It’s DAY 6 of my cruise, Saturday, January 29th. The ships position as of 0818 is 40 40.11 N / 27 28.06 E and have traveled 1654 nautical miles from Barcelona. The time we were supposed to have in Cairo and Alexander, Egypt has been canceled due to the riots and killings. Instead, we are going to Istanbul, Turkey. We are in the Marmara Sea. The seas in this part seem to be at the top end of “moderate.” I awoke around 3am to a loud banging noise, which I realized was the painting on the wall - it’s hung on a hinge, so there was no taking it down. The rocking and noise eventually subsided and I was able to fall back to sleep. It’s 39 degrees F and the humidity is 84% this morning, so I have dressed in more layers than yesterday and wearing my rain coat on today’s excursion.
This morning at 0900 I enjoyed a 30 minute neck and shoulder/back massage. Ahhhh, so many years of accumulated tension slowly being released. My massage therapist said that these are the roughest seas she has felt in a long time. They feel choppy and there are more white caps than I’ve seen before, but nothing scary - thank goodness. And still no sea sickness. YaY!
Now, as I take refuge in the Thermal Spa until lunch time, where shall I start to catch you up on everything...? Forgive me if I don't remember everything correctly, as I jotted down what was told to me by the tour guide.
Athens, Greece - THURSDAY: The day began about 0900 for me...bran muffin...meditation...the outside deck...then to the Stardust Theatre at 1030 to get organized for the daily excursion(s). Mine was called “Athens and Scenic Coast” and I went to the Acropolis and Sounion - Temple of Poseidon. The day was lovely and the air was brisk. Temperature was anywhere from 10 - 16 degrees Celsius.
To give you a little info about Greece, there are approximately 2000 islands, 900 of those are inhabited and most of them are accessed by ferry from the port of Piraeus, which has been a port for 2500 years, although Phaleron is said to be the oldest Greek port. There is no “industry” in Greece; they are economically driven by exportation, tourism, and agriculture. Driving would be considered dangerous from an American point of view. There are no “lanes” and parking is scarce, bumper-to-bumper, literally. Fuel prices are 1,37 per liter. Multiply that by 4 to make a gallon, then add the dollar conversion. Yikes!
There are about 3-5 million in Athens, alone. Eleven million in Greece. Tours are given in English despite the numerous languages represented on the ship by 2000 guests and 1000 employees. Orange trees grown all over the city along the roads and in parks. Oranges need the cold weather to become sweet, so the Greeks are grateful for the weather and hope it dips down a little more for their citrus crops.
We passed the Peace and Friendship Olympic Stadium and the City Center as we headed to our first stop - The Acropolis. It was the 1st settlement of Athens and nestled on the “highest point of the city.” Also considered the Sacred Hill of Athens, it’s the Sanctuary of Athena, daughter of Zeus and born out of his head, she became the goddess of wisdom and war. She is known for giving the Olive Tree (economy) to this part of the world.
There is an amphitheater on the south slope of the Acropolis where they still perform ballet and music. It’s suppose to have the best sound....
On one of the two hilltops adjacent to the Acropolis, there is a fort that a ruler built during the Roman invasion. He had cannons fire at the Acropolis and Parthenon, which is why there is no roof today. The attack created collapse and destruction.
Female statues with wings signify VICTORY. The wings of Athena were removed sometime after their victory, so she would “stay there” - Victory would always be theirs. Athena’s temple has been receiving some restoration for the last five years; the scaffolding was just removed one month ago.
“The Gate” of the Acropolis, at the top of the stairs, has had some restoration done as well. Until about two years ago, it had no top - only the pillars were there. Today, you may notice in my pictures, they have used new marble pieces to create it. The new marble will eventually weather and look like the original work.
In the center of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, considered to be the “Masterpiece of the Greeks.” There are no straight lines, everything curves to create optical refinement/illusion. It’s typical Doric temple made with columns that have ends like a dish. There are some Ionic columns scattered - they have spiral tops. All Greek temples face east, so they may receive the greatest benefit from the sun upon sunrise. Unfortunately, Lord Elgin took all of the decoration from the Parthenon for his personal, private collection. In doing so, the work crews that he hired knew nothing about excavation and damaged the majority of it. What is left of it today, can be found in London’s British Museum.
The Erechtheion was initially a pagan, mythologic temple. The ladies guarding it are referred to as the “Caryatids.” Next to the temple, there is an olive tree. Legend has it that this is the original tree planted by Athena, herself.
On the other adjacent hill, the 2nd highest in Athens, there is a beautiful structure that can be seen for miles. There is a myth that says one day when Athena was upset, she threw a bolder that created this hill. Great stuff! =)
We had a bit of free time to wander the site, then went to the Metropolitan Hotel for lunch. It was fabulous!!! Feta and Tomato salad with Greek Olive oil, roasted veggies, and Baklava. YUM! So, So good.
Then we were off for a 90 min costal ride to visit the Archeological Site of Sounio - Temple of Poseidon (448-440 BC). The countryside was beautiful and green, not to mention the ocean views. I saw a rainbow that out an extra little smile in my heart and there was a sweet Grouse singing for us at the top.
The site is interesting and it’s easy to see why this location was chosen - it was the perfect observatory and was patrolled for King Aegean 24 hours a day. It was a location for politics and the entrance to Athens from the Aegean Sea (named for the King).
Legends say that the King had to pay “blood tax” to the King of Crete. This meant he had to send humans from his kingdom to Crete so the Monitor Beast could be fed. Theseus, son of King Aegean, insisted that he sail to Crete and kill the Monitor so no more lives had to be spared. The king was very frightened and did not want to loose his son, so he told him to fly only black sails until the battle was won. If the ship returned with black sails, he would know his son was dead - if it returned with white ones, he’d know his son was alive. Well, Theseus ended up winning the battle with the Monitor, but forgot to have the sails changed to white because he was celebrating the victory. The king saw the ship from across the sea...it still had black sails...he was distraught! With the thought of loosing his son, he threw himself into the sea. :(
I was exhausted when the day was done. I had dinner, a Dark Chocolate Orange Bavarian Cream dessert, then went to my room to relax for the rest of the night.
SO - I’ve caught you up a bit...I shall have lunch in the Grand Pacific; Roasted Eggplant with pita bread and a Vegetable Black Bean Burger that was fantastic. =) Today, I’ve been complimented four times (by the staff) on my dreads and also asked, by an elderly British man “Are you Jamaican?” Ha Ha! I should have told him “Yes!”
I’ll post again ASAP. It's almost 1300 (1pm) - I’m off to Istanbul! In the meantime, you can look at more pictures: Athens, Greece