"" Writer's Wanderings: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Santorini: Akrotiri - Ancient Thera

Our friend at the Budget rental counter when we arrived had emphasized over and over again that we dare not miss the Ancient Thera exhibit (spelled Thira on our map). Even though it was the afternoon and the sun was getting hot, knowing the whole thing was under cover, we decided to visit.

A large parking lot I'm sure filled with tour buses at certain times when the cruise ships were in cost us three Euros to park. Across the street and a short walk up a sidewalk and we stopped to buy tickets for 5 Euros each. There was an option to have a guide take you through the dig but we decided that was probably more information than we wanted to try to absorb.

Once inside the building, I was immediately reminded of Xian and the Terra Cotta Warriors. The enclosure is not nearly as large as the one in China but it is very nicely done and certainly makes the visit much more pleasant. Ramps and viewing platforms afford you opportunity to see everything that is there. At one spot you can even walk down into the town and along part of it's road between buildings.

The settlement predates the the volcano's eruption around 1600 B.C. that created the present shape of the island of Santorini. The inhabitants, Minoan, are thought to have come from Crete and settled here. The ash from the eruption buried the town but also preserved much of it. It is an amazing experience to walk through such ancient remains of an era we can only imagine.

There is thought that the stories surrounding the eruption of the volcano back then led to the legend of Atlantis. According to a National Geographic site I found, Plato told the story of Atlantis somewhere around 360 B.C. He told of a utopian civilization made up of people who were half god and half human. Of course it was embellished with tales of gold, silver, and exotic wildlife.

The volcano which wiped out a large section of Santorini and took out civilizations on Crete and other islands around the area with a huge tsunami fits with the idea of Atlantis sinking into the ocean. However ocean explorer, Robert Ballard, doesn't think this is the place of which Plato spoke because it doesn't coincide with the time Plato said Atlantis was destroyed.

James Romm, a professor at Bard College in New York state, believes that Plato created the story to support some of his philosophical theories.

Charles Orser, curator of history at the New York State Museum in Albany says the legend of Atlantis is a story about moral, spiritual people who lived in a highly advanced civilization but became greedy, petty and morally bankrupt. And of course, in the end, were destroyed by the gods they angered.

Atlantis or not, the archaeological  dig was most interesting and a not to be missed spot to visit if you have the time.

It was another beautiful sunset that evening. Another terrific meal, this time in Imerovigili, and a nice climb up the stairs back to Casa Bianca and our lovely room. I could really get used to this.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adventures in Santorini - Day Two

Santorini is all about the views. So when we awoke to a thick fog, we wondered what the day would hold. By the time we had finished our morning coffee, breakfast sandwich, and jam and bread, the fog had blown away and the sun began to warm the white buildings and stone walks of this magnificent island.

The quarter of the island we decided to explore this day was completely on the opposite end from the previous day's adventure. Our destination was the lighthouse on the southwestern end of the island. Driving was not bad except for some of the little towns where roads narrowed and people parked on streets. Of course meeting a full sized tour bus was a challenge but Bob was beginning to drive like a native. I, on the other hand, was still screaming like a tourist.

Along the road to the lighthouse, we stopped several times to enjoy the views. While the Caribbean is deep turquoise in color, the Mediterranean is a deep blue. The dramatic cliffs and coastal details of Santorini with its buildings like stair steps clinging to the sides of the sheer drops to the ocean make you stand in wonder as you take it all in. Refreshed with cool sea breezes and warm rays of sun, we continued on.

The lighthouse is a large structure sitting on the southwest point of the island. At first we thought that was all there was to see there but we noticed a trail, and never ones to turn down a chance to explore, we followed it around to the front side of the lighthouse facing out to the open sea.

As we passed another couple returning, they mentioned to us to be sure to go far enough to see the Indian in the rock. Sure, I thought, another one of those touristy things where you have to squint and use your imagination to see what someone had made up as a point of interest. But no, there it was! It was so distinctive I wondered if it had been handmade. (I have such a suspicious nature).

On our way back, we turned off onto the road that led to the Kokkini Beach, better known as the Red Beach. We found the parking area and followed the others who were making there way along a path we figured led to the beach. Well, it did, in a way. If you truly wanted to get down to the beach, there were lots of boulders to climb over. We could see some sort of a road opposite from our viewpoint but it looked like gravel and if there were cars there, you couldn't see where they parked.

 We weren't interested in swimming or sunning anyway so we returned to where we'd parked and decided to check out the restaurants. After all, we were still recovering from our cruise and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. The menu posted outside of one called Captain Antonis, Fresh Fish Tavern looked like we'd find something we wanted to eat so we descended the stairs.

At the bottom, we found ourselves at the door to what looked like the kitchen. An older gentleman with scruffy beard and typical Greek cap perched on his head waved us in. He gave Bob a vigorous hand shake as we passed and we found ourselves outside again under a canopy on a graveled pier of sorts where there were a couple dozen tables set up with chairs.

We chose a spot and a sweet lady who looked like she was probably the Captain's wife handed us menus. She apologized up front for "No English" and then with gestures and a word or two, indicated that the usual waitress was still sleeping. No problem. At least there was an English version of the menu. We chose an appetizer and a dish that said it was meatballs with tomato sauce.

"Is that good?" Bob asked.

The lady nodded and scurried off to put in the order, and I suspect cook it as well. There was no one else in the restaurant but the establishment next to us looked as though there was a small tour group eating there. Had we made a mistake?

When our "meatballs" arrived, they were actually hamburger patties with very crispy and good potatoes on the side with a little salad as well. It was all very delicious. Even without the "tomato sauce." While we were eating, Captain Antonis came out and fired up the grill. I guess he was expecting more customers. He had a little trouble getting the fire started. I hoped his wife had more "meatballs" in the kitchen.

Lunch was a perfect example of why we like to travel on our own rather than with a tour company. You don't have those kind of encounters with a tour guide along. They take care of all of that for you. Some people are more comfortable with that approach and in some areas of the world I am too. But our lunch experience was fun.

In the car once more, we passed signs that indicated we were near the archaeological dig that has recently been reopened with an all new building housing the dig itself. We had planned to visit it on another day but we like the word flexible and applied it. I'm so glad we did.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Santorini, Greece - Day One

A bright beautiful morning greeted us as we sat enjoying the best coffee we'd had in a while on our little patio  area at the back of our room. The patio looked out into a courtyard of sorts where the pool to the hotel in front of us was off to our left a bit and a backyard to another B&B or a residence, I could never decide which it was. They hung out laundry almost daily but a lot seemed to be personal items. Between the two buildings though was a break with a spectacular view of the sea and a little bit of the caldera--the desired view of visitors to Santorini.

The main island of Santorini is curved around the two volcanic small islands in the middle of what is called the Caldera. A caldera is a large crater formed by volcanic explosion or the collapse of a volcanic cone. In this case, the ocean filled in the crater creating a picturesque area with spectacular views all the way around. The last eruption of the volcanoes was in the 1940s.

As we finished the last of our coffee, we studied the map our Greek rental car friend had marked for us and decided to divide the island up into four sections and do one a day. That would give us lots of time to linger where we wanted to stay longer and let us also have plenty of time to just kick back and relax at Casa Bianca.

Amoudi Bay
Camera bag on my back, water bottle in hand, we headed for where we had left the car, in front of the school and across from the church. The churches in Santorini are distinctly white (although we saw a handful of pastel colored ones) with a blue dome. On this small island, there are well over 200 churches. One doesn't have to walk far to find a place of worship which is good because walking is the only way to get around in many places and then it is up and down steps--lots of steps.

When we got to the car, I was amazed at what little space there was to maneuver. Had we really made it here without bumping into anything? We jiggled out of the parking spot and down the little hill praying all the way that we wouldn't meet another car coming the opposite direction.

After a turn onto the road we were to take, I looked down a huge hill. Had we really navigated that last night? I imagined what I felt was like a drunk who wakes up to discover he's somewhere and has no idea how he got there.

Thankfully the area we chose to explore the first day was not one that was extremely busy. To the north of Imerovigli the island curves around and there was a little town called Oia that we headed to. We drove through the narrow streets and followed the signs that led to Amoudi Bay, a place to see and find a good meal according to Maria our B&B host. Finding a good place to park was a little more of a challenge. We squeezed into a spot and continued on down the road to the steps and then down to the harbor.

The day could not have been more perfect. It was warm but a cool breeze blew off the water. The narrow walkway was bordered by water and shops and restaurants. I think one of the places may have been a small fish market as well. They were just beginning to serve lunch and all the grills along the way were getting fired up.

We decided to pass on the grilled octopus. There was a grilled fish that looked perfectly done and I would have loved to have sampled it but by the time I saw it, we had already ordered. Our appetizer was something called tomato balls which were more like crab cakes only with tomatoes rather than crab meat. They were okay. The next course, our seafood salad made up for them. Fresh garden greens and veggies and assorted grilled seafood. Heavenly.

During lunch, we had watched a steady stream of people walking a pathway to the cliffs next to us. There was even a bridal couple accompanied by a photographer who braved the rough trail. Curious, we decided to follow the trail to see where it led. Of course to do so, we had to ignore the sign. It was a bit treacherous in parts but it ended up near a place where you could climb down into the water. I think some may have been snorkeling there. And on the little island that jutted out nearby, there were boys diving off the cliffs. We watched for a bit and returned the way we came.

On our way back to the car, we noticed a pathway with steps that led straight up the cliff. There on the steps were several donkeys waiting to take passengers and/or cargo to the top. Donkeys are used in several places around Santorini where there is a harbor and people need to get up to the town above. If you cruise to Santorini that is your choice in the old port where many of the tenders dock. You can take a funicular to the top or ride a donkey.

One side of Santorini is very hilly and the other is very flat. That flat side has most of the beaches. We drove along the flat side to return to Casa Bianca and stopped to admire one of the black beaches. There was no easy way to get down to it so we admired from afar. The black sand and/or pebbles are from lava.

We spent what was left of our afternoon napping and reading. After all, we'd just finished a two week long cruise. Seriously, the heat and all the climbing can get to you and we wanted to enjoy one of the best things this island had to offer--a sunset over the caldera.

In Fira, there are lots of places along the walkway in front of the cathedral and beyond where you can stand, or sit in a cafe or restaurant and watch the sun set over the volcanic islands in the caldera. We found a cafe and sat at a table sipping fresh tropical drinks (mine was mango!) and watched the cruise ships weigh anchor and the sun dip down behind the volcano.

Dinner and then a drive through the crowded narrow streets of Fira navigating around people and cars and motorbikes. An exciting time and the end of our first full day in Santorini. What would tomorrow hold?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adventures in Santorini

The Aegean Sea was getting darker as our plane flight, made later by a delay at Athens, passed over the dark silhouettes of Greek islands below us. It was a short flight, only a little over a half hour. Barely enough time for the flight attendants to serve a drink and clean up.

We collected our luggage quickly enough and walked through the exit doors to the area where the rental car companies were. Many had already closed up shop but our friendly Budget representative was there waiting for us and eager to tell us all about Santorini. By the time we were done, we had a map with all the sights circled and a hand drawn map of how to get to our B&B, precautions about drinking only bottled water and not parking on the street (which most everyone seems to do anyway), opinions on the best beaches. . .the list went on.

I thought by the time we left we were going to be adopted into his big Greek family. He was great but we were tired and anxious about our drive in the dark to our B&B. We'd been to Santorini before and knew that the roads could be very narrow and difficult to navigate in the towns. Squinting to read whatever signs we could find, we saw a few arrows that indicated Imerovigli and followed them Imerovigli is a little town just north of Fira, the capital or main city.

While we didn't exactly follow his route (we veered left when we should have veered right) we eventually recognized the white church he had told us to look for. "Pull over and call her (Maria, the manager). You will not find it on your own." We did and she led our car a short distance up a hill and showed us where to park in front of a school. We unloaded our luggage which was was too much since we'd been on a cruise, and pulled the bags up a narrow walkway between two white walls. At a break in the wall, the entrance to Casa Bianca was lit with candles in glass lanterns. We walked up a couple of steps and into the courtyard subtly lit with soft accent lighting around a small central pool.

Maria gave us a choice between rooms because we were staying four nights. She wanted us to be comfortable and she wasn't full that night. We chose the junior suite it was only about an eight step climb and I figured after all the step climbing we were going to do in the next few days, when we returned we didn't want to climb any more than necessary. She left us to settle in after explaining that breakfast would be served in our rooms with a call to the desk. Once I had seen the little table and chairs outside our back door, I knew that was going to be the spot for coffee and whatever other goodies came our way in the morning. I'd have to wait until morning to see the view but I was sure I'd like it.

Hunger gnawed a bit and even though we were exhausted, we needed to eat something. We went back down near the church where we'd stopped and found a grill there that served us a salad and sausage bites that we split between us. I wondered if I'd regret the spicy sausage later.

The room was comforable and the shower a relief after spending a hot day in the Athens sun seeing the sights. We collapsed into bed and slept like logs (if logs sleep) knowing that we had four days to enjoy the island and lots of time to relax. Perfect.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Last Cheerio

Once again the house is quiet. All the little feet (that are getting bigger each year) are home or on their way home. Grandpa is running the vacuum. Rule of the house says we don't wash fingerprints from window though until much later. They hold too many memories. A few years ago I wrote about our precious find a few days after the little ones had left. I thought it was worth another post. Here it is:

It is Monday morning and I’m cleaning. Two little whirlwinds have spent the weekend with us. As a grandparent, I’ve learned that time is precious with little ones, so I don’t worry about a clean house while they are here. It’s funny how your priorities change when you become a grandparent.

Tyler is three going on twenty-one. He’s become a backseat driver.

“Be careful of those semis, Grandpa, they’re dangerous,” he warns. “Don’t drive too fast.”
His sister, Danielle, is 15 months old, doesn’t talk much but flirts her way into your heart. It was her first overnight stay, but I think Mom had more separation anxiety than Danielle. My son teases her. His perception is that his mother let him venture out easily, but then he was eager to go off with his grandparents, and didn’t look back to the woman shredding a tissue as the car drove off with its precious cargo.

Just before Tyler and Danielle’s visit, our youngest grandchild, Kotomi, came to stay a while. She’s only a year old, but she snacked on Cheerios, imbibed milk, and, just as efficiently as her cousins, spread toys all over the family room and into the kitchen.

After Kotomi’s visit, my husband graciously picked up the blocks, the musical toys, the balls and all the other entertaining elements of Grandma’s toy basket while I finished the kitchen cleanup. All too quickly the house was quiet and returned to its childless state. As we sat watching TV that night, I noticed a Cheerio under the coffee table. Reaching down, I picked it up, and then placed it in Bob’s hand.

“Missed one,” I said smiling. He held it for a moment between his thumb and forefinger and reminisced happily about our time with Kotomi.

My cleaning this morning includes wiping off fingerprints from the bay window in the kitchen where Tyler and Danielle watched the birds at the feeders outside. I smile as I recall Tyler’s exclamation, “There’s the ‘picker bird!”

I’m torn between the choice of having clean windows or having the visible reminder of the joy that was brought into our home by their visit. Clean windows win out this time and I spray them with window cleaner and wipe the fingerprint evidence from the panes of glass.

I look into the family room that still needs vacuuming. There is a trail of Cheerios from the sofa to the fireplace. I cannot bring myself to destroy all the evidence of their visit. When I finish cleaning today, I will leave one Cheerio on the rug—one Cheerio for Bob to find so we can sit and reminisce, and anticipate the next visit of the little whirlwinds that fill our hearts with delight.

[Note: Tyler is now 11, Danielle and Kotomi are 9, and Kotomi has a brother, TJ, and sister, Emiko. We also have three others, our Floridians, Caleb, Annalise, and Natalie. God has blessed!]

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Books For The Road - Emerald Windows

I have no idea how I found Emerald Windows by Terri Blackstock. I remember I was scratching for something to read and all the new releases I wanted to read were out on loan at the library. I think that's where I found it. On a list--somewhere in the annals of the digital library. I'm glad I did.
You won't find a lot of posts on romance novels here even if they are the staple of many who travel. That's because I'm not a lover of the romance genre. I find it too formulaic. But Emerald Windows broke out of the formula a bit and presented a good story with some great moral conflicts and solutions. 

Brooke Martin returns to the small town of Hayden that she fled when evil gossip convinced so many that she had had an affair with her art teacher, Nick Marcello. Her purpose in returning is to take on a stained glass window project that has the possibility to propel her career to greater heights. To her dismay and confusion she finds that Nick is actually the one in charge of the project. That dredges up all sorts of old feelings, some new feelings and a whole ton of more gossip when the town's biggest gossip monger takes the couple on and tries to destroy not only their reputations but also their project. 

This is an easy read and would certainly entertain and engage you on a trip as well as give you a bit to think about when you're done. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Athens, Greece - The Five Hour Tour

After visiting the Acropolis our tour just seemed to fly by. There was so much to see. It didn't take long to figure that we would have to make a return trip. John, our guide and driver from Athens Tour Greece, took us next to the Temple of Zeus. It sits below the Acropolis and is impressive in its own right. While I still have difficulty distinguishing between Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, (should have stayed awake in those morning art history classes) it was obvious that these were the fancy ones--that would be Corinthian (I looked it up).

We lingered just long enough to admire it a bit and take some pictures and then we scurried back to the air conditioned car. It was heating up and this was not even summer! In summer temperatures soar but as we were told, it's a dry heat. Right.

Next we pulled up to the curb in front of the Olympic Stadium. It was originally built in wood but updated to marble construction in 329 BC. The Panathenaic Games were actually first held here. The original Olympic Games were held in Olympia. The Panathenaic Games were also held every four years. Versions of the Olympic Games were held here in 1870 and 1875 but when further renovations were completed, it served as the primary stadium for the Olympic Games in 1896. We jumped out of the A/C long enough to take a picture and return.

There were several other landmarks and places we passed but John just pointed them out as he was about to treat us to a great experience--the changing of the guard at the presidential mansion. We drove past the parliament building and stopped for just a moment to see the monument to the unknown soldier. Then we went around the corner and John parked near the presidential mansion. We wandered for about five minutes in the gardens across the street and came out just in time to witness the changing of the guard.

It is quite the ceremony as it is in most countries. The Evzones as they are called were dressed in their weekday khaki but still looked very impressive. On Sundays, the guard is dressed in traditional white garb with red fez-type hats. The guard is changed every hour. Probably because they are not allowed to move for the hour they have duty. It is said that one would not even move when during a demonstration in front of the Parliament building a Molotov cocktail exploded in his guard house catching it on fire. He didn't move until ordered to do so even though his uniform was smoldering from the flames.

We watched the two guards stationed in front of the mansion (there are others at the parliament and I'm guessing other strategic places around the complex) begin their routine. They slowly marched toward each other with an extremely athletic and difficult step. As you can see in the pictures, they raise their foot high, then bend it at the knee and bring it down to stomp the ground and shuffle. It's all done in slow motion requiring even more concentration and athletic skill.

From across the street we saw a small unit of guards marching toward us. I think their headquarters were at the corner of the park we had been in. Once they were in place, they exchanged places with the old guard, and stepped their way back, each to their own guardhouse while the other guards marched back to their headquarters. From what I read I think the Sunday production is even more impressive especially in front of the parliament building. Also much more crowded.

The Agora
Next John drove us through a part of the area called the Plaka. It is the oldest area of the city and not far from the Acropolis (although we had driven around so much it seemed far away). As we drove down some surrounding streets, we could look down others that are all pedestrian now and see wonderful shops and restaurants that would have been a delight to explore had we the time.

After the Plaka, we arrived at the Agora, the old marketplace of Athens. The apostle Paul once roamed this area on his visit to Athens. The structures in the Agora are mostly reduced to foundations but it is still interesting to wander around them and imagine a bustling center of government and philosophy, a meeting place (the name Agora actually means meeting place) for citizens, and certainly a place to worship at some of the temples there. There were also shops and even a mint where coins were made.
Colossal Giants and Tritons

The area dates back as far as 3000 BC. It was destroyed and rebuilt several time and eventually abandoned. During the Byzantine era, the Christian Church of the Apostles was built in the southwest corner. Excavation began in the mid 1800s. During the 19th century, the four colossal figures of Giants and Tritons that had stood outside the Gymnasium (a training center for those participating in public games) were restored.

The road that runs through the Agora and led to the Acropolis is called the Panathenaic Way. It was a thoroughfare in its day and was once paved with stones. Here was where participants in the Panatheanic Games were celebrated.

Christian Church of the Apostles
One of the buildings, the Stoa of Attalos, was reconstructed and made into the Ancient Agora Museum. We walked through specifically looking for the display John had said contained the first ballots of democracy. They were ceramic pieces that were written on and used in voting to ostracize the politician in office. I posted earlier about it since it was nearing our election time.

John drove us through an area called Kolonaki which is the upscale shopping and residential area of Athens. We didn't stop but continued on to our last destination which turned out to be the perfect spot to lookout over the city and promise to return--Lycabettus Hill. From the lookout, you could see the center of Athens, the Acropolis and almost all of the other ancient landmarks we had visited. They were all in that green area at the base of the Acropolis. Even though it seemed we had driven a long ways, everything was quite central, just the way the early Greeks planned it.

Lycabettus Hill view of Acropolis
As we took in the view we knew we would have to come back. Five hours was quite a whirlwind tour in the context of the thousands of years of history to be absorbed from this amazing city.

Viewing the city from Lycabettus Hill it seemed to go on forever so I wasn't quite so surprised to find our trip to the airport taking almost an hour. It was quite a while before we hit open countryside. The Athens airport was very modern and once our luggage was checked, we found a nice restaurant on the second floor, The Olive Tree, and indulged in a fresh salad and bread with tangy dips all made with, what else, olives and olive oil. There was plenty of time to reflect and think about what lie ahead. . .the Greek Isle of Santorini.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Athens, Greece - The Acropolis

Athens. What would this day in this ancient city hold for us? We were up early, ate breakfast one more time on the Lido deck, and then waited for our disembarkation group to be called. The night before we had gone through the ritual of packing suitcases and setting them out in the hall for the crew to collect. They would magically appear again somewhere in the cruise terminal as we exited.

Our flight to Santorini where we were to spend four days was scheduled to leave at 7:30 p.m. so we had a whole day in Athens and had made plans with a tour agency who had a tour specially designed for cruisers coming into port with a late flight out of the airport. A note of explanation: the Athens airport is almost an hour drive out of the city so there is no quick trip to the airport to check bags and then into the city to explore. The tour, by Athens Tour Greece, allowed us a private car (actually it was a very nice Mercedes taxi) and a driver who not only was our guide but stayed with our luggage stowed in the trunk which meant I didn't have to lug my laptop in my backpack the whole day.

John, our driver/guide, met us at the appointed time just outside the exit from the cruise terminal. We loaded luggage quickly as he was eager to get ahead of the tour buses at the Acropolis. Like Istanbul, you don't get anywhere too quickly in Athens due to the traffic. In a sense that was good because John was a wealth of information about the history of Athens and began to set the scene for what we were to see.

Looking back through the Propylaea after entering.
We arrived at the Acropolis just a minute ahead of the tour groups which allowed us to scramble to the ticket booth, buy our entry pass (12 Euros that gets you into all the historical sites in the area) and start the climb to the top while the tour guides were still organizing their groups. I can't say I enjoyed the climb and once we stopped at the top, it was hard to catch my breath mainly because I stood in awe of the sight before me.

Through the entrance, the Propylaea (the monumental gateway), we could see the Parthenon standing before us. The Propylaea was constructed in the 5th century BC. There were rooms to the left and right. It was said that those entering there needed to be ritually clean before going on to the temples and this I guess was a place of inspection to weed out the miscreants and runaway slaves who, if allowed to enter, could claim protection of the gods. The treasury was also here so that made another reason to bolster security.

The walls of the north wing had been decorated with with frescoes and was known as the Pinakotheke or Art Gallery. To the south of the main gate, had been erected a temple for Athena Nike and dated back to about 420 BC.

Upon passing through the gate, we left our guide map in our pocket. The Parthenon was just so breathtaking that we could not look at anything else until we got our fill of it. We circled around to the other side of it that is more fully restored and away from the scaffolding where work was being done. John had told us that the marble used in the building of the temple to Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin) takes on various shades of color throughout the day as the rays of the sun pass over it.

This was one of those pinch-me moments. How many times had I seen pictures of this and now I was standing here taking my own. Once we got past our feelings of awe, we began to look at our guide map and try to pick out other parts of the Acropolis but not before reading that the Parthenon was built and dedicated to the goddess Athena in thanks for the protection of the city during the Persian Wars. The construction was done between 447-432 BC.

Odeum of Herodes Atticus
We had walked past another building in our eagerness to take in all we could of the Parthenon, the Erechtheion which was built around 420 BC on the north side of the flat topped summit. It housed earlier cults. On the south side of the building is a porch supported by six figures of maidens called the Caryatids. The temple served for the worship of both Athena and Poseidon. At this point, I was wishing I had studied my Greek mythology a little more before coming. John's explanations were good but I kind of got lost in it. Too much information--not enough brain cells.

As we wandered, we tried to match what we saw with the map we'd been given. Were I to go again, I would do a little more research and learn more about what I was seeing. To one side of the Acropolis, you can look down and see two theaters. One, the Odeum of Herodes Atticus, is still being used and we could see modern equipment set up for a production. The other, the Theater of Dionysus, though larger didn't appear to be of use for our modern day purposes. For some reason, I only got a photo of the Odeum. Ah well, we have to go back.

The temperature was rising and our allotted time was almost up so we began our way to the exit. As we came through the gate and down the steps, it was obvious why John had wanted to get us there as quickly as possible. This last picture is what the brochures don't show you. The tour buses had arrived.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Port of Call - Kusadasi, Turkey

Our last port of call for our Black Sea cruise was Kusadasi, Turkey, actually at the eastern end of the Mediterranean on the Aegean Sea. This would be our second time to visit the port city whose major attraction is the ancient ruins of Ephesus. We opted not to do the excursion to Ephesus choosing instead to wander through the city a bit and take in the local atmosphere. We had a wonderful time!

The port area is full of shops so matter which way you turn. We started out going to our right and wandered a bit through what our map said was the Orient Bazaar. Back in front of the pier, we passed the large Hotel Caravanserail built by Okuz Mehmet Pasha in 1618. At first I thought it was some kind of fortress but actually a caravanserail is a large structure capable of accommodating a large number of travelers, their animals and goods. We peeked into the courtyard. It looked very sophisticated and sans any camels or mules.
On the other side of the hotel was a pedestrian area that led back into the depths of another bazaar area with lots of shops and restaurants. At each stop in Turkey, we had noticed men, mostly shopkeepers, passing through the street with a

silver tray suspended on three chains that attached to a handle. On the tray was always a small glass of Turkish tea and some small delicacy. Bob decided he wanted to try the Turkish tea so we stopped at a corner cafe and ordered a Turkish tea for him and an apple tea for me. They came in small glasses with a pinwheel cookie on the side that had melty chocolate in the middle. My tea was almost like warm apple cider and Bob's was more a stronger black tea but both were very enjoyable. I was tempted to ask for seconds on the apple tea.

Knowing we had a birthday celebration to attend immediately upon our return home, we went shopping for an appropriate gift. We were drawn to some ornately designed tea kettles that were copper with inlaid mosaics adding a decorative touch. In one of the shops, we interrupted the shopkeeper's breakfast with our entrance but he was happy to instruct us on how precious the copper was and how his were not fakes. We decided on a little covered jar as the kettles were out of our price range and he didn't appear to be bringing it anywhere near what we would agree to pay. We gave him the Turkish lira, two bills, and he immediately dropped them on the floor explaining that we were his first customers and this would bring him good luck for the day. The he picked them up and brushed his cheeks with the money and thanked us for the business adding, "You know we are not barbarians. . .well, except for when the Ottomans were."

We bid him a good day and went our way, a smile on our faces. Those are the encounters that make a trip memorable.

Our mission accomplished, we started back for the ship. In the small square before the pier and next to the big hotel, we paused to wonder at several birdhouses that were there for the pigeons of the city. We would learn later that they were a symbol of sorts for the city.

After lunch on the Lido deck, we decided to venture out again and visit Pigeon Island which sit out in the middle of the harbor to the west of the pier. There is a long walkway that has been built to it and it didn't look too terribly far to walk. Our information said it was a rookery for marine birds although we didn't notice many once we were there and walking around.

On Pigeon Island there is a large structure called the Pirate Castle which was used in it's day to fight against the pirates. It's past also included the use by the Ottomans for military defense. Further research revealed that the island actually lent its name to the city. Originally the island was called Kusadasi which means Bird Island. Once the city took the name, the island became Pigeon Island. I think that tidbit might explain why the pigeons were given housing in the port.

The island had trails that led through and around the castle and had lovely olive trees as well as what I would call prayer trees. We've seen this in places before--the home of St. Mary, a temple in Japan, and now here. I don't know why the trees in this certain area had bits of paper tied to them but I'm guessing it was some kind of prayer or wish attached to each one. In other places, we learned that when the paper finally eroded away, the wish/prayer would be granted.

Olive trees dotted the park area with their small lacy foliage giving shade to the paths. The trees are always fascinating to me perhaps because of their scriptural connections.

We took our time going back to the ship. The temperature had climbed and we didn't want to overheat. Four large cruise ships gleamed in the harbor. I thought of all those people crowding into Ephesus and decided I was glad we'd spent our time exploring on our own and getting to meet some of the people of Kusadasi.
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