To celebrate our 32nd anniversary, Susie and I went on a Mediterranean cruise. This blog entry is my attempt to give a bit of a flavor for our trip. I apologize for how long it took me to write this entry, but it took some work to distill a week and almost 1,500 photos down to something anyone might be willing to read! I am trying to figure out the best place to put the photos (under 200 now) given that my preferred photo place (Kodak Gallery) is shutting down soon.
We flew to Rome on Friday (May 11) and arrived on Saturday. As we had been to Rome before, our main goal was not to see anything in particular, but rather to try and stay awake until at least 9:00pm to get acclimated to the time zone (off by six hours). Our hotel (La Griffe) was in the middle of everything, so we spent much of the day walking to typical sights like the Trevi Fountain (which was mobbed and looked sort of like a mosh pit with some stone horses and water in the middle). We saw lots of churches and fountains as well as mobs of people including some dressed as Roman soldiers and others painted silver like statues. At the Coliseum we encountered a parade of communist protestors. They were doing lots of chanting and singing of slogans in Italian. It added a bit of festivity to our walk around the building.
On Sunday we attended an Episcopal church with services in English right near our hotel. The church, of course, was beautiful and was probably older than anything in our area. We then took a shuttle to our cruise ship. We managed to get on to the ship fairly uneventfully. I had hoped to get a table for two for dinner, but that did not happen. As I feared, we had to meet people. As I never would have guessed, we got along very well with the couple (Donna and Mark). We enjoyed spending dinner with them every night as well as doing a number of things on board the ship. As is often the case, I was wrong! They taught us a song to sing when that happens. The third couple (from Budapest) showed up one evening, but never again. I think they decided to not join our tight-knit foursome.
Taormina. We walked down its main street, looked down or up the many quaint side streets, stepped into a number of churches, and enjoyed a bite to eat at an outdoor café while watching people walk by. It was a wonderful day.
Acropolis and some other sites in the city. The Acropolis was the obvious highlight. The somewhat intact buildings there, including the Parthenon, make a real impact. The impressive structures were largely built around 2,500 years ago. Much of the site, however, is being worked on to try and restore it. Part of that means taking down earlier (incorrect) attempts to reconstruct the buildings. There is scaffolding on many of the buildings which detracts a bit. Regardless, the buildings are quite amazing. As we were visiting, the Olympic torch was there--about to begin its journey to London for the games later this summer. While leaving the Acropolis, we somehow lost our tour group. After a few anxious moments, we were able to find another tour group from our ship and finished up with them (and their much better tour guide). Back on the ship, we had a great dinner including an anniversary surprise arranged by our new friends.
German invasion of the island during World War II. The cemetery was beautiful with rows of gravestones, beautiful flowers, and the harbor in the background. As is often the case, it made me appreciate yet again the sacrifices that so many have made. It was very humbling. We also visited a monastery run by five monks. It was not very old and was overrun by cats, supposedly 54 of them. It seemed that everywhere we went we would hear the mewling of kittens and find them hiding behind some flowers. The tour guide described to us the history of Crete from when its Minoan civilization was Europe’s first advanced one. From there, she went through all of the empires that ruled over Crete for at least 100 years. It was an impressive list of pretty much every major power in the Mediterranean over the last four millennia. The few years of German occupation didn’t make the list. We also visited the town of Chania and enjoyed walking through its market.
Saturday was another day at sea, a day to relax, play volleyball, read, and generally take it easy. I rode a stationary bike on the ship with my Garmin and recorded my favorite “ride.” Stationary indeed! I averaged over 23 miles per hour as we passed by the island of Stromboli.
Sunday, we flew home. Between the cruise and the flights, I was able to finish four books (1491, The Ascent of Money, Imagine, and Almost Amish). All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I have to admit, however, that I was pretty tired by the time we got home!