Monday, September 26, 2022

Limnos

 September 26, 2022 – Limnos

 

Limnos is a very arid volcanic island near the entrance to the Dardenelles.  Limnos is the mythological home of Hephaistos or Vulcan, who was cast off Olympus by his father Zeus and landed on Limnos, breaking his leg.  Lame forever, the god of fire toiled at his forge (the volcanoes of the island) and taught the people of the island metalworking.

 

Myrina is the capital city of Limnos and we anchored just off the harbor with the ruins of a spectacular fortress dating to the 1200’s standing high on the hill above the town.

 








Going ashore Patrick and Cathy went up the steep path to the fortress and met the rest of the group for lunch at a little restaurant near the harbor.  The shopping area stretched for blocks though the center of town, covered by arbors and greenery.  There were swimming beaches on both sides of town, and scores of boutique hotels.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Mykonos, Skiathos, Troy and Istanbul

 September 22, 2022 – Mykonos

 

Seabourn Encore approached the anchorage outside Mykonos Town under clear, but windy skies.  There were already two ships docked at the port about 1 KM from the old town.  By the time our anchor was well set, two more larger cruise ships had anchored behind us, for a total of 5 ships.

 

Tenders from town shuttled passengers from the anchored ships to the center of the town where we encountered substantial crowds.  We had booked a walking tour through the maze of streets in the old town.  The maze was easy to get lost in, which was by design.  The islands had a problem with Saracen pirates in the past and the narrow twisting streets and houses all the same color were to make it hard for pirates to know where to go and to keep oriented.  Without a guide getting lost would have been easy.  The town was full of shops, restaurants and tavernas and apparently is really hopping after 1900, when the cruise ships have left.

 

The tour wended though these streets, exploring museums, churches and the famous Mykonos windmills before stopping at a taverna for meze’s and ouzeau.  We then found a waterfront restaurant and enjoyed calamari, grilled octopus and spankopita while we watched the crowds walk by.

 






After a wind, choppy trip back to the ship we enjoyed a pool deck sail-away celebration with caviar and champagne as Seabourn Encore raised the anchor and headed for Skiathos.

 

September 23, 2022 – Skiathos

 

We were in Skiathos in 1999, while Patrick was on assignment in the UK.  This morning we arrived and Seabourn Encore anchored off the old town.  We had arranged a private sailing day in Skiathos and after we landed right in front of the taverna we frequented on our first trip we walked around a newer promenade to the sailboat we had booked.  We had to wait for thunderstorms and lightning to pass by for about 30 minutes before we could depart.  Just time for a quick cup of coffee.

 

Heading out of the harbor under power we stopped and anchored in a quiet cove out of the brisk wind and had snacks and a brief swim before heading back to Skiathos Island to another beach where again anchored and went swimming in 72-74 degree water while the skipper prepared a past lunch.  After lunch we powered back to Skiathos harbor, arriving in plenty of time to walk back along the promenade, investigate a few shops and return to the ship.  It was a relaxing, low-key day.

 

Our anchorage for lunch in Skiathos


New harbor promenade in Skiathos


September 24, 2022 – Tenedos Island and Troy

 

Once again Seabourn Encore approached our next destination just as the sun was rising.  The ship anchored off of the town of Bozcaada on Tenedos Island and we tendered into shore and boarded a ferry to the Turkish mainland for a 45 minute bus ride to the excavations at Troy.  



Turkish Fortress at Bozcaada Harbor



The tour at Troy showed us the various levels of the city, starting 3000 years ago and culminating in the 1500’s.  Unlike Ephesus, this was never a large city, but the different cities built on the ruins of previous cities seems to substantiate Homer’s Iliad and the conquest of Troy, including the burning of the city.  The Trojan Horse statue is, of course, just the imagination of the builder, since no one knows what it really looked like.

 


Mud Bricks from Trojan War Era, the red bricks have been hardens by a fire






We arrived back at the ferry and the weekend crowds and traffic jams forced us to get off the bus and walk to  jump the queue just to get on the ferry back to where the ship’s tenders were located.  It was close, but all the passengers got back on crowded the ferry before it left for the 30 minute trip back to Bozcaada.

 

As we headed up the Dardenelles we gathered for and Indian dinner on the aft deck.  The sun was warm and even after sunset the deck was pleasant.  Later in the evening we gathered in the Observation Bar as the ship sailed past Gallipoli and under the longest suspension bridge in the world, spanning the narrow passage.  The bridge is lit up with a light show that was spectacular.



Bridge over the Dardenelles at night

 

September 25, 2022 – Istanbul

 

Seabourn Encore docked on the corner of The Golden Horn just below Topkapi Palace.  We had arranged a private minibus and guide for the day, along with the other three couples.  We were fortunate in arriving at Topkapi Palace just as it opened and before the crowds arrived.  After 2 hours touring the various courtyards and displays, including religious artifacts such as remnants of John the Baptist and the staff of Moses and items of Mohammed, we stopped for coffee just inside the first courtyard.

 







Moving to Hagia Sophia we waited about 30 minutes in line to enter since there is a limit of about 2000 visitors at a time in the mosque.  The current building dates back to 527 AD, originally a Christian church, built on top of even earlier remains.  With the rise of the Ottoman Empire the church became a mosque and then a museum.  In 2020 it was changed back into a mosque.  Christian symbols with faces are covered, but symbols common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam are present everywhere.

 


Interior of Hagia Sophia Dome



Hagia Sophia mosque


Crowds inside Hagia Sophia


The Blue Mosque is closed for renovation, so we then went into the cisterns built by the Romans.  Much of the construction reused items from other cities, so there a real mix of column styles.  They have a light show in the cisterns and when it got dark it was hard to walk and maintain balance with the crowds.

 


550 ton Obelisk from Karnak, Egypt



Inside the cistern




Reused marble Medusa Head in Cistern


After the cistern experience we stopped for lunch at “The Pudding Palace” which consisted of traditional Turkish food, simple but good.  By the time lunch was over we were getting tired, but walked though the area where the hippodrome was and viewed the obelisks the Romans brought from Egypt 1500 years ago.  By this time traffic was heavy, so we headed back to the ship to make sure we arrived before last call.

 

 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Kusadasi and Ephesus

 Wednesday, September 21, 2022 - Kusadasi and Ephesus

 

Seabourn Encore approached the dock in pre-dawn darkness, without even a sunrise due to clouds on the horizon.  Our tours today included the Virgin Mary’s House, the ruins of Ephesus, rug weaving demonstrations and a private classical concert for Seabourn on Harbor Road in front of the Great Theater at Ephesus.

 


Approaching Kusadasi at Dawn with the Turkish Fortress lit up


Miriam and I were last here in 2008 as part of our Holland America transatlantic cruise.  Since that time the Virgin Mary’s house has been declared a Unesco “World Heritage” site and much development has taken place around the actual house.  The original ruins only went up a few feet above ground and the building that is now there is only 25% original and 75% reconstructed.  The line is clearly visible.  Like many of the sites, no photography is allowed inside the shrine.

 

Entrance to St. Mary’s House


After a short visit before most of the hoards of visitors arrived, we headed to the ruins at Ephesus.  Not much has changed except the crowds were even larger.  We walked down through the ruins to the Great Theater and Harbor Road, past the Celcus Library fa├žade.  We were able to discern carvings of the goddess’s  Nike, Medusa and Artemis.  The guide talked about how St Paul did not actually talk in the great Theater but rather in the Jewish Synagogue next to the library.  In ancient times, Ephesus was a large and important seaport with as many as 250,000 residents, but earthquakes and filling of marshlands to combat malaria which covered the city under many feet of debris means the Harbor Road is now miles from the sea.  The site is still only 10 percent excavated, but radar and lidar surveys show extensive ruins buried under the hillsides on both sides of the city.

 


Celcuk Library


Celcuk Library


Harbor Road in Daytime



Starbucks Anyone?




The goddess Nike, can you see the swoosh?


Finishing our tour, we headed for a hand knotted silk rug weaving demonstration and sales pitch to buy rugs before we returned by foot through the Grand Bazaar to the ship.

 

After an early dinner, most of the passengers, including us, boarded buses starting at 6:40 to return to Ephesus and a private classical music concert in front of the Great Theater.  Harbor Road has been walked by St. Paul, Mark Antony and Cleopatra and many other famous historical figures.  Tonight it was lit up with candles and set with tables for us listen to the chamber orchestra as we sipped wine.  To be in that setting walking that same road knowing the amount of history that preceded us was somewhat sobering and exciting at the same time.  The distance into the concert setting was too far for Miriam to walk unaided, so the ship arranged a wheelchair transfer from the gangway to the concert and return.



Harbor Road at night

Our concert setting in front of the Great Theater

The night lighting was spectacular


The concert venue on Harbor Road

 


Miriam and Patrick at the evening concert at Ephesus



The evening was stunning with the setting and the lights, something not to be missed.  Returning to the ship, the ship’s wheelchair was delivered to the wrong port entrance so Miriam walked all the way from the port entrance to the ship, where much of the crew were on hand dockside, singing and dancing to welcome the passengers back from the concert and to join the dance in progress on the pool deck.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Patmos and Crete

 Monday, September 19, 2022 – Patmos

 

This morning we approached the island of Patmos just as the sun was rising.  Seabourn Encore anchored off the harbor below the Monastery of St. John, perched high above the small town.

 

Boarding our tour bus we headed first to the “Cave of the Apocalypse” where the Apostle John received his revelation, which was transcribed by his assistant and which became the final book of the New Testament.  The grotto has had a church built around it over the centuries and there is a chapel incorporated around the actual grotto.  Our guide did a creditable job of explaining much of the symbology and metaphors in the Book of Revelation.  We were not told ahead of time about the restrictions on photography at the religious shrines and museums in Greece, so outside pictures were allowed, but no pictures were allowed inside.

 

After the grotto of the apocalypse we went further up the hill to the Monastery of St. John which was built in the 1100’s.  The monastery is now surrounded by the town of Hora, which has grown over the centuries.  The original papal bull giving ownership of Patmos was on display, with many other artifacts and even the preserved skulls of the founders of the monastery.



Inside the courtyard of the Monastery fo St. John


Entrance to Grotto of the Apocalypse


The monastery is also a fortress


Sunrise as we approachedPatmos

 


Walking back down through the town of Hora we visited a traditional Greek house dating from the 1500’s and occupied up until the 1960’s.  Pretty primitive compared to our american standards.

 

Returning to the port area we found a taverna and relaxed with tzatziki and calamari washed down with local greek white wine and beer before returning to the ship via local tenders.

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 – Crete

 

As dawn approached, our ship approached Agios Nikolaos in Crete.  We had a long tour for this day and several of the group decided to opt out, including Miriam.

 

Going ashore at 0730, we boarded buses for the one hour trip to Iraklion, the site of the Minoan Palace of Knossos.  The ruins were partially excavated in the 1930’s, but most of the site is still underground.  The palace is huge, more than 40,000 square meters and up to 5 stories high.  The throne room has been partially restored.  The palace dates to 2600 BC, but was mostly destroyed in about 1450 BC, with the eruption of the volcano on Santorini, 80 miles away.  The palace was rebuilt, but not occupied after 1100 BC.


The throne room was interesting because the king sat below his subjects and on a stone throne, with a ritual washing basin in front of the throne.

 


Typical Street in Arilithos


Throne Room of the Palace of Knossos


Arilithos


Arilithos Blacksmith shop




Following the tour of Knossos we headed to Arilithos, a recreation of a typical Greek village of 100 years ago.  Here we toured the various houses and enjoyed a Cretan style lunch while we watched traditional Cretan dancing.

 

Finally we headed back to the ship after a tour lasting 8 hours and prepared for our next destination, Kusadasi, Turkey and the ruins of Ephesus.  The weather was stormy overnight, but Seabourn Encore was very stable and we did not even notice the wind and waves.

 


 

 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Athens and Embarkation Day

 Athens, Greece – September 17, 2022

 

We started the day with breakfast on the rooftop restaurant at the Grand Bretagne Hotel.  The temperature had already started to climb and was predicted to be more than 90 degrees.  The three couples gathered in the lobby at 0845 for a planned trip to Delphi.  Unfortunately the tour operator never showed up and we ended up booking a minivan from the hotel concierge.  It is a two+ hour drive to Delphi and upon arrival found out the ADA access was poor for Miriam and the temperature was now 90 degrees.  The museum had a wheelchair which helped, but it was just too hot to really explore the ruins.

 


Vahkos Restaurant in Delphi



The rugged terrain of Mt Parnassus and the Oracle ruins site



A incredibly detailed bronze sculpture in the museum


We headed into Delphi and stopped at a delightful restaurant with an open balcony perched on the hillside.  The balcony was shaded and the breeze made it pleasant as we lingered over lunch before the two hour drive back to the hotel.

 


The acropolis in the morning from the roof of our hotel


Arriving at the hotel, we had arranged for our medically observed Covid testing. The nurse comes to your room and after just a few minutes we got our “Negative” test results which they emailed to us and the hotel, so the hotel printed a hardcopy.  We are now good for boarding Seabourn Encore in the morning.

 

Dinner on a warm Saturday night in Athens was a challenge, everywhere outside was fully booked, so we ended up with a group of 8 in the Winter Garden restaurant in the hotel.  The food and drinks were good, but everyone was ready for some sleep, so we ended up back in the room by 2200.

 

Athens, Greece – September 18, 2022, Embarkation Day

 

Miriam and I headed to the rooftop breakfast venue, with more stunning views of the Acropolis.  After a leisurely breakfast we headed back to the roomed and finalized our suitcases for pickup.  We are scheduled to board the Seabourn Encore at 1240 PM and head-out out from the hotel at 1115.  The weather continues clear, sunny and very hot, with 91 degrees predicted as the high for today.  Seabourn Encore is one of the two largest Seabourn ships, with a capacity of 600 guests.

 

We actually had an early departure from the hotel and arrived at the ship before they were ready to board new guests.  There were about 150 transit passengers already on board.  After a short wait, we were cleared to board at 1130 and went to the Colonnade Restaurant to wait until our suite was ready.  Even the restaurant was not yet open, but we could sit out on the aft deck and have a glass of water while we waited.  The fresh breeze and shade made for a pleasant afternoon while we eventually had a light lunch.  Our suites were ready by 1400, so we had plenty of time to explore the ship before departure.

 

The ship is full, and guests continued to arrive all afternoon.  Departure is set for 1900, since it is only 177 NM to our first stop, the island of Patmos, where we will get a chance to visit the monastery of St. John.  Patmos is where the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation.

 

The group of eight gathered at the Keller Grill for dinner as the Seabourn Encore departed Piraeus on time for Patmos.