Friday, June 24, 2011

Cruising Day One and Two


  On Monday morning we headed to the port of Athens to board the Louis Majesty cruiseship along with about 1800 other passengers.  Our room was on deck eight and consisted of two small single beds, a dresser, a half closet, a desk, and a shower/toilet—all small but comfortable—and it had a great window looking out on the water. 

It took several hours for everyone to get on board and to take off.  Once we did we explored the ship a little, learning that there was a room with internet (pay per minute), a library/quiet room, several dining rooms (one where waiters served you, one up on the pool level (though I’d hardly call the small body of water on that level a pool), and a large main dining room.  We went to eat in the last.  There were tons of different kinds of meat, cheeses, pasta, and a few fruits and veggies—not many choices for a vegetarian.  There was also an elaborate assortment of desserts.. The sauce for the pasta had no taste. And we quickly learned after trying a few that most of the desserts—whether cake, pastry, or pudding-- tasted the same, like what used to be called whip and chill.  I had a hard time in the dining room.  People swarmed rudely over the food, piling their plates high, eating little bits of it, then dumping it and going back for more.  It reminded me of the ugly American image, though many of the people on board were from Greece, France, Spain, Japan, etc.  The combination of the food, the quality of the entertainment, and the continuous noise almost everywhere on the ship made it quickly clear to me that, while I thought it was a very efficient way to get from island to island, large cruises just aren’t for me.

             In the late afternoon we docked at Mykonos, having about three hours to explore the island that is known for its beautiful white buildings.

  Mythologically it was said to be the site of the battle between the Titans and Zeus. We walked along the dock and into the section of Chora (also called Mykonos, since Chora means ‘town’ and it’s the one real town on the island) nicknamed Little Venice. 

Little Venice is right on the water’s edge (thus the name) and is a mixture of small alleys filled with shops, bars ,and cafes.  Little by little we made our way up the hill toward the white windmills that dominate the view of the island.  

Built by Venetians in the 16th century, they were used for at least four centuries to mill wheat (one of the main sources of income for those living on the island until tourism took over.) 

            The next morning we headed off the boat early (7 am) for the place I was most interested in seeing—Ephesus.  We were met by a tour guide, George, and put on a bus to drive through parts of the port of Kusadasi Turkey  out into the countryside.

  The fields full of poppies and other wild flowers were beautiful.  When we arrived at Ephesus, there were tons of tourists there. Our tour group was 11, so we were each given a sticker to wear with that number on it.  George clearly had the tour down, telling us lots of interesting stories connected with the various locations we were seeing. (He’d been a middle school teacher for years and knew how to keep people’s attention.) Because there were so many groups, though, we had to go through each section very quickly with George talking as we walked.  I would have loved the chance to slow down and spend some time at each location the way we did when Kathy and I visited Ostia Antica several years ago. 

We started past the Odeian, the smaller of the two theaters we’d see that morning and walked down the main street of the agora, 

pausing by the Gate of Heracles.  

We then continued along Curetes Street to the Library of Celsus. 

That amazing building has statues in niches, Corinthian columns on the two-storeyed building and marble covered with carved figures of Nike, Eros, and garlands.  Some of the statues have words carved below them – e.g. sophia, episteme—showing what the statues symbolized.  

We turned right at the Library and headed toward the main Ephesus theater, the one connected with St. Paul in Acts 19.  The theater was from the 3rd century BCE but was enlarged by Romans to seat more than 25,000 people.  After leaving Ephesus, we headed back to Kusadasi to a Turkish rug store where they served us apple tea and had a woman demonstrate how rugs are handmade.  They then threw down one rug after another.  As they did so, I watched Kathy’s eyes get bigger and bigger. Clearly we were going to be the proud owners of a rug of some kind when we left the store.  After the sales talk was over, Kathy purchased a new rug for the dining room which will be delivered in about eight weeks.

        We did a little shopping at vendors near the ship and then reboarded and headed off for a late afternoon on the island of Patmos.  We’d been told that the tour offered wasn’t worthwhile –to just rent a taxi to take us to the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse—and I knew that after Ephesus I wouldn’t be able to walk up the many stairs to the monastery so we planned to just drive by and see them.  We went to the taxi station and were told to come back in about an hour If that’s what we wanted a taxi to do.  We headed into the Chora, the town on the island, and got some dinner and then an ice cream.  We returned to the taxi station where we were told that a taxi driver would take us to the Cave of the Apocalypse, wait for us to get out and look around, take us as close to the Monastery of St. John as possible, stop while we took a picture or two, and then bring us back to the taxi station for 60 euros.  The taxi driver pulled up and the dispatcher explained that to him.  He agreed.  We headed up the windy narrow road of the mountain to the Cave of the Apocalypse.  As the cabbie drove he talked on his phone, driving about 60 mph and paying little attention to the road or its turns. It made me nervous. When we got to the Cave he told us to get out, that he’d be back for us in a half an hour or so.  We explained that he was supposed to say but he said that he wasn’t doing that. Several people standing around tried to get in the taxi saying he’d promised them that he’d be back for them and he hadn’t returned but he drove off without any of us/them.  We made our way over to the steps going down to the cave.  There were too many for me but Kathy went down to the tiny grotto where John was supposed to have gotten the visions that he put in Revelation. 

When she came out we looked around a bit and checked out the building the cave was in with its mosaic showing John and Prochoros, his disciple who tradition says wrote his visions down.  Finally the driver came back.  He told us he’d take us to the monastery and drop us off, picking us up again in about an hour.  We didn’t have that kind of time and I didn’t feel up to standing so we said to just take us back to the txi station.  He refused saying he was picking up other people at the monastery.  When we got to the top—he turned to the back seat and argued with us all the way up rather than watching the road—he told us to get out.  We didn’t, so he said to Kathy, “Take a picture quick” 

and put three other people in the cab with us to drive down the mountain as quickly as he could.  All of us in the taxi couldn’t believe the way in which he drove.  He was a cab driver from hell (pretty appropriate for Patmos).  We walked around town a bit more and then headed to the ferry to take us back to the ship. 

I was so glad to be leaving that island!

No comments: