Cruising Through the Greek Islands

I haven’t put up a post for a few days as we have been on the Louis Line’s ship ‘Aquamarine’ for a few days. Internet access has been at the highest price that I have ever encountered (1 Euro per minute = $98 per hour) so at that at that rate I decided that I would write my posts, but upload them when we got to our next hotel.

This ship isn’t the fanciest ship that I have been on. It is hardly new and looks like it has seen considerable service ion the Caribbean before commencing its Mediterranean career. Thee is a lot of noise coming from the galley which is directly above our cabin and we hear the sound of consistent crashes and bangs as they work. Our cabin also seems to build up a smell of diesel throughout the day. However the food and service is friendly enough.

On Friday, we were all up early for breakfast and an early departure for the port to board bour ship. We stood in a line for a long time but eventually completed all the formalities and were all aboard by 9.30 am. It took us a little while to explore the ship and discover the location of the important places such as the restaurant, pool, bar and tour desk. We sailed at 11.00 am.

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We reached our first port at 5.00 pm at Mykonos and had three hours to explore the island. This is the quintessential Greek Island. It is very cosmopolitan, one of the world’s great holiday resorts  and has its own airport. It has a maze of narrow streets around white washed houses with blue windows and doors. A few buildings have red or green colours, but most are blue. We really enjoyed exploring the area around the harbour, looking into the tiny shops and stopping at a number of places where we could get a view around the harbour. On a hill t the left of the town, stood five old windmills that used to be used/ for grinding wheat. These are the most popular attraction on the island. Very cute!

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Back on the ship,, we had dinner and shared a table with a couple of Americans who turned out to be conservative Baptists. They had been on a visit to Israel and were as scary as those that I remember seeing on Andrew Denton’s TV show in term of their views of the world and the ‘Middle East.They had a strong belief in the literal truth of the bible and wee convinced that the US would be in trouble from the rest of the world if they didn’t support the expansion of Israel. As we continued our discussion, the did admit that they were very sheltered and knew little of the world, however, they were not going to be convinced that the rest of the world may have a different view about the Middle East and terrorism than theirs.

On Saturday, we stopped at Rhodes and I went on a shore trip to the town and to LIndos, 50 kms away at the other end of the island.

Lindos is a little village with white cuboid houses like Mykonos and an Acropolis on a hill, high above the town. This has been a fortification of the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Knights of St John as they went to fight the crusades and later as they needed to defend the island against the Ottoman Turks. Like all Acropolises, this one has a temple; in this case to Athena Linda. The archeological work was primarily done by the Danes in the early 1900’s but there is little left than a few columns and some medieval steps.

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Back in Rhodes, we walked around the old city which is still contained within 4 kms of medieval city walls. The harbour was also the site of the Colossus of Rhodes – one of the ancient wonders of the world.

Most of the streets are made of little round pebbles and some areas have ornate designs where black pebbles are inlaid into the white ones to form complex patterns.Many of the buildings were erected by the Knights of St John. The Palace of the Grand Master was destroyed in a gunpowder explosion in 1856 but was rebuilt as a summer home for- Mussolini and the Italian King Victor Emmanuel 3rd. There is a very interesting street that leads from the Palace called the Street of the Knights. Along its length are many of the inns that housed the Knights of St John. At the very end is the hospital which now operates as a museum. The work of the knights continues in organisations such as St John’s Ambulance.

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The city of Rhodes is clearly a tourist town and there are hundreds of shops along the narrow streets. We walked virtually across-the entire town and were surprised to find little taverns and shops up even the most narrow, and seemingly remote, little streets. It was hard to past them without buying a couple of souvenirs to add to our already fully laden suitcases.

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Overnight, our ship sailed to the island of Patmos, and today,-Sunday, after a quick breakfast, we were off in tenders to see the sites of the island. Patmos is the location where St John (perhaps not the same  John as the Apostle, or the Baptist) wrote the book of Revelations. It is a very pretty little island. On the highest hill- is the world heritage village of Chora and the fortified Monastery of St John. The monastery contains a number of treasures – books, manuscripts, vestments and jewellery.

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We visited a little church built over a cave where St John is said to have rested. and seen the revelation In the cave, we could see the the ledges in the wall used by St John as a desk and a crack in the rock that is said to represent the Holy Trinity. A Greek Orthodox priest was singing a mass in the area behind the holy doors and a group of novice monks were chanting psalms whilst we were there. Somehow, they seemed nonplussed by having two busloads of tourists passing through the tiny little chapel as they continued through their service. Back at the quay, we stopped for a coffee in the oldest cafe on the island and jumped on one of the last tenders back to
the ship.

We reached Turkish waters through the Straits of Samos, a narrow gap between the Greek Island of Samos and the Turkish mainland. The topography and vegetation reminded me a little of- the area around Esperance in Western Australia. One of the seamen ran the Turkish flag up the mast as we sailed through.

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The highlight of our day was a visit to the historic site of Ephesus. This is one of the best restore ancient -cities in the world. It was one of the great cities of the Ionian Greeks in Asia. The city became part of the Roman Empire with a population of over 200,000 people around the time of 100 AD. It was once a port city, but the harbour silted up 2000 years ago. It is now 7 kilometres from the sea.

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It is a significant place in the early life of the Christian Church. St Paul addressed the Ephesians and St John certainly visited it as well. Nearby, is the site where Mary died and the third ecumenical council was held here in 431. It was quite exciting to be walking down the main street where famous people like these had also walked.

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From here, we are travelling through Turkey to our final destination in Istanbul. Perhaps we will see some- more stores selling ‘Genuine Fake Watches’!’

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4 comments

  1. 'Trina · ·

    You do the best guided walks through history. I can imagine the chats with the Americans over dinner, I would think a bit of tongue biting went on too. Just love the genuine fake watches. looking forward to rest of the holiday. Very cool today (Monday) enjoy the warm days while you can:)
    safe travelling

  2. Good to have you back on the air…I thought that you might have been abducted!!!!
    Absolutely fabulous reports mate. The sense of history back to 1st century is amazing.
    Any word of David’s relocation?. Hope all went well
    Love the photos too
    Regards
    Rob

  3. Bill & Dorothy · ·

    We love reading the story of your journey. It was nostalgic for us to hear of your feelings as you walked the streets of Ephesus. We will always remember feeling the same way!
    We hope you enjoy Istanbul as much as we did, 15 years ago. Looking forward to the next episode!
    Seems like the weather is being good for you, at least most of the time. What sort of day temperatures are you having?

  4. Trudi · ·

    Agreed – Ephesus is truly amazing. Only 5 weeks till I’m in Istanbul. Hope you enjoy your remaining few days of holiday. We’ve missed you.