as how this was already Caesar’s proclaimed turf from the Triumvirate, it was primed for his taking.

The only thing that stood in Caesar’s way of full control over Gaul Alise-Sainte-Reine_statue_Vercingetorix_par_Millet_2was Vercingetorix and those Gallic tribes in Getorix’s command. Obviously this did not make Caesar, nor his legions, happy. Battle upon battle occurred and Caesar’s Fourteenth Legion was actually destroyed in 53 BC. But, it did come with a price. Vercingetorix and his Gauls knew they could not keep this up and compete with any Roman army in a head-to-head battle, so they would attack and fall deeper into the country. This drew Caesar deeper into the Gallic countryside and extended the Roman supply lines for mile-upon-Roman-mile.

Realizing that this style of fighting would never do, Caesar forced Getorix to make a choice for one last stand off, one last battle. Due to the retreat of Getorix to the hilltop fortification of Alesia, Caesar knew he had to use the power and ingenuity of Rome to his advantage. Caesar marched his legions into camp at the base of the hill and set his troops to work.


The year was 52 BC. The scene was set for a final standoff. Caesar and all that Rome stood for against the last of “lowly” people of the West. It was fame, glory, and money against a people that were trying not to be annihilated. How was this going to end? One of Caesar’s, and history’s, greatest military accomplishments was about to happen. first glance it looks like any other siege of a stronghold. Defenders atop a mountain while the base is surrounded. This is true. There is nothing unique about a siege line, except Caesar never did anything basic. The Roman siege line was 18 kilometers (11.1847 miles) long by 4 meters (13.1234 feet) high of fortification . It also was designed and completed in only 3 weeks.

You may be thinking, “Wow, that’s impressive.” and you would be correct. But Caesar did not stop there. His men then made an angled slope down from the ramparts to make it harder for attackers to climb. The Roman engineers also added two four-and-a-half meter (14.7638 feet) wide ditches which were also four-and-a-half meter (14.7638 feet) deep. The ditch closest to the mountaintop fortification was filled with water. It turns out that horses, which the Gauls typically fought upon, do not like jumping into water.

pages.uoregon.edukliomapsrralesia_defenses2Julius Caesar puts it best in his Commentaries on the war in Gaul, Book 7, Chapters 63-90 on what else was added: “In front of these, pits were dug, arranged in diagonal rows to form quincunxes. They were one meter deep and tapered gradually towards the bottom. Smooth stakes as thick as a man’s thigh, with sharpened ends and hardened in the fire, were set into these pits in such a way that they projected no more than four inches above the ground. To keep them firmly in position, earth was thrown into the bottom of the pits and trodden down to a depth of one foot, the rest of the space being covered with twigs and brush wood to conceal the trap. The pits were constructed in groups; each group had eight rows, three feet apart. The soldiers called them ‘lilies’ because of their resemblance to that flower. In front of these we had another device. Wood blocks a foot long were sunk completely into the ground, with iron hooks fixed in them, and scattered thickly all over the area. These the soldiers called ‘goads’.”

If you are not impressed yet, just wait. About 2 weeks into the construction, a Gallic cavalry unit managed to break through a weak side of the siege line. Caesar was obviously not pleased with this. In order to keep the siege going the Romans needed their own rear to be protected. How did they do it? They just built another siege line facing the other direction. The second line was identical to the first in design and extended for 21 kilometers (13.0488 feet). Siege line 2.0 was even completed in less time than the first.

The trap was set. The Romans were completely surrounded by safety. The 80,000 Gauls upon the hill, both soldiers and general population, were now suffering mightily. There was nothing left for Vercingetorix and his people to do. Either die on the hill or fight and possibly die trying to break the siege line. An orchestrated attack of the Gauls on the inside was combined with about 60,000 soldiers from other Gallic tribes on the outer ring.

Mass confusion abounded from everyone. The Gauls started to break the Roman lines, but it was then that the Romans fought even harder to protect their mighty Caesar. When all was said and done, Vercingetorix saw the outcome from atop the hill. The Gauls were finished. Getorix then came down and surrendered himself for execution and his people for slavery as long as Caesar would let his people live. Caesar let both Vercingetorix and the Gauls live. Getorix accompanied Caesar back to Rome, in chains. The Gauls were either made slaves, soldiers or tax-paying subjects.

Vercingetorix surrenders to Julius Caesar at Alesia
Vercingetorix surrenders to Julius Caesar at Alesia

The siege was over and Gaul would become part of the Roman Empire for the next 500 years. Caesar would gain acclaim and popularity across the land. Even more importantly, Caesar gained a life-long loyalty from all his men. It would not be long before Caesar returned to Rome for his triumph, with the wild-haired Vercingetorix in chains as his prize, and things would then get interesting.

After this victory the Roman Empire would never be the same. If Caesar was not victorious at Alesia, or any of his other battles for that matter, the world we live in today would not be the same. If you enjoy Europe, the next time you are journeying around make sure to tip your cap to Julius Caesar for what he helped create.

Have a great trip and remember to Rome…If you want to!

The Falling Sickness

Me and Caesar Augustus in Roma
Me and Caesar Augustus in Roma

I have epilepsy. I was diagnosed when I was eighteen years old. The reason I mention this is because I was at my epileptologist last week getting an update on the state of my current condition, treatment, test results, etc.

It got me thinking about when my original doctor first told me about my condition. At first I was a bit down about it, well a lot down actually. I tried to hide it and not let anyone know I was “different”. People, know matter what I told them, treated me like I was fragile due to the illness I had.

Back then my passion for all things Roman had not yet developed into what it is today, but I recalled hearing that the great and powerful Gaius Julius Caesar had seizures. I thought to myself that if this man could conquer and rule such a large portion of the known world, while having seizures, why could I not do great things too?


It was then that I decided having epilepsy did not mean my life was done. Big things could still await me. Veni, Vidi, Vici was to now be my motto. This led me to look deeper into Caesar’s life and find out how he lived with what the ancients called the “Falling Sickness”.

Epilepsy dates back to prehistoric times, roughly 2000 BC. It is also known as the “Sacred Disease” since it was believed seizures were “thought to be an illness sent by the gods”. [- 1] Because of this, animal sacrifices would be made before priest-doctors in or near temples.

Found in an ancient Mesopotamian text an “unknown author describes some symptoms of a patient mid-seizure: sporadic, jerky movements and muscle rigidity.” [-2] Which is basically how modern experts would describe it. Sticking with the illness being brought on by the gods, the Mesopotamians believed the vengeful god of the moon caused this to happen.

S28_1SeleneWhen ancient Greece rose to power a larger number of accounts of epilepsy and seizures were recorded. The majority of the Greek population believed that seizures were still brought about by gods, in particular the goddess Selene. These people believed that if the afflicted spent the night in Selene’s temple the goddess would come to you in a dream, thus removing the illness.

There was obviously something about the moon bringing on seizures in the eyes of ancient people. In all honesty, most of my seizures have come on in the later part of the evening.

Hippocrates, a well-respected Greek physician, looked at the illnesshippocrates differently however.  Hippocrates believed everything had a natural cause to it, hence why he is considered “The Father of Western Medicine”. Hippocrates believed that diet, lifestyle and medicine, many of which were herbal, was how to treat the sick.

When the Romans rose to power those having seizures were shunned and looked down upon. This is probably a solid reason for Julius Caesar not wanting to make his illness known to the public.

Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus, he is referred in history by both names, came to describe epilepsy accurately in his writings Medical Definitions. Galen was a Greek philosopher living in the Roman photoEmpire. He “was able to discern three forms of epilepsy: (1) idiopathic, attributed to primary brain disorder (an analogue to grand mal epilepsies), (2) Secondary forms, attributed to disturbance of cardiac function transmitted through the flow of liquids secondarily to the brain (epilepsy by sympathy), and (3) a third type attributed to disturbance of another part of human body which is secondarily transmitted to the brain”. [-3]

During the reign of Nero or Vespasian, Aretaeus of Cappadocia was Aretaeus of Cappadociathe first to describe premotionary symptoms of epilepsy (hallucinations which occasionally can precede the seizures). “He also noted the tendency of seizures to recur, once established, and the phenomenon of epileptic insanity. After the fall of the epileptic to the ground, Aretaeus, distinguished three main periods: manifestation, abatement, cessation.” [-3]

Ruta graveolens, a strongly scented herb, was then used by therue---20-l Romans upon its discovery within the empire. Rue is native to Southern Europe and used for many things. Thought to cure cancer, remove warts or repel insects, Rue was also used for treating epilepsy.

In a modern study done with Rue and its effects on the central nervous system (CNS) of mice, it was found that Rue “induces a depressant activity on the CNS” [-4] thus helping reduce seizures. This also supports the Romans use of the herb.

The Falling Sickness has been around for quite some time, and has afflicted many people across the planet. From then till now the cause has not truly ever been known but a variety of remedies has been used. It really just depends on how the culture at the time which one lives helps to determine the treatment.

Courtesy of Matthew Rodriguez

Those that had epilepsy that came before me did not give up, and hopefully those that come after me will not even have to ever live with the illness. One thing is for certain, though, seizures should only serve as a hiccup in a person’s life, depending on their frequency that is. I wish others like me will use it as a challenge to live life to its fullest.

Thank you for allowing me to take the time and share a little about myself within the context of history. And remember to keep on Rome-ing!



1) Epilepsie Museum

2) Blood and foam: the mythological history of epilepsy – Zach Hall

3) Hallmarks in the History of Epilepsy: From Antiquity Till the Twentieth Century – Emmanouil Magiorkinis, Kalliopi Sidiropoulou and Aristidis Diamantis

4) Old Remedies for Epilepsy: Avicenna’s Medicine