Category Archives: Greece

Kos – Archaeological Gem under a Veneer of Tacky Tourism

One thing I’ve learned on our travels is that just because I’ve never heard of a place doesn’t mean it’s not a tourist haven.  Kos island in Greece is one of those places – off the beaten track for US and Canadian visitors – but with direct flights from Germany and the UK it’s full of tacky beach front hotels, waterfront restaurants, and cheap souvenirs.

Kos waterfront
Kos waterfront

But after scratching the surface a little, turning a blind eye to the unappealing architecture and crowded streets, eating a few streets back from the waterfront, we found the place to be filled with friendly, genuine people, great food, and archaeological gems.

Our hotel was a family run place a little out of the main area.  It was in a neighborhood filled with empty storefronts (the effects of the recession are still widely apparent in this part of Greece; nearby Rhodes has more half built construction than any area I’ve ever seen), neighborhood stores, crumbling sidewalks (if there were sidewalks) and loads of cats.  Well stray cats can be found just about everywhere in Greece – but there seemed to be even more than usual in Kos.  The hotel was a meeting point for the family – and there were often three generations in the lobby / terrace watching TV, chatting, and just hanging out.

The town was laced with bike lanes; the bike lanes were filled with tourists on bikes.  Much of Kos Town is flat, but we did see a few (out of shape) cyclists try to tackle the trek to Ancient Pyla – and were rewarded with a scooter assist.  That’s when a local person on a scooter slows down and lets you grab their seat so that they can pretty much drag you up a steep hill.

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Kos Town is dotted with archaeological sites.  The only one in town that charged an entrance fee was the Kos Castle  – a Knights of St. John Castle set at the tip of the harbor to guard the straights that run between Kos and Bodrum, Turkey.  Bodrum has a similar castle, as did Rhodes – several hours to the south.  These are the same knights that had to flee to Malta when the Ottomans conquered the area.  The Knights were only in the area from around 1337 to 1523, but their castles left a lasting impression.  One unfortunate thing about the knights is that they took building stone from nearby areas (important historic sites) to build their castles.For that reason many of the older Greek sites in the town – albeit brought down by earthquakes – were missing important bits and pieces when they were reconstructed by the Italians in the early 20th century.

Kos Town was originally planned under theories of town planning proposed by Hippodamus of Miletus – thought to be the first urban planner.  Hippodamus felt that the ideal town should consist of around 50,000 people (10,000 free men and assorted women, children, and slaves) with streets arranged in a grid pattern, have large central areas, and contain neighborhood blocks of 2400 meters squared.  The original town was toppled by many earthquakes, built over, scavenged by the Knights, built over again, until an earthquake in the 1930s toppled a later town exposing many of the ancient ruins.  Rather than rebuilding the entire town, many of the major Ancient Greek sites were excavated.  Unfortunately along with free admission is a lack of much useful information at the sites.

Ancient main street
Ancient main street

Kos was also the birthplace of Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine.  The current town boasts of a Plane Tree where it is said that Hippocrates would give lectures to his students.  It is a nice old tree, but since Hippocrates was alive in the 5th Century BC – well …

Hippocrate's Plane Tree is old ...
Hippocrate’s Plane Tree is old …

About 3 kilometers outside of Kos Town was an Asclepeion, or ancient healing center – that was enormous.  It was a three story healing center set up based on Hippocrates’s teachings.  Much of the site was restored (recreated since the Knights took a lot of the building stones for their castle) in the early 20th century when the island was occupied by the Italians.

Another interesting site was Ancient Pyla and the hilltop castle.  This middle-aged settlement was located along the spine of the mountains that runs down the island.

Of course we mainly went to Kos because it’s a volcanic island, and provided easy access to  nearby Nisyros, which contains an active crater, full of bubbling mud pits and sulphur spotted fumaroles.

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Santorini Sunshine

Santorini is probably one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever visited, with distinctive white with blue trim villages tumbling down an almost vertical 250 meter cliff face hanging over an azure ocean.

Fira
Fira
Oia
Oia

It’s not undiscovered by any means, and the crowds could get overwhelming at times, especially in picturesque little Oia where the sunsets drew crowds so thick even the countless bridal parties had to elbow their way in.  Luckily there were always places to get a little distance from the crowds –  a glass of wine on a sun drenched terrace overlooking the caldera at the sun dips into the ocean  – a black sandy beach on the ‘other’ side of the island, or a day trip to Theressia, which gave glimpses of what Oia and Fira may have looked like before tourism.

There are two hotel rooms and two restaurants (aside from the ones at the port that cater to day tripers) in the small town on Therissia - a stone's throw from Thera (Santorini's main island) but a world away.
There are two hotel rooms and two restaurants (aside from the ones at the port that cater to day tripers) in the small town on Theressia – a stone’s throw from Thera (Santorini’s main island) but a world away.
These are the traditional cliff houses.
These are the traditional cliff houses.

Akrotiri

The cauldera in the center of the Santorini islands blew its top some 4000 years ago, in what is considered the largest volcanic eruption witnessed by humans.  The island (it was one island at that time) was inhabited (there is some evidence of human occupation going back to mid 6th millenium BC – or 8000 years ago) and the volcanic ash from the eruptions – meters thick in places – covered the entire island.

Of course this pretty much destroyed any cities/towns on the island at that time, and is also thought to have set off a tsunami that ravaged the shores of Crete – some 60 kilometers away – with the wave having a reach of 80 meters.  Some feel that this tsunami wiped out all the coastal cities of Crete – leading to the demise of the seafaring Minoan civilization within a few generations.

On Santorini, the cities/towns were gone in a flash.  At this point in time archaeologists have uncovered part of one city – a port town named Akrotiri – on the southern edge of the island facing Crete.  The site was discovered in the mid-1960s, and has been undergoing excavation (on and off) since that time.  We were fortunate to find the site open – it had been closed for seven years and reopened in 2012 after a the structure enclosing it collapsed and was rebuilt.  Because it was covered by ash – it – like Pompeii – represents a snapshot in time of a working Theran city – similar to Minoan but thought to be a distinct civilization.

The city was thought to be one of the largest cities (perhaps 30,000 residents) in the Aegean in the 17th Century BC.  It was toppled by an earthquake (and rebuilt) prior to the volcanic eruption, and was an example of advanced engineering and design.  Some of the infrastructure included large public buildings, a main road (and alleys), three story buildings, a salt-water sewer system – including indoor toilets – and a separate drinking water system – with water possibly coming from the nearby hills through use of an aqueduct.  The town’s importance as a trading center is clearly seen by the variety of pottery from around the region, the wide diversity of food (found at the bottom of pottery jars in one large building) and the weights and scales.

Scale found in Akrotiri
Scale found in Akrotiri
Weights found in Aktotiri
Weights found in Aktotiri
Cast of a table found at the Akrotiri site
Cast of a table found at the Akrotiri site
This table is covered with dolphins.
This table is covered with dolphins.

It’s estimated that only three percent of the site has been excavated – so theories about the Therans and the city can easily change – but at this point it is thought that the city’s residents left the city prior to the eruption with all their valuable belongings.

Much of the site is unexcavated - still covered by a thick layer of volcanic tuff - all enclosed in a large building.
Much of the site is unexcavated – still covered by a thick layer of volcanic tuff – all enclosed in a large building.

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The city is remarkable well preserved under the thick layer of volcanic tuff, including some of the best wall frescoes from that period.  They are absolutely astonishing (none are at the actual site – but there are a few in the Fira Museum and the remainder are in Athens) and paint a very complete picture of the civilization.

One of the ones I found most fascinating was the “Flotilla” – a procession of boats leaving from one city to arrive at another.

 

Flotilla - (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrotiri_(Santorini)#mediaviewer/File:AKROTIRI_SHIP-PROCESSION-FULL_PANO-3.jpg)
Flotilla – (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrotiri_(Santorini)#mediaviewer/File:AKROTIRI_SHIP-PROCESSION-FULL_PANO-3.jpg)
closeup of the town from the Flotilla fresco
closeup of the town from the Flotilla fresco
Blue monkeys (part of a large wall fresco)
Blue monkeys (part of a large wall fresco)

 

Milos – What an Amazing Island

If you draw a line from Crete to Heraklion, Crete to Athens, the island of Milos would be right at the halfway point.  Its location and its rich bounty of rocks and minerals put the island in a central position for trading since the stone age.

Like Lipari in the Aeolian Islands, Milos was a site of good quality obsidian, a glassy volcanic rock that was used for early tools.  Milos obsidian was widely traded, and has been found in many Aegean historic sites.

As a center for trading, Milos was likely pivotal for thousands of years – with the settlement at Fylakopi (not much to see there today – the site was somewhat destroyed in WWII) dating from 3000-1100 BC.

Kyra of Fylakopi
Kyra of Fylakopi

This is the island where Venus de Milo was found stuffed in a cave.  She’s in the Louvre in Paris now, but they have a reproduction in the local museum.  (Her story is pretty interesting – but apparently they thought she was older than the inscription on the pedestal, so somehow the ‘pedestal’ and one of her arms was lost.

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We went to Milos because it is a volcanic island.  There isn’t an active vent, but there are lots of ‘hot spots’ and the rocks have been eroded into fascinating landforms.  My favorites are in the photos below.

Arykodes volcanic tuff eroded like a bear
Arykodes volcanic tuff eroded like a bear
Sarakiniko Volcanic Tuff beach
Sarakiniko Volcanic Tuff beach

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Kleftiko arches
Kleftiko arches
Glaronisia columnar basalt
Glaronisia columnar basalt
Pumice beach
Pumice beach

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Beach at the old copper mine
Beach at the old sulfur mine
Adamas
Adamas

 

summer fishing village near Plaka
summer fishing village near Plaka

Milos has some tourist infrastructure – boat tours, restaurants, hotels, museums, cheap car rentals and a great bus system – but it is so laid back and uncrowded that it feels more real than Crete and Santorini.  It’s high up there on my list of favorite places we’ve visited so far!  I had such a great time there – I couldn’t find time to blog.

Crete Highlights – Minoan Palaces and Vivid Imagination

If there is one reason to go to Crete, it is to see the Minoan palaces and surviving artwork and jewelry  housed in the fabulous museum in Heraklion.  Aside from the museum and the proximity to the Knossos palace site, there really isn’t much of a reason to visit Heraklion.  It’s a big Greek city with an okay (lively and pedestrian friendly) downtown, surrounded by miles of sprawl.  Compared to the smaller Rethymnon an hour or so away, it’s characterless, dusty, and over crowded with cheap tourist trinkets and people begging for money.  But the museum is definitely worth a visit.

The Minoans were a bronze age civilization that flourished on Crete from 2700 to 1450 BC – or for over 1,000 years. Much of the allure of the Minoans can be laid at the feet of British Archaeologist Arthur Evans – for good and for bad.

Evans is the archaeologist who excavated Knossos Palace – the largest Minoan Palace on the island – and the site where many of the amazing frescoes, artwork, and jewelry were found.   To explain what happened to Knossos, it’s important to remember the times when it was discovered and excavated.

Knossos was discovered 1878 when Crete was occupied by the Ottomans.  Archaeologists from all over the world had their eye on it (remember that at this time in history – archaeology was little more than antiquity hunting) but with the Ottoman occupation, the Cretans weren’t willing to take the chance of an excavation leading to the antiquities ending up in Istanbul.  Time passed.  The Ottomans made some effort to release the rights to excavate, but only under the condition that the Cretan owners sell the site.  The owners refused to sell to any individuals – and kept raising the price – so it placed the site in a standstill.

Evans kept visiting Crete hoping that the situation could become resolved.  Others gave up – including his mentor.  He didn’t.  After around 15 years had passed, he figured out a way past the stalemate; he set up a Cretan Excavation Fund (with his own money) and purchased a quarter of the site in 1894.  By then, Evans was a middle-aged archaeologist / journalist with an acid tongue (his nickname was the pen-viper) who had been rambling around Europe.

He wrote copious amounts about the conflicts and politics in Crete, as they strived to end Ottoman rule.  Eventually the Ottomans pulled out, and Crete became an independent state. Finally the stalemate over Knossos was over and when foreign archaeologists showed up to bid for the rights to excavate, they learned that they had already been secured by Evans.

Evans (and cohorts) started the excavation in 1898, and completed it within two years.  Through his interpretation of the site, a picture of a peaceful and advanced culture with a focus on arts, sports, and infrastructure emerged – symbolized by perhaps the most famous fresco – the acrobat handspringing over the back of the bull.

Acrobat jumping over the back of bull - Heraklion Museum
Acrobat jumping over the back of bull – Heraklion Museum
Statue of acrobat - Heraklion museum
Statue of acrobat – Heraklion museum
Bull with the Golden Horns (drinking vessel) Heraklion Museum
Bull with the Golden Horns (drinking vessel) Heraklion Museum
Snake Goddesses - Heraklion Museum
Snake Goddesses – Heraklion Museum
Crystal Vase - Heraklion Museum
Crystal Vase – Heraklion Museum

Unfortunately, today it’s really hard to tell what part of the Minoans was Evan’s imagination, and what was derived from the archaeologic evidence. Even the various signposts around the site start with … “Evans thought this was ….” as if more recent archaeologists associated with the site are trying to distance themselves from his interpretations.

To start – he linked the civilization to mythology, applying the name Minoan based on myths of King Minos and the labyrinth – explaining that the castle configuration was labyrinth like.  (He was not the first to link the Minoans to the civilization found on Crete – but he popularized it).

Perhaps the artifacts he found would have made enough impact on the world to make the Minoans, but what is clear from the exhibits in the museum is that much of what was found was reconstructed from a few fragments.  It was like he took a few puzzle pieces, laid them out on a board, and drew in the remainder.  The acrobat leaping over the bull was fairly complete compared to many of the other frescoes, and the museum has done a good job at differentiating the original pieces (raised) with the background.  It’s not that way at the Knossos site, where reproductions are garish and a little misleading.

The reconstructions include the frescoes - but it's not clear if they are placed anywhere near where they were originally found.
The reconstructions include the frescoes – but it’s not clear if they are placed anywhere near where they were originally found.

The frescoes weren’t the only things that were reconstructed with an ample amount of imagination.  Evans returned to the site in the 30s, and was apparently upset about how much it had destabilized, that he poured copious amounts of effort and cement into not only stabilizing it (in places the palace was three stories) but also reconstructing.  Only it’s pretty clear from the information boards around the site – that some of the reconstructions had more imagination than evidence associated with them.

Evan's garish reconstructions dominate the site of Knossos
Evan’s garish reconstructions dominate the site of Knossos

Unfortunately the cement has not worn well, and much of the site is again unstable, but the reconstructions can’t be removed without further damage.  It’s really a shame – good intentions but not a great result.  There is a sense of “well at least people may be able to imagine what it was really like” – but the romance and mystic of Knossos is probably better felt without seeing the actual site.

Fortunately the opposite is true of Phaestos – a similar but smaller Minoan Palace on the other side of Crete – an easy day trip from Heraklion.  The excavation in Phaestos left off any major reconstructions, but they did place a rain shelter over the King’s and Queen’s quarters, preserving an astonishingly exquisite set of staircases that leads between the stories.  It’s simply astonishing.

Queen's be
Queen’s bedroom.
Staircase (covered in smooth gypsum) in the King's quarters in Phaedros - how in the world did they construct them?
Staircase (covered in smooth gypsum) in the King’s quarters in Phaedros – how in the world did they construct them?

 

Highlights of Crete – Hiking Samaria Gorge

Crete in August / early September is unabashed tourism – the ‘Agora’ markets are little more than cheap souvenir shops – the restaurant hawkers line the street trying to lure people in – and the beaches are a relentless string of sunbeds.  The thing is – under all of it the layers of people and dust and heat is a lovely island, full of history and natural beauty.

I had to keep reminding myself of this as we joined 600 people on a 16 kilometer hike through the Samaria Gorge in southwest Crete.  The gorge snakes its way through the White Mountains, and is protected as a National Park – in part due to the presence of the wild cretan goat – the Kri-Kri.  The gorge hike is popular – and because it’s well – a gorge – people are funneled through a very small space – but the section in the middle is unbelievably beautiful (not the most beautiful gorge in Crete according to the locals) and almost peaceful at times.

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The hike starts with a long bus trip up to the entrance high up in the mountains.  From there you descend long sets of stairs (graded for a mule track) with rocks worn slick through thousands of feet crushing grit underfoot.  At frequent intervals there are rest stations, with toilets, fresh water, and sometimes mules (for medical emergencies presumably).  After what seems like a long time, the path begins to level off – and from there to the end of the gorge is gently slope down.

Being a gorge you’d expect a gushing stream.  It does trickle to a gush in some places – but in others there is just a dry streambed to mark the way.  The gorge hike is only open six months a year – and the water does peak at 6 meters in the winter during the narrowest bits – somewhat unbelievable in the summer months.

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About a third of the way in is the Samaria Village – an abandoned village – now rest stop – that has a few resident ‘wild’ Cretan goats sifting through the garbage dropped by tourists.  It’s somewhat sad.

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After the ‘village’ the gorge tightens up until the path pretty much follows the stream bed.  It’s too bad that the most scenic part of the hike is also one where you are encouraged to hurry through due to danger from rock falls (probably not much danger in the summer months).  It really was spectacular.

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After that the hike drops you into a village where you can rent sunbeds on the beach by buying a drink at a local bar, and treat yourself to a dip in the Libyian Sea – which is just as spectacular as the Aegean Sea on the north side of the island).

We managed to find a day where the heat wasn’t excruciating, and there was a steady breeze – even with that I’d rather have hiked any month but August – well except for July – where crowds can reach up to 1200 people a day.

Logistics:  There are public buses from most of the major towns, but the tour buses only charge a few euros more and you are guaranteed a seat.  They also come with a guide, but the guide – and the group – doesn’t really get in your way because everyone hikes at their own pace.  It’s 16 kilometers – but almost completely downhill – which makes it doable for anyone who is relatively fit.  From the entrance to the village where you can catch a ferry takes the average person about 5 and a half to six hours to hike – including rest stops and photos.  The ferry leaves (both directions) the village at 5:30 pm – to another village where you catch buses back into town (the public bus waits for the ferry to arrive.)

Chania – Hotel with the Toilet in the Shower

We’ve been travelling more than five months now, and have stayed in all sorts of budget hotels, hostels, and apartments, but this is the first time we’ve stayed in a place with the toilet in the shower.  To say our hotel has character is an understatement.   It’s located right in the old town of Chania, Crete (Greece) in a building that is probably four or five hundred years old.

Old town Chania is very old – middle ages – but most of the construction seems to be from venetian fortification in the 16 and 1700s – like the lighthouse below.

Venetian lighthouse in Chania Crete, Greece old town
Venetian lighthouse in Chania Crete, Greece old town

The lighthouse is at the end of a causeway that frames in the port of the old town – a cobble-stoned, quaint town center (filled with tourists) in the middle of spawling Chania.

This Mosque doubles as an art gallery and sits on the edge of the Port's waterfront.
This Mosque doubles as an art gallery and sits on the edge of the Port’s waterfront.
The remainder of the waterfront is lined with shops and restaurants - all packed from morning until night in August's busy tourist season.
The remainder of the waterfront is lined with shops and restaurants – all packed from morning until night in August’s busy tourist season.

Behind the boardwalk, like any great old town, it’s a bit of a maze.  Not as bad as Rhodes – where the streets are designed to intentionally get invaders lost – but there are all sorts of alleys and dead ends.  When we arrived, dragging our luggage through the tiny streets with a map on the phone – we were a little stumped trying to find the hotel.  We found the street, but the number didn’t seem to exist – of course none of the hotels are large – most only have a half dozen rooms so you have to look carefully to find them.

Fortunately, this place is filled with friendly, helpful people, and a few men directed us to a parallel alley  – with exact same name as our street.  As we were walking down the alley looking for our hotel, another man – sitting on a scooter – asked us what hotel we were looking for.  Once we said the name, he asked me my name, looked on a piece of paper and said he’d show us to our room – pointing to another building and saying that’s where the reception was – if we needed it.  We’ve stayed in a lot of places, but we’ve never been met by a guy sitting on a scooter in a alley waiting for us!

We didn’t really check in – he just showed up our room – and pointed out that part of the terrace was for our room.  That’s our terrace in the photo below – the one with the two umbrellas (ours is the one to the left in the photo).

Our hotel room is behind the left umbrella.
Our hotel room is behind the left umbrella.

He had to tell us that – because there is no door to the terrace from our room.  We have to crawl through the window.  He muttered something about not being able to get a building permit to make a door.

This is the window we have to crawl through to get to the terrace.
This is the window we have to crawl through to get to the terrace.

I guess the also couldn’t get a building permit to create a proper bathroom, because I am not exaggerating when I say there is a toilet in the shower.  If you sit on the toilet  – your feet are in the shower.  I think we’re going to start reading the reviews on trip adviser a little more carefully; we couldn’t figure out why this place either had great or terrible reviews.  Now we know.  It all depends if people find it quirky and unusual, or just disgusting.  I’m not sure which way I’m leaning.  The terrace sure is nice – and the location can’t be beat.  If you’re wondering what this bathroom looks like, I’ve include a photo – because it is just that unbelievable.

Our bathroom is long and narrow, making the design a unique challenge.
Our bathroom is long and narrow, making the design a unique challenge.

Ken’s Field Notes – Santorini and Cinque Terre

Manarola Italy Small

Natural processes can have catastrophic consequences for communities.  This was true 3600 years ago when a devastating volcanic eruption occurred in the southern Aegean Sea (Santorini) as well as a few years ago when an unprecedented rain event induced debris flows and flooding in Cinque Terre, Italy

Full writeup: Field Journal 2014 Mediterranean Part 2

Ken’s Field Notes – Barcelona to Venice

Fumerole and Etna_DxO (Small)

The geology of the Mediterranean is spectacular.  These field notes cover a wide range of features and locations starting with the Ebro basin and Montserrat (Barcelona Region), moving to the Calanques of Marseille, the granites of western Corsica, the volcanoes Vesuvius and Etna, the 1908 earthquake in Messina, and the sinking city of Venice.  In most of these locations natural geologic processes (tectonic and volcanic) have devastated local communities; the question is how have they adapted to living in such a geologically hazardous region?

Full writeup on Mediterranean geology: Field Journal 2014 Mediterranean Part 1

Santorini – the Volcano that May have Changed the Modern World

Santorini is the name of a group of five Greek islands ringing a collapsed volcanic caldera.  If you can only visit one area in Greece outside of Athens – visit Santorini.  It’s beautiful, geologically interesting, and historically intriguing.  It has captured attention for millennium, and may have inspired the tales of Atlantis.

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Cruise ships stop in the middle of the caldera – to our left was the still-smoking nothing but lava island Nea Kameni – and to the right was Thera with the tumble down the cliff villages with their white washed buildings and bright blue domes that are found on the covers of travel books and magazines.

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Cruise ships tender their guests to the village of Fira – either the old Port (sitting 1000 ft below the village) or the new port with road access.  The old Port is a kick – you have three choices to get to Fira – the cable car (that has notoriously long lines if a lot of ships are in port), a donkey ride, or a hike up the same path the donkeys take.  We chose the latter.  Twice.  Let’s just say it’s an experience to share the track with the donkeys.  The path itself isn’t bad – a gentle switchback with manageable steps.  It was the special treats the donkeys left that were the main problem – especially in the hot sun.  It’s hard to hike up hill when you can’t breathe.  The other issue was the donkeys themselves.  While they didn’t exactly run us down, when there was a group going up and another group going down, it got a little crowded.  I usually tucked myself in a corner and let them go by.  Some of the donkeys had mule skinners urging them up the hill.  Others were set off on their own.  The ones on their own tended to make a lot of stops on the way – making it a long and somewhat frustrating experience for their riders.  I think donkeys are pretty smart.

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Santorini is not a great place to visit by cruise ship because there is too much to do there – and it’s frustrating to be on a tight schedule.  We needed to visit Nea Kameni, and that required taking a boat, so it didn’t leave us time for much else.  I decided within an hour that we’d be going back later in the fall.  That took the pressure off trying to squeeze too much into such a short time!

Geologic history:  Santorini blew its top (much like Mt St. Helens) around 1630 BC.  It seems like the volcano gave residents a lot of warning, because even though it destroyed the town of Akrotiri, no human remains and few valuables were found within the ash indicating that people had enough time to flee the islands before the volcano blew (Akrotiri was estimated to have been a large city – 30,000 people – during its peak).  When it blew its top the volcano released four times the material of Krakatoa (a huge volcano in Indonesia).  It’s possible the ash darkened the skies for a time period, causing famine.  There is also some research that suggests that it triggered an enormous tsunami that virtually destroyed Crete – which was the main center of the Minoan culture.  The Minoans were an ancient civilization – dating back to the third or maybe second millennium B.C. – living centuries before the Greek civilizations that built the acropolis in Athens.  There is evidence that the Minoans traveled and interacted with other civilizations (frescos containing monkeys for instance).  They were a peaceful, seafaring civilization that was remarkably advanced.

It just makes you wonder about the course of history – and how things for us may have been different if this civilization had survived.  Everything we know/are today is based on what came before us – like building blocks.

Santorini is still an active volcano.  The last significant activity was in the fifties on Nea Kameni.  Nea Kameni still has an active crater that was emitting a small amount of sulfur dioxide and steam when we visited.  It is full of short hiking trails that give panoramic views of the archipelago.

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A second and smaller island – Palea Kameni – has a few “warm” springs.  Our boat stopped there for a short visit, and a few people jumped off the boat to swim to the warm springs.  Ken chose to do it, but I wasn’t that interested in swimming through the cold ocean to get to the warm springs (and back again).

 

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I Rode a Donkey to the Top of the Acropolis – No – Not THAT Acropolis

Lindos is a site on the island of Rhodes, just 11 miles from Turkey.  Lindos has been home to settlements since the Neolithic times and the bronze age.  The steps in the photo below had a sign reading archaic steps – yet they were part of the stairs that everyone walked on.

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During Mycenaean times the area was thought to be a place to worship a female deity Lindia – symbolizing fertility and nature.  Later on (9th century B.C.) a sanctuary for Athena Lindia was founded, and three centuries later (6th century BC) it is thought that the stone acropolis (temple) was first built.   Unfortunately the temple fell into disrepair, and the reconstruction attempts (polite signs pointed out that the Italians were responsible for the poor reconstruction) did more harm than good – so today the acropolis portion of the site is more reconstruction than original.

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The site was occupied by all sorts of groups over the centuries – but perhaps the most interesting were the Knights of the Order of St. John – who captured it in the 1300s.  The also held the medieval town of Rhodes city – on the tip of the island (and what is now Rhodes).  These are the same knights that left Rhodes and ended up in Malta – which was really far away!

But back to the acropolis.  Today it sits above a small town lined with tourist shops and donkeys.  I took one look at the donkeys and decided I wanted a ride to the top of the hill.  I’d rate it more exciting than the camel ride in Tunisia, but barely.  The only really interesting part was listing to the Mule Skinner communicate with the donkey with grunts and groans.

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The best part was the sea views!

Rhodes town harbor is also the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the Colossus of Rhodes, the statue of the Greek god Helios that stood high above Rhodes harbor until it was toppled by an earthquake.  Today there is a very small statue of a goat in its place.

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