Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fortieth Wedding Anniversary

The cruise aboard Star Flyer was in celebration of our fortieth wedding anniversary. It is the single most extravagant thing we have ever done. Painfully aware that Bob and Bonnie's fortieth anniversary was their last one, we know that everything can change -- just like that.
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And so we opted for some extraordinary way to celebrate, to be together.
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Caught up in the busyness of our lives -- our calendars, jobs, activities; Palm pilots, telephones, cell phone; email, bills, commitments; even our children whom we love so much -- what initially drew us together gets put on a back burner somehow.
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Away, at sea, in a magical place, with no responsibilities apart from applying sunscreen and drinking water, with none of the busyness to distract us, we fell in love all over again.
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It was the last day of the cruise. We knew that Star Clippers was going to have a cake for us at dinner (we didn't know, however, that this would include musical instruments, a ceremony involving a napkin tied around our hands, and waiters singing, "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You"). Instead of allowing Ilya to seat us that night, we decided to ask the people whose company we had enjoyed throughout the week to join us. We'd found almost everyone and were sitting on deck when Yvonne passed by.

"Yvonne," I said. "Would you and Lindsay join us for dinner tonight?"

"Of course, luv," she replied. "Any special reason?"

"It's our 40th anniversary."

"40th? Congratulations! Isn't 40 the ruby anniversary?"

"Oh, I don't know. I never pay attention to those things."

"Joe," Yvonne persisted. "Isn't 40 the ruby anniversary?"

"Yes," he replied. "It has been ordered and I'll give it to her when we get home."

And thus he did.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Love of My Life

At the tomb of Agamemnon. The scale of the place was amazing. Joe said, "This would be fine for me when the time comes."
Posing on Samos on one of those beautiful blue and white streets.
Joe at the agora in Ephesus.
Even the most intrepid travelers have to have a bit of a nap.
He climbs the mast.
40th Anniversary, presided over by Ilya.
My favorite memory of the trip. Throughout the cruise, various people had asked the Captain if they could have a turn at the Wheel, and he always agreed, providing close supervision through one of the deck hands. Joe watched, but never asked. As we sailed out of Sifnos on the last night of our cruise, we were sitting in our usual spots. The Captain was on the bridge. He turned around, saw Joe there, and gestured for him to come and take the Wheel.

We Met the Nicest People . . .

. . . and here are pictures of some of them.
Len and Luanne from Colorado were the first people we met, and we enjoyed their company so much. Len and Joe had much in common. Luanne was so sweet; she and I were companions in mal-de-mer on Sunday.
Helen and Raymond were hilarious. Retired obstetrician and midwife, they are from Australia and have done a lot of traveling.
A fearless foursome. Joe and me on the night of our anniversary with the Swedish grandmother and Jill.
A pair of Swedish grandmothers. She and her husband were celebrating their 50th anniversary and had brought their children and grandchildren -- a party totalling eleven -- on the trip.
Jill is beseiged by breadbaskets. She and Janet are from England. We met them the first night out and continued to enjoy spending time with them throughout the week. Alas, I never got a picture of Janet.

Luanne in the middle, flanked by Yvonne and Lindsay who own a guest house in the wine country of Australia. They thought we might want to come visit them sometime. We thought so too.
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Next Post: The Love of My Life

Odds and Ends

In Piraeus, Nancy boards Star Flyer, whose sails are all down, for the start of a great adventure.
Rest In Peace, Samos. (Worth clicking for enlargement)
Sailing past a part of one of the islands, both of us instinctively grabbed our cameras at the same moment, thinking of Bill when we saw the circus tent.
The dining room on Star Flyer.

Hadrian's Gate, in Ephesus, with someone other than Hadrian . . . .
Lunch at a taverna on Samos.
Sunset over Paros.
Sunrise over Athens. It was Joe's custom to get up very early so that he could be on deck to watch the sunrise. He became friendly with the officer and deckhand who had the early morning watch. I generally slept in and joined him on deck around 7:30. On the last morning, I woke early and got dressed while Joe did some last minute packing. The deck officer was surprised when he turned and saw me in Joe's usual spot. "He sent me," I told him. "He's sleeping in today."

What was the likelihood that on the morning of our departure my 365 Quilt Blocks calendar block for the day would be "Tall Ships"? And that the blocks for rest of the days we were to be away would be sailing-related? What was the likelihood that as we pulled into the airport in Philadelphia to depart, that the radio would be playing "The Flying Dutchman"? What was the likelihood that one of my first glimpses of pulling into the harbor at Athens at the end of our cruise would be dancing ladies? All highly unlikely, I think. And yet all happened.
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Next Post: We Met the Nicest People

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Quick Trip to Turkey

The first port we visited was Kusadasi, Turkey. This town that is really nothing to speak of on its own has developed popularity for tourists because of its proximity to the ancient town of Ephesus, made famous by Paul's Epistle and the archaeological dig. This picture was taken as we approached the Kusadasi harbor.

The Turkish flag is pretty. Late that night as we sat out on the deck we saw the same phase of the moon with a nearby star and were struck by the resemblance to the flag. This flagpole is at the port. While we were there, Star Flyer also flew a Turkish flag out of respect to the laws of Turkey.
We signed up for the tour of the terraced houses at Ephesus; the tour was long and the temperature was hot. It was fascinating, though, to see the shrines to the ancient Greek gods, the streets, the marketplace, the gates and temples. The excavation and reconstruction of the terraced houses was the best archaeological work we saw on the entire trip, and I kept thinking of Sherry.
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There was no breeze and precious little shade, and the ground dust was abundant. It made me think of the Gospel warning, "Whoever doesn't receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet." I was wearing my Birkenstock sandals that day and there was plenty of dust to shake off!

Located just beyond the exit of the ruin area was a marketplace. The shopkeepers were aggressive, the prices were inflated, and the experience there was generally offensive. We stopped at a stand and had what was (due to the heat and exhaustion factors) possibly the best orange drink either of us had ever tasted! I took this picture with Tom in mind -- they certainly do sell guitars!
This picture will help you have an idea what that market area was like. I loved this sign. Click to make it readable.

On the way back to the Kusadasi port, we had the opportunity to stop and learn how Turkish carpets are made. I was tired and could take it or leave it, but Joe thought he'd like to make the stop. Promises of airconditioning and additional water persuaded me. It was interesting and a lot of fun. There were rugs stacked all over, and hanging on the walls. One caught my attention immediately -- it was hanging on the wall to the right and had a lot of blue in it. Imagine my surprise when Joe said he thought we should buy a rug for our morning room! And my greater surprise when he indicated that he had been attracted by the exact same rug! We had the good sense to dicker the price a bit, and it will be home in just a couple of weeks!
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Next Post: Odds and Ends

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Island Vistas

A street scene on Sifnos, the last island we visited while aboard Star Flyer. Sifnos was the hottest island, and had the best pottery. We bought some bowls and small pots with lids for our kitchen as well as a pitcher on Sifnos.
We saw hundreds of these churches. This one is on Paros.
A typical house; this one is in Pythagorea (home of the famous theorem creator!). What was amazing was the crisp cleanliness, the white and the blue everywhere. This house had a terra cotta roof. Others had blue roofs.
Several islands had windmills. I loved them all, both the traditional ones like this one and the modern ones, too. One place we traveled, we saw windmill blades and other components in a large field, waiting to be put together. The blades were massive.
The harbor on Paros. The big bundle is fishing nets.
We saw hundreds of these winding side streets on all of the islands. Venturing down often led to surprising sights.

An example of a surprising sight! This house had two exterior walls with these birdcages, one or two birds to a cage.
We were supposed to visit Mykonos, but the sea was too rough there and the captain decided we'd go to Paros instead. There we saw the Church of A Hundred Doors. This is the bell tower of that church.
The legend is that the church complex had 100 doors and 99 were located. Supposedly, when the last door is located, the parts of Greece that were taken by Turkey would be returned.
We visited this graveyard outside a church on Samos. There are little shrines with photographs, lamps, icons, and possessions of the deceased. We were surprised to find no death dates more recent that 2001. Clearly there is something going on that we did not understand.
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Next Post: A Quick Trip to Turkey

Shipboard Scenes: Life Aboard Star Flyer

Of course the ship had a parrot, Celesta, shown here with Katharina the crew member whose duties included the parrot's care. Celesta had no words, but that didn't stop her from shrieking unintelligible insults at us as we passed by her cage on the main deck!
In Turkey, we were able to pull into the harbor and tie up to the dock, but in all of the island ports, we would anchor offshore and be carried back and forth in these tenders.

The ship personnel never tired of inventing activities for anyone who was interested. One day they invited people to climb the mast and You Know Who had to do it. This picture is Joe in the crow's nest with Johan, the activities director.

We never tired of just sitting on the deck and watching the activities connected with a sailing vessel. Watching the sails being hoisted and pulled down provided endless fascination. One day we had Force Nine winds that ripped the mainsail. The next day, the sailmaker was set up on the main deck repairing it. He was quite the old salt and Joe, who caught a closer look than I, claimed he had about seventeeth. You should have seen the sewing machine this guy used!

Eager to improve our minds and skills, lessons of all kinds were provided. One afternoon we spent a half hour in the dining room learning unusual napkin folding techniques. Another day there was a fruit carving demonstration.

In the evenings there was usually some form of deck entertainment including a talent show, a frog racing competition, and the night we left Turkey, a belly dancer!

When we'd get ready to sail out of a port, the sails were raised in a particular order and most of the passengers would gather to watch. This was all done to the accompaniment of a distinctive piece of music, and was very moving.

As a collector of misspelled words in unusual places, I couldn't resist this sign on the ship's bridge.
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Next Post: Island Vistas

Friday, July 27, 2007

Churches of the Greek Isles


Samos was the first island we visited, and soon after entering the port we saw this church from afar. A long climb later we were there!

At least ninety percent of the churches in Greece are Greek Orthodox, and the style is decidedly Byzantine. This church is not the most elaborate one that we visited!

The chandelier in the church was intricate and lovely, though not something I'd want in my center hall.

In Patmos I visited a cave where tradition indicates the book of Revelation was written by John. Photos were forbidden, and I chose not to purchase the ones that were at the gift stand. I took with several grains of salt some of the things that the guide said, including the "proofs" that this cave was the actual one where Revelation was dictated. It didn't matter to me whether it was or wasn't. I found it interesting, but not particularly sacred. The picture above is of the dome of the monastery built over the Cave. I liked the dome better than the Cave!
This is one of the frescoes at the entrance to the cave.
This bell tower is part of the monastery.
This is the dome on top of the Cave. Inside were three artifacts that supposedly were the place where John rested his head, the handle he used to get pull himself up from his rest, and the shelf that served as a desk where his secretary wrote down the revelations. I wasn't utterly convinced. In the ceiling of the cave was a large crack that had three branches; the guide said it had been made by the voice of God and the three branches were proof of this. Again, I didn't believe it. My thought is that trying to prove God isn't a good idea. Faith in something that cannot be proven seems much better to me.
Next Post: Life Aboard Star Flyer