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!

Day two of our trip to Greece and Turkey continues with more hiking around ancient ruins of Athens.

A half day tour took us from the Acropolis which I covered in my last post to the Olympic Stadium, the Acropolis museum, the stadium of Dionysus, and the Temple of Zeus.DSCF3021

Olympic Stadium

Our first stop of the day was the Olympic stadium. This stadium had been updated from the original one that hosted the first modern day games in 1896. During the Games in 2004, the marathon ended in this stadium before the closing ceremonies. Incidentally the term marathon comes from an ancient story. The Athenians were fighting a war and the people of the city were waiting for news from the battlefield. Once victory was assured, a man was sent out from the town of Marathon to hurry to deliver news to the Athenians. The poor guy ran the entire way and upon delivering the news collapsed and died. So now the long run is called the marathon. Anyway, the stadium holds between 40,000 to 60,000 people depending on who you ask.IMG_2300

Acropolis Museum

Down the hill from the acropolis is a wonderful museum where replicas of some of the sculptures and pieces of the frieze can be seen up close in person. The frieze composes the carvings that used to decorate the upper portion of the outside of the Parthenon. The originals are mostly in the British museum but these replicas showed a procession of people which continues around the four sides of the building. The museum also houses ancient sculptures depicting various people throughout the ancient world—how they may have looked and the kind of clothes they wore. Some were monuments to gods or just adornments for their noble homes. Some of the original caryatids (which were the women sculptures acting as pillars outside the porch of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis) were on display.

IMG_2341Stadium of Dionysus

After enjoying the artifacts in the museum we wandered over to the stadium of Dionysus which sits just below the Acropolis. The top part of the stadium had eroded away but we could see some marble seats where the nobles sat—up front in the center facing the stage. Some interesting carvings sat amongst the ruins there.

From there we enjoyed a delicious lunch in an outdoor café—the lamb meat basting on a pole which made up the yummy gyros we had. Kids came by with their accordions for change and we got to sit and relax in the shade before heading out.

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Next stop was the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s gate. We had walked by this several times as it sits in the middle of the city and can be seen very easily from the Acropolis. The emperor of Rome, Hadrian, finished up the temple of Zeus and added the gate around 131 AD. We strolled around the tall pillared ruins watching as everyone took selfies. BTW, the amount of people taking selfies and people selling selfie sticks was so prevalent I was starting to actually get irritated by it. But I digress. There was a really cool looking ruin here referred to as the bottle caps. You can see from the photo why it is named as such.

A view of ancient Athens, a model at the museum.

A view of ancient Athens, a model at the museum.

On our way home, mom had an unfortunate accident and hurt her leg. She is now in a boot with a fractured foot but doing better. Needless to say this was pretty much the end of her excursions on this trip.

Dad and I ended the day eating souvlaki (Greek skewers) and got some snacks and fruit at a little market before heading home for the night.

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A view of the Acropolis from the Temple of Zeus. Hadrian’s Gate is at the corner of the lot.

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Part of the Parthenon Frieze procession.

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The original Carytids.

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A view of the Olympic stadium from the Acropolis.