Greece and Turkey with Ian

Added 7/13/2011: Here's a map of stopping points on our tour.

Several years ago we told Ian that when he was 13 we would take him on a trip. Guess what? He's 13. After considering Egypt, but fortunately deciding against that a year or so ago, we all decided on Greece. We found a tour (Grand European Tours) of Athens and (some of) the Greek Islands, Istanbul, and Ephesus. Amelia and I flew to Baltimore on April 21 for a few days with Evan, Laura, Ian, and Fiona.

Day 1-2: Dulles to Athens

On April 26 we found ourselves at Dulles airport, checking in for our British Air flight to Athens, by way of London Heathrow. Checking in was easy enough, and here's the 747, but we had to wait awhile. In due course we were off, changed planes at Heathrow (through the new terminal - unfortunately if you change planes, even within terminal 5, you still have to go through security; but it wasn't too onerous). We arrived in Athens, more or less on time and were met by a representation from Grand European Tours and transferred the to Hotel Divani Caravel. That's our blue tour bus for the next two days. Ian, having slept little between Dulles and London (but took a good nap on the shorter leg to Athens), quickly found his position.

Day 3: Pelopennesus

The next morning we boarded a bus for a tour to Pelopennesus. Along the way we stopped to look at the Corinth Canal, which joins the Agean Sea and the Ionian Sea, permitting sailing between the two without going around the Pelopennesian Peninsula. Here's Ian adding a little color to the scene. And here's a self-portrait of Ian. The canal was completed in 1893. Then it was on to Mycenae. Here is the ampitheatre, Ian in the foreground. And then with Ian in the far background. Another, about the same time, that Ian took from the top. Here I am, seated in the Royal Seat. Then it was on through the Lion's Gate, and then another one by Ian of the ruins in the rain (yah, rained there, too). After many ruins, we took the tour bus back to Athens with Ian in his favorite position. Along the way I took this a shot of gas station station prices. This is Euros per liter, coming out to about $10 per gallon.

Day 4: Athens

This morning (bright and early - Oh my, did our tour director believe in beating the rush) we were off to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. There is a nice view of the Acropolis from the Temple of Zeus. Here's a shot of the three of us. Ian took a nice shot of the pillars through some trees. And a nice shot of Amelia. Here's the Acropolis framed by two pillars. We rejoined the bus for the trip to the Acropolis and along the way Ian took pictures of Athena and Poseiden, who were rivals for the choice of protector of the city (guess who won?). Here is the entry to the Acropolis. Ian is indicating something about the Parthenon, orginally the Temple of Athena. Turning the camera the other way, here is a shot of the Temple of Zeus from the Acropolis. Then there is the Erechtheum with the roof of the Porch of the Maidens being held up by six pillars of ladies. Ian took this picture of the Theatre of Dionysus, still in use today. On the way out to join the cruise ship, the Louis Cristal, at the port of Piraeus we stopped briefly at the Olympic Stadium of 1896.

After lunch on the Cristal, we were all briefed on emergency procedures, and where our stations would be. Here's Ian, all dressed up, and fortunately, nowhere to go. Later in the voyage, Ian took a couple of pictures in our cabin. Here's one of me in the window. Then another back toward the front of the cabin (yes, I'm in that one, too).

Day 5: Istanbul

Bright and early the next morning, I woke up as we were passing into the Dardenelles, got up and looked out the window. By some sort of chance, we were just passing by this Cape Helles Memorial. Somewhat later, we passed by another that I've been unable to identify, but surely looks like a memorial. As we neared Gallipoli itself, I saw the Çanakkale Martyrs Memorial. All are memorials to the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915. Here's a shot where we are in the Sea of Marmara with the city of Galipoli in sight. Amelia took one of me, with the six minarets of the Blue Mosque in the background. I returned the favor with one of Amelia with unidentified minarets in the background. After we docked we took a tour to the Spice Market (yeh, crowded) and to the Grand Bazaar (much less crowded, but busy).

Day 6: Constantinople

This was a day touring Istanbul, mostly parts built when it was Constantinople. Why is it now Istanbul? As the old song says, that's nobody's business but the Turks. More to the point, first stop was the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque. The mosque was completed in 1616 after starting construction in 1609. (An aside: St. Peter's Basilica, although about three times bigger in all dimensions, took from 1506 to 1626 to build. The interior dome tells the story of the popular name. Outside are stations for washing feet before entering (we only had to remove our shoes). Outside the mosque is this Egyptian monolith, which the guide explained was stolen by the Turks after the English stole another (and maybe a few others). It was tulip time in Istanbul. Next stop was Hagia Sofia, now a museum, but previously a mosque, and built as a church and dedicated in 360CE. The view inside shows the dome, and the supporting half domes. Here's another shot of the interior. While painted over when the building served as a mosque, the Christian murals were uncovered when it became a museum. Here's another mural, then one of Amelia and Ian taking in the surroundings. After we left Hagia Sophia, Ian and I visited another scenic facility. The tour then went to Gördes store for a presentation (and tea, or coffee, or Ouzo) about carpet and rug making (by hand, of course), with lots of examples, and plenty of flourishes (e.g., a flying carpet). Ian was very interested in buying a rug for his family, and Amelia and I said: you're on your own, here, more or less. He and the salesman got down and looked at lots of rugs, and after haggling, finally agreed to buy a rug. While Ian was already famous in our tour group, this made him even more well known on shipboard. After all that hard work, we returned to the ship for lunch. The afternoon tour was to the Topkapi Palace. Once the official and primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans, it is now a museum. By the sidewalk into the main part is a pine tree that has been grafted with an almond branch. We didn't have a lot of time, but the wall tilework is very pretty, and that of the dome is, too. Back on board the Cristal, we were greeted by this towel swan.

Day 7: Mykonos

After the overnight cruise from Istanbul, we arrived at Mykonos. An important stop was found by Ian, and here he is with Amelia, enjoying the fruits of his labor (a Magic Bar), with our ship and a sister ship in the background. Ian got a better picture of the pink pelican of Mykonos than I did. We walked up the see the windmills of Mykonos and Ian spent some time playing on the rocks. As in other parts of Greece, and in Istanbul, too, the poppies were beautiful. Ian took a picture of us on a street. There were many banners and pennants, here's some with a church in the background. They have many blue doors on Mykonos. We ate an early dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront, and while seated there, a fellow was rowing around in the harbor. Back on the ship I got a sunset picture.

Day 8: Patmos, Kusadasi, and Ephesus

We arrived early in the morning in Patmos. We took a brief trip onshore. Here's a good shot of the Louis Cristal in the harbor. Here's a Patmos door in a more subdued blue. Then it was on to the Turkish port of Kushadasi, and the hike to Ephesus. First tourist site in Ephesus was this honest merchant. Lots of ruins in Ephesus. They date back to Roman times. Here's the remains of an arch, and a more interesting one of bulls. Here are more simple arches, with lintels. Oh yes, did I mention that they have beautiful poppies in Greece? Here's a rebuilt arch, the light blocks probably being new. Then, a fair maiden, apprently in flight. Here's an overview of some of the area. Again, this arch needed some new pieces before it could be reconstructed. This shot shows the tile work near the old Roman baths. The work requiring scaffolding goes on; this is the Temple of Hadrian. Another fair maiden. Well, maybe not so fair, since that was Medusa. The Romans also required other places to relax alongside the baths. Here is the library of Celsus. On the walkway not far from the baths is what was described to us as one of the earliest billboards. It reads (from top): Fellows, walk this way, bring money, to find love (heart). Ah yes. Was there a ampitheatre, you ask? Yes, there is a ampitheatre.

Day 9: Rhodes

We arrived at the port city of Rhodes, on the island of Rhodes early in the morning. In keeping with our tour director's philosophy of beating the rush, we were off for the bus tour of Lindos bright and early. Well, two of us. Ian decided he was too achy, tired, blah, whatever, to get up and go that early in the morning. So, he stayed behind on board. While I climbed to the Acropolis, Amelia took it easy by going to the beach. As with other places in Greece, the reconstruction is still going on. Along the way, there is a relief of a Rhodian trireme carved into the rock. Here's a shot of the city of Lindos from the acropolis. Here are the columns of the stoa (supporting a covered walkway) that have been restored. There is a wonderful view of a small harbor below, the entrance being obscured by the rocks. The ruins are somewhat typical, I'd say. There was a good view of a church steeple (I'd guess I took this at 6x). Not sure what this was, perhaps the ruins of one of the round towers. The whole area dates back to about 300BCE and Roman times. From Lindos we headed back to the walled city of Rhodes. Guess what, it looks Mediaeval. Ah yes, remember that I like doors. The walls of the city have seen wear over the centuries. After having lunch on the ship and Ian having recovered, we headed in to explore more of the city. Ian took this picture me within the walls. Ian pretended to fire off a canon. Then we headed down along the waterfront where we found this World War II monument. This is the harbor where the Collossus of Rhodes may have stood, astride the harbor entrance, now guarded by a pair of piddly stags, which nonetheless, reportedly keep out snakes (I never saw any). Then it was back towards the ship (not in the small inner harbor) where we passed the gate we had entered earlier. The Louis Cristal and Ian on our return. That night the ship's chocolatiers had a display of their hard labors. Ian and I went and looked, but didn't partake in much of it. These look really good. Ian got this picture of a chocolate eagle. They also made carvings out of fruits and vegetables. Very clever.

Day 10: Agios Nikolaos and Santorini

We arrived in Agios Nilolaos, Crete, in the morning. Amelia, Ian, and I did not take a tour, but instead walked into the town, up and over the hill to a beach. Along the way I took a picture of Agia Triada. Soon we were at Ammos Beach and Ian was testing the waters of the Mediterranean. While it was the warmest waters we had seen on the trip, they weren't all that warm. As we headed back toward town and the ship, we saw this small church. Ian and I stopped and bought a Greek birthday card for Grammy (well, at least they said it said Happy Birthday), and Ian found yet another Magic Bar. Back to ship, and off to Santorini (otherwise known as Thira). The sea was the roughest we had seen it on this leg. Our cabin was near the bow and I took this shot of the waves and wake from our window. The approach to Santorini by ship is into the caldera of an ancient volcano, so there is neither a dock, nor anywhere to anchor. As a consequence, those going ashore had to hop (with a lot of help) from the ship to a tender to get ashore. The towns pretty much cling to the side of the caldera. We took the bus tour to Oia Village, and it is as pretty and the pictures you may have seen before. Since there was no place to anchor, our ship was out in the caldera cruising around, but I'm not sure which white ship is ours. Oh yes, and they have blue doors, this one with a large happy sun. One of the things Oia is famous for is its beautiful sunsets. Two problems. It was cloudy, off and on, at least, and we had to be back to the ship before sunset. I took several, none were very good, including this one. Ian got a better one, maybe.

Day 11: Disembarkation, tour to Delphi, back to Athens

After an early breakfast, we were off the ship (our main luggage was picked up outside our door during the night), and here we are with mounds of luggage, the lineup in front of Ian and Grammy with orange tags being that of our group. So, it was onto the bus with our luggage and off for Delphi (Temple of Apollo midpicture), which was about 2.5 hours away. I suppose this explains what everything is (was). Here is one of the belly buttons of the world at Dephi. Many cities had their treasure houses at Delphi, and here is a reconstruction of the ruins of the Athenian storehouse. And, of course, they had an ampitheatre. Then, it was back to the Divani Caravel, where we had a little time to rest up before going out for our Highlight Farewell Dinner at the Daphne's Restaurant in the Plaka District. Along the way we saw the sculpture Hellas Honors Lord Byron. We were let off the bus to walk to the restaurant in front of this sculpture of the late Melina Mercouri, who was at one time the Minister of Culture (among other things) in Greece and unscuccesfully fought to get the Elgin Marbles returned to Greece from the British Museum. Be that as it may, we had a fine dinner at the restaurant. Here's a shot of our table, with the marvelous tour drector behind Ian (whom she simply adored (of course)). By that time Ian was getting a little tired, so we walked up the street a half-block to get some fresh air, and had a nice view of the Acropolis and a crescent moon (and I had a view of Ian). Ah schucks, I have to add this shot without Ian, too.

Day 12: Athens back to Dulles

You talk about early and a long day! We were up at 4am with breakfast delivered (part the tour) to our room at 4:15. Way, way ,way too much food. At 5:15 or thereabouts we're out the door and onto a shuttle bus to the airport (a little aside: When we went through the Athens airport in 1989 on the way to Crete, it was the most primitive airport I had ever been in. This one was built for the Olympics and it was fine.) to catch our British Air flight to London Heathrow and change planes there for Dulles. We were in at Dulles about 5:30pm, and Evan met us after we got through customs and passport control. So, only 13 1/2 hour after getting up (well, and 7 hour time change), there we were back in the USA. Tired, but glad to be back. A good trip and we had a good time. So did Ian, I think.

We spent about a week with Evan, Laura, Ian, and Fiona, and then came back home to Oregon.