Category Archives: Greece

A is for Athens’ Acropolis Museum

A

A is for Athens’ Acropolis Museum

In 2009, I was in Athens with a friend and we decided to visit the Acropolis, of course. Since I had been there once, I also wanted to check out the New Acropolis Museum. Fortunately for us, the day started with rain, so heading the the museum first was a perfect way to begin.

The museum is built at the base of the Acropolis, near the main entrance and where most tours will drop you off. The museum is built on ruins of a workers’ village. As you enter, you will see these ruins under the glass floors.

Inside, the building is very spacious and open, with windows along one wall so you can see the Acropolis. While there were a lot of people, it never felt crowded.

There is, of  course, a section that is setup for the Parthenon Marbles. While these are still in the British Museum, there is still a very impressive collection of statuary. My favourite room has a large collection of Kore —  marble statues depicting the Maiden Goddess. I was drawn to one that was a little different from the rest. She was holding a pomegranate and there were still signs that she  had been painted red.

Here is more information about about the New Acropolis Museum.

 

A to Z Challenge: R = Rhodes

R = Rhodes

ROld town Rhodes is an old, walled city first built in the 11th Century by the Knights of St. John’s (the same ones responsible for many of the sights to see in Malta). The city is a tapestry of winding streets, shops and restaurants, churches and mosques, and even an ancient temple to Aphrodite.  For people arriving on a cruise, it is an easy walk off the ship and into the city, making this one of my favourite places to explore. You can even walk along the beach! I feel like I stepped back in time – a truly magical experience.

Rhodes
Rhodes

The Palace of the Grandmasters is not as polished as the one in Malta. You get a sense that this was built to protect and keep the city safe from the canons on the battlements to the thick stone walls and plain interiors. I love the feel of this place and can “sense” a time when it was filled with activity. I could almost hear conversations from old.

Walls of the Old City Rhodes
Walls of the Old City Rhodes
Entrance to the Palace of the Grandmasters
Entrance to the Palace of the Grandmasters
Row of canons
Row of canons
Main courtyard in the Palace of the Grandmasters
Main courtyard in the Palace of the Grandmasters
Main staircase in the Palace of the Grandmasters
Main staircase in the Palace of the Grandmasters
Office of the Grand Master
Office of the Grand Master
Maltese Cross or the Cross of the Order of St. John
Maltese Cross or the Cross of the Order of St. John

Leading to the palace is the Avenue of the Knights. This street has the houses for the 8 languages that made up the Order of St. John – the points on the cross represent each of these languages.

Avenue of the Knights
Avenue of the Knights

At the base of the avenue, there is the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite. There are a lot of cats the roam the city, however on multiple visits, there seems to be one that has taken residence at the temple – a black and white cat that looks like my new kitten, Lola.

Temple of Aphrodite
Temple of Aphrodite
Temple of Aphrodite
Temple of Aphrodite
Temple cat
Temple cat

Close to the temple is the Museum of Archaeology. In one room, there is a large collection of grave markers for the knights. These are reminiscent of the decorated marble floor in the co-Cathedral of St. John in Valletta, Malta. These, however, are carved sandstone and have no colours.The symbols are the same, though.

Archaeology Museum
Archaeology Museum
Grave marker in the Archaeology Museum
Grave marker in the Archaeology Museum

As I always seem to do, I wander through towns – thinking that I know where I am going. It was in Rhodes that I discovered that I can get lost even in a walled city. So, after walking around the city, and getting lost, it is always nice to enjoy a nice cup of espresso.

Me with an espresso
Me with an espresso

There is a lot to see on the island of Rhodes, which is why it is on my long list of places to return to, but if you have a day – get lost in the old city.

Gate to the sea
Gate to the sea
Outside the walls
Outside the walls
Statue of dolphins along the beach
Along the beach
Me and travel companion Bryan on the beach
Me and travel companion Bryan on the beach
Ship docked near the walls
Ship docked near the walls

A to Z Challenge: O = Olympus

O = Olympus

OThe ancient site of Olympus sits near the western coast of Greece. Cruise ships dock at Katakalon, a nice fishing village about 40 minutes from the site. While most ships do plan excursions to the site, it is also easy to take a taxi or a train to get to Olympus. Unlike many archaeological sites, this one feels like a park, with lots of trees, flowers and other vegetation. The day I went started out with rain, but once I got to Olympus, the clouds opened and it was a very nice, clear day.

 

Clouds over Olympus
Clouds over Olympus
Olympus
Olympus
Temple of Zeus
Temple of Zeus
Temple of Hera
Temple of Hera

The museum close to the site contains some of the statues found in Olympus, including an amazing statue of the Greek God, Hermes. This is also the museum where my friend left her camera (the story is part of the Excursions post).

Definitely worth a visit – you can even try running a race using the marble starting blocks!

Bryan at the starting block
Bryan at the starting block
Racing track
Racing track

A to Z Challenge: J = Jewelry Shopping in Santorini

J = Jewelry shopping in Santorini … or how I found myself walking down a very long flight of stairs

JI like jewelry – but I rarely buy any, so how did I end up with a very special piece of jewelry from Santorini? The same way I find myself in many strange situations when I travel – I got lost!

The village of Fira, on the island of Santorini, lies atop a steep cliff that plunges into the sea. At the bottom of this cliff is a pier where the cruise ship tenders dock. There are several ways up the cliff – cable car, steps, or donkeys (walking the steps). The village is not very big – and there are maps when you get off the cable cars. I am usually good at reading and understanding maps.  That does not mean I will not get lost!

Winding stairs up the cliff to Fira
Winding stairs up the cliff to Fira
Fira
Fira

On of the things I wanted to do was go to the archaeology museum. According to the map, it appeared to be a few blocks away. Reality?  It was RIGHT BEHIND THE MAP! The museum is small, but you can get very close to some amazing pieces statues and artifacts from the area. There is also a particular church that I wanted to see, yet somehow I walked right past it! Regardless of all these missteps, I did enjoy the narrow streets and the views of the sea. It was through my wandering that I found myself on Gold Street – and guess what is here. That’s right, jewelry – shop after shop of jewelry! Gold, shiny, gem encrusted, gleaming…. It was all there. So, did I walk past the shops? No, something caught my eye. It was a beautiful gold bracelet with red, green and blue stones in it. Did someone notice me staring at the bracelet? Of course! That is how I found myself in the shop, trying on the bracelet in all its shiny glory. Did it fit? Perfectly!  Sometimes the universe just puts things into your path. I had a beautiful discussion with the designer and his wife. She explained to me the symbols on the bracelet and the meanings behind the three colours — health, wealth and love (who doesn’t want that!). She also told me that I would be the first sale of the day — and this would bring good luck to both of us.  I am a firm believer of sharing good energy, so I was sold. Soon, I was walking out of the store with my shiny new bracelet. So what should I do now?  I needed to calm down form my spending spree and I thought drinking a nice wine would be a way to celebrate this beautiful, if confusing, day. Truly, I am NOT used to buying jewelry like this! I found a taverna, and ordered some red wine and stared at the spectacular view. Directly below where I was sitting were the stairs that lead from the top of Fira to the pier. It appeared to me that the steps looked to be wide and low – easy to walk on. Or maybe that was the wine talking…

View of the stairs from Fira to the sea
View of the stairs from Fira to the sea

Fortified with wine, I decided to walk down the 580 steps from the top of Fira to the pier. I forgot a few things: my knee, the donkeys, and 580 stairs. Sometimes my knee hurts going down stairs. So walking down that many steps, no matter how “easy” might not be in my best interest. but I forgot about my knee and headed off!

Taking the stairs
Taking the stairs — see others can do it!

Then there is donkeys – lots of donkeys. Donkeys standing in the sun with blankets and saddles do not smell nice. Donkeys do not use a “litter box”, so, while the steps are generally easy, you had to watch where you stepped to miss the “presents” left behind! Donkeys also have the right of way. They will not walk around you; they will walk right up to you, expecting you to move.  They are not timid or shy!

Donkeys waiting to go down the stairs
Donkeys waiting to go down the stairs
More donkeys
More donkeys
and more donkeys
and more donkeys

And lastly, there are the steps – 580 of them – and I was a little tipsy form the wine and my purchase. Once you start down this path, you really do have to finish it — there is no way off when you reach the half-way mark.  I walked down the stairs, watching where I stepped and dodging the occasional donkey. I stopped a few times to rest and take photos I would not have gotten any other way (a bonus!). 580 steps … and I finally reached the pier, new bracelet in hand and a story to tell.

Stairs from Fira
Watch your step!

 

Yet more stairs
Yet more stairs
And more donkeys on the stairs
And more donkeys on the stairs — but the view is great!
Donkey heading straight for me!
Donkey heading straight for me!
And at the end, donkeys lined up ready to go
And at the end, donkeys lined up ready to go

Moral of this story is that sometimes you need to get lost, make interesting decisions and see where the paths lead. That and I can walk down 580 steps, wearing a shiny new piece of jewelry and live to tell the tale!

The bracelet
The bracelet that started this tale!

A to Z Challenge: C = Cyprus

C = Cyprus

A to Z Challenge: C

On my first cruise in 2009, I visited the island of Cyprus. this was my first visit to a Mediterranean Island and I was struck by its beauty and its beaches.Here are some of the highlights of my visit   — a place I want to visit again!

Cyrpus
Cyprus from sea to sky
Snow-capped mountains in Cyprus
Snow-capped mountains in Cyprus

Roman Villa
The Roman Villa contained some very beautiful mosaic floors, a series of heated pools, and a beautiful view of the sea.

Peacock mosaic floor in Roman house
Peacock mosaic floor in Roman house
View of the Sea from a Roman Villa in Cyprus
View of the Sea from a Roman Villa in Cyprus

 

Roman Theatre
Who wouldn’t want to attend a concert in an ancient Roman theater — complete with a backdrop of the sea? It is stunningly beautiful and the sound is perfect. We even tried out talking on the stage and could hear from the back row with no modern sound equipment!

Testing out the sound on the stage of a Roman theater in Cyprus
Testing out the sound on the stage of a Roman theatre in Cyprus

Temple of Apollo
In Greek mythology, Apollo is usually associated with the sun, music and poetry. In Cyprus, he is also associated with forests and animals.  At his temple complex, there were guest houses and training facilities for athletes. And, of course, a temple. Notice that the tops of the columns are unique to Cyprus.

Temple of Apollo
Temple of Apollo

C is also for Cats!
And Cyprus has a special saint just for cats — St. Nickolas. Here are just a could pictures of the cats of Cyprus.

Cat at the Temple of Apollo
Cat at the Temple of Apollo — looks like one of my cats!
Village cats in Cyprus
Village cats in Cyprus

Here is more information on the #atozchallenge.

 

A to Z Challenge: A = Athens

A to Z Letter A
A to Z Letter A

 

A = Athens

On my first trip to Athens, I was not sure I ever really wanted to come back — the traffic, the dirt, the smog, etc. Then, I walked around the Plaka and saw the views from the Acropolis and meet some of the people — and I love Athens enough to have returned several times.  Here are some of my favourite things in Athens.

 

Acropolis view from rooftop bars
Most hotels have rooftop bars that advertise the “best view of the Acropolis.” There are two places I can recommend. the Attalos Hotel on Athinas Street and the AthensStyle Hostel on Agias Theklas Street. Both are just off Monastiraki Square, with easy connections to the airport and the port of Piraeus via the Metro Blue Line. At the Attalos Hotel Bar, the view at night was amazing. The AthenStyle Hostel view was not quite as good, but the 2 for one drink happy hour is perfect!

View of the Acropolis at night
View of the Acropolis at night from Attalos Hotel rooftop bar
Cat & Sue and the Acopolis from the Attalos Hotel rooftop bar
Cat & Sue and the Acopolis from the Attalos Hotel rooftop bar

The New Acropolis Museum
I love this museum.  It is so well done. My favourite room is the one with all the Kore statues.  It also has a perfect, but different, view of the Acropolis.

New Acropolis Museum
New Acropolis Museum
Entrance to the New Acropolis Museum
Entrance to the New Acropolis Museum
View of the Acropolis form the New Acropolis Museum
View of the Acropolis form the New Acropolis Museum

The Poet Sandal Maker
Near Monastiraki Square is the Poet Sandal Maker where you can get custom-fit leather sandals. During summer, I practically live in the ones I got! It only takes about 20 minutes from the time you pick out the style you want, to the time they are fitted and you are ready to walk through the streets of the Plaka!  I even wore them on a whirlwind, one day walk around Rome — comfortable and no blisters!

My new Greek-style sandals!
My new Greek-style sandals!

Shopping in the Plaka
I am not a big shopper, however there are a couple stores here that always get my attention — the Dimitri Cotton Club is the name I remember. All over Greece, you can find nice, cotton shirts, however this place has the largest variety of styles, colours and best prices. I have several tops and dresses — and brought some back as gifts. There are also lots of places for Greek statues and I have bought a couple of rugs here.

Take-out food
Next to Monastiraki Square, where all the different restaurants are, there is a take-out window — quick and easy and cheaper than sitting at one of the tables.  Grab something to eat, sit in the square and watch the show!

"Restaurant row"
“Restaurant row”
Monastriaki Plaza before the crowds
Monastiraki Plaza before the crowds

The Metro Blue Line
This is a very convenient Train that runs from the airport to Piraeus. I’ve used it a lot to travel to and from the port. In Piraeus, it is about a 20 minute walk from where most cruise ships dock to the station. So easy to get around! The main entrance to the main Monastiraki stop is in the photo above.

Changing of the Guards
The Changing of the Guards occurs at 10 AM and is an interesting combination of military precision and dance!  You can really get close!  The are some nice city gardens and the Temple of Zeus within a 3 to 5 minute walk.

Changing of the Guards in Athens
Changing of the Guards in Athens

 

Here is more information on the #atozchallenge.