private gardens in Hirosaki, a lovely surprise of a town in Aomori Prefecture

The first half of September was very quiet, but in the second half, we travelled faster than we have since March this year (when we visited around 8 countries in just one month, insane).

Chilling on Crete

Our terrace - most time in Crete was spent here.
I have a funny relationship with the European Mediterranean, but my short visit to northern Greece last year made me curious for more – Greece seems a bit more lively and culturally exciting to me than its neighbours to the west. And so it happened that we found a lovely apartment in Heraklion, Crete’s capital,
I’ll try to non-biased. The food was amazing, people were lovely and we definitely didn’t feel like walking wallets. I love the Greek people, there’s so much warmth, open-ness and a high average level of education and understanding of how our world works that not many countries can rival.

Crete is beautiful, sure. But it’s also incredibly touristy and if you aren’t staying at a major resort town, it’s virtually impossible to get anywhere without your own car. I had imagined long hikes, but hiking is hardcore due to the terrain, and you’re not advised to go yourself (if we had had a car to get to the hiking location in the first place). Stray dogs and cats are everywhere, as everywhere in Greece. There are lot of historical sites, but their management is presentation can be appalling. Even in September, it was waaay too hot for us and we found it hard to motivate ourselves to do much. Which I guess is the point of going to a Greek island in the first place.
Let’s say we spent to very relaxed weeks with evening runs, worked a lot and ate like queens. Still, I prefer the Arab speaking sides of the Mediterranean. I would go to Greece again, to explore another island or area.

Back to Japan and NOT to Australia – Osaka, Morioka and Aomori

After another 4 day stopover in London, we check in to our flight to Osaka, where we’ll be based at least until late January, with some other side trips in Japan, Korea and a short visit to Hong Kong.
Originally, we were thinking to go to Australia and Indonesia, maybe do some house sitting in Australia. After sweating to death in Greece, we both decided we prefer to stay somewhere colder. We also tried too hard to convince ourselves that Australia is a good idea. It’s super popular and I’m sure for a lot of people, it’s a great place to go, but personally, I’m glad to skip it again this time.

So, instead, we’re mostly in Japan now. After a few days in Osaka, we headed to Tokyo, where we jumped on the first train to Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. This was the first time in Tohoku for both of us. The area is being promoted a lot recently, not only around Fukushima (Morioka is a good 100 miles north of there)… and I have to say, maybe a bit over promoted. We went to Morioka as a stopover point and for a day trip to the small village of Tono. Tono is famous from Tono no Monogatari, which is akin to the Japanese version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The area has been touted as one of amazing natural beauty, but to be honest, it was just like any other tiny village in Japan, surrounded by rice paddies with a few folktale related museums. Unless you read Japanese (and I don’t mean read kana and a few hundred kanji, but be able to read novels easily), it’s not worth the trip.

Our next stopover was Aomori, the northernmost city on Honshu, Japan’s main island. Aomori is famous for apples and scallops, and the fact that they have mowed down everything at the harbour and replaced it with a new tourist development – lots of souvenir shops, a museum and a museum ship in a small area. There are also two small fish markets, but again, nothing too exciting. It’s pretty obvious that Aomori is mostly trying to get Asian tour buses to the area – everything is planned out for this kind of tourism, whereas the city itself was pretty dead and most locals well over 70.

The surrounding area is very pretty, though, and we wished we had rented a car so we could see more. The way it was, we only went for a day trip to the pretty castle town of Hirosaki before heading off to Hokkaido on the first of October.

...tiny castles in Aomori prefecture!
Does this make September sound like a bit of a downer? Maybe. It was an ok month, and we liked the places we visited. Celine started freelance teaching online, so we both got a lot of work done. Halfway through October now, travel has been a lot more exciting this month already, though!

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