Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 15 Santorini

IMPORTANT NOTE : Photos are gradually being added. Please look at older posts.
  To get to breakfast, which is by the pool we have to descend about another 65 steps.  Valerie, after her fall in Noosa, was holding the railing for the sections where there was a railing, when suddenly her palm was coated with white paint.  The staff had done an early morning paint job.  Anyway, she had the thrill of having her hand cleaned by a good looking young Greek staff member.  The staff here are all good looking and extremely fit from running up and down the stairs cut into the cliff face.  There are no wheel chairs or walking sticks here and the town of Firostefani where we are staying is not child friendly, elderly friendly or handicapped friendly.  It is an example of a town with natural selection of the fittest.  We walked along the rock face to Fira, which we explored to a great extent last year when we were on the world cruise.   In Fira, we took a taxi to Oia.   We enjoyed wandering the cobblestone streets of Oia which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1956.  It has been rebuilt since that date, but there is still evidence of the disaster. While Valerie and I tried on clothes in the silk shop, Bill and Tom discussed politics with the shop keeper.  He seems to think that the strike will be for 48 hours starting next Wednesday.  If he is right, we will have left for Paris the day before.  We got the bus back to Fira, after missing our stop at Firostefani, and so had to walk up the hill to our hotel and then down the stairs again.  There are several churches near our hotel and the bells of the various churches seem to answer one another each hour.  They have the most beautiful sounds.  Tonight, the four of us had drinks on our patio, as we watched the sun go down over the small island called “Little Santorini” and the Caldera.  After this, we went to Mama Thira’s for dinner.  This was Valerie and Tom’s gift to Bill for his birthday.  We have had a great day enjoying some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Day 14 Naxos to Santorini

We were meant to be picked up at 3:00 pm this afternoon, but the boat was delayed for two hours so we were not picked up until 5:00 pm.  We had to make several stops on the way to the port to collect tourists of all nationalities.  At one stop our driver spent a considerable amount of time looking for two French tourists.  Eventually, he decided to leave without them.  When their friends realized they were not on the bus, we had to go back for them and as a result we only just made the port in time for our ferry to Santorini. 
I had spent the day in Naxos at the beach and had another swim in the beautiful Aegean Sea.  Close to shore, the water is a bluey green, but further out where the water is deep, the colour is almost purple.  The water is so clear and clean that you can see the sand on the bottom.  I did some walking along the beach, along the road that runs parallel to the beach with its twelve restaurants, side by side and along the little streets that ran perpendicular to this street.  The locals who live here all grow their own vegetables and have fruit trees, olive trees and animals.

Santorini is as beautiful as ever, but we were quite tired and hungry as our guide filled us in on what we could do while we were in Santorini, after he had delivered us to our hotel at 8:30pm.  From the port we were transported by bus up the 250 metre sheer rock face of the Caldera.  Our hotel is very interesting.  It is called the Cliff Face Suites because the 15 rooms are built into the cliff face of the caldera.  We felt like Barney and Betty Flintstone when we were ushered into our cave like room.  We have an arch leading into our bedroom from the living room.  The bedroom has a high ceiling but the living room has a ceiling twice as high with a window set up towards the top of the ceiling.  Even Bill could not reach this window.  There are little arches everywhere in the living room.  The bathroom, on the other hand has a very low ceiling.  Bill has hit his head a few times on the bathroom door and his head touches the ceiling when he has a shower.  Outside our room on our private balcony we have a Jacuzzi and then three steps up to another private balcony with spectacular views over the caldera.  To reach our hotel from the street, we have to descend by many stairs of different width and depth.  We were very cautious and had difficulty keeping up with the hotel porter who met the bus and carried the luggage down the stairs.  While we walked gingerly, he ran with Valerie’s 20 kg suitcase and Tom’s 14 kg suitcase.  Just as well that Bill and I had decided to travel lightly to the islands and only had a light backpack each.  The porters of these hotels are extremely fit.

Day 13 Naxos

 We had a late breakfast today after a very late night last night and then we went to our local beach, Procopios Beach which is about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.  For 5 euros we were given a couch each and an umbrella and a table for the day.  We read in the shade of the umbrella, walked the length of the beach and swam in the Aegean Sea.  The beach here at Agios Procopios is meant to be one of the best beaches in Europe.  As we walked to the far end of the beach, past all the umbrellas, we came to the nudists.  There were many more male than female nudists here.  Later, we watched a group having a scuba diving lesson on the beach.  It was pleasant to have a lazy day reading, exercising and people watching. There are many Dutch tourists here on this unspoiled island of Naxos.

Day 12 Naxos

Today we took a taxi into Hora, the centre of the city and then walked up to the Venetian castle.  People have always lived in parts of this castle and the Barozzi family have lived here from the 1200’s until 1990.  Now the children keep it as a museum in order to raise money for its upkeep.  Jane, an enthusiastic English guide, took us around the castle, which had spectacular views of the harbour from every window.  The part of the castle that we saw is now called the Della Rocca – Barozzi Venetian museum.  The island of Naxos belonged to the Venetians until the unification of Greece in the 1800’s.  This tower house was built by the Venetians in the 13th century and is constructed from stones, which are marble and granite and about double the size of our bricks.  Some of the marble stones contain inscriptions that show they come from Byzantine ruins.  The main level of the house was the residence of the Barozzi family and consists of a living room, dining room, two bedrooms, a gallery, a library, a chapel and a kitchen.  The present owner, Jane’s boss, is a direct descendent of the Della Rocca – Barozzi families.  The Della Rocca part of the family was originally De La Roche.  They were French and were descended from the counts of Burgandy.  They settled on Naxos in 1207 during the 4th Crusade, which took place from 1203 to 1207.  The name change would have been due to the Venetian influence.  The Barozzi family is an aristocratic Venetian family, which has played an important role in the history of the Democracy of Venice.  The family came to Greece in 1204 and conquered Santorini and neighbouring islands.  Later, they became governors of Crete and arrived in Naxos after the seizure of Crete by the Turks. 
The door of the castle was made of solid cedar, which is said to be harder to penetrate than the solid stone - walls.  There are bullet holes in the door from World War II, but the door succeeded in keeping the enemy out.   On the wall beside this door was a marker for the Venetian yard stick which is 83 cm.  Here the merchants would measure the cloth they were delivering to the family, without having to enter the castle to do so.  The views from all the windows, of the port below, were stunning.  There were many collectables in the rooms, most of which had belonged to the family or had been buried in the cellar for many years.  We saw Minoan pots used for storing grain and oil, which wre found in the basement of the building.  Evidently, there are so many ancient coins and jewellery buried around Naxos that the Greek government will not let anyone bring a metal detector onto this island. 
The piano was used and is still used today for concerts.  It is beautifully engraved.  The people who lived here were very short and their chairs are very low to the ground to accommodate this. 
Eleanor Barozzi grew up in this house, which was given to her by her father as part of her dowry when she married.  She was a talented seamstress and artist.  A pyjama sachet has goodnight woven into the lace, the pillow slips were all made by hand and the top of the wardrobe was decorated by Eleanor with a hot needle.  Jane and the family were very generous allowing us to hold and photograph even the most delicate of artefacts.  We were able to flip through Eleanor’s report cars and copy- books.  An interesting part of the collection was a Byzantine coin which instead of being flat, was bent, so that the owner would not have it pulled from his hand while he was purchasing goods with it.  The traders must have been rather dishonest in those days.

After this we went down to the waterfront where a TV programme was being made.  This programme airs live on Greek TV daily from 10:00 am till 1:00 pm. It is usually made in the studios of Athens but in the summer time they come to the various islands and make the programme in the open air.  There was much dancing, singing, music and lots of laughter.

Tonight, Bill and I went to a musical evening at the castle.  We had a father son combination playing the lute and the violin.  The father also sang the local peasant songs of the villages.  We had an emcee who explained what he was singing about.  There were dancers from various villages in Naxos and our emcee explained that the dances were mostly about fishermen going out in their boats on the sea, with the wind whistling and the waves going up and down.  Some of the dances and songs were about love and some were sad.  At the end of the performance they got the whole ordiance up to dance the traditional dance of Naxos.  As this was held in a small courtyrd in the castle, the audience was limited to about 40 people.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 11 Mykonos to Naxos

We were collected this morning for our ferry trip to Naxos.  While waiting at the port for the ferry we met a Brisbane woman called Geraldine.  Her big claim to fame was that she went to Melbourne in 1958 on a working holiday and was an extra in On the Beach where she met Gregory Peck.  She also told us she has friends doing the Arctic cruise from Dover on July 2nd aand told us to look out for an attractive couple about 60 plus in age, called Leah and Stewart Marlow.  At Naxos we were taken to the Lagos Mare hotel.  We are very happy with the hotel.  The rooms are spacious, we have a view of the sea to ur left and a view of fields with hay to our right.  We also have a very large balcony.  when we arrived we were given coffee and cake at reception.  Greek hospitality knows no bounds.  We met some Australians, Jackie and Trevor when we were looking around the resort.  They told us that the beach which is one of the best in Europe is only a 10 minute walk away.  Bill and I walked to the beach to have a look around.  There is a white mark down the side of the road which provides a narrow walkway, so walking is not nearly as hair raising as it was in Mykonos.  Also, the traffic is considerably lighter.
We had a late afternoon swim in one of the two pools here.  The staff here cannot do enough for us.  tonight we had dinner here.  The chef at our hotel is supposed to e one of the best chefs in Greece.  Judging from the quality of our meal, I can believe it.  We had pre dinner drinks, dips, main course and dessert and it cost less than that dreadful one course at the Shirley Valentine restaurant.   

Day 10 Mykonos

We had intended going to Hora, the town centre of Mykonos, today, but Bill had AF last night so we had a quiet morning sitting by the pool at our resort, listening to 70's music and catching up with the blog.  Songs such as Knights in White Satin by the Moody Blues, I Want to Know What Love Is by Foreigner, I'm Not in Love by 10cc and Every Breath You Take by Police wafted over the pool area.  I had several swims and enjoyed a resort day while Bill slept.  Tonight we went with Valerie and Tom to Agios Yiannis where the movie, Shirley Valentine was actually made.  It was just a 20 minute walk from our hotel, but we took a taxi because the roads are so narrow and there are no footpaths.  I think you would take your life in your hands if you walked.  The Shirley Valentine restaurant had no tables set up on the beach, so we ate at the large restaurant where she worked and where the tables would have been set up for her in front of the restaurant on the beach.  The food was not as good as at our beach restaurant at Ornos beach and it was twice as expensive.  The staff seemed disinterested in what we wanted.  Tom and I were served our meal early and we had finished it before Valerie and Bill were served about 35 minutes later.  The view of the setting sun over the sea and the surrounding mountins was spectacular.  Maybe the place for a glass of water as even the red wine had a brown colour to it.  As Bill said, the only show of interest in us was from the cat who was keen on our left over fish. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 9 Delos

 Today we took a tour to the sacred Island of Delos, which is about half an hour by ferry from Mykanos.  We had a wonderfully knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide who showed us the archaeological sights from about 600 BC to about 200 BC.  These sights have been unearthed by the French.  During these centuries BC there were about 35,000 people living on Delos, which is about 4 square miles in size.  Despite the fact that so many people lived here, nobody was allowed to be born or to die on the island because it was the birth place of Apollo.  I am not sure what happened if someone had a heart attack.  Maybe they died too early in life to have such a problem.  On this island Zeus' lover, to the dismay of Zeus' wife, gave birth to the twins Artemis and Apollo.  So Delos has always been a sacred island belonging to the gods and even today nobody is allowed to live there.  In the 200's BC people came to live on Delos and it became a cosmopolitan city where people from various backgrounds lived in harmony for the purpose of creating wealth for themselves.  On Delos, there were very wealthy people and very poor people but no middle class.  Our tour began at the agora which was the meeting place in the 200's BC.  We then saw the remains of the houses of the poor and further up the hill the houses of the rich, all built the same way, but the rich had higher walls and more rooms.  One house belonging to a very wealthy man and his wife Cleopatra, (a forerunner of the Egyptian Cleopatra) was two storey.  The remains of the staircase are still there, as is the remains of a statue of the husband in the entrance of the house.
We saw the remains of a bank and of boutiques where such things as jewellery were sold.  These shops all had solid marble steps at their entrance.  We saw the remains of a house that had been dedicated to the god, Dionysius, the god of wine.  This house had a mosaic floor with the head of Dionysius, the wine cup and a tiger.  This seems to evidence that the Greeks of 200 BC had been to India because there are no tigers in Greece.  Another house, called the trident house has been reconstructed with its high pillars, coloured walls, a wooden roof and a trident in the mosaic floor.  We saw the cistern that brought water to the city.  This cistern had a roof that was supported by dry stone arches that were the precursor of the Roman arches.  The Greek arches were there on the interior for support, rather than being external for show.  We also saw the remains of the theatre which seated 5000 people on marble seats.  Only the front two rows had backs on the seats.  We walked down the colonade that existed in 600 BC.  This grand walkway led to the temple of Apollo.  The colonade originally had pillars supporting the roof, which has now collapsed, but with the roof remaining on the ground.  The original Greek etching on the roof tells us that the colonade was erected to honour Apollo and was a gift to him from Phillip IV, the son of Democrates.  It is amazing to hear that the inscription written in Greek about 600 BC can still be read by the Greeks today because their alphabet and words have not changed.
People came to the island of Delos from 600 BC to give gifts to the gods.  The statues of the lions were a gift from the people of the nearby island of Naxos to the gods of Delos.  The money that was given was eventually used by the Athenians to build the Acropolis.
After the tour we returned by boat to the capital of Mykonos, Hora.  We walked through the narrow winding streets which are paved with small stones, outlined in white paint.  The streets wind in and out and it is very easy to get lost, but great fun finding your way out.  During our rambles we met an Australian Greek man named Jonothan.  He runs a hotel in Mykanos.  We were looking for a place to have a late lunch.  He directed us to Tula's place, a small eatery with only four small tables.  Tula's husband was ex navy and could not believe that we had been married to the same person for 36 years.  When Valerie and Tom said that they were married for 48 years I think he thought we were pulling his leg.  He told us he had been married four times and each wife had thrown him out.  But the present wife, Tula, was the best.  She seemed to be doing all the cooking ad cleaning while he, George, talked to the customers.
We returned to the hotel for a late siesta.  We could really get used to these siestas.  We then had a 5.30 pm swim and a lie in the late afternoon sun to dry off.  We met up with Valerie and Tom for drinks at 7:30 pm and wandered down to our Ornos beach restaurant to listen to the sound of the waves lapping the shore as we ate dinner on the beach.  We cannot believe Tom's adaptation to this late dinner hour, he being a man who thinks 6:30 is late enough for dinner.  Another great day in paradise.