"" Writer's Wanderings

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Ancient Corinth

Expectations should always be kept in check. That’s what I always tell anyone about traveling. It’s easy to give advice. Harder to follow it yourself. Our tour to Ephesus some years ago was amazing and when the opportunity presented itself with another stop in Nafplion this segment of our cruise, we signed up for a tour of ancient Corinth.

Our tour guide was a little Greek lady who had a good sense of humor and we enjoyed her banter as we rode the bus to our first stop at the Corinth canal. It connects the Ionian Sea with the Aegean Sea.  The canal separates the Peloponnese Peninsula from the Greek mainland, essentially making it an island. It was begun in the first century AD but abandoned. Eventually in the 19th century, work was begun again and it was finished in 1893.

The canal is four miles long and almost 80 feet wide and is at sea level so there are no locks. The problem is that modern ships are way too large to make it feasible for travel so basically it is nothing more than a tourist attraction now.

We were let out of the bus on a small side street among several other buses and pointed in the direction of the bridge we had just crossed. There is a pedestrian way on either side of the traffic lanes and so we walked midway across on one side to take a picture in the direction of the Ionian Sea and then crossed the street and walked midway again to take a picture in the direction of the Aegean. There was an opportunity for bungie jumping but we passed. There just wasn’t enough time, of course.

Pictures done, everyone loaded onto the bus again for a twenty minute ride to Ancient Corinth. Lots of information from our tour guide but way too much to absorb as usual. Finally we arrived. I was excited. I wanted to walk the paths of Corinth and imagine what it was like when Paul visited and established the first church in Europe there.

Corinth is not as well preserved or restored as Ephesus. Part of the problem was an earthquake that took place in the late 19th century according to our guide. Still many of the Doric columns of the temple of Apollo still stand. They are the first things you notice as you go in the gate. It was built around 560 BC. Now at this point, you begin to realize how significant the structures around you are given their age.

We paused at the Bema, the seat of judgement. It was a raised rostrum in the middle of the Roman forum and would have been in the center of the city where it is said Paul was brought to trial for preaching a new religion to the Jews at the synagogue. Acts 18 tells the story. The Jews brought Paul before the proconsul, Gallio, and accused him. Gallio said he could not pass judgement on something that had to do with Jewish laws. It was up to the synagogue leaders. The crowd turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue leader, and beat him instead. Later, during the Byzantine era, the Bema was made into a church.

The Bema, the judgement seat

There was a road, the Lechaion, preserved that led into the city from the sea. Along the road were shops and baths where sailors could get supplies and clean themselves up. One spot where we stopped had a large pool, or fountain, that was fed by four cisterns. The foundations of the shops were tiny except for one which had a large archway that had been preserved or reconstructed.

Unfortunately, we could not walk around the whole of the ancient ruins. I’m sure there was much more to see and learn but our guide insisted on taking us into the tiny museum which was crowded and full of all the Roman sculptures and statues and bits and pieces of pottery. I am not a museum fan especially under crowded circumstances.

Two things of interest in the museum however (at least for me) were the floor mosaics that had been mounted on the wall. One was fully intact with the head of Dionysos pictured in the center of it.

The other thing that I found interesting mainly because it related to another place we had been was the healing sanctuary. When someone was healed, they would make a mold or sculpture of the body part that had been healed and place it in the place of worship. We visited a church a while back which I believe was in some part of Greece and the practice was still going on. There was a huge room full of body parts, crutches, etc., that were placed there as a thanksgiving offering to the healing.

There were also two statues of “giants” said to be from the Apollo temple I think.

On our way out of the museum, she paused and pointed to an empty spot on the wall. “That’s where the sign they found from the Jewish synagogue is supposed to be displayed. It is out for cleaning and repair.” Beneath the sign was a capital from a column, I believe, that showed several menorahs. It is all the proof they have been able to find of the synagogue that was there.

As we were making our way to the bus, we noticed a fenced area with a sign, “Roman Odeum”. It was an open air theater of sorts built in the first century AD and was said to seat about 3,000 people for drama and music productions.

Of course no excursion or tour is complete without the souvenir stop. At least this one was a bit more upscale. It was a ceramic shop that sold museum reproductions of bowls, plates, etc., even ashtrays! Who knew they used ashtrays in the early Roman period?

We did a once through in the store and noticed a cafĂ© adjacent to it. I opted for a paper cup of coffee rather than a first century reproduction of a cup. The coffee was good and helped relieve the hunger I was beginning to feel. It was past lunchtime. Can’t miss a meal on the ship. No sir.

Ancient Corinth can be reached out of Athens as well as Nafplion and I’m sure other places along the way. I think it’s about an hour drive from Athens. Paul walked it in two days but I don’t know that I would recommend that. They were a lot hardier in Paul’s day.

 A little of our tour guide's humor to leave you with. She said when Greeks don't understand something instead of using the phrase that we normally use, they say, "It's all Chinese to me!"

Monday, October 02, 2023

Athens And The Case Of The Missing Watch

Back when we were about to go ashore to see the Pyramids, we were waiting in line for our tour sticker (the one HAL has you wear and is a dead giveaway that you are a tourist). I was talking with a lady who was also on our tour and she noticed that I had my watch on. "Aren't you afraid of it being stolen? They told us not to wear jewelry."

I answered with, "It is an old watch that has so many scratches and has lost its sheen that I don't mind replacing it if I have to." We came back after our tour and the watch was still on my wrist. Fast forward to our day in Athens.

The white blouse that went missing in the laundry had been returned and I decided to wear it to dinner. It's a nice blouse, sleeveless with pockets that decorate the front. I laid my skirt and blouse on the bed and tossed my watch on top of my blouse so I could put it back on after my shower. I put my blouse on just as Bob returned from exercising and caught him before his shower to help me get the internet through a hotspot on my iPhone. Being distracted by all that, I didn't think about not having put my watch on until we were halfway down the corridor toward dinner.

 I reached to adjust my watch, a habit, and suddenly realized I didn't have it. We turned back to the room. I knew it would be on the bed. That's where I'd tossed it. Nope. I looked on the floor. Nothing. It was getting late for our reservation so I figured our stateroom attendants would probably pick it up when they straightened the room. 

After dinner and evening activities, we returned to find our room prepared but no watch to be seen anywhere. I took out a clothes hanger and ran it around the floor under the bed. Nothing. Bob got down on hand and knees with the phone light and found nothing. I gave up. It was gone. Funny, now that it was missing, I wasn't happy at all about replacing it. I had it so long, it was a part of me.

Feeling a little out of sorts, I sat down to work on my blog  As I was looking at the computer on my lap I noticed a funny bump in the pocket of my blouse. I reached in and pulled out my watch. It had been there the whole time. Now the question is why didn't I or for that matter Bob notice it? It was a strange lump. Oh well, case solved and a good laugh.

We arose Sunday morning to begin out trip back into the city of Athens to see the changing of the guard again and this time supposedly with a  band and more fanfare. We followed the same routine as the day before with the bus but this time when he got to the stop at the Acropolis he told everyone on the bus we had to get off there. He could go no farther. The roads were closed.

We got off and considered taking the Metro the driver had suggested but when we looked on Google Maps, it was only a 25 minute walk. We opted for that and soon found out why the roads were closed. There was a Race For The Cure event and there were thousands of people in promotional T shirts lining up for the walk part. I believe the race was already over. 

Weaving our way through the crowds we finally arrived at the Parliament Building and found a spot to watch the guards. The problem was we had another 20 minutes to wait and the sun was getting very warm. I left Bob for a spot in the shade that wasn't perfect viewing but it was cooler. He opted to join me shortly after. We stood eagerly listening for a band but all that appeared were the new guards in the formation we'd seen the previous day. When I discovered that, I let Bob watch and I found a spot out of the pressing crowd to wait for him.

Since the roads were still not open, we sat a bit in the park and then decided to visit the restaurant we'd had lunch in the day begore. Hopefully the bus would be available after we ate. This time we ordered pita bread with tzatziki dip which is Greek yogurt flavored with cucumbers, onions and garlic. We also ordered some sausage that was a little spicy but good and came with what looked like homemade chips but not so crispy. It was all good and we took our time. Onboard time was 10:30 pm and we would get a cab if necessary to get back before dinner. 

The bus was a bit later than scheduled but it showed up and we rode back to the cruise terminal. The ship had not moved but the check in point was now at the next terminal down so we had a bit of a walk and a lot of confusion to get through before finally getting back to our stateroom. It was turnaround day, the day that passengers not continuing debarked and new passengers were embarking. 

Tomorrow would be a day at sea before we begin visiting and revisiting ports including an overnight adventure to Israel. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Athens, Greece


Athens. While parts might be ancient, most of it is a bustling metropolis. But let me start with the port, Piraeus. It too is a large city and a good sized port that services Athens. We awoke to the announcement that the ship was cleared and we could go ashore. Then there was the announcement that onboard for those guests continuing on in the next segment was 10:30 pm the next night. There there was the announcement that there was a shuttle from where we were docked to the cruise terminal. We were totally awake by then.

Bob had done some research and found a local express bus that went from the port to the city center of Athens. I was a little nervous, I must admit. We've tried local transportation before and it isn't always easy. After breakfast, we took the shuttle which only drove a little ways down the pier to the terminal. We could have walked it just as fast.

Outside the terminal, there was a pedestrian walkway that led out of the port area to a spot on the street where there were a lot of buses lined up. None of them were the X80 that we needed. Bob asked one driver of another bus and he just pointed to the sign I was under that said X80 and shrugged. Okay.

We waited about five more minutes and lo and behold, the bus with X80 across the top arrived and stopped. There was one other couple that got on with us who had done this before on another trip so we rode together to the ticket office that was actually in the port area or just across from one of the terminals. We bought our roundtrip tickets for 4.10 euros (about $4.40 USD) and we were on our way.

The trip to Syntagma Square which is a popular place in the city center and near the Parliament Building which also has the tomb of the unknown soldier. We had been in Athens and done a tour a few years ago and the driver had taken us to the palace to see the changing of the guard. We wanted to watch it again. It's quite impressive.

The bus trip took between 30-40 minutes, most of which was on a freeway but the beginning of it took us around another harbor and marina for yachts and sailboats that was very picturesque. The bus also had a stop at the Acropolis but we passed on that. Been there, done that, didn't want to climb up again.

The bus dropped us right in front of a McDonald's so it would be easy to find the stop again. We had already passed the tomb and saw a crowd watching the changing of the guard at the 10 o'clock hour. With a little time to kill before the next change, we opted for coffee at McD's and with it the opportunity for a potty stop. The coffee was way too strong but the restroom was nice and clean. With your order you received a code on your receipt that got you into the restrooms. 

We made it back to the tomb just in time to watch the ceremony for the changing of the guard. They make a strange choreographed step, swinging their leg out and back before taking a step. The replacements were wearing white uniforms rather than the beige ones worn by the guards at the earlier hour. 

Once the change of positions was accomplished, another soldier in camo uniform approached each guard and made sure his pleated skirt was in order as well as his vest, the tail on his hat and his vest was adjusted just right. Once each passed muster, the soldier stepped away and the guards were left to finish their hour of duty at attention, not blinking, for the rest of the hour.

It was getting close to the noon hour and we sat for a bit in the park in the square deciding what we wanted to do. My GPS My City app showed a few things close to us but nothing that really interested us.

"How about lunch here somewhere?" I suggested. "By the time we get back to the ship it will be past time for lunch." It wasn't that we couldn't get food. It was more that it would be past our usual lunchtime. A friend asked how we stay healthy on our travels and aside from frequent hand washing and Purell, I think some of it has to do with trying to keep to a schedule of meals and sleep. We establish a routine and stick to it as much as possible.

A ways down the street from the square we found a nice restaurant that had tables just off the sidewalk and out of the congestion. The menu was quite extensive with all sorts of appetizers, plates and larger meals. We ordered an appetizer of skewered meatballs that came with a little salad, some diced tomato and a small pita with yogurt underneath it. We also ordered some pita on the side. It was perfect. Just enough to satisfy and get a taste of Greek food as well.

Our wait for the bus was not long. The neat thing was that there was an electronic display that showed its estimated arrival time. We boarded, tapped our tickets on the meter box that was just inside the door and we were on our way. The trip home took less time than it had getting to the square.

And we planned to do it all again in the morning. You see on Sundays at 11 we found out that they do the changing of the guard with a band. So, why not? We know how to get there and I'm up for another Greek lunch at that restaurant. 

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Santorini, Greece

Our ride to shore

Back in 2012 we finished a cruise that ended in Athens and then flew to Santorini for a four day stay. It was a beautiful four days. You might even call it romantic. It's hard not to feel romantic when you explore Santorini. It is a beautiful place.

So, when our ship anchored in the caldera, the volcano basin that forms the harbor of the town of Fira, we hoped to revisit some of the places we had enjoyed. At least this day the weather looked to cooperate. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was very comfortable. Since we didn't have a tour, we took our time with breakfast thinking that the rush to tenders would be over when we were ready to leave. We hoped it wouldn't be as bad as the day at Mykonos.

Switchback trail to the top

To our surprise an announcement came just as we finished breakfast that it was open tender time. That meant that you didn't need a tender ticket. You could go directly to the tender platform. When we looked over the side from the Promenade Deck we saw nice big local Greek boats that were tendering so the operation was going a lot faster...from ship to shore.

The only way to get to the town from where the tenders docked was either by donkey, walking uphill and up about a hundred steps as well or taking the cable car. There was no way we would ride a donkey up the steep switchback trail. Walking up was out of the question as well. That left the cable car. We'd done that before from a cruise ship and it was a pleasant ride. What wasn't pleasant this trip was an influx of about 10,000 cruise passengers from four ships that were anchored nearby.

Cable car

Now some of those passengers were going on tours which were tendered to a different dock where buses awaited. Let's say a generous 30% went on tours. That left about 7,000 to try to make it up the hill to town. The cable cars take about 600 passengers an hour according to what I read. That would make about ten hours to get them all up the hill. I don't think it took all that long, but when we saw the line that was at least more than an hour long, we turned around and wove our way back through the crowd and back onto the tender to return to the ship.

Disappointed a bit but ready to spend a "sea day" in port. We gathered our decks of cards, stopped by the Dutch Cafe and got our coffees and headed down to the game room where there were nice tables to play on. Bob got even with my run of card luck and by the time we were ready for lunch I was ready to cry, "Uncle!"

The ship was quiet. The weather was perfect and the view was lovely. We sat for a long time on our balcony and enjoyed the restful time together. 

So, we didn't get to see Fira, Santorini, again close up but the day couldn't have been nicer if we had. It ended with a glorious sunset over the caldera.

 On to Athens...

Mykonos Island, Greece

How exciting to finally get to visit Mykonos, a place we’d never been before. Preparation for the visit included listening to a video of port information and then a Q&A with the cruise/travel director who talked of having to tender to the new port and then take a SeaBus (ferry) to the old port. There was a land bus but she didn’t recommend it as the SeaBus was faster and more convenient.

We were ready. Bob had gone online and gotten a code number from the SeaBus. You couldn’t purchase tickets ahead of time but supposedly the code would get you the opportunity to purchase the ticket on the dock or ferry. The cost would be $2/each one way. Now we just had to get off the ship. Not so easy.

After a nice leisurely breakfast which we thought would allow plenty of time for the rush to the tenders to be over, we headed down to the lounge where the tender tickets were being handed out. The lounge was packed with people waiting for their ticket to be called and the line was a bit long to get the tickets. When we did, we learned the wait would be about an hour before our group would be called. To alleviate the crowded lounge we were told we could wait anywhere on the ship.

We returned to the room and I charged my phone one more time to be sure we would have enough battery life for the GPS My City walk we planned to take. The weather forecast showed a 30% chance of rain and there were a few iffy clouds around so we decided to take one umbrella along just in case although at that point chances for rain were supposed to dwindle.

An hour later we were finally on our way, the sun shining although once in a while a cloud would hide it. It was keeping the temps down to a comfortable level though. The ride into the new port wasn’t bad but as we exited the open tender which was a local Greek boat, we could feel a little spritz of rain. No problem. A misty rain we could handle.

The SeaBus was just across a couple of lanes that led into a parking area and we crossed over to it, purchased our tickets and got in line to board. Just as we were next to board, it filled up and we were directed to another boat which was really a glass bottom tour boat that was put into service to handle our ship traffic as well as another smaller cruise ship that was docked there.

Thankfully we found a seat undercover because about halfway to the Old Port those who were on the open deck above started streaming down the stairs. It had begun to rain. Not hard…yet.

On shore, we found a canopy to stand under and pull up the map for our walk. The rain let up a bit and we started out. We found the first little chapel of St. Nicholas which we had actually passed by just off the SeaBus. The next church, Church of Panagia Papaortiani, was a little harder to figure out. The streets are more like walkways between buildings. Nothing is marked with names that we could see and none of them made any sense. Add to that, it was beginning to rain again. We found the place and quickly took pictures of the unusual church which is really five churches that have been built on the sight over the years beginning around 1425.

As we rounded the church and began to find our way to the next sight we wanted, the unusual windmills, it started raining a bit harder and the wind picked up. Bob had the umbrella up but by now, we were wishing we had brought both of them with us.

The path to the windmills took us through several outdoor cafes, literally. The path goes right through them. People were gathered there almost filling each one as it was the only cover around. With the wind picking up however, those closest to the water’s edge would soon be running for cover as the waves splashed against the wall next to the tables.

As we got to a point where we could see the windmills in the distance, we took a picture and then ducked into the only cover we could find, a bar. Surprisingly, it was empty but for another couple. We waited for someone to ask if we wanted to order anything but no one seemed to care. Finally I got up and fetched our own menu and we finally got the waitress to take an order for some beverages. Meanwhile, the rain was pouring down and people were ducking in wherever they could find cover.

When our drinks were finished and our commiseration with two other couples who had come in was done, we decided we’d better head back. It didn’t look like it was letting up. By that time the walkways were flooded. Water was pouring down toward us from drain pipes as well as the clouds. Of course all of the storm water would drain toward the lower part and into the sea right where we were. It was useless to try and find a dry spot to walk or even just slight puddles. Around one corner it was like a running creek. Our shoes were hopelessly soaked.

We weren’t as bad off as some who had absolutely no protection and looked like drown rats. When we reached the dock, all of us were led to a larger ferry boat and taken to the new port. From there those of us who still had to tender out to our ship made it to the tenders that awaited to carry disappointed visitors back to the ship.

And guess what? No sooner were we onboard the ship, the sun broke through and the rain clouds dispersed. By then there was no going back. It was time for dinner. And for us, that was just fine. Even though we could have returned, the ship stayed until 10:30 that night, we knew we were coming back in a week on the second segment of our cruise. We would just hope for better weather.

Showered, dressed and warmed by a good dinner, we went outside and walked the Promenade Deck since the ship was still in port and not moving so there was no wind. What there was though was breathtaking. A beautiful moon rose above the island of Mykonos and shimmered on the water before us. Peace.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Istanbul, Day Two

Part of the underground terminal
where excursion buses pick you up.

In addition to being one of the busiest ports we've been in, Istanbul has built an amazing cruise terminal since our last visit. It is mostly underground and takes a good fifteen minutes just to get from the ship to the exit into the mall that borders the docking area. You walk down a ramp into the terminal, take several escalators down further, pass through a checkpoint that requires a barcode distributed by the ship, more escalators and you finally find yourself in a huge area that looks like tourist information and you exit into the shopping area.

Reverse much of that to get back to the ship. First of all, however, you need to go through screening just to get into the shopping area, Bags through an x-ray and walk through the metal detector. It does make you feel safer in the shopping area which is quite nice with upscale shops and restaurants and a museum. You find your way to the cruise terminal entrance and then weave your way through the corridors and escalators and another security check before arriving at the ship. 

Just a few of the escalators to exit and enter

Half way through the whole thing upon return is a lighted sign with an arrow pointing to the ship and it says "8 minutes to ship." Thankfully for returning passengers who might need them, there are a couple of restrooms along the way. Toward the end is also a duty free shop and for once, you don't have to walk through it to get back as in other terminals. 

Now to get through this maze coming or going, there is no cheese but there are plenty of signs so it's not too confusing. But I digress. After our morning exercise to get off the ship, we were on our way to what we thought would be a nice morning.

The red Hop On Hop Off bus was stationed near the Galataport terminal. When we arrived at 9:30, the bus was there and several people were waiting. They seemed confused about the bus schedule and we soon found out why. Apparently this bus was just an office where you could buy tickets. Or not. Every time we tried to get a handle on when and where the bus was going we got a slightly different answer.

A small part of the Galaport shopping 
area. Very nice.

To make a long story short, we bought tickets for what we thought would be a leisurely morning of riding the route and seeing the sites from the bus. Boy, were we wrong. This bus would only take us to the starting point of the route which was where the Blue Mosque and the Hagai Sophia were located. It would go directly backwards on the route to take us there. Fine, we figured we would sit on the bus and continure from the start point. Not so.

We were told we had to exit the bus that this one was not leaving and we should take the bus in front of us which had just left and gone through the gated area and was not stopping to pick us up. We waited at the square between the mosques. Now it had already taken us a good forty-five minutes to get through the Istanbul traffic to arrive at Stop One (with no stops along the way). We were going to have to wait 40 to 50 minutes before the next bus left. Time depended upon who you asked and we couldn't even get a straight answer about the bus that was sitting there. Was it the one that we would take?

There was not enough time to go inside either mosque so we just wandered around and took a few pictures and kept an eye on the activity around the bus. We didn't want it leaving without us.

After about fifty minutes (it was now going on 11am), the bus doors opened and people poured into it. We managed to grab a couple of seats on top but when I pulled out the map to look at the stops and thought about how long it had taken us so far, I said to Bob that I didn't want to chance getting back to the ship late. It wasn't clear whether they would take a circuitous route or not and with all the traffic, we could miss our onboard time that was 3:30. It was questionable whether we would make that if we continued past stop 4 which was where we had started. Bob agreed and we rode the bus to the ship and got off.

It had cost us $48 each for that short tour of Istanbul. Lesson learned. I do believe it would have taken a whole day to ride that route given their "schedule". 

When we exited the bus, we did a short walk to one end of the mall area in Galataport and then got back on the ship. It was noon and we were tired and discouraged but grateful to have gotten another look at the two famous mosques if only from the outside. 

Roasted chestnuts and corn. Very tempting.

A relaxing afternoon and some great evening entertainment had us feeling much better by the end of the day. We looked forward to our stop the next day in Mykonos, Greece, a place we'd never been before.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Istanbul, Turkey

 Morning dawned and the sun peeked around the curtains at our  balcony window inviting us to open them and look out at the sixth largest city in the world, Istanbul. Istanbul is a city divided. Half of it is on the European continent and the other half is on the continent of Asia. 

The Bosphorus Strait separates the two parts of the city and is the busiest port area I've ever seen. Ferries and large ships and huge tourist boats keep the water churning. Added to the wakes from all the boats was a brisk wind helping to whip up the surface of the water. The upside of all of it is that the breeze off the water kept the temperatures feeling comfortable.

Our day started leisurely. We had been to Istanbul before and seen the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia mosque and the Topaki Palace. Our tour then had been a private group arranged through contact with the Cruise Critic group for that cruise. It was wonderful and we didn't think we would duplicate it so instead of getting a tour and being disappointed, we chose to do a little walking. 

Docked at the new Galataport cruise terminal, we were in a different area of the city than before so we decided to explore a couple of the sites nearer the ship. We could see the Galata Tower not too far from us so we headed in that direction using my GPS My CityApp. What it didn't tell us was that it was all up hill, nice steep hills some of which had many steps. At least it was the beginning of our walk and not the end. The rest would be downhill.

The Galata Tower from which the area gets its name, dates back to 1348 and was erected by Genoese Italians as a vantage point over the city. It was used as a fire lookout tower up until the 1960s. Once we reached it, we took a few moments to catch our breath and take a few pictures. A ticket booth was around one side and since my app said there was an elevator, we checked on the ticket price. It was 675 in Turkish Lira, $25 USD. All we were going to get for that was a view of the city and much of that could be seen from the top deck of our ship. We passed. 

Buoyed by the prospect of the rest of our walk being downhill, we started out for a mosque that was just past where our ship was. The sidewalks went from cobblestone, to brick, to flat slabs of stone and back again. Much of it was very uneven and our feet and legs began to feel it. We paused for a few minutes and sat on a small wall along the way where another couple from the ship were perched to rest and struck up a conversation.

The couple had been here before and were walking to the Dolmabahce Palace where they said there was a nice garden you could walk through and if you wanted, go into the palace for a fee. They weren't sure how much farther it was though and they were getting tired. I looked it up on my app and it showed just about a half mile farther so we continued on while the other couple contemplated the extra walk. 

They were right, just past the mosque which was built by the same sultan, was a beautiful garden and beyond it an arched palace gate. We had no desire to go inside. The line was a bit long and we were quite a bit tired with a mile walk back to the ship ahead of us. We walked around the garden and took pictures of the clock tower which was built in France and enjoyed the garden walkway that led to a nice bench in the shade where we sat and soaked in the warm temperature with the gentle cool breeze.

I read a little about the palace on my app. Apparently In the 1850s the Ottoman sultans shifted from the more famous Topkapi Palace to the Dolmabahce which is said to be the largest and most extravagant. Perhaps we should have gone in. 

We made it back to the ship, both of us almost limping from sore feet and legs and backs. The uneven pavement was really difficult to walk on for two oldsters. Since we had an excursion in the evening, we didn't venture out again and instead fell asleep for a much needed rest.

Our excursion in the evening was to be a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus with some entertainment and of course Turkish cuisine. It turned out to be quite a disappointment. The food was not all that great, the entertainment was not anywhere near where we could see it well enough and we sat on the level of the boat that had tiny dirty windows that we could only open part way to even see out. So much for seeing the lights of the city at night. I did manage to snap a couple shots off the back of the boat and one or two from the slight opening of the window. 

The couple who shared our table laughed with us as the DJ began playing Spanish pop music and topped it off with the Macarena. So much for immersion in Turkish music.

Since this was an overnight stay, we went to bed with the plan of taking the hop on hop off bus we'd seen just outside the Galataport shopping area the next morning. That would be a whole other adventure.

[I should have posted about our first man overboard experience on a cruise ship when we were in Kusadasi but I forgot to include it. We returned to the ship and were in the stateroom when a general alarm was sounded and announcement was made that there was a man overboard port side. That was our side of the ship so we dashed out to the balcony. Below us we could see a guy in red swim trunks floating on his back and then turning to swim a bit back and forth. Our first thought was some dope decided to dive off the ship for a swim. We watched until he was out of our view. A little bit later the captain announced that the man was a local who somehow swam to the ship and was now in the custody of local authorities being questioned. As the guy in the neighboring stateroom said, "Somebody's gonna have a lot of 'splainin' to do."]

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Kusadasi, Turkey

 There have been frequent stops for us in Kusadasi. Our first stop had us visiting Ephesus which is amazing enough to want to see again. When we went to book the excursion, it was already filled for this day in the city so we booked it for the next time we stop in the second segment of this cruise. The next time in Kusadasi, we had just walked into town and out to see a fort that sits at the end of a walkway which extends into the harbor. This time would be very special though. We were meeting friends for a real Turkish breakfast.

Our friends who also spend their winters in Key Largo spend part of their year in Turkey. They have lived all over the world and traveled much of it and we enjoy swapping stories. When they discovered we were going to be in Kusadasi on our cruise, they insisted we would have to meet and spend some time together. Little did we know that they lived two hours away.

Our meeting place was a hotel that was about twenty minutes walk from our ship. It was out of the traffic and chaos of the pier. We arrived a bit early and settled in at the small cafe that I believe was a part of the hotel. I love Turkish tea and ordered a cup. Bob ordered a cup of coffee and we sat watching the traffic go by and enjoying our beautiful morning as well as our beverages. 

Before long, we spotted our friends and they waved from the car as they pulled over a bit down the street to park. We paid for our tea and coffee (which was only $4.20 USD) and before long we were off to a restaurant in the countryside that they had found for a real Turkish breakfast which was really a Turkish brunch. As they explained, on a Sunday people did not eat before eleven in the morning. 

And that was only the beginning
of the food!

The ride through the countryside was fun. Out of the city the road became a more narrow two lane and wove around hillsides and past what looked like olive orchards and some farmland. We were truly out in the countryside.

The restaurant was about a half hour drive which gave us a little time to start catching up on the time we'd been apart. Suddenly we were there. Just a few spots where cars were parked off the road. We parked and were immediately greeted by the man who owns the restaurant. Now, this was not a building. This was a garden with trellised spots that had tables. It was also part of a farm so we were greeted as well by a rooster and hen. It was the perfect setting though to be able to eat and visit without a lot of people bustling around like in the city.

The owner led us to a spot that was already set for the four of us and not long after we sat down, the food began appearing and appearing and appearing. The table was so full, we ended up with a pan set on another table beside us. Most of what was there, I didn't know the name of and wouldn't remember when I was told but there were all sorts of jams (I loved the fig) and olives and fresh vegetables that included homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers. One dish was a tomato and egg combination. Another pan was fried eggs. Another pan was sliced sausage that was flavorful and just a little spicy. 

But oh, the bread! They set a big basket of it right next to me. It was too hard to resist and I didn't. Between that and the fig jam I was in heaven. Other vegetables were set down that had been grilled and served with a dollop of yogurt. There was so much I'm not sure I even got around to tasting everything.

The Turkish tea is just that. It is grown in Turkey. They brew it in a double pot. The top pot is more like a syrup and then it is diluted with hot water from the lower pot to your liking. It is a good tea. A much different flavor than the usual English breakfast tea.

As our friends explained, breakfast on Sunday was to be enjoyed slowly and with good conversation. We did both and three hours passed without us noticing the time. It is three hours we will cherish the memory of for a long time to come. 

By the time we were through, we had met everyone in the family, the wife, the son and daughter, the sister. It was truly a family affair.

On our way out, we stopped to thank them again for all the food and service and I suddenly noticed the wood fired oven that the bread was being cooked in. Wow. 

The temperature was climbing as we drove back into the city and our friends dropped us off closer to the pier so we didn't have to walk in the heat. They were on their way to the airport about an hour away to pick up a family member who was coming to visit. We said goodbye quickly in the car since the area was heavily trafficked and we walked back to the ship feeling the goodness of a great meal and great friends and an opportunity to see another side of Turkey away from the tourists.

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