ok, kids, here's what you've been waiting for: Greece! Enjoy. Pictures are up on Yahoo!Photos. Email me if you want the link :)
Katie Preston reporting live from Athens, Greece at 6:41pm, local time on Tuesday, April 19, 2005. So far we have taken 92 digital pictures, which according to Yahoo!Photos.com will take approximately 7 hours to upload. I am going to start uploading them now, before we leave for dinner, and check on them when I get back. Once they are uploaded, I will send you the link to check them out on Yahoo!Photos. We have been having a really great time here exploring Greece. Here's the update thus far:
Thursday, April 14- 12noon depart RPC for the Atlanta Airport. Board Lufthansa at 4:05pm and arrive in Frankfurt at 6:05am (local time, which is 6 hours ahead of Atlanta).
Friday, April 15- 9:05am (Frankfurt time) depart Frankfurt for Athens, Greece. Arrive in Athens at 12:05pm (local time, which is now 7 hours ahead of Atlanta). Supposed to transfer to an Aegean Airlines flight to Thessoliniki but tour company messed up reservations, so we get on a bus and instead of a one hour flight have a six and a half hour bus ride to Thessoliniki. Dine at 10:00pm in Thessoliniki at Elektra Palace Hotel. Go to bed around 11:30pm.
Saturday, April 16- wake up for 9:00am departure to Philip of Macedon's tomb, about an hour's drive from hotel. Katie not feeling well, and misses out on the rest of the day. Group visits tomb before heading to lunch in local taverna. Back on bus and head to Berea, where a monument to St. Paul stands. Return to hotel to rest before dinner at 7:00pm, at the hotel. Bedtime around 11.
Sunday, April 17- wake up for 8:00am departure to Phillipi. Three hour bus drive! Arrive at first tour site where Lydia, the seller of purple cloth, was baptized- first Christian convert in Europe. Then visit the lower and upper Phillipi ruins, which include Roman ruins and the jail where Paul was held (the earthquake that could have set him free occurred here). Lunch in Kavala, which in biblical times was known as Neopolis, the site where Paul first landed in Europe. Returned to hotel. On our own for dinner- went to a seafood place on the water (Aegean Sea, I think) called Crystal. Katie had jacket potato with cheese and some grilled vegetables. Melissa had three shrimp- heads still on. John had three scallops. All very good! Returned to hotel to pack for transfer to Athens.
Monday, April 18- wake up for 8:15am departure to Athens. First stop is 20 minutes away at the Thessoliniki Archeological Museum. Saw many interesting artifacts that were from before Christ (as our tour guide puts it... I know it is politically incorrect to say so in the US nowadays, but who cares!). After zipping through the museum, left Thessoliniki for the drive to Athens. New route takes us past Delphi (where the Oracle is), which makes the trip a little longer. Stop in Delphi to tour the ruins. Apparently Delphi is the driest city in Greece, but you'd never know it from our visit (in other words, it rained). Climbed to the top of the site, where the stadium was (quite a hike!), also saw the theatre, a temple to Apollo and the Athenian Treasury. Great view from high up in the mountains. Rain finally stopped as we were on our way back down. Left Delphi and continued to Athens. Arrived at hotel a little after 8:00pm. Checked in, dropped off stuff in rooms, and went down for dinner. By the way, Greek meals are huge. Many courses of rich foods. And we're not supposed to be eating things washed in Greek water or drinking Greek tap water (who really knows why) so they are giving us things we shouldn't be eating, wasting them! But anyway... After dinner headed to roof to see the view... wait for the pictures for that one!
Tuesday, April 19- wake up for 8:30am departure for Athens city tour. Drive around Athens, stop at the Panathenike Stadium, which was a marble stadium built for the first modern Olympic games in 1896 (refurbished for last years games). Quite impressive. Thought we were going to get to see some people run in the stadium, but they were just passing through. On to the building of Parliament, the President's house, the Prime Minister's house, the Hilton (don't ask), and many other interesting museums, buildings and monuments before dropping us off at the Acropolis. Climbed the Acropolis, saw the Parthenon, the theatre where Yanni played (Live at the Acropolis), the Greek Agora at the base of the Acropolis, a temple to Athena, Mars Hill (where Paul spoke in Athens about the unknown God he had seen displayed on the Altar Way in the Agora). Walked a long way from the agora to lunch in the Plaka, the historic district in Athens. Again, lunch was too much food, but they brought us ice cream at the end, and there's always room for ice cream! After lunch we walked around the Plaka and did some shopping. Found some great Olympic merchandise for 50% off! Mom bought some jewelry. She has also decided she wants to take pictures of doors (not sure why), so we have a lot of shots of doors on our other camera. Only one will be included with this set of pictures. Funny story about hunting for doors- she had seen one on the way to lunch, and afterwards we went back to take a picture of it. Well, it turns out someone very important must live behind this door, because as we gathered in front of it, a "guard" came out and told us we couldn't take a picture- of a door! One of the members of our group noticed a security camera, so there was definitely something special about that door. And we had walked a long way back to try to get a picture of it! Oh well... Now we are resting before heading off to dinner and a show.
More to come later. Hope you are all having fun in Atlanta! See you soon!
Tuesday, April 19- well, dinner and the show were interesting. It was way out in the middle of nowhere, at a place called The Old Stables. As we got off the bus they handed us a shot of Ouzo (the local licorice liqueur) and took a picture with the colorful local. Then they gave us hot dog like things on a stick to go grill on the fire pit/grill. After we were all done with that, we were escorted inside a large room with many long tables, where we were seated. There was a stage with a band set up on it to my right. For a while we were the only people in the whole place but it turns out we were just early. Our menu was much like lunch, so I didn’t try everything, but it was all pretty good (the stuff I ate, anyway). Finally the show got underway. The band played for a while and reminded me of the period of statues Olga was telling us about where everyone had a sour look on their faces because of the wars. (In other words, they didn’t look too happy to be there) The dancers came out and did traditional dances of Athens, Northern Greece, the Peloponnesian area, and some of the Greek islands. In the end they all started to look the same. We got pretty tired, especially knowing how early we had to get up the next morning and soon everyone was itching to leave. We were finally in bed around 12:30.
Wednesday, April 20- wake up at 6:00am for a 7:45am departure (have to miss that Athenian traffic) for trip to Corinth and Mycenae. On the drive, we stopped at the Corinthian canal, which is way deep (too deep for me to be interested in walking on the bridge to get a picture). Then on to Corinth. On the top of the hill was where there was a brothel that housed 1000 prostitutes- male and female- which were referred to as Princesses (and I assume Princes) of Athena. Interesting to note this when reading Corinthians. We walked around the ruins and saw the museum for about an hour. We saw the supposed place where Paul spoke- which could have been on the Altar of Zeus. This was the place where people could stand if they had been accused of something and be protected from their accuser. On to Mycenae, where we saw the beehive tomb, the supposed tomb of Agamemnon, and the Lion’s Gate, which was the gate to the city of Mycenaeans. Lunch at a wonderful restaurant with marble floors and where Dan Quail once stopped. Returned to Athens around 6. Went out to dinner with the Bowden’s, the Armstrongs, and the Robertson’s to Hard Rock Café (stomach needed some good ‘ole American food!). Tons of kids down in the shop when we tried to shop. Walked back through the Plaka- Minnie and Joan and I were out shopping until midnight! Got some great souvenirs, including a beautiful cross I had eyed at lunch the other day. Bedtime- 12:45am.
Thursday, April 21- wake up at 8:30am for free day around Athens. This was the first day on our own, so it was nice to sleep in a little and do what we wanted. Cruised around with the Brennans, the Turners, and the Aldermans. John Brennan served as our tour guide for the day. Our first stop was Lycabbeatus hill, where the Cathedral of St. George sits. We got a 24 hour Metro pass and hopped on a train over there, and then took quite a few steps up to get on the cable car. Man were we disappointed when we got on the cable car. Someone misunderstood that it would be 23 minutes to the top- turned out to be 2 to 3 minutes to the top. It was the shortest cable car anywhere, and it was inside! What a disappointment! But the view from the top was amazing! Took some great pictures. Stopped inside the Cathedral which was also amazing, with ornate scenes depicted on every available inch of the interior. What a sight! Then we strolled down the hill (after the quick return cable car trip) to Athenas street for a little shopping. Went through the Central Market where Katie had to cover her eyes the entire time and be led by Melissa because of the sickening meat hanging for sale. Enjoyed gyros (sort of gyros) at a quaint restaurant in Monastiraki Square, before heading out to the Olympic Stadium. Unfortunately, the Greeks do not wish to make any more money off the Olympic sites at this time, because everything we saw was fenced off and military guards were posted around to make sure no one tried to jump the fence. Katie was quite disappointed in this, because seeing the Olympic venues was going to be the highlight of her adventure to Greece (sorry Edith!). Back on the train to Monastiraki for a little shopping in the Flea Market (not what we would think of as a flea market) before some returned to the hotel for a rest before dinner. The Prestons ventured out on the Tram trying to find the Heraklion Olympic venue and the yacht club with no luck before returning in time to freshen up before dinner. The group headed out again at 7:30 for dinner at a great little pizza place. Quick run through the Plaka for ice cream before returning to the hotel. Bedtime around 12:00 midnight.
Friday, April 22- wake up at 7:30am for 9:00am departure to cruise aboard Aegean I through Aegean Sea. Arrive at port around 10:15. The check in line took FOREVER!! We finally got on the boat and got underway around 11:30. Everyone was on deck to watch the ship leave the port, and then we went down for lunch- buffet. The food was good. After lunch, everyone dropped by their cabins to get the necessities for sitting on the deck for the trip to Mycanos- arrival at 6:00pm. Played a little sequence- fun card game! Read a little. Soaked up a little sun. Arrived in Mykanos around 6 and disembarked. Some rode the bus, others of us (Bowdens, Krissy, Brennans and Prestons) ventured the walk to town. Did some shopping. Saw the windmills and gathered together for a beautiful sunset (with beverages) before heading back to the ship. Reboarded around 9 and grabbed some dinner at the BBQ. Apparently, once you get out of the South, ain’t no one know what bbq is! Dinner was on the deck, and it was chilly, but nice. Some people went to the show after dinner, but I had to go to bed. Bedtime at 11:45pm.
Saturday, April 23- wake up at 6:00am for 6:45am departure to Ephesus. Quick note of interest- Ephesus is in modern-day Turkey. (check off another country- and continent- on your list!) Rode a bus to Ephesus- about 5km from the port of Kusadasi. The tour was amazing but we barely had enough time to enjoy the sites. Our guide was a secular Muslim, and I wondered how she could study all the biblical stuff for guide school, be around this historic place all the time, and not understand the power of the Christ. After being hounded by quite a few shopkeepers as we left the site, we headed back into town and into the local Turkish carpet “store.” We had a demonstration of the technique of hand-making Turkish carpets and all the various styles of carpets available. Then mom, dad and I, after deciding we wanted to take advantage of the Turkish government’s generous offer to pay shipping, taxes, duty, blah, blah, blah on our carpet purchase, we were escorted to our own showroom were men ran up and down the stairs searching for the carpet colors we wanted in the size we wanted in the price range we wanted and throwing them down on the floor in front of us until we finally stole a run from them! It was quite a sight! As we were leaving, they escorted us into a jewelry store and it took 30 minutes to get out- Katie was seriously shopping for a pretty birthday gift, but couldn’t find one in the right price range. Not enough time to shop for a pashmina shawl before departure time, so off to the ship. Depart Turkey and head off to Patmos- arrive at 3:30pm. Disembark for tour of Monastery of the Revelation and the Monastery of St. John. Patmos is the island where John wrote Revelation, and many locals believe the cave at the Monastery of the Revelation is the cave John received his revelation in. Very interesting tour of Patmos. Quick look around shops before getting back on the boat. Greek dinner at about 8, after drinks on deck and in the bar. After a long day, mom and I needed an early evening, so we left dinner early and headed back to our cabins. Bedtime at 9:45pm.
Sunday, April 24- wake up at 6:30am for 7:15am departure to Crete. Mom is sick, so she stays on the boat. Difficult time trying to explain to the crew that I wanted a ginger ale taken to her but I couldn’t do it because I had to get off the boat for my excursion. Off to the Palace of Knosos- the home of King Minos, and the earliest known civilization. The Palace was pretty impressive in it’s days- some sections were thought to be 5 stories high. The oldest paved road in the world runs from the main palace to the Little Palace, where the prince lived. I napped on the bus while the rest of the group toured around Heraklion, the port city of Crete. They stopped at the Cathedral of St. Titus just as Palm Sunday Mass was ending and were able to get some of the beautiful palm crosses that we saw in Patmos- not sure if they will be able to take them home or not. We shall see. Reboarded around 11:30 and departed for Santorini. Lunch, buffet style again, and then worship with communion at 2 in the Panoramic “Room.” Wonderful service, remembering the journey Paul had taken which we had retraced and celebrating the sacrament (with individual wine glasses because of the amount of sickness going around) in a beautiful setting. Some time for a nap before getting off on tenders (over some rough waters) to head to Santorini around 4. Desperately attempted to find the picturesque blue-domed church to no avail. Enjoyed touring the city atop the mountain. Stopped at a little café over looking the city sitting on the edge of the cliff- beautiful view! Enjoyed crepes and drinks. I had a Volcano crepe, which had chocolate, coconut and banana on it. Nancy had a Santa Irini (which is who the island is named after, in case you’re wondering), which had apple, walnuts and chocolate on it. They were both mighty good and very large- enough for everyone to enjoy! Decided to take the 587 steps down the mountain- bad idea! Lots of donkey poo and the steps were sloped, which made for lots of pain in the knees. Bands back on for the rough ride back to the ship for the return journey to Piraeus. Farewell dinner at 8:30- everyone got dressed up, it was quite an event. Special cake and musical serenade for Pat and Alan Robertson, who were celebrating their 34th anniversary. Back to the room to pack up and get ready for the final disembarkation in the morning. Bedtime around 10:30pm.
Monday, April 25- wake up at 6:15am for 7:00am departure from ship. Meet Costos in the terminal to board the bus back to the hotel. Somehow he gets lost after taking us to the bus- we were all loaded up and ready to go (even the driver) and Costos had disappeared, so we sat in the parking lot for about 20 minutes. Finally got going and got back to the hotel around 8:30. Of course our rooms were not available at that time, but we were told they would be available around 12-12:30. So mom, dad and I headed out to the Yacht Club to get a burgee. Another 24 hour pass for the metro and we hopped on the train out to Piraeus. Not the station we wanted to get to the harbor- back on train to Faliro station and walked along the water to the club. No trouble getting the burgee, though it isn’t embroidered like the ones at home (guess they only sell those to “real” members). Walked back to tram and jumped off at Starbucks for a coffee break. Back on the tram and over to the metro to stop in and check the situation at the hotel. 12:10pm, still no rooms. Waited around for a little bit- checked email and looked up Sunsail spots in Mediterranean- but still no action, so we headed out with Marsha to lunch. Stopped at a little café for some pizza, cheese pie, and a sausage sandwich. Back to the hotel- still no rooms. Apparently there was some miscommunication between the hotel and the tour company. We decided to head back out (just the Prestons) to the Plaka. I headed up to the Theatre of Dionysus (on the Acropolis) while mom and dad headed through the Plaka. Also stopped at a view other photo ops before meeting up again at 2:30 in the Plaka. A little more shopping before heading back to the hotel- 3:30, finally rooms are available. Quick change and then back out on the town. This time we headed over to the Temple of Zeus- which closed at 3:00, and then to Parliament to see the guards and the tomb of the unknown soldier, off to the President’s Mansion to see the guards stretching their legs (interesting march), over to Panethiniko for a photo op, then on the tram to get to the train to get to the Roman Agora, where the Temple to Athena was. Arrived at 5:48pm- they are supposed to close at 6:00pm, but apparently they are already closed. Back on the train and then back to the hotel to freshen up before 7:00 dinner in the hotel. Enjoyed a great dinner with good friends before heading up to the room to figure out how to get all the stuff I bought into my suitcase and repacked for the journey home tomorrow. Quick hop up to the roof to get a shot of the Parthenon at night (in my pj’s- luckily the only people up there were people from our group!), then back down to finish getting ready for bed. Finally got in bed around 10:45pm.
Tuesday, April 26- wake up at 2:15am for 3:00am departure to Athens Airport. Flight departs at 6:00am to Frankfurt. Arrives at 8:00am, local time (one hour behind Athens time). Sleep in airport until 10:15am departure on Lufthansa to Atlanta. Sleep a little on plane- wake up for movie: Bridget Jones- The Edge of Reason. Arrive in Atlanta 2:05pm, local time (seven hours behind Athens). Time for bed! Bedtime- 6:15pm.
Enjoyed the trip!