On September 26 and 27, 2006, my flights were from Syracuse, NY, to Washington, DC, an overnight flight to Munich, Germany, and on to Athens, Greece. I had a problem in Syracuse with a couple small tubes of prescription creams, which I carry all the time. I didn't pack them for the trip and forgot I had them with me. Well, I didn't take them out of my bag and so two different women scolded me, same words, (I heard it the first time) and finally released me to go to my gate. Munich airport is very beautiful, clean, lots of glass, and lovely shops. I found an ATM for 100 Euros. And no one there bothered about my creams.
Athens is incredible, a huge white city, which sits like a bowl. I hope my pictures can convey the size of it. My first site of the acropolis from the taxi, headed to the hotel, was thrilling. I was in a state of, “I can't believe I'm here.”
My first full day in Greece, I booked on to a tour to Delphi, (pronounced dell fee) an archaeological dig to uncover this ancient city, which was thought to be the center of the universe and close to the gods. A town had to be moved before it could be uncovered. We visited the museum and then climbed to the ruins. The site is on a mountainside and the views from Delphi are beautiful, as was the bus ride from Athens and back.
The following day, we “did” Athens. We drove around the city a bit and went to the Acropolis. We climbed the steps to arrive at the top and there was the Parthenon, as well as the other temples and a fantastic view of the city. A restoration project is underway so my pictures include the sight of building cranes. I just couldn't find an angle where they didn't appear. We also visited the Olympic arena, first used in 1896. It has been restored, also. In the afternoon, we drove to Piraeus to board our ship, the M/S Perla, for a cruise of the Aegean Sea, with stops along the way.
My cabin was perfect. It was very roomy with plenty of storage space and unpacking for the week was so nice. The bed was probably a three-quarters size and I had two large portholes. Our tour director arranged our dinner for the early seating, 7 p.m., assigned tables, for the duration of the cruise, while breakfast and lunch were open seating in the dining room or the buffet on the beach deck. Each passenger was given a plastic card to get off and on the ship, plus everything was charged to this card and it's all settled up at the end of the cruise. We also were assigned to our buses by our table numbers. So organized - good systems.
Our first stop was at Istanbul. We were docked there for twenty-four hours. The afternoon of our arrival we went by bus to the Grand Bazaar. What an experience. I took a picture of the entrance with my digital camera, good thing, and looked at the picture when trying to find my way out. It's a huge area and a maze of shops, so fairly easy to get lost. The vendors were aggressive and persistent. Bargaining is the game. It was fun. We went on to the Spice Bazaar and that was also great fun. At dusk, the calling for the end of the fast for that day was most impressive. I'll write more about Ramadan later.
The tour director announced a surprise for our full day in Istanbul. We were able to take the bus across the bridge to the Asian side of the city, not a regular part of the tour. Then we made our way to the Hippodrome, a sporting area of old. The Blue Mosque, named for the interior blue tiles, was our next stop. Then we went on to the Hagia Sophia, now a museum. We returned to the ship for lunch and then went back to the city for our visit to Topkapi Palace. That evening we sailed away from Istanbul while I was dressing for dinner, Captain's night, champagne and caviar while he introduced his crew!
The stop at Mykonos was delightful. I spent the day with one of my shipmates and we took each others pictures with the windmills. We had a drink in Little Venice, climbed to the windmills, and found a bus to one of the beaches. I had a swim in the very salty Aegean Sea at the Platys Gialos beach. As dusk approached my friend and I made our way back to the ship. I now have to re-watch my video, Shirley Valentine, which was filmed on Mykonos.
The next port was at Kusadasi, Turkey. The majority of the group went to Ephesus, the offering of the day. It was an optional at extra cost and since it is to be included in my Turkey tour, I opted out and simply went to the bazaar in Kusadasi (pronounced Kush a die sur). After lunch on board, we sailed to Patmos where we visited the grotto of St. John. Then we had a drive around the island for spectacular scenery with a sea so blue.
At Rhodes, we took a bus to Lindos and the majority of the group climbed to the Acropolis, braver souls than I, to navigate the steep stairs with no railings. There are always the shops to visit, you see, when not participating in the tour. We then visited the Old Town in Rhodes.
On the following morning, our last full day on the cruise, we were off the ship at 7:15 a.m. to visit the archaeological dig at Knossus of the island of Crete. We also went to the museum and back to the ship for immediate departure for Santorini. We all boarded tenders to take us to the island. Then we got on buses to take us up and around the beautiful island of Santorini. The choices for getting back down to the dock were a mule ride or a cable car. I chose the latter.
The final hours on board, we arrived at Piraeus around 5 a.m., breakfast was served at 6 a.m., and we disembarked at 7:30 a.m. Buses returned us to our hotel in Athens. My shipmate and I walked to the Plaka, an old area of Athens, for shopping and a lovely lunch. Back at the hotel I awaited a taxi to deliver me to the airport for my flight to Istanbul. To be continued…
The pictures of the Greece/Aegean Sea 2006 trip are on my website:
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Joyce N. Church
Written November 2006
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