7/13/2009 7:44 (Greece Time)
The past three days we've been in Greece. Saturday we went to Corfu, an island in northern Greece that is shaped like a sickle (and has a myth to go along with it- that of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds, and how the seasons were created). We went on an excursion where we visited two palaces- one was built by Princess Elizabeth who was married to the emperor of Austria I believe in the 1800s, and which was later owned by Kaiser Whilem. That palace had a bunch of really great statues, including a 25 foot statue of Achilles, another statue of Achilles with an arrow in his foot, and statues of the seven muses. It also had a great view of the island. I don't remember who built the second palace, but they had a great museum in it of all the artifacts they had found on the palace grounds (which covered something like 250 acres), including a whole bunch of ancient greek pottery and some artifacts from a roman bath that we also saw the ruins of.
Sunday we visited Olympia, the site of the original Olympics. It's mostly ruins now, but we saw some neat columns, the bases of a bunch of statues that had been brought there in antiquity as offering to the gods at the temple of Zeus and Hera, as well as the original Olympic stadium. We learned that the temple of Hera is much older than the temple of Zeus, and some archeologists believe that the Olympics started out as women's games based on the age of the temples. We also stopped at a restaurant afterwards and watched greek zorba dancing and had some amazing greek food, including these cheesy pastry things (that I have named “cheesy poofs” and I ate about 1000 of them), lamb meatballs, and of course ouzo.
Today we were in Santorini. In the morning B and I took a solo trip to the volcano in the center of santorini, and hiked up to the peak. Again, a trip that pushed me to my physical limits...I'm just not good at climbing steep inclines. It was pretty farkin awesome though, we saw 5 or 6 old craters, including a crater that is still active- we saw sulfer steam coming out of the ground, and the guide dug a small hole in the ground so we could feel how hot the ground was a few inches down (it was hot). I also collected a few cool volcanic rocks.
All of Santorini used to be a big volcano, that around 3600 years ago exploded in the biggest volcanic explosion in recorded human history. The entire island collapsed and the volcanic explosion triggered a giant tsunami that may have been the origin of the flood myths of that time period in the Mediterranean area. Some people think that the island was the origin of Atlantis myth as well. Instead of a giant island, now there is small islands in a circle with a huge crater lake in the middle....which is open to the sea, so it's not really a lake, just the sea. In the very middle the volcano is building up again, and rose above water about 500 years ago. That's the volcano we climbed.
After the volcano, our little boat (which looked like a pirate ship, and B and I entertained each other with pirate jokes) sailed to some local hot springs, where we jumped from the ship into the water and swam to the hot springs. They were more like warm springs...definitely warmer than the ocean, but only hot in a few areas. You could see the bubbles coming up from the water, and the entire area was brown with sulfer. After hanging around there for a bit we swam back to the pirate ship and climbed a ladder up into the boat, which took us back to our ship.
After taking a shower and eating some lunch, we went out again. We took a tender to shore and then a cable car up the cliff to the town (a tender is a small boat that takes you from the ship to the shore when the ship can't dock at the port and puts down an anchor off shore somewhere). We walked through the town – Fera, the largest town in Santorini- and then caught a local bus to the other side of the island, which was about a 15 minute ride. We passed a bunch of those famous white churches with the blue domes, and most houses on the island are all white with blue shutters and doors. On the other side of the island we visited a black sand beach called Kamari Beach- which was awesome, except it was less like sand and more like tiny sharp rocks which were painful to walk on. B hung out on shore reading under an umbrella, while I went swimming for a bit- that was probably the last time I'll be able to swim in the Mediterranean sea since the rest of our excursions don't leave much time for swimming.
We took the bus back to Fera, bought a few gifts for friends, and a small mosaic turtle for my turtle collection, and a shot class for my shot glass collection- I have a shot glass from every city I've visited for about the past 7 years, and have gotten one at every stop on this trip. We took the cable car back down the cliff, and managed to make it back to the ship just in time for dinner.
Speaking of the ship, there's a a republican convention being held on board our cruise by the National Review (If you go to their website you can probably find info on the convention). Supposedly Karl Rove is on board somewhere, but we haven't seen him. We HAVE seen John Bolten twice at the lunch buffet- he's the former ambassador to the UN under Bush, who famously said the UN was useless.
Well, our cruise is half over already! Tomorrow we go to Ephesus, Turkey, where we will be doing a tour with B's grandmother (his parents have decided to stay on board the ship tomorrow). Wednesday we're back in Greece, and B and I will be doing an eight and a half hour tour of Athens. Thursday we're at sea, and we have reservations for both lunch and dinner at the grill place on board which has very fancy food (and which you have to pay extra to use- but somehow we finagled ourselves into two free meals there). Friday we're at Sicily where we will visit Mt. Etna with all the in-laws, and then Saturday we disembark and spend the whole day flying back to the US.