Team Senn gains another member!!!
10.09.2008 36 °C
Wednesday 10 September - Arrival in Athens
Getting the right definition for OLD BUILDINGS!!
Travelled in from the air port via taxi to hotel
Used the morning to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus behind Hadrian’s Arch (built in honour of Hadrians accomplishments) via a very clean and function underground after this we walked passed the Zappeion (congress hall) then up past the national garden, and continued for a half hour walk to the top of the Likavitos Hill (highest point of Athens).
Angela & I had almost melted by the time we had reached the top however - The vantage point gave us a complete 360deg view of the city with its fantastic land marks like the Acropolis & Olympic stadium etc. We also were able to get a good feel for the size of the city that packs 5 million people in. Utilizing a smarter exit strategy we took the tram down (which we should have taken going up doh!!) and walked back into town to the shopping area of Plaka, passing many random ruins along the way.. The 38 DegC Heat was exhausting to say the least phew!!.
Caught up with Mum Senn at the Hotel (Athens’s Imperial) It was really great to see family after a month & half of travelling and seemed a bit surreal being so far from NZ. Together we attended the welcome meeting for our 10 Day Globus Tour - The footsteps of apostle Paul.
Thursday, 11 September - Begining of Tour
Up early to sight see in Athens with our local guide:
1) The Famous Athens Acropolis Parthenon & Aropgagus Hill where Paul spoke ( Acts 17:15:34) – We could see that Paul would have been preaching in the shadow of a number of temples right next door – probably facing the Athena & Poseidon Temple (pantheon) up on the hill. The scale of these buildings and locations were spectacular. It was awe inspiring as the scale of the building!!
The Greek Ceremonial Guards looked very threatening with their pompoms attached to their shoes!! ;-) heheehee
2) Then the group bussed to Corinth to see the Excavations of the old town, this was where Paul worked for 18 months (Acts 18:1-18). Once again this place was big & this was obviously a very advanced city with about 200K of inhabitants back in the day. With modern facilities like reticulated water and sewage. Among the many features of the city was a two storey waterfall and a 500BC temple dedicated to the God Apollo.
The city sprawled from the base of the hill right down to the Aegean sea. They have only uncovered a small portion of the city to date. Also the City of Corinth of biblical times is in fact built upon an even older city. There were some dogy offerings to the gods for healing that were worth a photo check it out!!
After another extremely hot day in the sun Mum Senn & Angela went for a swim up on the roof of our hotel, after which we went to the Archaeological Museum which had a dizzying array of stuff dating back to the 4000BC. With some interesting finds...
The Greek Ceremonial Guards look frightening with their pompoms on there shoes!! heheehhhe...
On our return we had a group activity - traditional Greek Dinner in Plaka with Traditional Dancing, singing, belly dancing and lots of food. Lots of fun especially the flaming desserts that looked like pavalova. The Greeks like to make a song and dance about anything and have a word to express spontaneous joy of which we were encouraged to use often!! OoPA The group performing even had a dance involving knifes!! They have a drink they mix with water, ice and Uzzaye (Aniseed Liqueur). It made hair grow on the back of my hands… ;-) They also smashed a heap of plates as the grand finale. Crazy Greeks!! OOOPPPAAA…
Friday, 12 September – Sailing Across the Aegean Sea
Today was the beginning of our 3 day Boat Cruise, after quite a process we managed to get thru customs and onto the boat – first up the crew made us all do an Interesting lifeboat drill where we had to get our life jacket and stand outside our designated life boat – then they went around checking we had our lifejackets on properly….(Mum Senn got out of it by claiming sickness..) apparently all the cruise liners have to do it and it is compulsory for everyone on board to attend.
In the afternoon we had a trip to Mykonos the sister island to Santorini where Ange was able to break her dress drought and get a couple of racy numbers ;-) We found Mykonos to have slightly different architectural features to Santorini - buildings have more regular shapes, & brown, blue, white seem to be the common colours used for the houses. For majority were still white, The paving was all very similar between the buildings. We saw the famous 5 wind mills. They are no longer used & are kept up more for the tourists to photograph which we were happy to do...
Saturday 13 September
In the night the boat had sailed to Rhodes where they got us up early to begin our
Tour of Rhodes Island starting with the town of Lindos & the imposing knights castle high on the hill with its acropolis all with an awesome view of St Pauls harbour where he was reported to have sheltered from the storm 51AD (Acts 21:1).
The Bay where Paul stopped to shelter from the storm was indeed very sheltered, and looked inviting for a swim!! (though no time for this).
Got to see the local pottery guys in action. Check it out!!
Then it was back for a tour of the Medieval walled city of Rhodes Town heavily fortified by the knights of St John during the crusades 1300-1522AD
Rhodes Town’s medieval city has remained mostly intact and is the worlds largest fully functional inhabited medieval city in existence. The fortifications were massive with multiple moat’s & bridges Ange and I went thru ST Johns hospital where the knights would come back to heal from the wounds they had received in the crusades. This place was extremely well built complete with fire places and would have been great place for R&R after been shot thru with Saracen arrows!! They called the Knights who helped out hospitalliers & this is where the modern St John’s originally came from. Because there where many nationalities involved in the crusades they had embassy buildings within the town. Steve found this place fascinating & could have easily stayed here at least a week.
Sunday 14 September. - Island of Patmos
Visited the Island of Patmos where St John was purported to have written revelation. We got up at 5.15am to be ready to leave the boat at 6.45am to be in Skala after a briefing. After bussing to Chora we were herded down a serious of narrow steps towards the grotto which was a natural cave where St John hung out with his trusty disciple while God spoke to him regarding revelation. Being Sunday the Greek Orthodox Church was having a service in the Grotto that is now been converted to a very small church. In general we both found the whole experience quite underwhelming and was a dangerous experience for Mum who could have gone for a skate on the steep slippery steps. We witnessed one of our group do just this with a lucky soft landing!
Apparently a lot of stars have properties here on Patmos, though after Santorini we would have to wonder why?. On the whole we where pretty neutral about Patmos. Would have been a good idea to look inside the fortified monastery of ST John divine which is the cultural centre of Patmos. Time was against us and shortly we were back on the Boat & steaming for Kusadasi Turkey where we would spend the early afternoon exploring Ephesus advanced roman city where Paul hung out for some time.. Clearly we could see multiple temples and one had to marvel at the extent of the city and its opulence for the time. The Great Theatre in itself was monstrous and could seat up to 24,000 ten percent of the population. This was where Apostle Paul was involved in a riot with the locals. I won’t write more about this check out this web site for the low down:
Monday, 15 September - Back to land mehearteys!!
We disembarked from our boat cruise and spent the entire day travelling by bus to Thessalonika. Here they were putting in a new sub way line and we could see the inspector checking out the tailings to see if they had hit anything of historical importance apparently they had hit many old things in the course of the project effectively putting a halt to current works until they had completely relocated the artefacts. Needless to say the time budget was out the window…We photo’d the white tower & the massive beach front, check out its chequered history here:
Tuesday, 16 September
A full day excursion accompanied by our guide Diana along the ancient route of Apostle Paul from Amphipolis (Acts 17:1), to Ancient Philippi, where Paul established the first church in Europe and to whom he wrote his letter to the Philllippians while in Rome (Acts 16:11-40; Phillippians). We got see the river where Paul allegedly baptised the first convert in Europe a woman called Lydia a seller of purple from Thyatira – once again the site was quite touristly enhanced. Our guide let us know that course of the river had changed many times however they were 99% sure this was the one!! Just behind the touristy bit we found the real river and took a photo (contained plenty of fish).
The Ruins of Philippi were extensive and had considerable evidence that pointed to the early church being clearly established here. Also got to see the local jail house where they have purported to have thrown Paul after he and his buddies caused a raucous at the theatre.
It was an earth quake that eventually ended the city. The communal toilets were impressive & I guess kinda cool due to sitting on 2inch thick marble seats…interesting!!
Check out this for further information:
Next we headed to the city of Kavala which was very scenic with its fishing boats ancient aqueduct and hilltop fortifications – our seafood lunch tasted fantastic as the squid & prawns were very fresh!! This was the ancient port of Neapolis (Acts 16:9-11), which Paul visited. From here was a scenic drive back to Thessalonika.
Visited the Beamer of Apostle Paul which consisted of 4 original steps and a big white edifice which didn’t really do it for us however this was (Acts 17:10-15) where Paul was said to have stood and preached the gospel to the local population. We then headed for Meteora and after a smorgasbord lunch Greek style we headed up into the Rockies which had to be one of the strangest geographical sites we have been to so far with large lumps of granite springing upto 800m out of the ground and these monasteries perched on top of them. By far one of the most picturess places we had been on the trip. We got to visit a Monks order (Baphaam aria metewpa) founded in 1350 by Monk Varlaam & also a Nunnery (St Stephens Holy Monastery) – Holy Meteora. Angela preferred the nuns due to the pretty flower beds!! Mum braved many steps to get a good look – what a trooper!! Fantastic view…
check here for further information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteora
Thursday 18 September - Final Day
Today was essentially a travel day from Meteora to Athens with only one scheduled stop where we got to check out a real life Iconologist in action at a real life icon factory – Apparently you need to study for 3+ years to get the degree in iconology and by the sound of it the training is required to really understand what every symbol means in order to clearly convey your message clearly.
Tonight was the Good bye night for our Globus group – who were all a really neat bunch!! The meal was held in a scenic location with the acropolis as the backdrop to a perfect night.
Friday 19 September - Off to the Italian Riveria
The night prior we learnt on the news that the airline we had been booked with was officially bankrupt Ailtair (Italian Air) so we were unsure whether we would be flying or not!! And would not know until we were at the airport – apparently the problems had been going on for some time.
Hence we were up early and tracked down the local post office – which turned out to not accept parcels!! Bumma. They directed us 300m down the road to one that did. Here they informed us that they did not sell packaging material? So we had to run off else where to find some packaging– but because it was early not many shops were open….
Finally after scrounging some cardboard and paper towels we were able to pack up our fragile plate and ship that home – hopefully it will make it in one piece!! It felt like we had been forced to join some crazy scavenger hunt.
Greece Tour Oberservations:
We got to see some really amazing country side with valleys that resembled patch work quilts as cotton farms stretched for hundreds of miles and large hill ranges reaching up to the very blue skys. Fantastic Islands & history that has shaped the world.
Be warned the Greek push and shove to ger on buses, boats, Trains etc - if you visit get ready to join the fray!! OOOPPPAA
All things aside the Greek people can be really warm and generious!! But then its all greek to me ;-)
On boat cruises the cabin crew can do some interesting things with your towels check this out!!