Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cruising the Islands

The first conversation I had with Entela, upon returning from Spring Break, went something like this:
Entela- I heard from Amy that you didn't meet anyone while on this cruise.
Holly- I met waiters who thought I am Canadian, high school students who actually are Canadian, friendly middle aged American couples, but no single men!
Entela- That's such a bummer. I was so sure that you would.

I must admit that, as an incurable romantic, I also had some notion of finding "Mister Right" while cruising the Greek Islands and singing ABBA songs. Instead, I found tremendous beauty, living history, and an incredible shopping opportunity. Really, what more could a girl ask for?

Amy, Travis and I boarded the Aquamarine Monday morning after catching the Athens Metro, then the bus, then the Metro and finally a taxi. We spent some peaceful hours reading on deck chairs, pretending that we were warm, while warding off the sea breezes. By late afternoon we arrived in Mykonos. I really did not know what to expect. Mykonos ended up being one of my favorite islands. Stereotypical white buildings with blue doors, Greek windmills, lapping waves, enchanting moon, seaside bars, old boats, winding streets, the list is endless. I would go back to Mykonos!

It's such an interesting experience waking up in a totally different country; Monday we were in Greece, then presto, Tuesday morning we were in Turkey. I loved the few short hours we had in Turkey. (Without a doubt, Istanbul is high on the travel list.) We took an amazing tour of Ephesus. This once port city is now set 2-3 miles away from the sea. The Library (the third largest of the ancient world), the Amphitheater, and the marble columns were incredible. I imagined myself in Ephesus during the riots, mentioned in Acts. It sent shivers down my spine.

Ancient pharmacy sign

A mosaic incredibly preserved

Where would you find me in the ancient world? Outside of the library of course.

Communal toilets. Musicians would play over the questionable noises...

The acoustics were brilliant. I can't imagine an entire city rioting for two hours. It must have been deafening.

After taking the tour, our bus headed back to the city and straight to an authorized carpet dealer. We sat through an informative and entertaining presentation about Turkish carpets, while sipping apple tea (I was praying that I wouldn't spill any tea on a rug). After the presentation, a swarm of salesmen swooped down on us unsuspecting tourists. One came to me and said, "Do you see anything that you like." I can't lie. Truly I can't. "Yes, I replied, I like that one there." The salesman replied, "It's a $1,300 rug, but I'm sure that I could sell it to you for $950." I said that I'd take it for a ridiculously low price. "Excuse me," said the man. He went and got his boss who came with his calculator and a very serious expression. That's when it got fun. Boss Salesman tried to talk me into a smaller carpet. ("But I don't love that one," I whined and Amy whispered, "Don't worry, you can always find another Turkish rug.") Then he reduced the carpet for $750, out the door. ("No, I said, I told you my price.") Then he tried guilt. ("Why won't you take it for such a great offer?" To which I said, "My father is a salesman. I've argued with him my entire life." This brought a side-smile to Mr. Boss Salesman who said, "Then you should know how difficult it is to be a salesman.") Finally, he sold it to me for $25 more than my price. The initial salesman rang up my order. He said, "This really is amazing. A carpet like this has never sold for such a low price."

The afternoon brought a visit to Patmos and the Grotto. I very nearly had a crisis of faith while standing in the depths of the Grotto. "What if, I asked myself, John didn't really write Revelation here in this cave? What if someone just made that up as legend?" Then I started thinking about the book. John only mentions being on the "Island called Patmos," never in a cave. The bottom line is that I do believe in John's Revelation and it really doesn't matter where he experienced it. Do I want to believe that I was standing where the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciple he loved? Heavens yes.

Wednesday was our Rhodes day. The three of us walked around Rhodes in the morning, with the goal of seeing where the Colossus once stood. An earthquake destroyed this ancient wonder, and the islanders never rebuilt it, fearing that they had angered the sun god. Amy and I walked to a pebble beach in the afternoon. Unfortunately, that was our one cloudy and cool day. There were people swimming, but I just wasn't brave enough. I did put my feet in the Aegean, though.

Where the Colossus once stood, marking the way to the harbor.

In the Aegean...sort of.

Thursday brought Crete in the morning and Santorini in the afternoon. I was a bit disappointed in Crete. Santorini was fabulous. Looking back, I do wish I road a donkey up to the town, though the gondola was fun and offered incredible views. This island is thought to be the lost Continent of Atlantis. In fact, this is mentioned in ancient texts. A volcano, which is still visible, wiped out an entire area of the island. The blue doomed churches and steep hills had me at "hello." While I was wandering around, I met a lady from the cruise. She told me that a Catholic Mass was going on in one of the churches. Since it was Maundy Thursday, I decided to go. The Dominican Nuns were singing and the Priest was reading in Spanish so I did pick up bits and pieces. I really liked the Priest. He was smiley and welcoming.

I actually forgot about this picture! It's my favorite one of the entire trip. This was from the morning on Crete. The woman was on her way to church.

Wooden boats are alive and well, at least on Crete.

The cliffs of Santorini

Our ship looks like it's going straight through my head.

Just one of the domed churches.

I had to take a picture of this boy from the cruise because he looks EXACTLY like my cousin Stephen. It threw me off, every time I saw him!

Friday brought us back to Athens and a day of shopping. The day went by surprisingly quickly. We ate dinner in the shadow of the Acropolis enjoying a beautiful spring evening. It was a truly enjoyable Spring Break. I had plenty of time to think, wonder, read, and talk to my incredible friends. Would I cruise again? I'm not sure. It's a very different way of traveling; it's almost like going to camp for a week. I do know that it was a great introduction to the islands!

Our last meal in Greece...