Soaring above the cottony clouds there is no weather, no connection at all to Mother Earth but invisible gravity. Sunrise reflects off of other ships you see soaring across of the air as the first leg of our journey begins. It is the sunrise at 38,000 feet crossing the Atlantic.
Imagining the young bomber crew crossing the channel in both directions to reign down their Armaments ... Nervously they cross thru the layer of clouds that hid them ... Now exposed to the rata tat tat of antiaircraft fire .... Preparing to release their bombs and head home celebrating surviving another mission. The jusxtaposition of Our main anxiety ibeing whether we left our glasses or packed phones, books and iPads from the plane or will make our connecting flight.
Entering Germany for our connecting flight to Athens ... Following orders from Germans in uniforms... How different from the experiences of invisible nameless cousins From 75 years ago.
The cities that burned rebuilt and fully functional. The lives that were incinerated ...perhaps a memory...realistically dust long since blown away.
My life usually so comfortable .... The worst part.... That interminable first day...10,000 steps up/down/across Frankfort airport. Lines....smaller Seats....mystery food .... Bathroom out of reach by aisle carts... Again thinking of young boys ... Away from home as they fought ww2 on this same spot.
The exhaustion sets in...able to doze in upright position. Free at last....did our luggage make it...within minutes luggage appears. As does our guide and taxi driver laughing and excited to introduce us to his country. First impressions .... Not the rotting rioting refugee country of CNN but modern highways zip us from the airport.
The first breath of outside ... Feels like San Diego ..giant vistas of mountains and tightly constructed terra cotta topped homes. .highways branch like roots of a tree into smaller and curvier but older and bumpier as we approach our first hotel in the old city.
Lovely finished dark woods and brass appear as we enter our hotel. Greeted with warmth from everyone we anticipate our room. A small balcony hangs over a street that hundreds of years ago could handle horse traffic now challenged to funnel motorcycles, tiny cars and people barely able to pass each other.
A shower...a bed...asleep. Two hours later revived we set out to explore the plaka region of old Athens. A short walk finds us on a curvy shopping/eating Mecca (wrong metaphor for Greece). Not a headscarf to be seen
Friendly shopkeepers....eager to negotiate and soon we r into the flow (like Gail needed a running start). Stores filled with tourist dreck next to artist and craftsman lit Windows. Our first impressions so different than Turkey though from Google geography we r so close. A culture that is so much more friendly...we feel like guests not visitors. And now the real test....food.
We climb cobblestone streets straight up...tables teetering...we reach our destination ... Olives of ancient gnarled trees...anchovies that never saw a can ..A lightly coated salad of greens with taste amongst marinated seafood.....Quickly we r savoring grilled octopus...grilled squid...crunchy and caramelized coated gifts from the sea. Hours from swimming these crustaceans are now floating with olive oil lemon and herbed flavors and textures...surrounded by Romantic couples holding hands of young love. A memory moment that erases the the discomforts of the journey.
As we struggle and negotiate our old tired knees back down the cobblestones the siren song of gelato calls us and we end our first hours in Athens anticipating our upcoming mental and palatal adventure.
Athens was not the stone throwing, refugee laden, downtrodden sad place depicted by CNN. Not as well maintained as Istanbul to be sure but a lively vibrant city of friendly communicative welcoming people.
On Friday the 13th, we slept in to rest from days of touring and our personal attempt to revive the Greek economy. Early afternoon bus ride to the docks and boarding of our ship.
With nervous anticipation we opened our stateroom door...sitting area, desk,balcony, bidet...no, no, no, & no. Clean, efficient, bright, big window ....yes, yes, yes & yes.
Now we are under way and soon we relive that memorable sensation ...sea sick. Note to self...small ships are less stable than big ships but that really became obvious couple nights later but I digress.
We pass an island with the temple of Poseidon on its summit and on to the isle of Kea. A sleepy quaint little town. We were able to walk up and down the main waterfront street and absorb the small town feel...here children running and...just being happy just playing. Watching them lost in their worlds connected me to those childhood times of mine...connected by knowledge of playing mindlessly ...but the pediatric price was the memories are so vague since that was .... playing mindlessly. The extreme juxtaposition of mindless child play ..... to the severely scheduled structured somewhat stressful scientific at times tedium of daily life of dr. Goren.
A quick conversion to the placid peaceful pace presented by the upcoming isles we will visit.
Early call to the tender onto the Unesco site of Delos. An enormous labyrinth of walls of what was a large settlement that was unearthed. As we walked between the houses and shops you could imagine life thousands of years ago noting the differences and similarities the closeness and cooperation that had to occur to survive attacks and invasions.
People had to live in fear constantly of pirate attacks ... Protecting the women and children from capture was paramount. If an invader entered a city, the curvy walks could not be negotiated. Lost, the villagers could encircle and defeat the attacker. Slavery in the world was prevalent and practiced on such a massive scale ... How awful that my country condoned and protected this detestable practice until a mere 87years prior to my birth. Imagine the revulsion felt by abolitionists who had to share a nation with those who were enriched by slavery. No different than the apartheid southern states prior to JFK AND LBJ.
Back aboard, the drizzle ended ....bright sunshine appeared and on to Mykinos.
Along the shore (unlike an ocean, the Mediterranean of which we were within, the 1000s of islands of Greece, Ionian Sea, Aegean Sea, is as placid as a lake) The waters of such deep azure turquoise blues gently lick the shore ... The waves on calm days slip up and down barely a foot back and forth. No oceans roar. Calmingly, their rhythmic motion of minimalist amplitude oscillates over such a small distance that there is only needed a small barrier to protect the structures.
Facing the water the shops and restaurants match the curve of the beach. Whitewashed, their opaque walls reflects the bright sun creating a glow. Once you enter the labyrinth (got any synonyms...why bother) you quickly get lost as you climb the hill, constantly discovering more quaint paths leading to more tavernas and shops. With no corporate branded businesses with which the USA is terminally infected, each doorway and window and white wall exhibits levels of individual creativity unequalled in the states.
There is a very high energy level, a party town, 1000s of visitors per day, even so early in the season. No austerity sensation here. We transferred our assets to the most interesting assortment of all greek handmade linen stylish creations. I had dressed for a cooler, cloudy day. Slipped off my tightly woven and fitted cotton dark hot shirt for the coolness of luxurious linen. Immediately my mood lightened as the gentle scratch of the fabric signaled relief and calmness. I have arrived at full vacation mentality.
Back into the maze (my inner Roget clicked) we continued our exploration in search of getting lost. The fabric telegraphed to my brain that this shirt was sacred in its comfort. I must repeat ... Need to duplicate. We returned to shop we had brought something else..hopelessly unable to retrace our steps.....I lifted the fabric of my shirt and hand gestured like English was incomprehensible to him and his response... Oh that's my grandmothers sisters shop...my aunt...I will take you there. Heavenly linen 2 transferred ownership.
After realizing our knee cartilage had melted we ventured into a shady gelato cafe and had our lunch overlooking the turquoise water observing glistening blues bobbing by. I studied my inner lids and strove to mindfully invest the moment.
Enough rest...must get lost again. Mykonos is the island whose icon are the windmills and whitewashed curvy paths at water level. Must explore. Sun lowers closer to the sea. There was a mega yacht who were informed was Russian tycoon's toy. On the back was a helicopter. Whoa!
Dinner at beach edge facing the water completed our perfect experience. Back onto our temporary floating home, horizontalized our inner ear re accommodated to the gentle/not so gentle rocking.
A cloudy awakening in Santorini. That's the quintessential view of the Greek islands. You enter at water level and take a cable car to the top. The island was sliced off by a volcanic eruption. This could the basis of lost city of Atlantis. First we went to an archaeological dig of a 4-5000 year old city. The city was buried by volcanic ash in 1700 BCE. When the eruption that created the caldera of Santorini was formed. I am always intrigued by the interpretation of the excavations similar to how the commentary of the Torah explains the purpose and puzzle of the text. The archaeologists take a piece of pottery and some jewelry and determine wealth, occu
Unfortunately we encountered a too coolish , misty day. More pleasant than too hot but my URI was at full nasal production and we shortened our visit, returned to ship and dozed overlooking not too shabby a view. The sun reappeared and we basked in the beauty of the sheer cliffs under Fifa that had been formed by the volcanic explosion exposing the earths growth rings almost 4000 years ago.
As the z-pack kicked in (thx dr Hyatt) the sun heated my bones and the sheer pleasure of the moment enlightened my being I shuddered in the beauty and the moment.
That night they handed out sea sickness pills. We experienced an unforgettable experience of monkeys running around our room throwing things off of shelves and grabbing onto our beds as the wind and surf noise and multiple g forces rocked us. Venturing from horizontal to vertical to pee was an amazing memorable challenge. Maybe, just maybe I might have missed the bowl for the first time since my wedding. Returning to bed, required acrobatic balance and either I hit the bed or the bed hit me....the video will have to be checked frame by frame.
During sailing days, one studies cloud formations like in childhood. We are never far from islands where you observe the clouds forming over and hiding their peaks. Coughing fits interrupt and eucalyptus infusions quiet the Naso pharynx. Studying the sunny breaks on the islands forces the camera in...camera out...camera in....out.
I look to right or starboard or port whatever....full sun...clear skies as far as I can see. 180 degrees around islands lit and intermittently darkened by meteorological factoids of lifting air masses unable to hold their water.
The next night the Dramamine fix is offered. We r promised whimsically a smoother night. It actually was a rocking chair sea...I really felt like I was in a rocking cradle. On the next night where we docked for the night, the cabin was strangely quiet and my inner pendulum was confused yet again.
We went to Crete. It's the largest Greek island. The excursion was to a reconstructed Minoan palace with refurbished frescoes. My interest in histories reruns is waining.
We are delivered to an outside covered patio and our taste buds savor fresh local cuisine. The group has coalesced. Mostly strangers, the days of proximity and common interest in traveling have created a family. Meeting new people from all over is the gift of this exposure. The 2 couples from California who are starting a 30 day journey of which one who had their wallet picked day 1 who are just hoping their credit card was not the goal and are proceeding on their journey.
New Hampshire, Michigan, Maine transplants to Austin Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma and more California round out the group. For most no common interest but being human explorers.
We return to a docked beach day in rethmnos Crete. We take our towels, rent chairs and umbrella and face the water...touch it with senior citizen toes while watching children frolic in its blue beauty.
Cruising while Passing land that has been mutilated by a road sliced from its lower section. The micro view is that I want to go from point A to point B safely and quickly. The macro view is thousands of trees destroyed, with their ecosystem devastated. Compared to spewing toxins into the air or seas a minor assault but in my contemplative vacation altered mind set the land cries out from the less than surgical incision. As the distance increases from zoom lens visibility, it looks less painful. It's human un natural cut from farther away blends back in. It's all a question of scale and proximity. If we could see all of the minutiae we crush walking would we choose to just lay still in contemplative paralysis?
Now onto Kythera...a small, remote absolutely gorgeous beach with quaint town. We are driven up the mountain from where we can see multiple Mediterranean sub foldered named seas. Ionian, Aegean ...we enter a fortress that defended the island...I will skip dates and who ate who for dinner but the views were spectacular. Looking down, we can see our temporary home docked along an azured beach. Words are not worth their megabytes...look at the images.
We came down and walked across a beach growing unlimited smooth stones with varied but ordered white lines. Soon most of our village is bent over gathering these treasures. They are just pebbles, but the beauty of the vista increases their perceived pulchritude. Grown men and women collecting rocks...to be in the moment and I assume as with myself hoping to be able to spark the connection on some dreary sad day.
Onto monemvassia ... An island just off the coast of peloponesia. Carved into the side of a mountain, a village surrounded by Byzantine protective walls. Above, the upper village still in its regenerative phase perfects the pictures. Really narrow alley ways branch off with incredible Mediterranean vistas or flower decorated curving pedestrian streambeds. Reminiscent of mont Saint Michel (name dropping score), we wander finding an olive wood carved puzzle totally unique to bring home. No I wanted it.
We ended our visit sitting under vines shading us, overlooking whichever blue water this was, sipping a hot, cinnamon and clove flavored wine, sharing a sherbet served at straw viscosity absorbing these minutes as I put down the camera...and checked emails with the free wifi.
Next day Naphplio. We are now cruising along the mainland and this resort town of upscale shops, well maintained buildings is our stop. Best gelato ever...with homemade whipped cream. Another lovely seaside town with spectacular views, shops and sunsets.
Last stop Hydra, before returning to Athens. Running out of superlatives. By the yacht we pulled in next to, once owned by p. Daddy it's a jet set stop. VERY upscale stops. Extremely quaint. Dinner watching the sunset into the blue waters.