A trip to Rhodes

James and I decided to take a side trip to Rhodes. The islands of Kos, Symi and Rhodes are just off the south-western Turkish coast and they are close, a just short ferry trip away.

Rhodes was a completely different Greek island, even though the ancient Greeks and Romans had preceded us there and left ruins to be be seen.  What was different is that Rhodes is the oldest medieval city in western Europe. The medieval architecture and history of Rhodes Town and its citadel dominate the landscape and our imaginations.

Rhodes Town Bastion and Turrets
Rhodes Town Bastion and Turrets

We visited the Palace of the Grand Masters and learned that the exhibitions contained within were put together in 1993 as the 2,400th anniversary of the foundation of the city of Rhodes in 408 BC. Many Roman mosaics were collected from Kos and other Greek islands and built into the palace, looking like Turkish Rugs on the marble floors.

Courtyard of Palace of the Grand Master
Courtyard of Palace of the Grand Master –  the final point of defense

The Knights of Rhodes were founded in the 11th Century by merchants from Amalfi. As a group knights were made of Roman Catholic men usually of noble birth from Italy, France, England, Provence, Spain, Auvergne (France) and Germany.  The Knights were also famous for their hospitals, so if you were ill or wounded you would be brought to the nearby hospital for care.

Turrets
Turrets

There is also a street called the Street of the Knights, where the knights lived and met. Each country had their own building on the street.

Turks lived in Rhodes during the reign of the Knights and after Suleiman finally conquered Rhodes . Minarets, fountains and gardens imprinted the Turkish presence on Rhodes Town.

Turkish Garden in the Street of the Knights
Turkish Garden in the Street of the Knights

The hospital of the Knights of St. John was a very evocative building, It was all too easy to imagine the injured and ill, so far from home and looking up at the stone ceilings, listening to screams and moans, wondering if you would ever see your home again. To add to the sinister feeling of this old colonnade, the area contains tombstones of the knights, confirming that many never did see their homes again.

Ceiling of the Knights' hospital
Ceiling of the Knights’ hospital

The Colossus of Rhodes was not to be seen but Mandraki Harbour is still beautiful and you can almost imagine sailing underneath the Colossus into Mandraki Harbour.

Mandraki harbour
Mandraki harbour

 

 

Merhaba Turkey

Merhaba, now you know how to say hello in Turkish.

We have been made most welcome in Turkey in one of the finest marinas we have seen on our journey.  It is tight quarters, so they assist you in and out, with men on the dock and nudges from the man in the rib (Zodiac).  The showers would have Geoff and Deb purring, with big rain shower heads and beautiful fixtures but also with air conditioning. Hair dryers in air conditioned comfort. Being sent to the showers in Bodrum Marina, is more like a reward than reprimanded. It is heaven, mainly because it is so hot.

Turkey isn’t so different from Greece, until the evening call to prayers, which reminds you that you are indeed aren’t in a resort but in a different country with different norms. I have a few dresses and they will be getting more wear because I will need them to visit mosques and actually they are cooler.

Our first afternoon was busy with clearing customs, James went to the marinas’ Customs agent and they looked after everything, including delivering us to Customs hall across the bay via the same rib.

Bodrum
Boats anchored outside Bodrum Bay

We also met the owners of a Sydney 48′ Oceanis called Gumnuts, Shiree and Martin hail from Leura and have the big sister to Mercier, it seemed twice as wide as ours. Nice to say hello and hear about their plans for travel in Turkey, discuss blue cards and transit logs.

The next morning we went across the bay to the castle and high on the ramparts you can see how beautiful Bodrum is with white houses reaching down the slopes of the hill and amphitheaters on the hillside.

Amphora taken from shopwrecks for oil. wine and other storage.
Amphora taken from shipwrecks for oil. wine and other storage.

The Castle of St John is another Crusader fortress and it is so interesting to see the dated heralds on the wall. There is a garden inside the wall and a chapel turned mosque that is now a museum. Another tower houses the Underwater Archaeological Museum which is fascinating.

 Bodrum Bay from the bastion.
Bodrum Bay from the bastion.

Lamb is the national dish, so James is happy and we are looking forward to visiting fruit and vegetable markets.I confess that I was thrilled to see a Starbucks, mainly for the icy Frappuccinos, as I haven’t found gelato here yet.  I spent a few years here in Izmir, Turkey as a kid and a bit of my Turkish came back , I could remember the numbers but didn’t recognise one name of the days. No one has snickered but I do wonder if I can trust my memory.

James and Gaila - Bodrum
James and Gaila – Bodrum

We are so excited to begin the Turkish adventure and also thinking about the friends that will be visiting soon.  Rene and Richard your room is ready.

We now have an idea about anchoring for the next few days and not sure if we will have internet coverage or not. So we will say happy birthday to Ben Samara and Lorraine Samara, hope you have wonderful birthdays and are thoroughly spoiled. We were glad to hear that Geoff and Deb made it home safely. Hope to hear very soon that Clare is 100%

Kos and the Castle of Neratzia

On Tuesday, we left Kalymnos and motored right over to Kos.  You could see the island from our spot on the Town Quay and as soon as we sailed out of the harbour we saw several islands and Turkey.  There is a small barren island just a stones’ throw from Turkey and both Greece and Turkey have their large flags facing each other.

a Greek island
a Greek island

We wandered the streets of Kos Town less than a kilometer from Kos Marina, which we think is one of the best marinas in Greece.  Certainly it has the nicest showers, which is a very important criteria.

On Wednesday morning, Kate and Mike Rider, friends from Noosa, came into Kos on a cruise ship and visited us on Mercier.  We were able to sit and chat, in a beautifully cool breeze and sip our coffees.  Mike is always a useful font of Beneteau knowledge and we appreciate his advice.

Gaila and Kate at the Fortress of St John, Kos
Gaila and Kate at the Agora, Kos

We stopped for lunch at H20 on the way to visit Hippocrates’ Plane Tree, the Agora and the Castle of Neratzia, which is full of ruins from the Knights of St John, as well as Turks, on the foundations of an ancient city. The castle is mirrored on the Turkish Coast by the Halikarnassos Castle, so the Knights of St John could control the Straits between Greece and Turkey.

Mike and James exploring the exterior of the Keep.
Mike and James exploring the exterior of the Keep. Looking at the Port of Mandraki

We scrambled over and through both keeps and into tunnels, looking at antiquities, Turkish writing carved into plinths and many heralds over the tops of arches and upper walls.

Kate and James watching Mike disappear into a tunnel
Kate and James watching Mike disappear into a tunnel

Neratzia is the Greek word for ‘Bitter Orange” according to one website but we only saw capers and pomegranates growing and of course the beautiful views.

Pomegranates
Pomegranates, not quite ripe

Naxos Soujourn

Naxos Port has a hands on harbour master, Nikos.  We knew we could leave Mercier at Naxos and take a ferry over to Santorini.  We departed Mykonos on Tuesday with a diminishing meltemi in three and a half hours sailing we were in front of the Portara Gateway from the unfinished Temple of Apollo and sailing into Naxos Town.

We made it to Naxos
We made it to Naxos

We walked up to the Venetian Castle and then wandered through the winding alleys of the medieval quarter called the Bourg. It was before the end of siesta, so you could easily imagine that the pirates had come and taken everyone away.  The only residents we saw were some very sleepy cats.

Wednesday evening  found us at the Potara Gateway on the islet of Palatia, looking at the sunset with the other tourists, but when the sun went down, they departed.  Merro pulled out of his trusty Squadie bag, a bottle of Mercier Champage and we sat on the ruins and toasted absent friends.

Geoff and James at the unfinished Temple of Apollo
Geoff and James at the unfinished Temple of Apollo

On Thursday we toured the island of Naxos in a little rent a car.  First north to the sleepy beach village of Apollon, through very windy roads in a verdant landscape of olive groves and fruit trees.

You wouldn’t think Davo was a sentimental bloke, but he gets almost misty eyed at the sight of the gum trees he is seeing on these Greek islands.  The dry barren islands of the Cyclades really are a perfect second home for these gum trees.We had a wonderful lunch under the shade trees in the hilltop village of Apeiranthos with cool breezes and wonderful food.

Naxos countryside
Naxos countryside

We ended the day without cameras at the beautiful Plaka beach south of Naxos town and had outdoor showers and cocktails at a resort there.  Naxos is a beautiful island, maybe we will all get to return.

Potara Gateway
Potara Gateway

 

A gallery of Finikas and Ano Syros

These are two of the suburbs on the island of Syros.  Finikas is a resort area and the marina is here.

Here is how our day started.  I went out early and took a few photos of Finikas Marina and some of the beautiful boats here.  One which is quite beautiful looks like it may be a canal boat.  Note the clear water under the tiller and the varnish.  It makes me think of Swanno and Richard Lawson, no one varnishes like those two.

Tiller of the canal boat, clear water
Tiller of the canal boat, clear water

The smallest fuel truck in the world came and brought us fuel. No going to the fuel wharf for us, they just drive right to us.

Small fuel truck
Small fuel truck

 

Our errands done, we wanted to  see if the bay in Hermoupolis was as quiet as Finikas.  The boats there were rolling side to side.  That was before the ferry came into the bay.  Finikas Marina is much calmer in the meltemi, although perhaps not in a southerly or westerly.  We continued on our way to the Old medieval town of Ano Syros, which was the Venetian fortress and remains the Catholic part of town.  It is above the city of Hermoupolis.  It is a town of winding streets and stairs, not only to foil pirates by battling them one at a time and also to offer protection from the wind.

 

Ano Syros
Ano Syros

 

This area is famous for being the birthplace of Greek Blues and there is a monument to Vamvarkis, a celebrated ‘rebetiko’ or blues singer.  He is known in Greece as the Patriarch of the Blues Singers.

Colorful monument to Markos Vamvarkis, the reknown Greek Blues singer from Ano Syros.
Colorful monument to Markos Vamvarkis, the renown Greek Blues singer, from Ano Syros.

The views are always at the top, aren’t they?

Hermoupolis
Hermoupolis – looking down onto St Nicholas Church

 

 

The Bay of Hermoupolis
The Bay of Hermoupolis

 

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY, Y’ALL!!!

Sunday on Tinos – Panagia Evangelistria

Tinos is most famous for a blessed icon of the Virgin Mary, which is second to Lourdes in granting miracles. Hundreds of Orthodox crawl the kilometer from Port to the Church of Panagia Evangelista up the stairs to the church to kiss the icon. Miracles are proclaimed and the benefactors give gold or silver offerings representing their miracle.

Panagia Evangelistria
Panagia Evangelistria

The interior of the church is beautiful with icons and many silver representations of the miracles. One miracle was of a ship which had been sinking, the crew all prayed to the Virgin Mary. Suddenly the ship stopped taking on water, when they looked at the hole, a big tuna sized fish had been sucked into the whole, staunching the flow of water, allowing them enough time to reach shore. To thank the Virgin for this miracle, a large silver sailing ship hung with 2/3 of a tuna hanging from the hole. There is a beautiful silver icon of the Virgin and a line of people waiting to say their prayers in front of her. There are silver babies, houses and other ships. We lit candles and were humbled by the faith you could feel in the church.

Here are a few photos of the church and the grounds of Panagria Evangelistria .

a pilgrim crawling to give thanks
a pilgrim crawling to give thanks
From the courtyard looking towards the Port
From the courtyard looking towards the Port
The Priest
A Priest

The meltemi is consistently blowing, gusts up to 50+ knots.  To look outside you would think it is a perfect day, you step outside and you feel like Mary Poppins about to take off.  It literally sweeps you off your feet.  We have had to reef the bimini or we would have been flying with Mercier instead of sailing. The meltemi teaches patience.

We are happy to hear that Rosemary and Stephen made it to Syros and will fly back to Sydney on schedule.  We wish them a safe trip.

Athens Back Streets

Athens is vibrant bordering on frenetic. There are so many people wandering the streets, but if you stay away from Cruise ship tours, travel the intricate back streets, you will enjoy it.

Anafiotika is near the north side of Acropolis hill and looks like it was pinched from the Cycladic island of Anafi and perched there on a steep site. There were workers who came to Athens in the early 19th century, they became homesick, so built there minute houses to remind them of Anafi.

Anafiotikan church
Anafiotikan church
Anafiotika
Anafiotika – see the Acropolis at the top

You often see small children and grandparents on the Happy Train, as we were walking out of Anafiotika, you can see that a badly parked car meant the happy train couldn’t turn the corner. We came upon them pulling the happy train apart car by car and taking each car around the corner. Does the happy train blow its whistle and helpers come running?

Athens Happy Train
Athens’ Happy Train had to be pulled apart and manhandled to get around this corner

We wandered past the Tower of the Winds, which was a water clock on the inside and a sun dial on the outside. It has carvings of the eight winds on each of its eight sides.

Hellenistic Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora
Hellenistic Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora

We visited the wonderful National Archaeological Museum with Leanne and Cam, but on Sunday we visited the Acropolis Archaeological museum. This captivating museum is just five years old and definitely a must see. The architecture is light and open with use made of the subterranean spaces. You walk over glass and view three stories of excavations or a minuscule fragment of tea cups or amphora.

Wikipedia says: The design by Bernard Tschumi was selected as the winning project in the fourth competition. Tschumi’s design revolves around three concepts: light, movement, and a tectonic and programmatic element. Together these characteristics “turn the constraints of the site into an architectural opportunity, offering a simple and precise museum” with the mathematical and conceptual clarity of ancient Greekbuildings.

James at the Acropolis Archaeological Museum
James at the Acropolis Archaeological Museum

Happy Happy Birthday, darling Rene. Hope you are spoiled all happy day long.

Acropolis, Agora and a fond farewell to Leanne and Cam

“Across the distance, the Acropolis museum cradled within its protective walls its legendary treasures, lulling them to a peaceful sleep under the eerie light from the heavens. Yet, through the large window, the five Caryatids stood alert on their strong platform. The ageless maidens with the long braided hair down their backs remained awake even at this hour gazing across to the Acropolis, full of nostalgia for their sacred home. Inside their marble chests, they nurtured as always, precious hope for the return of their long lost sister.” 
 Effrosyni MoschoudiThe Necklace of Goddess Athena

We have been crossing items off our bucket list.  We were so happy to have company for Lepanto, Zante, the Corinth Canal, Meteora and Delphi.  We made the Corinth Canal a day early, so we were able to have a splendid day at the Acropolis. We thought we would share the photos.

Climbing up to the Acropolis
Climbing up to the Acropolis
James, Cameron and Leanne
James, Cameron and Leanne
Theatre of Dionysus
Theatre of Dionysus
Leanne and Gaila in front of the Caryatids, it was exceptionally windy
Leanne and Gaila in front of the Caryatids, it was exceptionally windy
The Parthenon
The Parthenon
The Agora
The Agora

 

 

Delphi

There is so much antiquity here in Greece, at times it is hard to comprehend that Delphi was first settled in the Bronze Age and it became an important sanctuary or shrine to Apollo around 800 years BC.

Delphi, looking into the valley which was once the sea
Delphi, looking into the valley which was once the sea

Delphi was considered the centre of the world, with an Oracle who would speak in tongues and priests that would ‘interpret’ after gathering all the gossip and chat from all corners of the world and then repeat it back as the message from the Oracle. It seemed all the city-states of Greece had treasuries here, so much wealth poured in as offerings to Apollo.

The Athens Treasury, Delphi
The Athens Treasury, Delphi

This was our first warm day in Greece, walking up the side of Mt Parnassus in 35 C degree heat (95F). Our idea was to stop in the shade and then finally get up to the Stadium where we were high enough to capture the breezes.

Stadium at Delphi
Stadium at Delphi

There must have been six tour buses, including ours so the idea was to stay just behind one crowd and just in front of the next. There is also a museum at Delphi, which we didn’t have time for as we had to make our way to Meteora.

Amphitheater at Delphi, musical competitions were also held here
Amphitheater at Delphi, musical competitions were also held here

Earthquakes changed the area and the Gulf of Corinth which once lapped the base of Mt Parnassus, is not as close and there is a fertile valley floor full of olives and pines.

Meteora – the pinnacles of belief

As we pulled into Kalambaka, Joy, our affable and passionate tour guide, was effusive in describing the Meteora to us. The was a collective gasp at our first site of these amazing pinnacles hovering above the village.

Meteora - suspended in air
Meteora – suspended in air

Meteora means ‘suspended in air’. Her arms created an arc to explain they were named Meteora because like shooting stars and meteorites they are between heaven and earth.The sound track of Close Encounters of the Third Kind leapt into my brain. There was an eerily sci-fi – religious feeling at the site of them.

Meteora monastery
Meteora monastery

 

The next morning we were up early to visit Megalou Meteoron, the oldest monastery. There were 23 monasteries at one time and now there are six as well as a beautiful, thriving nunnery with gardeners of many talents.

Megalou Meoteron
Megalou Meoteron

 

The remoteness of the pinnacles in Northwest Thessaly and the difficulty of access, meant that monks could continue to practice the Greek Orthodox religion and maintain its traditions, when the Ottomans were forcing conversion on Greeks in more accessible villages.  If you visited in the 1960’s or before, you would have been pulled up in a large net, much like a catch of fish. This would not have been for the faint of heart, today a funicular takes materials, monks and workers across to the monasteries. Great painters of Greece would come and spend time there and create wonderful art and icons of the saints.

My remaining question is how did the first monk make it up the cliff?

Happy Birthday to Frosty and belated wishes to Chris.

 

 

 

Majestic formations of sandstone and congomerlate
Majestic formations of sandstone and congomerlate