One of the things I like about cruising is that your floating hotel takes you from place to place. After an awesome day in Rhodes, we arrived back on our ship, the Lirica. As we were freshening up and getting ready for dinner, the Lirica’s crew prepared to head out to sea. It’s fun to go on the upper deck and watch the sail away from port. We usually ate dinner as a group in the main dining room. After dinner, we would watch a great show in the main auditorium. As we were sleeping, the Lirica would take us to a new and exciting port.
Today we woke up on the Greek Island of Mykonos. If you like, the cruise line will plan your whole day for you. This does come at a cost though. Wherever possible we liked to do some exploring on our own. Mykonos is a great port to explore on your own. It does, however, require a small ferry ride to get from the cruise port to the town. The cruise line hired a ferry to transport passengers to town. They made it very convenient and quite easy to charge for this ferry. It pays to do a little research about each port. I found out that you could buy a ticket directly from the same ferry company for considerably less. Not only was it less expensive, they used a different ferry. The ferry was not as jam packed full as the cruise line ferry. A side trip we could have taken while visiting Mykonos, is a trip to the ancient ruins on the nearby island of Delos. The cruise line has a shore excursion to Delos. This same ferry company also goes to Delos for less. We decided not to go to Delos. Robbie and I and a few of the others spent the day in Mykonos. There were a couple of people in our group that did do one of the Mykonos shore excursions. Disembarking the ship was quick and easy. We found the ticket booth for the ferry and purchased our tickets. On the way to the ferry, there were several brightly colored, old wooden fishing boats. I really liked these old wooden boats.
Getting off of the ferry in the old port of Mykonos, we were greeted by a reminder of our old friend again, Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicolas). St. Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors and fisherman. Agios Nikolaos, the small whitewashed church with its bright blue dome has a prominent place in the old port. Locals would enter the church to light a candle and say a prayer for their sea going friends and family. Mykonos is dotted with dozens of small whitewashed churches with brightly colored domes. Each ancient local family was required to build a small church to worship and celebrate religious holidays. The small churches also housed the bones of family members. There must have been lots of families on Mykonos back then.
Strolling through the giraffe patterned stone streets of Mykonos is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. The narrow streets are lined by whitewashed buildings, with blue or red trim, laced with colorful bougainvillea. There are lots of shops selling everything from souvenirs to high end clothing, jewelry and art.
Having just been in Venice, we needed to check out a small section of Mykonos called Little Venice. It’s basically a row of buildings that were built right on the edge of the sea. Most of them are restaurants or bars with an awesome view of the Aegean Sea.
From Little Venice we got a great view of the windmills of Mykonos. The windmills are the most well known landmarks on the island. Six of the windmills are on a hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea. This is a beautiful location with an awesome view of the sea. This was also the best location to harness the winds of the Aegean. The wind power was used for grinding grain. Today some of them have been converted into homes. One of them is listed on Airbnb. That would be a great place to stay.
As we were making our way through the town, Sandy kept an eye out for a nice restaurant to have lunch. She thought Katerina’s looked nice. Katerina’s was one of the restaurants in Little Venice. So we made our way back to Little Venice. Sandy made a great choice, Katerina’s was awesome! We had a nice view of the Aegean and our waiter was great! I had the linguini and shrimp, it was very good! Everyone else enjoyed their meals as well. The waiter brought us some baklava to share; it was amazing! As we were finishing our lunch two weary travelers came in. It was Sherry and her husband Jeff, from our group. They had taken one of the shore excursions. It was interesting that they chose the same restaurant. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” (Casablanca)
Feeling rejuvenated from our refreshing lunch, we made some plans for the rest of our afternoon. While doing my pre-trip planning I was reading about Boni’s windmill. Boni’s has been totally restored and is now a museum. Unfortunately the museum was closed for the season. The best thing about Boni’s is the location. It’s perched high above Mykonos and has the best view in town. So I wanted to go to there. Barb wanted to do some shopping, so we split up. Robbie went with Barb, Sandy and Jerry. Marcia and her husband Jack came along with me to Boni’s. The thing about the best view in town is that it involves a fairly steep climb. We huffed and puffed and the view kept getting better and better, driving us to the top. The climb was totally worth it. The view from Boni’s was amazing! Marcia and Jack saw another place they wanted to explore. I wanted some more photos of Mykonos, so we split off exploring in different directions. I made my way back down the hill through a maze of narrow walkways with whitewashed buildings and churches. Back at sea level there was a nice beach. A dip in the Aegean would have been nice. I didn’t bring my swim suit though. Walking along the waterfront, I found Robbie and Jerry having drinks at a cafe. I ordered a nice cold Greek beer as we waited for Sandy and Barb. On the way to the ferry I had to get a gelato. They wouldn’t let me on the ferry with it, but we still had some time before it departed. Still no sign of Marcia and Jack. We hoped they would catch the next ferry, and they did. Mykonos was a great town! It had a very relaxing vibe to it. Just lazily wondering this beautiful town was an enjoyable way to spend the day.
After touring the Palace of the Grand Master, we wanted to check out one of the elaborate gates through the city walls. The Gate d’ Amboise, one of the nicer ones, is very near the Palace of the Grand Master. Walking through the gate you cross a bridge overlooking a grassy area. It’s dry now, but this was the moat. It added another layer of protection to the city.
All of this sightseeing made us hungry. We made our way to Hippocrates Square. The square is surrounded by shops and restaurants. The centerpiece of the square is a large fountain. We picked Archipelagos restaurant for lunch. We had a table on the balcony with a great view overlooking the square. The food was great and the drinks were refreshing!
After a rejuvenating lunch, Barb and some of the others wanted to do some shopping. Barb loves to shop, she got in as much shopping at each port as she could. I wanted to walk around and take some photos. Robbie and Jerry kept on relaxing downstairs in the sidewalk cafe. I find some of my best photos by just following my nose. I started following the shoppers down the main shopping street. This was not the type of area I was looking for. I found a narrow cobblestone street and followed its winding path. I found myself in a residential area. This was what I was looking for! I loved the colorful stone walls and the narrow streets. The creepy puppet hanging on the wall was awesome! When I came across the door with the tattered and torn picture of Venice, I knew I was in the right place! There was a Cuban restaurant that reminded me of our cruise to Havana. I saw an African Grey parrot on a perch outside of a home. It reminded me of Bogie, our African Grey at home, Sandy, Spencer and Loki too! I really enjoy getting off the beaten path. Amazingly, I found my way back to Archipelagos to meetup with everyone.
We made our way through the city walls to the waterfront area. The old wooden fishing boats in the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea were amazing! Walking along the old port we saw the old stone windmills of Rhodes. Along with shopping, Barb likes cats. I have several photos of Barb with cats. Continuing along the port brings us to our old friend Saint Nicholas. The fort of Saint Nicholas anyway. It was built to protect the harbor from enemies. A lighthouse was built in the fort that now protects ships in the area. The deer statues on pedestals on either side of the port could be one of the places where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. There are several places it could have stood, nobody knows for sure. It was a huge statue of Helios, the sun god. Built in 280 BC, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It only stood for 54 years when it was toppled by an earthquake. It laid on the ground for 800 years! At that time the bronze was melted down and sold. It was so impressive even laying on the ground that it became an ancient tourist attraction. Because Colossus was the sun god, I think it would have been in a high place, closer to the sun. A more likely place for it to have stood would have been the Acropolis of Rhodes. Also it had been laying on the ground for a long time. If it had been in the harbor, it would have fallen in the water. After a wonderful day of exploring the beautiful medieval city of Rhodes, we made our way back to the ship.
Our next port was the old city of Rhodes on the Island of Rhodes. I enjoyed all of the ports on this cruise. Rhodes was one of the ports I was looking forward to. Rhodes is a well preserved Medieval city. The whole city is protected by a huge Medieval style stone wall. There are several gates that have castle style facades. The cobblestone streets are filled with Medieval stone buildings. Just the type of place that I like to explore.
The cruise terminal of Rhodes is just outside of the old town city walls. There are lots of sights to see within walking distance of the ship. So a few of the others in our group plus Robbie and I, opted to save some money and see old town on our own. Disembarking the ship become much better. After a very short walk, we found ourselves at the Gate of the Virgin. I think this gate has been added in recent years to provide access to the city closer to the port. Just inside of the gate were the ruins of the Church of the Virgin of the Burgh. It was a large Catholic cathedral that was bombed during WWII, most of it was destroyed. The three apses at the end of the church and they are all that remain. A few blocks down the street we came across a restaurant that had several parrots on perches. Robbie and I are parrot owners, so we were very interested in seeing the parrots. This is also why we could not be away from home for too long. Our dear friend Cassy was watching over our flock while we were away, thank you Cassy! The guy at the restaurant let us hold one of the macaws! That was nice, we were missing our birds! It was too early for lunch or we probably would have eaten there. We continued our stroll through the city. The beautiful cobblestone streets were lined with restaurants and shops. It was like strolling through a Medieval bazaar. The shops were selling all sorts of wares, they had art, clothing, gifts and some very interesting bottle openers.
One of the most significant buildings in Rhodes is the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. The island of Rhodes was an important stopping off point between Europe and the Holy Land during the Byzantine era. We visited a lot of Byzantine era sights on this trip. In a nut shell, the Byzantine era began when the Roman Emperor Constantine came into power. The Roman Empire became fragmented, Constantine ruled the eastern portion. He moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium, modern day Istanbul Turkey. He renamed it Constantinople. He also converted the empire to Christianity. Rhodes was sort of a base camp for the Knights Hospitaller or the Knights of Rhodes. The Knights Hospitaller were protectors of the Holy Land. The palace was the headquarters for the knights and the home/office for the Grand Master. The palace is a large Medieval castle Today it is a museum. We paid a small entrance fee and took the self guided tour. I wasn’t sure how interesting the castle was going to be. It turned out to be a very nice tour. This was a beautifully restored Medieval, stone, fairy tale style castle. The halls would have been echoing with the sound of knights in shining armor moving from place to place. When you think of a Medieval castle, you think dark, dingy, and cold. This actually would have been a very nice place to live. It was far from dark, dingy, and cold. It was fit for a king! The Palace was heavily damaged in an accidental explosion in 1856. It was restored to its original splendor by the Italians when they had control of Rhodes. During the restoration, the beautiful Hellenistic mosaic floors were brought in from the island of Kos. It was used for a summer home for the Italian king and later Mussolini.
The Street of the Knights is a main thoroughfare leading up to the Palace of the Grand Masters. There were several countries that sent knights to Rhodes. The street is lined with buildings from each country. The buildings were the living quarters for the knights.
No rest for the weary! We had two wonderful days of sightseeing in Israel. But we didn’t stay up too late partying. We needed to get an early start the next morning. We had a short 170 mile cruise to our next port of call, Limassol, Cyprus. We opted to do a shore excursion in Cyprus. Limassol is a great town with a beautiful waterfront area, but when in ancient Greece/Rome, we should see ancient Greece/Rome.
We took a trip to the Kourion Archeological site with a wine tasting stop afterwords. The Limassol area of Cyprus is a big wine producer. The ancient city of Kourion was a thriving Greek city. It was taken over by the Romans in approximately 58 BC. They gave it all of the Roman amenities. First we entered the house of Eustolios. The house had very elaborate mosaic floors. There were several Roman baths. They had a very sophisticated water supply system throughout the town. We could see the remains of the clay water pipes in the ground. They almost seemed like they were from 1900 rather than 200. There was a beautiful Roman style amphitheater with an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea. I think at first they held theatrical performances there. After the amphitheater was expanded, they held gladiator contests and man against beast type contests. They still perform ancient Greek plays in the amphitheater today. I think the amphitheater would be a great place to see a show.
We took a short trip down the road to the other side of Kourion to see the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. This is where the citizens of Kourion came to worship the god Apollo Hylates. Who was Apollo Hylates? Hylates was the Greek Cyprus god of the forest or nature. Apparently he sort of morphed into the Greek god Apollo who was the god of many things, mostly the god of light. Greek mythology seems to be a bit willy-nilly. The Apollo Hylates combo, as far as I can tell, was only worshiped on Cyprus. He was considered the god of the forest or nature of Cyprus. I was wondering how the Greek gods changed after the Romans took over Kourion. It turns out that Apollo is one of the few gods who is the same in Greek and Roman mythology. But maybe that’s how Hylates and Apollo came together, hmm. The alter in the sanctuary was considered very sacred. In fact, anyone who touched the alter who was not a priest, was taken to a cliff and thrown off! Kourion was inhabited from the eighth century BC until the fourth century AD. It saw several earthquakes and wars. Most of the city had been damaged and rebuilt. There was a rather large earthquake in the fourth century AD that was probably its demise. As far as ancient ruins go, Kourion was very interesting. It wasn’t hard to imagine all of these buildings in their full complete splendor. Romans in togas and sandals wondering around town taking advantage of all of the high class Roman amenities.
We had about a 30 min. bus ride to our wine tasting stop in the village of Omodos. There were hills and valleys all over the island. As we were driving through the countryside, it was interesting to see the terraced hillsides all around us. Some of them seemed bare, but they were created to grow the grapes for the wine we were on our way to taste. We arrived at Taverna Ambelothea; a beautiful old stone building. They had a table set up with three different wines to taste. The wines were very good. We were thinking about taking a bottle with us. But back at the ship you need to turn in any alcoholic beverages to be kept until the end of the cruise. They would like you to buy their alcohol please. We ended up not taking any back with us. We relaxed on the porch taking in the wonderful view. Barb found another cat. We headed out for a tour of the village.
We had a nice walk through the village. They make this odd looking confection called Sousoukos. It’s made from surplus grapes from the wine making and almonds. They string the almonds up and dip them in the waxy grape juice mixture. They look like candles, they are made like candles, and they sort of taste like candles, with nuts. Omodos was a wonderful traditional small village. We had a wonderful afternoon exploring the village.
Limassol cruise terminal’s architecture is very interesting. I thought the oval windows were pretty. I liked the way the light came through them.
Our cruise made a stop on the island of Crete, in the port of Heraklion, the capital of Crete. Heraklion is a nice city with lots of things to see. The port is fairly close to the city, but it’s not quite walking distance. Just outside of town is the archaeological sight for the palace of Knossos from the Minoan civilization. There was a city bus that would take you to Knossos and the city. Robbie and I thought it would be nice to see a little more of Crete. So instead of seeing the city, we booked a shore excursion from the cruise line called, the Villages of Crete. This was a bus tour that visited several villages. Disembarking the ship today was a breeze. We met up in the big showroom and our group was one of the first ones to leave the ship. The first village that we visited was Krista. It was a beautiful little Greek village surrounded by olive trees. There were narrow cobblestone streets. It was on a hillside with nice view of the valley below.
The next stop on the tour was a Byzantine church, the Church of Panagia Kera (Church of the Virgin Mary). The walls and ceilings are painted with beautiful 13th century frescoes depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. I didn’t think this little church was going to be very interesting. I was wrong about that. This was a very interesting little church, and I was glad we got to see it.
The tour continued to the village of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). Here is our old friend St. Nick again. I’m not sure if he spent time here, but Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and Greece. Agios Nikolaos was an important port with lots of sailors. Located in the center of town is lake Voulismeni. It’s said to be bottomless, but it’s probably just really, really deep. There is a beautiful stone walkway around the edge of the lake lined with shops, restaurants, and a small whitewashed church. There are lots of old wooden boats tied up along the way. We had a nice Greek lunch at one of the restaurants. After lunch we walked, well almost ran to the bus, to get back to the ship on time.