S: GREECE MAY 2 0 1 2
FC: GREECE 2 0 1 2
1: Last view of the Acropolis from our hotel at dawn, before we left Greece. Even though Athens would be our last stop, technically it was also the first. We flew from Chicago to Athens, arriving 5 hours late due to multiple canceled and delayed flights. We would have been more than 24 hours late if I had not marched up to the United airline ticket counter to tell them they were putting us on the next flight to Greece, no matter what airline it was with. I wasn't about to give up even one day of what I knew would be a too-short visit to my favorite country. Kosta's brother, Dimitris, met us at the airport. He refuses to drive in Athens, and after spending a few days there, I could totally understand why. Dimitris had left his car in Kiato, and taken the train to the airport. So the three of us took the train back to Kiato and Dimitris was our chauffeur for the mainland portion of the trip. The involuntary rearrangement of our flight itinerary had taken us through Heathrow (London). The only good part about that was I noticed the 2012 Olympic Games shop near our terminal, so was able to score some unexpected souvenirs. The worst part was that Kosta's checked bag (with all the gifts for Dimitris and his wife Froso) had been lost somewhere between Chicago and Athens. His bag got to see several places we didn't see on this trip, including Paris and Amsterdam. So his fashion choices were limited until the errant bag caught up with us on Corfu -- NINE days later -- with Dimitris's 10 lbs of coffee beans spilled all over inside. We were just very thankful to get the bag back. About this book... All photos were taken by me except the ones I am in; those were taken by Kosta. Dimitris took the photos that show both Kosta and me. The places we visited are shown in chronological order.
2: Two views of the old amphitheater in downtown Patras, right across the street from Kosta's boyhood home. Both times we tried to visit, it was closed, so I took a few photos through the gates. | LEFT: The Fish Market in Patras... wish we could have gotten a kilo or two of the calamari -- it was fresh caught that morning. RIGHT: At the Patras Farmers Market, Kosta bargained for the best oregano in the world: Greek mountain grown. We both are wishing we'd purchased more of it. Please let my suitcase keep that smell forever. | PATRAS
3: Gulf of Corinth fishermen ... the Old Lighthouse Park is across the boardwalk from this pier. | Me at Old Lighthouse Park in Patras. | The Rio-Antirio bridge, spanning the Gulf of Corinth near Patras, has four towers and the second longest cable-stayed suspended deck in the world.
4: The Cathedral of St. Andrew in Patras is the largest church in Greece and the third largest Byzantine-style church in the Balkans. It houses relics of the apostle Saint Andrew, which were sent back there in September 1964 from St. Peter's Basilica, Rome by the order of Pope Paul VI. The most aggressive of the child beggars hung out by this cathedral. RIGHT: The gate leading down to the cell where St. Andrew was held before his crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. | Cathedral of St. Andrew | LEFT: Reliquary of hand-carved marble built to hold St. Andrew's skull. CENTER: Ceiling detail of chapel to left of the relics BELOW: Aquatic detail of inlaid marble flooring, main aisle
5: After a long day of sightseeing, the guys took me up to a taverna in the old city, which overlooks the gulf and city of Patras. It was a perfect gathering place to relax and view a sunset. Twice we went up there and both times I forgot to take a picture of the beautiful wrought iron gate framed with flowers that opens to the path leading onto the terrace. The dining room was beautiful and the menu looked fabulous, but we never ate there; we were always satisfied with the Ouzo snacks as I called them – a gratis plate of food given to those who ordered liquor as opposed to wine or beer. I quickly learned to order Ouzo if I wanted meat and Greek potatoes! The plates usually had three different kinds of meat, at least one large piece of each, for every person who had ordered Ouzo. I often wondered how they could stay in business doing that. Even though Campari was usually 8Euro ($12) and Ouzo was only 3-4Euro, one only gets cashews and almonds with Campari. The moral of this story is “when in Rome...” | The Rio-Antirio bridge viewed from the hilltop taverna. My favorite little beggar kitty – even the guys slipped her some tidbits of meat. | The guys were always in a better mood after their Ouzo, and that's probably exactly what I had told them to make them more amenable for this picture. I learned early on how much they hated my camera.
6: Stunning view from wall at the Mega Spilaio monastery. Built on the wild and steep side of a 120-meter high rocky hill just 10km from Kalavrita, it is the oldest monastery in Greece. It was founded in 362 A.D. by two brothers, Symeon and Theodore, because an icon of the Virgin Mary was found deep inside the cave where there's also a mountain stream. After the hike, we actually drank from the ancient Artesian well. Invaders have burnt the monastery several times, resulting in the loss of many priceless manuscripts and relics. The surviving pieces can still be viewed in a special hall, but the monastery was not open to the public on the day we visited. In 1936 the monastery was rebuilt, but again suffered severe destruction in December 1943 at the hands of German troops. On that day, all 22 monks plus all other staff members were executed, and their bodies were thrown over the cliff. (INSET: Find the sheep ... we did.) | Mega Spilaio
7: Cross high up on the cliff was placed on the rock that the Turks tried (unsuccessfully) to roll down onto the monastery in the 17th century. | The Monastery of Mega Spilaio, near Kalavrita. | < Kosta and his brother Dimitris near monastery entry door. He's poking fun at me because I waited until the Greek flag was waving "just right" to snap this photo. It actually hurts the head and neck to look up this high... but penance in surroundings like these just might be a bit easier to bear. >
8: The Kalavrita Holocaust On December 13, 1943 Germans ordered the men and 14+ yr old boys of Kalavrita to the hillside for a "speech", while the women and children were locked in the schoolhouse. After setting fire to the school house, all 684 males were then mowed down by machine gun fire, with 13 surviving only because the bodies of fallen friends had covered them. The women and the children locked up in the burning school could see their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers being killed, just as the men from the hill could see their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters being burnt inside the school. The women and children in the school survived because a sympathetic Austrian released them. In retaliation, the Germans burned all of Kalavrita the next day. Lanterns are still maintained on the hillside at spots where loved ones fell. Despite the massacre and destruction committed at Kalavrita – still considered the most serious case of WWII war crimes committed during the Axis Occupation of Greece – no reparation was ever made by Germany. | Rosemary bushes now surround the memorials ... for remembrance. | Kalavrita Looking down onto the village of Kalavrita from the hill of the Holocaust Memorial. | Partial list showing names and ages of the boys who died.
9: One of the church clocks was hit by a stray bullet shortly after the massacre began. Left as a permanent memorial, it was never fixed. | Taverna in Kalavrita where I tasted goat... not bad, but not something I would serve at a dinner party. A mother cat happily disposed of my leftovers, but declined a photo. | Bronze memorial commissioned and donated by a man who survived the Holocaust. The statue depicts a sad memory: he and his brother watching as their mother removes the body of their father from the hill. | This lady probably remembers December 1943 all too well. Per Kosta, her clothing shows she is in deep mourning, and she will likely wear these colors the rest of her life.
10: < Most of my river pictures are a blur due to the speed of the train, but this shot was taken looking back from around a hairpin curve. Unfortunately there is no scale (or sheep!) in the photo to show just how far away the river really is, but many of those boulders and trees are actually quite large. Rounding a curve just a few miles before the end of our trip down the mountain, we found a herd of goats on the tracks. The conductor handled the quick braking quite well, which led me to believe that goat parades are a frequent occurrence. > | The 750 mm gauge Diakofto-Kalavrita Railway built in 1885 leads up to the town of Kalavrita. Passing the Mega Spilaio Monastery at about halfway, it is the best way to see the Vouraikos river gorge. More than once, Kosta threatened to close the window if I didn't bring my camera -- and hand -- back inside the train. I could have touched the mountainside many times, those rocks were so close. Because of how the track was cut, it was sheer drop-off one minute and a rock wall whizzing by mere inches from the train the next. For more than one reason, I wish the conductor had slowed down a bit more around some of those mountain turns.
11: Proof the ancient Greeks had cell phones before we did Most museums had large “NO POSING” signs and stern-looking guards in each gallery. The Greeks are even more offended than the Italians if you do irreverent things next to their precious naked statues. Consequently, it took some careful positioning of the guys to get this particular picture of the east pediment from the Temple of Zeus. No idea who I'm talking to, though... he didn't give his name. | OLYMPIA The day we visited ancient Olympia, I had forgotten to take my extra camera batteries out of the charger. Of course I didn't realize that until the camera quit working halfway through the museum. So I have no pictures of the actual ruins. Walking down the hill towards the amphitheater, we noticed camera crews, bleachers and scaffolding being set up. The boys were speculating about what might be happening -- maybe a new movie was going to be filmed there, some celebrity giving a speech, a rock concert, etc. Listening for a bit, it finally dawned on me. I said “Guys, if I had to make a guess, I'd say they're getting ready to light the Olympic flame.” Turns out the very next day the ceremonial torch was lit to begin its journey through Greece and on to London for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games. | Dimitris: "Remember when we used to look like that?" Kosta: "No." | The Nike of Paeonios statue was a votive offering to Zeus. | A typical road view showing the hillsides dotted with patches of yellow flowers (sparta), and the ubiquitous olive groves. The sparta smelled heavenly and if I'd been thinking, I would have asked in the market if a perfume was available.
12: First stop was the tomb of Clytemnestra, Mycenaean queen during the Trojan War and wife of Agamemnon. The interior dome is about 5 stories high, as you can perhaps tell from the first photo taken just outside the entry. A signature Mycenaean detail designed to absorb structural stress, the presence of this relieving triangle helps archaeologists date this tomb to about 1300 BC. Dimitris: “You're going to hurt your back again doing that.” | Mycenae is a Bronze Age site dating to about 1600 BC, famous because of its association with Homer's Iliad. The road up to the hilltop ruins was lined with olive and orange groves as far as one could see. | MYCENAE
13: Background photo shows the famous Mycenae lion gate guarding the wall to the inner city. This was where the real hike started. LEFT inset shows the lion gate from about 1/3 of the way up the mountain, and also illustrates how far away our car was parked. | Proof we really made it to the top, albeit a bit windswept. By the way, those faint mountains you see in the background are well over 50 miles away. | As at other sites in the Peloponnese, the excavation is ongoing.
14: This is Persephone. Her mother Demeter is on the opposite side of this pillar but unfortunately is missing her face. | Corinth Another place I'd like to revisit, as the archaeological excavations are ongoing.
15: NaFplio | Of course I got yelled at for sitting on the fort wall because the drop-off is at least 4 football fields to the sea. I refused to get down until Kosta took this picture. | Not far from Patras, Nafplio is a charming resort town. Arguably the finest view of Nafplio can be seen from the upper walls of the Palamidi fort, situated high up on the hill above. There have been fortifications at this site since BC; it was the Venetians who added these final additions in the early 1700s. | Several views of the fort walls from both inside and outside. For an idea on size, the upper wall visible through the arch was at least 500 yards away.
17: The sun hadn't yet come up when we left Patras and the Peloponnese via that glorious Rio-Antirio bridge. We reached the quaint harbor town of Nafpaktos just at dawn, so the guys get kudos for that itinerary feat. It was definitely worth the early wake-up call. Exploring the harbor walk and walls, I found a delightful courtyard memorial to Miguel Cervantes that the guys didn't know existed. We were only in town long enough for morning coffee, so from that standpoint it hardly merits two pages in this book, but the scenery was just so spectacular... I could spend a week here... or a lifetime. It was hard to leave; I pretty much felt that way about all of Greece. Choosing a back cover photo for this book was hard, but I settled on the view of Nafpaktos from the first curve in the mountain road as we were driving away... it was just a hint of the majestic sea coves we would encounter around each bend, picturesque towns sprinkled here and there in between. We would enjoy those views for a half hour or so on our way to Delphi.
18: DELPHI | It makes perfect sense that the most famous oracle of all would dwell in a place like this...
19: The Charioteer is the most important and probably the most recognizable bronze found in the excavations at Delphi. Dating from 478 BC, this piece survived – unlooted – because the temple of Apollo was destroyed and fell around it during the earthquake of 373 BC. The statue is part of a group featuring a four-horse racing chariot. It was an ex-votos dedicated to the Sanctuary of Apollo from the city of Gela (on modern Sicily). Offerings to the oracle came from as far away as Cyrene and Carthage according to their inscriptions. | Photo above shows the other pieces found to date from the charioteer group, displayed in front of a drawing of the most probable configuration. The three photos (to right and bottom) show beautiful mosaic floors still under restoration. | Above is one of my favorite Greek artifacts of all time: the little bowl showing Apollo with his lute. It was a treat to see it up close at Delphi.
20: Meteroa We almost left Delphi and Meteroa out of the trip itinerary due to time constraints, but that would have been a real shame. With good reason, this site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List in five categories. I doubt I will ever see another natural rock formation – along with man's additions to it – that is quite so impressive as Meteroa, which is Greek for “suspended rocks” or "heavenly air". The rocks themselves are limestone. The nearby Theopetra caves contain radiocarbon evidence for 50,000 years of human presence. In the 9th century, an ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to these ancient pinnacles, some of which rise 1800 feet above the plain. Early monks lived in hollows and fissures in the rock. The first of 24 monasteries was built in the 11th century; only six are still in use today. Until the 17th century, the primary method of conveying goods and people from these aeries was by means of baskets and ropes that were only replaced “when the Lord let them break”... which gives a whole new meaning to “leap of faith”. | To the right is a photo of the monastery we drove to. Above is the view from that parking lot showing more monasteries perched on nearby cliffs. How many can you find?
21: We only drove to one monastery, the largest one, which is called “Great Meteoron”. It is the most accessible but still, the winding road to get up there was very scary. In the large photo on the previous page, the angle of the guard rail shows just how steep we were climbing. Those cats are braver than I am, as the drop over that edge was about 300 yards. If we had taken the time to climb the steps to enter Meteoron and explore (or chance a ride in the cable basket), we would have been driving back down the mountain and to the Corfu ferry in the dark. In retrospect, I wish we had stayed overnight in Kalampaka, the town at the base of the rocks, so that we could have seen the monastery interior the next morning. As it was, we got to the ferry just in time for a spectacular sunset – more credence to my theory that there's usually a silver lining if you look hard enough. | View from the road of some other monasteries, seen while we were driving up to the Great Meteoron. | I wonder if these Meteroa cats really think they do have nine lives... or perhaps they just view life with the same serenity as the Meteroa monks?
22: Ferry to corfu The guys were so worried I'd dawdled too long in Meteroa that we would miss the last ferry to the island of Corfu, at 9pm. It was about a 3 hour drive through the mountains to the coast with a few of the longest tunnels I've ever been in. We made it in time to snap pictures of our ferry (top left photo on adjoining page) while Dimitris's car was being loaded... and we weren't even the last ones to board! Personally, I felt that sunset was worth it. Froso, Dimitris's wife, had a wonderful dinner waiting for us when we got there around midnight.
23: Despite enjoying these incredible views, it had been a long day and we were all looking forward to reaching Corfu.
24: CORFU This breathtaking view is only about a mile from Froso's house, but since we arrived after dark on the last ferry, I didn't get to see this until the next day.
25: In and around Froso’s house Froso was a fabulous cook and most everything was from her gardens, cooked from scratch. Kosta told her I liked fish but hadn't had any in Greece yet, so she made two different local fish, cooked two different ways. Both were delicious – even cold the next day for breakfast! They had 9 cats, including 3 kittens. They don't let the cats in the house and the cats knew that, but sometimes they just couldn't resist looking in the door. The photo of the roof cat was taken right outside the door of the guest house; the roof you see is that of the main house. The Ionian Sea and horizon are just below the fan vent cover. Those fans always made me chuckle: they looked just like ducks sitting up there. (So despite what the guys always said, I usually didn't take pictures of JUST cats.) | Froso also keeps chickens. In fact, the delightful guest house where I stayed used to be the chicken coop, but they did a beautiful job remodeling it. “Hotel Froso” as I called it, now has a private bathroom with shower, spacious bedroom with huge closet, a full-size fridge, chairs, bureau... even night stands with reading lamps... which I never used because I was far too tired to read after sightseeing all day! If there was a drawback to my Corfu lodging, it was the uneven steps to get up there with no handrail and no lights... I quickly learned not to forget the flashlight. One of Kosta's favorite dishes is roasted rooster with noodles, so one night Froso made that for him. A toast to the rooster! (Did I mention her homemade wine is to die for?) | Same view of Ionian sea as picture to left, only this was taken from Froso's veranda. How lucky she is!
26: More Corfu memories... | I've never seen crochet work as perfectly executed as the pieces Froso has made. Kosta later told me that is what she used to do for a living. When I was in awe over the piece she was working on, she showed me many large pieces; these were my favorites. She made the window covering behind her as well. She had developed that pattern from a scene in an old tapestry. I love how you can see all the detail in the costumes, and tell that it's a fig tree over the women. Amazing. | The summer kitchen, just outside and to the left of that front door where the cats congregate. We had breakfast there every morning. Froso is cleaning greens for the horta she will make to go with dinner. I don't know what Kosta said to make her giggle (it was in Greek; she doesn't speak any English) but I happened to catch this, my very favorite shot of her infectious smile. I had taken many pictures that afternoon while we sat out there, but Kosta had been cut off in the best one of Froso and Dimitris. I was sitting opposite Froso... when I wasn't taking pictures of the cats. | Have you ever seen lemons this big? That top one really is as wide as my face. Inside, the fruit is normal size or even smaller. Froso would boil just the skins several times, throwing out the water in between. Then she would add sugar to the final mix so the lemon rinds ended up in a syrup. It made the most wonderful treat. I think I had a whole lemon one morning for breakfast! Kosta says you can use grapefruit too... the trick is finding the ones with really thick rinds. You can see the basket of lemons on the shelf in t he summer kitchen below. | Sunset view left of her summer kitchen, just to the right of where I'm standing with the lemons. I always wished those lights would have continued all the way up the stairs to my rooms. The Ionian sea view was so lovely, no matter what the time of day. | During the visit, Froso and I played 32 games of Tavli (backgammon) and she was up by 4 games when we left. (I look really terrible in this photo, that's why I made it so small.)
27: Random photos from Froso's world... The view on the way up to my room, the cats that always hung out near her front door, the door to my room (the cats didn't always follow me up there; this time Dimitris had come up to feed them – they get fed just to the right of my door.) Pictures of my room... wish I had taken a frontal picture of that gorgeous crocheted curtain of the peacock garden. A picture at a hilltop café near Froso's. Another favorite picture of Froso, from the night on the Liston in downtown Corfu. Her front door, minus the cats, who were further out sitting in the sun – this part was covered by the roof that extended over the summer kitchen.
28: downtown corfu One night we got dressed up for a stroll through downtown Corfu. We walked along the Liston – a vaulted gallery with cozy cafés and restaurants built in the early 19th century. It is THE place to see and be seen – so much so that in earlier times there was a “list” of who was allowed to promenade there! Now it is the place everyone meets. And it seemed like Froso knew everyone, as so many stopped to say hello. It was hard to choose which little café to sit at for a cocktail. Both before and after our refreshments, we wandered the Square and side streets. Downtown Corfu is very picturesque; without the vehicles and electrical wires, one could almost imagine the prominent citizens of old gathering there. | Corfu City Hall
29: We visited the Palaiokastritsa Monastery, founded in 1225. There I added koumquat liqueur to my take-back stash, while Kosta had a long chat with the monk who sold it to me, about the old mill on display in the shop. The first photo is of the walk past one cell, on the way to the church. Just to prove I don't ONLY take photos of cats, I let the dogs stay for the picture. Below left is the coast view from the Monastery wall. Nice! | The monk's “spiritual” shop was on the left, just inside this tunnel. The dog photo above was taken past the tunnel, around the corner. | Another monk cell, another cat.
30: Picturesque harbor we visited the same day as the monastery. Two views of the same sailboat. | The "Pink Palace", anchored in the first row of boats next to the harbor opening above, was easily the oddest boat in the marina, so I had to take a picture of it... even though there was no cat on board. I was wishing the owner had been there ... just curious what sort of person owned a boat like that. | This is the beach we had seen from the monastery wall.
31: Townhouse where Kosta lived for awhile with his godfather in downtown Corfu, just past the Liston. His godfather, a shoemaker, was teaching him that trade. | Two views of the palace on the shore in downtown Corfu, around the corner from the Liston, where we had sat to have a drink and watch people. | It was raining pretty good when I was trying to take this photo of the two small islands in the top left -- one with white buildings and the farther one with dark buildings. The farther island has a prominent white staircase that from a higher distance looks like the tail of a mouse against the mouse shape of the island itself -- hence the name "Mouse Island". Supposedly, in earlier times, one island held a monastery and the other an abbey -- with most boat traffic between the two islands taking place late at night. Some things never change.
32: Achilleio | The Achilleio was built at the end of the 19th century by Elizabeth, the queen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She was enamored with Corfu, all things Greek, and Achilles in particular, thus the name. After she was assassinated, the Achilleio was purchased by Kaiser William II of Germany. He never got to enjoy it, choosing instead to start World War I, which destroyed his own country. During the Occupation and WWII, the Achilleio deteriorated with the economy, but in 1962 restoration was begun. Today it appears much the same as it was in Elizabeth's day. LEFT is a formal statue of Elizabeth herself, waiting to receive her guests. It stands to the left of the main entrance but is hidden from view in above photo. RIGHT is my favorite statue of all from the grounds: “Future Sailor”. It is newer than most of the others, and is marble. The sculptor's name is not known but the detail far surpasses any other marble sculpture on site.
33: The Wounded Achilles attempting to remove the arrow from his heel. BELOW, Dimitris and Kosta are approaching this monument from the back. Upper left corner hints at the vista from this garden. Nice view! | Front and side views of the most prominent bronze on site: Achilles Triumphant. Achilleio's second owner, William II, did not like the Wounded Achilles statue so he commissioned the somewhat mediocre Triumphant to stand in its place. | Typifying the German attitude of the day, William had the base inscribed: “This statue of Achilles, son of Peleas was erected here by William of the powerful Germans so that he will be remembered by those who are to come.” The French later removed the inscription during WWI. LEFT: At the staircase to the upper gardens, visitors are met by Aphrodite and Artemis on the lower steps; Hermes and Apollo await at the top of the first landing. RIGHT: Farther on, the visitor encounters Phryni, a famous courtesan from antiquity who was a model for Praxiteles because it was considered she possessed the ideal female shape. Some modern women would probably be healthier – both mentally and physically – if modern men shared that same opinion... all of which just reinforces my recurring thought that I was born too late. What I did NOT encounter at Achilleio, was a single cat. No wonder the guys were smiling so much there...that had to be the reason.
34: Before leaving the Achilleio, I have two more places to take you. The first is what I called the “Philosophers and Maidens” balcony. As you step out the back doors of the top floor, there is a classical gallery of pillars with brightly painted Ionic capitals. On short pedestals just outside the doors, are sculpted heads of all the famous philosophers. Past the pillars, out in the sunlight, are a row of beautifully carved full figure maidens, one in front of each pillar. | The marble floor is laid in a bold checkerboard pattern with a fountain surrounded by flowers in the middle. Elizabeth must have loved reading up there in the curved seats overlooking the sea. | STATUES! | A cinematic tidbit: the casino scene from the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only, was filmed at the Achilleio.
35: The second thing you need to see is the grand staircase. It is almost "horror vacui" in style – very little space was left undecorated, and each landing has a different theme. The final landing features a magnificent oil painting of the triumphant Achilles dragging the body of Hector behind his chariot around the walls of Troy – not my preference in artistic subject matter, but it is reasonably well done. As you can see in the first and middle pictures, even the space under the steps was decorated. | This gentleman is taking a picture of the painting to the left, before he exits out onto the balcony shown on the previous page. | This little boy loved having his picture taken and the little imp certainly was photogenic. Mom wasn't too happy with his antics sometimes, however. | STAIRS!
36: Santorini Voted the most beautiful island in the world for 2012, Santorini was a place I didn't want to miss, as I knew I wouldn't get back to the area anytime soon. My friendly native guide argued with me on this one repeatedly, refusing to believe there was an island anywhere in Greece that is more beautiful than his treasured Corfu. It was important to me that we see one place in his homeland that he'd never visited. He was campaigning for Crete to be that place, while I really wanted to see Santorini – both because of that vote and for the supposedly spectacular sunsets. In retrospect, I should have let him win that one, as the weather did not cooperate with regards to a sunset. The cover of this book is a photo of what is supposed to be the best sunset view: from the town of Oia, perched high on the cliffs of the northwest coast. But when the sun went down, there were far too many low-lying clouds and we were robbed of that hoped-for display. With only 2 days to spend on Santorini, or "Thira" as the Greeks call it, Kosta decided the best way to see the most was from a boat. So our only full day there was spent on a boat called the "Aakyon", which took us to the three outlying islands and then left us on the coast far beneath Oia. First stop was the caldera itself – the remains of a 1600 BC volcanic | eruption. The tidal wave it produced then wiped out the Bronze Age Minoan civilization on Crete, 70 miles to the south. Some believe that Santorini is the fabled "Atlantis". The caldera island is beautiful in its starkness, with the rock fading from black to red to gold and back again. Signs in both Greek and English told us not to remove rocks, but I hadn't heard of any Greek god issuing a curse like Madam Pele's in Hawaii, so I'm sure those admonishments have been ignored before. | Views looking back on our boat, as we climbed to the caldera. | Not even halfway there yet...
37: In the background above is the volcanic hot springs on Palia Kameni "old burnt" island. This was the closest our boat could get because the water is so shallow. The swim to the hot springs was about 200 yards; Kosta and I both opted out. We were still tired from the caldera hike and knew we had another hike once we reached the main island again. Only about a dozen of the 60 passengers made the swim. In the foreground is one of the Aakyon's crew. I didn't notice the aquatic detail on his tattoo until I got home and enlarged this photo. It reminds me of the inlaid marble floors at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Patras... I wonder if that was his inspiration? | View walking back to our boat from the caldera hike... "it's just over the next hill ... I hope". | BELOW: Artist on Thirassia, the final island we visited. I purchased his watercolor lying in the foreground. The beach was all fist-size rocks that were obnoxious to walk on... no sidewalks anywhere of course. There were several beach-side grills to choose from for lunch and the huge grilled calamari plate with Greek potatoes was awesome! | Thirassia
38: OIA When the Aakyon dropped us on the coast, far below the village of Oia, we did have the opportunity to take a donkey ride to the top. Kosta decided we should walk up. It drizzled almost the whole way, and we were the only ones walking. The silver lining to that one is there were no unwanted people cluttering my photos. I stopped around nearly every switchback of the long stepped path – ostensibly to take pictures of how far we'd climbed and how far we had to go. Yes, the views were lovely ... between the raindrops ... but it took a long time and once we reached the top, we still had to figure out where we would need to catch our bus 10 minutes after the sunset that never happened. We did get a rainbow on the way back to the bus. My advice to others: Take the donkeys!! (Especially if you want to poke around in all the little shops and cafés before jostling for a sunset view.) I have to go back here, if only for the sunset we missed. | By the time we saw this view of the harbor far below, I was already wishing we'd taken the donkeys, and we were only about 1/3 of the way to the top. Then I sure would have had fewer photographs to choose from.
39: Can't see the windmill anymore, so we're almost there! | I wonder how many others use that windmill as a reference point while hiking up to Oia? | Are we there yet?
40: Views around Oia, including a nice rainbow as we looked for the bus that would take us back to the condo.
41: I chose the condo in Kamari for its central location between the places I thought we would be visiting on Santorini, plus it was on the sunrise side. My logic was that sunrise photos could be taken from a balcony while I was still half asleep if necessary. Louis Studios is a beautiful property a few blocks from the beach, with a great one-stop shop just a block away. Laid out like many of the timeshare condos I've been in, it had a kitchen, dining area, sitting area with sleeper sofa, bedroom, full bath, plus a small private balcony. Kosta couldn't believe I'd found a place like that for 28Euro a night – roughly $40! The jacuzzi/pool area was beautiful but being there only two days, we didn't have time to use it. I loved the original MN artwork they had in the condo and office – the cute little round building with a thatched roof in the first 2 photos. I was tickled pink to find two more of the artist's works in the corner market, owned by the condo owner's son. I didn't realize it was the artist leaning over the counter talking the first night I was there. When I went to the market the next morning to arrange purchase of a painting, the owner promised to take a picture of the artist for me since I would be gone the whole day sightseeing. The photo below of the artist with my painting was in my email that same night. Being a bead freak, I really loved the LOUIS room keys! It was a great time-saver that the bus for the boat tour left right from the market. I can highly recommend Louis Studios to anyone visiting Santorini who wants a quiet, sparkling clean inexpensive place to stay away from crowds, with all the amenities. Say Hi to Drakoutos and Logginos for me! | Artist MARINOS NOMIKOS | Office | Louis Studios
42: Churches of Santorini | There were lots of churches on Santorini; but these are the only ones I got to photograph.
43: The Cats of Greece At least once every day on this trip the guys let me know that they thought I was taking too many pictures of cats. But you see, in my world, there's no such thing. Very seldom did I take a photo of JUST a cat. (The various taverna kitties and Dimitris's cats were the exception.) Most of the time, cats were merely innocent bystanders in a visual that I wanted to retain. Plus, cats are just the right size to show scale – they don't take up more than their fair share of a photo unless you force them to. Anyway... That's my story and I'm sticking to it. | Note to self: Next trip, take as many cat pictures as I want. | And take more pictures of cool bugs for the cats to play with. | Tari was in Delphi!
44: Athens I was prepared not to like Athens from what several people had told me, but I was pleasantly surprised. The streets were clean, the people were friendly. I only had two beggars ask me for money; while in Patras, we were approached several times a day for handouts – usually by very aggressive 6-9 year old girls. I had also been warned that they do not like Americans. I did not experience any negative attitudes from the natives at all, but perhaps that was due to Kosta being able to speak fluent Greek. The day we visited Syntagma Square, where most of the protests happen, there wasn't anything going on except the changing of the guard in front of the unknown soldier's tomb (opposite page). That is their Parliament building behind that wall. I can't tell you what the wall says, it's all Greek to me. (You just knew I was going to say that at some point in this book, didn't you?) Though I did notice a bit of Canadianspeak on the wall, just over my left shoulder. How worldly of those Greeks, eh? BACKGROUND: Lycabettus hill, highest point in Athens, as viewed at dawn from the far left of our hotel balcony. (If this picture could be extended to the right, the Acropolis hill would fall on the far right side of the adjoining page.) Inset photo was taken looking straight down from the hotel balcony. They were restoring the old church right beneath us, but it was still a very nice view -- especially when the rising sun turned the taller buildings pink on one side.
45: No, I did NOT goose him. The guard will lift his rifle ever so slightly if one gets too close or brushes against him, and then bring the butt down sharply on the marble. It scares the offender, that's for sure. (And no, he did NOT need to move his rifle on my account; I behaved.) These guys were way more serious than either the Vatican Swiss guards or the Beefeaters. So are those cool shoes, or what? | Syntagma Square, with the Parliament building in the background. The only weapons I saw were the guards' rifles... and that heavy looking briefcase the man in the left is carrying.
46: View of the Monastiraki Square, just 2 blocks from our hotel. This morning the fruit sellers were there. | Lovely little old building that I saw while strolling around Athens. | Scenes from around Athens... We walked everywhere we went; we never once used a taxi, bus or underground. I like the spontaneity of that travel mode, plus it made taking pictures much easier: I could stop when I wanted and not bother a driver to do so. If you're wondering why I used a lemon background for this page, it's because the Greeks put lemon on EVERYTHING and it's very good, besides being a healthy way to flavor food. | Another quaint old church we passed a few times. I never saw anyone go in; I think the doors were locked. | When we were on our way up to the Acropolis we passed this beautiful Roman clock tower built in 1 AD. | These are the ruins of the old agora. Very large turtles hung out by those walls. So did the cats. | Even in Greece there are taggers.
47: LEFT: Approach to the new Acropolis Museum, situated just below the Acropolis itself. Those shiny gray panels on the ground are actually a heavy glass; looking through them you can see the ruins below, still being uncovered. These floor viewing panels are found on the ground level inside the museum as well. RIGHT: Photo taken through the glass on the way into the museum. At one point a small hole had been left in the glass and tourists could toss coins through it. Awesome design concept and very clever way to help fund ongoing and future excavations. | Colorful sign for the museum was easy to find. View to the right was a lucky catch on the way back to hotel.
48: Acropolis No trip to Athens (or Greece, for that matter) is complete without visiting the Acropolis hill and the Parthenon. It was a gorgeous clear day when we visited, and we were thankful for the occasional slight breeze. The restoration is ongoing, so unfortunately there are cranes and scaffolding everywhere. To the right is my favorite building on the Acropolis, the Erechtheion, with two views of the porch of the maidens, or caryatids. Lycabettus hill, the highest point in Athens, is barely visible over my right shoulder. (The Acropolis is second highest.) Below, the Parthenon itself. | ABOVE: Lovely miniature scale replica of the Parthenon is part of the new Acropolis museum collection.. LEFT: Lotus flower decoration from top center of Parthenon is shown full size in the Acropolis museum; this ornament was over five feet tall (white areas are the reconstruction.) | <
49: ABOVE: The Odeum of Herodes Atticus, on the side of Acropolis hill, built in 161 AD. Can you imagine seeing a Greek play in a setting like this? Those seats are solid marble. Yanni performed here as well. | LEFT: Being fitted for my Melissinos sandals -- the same ones the priestesses wear in the lighting of the Olympic flame ceremony -- by Pantelis, the poet sandalmaker's son. His father Stavros, who retired in 2004, is now 89 years old, so is rarely seen in the shop anymore. After walking around Athens for a day in these sandals, I went back and ordered another pair -- they are so incredibly comfortable! That is probably the reason so many celebrities and movie stars go there to have a pair made for them: Peter O'Toole, Jill Biden, Barbra Streisand, Rudolf Nureyev, Lily Tomlin, Bob Saget, Jeremy Irons, Sarah Jessica Parker (she picked the same style I did) and Sophia Loren, to name a few. Even John Lennon, Maria Callas, Anthony Quinn, Gary Cooper, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis had a pair of Melissinos sandals. Not just a sandalmaker, Pantelis is also a poet, artist, philosopher and playwright -- a true Renaissance man. The tiny shop was full of his art and theater memorabilia.
50: Some final scenes from Athens... | ABOVE LEFT: Ancient agora in the center of Athens ABOVE RIGHT: My favorite restaurant, just a block from the Hotel Arion where we stayed. Golf cart is delivering their daily food order. LEFT: Not the best living statue I've seen, but she was very good at smoking and begging. RIGHT: Side street on the way up to the Acropolis | ABOVE: Monastiraki side street when shops are closed... note the metal pull down garage-style doors, complete with tagger art. BELOW: View of Athens from the top of Acropolis hill.
51: The Doors of Greece As with most foreign destinations, I encountered some beautiful doors in Greece. Many I was able to pass through, but most were closed to me – whether by conventions, locks or time. There are still more doors that I wish I had taken the time to photograph. The Greeks have a saying that roughly translates “It's not the things you do that cause you regrets; it's those things you do not do.” That is so true. | Note to self: Next trip, be more consistent about the door photos... or shoot windows instead. | My door | Froso's door