April 4, 2016, Canakkale, Turkey
Yesterday after 24 hours of traveling we
landed in Istanbul and were chauffeured to the Viking boat. The route to the
ship took us past numerous parks filled with families enjoying the beautiful
weather; past freeway walls featuring vertical gardens; past beds of magnificent
tulips. Unfortunately, due to the terrorist bombings, driving through Istanbul
is all we are going to see of the city. We SAW the spice market and we SAW the
blue mosque. BUMMER. Our 4/4 touring of the city was canceled and the boat moved
on to dock in Canakkale. That is the bad news.
The good news is that on 4/4
we got to go to Troy. The site dates back 5000+ years and has 7? levels
which reflect 5000 years of occupation. Everything is quite crude. It is much
like Old Sarum. Troy's prominence was due to the fierce winds coming through the
Dardanelles. Merchant ships sailing through this "pass" could only
sail when the winds were favorable for moving them in their desired direction.
The ships would pull into Troy to wait for the winds to change and they were
charged a docking/waiting fee. Troy lost this source of revenue when the ability
to tack was discovered. No revenue stream = no Troy.
We were back on the ship
by 2:00. We absolutely had to have lunch. Food as on all cruises is
This afternoon there was
some hot-tubbing, walking, reading. This evening we went to a restaurant that is
a prefix. Tonight was Scandinavian night.
1-Rain deer consume,
2-gravlax and lingonberry infused tartare salmon with caviar and pickled cucumber.
4-lamb Farikal known as sheep in cabbage
5 and for dessert cloudberry soup, vanilla white chocolate Panama cotta.
Plus each course had its
own wine pairing.
All were foods that we
would never order. Each course was wonderful.
April 5 Ephesus
Beautiful day and fabulous tour. Today
we went to Ephesus. We saw the huge, beautiful theatre which sat 24,000
people and the impressive library that housed 1000's of scrolls. The
public loos (exactly like the ones we saw in Corinth) were for men only!
And there was an intricate sewage system. We walked down the Main Street
which in ancient times ended at the port. Now it ends in trees for the
port, via silting and earthquakes, has filled in. This street also saw the
likes of Anthony and Cleopatra stroll by. This site was so much more than
I expected. I had not realized that Pompeii was not the only beautifully
preserved city on the planet.
Then, just outside the
gates one must run the shopkeeper gauntlet. Signs were up for ice cream
which was like no ice cream we had ever seen. This kid pulled this big
blob out of the freezer, shook it so it elongated into a 3' foot long clay
looking teardrop then cut off a chunk and stuffed it into a cone! Ice
cream cone! A sign read guanine fake watches. Our big purchase of
the day was a bunch of blue eyes. Eyes that will keep away evil. Not
quite sure how to flesh that out; guess I will have to include a photo.
We had a fabulous guide.
She kept talking the entire 4 hours and never lost our attention. She
pointed out an old hilltop castle that was the site of the very first settlement
in the area. It was also a place where Paul was imprisoned. We saw
goat herders and sheep herders. We saw nomads. And back in the city
near the dock we escaped being pressured into buying a Turkish rug. We
hotfooted it back to the boat!
Upon our return to the
ship at 2:00 we had lunch. We finished eating at 3:00.
We went up to the sports deck to lounge and read. All of a sudden Judy
shouted it's4:00...time for tea! Jim sat up straight and bellowed out is
it time to eat? Too funny. Yes, we did have tea and scones. By
the time we get home we will all be tub-shaped. Breakfast will be a soda
cracker with both lunch and dinner allowing us one piece of lettuce. E-gad
went to watch the evening
entertainment which he said was fabulous. I waddled up to our room and
took a shower. Darn, those calories just will not wash off!
Today is another beautiful, sunny day.
We chose to take a brief bus tour of the historic district. The drive in
from the dock at Piraeus took only about 30 minutes. The views on the way
were of several other ports and peaking in and out on the other side of the bus
was the Acropolis. Our first stop was the Archeology Museum. We had
a fabulous guide.
Our guide took us into
the oldest collection; dating back to the Linear B tablets. Wow. Up
through the items uncovered in Ancient cemeteries of Crete. Beautiful gold
death masks, jewelry, cups. Unbelievably beautifully wrought items.
Next was the earliest
Greek sculpture which had a very Egyptian look. Very static...no
expression of movement, no facial expression. Moving on to the sculpture
having one foot slightly forward and on to the statuary having a Mona Lisa
And then I was blown
away! Around a corner and face to face with the perfectly balanced bronze,
chased wax larger than life Zeus in the act of hurling a thunderbolt. Or
Poseidon hurling a thunderbolt; take your pick. I just could not believe I
was standing in front of the statue I had discussed with my world history
students 50 years ago. The line of veins, the living musculature. I
cried! I recovered until...
We entered the next room
and there, fished up from the bottom of the sea, stood The Jockey! Another
emotional moment! And another topic of lecture 50 years ago. What a day!!
We ended our morning at
the Arch next to the Palaka. The arch lead to the old agora while the
Palaka is the today, picturesque shopping district located at the base of the
Jim and I signed up to go
back to the Palaka for dinner in a taverna. It was fun. We began in
a fabulous rooftop garden with an incredible view of the Acropolis but then any
view of the Acropolis is incredible. Back downstairs and a walk into the
Palaka past the fun, colorful shops. Dinner was fine, the dancing
enjoyable. But then onto another magical moment. We walked out of
the taverna, it was night and the view, in front of us was of steps leading down
to our walking route past the shops, was breath taking. Here the tavernas
were about 30 feet apart. The steps went down through the middle.
Some tavernas had small terraces while others had cushions strewn on the steps.
There were no overhead lights. We viewed a block long staircase lined with
tavernas, packed with locals enjoying the soft lighting provided by the fairy
lights wound around trees and by lanterns and by the light spilling onto the
steps from the tavernas. We felt as tho we were walking through a movie
set. How can any such moment be real?
April 7, Santorini
Aquateri was a Linear A city.
Destroyed 1600 bc
excavation began...clues to its existence came via a rainy season when a donkey
fell through the surface.
Excavation suspended due to financial situation of Greece.
section believed to be city center.
City originally a port
Central sewage, water.
No bodies have been found here. Assumed eruption preceded by numerous
earthquakes so population vacated, emigrated.
Pop moved goods to their doorways. Intention was to return. We're
killed during explosion awaiting boats to get them at another port or killed be
4/8, at sea
We left Santorini yesterday around 6:00 and
are due to dock tomorrow morning in Kotor, Montenegro. So today is an on
board (but not bored) day.
After breakfast Judy and
I decided to visit the onboard shops. I said I wanted to use the bathroom
before we shopped. She said, "You want to vacuum?" Our
ears are wearing out and our speaking ability seems to be compromised too.
We window shopped, caught
up on emails, edited the photos we took, had a great lunch, attended another art
history lecture, gathered with other repeat travelers for a champagne toast with
the captain, and had afternoon tea. Tea is served around the fringes of
the pool and always features music...pianist or classic guitar, or a violin +
bass + flute trio. Then of course we trooped into dinner at around 7:00.
It usually takes a couple of hours to eat.
Tonight there is all
kinds of entertainment going on but I am staying in with my feet up the wall.
4/9/16, Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor is nestled into the crook of Europe's
southernmost fjord. Kotor was a medieval port and is so deep that the ship
could dock right in the town. We were able to walk off the ship and right
into the small the city. To get into the bay of this fiord the ship
navigated between two mountains, through a narrow channel. Beautiful
A huge wall from the
1400's surrounds the city and this wall is the only large thing in sight. We had
a super tour of this tiny village. Everything was small: tiny
shoppes, tiny museum, narrow passages.
The morning saw rain.
From our balcony we watched the people getting off the boat to gather for their
walking tours. Every cabin has a red umbrella and everyone on the various
tours was carrying a red umbrella. It made a lovely picture. All the
gloomy rain, the texture of the city walls then the bright umbrellas. I
said the passages were quite narrow well, in some spots the passages were so
narrow that two umbrellas could not pass.
In the evening Judy and I
took a big bus and then a small boat to get to a small island, Our Lady of the
Rocks, to attend a concert. The 40' X 60' island had a church that would
only hold about 56 people when stuffed. We emerged from the boat only to
be greeted by champagne. A very nice way to begin a concert. We took
so many photos of the church and the mainland and of so many stone sinks
brimming with flowers.
Inside the church walls
were filled with paintings and hammered silver prayer plaques. We listened
to a wonderful classical guitar concert and returned via boat and bus to our
We sat with the ship
captainís wife who was able to explain the explosive success of Viking:
Other lines charge both passengers and crew for wifi. Viking does
not. One of our waiters is able to communicate with his children 3X a day.
He worked for another line and was charged $8.00/day for wifi plus he paid for
The staff is not paid on
a commission basis and the staff have adequate bunk rooms and bath facilities.
Plus they have their own chef who prepares food common to their origins.
Vikings idea is that a happy crew insures happy customers.
there are no photographers following passengers to take then sell photos
there are no
provisions made for children. In fact the ocean cruises are limited to
adults over 18.
So the staff is treated
well and believe me they treat the customers well. Everyone from the
captain down has a smile and a good morning. As a result the ships not yet
built are selling out! Customers taking multiple trips are common.
250+ of the passengers on our ship were staying on for 50 days.
4/10/16, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
OMG what a charming city! Beautiful
walls and churches and views. We took a 3 hour walking tour viewing the
sculpture and paintings. And then, great fun, there were groups singing in
various spots around town. They were in native dress and singing their
little hearts out. We walked around the old port, through/around the interior of
the walled area, had coffee and finally made our way back to the ship.
cravat was invented here. It evolved into the necktie. We went into
a very posh shop that had a door handle in the shape of a tie. Jim and I
strolled along the tiny bay where there are dozens of boats, even a few with
glass bottoms, all set to take one out on a sight-seeing tour. So
colorful! Then again walking through the city there are small passages
with a photo op at every corner. Some people walked up the steps to the
top of the wall.
This city was not only the
original home of the cravat but it also saw the first apothecary.
Visitable, of course.
caught a bus to go back to the ship. We were met, just outside the ship,
with some very loud music..."what the heck is going on?" About
20 of the shipís crew had formed a gauntlet. They were passing out
champagne, dancing, singing and as we approached with our champagne the cruise
director decided to shake up a bottle of champagne and spray everyone
What did I say about
keeping the crew and passengers happy!! We wanted to go out again just so
we could come back!
Our Sunday dinner
was at 7:00 and again in the prefix dining room. Tonight the
theme was Venitian. Another wonderful 2 hour meal with wine pairings.
4/11/16, Pula, Croatia
was another day where we had to be ferried to the mainland. This time our
transportation was via lifeboat! There are 6 life boats each holding 270
people plus there are numerous huge canisters that contain additional inflatable
zodiac type life rafts.
Pula is located on the Istrian Peninsula. It has another Roman
amphitheater. Those Romans built theaters all over the place! This
one held 22,000 people and it too had gladiatorial combat. It is still
used for concerts and operas. Under the colosseum/amphitheater there are
tunnels that were used 2000 years ago coordinating with the upstairs activity.
The tunnels now house ancient wine presses and containers.
This whole area was once controlled by Venice; the area is
reminiscent of Tuscany. And this coast of Croatia is dependent on wine and
tourism. As we drove to our village we passed vineyards. The
vineyards have small stone round "houses." They are much like
the trulios found in Puglia, Italy. Except these are scattered in the
vineyards and only large enough for a worker to take his siesta. Only
large enough for a nap! Our goal
today was to visit the walled town Rovinj. One can barely walk more than
10 feet without coming across another photo op. Charming walkways, flowers
in pots on steps or growing over ancient walls. The colors of the houses
are all Mediterranean earth tones of red/orange, gold, terra cotta with deep
green shutters and stone everywhere. We had time out for coffee and cheese
cake. Yum. But we had more than coffee and cheesecake we had time to
watch life passing by. A tiny tyke on a little scooter, a dog hopping up
into a fountain for a noontime slurp. Ladies coming from the farmers
market carrying bunches of lilacs, a workman pulling a cart with building
materials. Our guide in Rovinj lives there. She the told us that
people do not live inside their homes. They are always outside. The
outdoor cafes are always full of people sharing the evenings. Their homes
are for sleeping.