Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Beautiful Mykonos

With a cooling breeze, Mykonos was a billion times more comfortable than sweltering Athens.

The port town is an unbelievably delightful maze of shops, tavernas and houses. Walt Disney himself couldn't have designed a sweeter, more enjoyable place.

Private Yachts. Those things
were huge!!

But, watch out for the trucks! Really. Tiny trucks which send all the pedestrians....shopkeepers included, scurrying for steps, alcoves or stores to get out of the way.

Everything here is white, white, white. It gives it a very clean feel.

My favorite thing was the beautiful handmade jewelry and art work--paintings, handwoven fabrics, pottery. Too bad I'm about shopped out.
Our ship anchored. We had to tender in.

But it was a fun day not to go out away from the town. Just grabbed the computer and TRIED to access the Internet.

And what else? Taste some....baklava, of course!

This is some of the best of the whole trip. To say that it's buttery, seems weird. But it was sweet but not too. And very gooey!
I really want some of those little knives and forks.....

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Acropolis! These Eyes Have Seen

Okay, first let me say, I have been a lot of places. I love seeing things with my own eyes.

But I never dreamed of seeing the Acropolis or the Parthenon. Every bit of me--except the dripping sweat of me--loved it.

High on a hill surrounded by a massive, massive sprawling modern, graffiti covered, dirty, Athens.

Side note...we were there on Sunday, and was probably good because many shops were closed and I can't imagine the traffic snarls if everything was open. Our open topped double decked bus had a hard time as it was.

The Acropolis is the whole hilltop. The Parthenon is just one massive temple.

They've done something both smart and somehow disappointing.  They're rebuilding parts of it, putting in new whiter marble so you can recognize the new parts.  And some of the statues have been removed and put into the Acropolis museum where they can be protected and replacements stand on the hill. 

The ground is unbroken and the rock, the marble, is very slick. The sun reflects off the marble and sunglasses are a must.

For someone who loves to travel and as a history teacher, it was magnificent!

Best moment.

As we were leaving a little girl walked by talking to her dad and said...."it's like the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Monument."

I couldn't resist. I stepped forward, explain that I teach history so I wouldn't be too scary, and commended the girl for making that connection, because that's exactly what our Founding Fathers had in mind in using that architecture. Buildings reflecting greatness and the Greek message of democracy.

And..way to apply prior knowledge. Her little brother nudged her and said..."way to go!" 

Hey...congrats to her teachers". What more could a teacher ask for??

Tiny Picturesque Santorini

The beautiful island of Santorini is famous from movies. It's a caldera. Cliff. Not cliff. And water....some still bubbling away.

They docked us below Fira and we took a cable car to the top...or you could the steep, steep hundreds of steps.

The Plaka of Fira is delightful. White buildings. Tiny streets. Vendors. 

Grabbing a scooter, we headed out to Ia (pronunced ee-uh) where the famous blue roofed church of all the posters stands. 

The cliff side drive would have curled my hair if it were straight. But I was busy driving and learned that oncoming tour buses are definitely a bit terrifying.

Ia has even more tiny streets and even whiter buildings. Perched on the cliff, it's absolutely breathtaking.

Vendors selling out of the back of their van...with the hatch open is a traditional small village way of shopping. How do we know? We bought a shirt from one. Actually, I sat in a little bakery eating lovely baklava...with a distinct cinnamon flavor.

The scooter allowed us the freedom to see more of the island. The 125cc gave us the power to get the hills better than in Rhodes. Why did I drive?  I still have my motorcycle license which they required on this island.

We wandered our way to Acrotiri...a "prehistoric" village. It was a successful trading village in 1600s BC when first it was hit by an earthquake and while it was trying to recover a massive volcano eruption hit it 1623 BC. The village was buried under feet of ash and kept fully preserved until the 1960s when it was found and excavated.

They think they've only found one layer. It was amazing!

The roof over the dig was almost as amazing as the ruins. It's covered with dirt, it's a bio-dome which protects from wet, dry light and even sun radiation. 

Note: if there a solar storm and you need protection, head there.

Super day!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rhodes! Or Should I Say Roads? Whatever You Say, it's Ancient!

First and foremost, Rhodes is an ancient city. But for the crusaders, it's still busy with people.

For my Israel friends, think Jerusalem's walled city and old city inside it, only Rhodes is cleaner, and less crowded-ish and not so intense. 

Greece is a lovely laid back culture and everywhere...just like in Turkey (oh, big surprise since Turkey owned it for Many years) there are outdoor cafes. These are used both by weary tourists and the locals.

The Castle of St. Peter looks like something out of a movie set! 

  Think Kights Templar...yes again. 
This book was made in the 1300s.  Talk about old!

Turns out that Mussolini actually had it rebuilt this last century. Sure glad he did because it's cooool!  They've turned it into a museum with artifacts from the Hellenistic Era (that's early Greek--for those who haven't been paying attention) too bad we couldn't take photos, some lovely mosaics and statuary.

We also wanted to see the Temple of Artemis. Just cause it sounded cool. I mean a Greek temple? Who would turn that down? Yep. We stumbled on it. Lucky we checked the map, or we would have trudged right by it. 

Btw...once I get real Internet, I'll add more pics.

So, it seemed like a good day. 

Ahhhh, but then it becomes best day!!

We rented a scooter!!!

Using the little 50cc we chugged around Rhodes, including getting to see the Acropolis...not THE Acropolis the one for Rhodes which is home to the Temple of Apollo and is high on the hill overlooking both the old and new city.
We even found where artists say the Colossus of Rhodes stood. Yes, really. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

We rode (or should I say "rhode") along the beach road and stopped in at a little bakery. I may never have baklava again. It was soooo good. Drippy and sweet but not too much.  The walnut filling was a delight!

The water around Rhodes is an even more incredible blue. Near the beach edge, it lightens up to almost a turquoise because it mixes with the sand. You can even see your feet because the water is so  light blue.

We saw a LOT of very lobster run red sunburned people. Ow!

Public service announcement.....WEAR SUNCREEN!!!  As a skin cancer victim, I'm here to tell you having your nose rebuilt because of skin cancer is just one of those opportunities I recommend you miss!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bodrum, Turkey -- Quaint Crusader Village and the Father of History

Bodrum is dominated by the ancient and modern. The massive Knights Castle from the Crusades stands over the town. A 25 min. Walk from where the ships dock takes you through the delightful town and shopping district. 

Appropriately standing outside the castle...as you are about to embark on a daylong study of history...stands Herodotus. The Father of History.  (He live in Bodrum for a bit.)

He wrote the first history book...that we know of. 

Good news! Teachers were highly respected back then. They made pretty darn good money.  (It's explained in the castle. ) Well..compared with the average person. Question.  What happened??? Isn't learning valued anymore?

Highlights of the castle were engraved stones bearing the shields or standards of many of the Knights. Templar type crosses. British lions. French fleur-di-lys. The castle, now a museum, held many items from shipwrecks In the area. Large pots from the Phoenicia, the early Egyptians, the Ottoman Empire.

Time stretched across the stones. Centuries captures before us.

For my students...Saracen bows!  And Crusader armor in the same room! 

Recovered glass vases, some unbelievably not broken. Gold-jewelry (even for the dead! That skull looked like he was wearing gold sunglasses, coins of all types, tin, silver, gold,
tools--massive anchors..

Up and down, in and around, history enveloped you.

But...up the street...not far away were the remains of King Mausolos' tomb.

Who's that?

Glad you asked!

He's the guy mausoleum is named after because he built one. Massive. Massive. MASSIVE! Multi-story. Statues.  Columns. Chariots. Columns. 

Ah, but here's the rub. If you're not there to make sure no one touches and less than a mile away and 800 years later they're building a massive castle made of stone...what's to keep someone from reusing the stone from your memorial? 

Yep. Nothing's left.

They the actual grave was intact when the Knights first went digging. They were going to open it the next day after they found it, bit during the night, grave robbers got in and stole everything and anything. Oh well. A lesson in futility.

What makes me sad seeing the pyramids, crusader castles and the remains of places like the Mausoleum is how much of the gross national product must have gone into building those things. And I wonder how much slave labor was used to build them.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ephesus Well Worth the Trip

Okay, Ephesus!

Hellenistic, Roman and Bzyantine Periods... (Greek, Roman and Turkish)

For the poorly informed---that's a LOT of years!
As a writer and a teacher where else would I be???


The Celsius library.

Ephesus, yes as in the Ephesians in the New Testament, is a massive archeological site. We walked downhill more than a mile through the enter. We saw two massive theaters.one seating 4000 and the other seating 24'000 (eat your heart out Troy). Evidently it seated 10% of the city's population. Impressive!

The Agora or main administrative part of the city was massive, as was the hospital. How do they know it was a hospital? There's a caduceus on the corner of the building.
And...they've only excavated 20% of the site!!!


Gotta be the public toilet. No, they did not believe in privacy.  Btw, they used slaves to keep the seats warm In the Winter.  Talk about a bummer of a job!

If you look closely, you can see the clay pipe which brought water to the flushing system.

And the monumental gates. One dedicated to Herucles. With the lion he killed a one of his labors. And loving the Ionian columns.  
And the Roman mosaics, with their natural stones. If you were a shopkeeper and didn't keep it clean, you had to pay more taxes.
So why was it abandoned? As our guide put it, disease (Mosquitos), the new development of Christianity--nobody likes pagan gods and their temples. Poor Paul was nearly mobbed however when he tried to preach about the new religion centuries earlier. But more importantly...FIVE major earthquake events. The water--the river they were using-- was moved and it's a bit tough to have a thriving port city when there's no water around.

Next stop? The carpet factory. Wish I had the $400 for a tiny silk one. Sheesh! More about silk carpets later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Travel in Turkey

Turkey is a fascinating place. I expected more of an Arab feel. Wrong. Turkish...I don't think that's what it's called by its speakers, is a mishmash of languages. I recognized English type words. French, Arabic and even Slav or Russian.  Makes sense since it's the thoroughfare between East and West. But every language bits I know came to me, but none fit the bill.

We were fairly unprepared for our trip to Turkey, so I thought I would offer some observations for any interested parties.

What to Expect:
Very little English

We spent the first several days outside of Istanbul. We struggled to find people who really spoke English.

Use cash

Before I left, I checked with my credit card companies to let them know I was coming here. They said it was possible that charges could be denied because this is a high loss country. Several times we tried our Visas--3 different cards---and they were rejected. However ATMs are easily accessible. In 2015 10 TL (Turkish lira) are worth about $3.50 US

Crazy driving

Lanes and speed seem to be a bit of a suggestion.  Expect to be cut off. Honked at if you're not moving just as soon as the light is green. Road work that just suddenly starts and mountain one lane highways that have no barricade. It was very exciting at times! We were glad for the gps.

Otogaz....gas stations
Gas is full service. Just say full and you'll get what you need.

Plain yogurt. Cheeses. Breads. Eggs, mostly boiled. And salad. Olives, tomatoes, some fruit. I was used to this from my time spent in Israel. Jams and honey. Coffee, tea, juice and maybe some cereal.

People running across the highway--often I wondered where they had come from and why were they crossing at that point.
Lots of motorcycles with two people riding. Young, old didn't matter.
Many loose cats. Canakkale had tons of them! In the US we don't allow roaming animals like this.
BIG loose dogs. They all seem to be similarly genetic.  Sort of a German Shepard mix
Farm equipment on the highway. We were on the way to Troy and were nearly crushed by the biggest combine I've ever seen!
Many, many outdoor cafes. Don't look at the people inside or they'll try and pull you in. The pictures however will help you find what you're looking for.
Perhaps the strangest thing we noticed are the buildings. Soooo many old, abandoned buildings, but tons and tons of newly constructed ones. It was often hard to tell if they were still being worked on or had been given up on. The big cement frames were nearly always filled in by red brick, much of which didn't even seem to have mortar. Hard to see how that would offer much protection from heat and cold.

We picked up about fifty words in the three days we were there, but never could master "thank you" or "please". Dumb, eh.

Do have the lamb doner kebabs and the lamb shish. Yummy!!

And su is water.

Just so you know....c with a scidilla is pronounced Chu.  And s with a scidilla is pronounced sh.

Istanbul is a massive modern city, so don't plan to drive there.

Be sure to go out to the countryside. It's very rural and beautiful.

We LOVED taking the ferry back and forth. 30 TL round trip. The Dardanelles/Bosphorus straits are lovely.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Troy Of Homer, Achilles and Brad Pitt Fame

Famous Greek poet, Homer tells the story of the fall of Troy and the 10 year siege of the city when Prince Paris steals away Helen. One of the great beauties of the time and the Greeks go after her to bring her home.

Think giant granite or marble Legos--notches on
both the column and the base show where they connect.
The Greeks appear to give up and one day in their stead was a massive wooden horse. This, the Trojans are dumb enough to bring inside the city and have a big party celebrating their victory. They get drunk and fall asleep. Out pops the Greek army and slaughters everyone. (Well, except for Achilles who is almost impervious to every thing and he incredibly is shot in the heel, the one place he's vulnerable-- by a spear--lucky shot--and dies...this is the Brad Pitt character in case you're needing a drool.)

The playwright Euripides tells the survivors tale in Trojan Women. Depressing!

But to two actors, a history teacher and a mathematician--not me--my husband
this place was AMAZING!

His comment? "And people think you don't need math!  Look at all this precise detail!"

Me? I left part of myself there. Bugs got me! And my blood it there. Ick!

And explain how just my right forearm got sunburned....