Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Dubrovnik, Croatia--August 31st

Photos to come . . .

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Katakolon-Olympia, Greece--August 29th

Photos to come . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Mykonos, Greece--August 28th

Mykonos is reputed to have 365 churches, "one for every day of the year." Perhaps it does.

This shot is of the most famous church in Chora, the church of Paraportiani, originally built at (alongside/next to; i.e., "para") the "porta" (doorway) of the castle. The castle is gone, but the church remains.

The church actually consists of five chapels: four on the ground floor and one above. We were given to believe this was a very important site, so we thought we’d visit it first in the day before the crowds arrived. Too bad the building was locked up tight as a drum. And when we went back later, it was still locked up. We never saw a thing beyond its pretty whitewashed outer walls. Very disappointing.

After visiting the Church of Paraportiani, we headed southwest toward another famous attraction: the city’s windmills. We are on the patio of one of a string of tabernas (taverns) that line the harbor on the southwest side of the main portion of the city.

Looking back north toward the harbor from in front of the windmills. At the very far left corner of the spit of land you see sticking out into the harbor, you can see the Church of Paraportiani.

Another major attraction in Chora: the windmills on the south edge of town. As with so much of what we saw, we were thrilled we arrived before the crush of tourists. The windmills are now used as private residences, we were informed . . . and as quaint reminders of the island's past.

If you look closely, you can see that, to get the full length on the windmill spars, they shave the ends of two pieces of wood so they form wedge shapes, then they lash them together.

So now what? . . . We decided to walk the maze-like streets of Chora.

Imagine what this will look like in a few hours when all the tourists arrive! . . . Many hours later, when we returned from the beach, you may be sure we were glad we had seen the town before the hordes descended.

A residential street.

The colors are so vivid!

What?! An almost wide-open square in the middle of town!

A quiet nook.

This is definitely a rougher part of town! The whitewash isn't quite so thick between all the paving stones!

If you look closely, in the far background, a relatively younger woman is washing her doorstep. I thought the older woman in the mid-range was doing the same. But just as I snapped this photo, you will see, a hand appeared through the doorway. A moment or two after I took the picture, I realized she was helping her husband out of the house.

A riot of colorful bougainvilleas.

Ahh! Sweet singing birds hung out in the open air beside the window of a residence. Pretty to hear and pretty to look at.

This was no private walkway. Just another "street" in the midst of larger streets! And stairways up to residences. . . .

Under this archway was probably the roughest part of town we saw. The walls were un-whitewashed. But what I thought was funny were these converging stairways and balconies for separate residences.

What a gorgeous town, early in the morning!

We had been told, while aboard ship, that Petros the Pelican was the mascot for Chora. We should look for him as we walked through town. . . . Well, when I saw this guy, I figured I'd found Petros. He certainly stood proud and tall!

After I took a few shots, I got the impression that this fellow may have been an imposter. Notice his deformed right wing. . . . I saw a pelican later in the day who was more likely the real Petros.

One of the places Sarita and I most wanted to visit was the Municipal Library where, we were given to understand, there are a number of old coins and documents. We could find nothing that looked like a library at the spot where our map said it should be. But about half a block away, there was this bookshop/library. When the place finally opened, we discovered the real library hadn't been open for a couple of years. "No funds." . . . I guess when you consider our experience in the archeological museum (see below), you can understand why. Most tourists, it seems, just aren't that interested in history or historical artifacts. They’d rather visit the tabernas, the discos, the many shops, . . . or the beaches.

And here is a series of photos of churches.

This was probably the largest church we saw in Chora. The front door was closed and locked, but the door itself and one of the windows on the side had openings through which I was able to take a few pictures.

A small chapel. Clearly, some people had been there that morning to light the candles.

Madonna and child icon in a somewhat unusual style.

A silver icon with painted face. We had never seen these until we went to Santorini. . . . I wish it were possible to interpret the image. Of which saint is this supposed to remind us so that we may follow his example? I’m sure someone knows. But does the icon serve its intended purpose? Or has it become a symbol not of a living faith and real people whose lives we should emulate, but of a religion that is irrelevant to modern life? I sure wish it could be the former, though my sense is that, for far too many people, it is the latter. . . .

The church in the Chora plaza on the harbor.

View to the left upon entry.

View to the right.

Three chairs on the left. Not particularly suitable for sitting in, however. . . .

Two chairs on the right, obviously to sit in. . . . If one were willing, clearly, this could be a great little space for meditation. . . . --Is anyone willing?

And one last gorgeous church building. Notice the man and woman in front.

The woman is doing her spiritual service by providing fresh flowers while her husband sits and waits. . . . Once more, I was struck by the thought: here's an "old-fashioned," "out-of-date" church. Somehow, I think, it gets much less attention, interest, or "business" than its neighbor just around the corner (immediately to the left of this photo) . . .

. . . the Skandinavian Bar & Disco next door.

The Chora market, in the plaza, on the north side of town, just in front of the harbor. Only locals seemed to participate. It was before the rush of tourists came in.

The fishermen all gathered around this stand to do their business. It was about 9:30 or 10 am.

This old man came down to the market with his donkey carrying his goods for sale.

Old meets new.

We had intended to spend a good portion of the day on the beach, so we headed toward the bus station. We had no idea when the bus would leave for our chosen beach. When we finally found the station, we realized we had missed the bus that was headed where we wanted to go. The next one wouldn’t be leaving for two or three hours. So we spent about an hour and a half in the Mykonos Archaeology Museum. I think only two other people came to visit this amazing museum during the entire time we were there. . . .

This photo is of what the attendant called a "purification doorstep." When you placed your feet in the appropriate holes, you were then purified for entry into the temple.

The museum features a whole series of grave stelae from the island of Rheneia dating from the late 2nd and early 1st centuries BC. I thought the artwork was quite exquisite.

Two warriors in a boat.

A fisherman.

For Dionysi? What kind of creature is that? Did someone's pet die? If so, what was it?

An ossuary. About two and a half to three feet tall.

This was hard to interpret. Why does it seem that the priest is blessing an ossuary? The attendant at the museum, with whom we struck up a very nice and insightful conversation, could not explain this stela.

A husband and wife in a boat. He seems to be leaving. . . . We were told that you can tell who died by observing the movement. The person who is leaving is the one who has died. The person who grieves is the one being left behind. . . . If she is correct, here it is the husband who has died; the wife is left to grieve.

Husband dies, leaving his wife.

The father must have died, leaving his wife and two children.

So who is moving away? The son, obviously. So the son has died; the mother grieves.

I'm not sure what to make of this one. . . . Who died? The child or the adult? Who is moving away from whom?

Infant with rooster. . . .

Not exactly a scene you'd expect on a funeral stela: the woman is accompanied by her duck!

It looks as if three adult daughters have died, leaving their mother behind. . . .

Mother dies; adult daughter left behind (?)

"Farewell, sweet daughter!" says the father. . . .

Two adult daughters (or mother and daughter) die, leaving father. . . . Or was our friend wrong in the way she interpreted the stelae? According to a description of the stela I have titled “Father dies, leaving mother and two children” (see photo two below this one), the official webpage for the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos says, “The dead woman is represented seated [NOTE: she doesn’t look seated to me!], extending her hand in a farewell gesture to her husband who stands in front of her. A young slave holds the jewellery box of her dead lady.”

A young boy? . . . I wish I could read the Greek inscription. What "blows me away" is how well-preserved these stelae are after all these years! You find modern headstones on graves that are harder to read than this one after "only" a couple of hundred years!

Father dies, leaving mother and two children.

This guy obviously owned a boat. Had he been a fisherman? . . . I just found, at the same official website noted above, the following explanation of this particular stela: “Grave stele of Glykon who was lost in the sea. The deceased young man is represented seated on the rocks, sad and thoughtful, gazing towards the prow of his ship. On the upper part of the stele a ribbon is bound. Beneath the representation there is the inscription ‘Glykon, son of Protogenis, virtuous, fare thee well.’ Dated to the 2nd/1st century B.C.”

Imagine animals putting in this kind of labor in behalf of their dead? . . . There's something uniquely human about this kind of artistic effort and the mourning involved. . . .

One of many amphoras we saw. (An amphora is a two-handled jar with a narrow neck used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to carry wine or oil.) But this one had been used as an ossuary. The museum had cut a hole in the side so we could see the bones that had been placed inside.

This had to be one of the most amazing clay artifacts we saw during our entire trip. It stands about 4 feet high (its rim was above my head, and I'm 6'1"). It was found on Mykonos. It depicts the fall of Troy. Archaeologists figure it was manufactured in the "2nd quarter 7th cent. BC."

Detail at the top: the Trojan Horse! See the soldiers inside the windows? See the wheels on the horse's legs?

Details from the "Trojan Horse" amphora. I'm not sure what this one is supposed to depict. You've got a kid holding a sword (and dying). The soldier is holding a sword. What's the mother doing? What's the object--that looks a bit like a sword--that seems to be lodged between the soldier's right armpit and his body? . . . Sorry. I don't have any answers.

Obviously, war was brutal. Child being impaled on a soldier's sword while the child's mother looks on.

I get the impression this soldier is about to draw his sword to lop off the head of the kid behind him. The child's mother pleads for her son's life. . . .

The torso of Hercules . . . with his lion skin, and the club with which he killed the lion.

We still had well over an hour before the bus was scheduled to leave for Elia beach, so we headed back into town to find Opontos, a little hole-in-the-wall shop that, according to our guidebook, offers great gyros for only €2. We walked right past it a couple of times, but eventually found it and enjoyed a tasty repast for €2 apiece.

Well, it was time to catch the bus. We arrived at least 20 minutes early, but we got two of the last three (out of 55) seats. We were way in the back. And our seats (last row) were raised about a foot above all the others.

Now a word about this photo. We had read travel book descriptions of the various beaches. They said that Mykonos used to be a major hangout for homosexuals. Perhaps. I wouldn't know. But there was definitely something strange about this bus!

After everyone got on, there were, to the best of my ability to count, 57 men and 11 women: not "normal" ratios! . . . And unlike the rest of the passengers, three of the women were Africans who were clearly on their way to the beach for business purposes. (After we got there we discovered that they sell clothing and trinkets.) . . . A very strange crowd, indeed!

Elia. It had to be the prettiest beach we saw on the entire cruise. Real sand! And gorgeous, clear water.

I shot this on the way back to Chora after our visit to Elia. This inlet, we were told, has some of the best windsurfing in the world. On our way down to Elia, we saw a couple of windsurfers cutting back and forth across the inlet at extremely high speeds. A very pretty sight.


Narrow roads!

A house with its own church building attached. . . . But the main thing to notice: the arrid, desolate landscape! Quite a bit less rocky than the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland, but very much the same feel.

There's a small church on the horizon between these two hills. . . . As I saw such sights, I found my view strengthened that most Greek churches are more similar to shrines than to places people gather to worship.

More houses with almost "private" church buildings.

And the congregation for this church will come from where?

Another set of "typical homes" shots. After a while, Sarita and I began wondering what people do for a living. As she asked, "Is it possible for a place to get too much sunshine?" We began to think, maybe, yes!

Notice the windmill at the crest of the hill?

Heading back into the city after the beach. And, yes, that's our ship in the distance.

Okay. A few typical "transportation scenes" from inside Chora.

We happened to come down this particular short stretch of roadway several times today. The buildings at the right in this picture front a much wider plaza and the roadway on Chora harbor. And yet this little street always had one or two taxis pushing their way through. I finally figured out why: it was the narrowest street in the city that a regular-sized car could pass through. Many of the cars had their side-view mirrors clipped back, but then they could slide through this alley/roadway with a couple of inches to spare on either side. . . . A fun little "contest of nerves" for tourists and their taxi drivers!

Lest you wonder: that is not a typical-sized American mini-van. It is much narrower, much smaller.

And then there were these. . . . This is a bit further in town.


The FedEx man! . . . We saw him speed around town probably six or seven times that day.

This guy was fast!

And two last "fun" photos. I saw this sign and realized I should have taken more such photos. I love seeing how the ancient (especially Romance) languages have impacted our own.

"Couldn't believe it." Sarita had no idea she was so famous! (In a shop window in Mykonos.)

Mykonos harbor in the late afternoon.

The moon was rising so brightly over the island. We couldn't see it yet, but we had an idea it was going to be full and gorgeous. These photos don't do justice to the beauty we saw and the wonder we felt as we watched it rise. . . .




Our ship leaves port.

What a sweet/sad goodbye!

Last one for today: This is Preston Fernandes, our waiter on the cruise. He's from Goa, India. I asked him why his name would be Fernandes (not to mention Preston) when he is from India. "That doesn't sound very Indian!" "No," he said. "It is Portuguese." It turns out a lot of Indians in Goa are Catholic Christians, influenced by the Portuguese who took over Goa in 1510. (Francis Xavier is buried in Goa.) . . . Something else we've known ever since we first went on a cruise: the wait staff and stateroom attendants don't talk about it unless you ask, but their actual salaries are only a few dollars a week. I've heard they make anywhere from $50 a month to $40 a week . . . PLUS TIPS. Tips are essential. And so we always try to tip well. (And lest you wonder: no, you don't find North Americans working in either of those two roles. All the wait staff and room attendants are from developing countries.)