If you click on the map, a slideshow of all the photos in the body of the Silver Wind blog post will commence.
In many of the ports, we have private transportation arranged in advance, with the added comfort of keeping much to our own pace. As days go on, we start later, and return to the ship after lunch, beautifully ‘dulled’ by wine and ready for a snooze.
‘Easy does it’ is what holidays are all about, no?
After departing the port, we drive by the base of Mount Vesuvius and drive for a couple of hours south passing the headland of Eboli to arrive at one of the most well-preserved collections of Greek Temples anywhere in Europe – in Paestum. Originally created as a tribute to the Greek god Poseidon, we learn about the history of this ancient period.
Since 1988, UNESCO has recognized Paestum as a World Heritage Site. Unlike the busy Pompeii and even Herculaneum, Paestum has very few tourists. The ancient Greek temples dating back to the 6th century BC provide a uniquely Greek experience in Italy.
We roam through the ruins with our guide to see three temples including the preserved temple of Hera II (once mistakenly believed to be the Temple of Poseidon).
Being our first excursion, and lots of traffic on the roads around Amalfi, there are ‘some’ in our number fretting that the ship might ‘go without them’. So, we cancel the planned stop in Ravello on the way back in favour of going to a little family restaurant in Vietri sul Mare, near Salerno. What a treat!
Here at the simple La Playa Trattoria, a young husband and wife, (friends of our driver host, Rosario), rustle-up a lunch of regional specialities, marinated anchovies, octopus salad, tomatoes, insalata caprese, tuna lemon balls, and to think that I would like sardines stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried would be stretching it – before I tasted these!
Of course, we make it back to the Silver Wind in time! And the sea has calmed.
TaorminaThe Baronessa Juanita continues on her magical mythical journey of the Mediterranean islands aboard ‘Silver Wind’ – in the good company of El Duque Edmundo, Baron von Michael, und the German Pfarrer Frank-Michael, Shenagh, Trevor and Anne, Ken and Pam.
Taormina is a destination that we’ve visited before. On a little stroll (through throngs of locals enjoying a sunny Public Holiday) we decide that the best thing to do is to enjoy some lunch in a quiet trattoria.
I found the main square and the colonnaded building where Alan and I enjoyed Greek meatballs for lunch on a cruise here some fifteen years ago. But, this time the old town beckoned, and it was so much more interesting, Silver Wind is in port till late this evening, so back we go to town for a Greek meal – will report later.
Which one of us represents Ulysses, the legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey today? However, we’re not returning to the waiting wife Penelope after fighting the Trojan Wars for ten years; we’ve barely travelled ten hours from our last port of Corfu.
Finally ashore by tender after a lazy morning, there’s hardly a soul in sight Edmundo and I ‘hire’ the only cab on the rank here in downtown Vathi. This is the largest little town on the whole Island of Ithaca. Off the beaten track we go, rattling in our ageing Toyota Camry around the sea before changing gears to chug and rattle around hairpin bends as we wind up the mountain side to visit a monastery; all but deserted, but affording good views back down to Vathi.
Cypress sprout out of olive groves and rock on one side of the mountain, but simply add height to the forested sides on the other. Simple little houses up here but no people visible. Occasional clumps of red or pink roses suggest that someone does care. The birds singing are the only real signs of life. Descending to small towns on the north shore, a little more colour and life, with more blooming roses and bougainvillea, and loquat trees laden in yellow fruit in the back yards.
We skip through the small town of Stavros (tourist buses sighted), and Frikes, and continue around to an all but deserted fishing town of Kioni. Here, around a little bay, original-style houses that were not disturbed by the 1953 earthquake still stand. It proves to be a great place to stop for lunch.
The plate of grilled vegetables and cheese balls is more than enough for two. The chef says that his special herb on the vegetables is black salt, but I’m sure there’s thyme or similar added to the sesame seeds that make it taste so good. The arrival of my local goat cooked three hours in the outdoors oven was too much. I hope the local animals enjoyed their special treat.
Corinth Canal, Greece
Everybody is jockeying for positions at the bow of the ship to see us enter the Corinth Canal. Juanita von Stieglitz and Shenagh amble along in sun hats looking like they’re off to a bush picnic. But they well and truly hold their own. And reserve a prime position for me.
O me with all the faith, am proven wrong. While the teeth-chattering band of fearful sailors (the ‘ye of little faith’ crowd) seem to relish their fears of being stuck somehow in the transit being realised. They now have a real-life drama of being ‘stuck in the mud’ to relate to friends back home.
I continue sitting on the aft deck sipping my Earl Grey and enjoying a hot scone, as I hear the captain announce that the ship is stuck from a combination of mud under the keel and a strong current against us. The water is so shallow that they cannot use any propulsion.
Another pot of tea is called for while waiting for the Pilot and Canal authorities to get us moving again. And of course, we do.
Returning to my cabin is like moving from day into night. I find myself ‘entombed’ in the dark between stone-walls. I can pick the weeds growing in the crevices and see the rocks all but scraping the keel of the ship below.
Now to prepare for guests this evening.
POST-CORINTH CANAL CAVIAR AND CANAPÉS
It’s less than a week to go till we disembark in Piraeus, so today’s easy day ‘at sea’ and the excitement while transiting the Corinth Canal is a good excuse for our little group to get together for a few quiet drinks.
Also a chance to discuss the upcoming visits to Santorini, Rhodes, Ephesus and Mykonos. If that sounds exhausting, you might be ‘on the money’.
“Clouds come down over Santorini each evening kissing the volcanic soil with their moisture.” Fairytale? No!
Nick the Greek, our affable taxi driver says so. In this otherwise dry island where people have to ship in their drinking water, the grape vines and vegetable plantings are watered naturally, as if from the Gods.
And to add a note of veracity to this claim, the Baroness Juanita advises us that she’s recently invested in an Israeli firm that specialises in microclimates, and is building the capacity to do exactly this, to water, green and make productive, dry areas of the earth.
Nick the Greek came into our orbit when we had to find a way to get from the top of Santorini down to Ammoudi Bay, below the scenic village of Oia, at the other end of the island, for lunch. And how great that is.
After stopping at Oia village for the regulation photo-stop to capture us in front of the blue domes and white houses, Nick continues on to a shelf of land right on the sea, where sit four taverna.
The Ammoudi Bay Fish Tavern, open to the breezes with tables right next to the clearest waters of the caldera, is one of the island’s gems. Of greater memory is the sun-dried squid, char-grilled and delivered with just a squeeze of lemon. Lip-smacking good, as is the calamari. Shall I go on?
Groaning, sated, and delighted with the local Santorini white wine (kissed by the clouds), we leave the table, (having avoided the fish and lobster in the display cabinets at €70 a kilo).
Rhodes is the largest medieval city in Europe, from 4BC to the present day, and six times larger than the Vatican. The Knights of St John ruled here for two centuries before the land was occupied by the Ottomans. The Italians came in 1918 until ousted by the Germans during the War.
The Colossus of Rhodes stood astride the harbor here in Rhodes, for but seventy years, in 2 BC, before an earthquake felled it, and it sunk to the bottom of the sea. Arabs retrieved it centuries later and sold the metal to Jewish merchants for re-sale into munitions and other scrap metal.
We manage to reach the walls of Rhodes’ Old City and begin a walking tour from the Gate D’Amboise. We enter through these massive gates and marvel at the imposing Palace of the Grand Masters from the outside
Mercifully we are already inside this UNESCO protected Palace, seated in a sheltered colonnade listening intently to Maria’s fascinating story of the Colossus of Rhodes, as torrents of water start to bucket-down in the courtyard. Then up an impressive stone staircase (with no rails) to explore the rooms with imported floors of original Pagan, Greek and Roman mosaics, and view other rooms preserved as they once were during the times of the Knights.
I was unaware that it was only after the Second World War that this island was annexed to Greece.
A delicate balance today between fellow travellers with interests primarily in visiting Ephesus Ancient City, and the more devout with interests also in what a little house up in the mountains above the ancient city represents to Christians. Thanks to our friendly local guide Hakan, we do it well – finishing up in a small family establishment near the port in Kuşadasi, OzUrfa Restaurant, with excellent kebabs washed down with refreshing local wines and beers.
It is thought that Mary and the beloved disciple John came to this part of the world from Jerusalem across the sea. Imagination and some quiet contemplation helps to truly appreciate this place. I wouldn’t mind settling in this peaceful with little birds singing as they flit from branch to branch. Perhaps, I wouldn’t like to walk to a well somewhere to get the water to bathe, as Mary did. I wonder if she cooked kebabs as delicious as we enjoyed?
Visits of three popes to this House of Mary in recent times is an indication of the significance of the site. Silently inside, we can see the lamp that was gifted by Paul VI, a chalice from St John Paul II, and a gold rosary from Benedict XVI. My sister Anne and I take the opportunity to light candles, and say a prayer for elder brother Tony, and also remember other friends and family.
Ephesus Ancient City is so much more than I expected. It has been excavated from under tons of silt built-up over the years by flooding from a river than brings floods down from the mountains. So much silt that the once seaside City is now some miles inland with fertile lands of peaches and olives all the way to the now distant sea.
Famous in antiquity for its Temple of Artemus during the years of the Roman Empire, the Greek port of Ephesus became the greatest city in Asia Minor. We start at the upper Magnesia Gate of Ephesus Ancient City and walk through history along marble streets lined with extensive ruins from state buildings to public buildings, the Roman Library, Theatre, ending near the ancient Harbour.
Along the way we stop at the Odeon, the Fountain of Trajan, the steam baths of Scholastika, the temple of Hadrian and the impressive Library of Celsius. The Library is adorned with columns and statues. We pass the Grand Theatre where St. Paul once preached. With 24,000 seats, it is the largest theatre in antiquity. We walk back to our private vehicle through the Arcadian Way, where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra once rode in procession.
The evangelist St. John spent his last years in the region around Ephesus, and we next visit the Basilica named in his honour. This monumental basilica, built during the region of Emperor Justinian (527-565 A.D.), was in the shape of a cross and covered with six domes. Raised on two steps and covered with marble, the tomb of St. John is located under the central dome.
This whole area takes on much greater importance to Christians of Faith. This part of Turkey was the cradle of Christianity for four centuries after Christ. John, one of the greatest evangelists lived here, and Mary the mother of Jesus spent her final years here.
The First Council of Nicaea, (325), the first ecumenical council of the Christian church, was held here. It was called by the emperor Constantine I, an unbaptized catechumen, who presided over the opening session and took part in the discussions.
The main accomplishment of this Council was the settlement of the Christological issue of the divine nature of God the Son and his relationship to God the Father, and the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed.
Afterwards we drive back to Kuşadasi for a lunch of the best kebabs at OzUrfa Restaurant.
The iconic windmills of Mykonos are in a state of disrepair. Scandal. Fortunately, friend from Frankfurt days in the early 90’s, David Wright who’s been resident in Mykonos for nearly seven years, is at the dock to meet us when we alight from the tender.
After trying to approach the windmills, we lose the battle against the tide of tourists from six cruise ships and satisfy our sightseeing urge with a quick walk through the colourful back streets.
We then head out of town to a rustic little place, Kiki’s, overlooking a quiet beach for a Greek char-grilled lunch. Just twenty tables under a vine shelter with sea breezes to cool us.