Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cruising Days 3 and 4

            On Wednesday May 25th we got a late start because we’d stayed up the evening before to see what entertainment on the ship was like.  There was supposed to be a traditional Greek dancing show, which followed a Ms. Aphrodite contest.  Both were awful.  The “traditional dancing” was done by the ship’s crew, most of whom had very little skill in dancing, much less traditional dancing.  Disappointed, we left part-way through the show.

            We disbarked the ship in the late morning and spent most of the day in Rhodes.

 Rhodes bills itself as the largest medieval town in Europe and, aside from Obidos Portugal, it was the first walled in city that I’d visited.  After walking along the outer walls a bit, we entered through one of the gates and headed toward Ippoton Street (the Street of the Knights).  Before that, though, we stopped at the Hospital of the Knights, built in 1440 and now housing the archaeological museum, though there wasn’t a huge amount of interesting things to see in the main courtyard and my leg was too sore (and we were both too tired) to climb up the stairs to the second floor with its various rooms.  

Then we started up Ippoton Street toward the Palace of the Grand Master.  

The street itself is in marvelous shape and seems (at least to someone like me who doesn’t know much of the history) to have kept much of the 14th and 15th century style that it had when the Knights Templar came to Rhodes from Italy to escape persecution. 

            After walking past the Palace, we decided to stop at one of the many restaurants on Polidorou Street to eat and people watch a bit. 

We passed the Mosque of Suleiman (named after the Sultan who led a siege of Rhodes in 1522). Then we headed down Sokratous Street with its tons of merchants and shops, bought a bracelet for Becca and a handmade bowl for Dan, and then headed back to the ship.  We ate dinner up by the swimming pool and watched the sun set as the ship pulled out and headed toward Crete.

            On Thursday when we woke up we were docked in Heraklion, Crete. We headed out very early for a 7 am trip to Knossos.  We boarded a bus and headed through the town of Heraklion itself, 

passing a statue of three of the most famous artists connected with Crete—the writer Nikos Kazantzakis, the painter El Greco (who I’d always thought of as Spanish with an Italian influence but of course his being Greek makes sense given his name.  Apparently during his time in Crete it was under Venetian control—thus the Italian influence), and the poet Vincenzo Kornaros (who I’d never heard of until the tour guide mentioned him).  Most of the city wasn’t very attractive but then the part of Crete that is supposed to be green and beautiful is on the other side of the island.

            We arrived in Knossos, some of the earliest Minoan ruins.  I’d first learned about Knossos in a book called The Chalice and the Blade. In it the author had posited that Knossos reflected a civilization that had complete gender equality.  While I knew that much of her research was considered speculative at best, it still intrigued me.  I was also interested in seeing Knossos because many think of it as the origin of the story of the Minotaur in the labyrinth, since Knossos palace was said to have had more than 1000 interlocking rooms, forming a labyrinthine structure.  It was also thought to be the basis for the word itself since  the labyris (the double sided axe) was scratched into many of the stones in the palace.  

When we got to the site of the palace, there were so many tour groups waiting that we were in a very long line.  The guide told us about Arthur Evans and showed us lots of pictures in the book she carried with her, but she also tried to rush our group from area to area to ‘beat out’ other tour groups getting in line.  That meant that each time we got to an interesting location, we weren’t given much time to see it but instead spent a lot of our time waiting in lines that had nothing interesting to look at.   The queen’s chamber, with its dolphins on the wall and its toilet system was the most interesting part of the tour.  There was no sense, at least with the way we went through the place, of how labyrinthine it was and there was barely time to look at the frescoes that had been left on the walls (all of which were given Arthur Evans’ interpretation of them). 

            After Crete we headed back to our cabin to pack our bags so that, when we arrive at Santorini around 3 pm we could leave the Louis Majesty and spend a few days relaxing on the island.  At 3:30 –after all the people staying on the boat had disembarked—we were called to line up on Deck 2.  When we got there, they hadn’t even loaded our luggage (which they’d picked up several hours earlier) on the ferry.  They had people and luggage trying to come onto the ship but there was almost no way they could do so in the chaos of  the luggage of those of us leaving.  We waited and waited – while they tried to make a line of people to lift luggage, while they tried to figure out how to stack it on the ferry, while the ferry took off with the luggage but without us—and finally another hour or so later, we were allowed to get on the ferry.  When we arrived at the Santorini dock, they had dumped all the luggage in a chaotic pile right next to the water.  It took a while to locate our luggage and then find the shuttle bus that was driving us to our hotel, the Majestic.  By the time we arrived that evening we were very happy to be staying in one location for several days.

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