"" Writer's Wanderings: 2023

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Katakolon, Greece and Reflections of our Cruise

The smell of freshly crushed grapes hung in the air as we explored the winery where the Fun Train of Katakolon had brought us. Old buildings covered in vines, I felt like I was in the middle of a Hallmark movie. 

The hop off hop on train was very nice with only two stops the winery and a beach. It was 8 euros each but well worth it.

The train sat at the park in the middle of town and we boarded it for the ride up the hillside and through the countryside. From paved roads, we continued on several flat semi-graveled roads through orchards of olive trees and several vineyards. 

We must have been the first to arrive as there was no one to greet us inside where the wine store and tasting was. We walked around exploring the outside of buildings and watching a bit as a worker cleaned out one of the modern grape presses. That must have been where the smell of crushed grapes came from.

Peeking in a door, we watched as a lady was spooning melted wax on top of bottles and sealing them with a stamp.

Inside the winery, there was a plethora of antiques. A steam engine that drove some pulleys that we think might have driven a wine press fascinated Bob. He also found some sort of old circuitry board as well. 

Finally someone came and opened two bottles of wine, a red and a white. If you came on the Fun Train, the tasting was free. We sat in a room surrounded by more antiques and a large old picture of what I assumed was a couple of generations of the family that owned the vineyards.

Forty minutes after being left off at the winery, the train was back with more passengers and picking up those who were ready to move on. 

The next stop was not far and was a beach and a restaurant/bar that looked out on a beautiful view of the ocean. Several people got off to have lunch or use the beach.

We stayed on and arrived at the ship just after noon. We had already had a glimpse of the Christina O yacht that was docked opposite our ship. It looked like they were doing some swapping out of furniture or at least a lot of cleaning as well as stocking up on supplies. The yacht once belonged to Aristotle Onassis and is now available for chartering--if you can afford it.

Bob looked it up online. It carries 34 guests, has a swimming pool with a mosaic bottom that can be raised or lowered. Lots of other amenities as you can imagine including a wooden pleasure boat attached to one side of it.

This was our last port before sailing into Athens and flying home. It was a wonderful four weeks despite the horrible ending to our time that was to be spent in Israel. We only had one day of weather that drenched us in Mykonos and the heat in Egypt was not nearly as bad as we anticipated. 

It's been quite a year of travel. We've spent about eleven or twelve weeks on the road over the last almost eleven months. Time to settle in at home for a bit before we hit the road again. The HAL navigator app opening page says, "To travel is to live." A quote by Hans Christian Anderson. Yes.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Kusadasi, Turkey--A Visit To Ephesus

Roman Bath 

 It is always a gamble to revisit a place that you've been before especially if the visit was outstanding. It could be a disappointment. Back in 2012 we made a port stop in Kusadasi and opted to take the excursion to Ephesus. It was an amazing experience. We had a Muslim guide who took us through the scriptures that applied to Paul's visit there and told us what life would have been like in those days.

Today we revisited the ancient city with a Greek Orthodox guide who seemed more impressed with the fact that we were going to be some of the last tourists to walk on the marble roads than he was with anything else. It was a bit disheartening not to have a similar commentary as our first visit but still amazing to see the ruins again and the continuing work of restoration. 

While the marble roadway may be difficult at times to navigate, it's smooth and slippery on inclines and broken pieces can cause a problem, it will soon be covered with a boardwalk of sorts that was already a bit treacherous as well on the portion we walked. The planks are a bit warped and boards stick up. On either surface, you have to keep an eye on where you're walking and stop if you want to look at something rather than look while you walk.

So, okay, I was impressed with the fact that we were still walking on marble slabs that were thousands of years old. Each marble piece was labeled with initials that identified the craftsmen who had quarried the marble so that if a piece needed to be replaced, it could come from the same quarry and have the same color. 


We passed some ruins, archways, of a Roman bath and a pile of ceramic pipes that had been used to channel water throughout the city. One was still visible in the wall of a structure, maybe part of the bath.

An interesting fact that I remembered from our previous visit and was reminded of by this guide was that ancient Ephesus actually sat at the water's edge. Over the years however, silt was deposited from the river that fed into the sea and eventually the harbor that ships came into was too shallow for them. 

Our guide today said that the bay became a swamp and the city of Ephesus fell victim to malaria. In those days, they thought it was just bad air but eventually they moved the city to where the modern city of Ephesus, Selcuk, now stands. The old bay that is now filled in is useless for farming probably because of the high salt content in the soil.

Bay of Ephesus now filled in

There were several places our guide stopped to point things out. One was the temple of Hadrian with the image of Medusa above the entrance.

Another stop was in front of the stone relief that shows the winged Nike, the goddess of victory. He made several references to Nike shoes to induce a few chuckles.

There is a place as you descend the street to the iconic library of Ephesus where the street narrows. Not only did it stop horses and chariots from going down the hill at breakneck speed, it also created quite a crowded passageway for the pedestrians of today to navigate. Back in Roman times, our guide said, the area in front of the library was pedestrian, no chariots and horses.


The library of Ephesus was built between 114 and 117 BC by Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaemanus and held 12,000 scrolls. It was quite impressive in its day and today it is impressive for the monumental job archeologists did in restoring it. It is said that the senator was buried beneath the library so it is also a mausoleum of sorts.

Across from the library are the remains of what was a nightclub or brothel or both. A tunnel was discovered leading from the library to the nightclub and there is a marking on one of the marble slabs nearby that is a footprint, a heart and a woman, They think it advertised the tunnel.


By the way, there is still a lot of restoration and digging going on in Ephesus. We witnessed a group of men shoveling and dusting an area that was being uncovered and on our way out, our guide said the parking lot where all the buses were would soon be closed for excavation as they uncovered more of the ancient city.

There are two theaters in Ephesus. We passed the smaller one near the entrance but the large one that is mentioned in Acts where Paul addressed the crowd is near the exit. It is huge but the acoustics are so good that some of the modern day singers who have held concerts there have not used their amplifiers. Probably a good idea especially if they were rock bands. We were warned about climbing up the rows of seats as some of the stones were coming loose. Can't imagine what vibrations from an amplified bass would do to it.


It was nice to revisit the ancient city but I missed the commentary of our first guide who connected it to Paul and John and even Mary, who is said to have lived out her last days on a hillside not far away. I remember him drawing in the dust the symbol that the Christians used to identify safe places. It was the Greek letters of Jesus' name placed on top of each other and it formed a wheel of sorts. Those were some of the things I missed today as we listened to this guide.

The thing that had not changed though was the eagerness of the vendors who now have a nice covered area with stalls for their merchandise. In 2012 there were just makeshift displays of merchandise and a dirt pathway under some trees where tourists passed through to get to their buses. There is even a restaurant there now for snacks and sandwiches. 

And as we walked past the vendors, I tugged on Bob's arm. "Look it's still there." 

Hanging on the front of one of the vendors stalls was the sign that had made us laugh the last time. Only back then it hung from a tree branch. It is truth in advertising. "Genuine Fake Watches." 

Rhodes, Greece

My hand touched the rough surface of the stone wall as I steadied myself to take a step up. For a moment I considered that physical connection with something hundreds of years old. We were in the old town of Rhodes, one of the largest islands of Greece and exploring the walled city in the morning before the temperatures would climb too high with the afternoon sun.

The town is famous for the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem who ruled here between 1310 and 1522 but it dates back at least to the 4th century BC. From our first view after breakfast, I was hooked. Excited to get started on our exploration.

Right below us on the pier was already the ancient foundation of a part of this fascinating place. It was obviously being restored. Two windmills, minus their wings, were a part of whatever had been there. We had a look and then quickly made our way past the eager taxi drivers wanting to offer us tours and started along the boardwalk to the first gate in the wall nearest us. Within about ten minutes, we were inside and ready to begin.

We entered through the Gate Of The Virgin which is a modern opening in the wall to allow traffic to pass through. It was built somewhere around 1950 and takes its name from the Church Of The Virgin just inside. 

It didn't take long for me to say, "This reminds me of Avignon." Our three day visit there had been spent inside that walled city where we enjoyed exploring all the nooks and crannies and discovering so many things.

We decided to stay close to the wall as much as possible to make sure we made it all around the town. The area encompasses 140 acres so we were probably a little over optimistic about seeing the whole thing. 

Shopkeepers were just beginning to set up as they anticipated the traffic from three cruise ships and a large yacht that were in the port. The shops were all built into the structures of the old town, the old archways and probably homes from the period. There were newer structures as well including a mosque that was built a short distance from the old one.

The Street of the Knights was an interesting place. It is a long cobbled street that stretched to the acropolis, the high point of the city. Along the way there were inns that represented all the countries that the Knights were from. The street starts from the old hospital which is now an archeological museum.
Museums not being a high priority for us, we walked up the street.

We found the huge castle that is called the Palace of the Grand Master. There is some evidence that it was built on top of the temple that honored the god Helios and it is thought that the Colossus of Rhodes probably stood there.

Side alleys and small narrow streets were inviting and we explored many of them. So many inviting little cafes and restaurants. We found one that was outdoors in a square that was just in front of the old mosque that was closed and looked under construction for renovation. 

A young woman invited us to sit down and enjoy a beverage and some food. We accepted and ordered a tea and a Greek coffee. I wanted to try the coffee but was afraid it might be strong. When I asked, she said she would not make it too strong for me. Bob ordered a baklava and I ordered something similar called kaifiti which was heavenly. The Greek coffee was only half a cup and I was afraid it would taste like espresso but it was very good. The cool respite from walking and the refreshments were a wonderful addition to our morning.

Once we were out of the shaded comfort of the cafe, we could feel that the heat of the day was already beginning to build. We found a sign that said "to port" and went in that direction. The path took us into the middle of the town more and away from the wall that we had been following. 

It was okay. We had traced our way around the city through the maps that were posted frequently with the "you are here" arrows. We had actually made it most of the way around. Besides, the path took us through  and past some wonderful views of alleyways with hidden cafes and shops many of which had overhanging bougainvillea and ivy. 

I do need to mention that while there were few cars, maybe three or four that we saw on the narrow streets, there were lots of motorcycles mostly with Greek men, faces set sternly, trying to weave around pedestrians who usually parted and let them motor through. And, while the streets were mostly small cobblestones, many had a smoother stoned path down the middle which made walking and motorcycling a little easier. We had to laugh though when we found one street that had small speed bumps.

When we emerged onto the main street where we had first entered, it was bustling with tourists. The shops were all open and doing business and the cafes were full. We were thankful for our peaceful respite where we'd enjoyed our refreshments. 

Our morning could not have been more perfect unless it had been the first morning of several days to spend in Rhodes. I had fallen in love. I hoped we could return someday and explore more. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Limossol, Cyprus


What a morning! It started out normally. We rose at our usual time and went down for breakfast, eating leisurely because the free shuttle bus into the city was not scheduled to begin its run until 9 AM. The view from the ship told us that Limossol was a large city but the Old Port area was supposed to be worth the trip in.

By nine, we were ready to leave and made the long walk past our ship and halfway past another to the terminal (there were five huge arched terminals in port) where our shuttle bus was to be. The bus filled quickly and we started out to the Old Port area of town where the major sights and the tourist area was. 

Not quite halfway there, traffic backed up because of an accident up ahead. Several times as we inched forward our bus stalled. The driver turned off the AC hoping, I'm sure, that it would help solve the problem. Eventually, we were the traffic problem as we realized the cars were no longer backed up but going around our bus. The driver tried and tried to get it going but it kept stalling out.

We looked up the distance on Google Maps and found we were about 1.4 miles away from the Old Port. We've walked that much often so we decided we'd get off the bus with several others who were getting out of their seats and asking to be let out of the bus. The driver indicated that another bus was coming.

The bus it turned out was a city bus who graciously pulled over and let everyone crowd onto his bus without paying. He let us out near the church and castle that were the landmarks we wanted to see. Traffic was horrendous but we managed to cross the street safely and get our bearings. 

We found the church first. The Ayia Napa Cathedral was a majestic building with clean lines and a marble fountain in its courtyard. With a couple of other tourists, we entered the courtyard and went up the few steps to the door and stepped inside. You always do it cautiously because you're never sure if there might be a service or people praying or even an entry fee for visitors. There were none of those and we lingered a bit to look around and take in a small moment of peace after all the confusion to get there.

Using Bob's phone, we followed the map through some of the streets of the Old Port. There were quaint shops and restaurants tucked into mostly nicely renovated buildings. The area was just coming alive. It wasn't a place you went for breakfast obviously. 

Eventually we found our way to the major landmark, the Limossol Castle. As with so many of the historic old buildings that have lasted for centuries, it is a structure that was built upon another and another and probably another. It had many uses over those hundreds of years. 

The castle as it exists today was rebuilt in around 1590 during Ottoman rule but according to tradition it is said that Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre here and crowned her Queen of England in 1191.

The inside has been turned into a Medieval Museum with all sorts of weapons, armor and other artifacts from the period. Somewhere I read that it was used as a prison at some time and there were indications it may have been built upon an old church. Several places open in the floor or walls show that the castle you see today is actually layers of other previous structures.

The castle was more interesting than the last one we'd seen but there was little airflow through it and while it wasn't as hot as outside in the sun, it was very uncomfortable. We explored all the rooms but didn't linger.

Outside we found an interesting reproduction of an old olive oil press. And nearby, was a gnarly old olive tree that actually had olives on it. It was the only one we'd seen in these weeks of traveling though olive countries that still had olives.

Both of us decided we'd had enough exploring plus we had no idea where the shuttle to the ship would pick us up since we'd transferred to the public bus. All we knew was that it was supposed to be near the castle. Now usually we see others from our ship who have their key cards on a lanyard around their neck. I thought if we could find someone who got dropped off at the shuttle stop we could ask where it was. No such luck.

We wandered back and forth for a while on the street where we'd been dropped off. While we searched for anything that looked like a shuttle bus or a group of people waiting for one, we witnessed a lady get hit by a car and a few moments later near that accident a truck and a taxi mixing it up. With all that going on, the weather heating up and little breeze for relief, we made the decision to get a public bus back to the New Port where our ship was.

Bus number 30 we were told in a port briefing the previous night went back and forth to the city and the Old Port so we looked for a bus stop near where the bus had dropped us off. We saw three bus 30s pass by before we found a stop and figured with our luck we'd have a long wait.

Thankfully, we spotted the bus up the road and watched as it neared us through the stop and go traffic. We had just enough euros (3) to cover our ride and we enjoyed an AC ride back to the ship. There was still quite a walk from the terminal to the ship in the sun but it was good to be out of the traffic.

There are a few ports on my list where I'd rather stay on the ship than contend with the port. This one goes on the top. The alternative would be an excursion out of town. The upside of this is that we can put another pin on our map for a place we hadn't been before. 

Monday, October 09, 2023

Alanya, Turkey

The morning greeted us with wonderful sunshine and a beautiful coastline to look out on. It was a welcome sight especially knowing that we would have been in Ashdod, Israel, today and hearing on the news that there were rockets fired at the city. 

Alanya is a resort town and that was quite evident as we walked along the shoreline from the ship and into town. Vendors were just beginning to uncover their wares and store doors were soon opened. The ship's cruise/travel director had given us a glimpse of the town the night before with all the information she could collect. The excursion department had scrambled to find several tour companies that could handle us. I had the feeling that this was a new port for Holland America. It certainly was for us and we looked forward to exploring.

We passed on the excursions. A couple were for some archeological finds in neighboring towns and one was for a panoramic of Alanya. Armed with the major sights to see of the city and hooked into the AT&T network, we used Google maps to know that we could indeed visit the castle and the shipyards and the red tower which were close by.

The only problem with the castle was it sat way up on a hill above the city. The good news was that there was a cable car we could take up to it. The cable car was about a half hour walk and the incline was gradual. We arrived and just missed the crowds from the bus tours. 

The cable car wasn't expensive. It cost us $20 USD for a roundtrip for the two of us. It was reminiscent of a Disney ride though as you had to quickly load eight people into the car as it circled the loading zone. We barely made it in before the door shut and we were on our way. 

The trip up was scenic and gave us a good view of Cleopatra's beach, the largest beach in the area. Legend has it that Marcus Antonius gave Cleopatra Alanya as a wedding gift and she enjoyed bathing and swimming on the beach.

Carefully and quickly we exited the cable car and went around the corner as the sign indicated to the castle. I stopped and looked up. No one had said there would be a hundred steps or so to get to the castle after the cable car ride. I took a deep breath. At least we'd had some time to sit a bit after what we'd walked already and it was early in the day. Knees don't fail me now, I thought.

We took it slowly and stopped for picture taking along the way. There were several landings especially for that and one marked "selfie station". Finally reaching the entrance, I found a bench empty and sat a few minutes and felt better as I watched some who were younger than me reaching the top out of breath as well.

The castle offered great views of the area which is probably why the Sultan Keykubat built his palace there. The fortress and castle have been there through several eras but it was the sultan during the Seljuk Empire who is credited with the castle build. I was unfamiliar with the Seljuk Empire so I looked it up. It dates back to the early 11th century and was culturally Turco-Persian, founded and ruled by the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks. So, okay, history is not my best subject. I still don't know for sure who they were exactly.

Cleopatra's beach

We wandered on the marked path through it. The path led us out of the main part of the castle and into a mini bazaar that also included some fruit bars and small restaurants. There was a mosque that was open to visitors as well and Bob went in while I sat and rested a bit in the shade. He reported that there really wasn't much to see inside.

We actually had the choice to continue down the path toward the shipyard or turn around and go back with the cable car. Since we had purchased round trips and the walk to the shipyard was actually shorter from the cable car station, we turned around and went back through the castle and down all those steps.

A half hour later we were nearing the shipyards and I really needed a stop. The sun was very warm and there was little breeze. We found a restaurant that appeared open and looked out at the harbor. We sat down and ordered two Turkish teas and a cheese and mushroom toast to go with it. What we received was absolutely wonderful. It was a triple decker, lightly flavored with a mild cheese and mushrooms and accompanied by a small salad and wire basket of fries. A little bit of gastronomic heaven.

A little rested, we continued on. And yes, we found more steps although not as many. The shipyard was very interesting. It dates back to the 3rd century BC but what we see today is from 1226. We walked along a fortification wall and past a catapult and a battering ram. I'm not sure the battering ram was authentic to the period though.

A ticket booth with two men enjoying their lunch was where we stopped to pay the $5 USD fee for the two of us and we continued into the actual arched shipyard. It was worth the steps and the fee. Water lapped into the underground area. There were lots of numbers on the exhibits that were there but we did not get a guide to what each thing was. We figured out some and found an explanation for a couple.

The truly interesting one was the first exhibit we came to. It took Bob walking into the exhibit to be able to read the English explanation. It was a display of ancient ship building and the contraption that was there was actually a crane. Someone would get into the wheel and walk it around to raise or lower the crane. Human hamsters!

The bare bones of a hull were there as well as a nice little skiff that didn't look like it was all that old. Or maybe it was just very well restored. 

The Red Tower is also a part of the shipyards and again said to be built by the sultan. All I could find on it was that if you took the 850 stairs to the top, there was a great view. We'd had enough of the great views and especially stairs.

We retraced our steps to exit and then decided we'd had enough exploring for the day and headed back through the gate to the pier. Something that they had done at this port that was unusual was giving each passenger a "landing" card to fill out, sort of like you get sometimes on an airline before landing in a foreign country. We weren't exactly sure of why but we dropped them in a box before boarding the ship for the last time for the day. I think it was more a way to know who was visiting and from where possibly for marketing as much as immigration.

Back on board, Bob decided to use his spa gift card that we'd each received when we had to leave Israel. He got a great haircut with it. 

Rested, showered and dressed for dinner, we reflected on what a great port city Alanya had been and after catching up on the news, grateful that we were out of the war zone.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Haifa, Israel--The Rest Of The Story


"I've never been in a war zone before." The man shook his head and gave a half smile as he talked with another at the lunch table next to us. Reactions yesterday were very mixed and everyone had a story to tell about where they were and how they heard and how they made it back to the ship. 

The poor crew were swamped at the lunch buffet and I think the kitchen was not prepared. They were looking forward to a lighter day since most passengers were scheduled to be off the ship. They did well to keep up as it seemed the first thing everyone wanted to do upon their return was to eat. It was comfort for a shocked group of people who were thrown into uncertainty. Not nearly as much as Israelis I'm sure.

The afternoon was quiet. We had missed the morning announcement from the captain and someone caught us up. Sometime around 10:30 or 11 he had announced that there would be no one permitted to leave the ship. By then most of the ship's excursions had been called back. The security check had taken so long in the morning that a lot of people never had a chance to go ashore other than to get their security card. 

The understanding was that we would probably leave port. Some talk went around that the Israeli government had asked us to leave and then I'm sure there were orders from Holland America Line headquarters that we should get out. The problem was that there were many passengers who had booked private tours or left on their own. Those would be a little more difficult to gather up.

I have not learned yet how many of those private tours learned of the call back to the ship but I'm guessing through the ship's Navigator app or through their email they could have been contacted or perhaps even a text message. There are some however who still do not have smart phones. I don't know how they function in this world that often demands it. 

Mid-afternoon we heard the captain announce that we were still waiting on two people to return and we would probably sail at four. Meanwhile, the ship was quiet. Everyone seemed in a pensive, thoughtful mood I'm sure fed by more and more reports of what had happened and what was happening to the south of us.

One report caught my attention and explained a slight traffic jam we'd experienced on the way back to the ship from Caesarea. The traffic had slowed and was moving to one lane. I thought it was for an accident but when we passed the place where one lane was blocked, there was a police or military officer with an AK checking traffic through. I thought it odd at the time. Then the reporter who was south of us near the Gaza talked of how hundreds of Hamas had crossed the border, some parasailing across, and that all roads leading north were being watched for any who had commandeered Israeli cars and were heading north. That explained the traffic check.

It also explained the extra check of our tour bus as it entered the port. (See yesterday's post.) It was quite extensive. So we waited and watched the news and walked around the Promenade Deck and looked at the city that should have been coming alive as the Sabbath ended but seemed way too quiet.

Four o'clock came and went and a while later we got another announcement. The captain said he had been in contact with headquarters to see how much longer we should wait for the missing passengers. It was decided that we would leave at 5:30.

At 5:30, we were sitting in the main dining room having dinner and watching out the window for some movement to indicate we were on our way. Around six we learned that there was now a medical emergency and we were waiting for an ambulance to transport the person. We prayed. Bad enough to have to go to the hospital but now one that was likely to be in a war zone. Time for departure was now set for seven.

By now it was getting dark and the city lights twinkled like jewels. We could make out the Bahai gardens, now lit with small white lights, that went up the side of Mount Carmel. They extended way beyond what we had been able to see from the bus. It seemed that they went all the way to the top of the mountain.

At seven, another announcement. There was only one pilot today for the whole harbor and since we missed our departure time earlier, he was now not available until eight. We stood on the Promenade Deck at eight after a round of playing cards and watched to see if this time we were really going to leave. Finally the ropes were let go and our ship pulled out and away.

It was a sad departure. We watched the city grow smaller as the ship moved past the long break wall and into the open sea. Would those in Haifa be safe? War had been declared. Anything could happen. Grateful for our safe exit but sad for those whose lives and homes were in turmoil. May peace come soon.

Saturday, October 07, 2023

Haifa, Israel

It was an early morning for us upon our arrival in Haifa. Immigration required everyone on the ship to be processed whether staying onboard or going ashore. Those of us on an excursion for this day needed to be up early to go through the immigration procedure which started at seven. We've done those all ship immigration procedures before and know that sometimes they go quickly and other times not so much. The way the ship organized this combined with the slowness of the security check made this a "not so much."

Thankfully we got breakfast before we started down to the gangway. The line was already backed up two decks on the stairs. It moved in spurts with numerous announcements being made to insure that you had your passport, key card and if needed, your visa. Those announcements were followed by remove ALL metal from your clothing. Mostly it was the guys who didn't remove belts that held things up I guess.

Finally passports were checked, our bags and bodies passed through security check (even my knee!!) and we received our security pass to get us through an automated gate of sorts. We sat a few minutes and then our excursion was called to board the bus. We were finally headed for Caesarea just south of Haifa. 

The only glitch, a news headline we'd caught that said there was terrorist activity near Gaza. That was quite a bit farther south and our guide assured us that it happened often and life went on. There was probably nothing to worry about. 

Now I have to tell you about this guide. She was forty-something with red curly hair and when she had her sunglasses on covering her eyes, her smile was exactly that of Julia Roberts. And she was full of energy. 

We waited until a few more people were processed and finally arrived on the bus and we were off. A beautiful sunny day that already promised to be quite warm but there was a nice breeze blowing off the sea.

Our guide began to give us all sorts of commentary on what we were seeing and about to see, historical facts, religious connections, and even a bit of the political although she tried not to do that too often. We arrived at the Caesarea National Park about forty-five minutes later. It was the Sabbath day so the traffic was light.

After the tickets were purchased, we followed her to our first stop, the theater. Much of it had been reconstructed but there was a lot that was still original. She talked of how great the acoustics were and went down on the stage and sang the national anthem of Israel for us. She felt that was appropriate for the news of the day that there was more conflict near Gaza. 

We wandered along a path that had many pieces of columns and capitals and even a sarcophagus of "Prokopios the Deacon". As with many of the archaeological digs, there are layers of history as things are built upon other things through out the centuries. 

The path eventually wound around to where we could stand in the shade for a bit and look out over the palace that Herod had built. He was no slouch. He picked a great spot right on the sea. I could imagine wonderful breezes cooling the rooms and beautiful views of the water throughout the day.

Eventually we began to walk where the courtyard of the palace was and stopped to look out over Herod's pool which was built right into the rocky shore. Two slabs of flooring were still there with original mosaic work still visible. 

This was not only significant because of Herod who welcomed the three kings (wisemen) and asked them to tell him when they found the baby king (Jesus) but also because there is evidence that Pontius Pilate also lived there for a time. 

During our tour, our guide had received phone calls from her mother-in-law and her husband. Each time she seemed a little unnerved but gave us that Julia Robert's smile and assured us that while things were a bit confusing, we were still quite safe where we were. Meanwhile since Bob had accessed AT&T's international package (they charge us $10/day when we connect onshore) he was scrolling through the CNN headlines. It didn't look as good as our guide was trying to tell us.

Just as we were to head for the museum part of our tour which would include a movie about Caesarea, she received another call which truly upset her. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am so sorry. This has never happened before. They have cancelled our tour and the ship has ordered us back."

About that time Bob pointed to a headline that indicated Israel was about to declare a state of war. "Guess we won't be going to Jerusalem tomorrow." I nodded.

New dig unveiled a possible site
where Paul was imprisioned.

Back on the bus our guide received another call from home. Her son was being called to active duty. I felt so bad. Here she was with a bunch of tourists and her son was going off to possibly be in a conflict. She was rattled a bit but undaunted. She was going to give us as much of a tour as possible. 

There was a huge aqueduct that stretched from Mt. Carmel to Caesarea not far from where we were and she instructed the driver to circle through the parking lot there so we could get a look. It was huge. The part closest to the palace had been destroyed but it seemed to go on forever but actually three miles. It supplied water to the public in the city and also filled the baths and fountains of the palace.

We got a bit more talk about politics and the relationships of Israel with bordering countries. I leaned over to Bob and said, "Most of it sounds like home." Except of course we don't live with as much of the imminent threats that they do but much of the politics sounded similar. In her opinion it boiled down to a bunch of jerks (my word not hers) who mess things up for everyone. Yup.

Again, even though I'm sure her heart and mind wanted to be elsewhere, our guide insisted we drive past the Bahai garden. Israel is home to many religions. The gardens would have been amazing to visit. The nineteen terraces rise up Mount Carmel from the traffic circle.

At the gate to the port, our bus was stopped and the outside searched. One guard walked through, an AK something or other hung on his chest as he checked us out. A minute after he exited, another guard came through and asked that we show him our ship key cards and the security passes we'd received in the morning. Once that was done, he thanked us and sent us on our way. 

Bless their hearts, the crew was out there to greet us with cold washcloths, water and lemonade and "welcome back". The only difference was our ship security was more obvious that usual pacing back and forth. 

Now back on the ship we got the hand-me-down news that the ship was asked to leave as soon as it could gather its guests. I don't know for sure how all that will happen as I write this. There are those who had private tours and some who had planned overnight visits since the ship was scheduled to be in port overnight. I think that many of the private tour guides will receive information that visitors are asked to leave and I think that those staying off the ship overnight were asked to leave information at guest services so there is probably some point of contact that can be made. Surely won't be easy.

That's all for now. I'm going to post this ASAP since I don't know how long I'll have good internet. Right now I'm leeched onto Bob's 5G. Say a prayer for Israel and especially for that mom whose son had to leave so abruptly while she entertained tourists. 

Iraklion, Crete, Greece

In Acts chapter 27 there is a line that says, "There was a harbor in Crete facing both southwest and northwest." I don't know if the harbor at Iraklion is the harbor noted there but I am sure that Crete and especially Iraklion looks nothing like what Paul found there.

Iraklion is a busy city. That was obvious by looking out from the ship to the many buildings going up the side of the hill and spreading out from the port. We docked in a cargo port so for safety sake, there was a shuttle bus provided that took you from the ship to the terminal so you didn't have to dodge trucks. Once at the terminal, you were on your own unless of course you had an excursion.

Because the excursion to the Pyramids and the upcoming overnight excursion in Israel, our travel budget was stretched. We opted to strike out on our own to explore. I had found sites to see and some explanation of what they were but I could not download the Google Map I think I had saved somewhere. I did have a PDF listing of the sites but no way to tell where they were exactly and this city was not an easy one to navigate.

Finding the city center from the passenger terminal was easy however. We locked arms, gave a little skip and followed the yellow striped sidewalk. We opted not to sing.

Venetian Loggia/town hall

Just as the yellow line was about to turn into the city, there was an option to turn right instead and explore the old Venetian port built in the 14th century. It was a perfect morning for a long walk and the walk was getting longer with our little side adventure.

The old port was worth seeing though. Quite a large structure to explore. Inside there were several displays of cannons and of course cannon balls. Also there was a collection of clay vessels that were used back then for transporting goods. If I read the information correctly, a lot of what was brought up from a shipwreck was done so by Cousteau. It was difficult to read the information plagues as the lighting was not good and even taking a picture of the information to enlarge later didn't work.

Church of St. Titus

Once we were done climbing about, we found the yellow line again and went into the city center although it was hard to know exactly where that was. We guessed it was probably where the lion fountain was. 

From the fountain, we found the Venetian Loggia that has been renovated and made into the town hall. It's quite a beautiful building with an inner courtyard that it seems the birds love. We ducked and left.

The square the town hall sits on is called St. Titus Square because the St Titus church sits near there. We happened upon the church without realizing its significance. Titus was said to be the first bishop of Crete. In Titus 1:5, Paul tells Titus, "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you."

What we didn't expect to find was a room off to the side that was a chapel said to contain the skull of Titus. We assumed it was in the decorative large globe encased in glass. 

We searched for another cathedral that was supposed to be there but honestly, the roads and pathways were so confusing we got tired of looking and gave up. 

What we didn't see and Iraklion is famous for is the Knossos Palace. The palace dates back to 1380-1100 BC and was part of the Minoan civilization. The most fascinating thing associated with it however is the myth of the minotaur in the labyrinth of the palace. The Greek myth says there was a creature with the head of a bull and body of a man in an underground labyrinth. Theseus arrived in Crete and offered to kill the minotaur but then met the daughter of King Minos and fell in love. She feared he would not find his way out so she gave him a ball of string that he could unwind as he moved through the labyrinth and find his way back out. He killed the minotaur and followed the string back out to his love. Might be a great idea for those corn mazes this fall.

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