Greece and Turkey


Our Greece and Turkey trip continued with a final day and two ports of call—Crete and Santorini. In between we were able to enjoy the wonderful weather aboard ship and some relaxing time at the pool.IMG_3362

Crete

Our morning stop was Crete. My dad and I took an excursion to Knossos, Europe’s oldest city where we toured an ancient excavated town. At the entrance was of course a dog guarding the ticket booth. The sign above him said tour guides were available—not sure he was suitable for that.

IMG_3430This area was believed to be the center of Minoan civilization. The legend of the Minotaur and the labyrinth came from this town—as it contained the palace for the King of Minos. Later it was home to both Romans and Greeks and had been settled and abandoned for several thousands of years. Today it’s a tourist spot where you can see wonderful ancient pictorials on the walls, large carved jars that held tons of grain, wine, and such for the inhabitants, and rooms with royal thrones.

One of the interesting things we saw in the ruins were marks in some of stones—a depiction of a double bladed axe or Labrys, a symbol of the ancient Greeks. Yes, that’s a connection to the labyrinth legend.IMG_3372

There was also a large stone sculpture called the horns of consecration—basically a symbol of bull horns. Something to do with their cult religion at the time.

After touring the site and seeing the beautiful frescoes, smart drainage system, pottery, and more, we ended at what was their small theater area. From there the Royal Road, claimed to be the oldest road in Europe, leads away from the site.

Our tour ended appropriately with a look through the gift shops where we could get the obligatory Minotaur key chain. On our way back we went through a town where it seems we stumbled onto a little china town, Crete style. In a short space of about ½ a mile we saw no less than three Chinese restaurants. Noticeable in such a small town.
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Santorini

Our final stop was the famous island of Santorini. If you haven’t seen photographs of the white houses topping the cliffs of this large caldera, then you’ve been living in a cave. As we got closer to the island, we could see the entire caldera. You see, the island is actually the partial remnants of a volcano and the non-submerged parts make up a very large caldera.

The ship anchored in the middle of the caldera near the main island of Santorini (Thera). A short ferry ride brought us to a dock where busses then transported us up, around, up, around, and up some more to the top of the cliff where we began our tour. Along the way around the island we went up to the highest point to get a view of the flat lands below. It was pretty large and there were lots of farms and white buildings everywhere. We finally made it to the town Oia where we walked up and down the narrow streets and stairs to see the buildings and views.IMG_3673

A tiring day was brought to a close with a gorgeous sun setting over the other islands in the caldera just as we were descending the large cliff back to the ferry.

Final Thoughts

Our last night was spent sailing back to Lavrion and a bus trip up to Athens. My parents and I (and the tour guide who picked us up) were perplexed at the two women on our bus who somehow thought their luggage was magically going to get from the boat to their hotel in Athens, when in fact it was sitting on the dock back in Lavrion. Oh well. Back to us in the airport—with my mom not able to walk, we asked for a wheelchair both in Athens and in Philly when we arrived. With respect to my mom, what a bonus that turned out to be! We were whisked through security, customs, and immigration—not a bad way to end the adventure this vacation turned out to be.
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The Greek and Turkey people were very nice to us and even through the headaches of the crash, the trip was fun and we loved experiencing their cultures, food, and ancient history. An interesting financial custom I discovered was that many of the shop owners do not like to take credit cards (plenty did, but a few asked for cash). You see, they have to pay steep interest rates on credit card purchases. Yet another thing that probably hurts them financially. At least they treat the stray pets there with compassion. So nice to see that. And the food was very good and healthy. Overall, a very nice place to visit and I would recommend it to anyone interested in traveling.

Since we got a complimentary cruise next year, we look forward to exploring the Adriatic Sea and the cultures and history there. Until then, Τα λέμε αργότερα.

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Looking down at our ship from the Monastery of St. John on Patmos.

Our family adventure through the Aegean area continues as we board our new intact ship in Kusadasi. We had a wonderful night sleep and lazy morning before heading over and dealing with some minor incompetence with the bus and ship crew. The bus driver let us off the bus so we had to walk through a shopping area which normally is not a bad thing but with my mom on crutches I was disconcerted to see the bus pull up with our luggage just outside the security area where we finally arrived on foot. The ship crew grabbed our bags but had them sent to the wrong cabin. I was beginning to worry about this cruise line but it turned out okay and we had a very nice room with a sizable deck. The roll out bed was again not good, but all in all it was a pleasant room with very nice staff. When we went to muster for the lifeboat meeting, I asked the crewman where we should go if the boat was to say collide with another ship and that area was damaged. For some reason he did not have an answer for that.

Beautiful paintings adorn the walls of the monastery.

Beautiful paintings adorn the walls of the monastery.

The Monastery of St. John

So, right away we sailed to nearby Patmos. This was not on our original itinerary but I was delighted because this is the island where the apostle John lived in his later years and where he wrote Revelations. While mom rested her foot and relaxed Dad and I headed out on the excursion. We were taken on a bus up the large hill (of course, everything is on top of the mountains on these islands). We had a hike up the road to the Monastery of Hagios Ioannis Theologos and it was worth it. As we stepped in to the courtyard and waited to enter the inner sanctum, we viewed the beautiful ancient paintings that adorned the walls and arches. They were biblical scenes and portraits of the saints. The views from the top were stunning. There was a museum there with wonderful artifacts.

The Cave of the Apocalypse

The sacred cave on Patmos. The far corner is where John fell asleep.

The sacred cave on Patmos. The far corner is where John fell asleep.

The apostle John was the only one of the original 12 who did not die a martyr. Not for lack of trying on the part of the Romans. After failed attempts to kill him, he was banished to the island of Patmos where in his golden years he received visions from God that inspired the book of Revelations.

John fell asleep in a cave on the hill on Patmos and recited the visions to an assistant who wrote them down. The cave now is surrounded by a chapel. We walked through a gift shop and down many steep stairs before entering the cave. It seemed to me like an indentation in the hill with massive boulders sticking out of the roof area. We walked past the spot marked off where he slept and under some more roof boulders. There in that ceiling area was a three line crack in the rock symbolizing the holy trinity. It was a wonderful feeling to be in that place where John lived in the Spirit. It was a very nice excursion and back on the boat we enjoyed a nice dinner and viewed the stars off our deck.

Lindos from the road.

Lindos from the road.

Rhodes—Lindos

Day two on our new short cruise was spent docked at Rhodes. Our excursion took us out to the village of Lindos, an ancient town at the base of an Acropolis. This was a steep long hike kind of day. We could see the Acropolis from miles away. It sat on the edge of the Aegean Sea. The buses parked at the top of a hill so the walk started with about a ½ mile hike down to an area where tickets and taxis could be obtained (note for our trip back up). We wound our way through the narrow pretty streets of the village. The pedestrian streets were canopied with vines and occasional openings where we spied the mountain ahead. Many courtyards and floors were made up of black and white pebbles arranged in pretty designs.IMG_3242

The guide mentioned the hike up was several hundred steps so I tightened my knee brace, filled the water bottles, and took a few photo breaks. At what seemed like the top, we saw donkeys (would have been nice to have them at the bottom). Some entrepreneurial women spread their beautiful linens over the side of the hill to sell them to the many tourists walking by. After a few minutes listening to the guide, we made our way up some steep and scary steps into the Acropolis,

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Women from Lindos spread their linens along side the hill.

The Acropolis at Lindros housed a church, columns of a stoa, a temple, another hill within the fortress that was filled with boulders, and views through the gaps in the wall of the Sea and the village below. We strolled around for a bit before heading carefully down the steps and path to the village where we did some shopping before heading back up to the bus and off for a tour of the ancient city of Rhodes.

City of Rhodes

We entered the ancient city on foot over a bridge that covered a dry and very wide moat. We didn’t do too much here but did see the outside of the castle, walked down the Knight’s Street, and then just through some of the streets where we shopped, checked out the locals that live there, and spotted an active public fountain in a big square.IMG_3340

We were on our own coming out of the ancient city since it was right at the port and we could casually walk over to our ship at our leisure. We spent the entire day there—I went to the pool and my dad went back to town to walk around a bit.

It was one of the more relaxing days on the cruise with pretty views of the port from the pool and our deck. In the late afternoon we left the port and sailed toward our next stop, Crete.

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Narrow streets of Lindos and lots of shops.

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Top of the fortress at Lindos.

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Looking down from the Acropolis at Lindos.

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The temple columns and a church beyond–parts of different eras of the fortress at Lindos on Rhodes.

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Need a resting place for the hike up this hill at Lindos.

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This was one huge moat surrounding the ancient town of Rhodes.

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A bunny tree in Rhodes.

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The Knight’s street in Rhodes.

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Exiting the ancient city of Rhodes.

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The city walls of Rhodes wrapped around the port.

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The modern stairs weren’t all that much better than the ancient ones on the left. These were the last ones before entering the Acropolis on Lindos.

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A long walk up to Lindos!

The 2015 summer trip continues through Turkey with an early morning flight. As part of the revised itinerary after the collision (see first trip post), those of us left were shuttled to the airport and taken on a special chartered flight from Istanbul to Izmir where we boarded a bus to the seaport town of Kusadasi. After checking in to a beautiful hotel overlooking the Aegean Sea, we had a few hours to relax on the sun deck and swim in the sea before heading out on our daily excursion.

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The view of the Aegean Sea from my room.

Ephesus

I was very excited to see this ancient town. It was a crossroads in the ancient world where up to 56,000 people lived during the Roman period. The book of Ephesians, a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the people living in Ephesus, is filled with wisdom including the scripture that inspired my family’s charity, the Masterpiece Fund. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The church in Ephesus is one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelations. The apostle John took Jesus’ mother Mary to live here as well. Only ruins lie there today but they are vast and only partially uncovered.

Original Christian carvings in the marble ruins.

Original Christian carvings in the marble ruins.

We could see the massive stadium from the road that was inland from the sea. We were told that in ancient times the fields here were most likely under water and that the city was actually closer to the port. There have been people living there for many millennia and the modern town of Selçuk nearby will no doubt leave its history behind for future generations to study.

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The ancient theater at Ephesus.

My dad and I went on an excursion and toured the ruins. We started at the top of the hill between two large slopes where there were ancient baths and open areas filled with rubble. We spotted ancient markings in the marble where Christians would leave “notes” for others and to avoid persecution. We were led through pillars that created a sort of entryway to a wide and smooth marble road that led down the hill. We had to be very careful not to slide on the stones that had been worn so smooth by millions of visitors. This was the point where the chariots could go no further into the town.

As we walked along the road hearing about the various monuments to the ancient gods, I spotted little kitties (yes more cats and each one was sweeter than the last). Along the outside of the main pathway there were extensive and gorgeous mosaics covering the ground.

Down at the bottom of the hill was a stunning remnant of the Library of Celsus, with towering columns adorned with beautiful carvings. Continuing on, we walked through arches that opened up into a large public area with walkways lined with columns. Farther along we finally came to the theater we saw from the road. It was quite large and held up to 25,000 spectators—for plays as well as gladiatorial events.

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The Library of Celsus

We came out of Ephesus into the tourist area where one entrepreneur was selling fake genuine watches. I bought some Turkish Delights to take home to my colleagues while Dad made a friend with a cute retriever who made a bee line to him—instinctively knowing he would be cuddled and possibly fed.

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On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the Turkmen carpet store and got a mini tour and demonstration on how the beautiful carpets are made. We saw how the silk gets pulled out and and how the women made the double knots that make these carpets so strong.

After the demonstrations, we were led into a room and given wine while the guys rolled carpet after carpet on the floor. It was fun to watch and many of them were quite stunning. The intricate patterns and wonderful colors made it hard to choose. I would have loved to take home a big one but the price tag was like buying a small car, so I went with a smaller one with deep red colors. With my dad as my wing man we got him down to about half price and I decided since I was getting a refund on the cruise, I could spend some of it on a very unique and locally made product that I will enjoy for as long as my cats allow.

IMG_1395I did in fact ask the salesman how it would stand up to cats. He replied nonchalantly, “Everyone has cats. If they pull on it, the knots will get tighter.” I laughed but agreed that the piece was a work of art and decided to hang it up just in case. Now five weeks later, when I was expecting the carpet to be shipped, two guys from Turkey called and told me they were in town and could deliver it in person. They of course tried to sell me more. I declined but appreciate their work ethic.

Back at the luxurious hotel we had a wonderful meal and a great night sleep before heading over to the port at Kusadasi and our new ship, the Odyssey.

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The display of carpets at Turkmens.

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The theater can be seen from the road leaning up against the hill.

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Stones were carved with depictions of gods and other symbols.

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The great stones of the town and ruins of various public buildings.

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The road was very smooth and slippery–a bit steeper than the picture makes it out to be.

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The two pillars marking the end of the main road up.

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So many cute kittens hung out on the ruins loving any attention they received.

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Gorgeous mosaics dotted the pathway.

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A view up the hill.

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The patterns on the ruins of the Library of Celsus.

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Ancient text on the walls of the ruins.

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The crowds and tours at Ephesus.

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A carving by Christians–possibly telling other Christians where to meet?

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Genuine fake watches and other tourist stuff.

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Dad finds a canine friend on our way out of Ephesus.

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