Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fun in Athens, Greece. (by Gabe Lee)

Today we visited Athens, Greece. There were three things I liked about Athens. The 1st thing was the Acropolis. The 2nd thing was a dog at the Acropolis. The 3rd thing was lunch. At the Acropolis we saw the Parthenon. It is all pretty much still standing. It was built for the goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom. There was another temple there built for Athena and Poseidon. Poseidon was the god of the sea. At the Parthenon I met a dog that loved belly rubs. I went up to pet him and he rolled over right when I got to him. So I rubbed his belly, and when I stopped he clawed and pushed at me so I would rub him some more. So I did. Then the next time I stopped, he stayed rolled over to show me he still wanted more, so I rubbed him some more. Then I stopped again and he still stayed rolled over. I decided to stop because he probably would have kept me there awhile. After visiting the Parthenon, we went to the National Museum of Archeology, where we saw a lot of ancient Greek art. Then we had lunch at a place called Yeppo. We ate cheese and spanikopita, a Greek salad, beef over orzo (rice dish), & fruit. I thought it was very good! We had a good time in Athens, and I think it would be fun to go back again sometime!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Walking the streets of the ancient city of Ephesus. (by Tom)

While it took some imagination, we experienced the actual streets of the ancient City of Ephesus in the best-preserved archeological site from Roman times. While other archeological sites I have visited consisted of one or two rediscovered buildings in the space of an acre or two, Ephesus is a rediscovered City; the entire site is at least 20 acres and a square half-mile. We entered through the area where one of the old gates would have been located and were led by our guide through the layout of the City, which was a major City on the Aegean Sea. We walked through the sites of where the legislature met, through the bath houses, through the temples and the marketplace and through sites where houses located on Ephesus “main street” were once located (the sidewalks of the residences with the most amazing tile mosaic floor I have ever seen—the head of some archeologist must have been spinning when it was discovered). The highlights of the site are the ancient library (picture attached) and the stunning ancient amphitheater, where the Apostle Paul preached. This amphitheater seats 30,000 and is still used for concerts.The City was abandoned some time around 500 AD following a major earthquake,was eventually lost to the ages, only to be rediscovered in the late 19th Century. It was exciting to imagine a vibrant city on this site, which is now ancient ruins.

Santorini, Greece--Yes, it is spectacular. (by Hiller)

I’ve heard references about the beauty of Santorini, Greece for some time, but nothing prepared me for the dramatic and ruggedly beautiful landscapes we encountered. We entered the island by tender boat, which was interesting in and of itself. Then we took a bus up to Oia, a lively tourist area where the view was breathtaking. This is the view that is most often seen in posters, vivid white cubed houses and churches with brilliant blue domes juxtaposed to even deeper blues of the Aegean Sea. We saw a black sand beach, ate traditional Greek food, and went to the highest point of the island, Fira--which is also the capital. We took a cable car down the mountain and returned to our tender boat. We definitely needed more time to explore!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Olympia--the site of the ancient Olympics (by Gabe Lee)

Today we went to ancient Olympia. We saw Zeus’s temple and his wife, Hera’s, temple. There once was a huge statue of Zeus that was about 38ft tall. It got stolen and taken to Turkey, where it was later destroyed in a fire. The temples are mostly ruins, but you could see some old columns where the temples used to be. We even got to run on the actual track where the competition was held. Back then the Olympics only involved track and field sports. We learned the winner of the Olympics received the gift of victory from Zeus represented by the goddess, Nike (the winged goddess of victory). Do you see where the athletic company, Nike, got its name?Then we went to a restaurant and had traditional Greek foods—lamb, baklava, and mousaka. My favorite was the lamb. We also watched a traditional Greek dance called Zorba. There was a lot of arm and leg movement that required coordination. It was kind of weird but I guess it was o.k. My mom and dad enjoyed it and when they asked my mom to dance, she did.

So our day today was good. It was cool to see the ancient ruins and old Olympic fields. Also to eat Greek food and I guess see a native Greek dance!

Dubrovnik, Croatia--A pleasant surprise (by Tom)

I knew very little about Dubrovnik, Croatia before our visit there. I left wishing I had more time to explore the town. The town was an independent City State reliant upon shipping from ancient times until the 1600s or so.The City is located on the Adriatic Sea, with a mountain range just a mile or so from the Sea. At some point a cable car was built to provide a 5-minute ride from the City to the top of the range. The cable car was badly damaged during the civil wars of the 1990s, but has now been repaired to its original condition Our tour begin with a breathtaking ride on the cable car to the top of the mountain. There we had a wonderful view of the City below.To secure itself in ancient times, an 80-foot tall wall was built that still surrounds the City. That wall now defines the City. The entire distance of the wall is a few miles. After the cable car ride, while Hiller shopped below, Gabriel and I climbed to the wall and started our walk to incredible views of the Baroque city below. After touring the wall, we met up with Hiller, had lunch, and wandered the narrow car-free streets until it was time to return to the ship. We saw no visible signs of the damage caused in the war, which we understand was devastating in places. Only having the day to see the City, we headed back to the cruise ship with some sense of regret that we did not have more time to explore the little streets and shops of the town that, to my surprise, had so much to offer.

Good morning Corfu, Greece! (by Hiller)

Corfu architectural flourishes are Venetian, French and British-influenced. Corfu is named for the nymph Kerkira (daughter of the river Assopos) and means town on the summit. We learned that in Greece it is rude to wave with an open palm. We visited the Achillion, which was the Empress Elisabeth of Austria's Summer Palace. She was fascinated by the Greek hero Achilles. After she was assassinated in Switzerland in 1898, the villa was empty until Kaiser Wilhelm bought it in 1907. We enjoyed walking around the town with the narrow streets filled with interesting shops. We had gelato for an afternoon treat.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Playing Scrabble in Civitavecchia

Gabriel ponders the Mediterranean before breakfast.
Our ship, the MS Noordam. It's huge!
We spent the night in Civitavecchia before we boarded our ship. We were able to get in a quick game of scrabble--Hiller beat Tom.

Boarding the plane at RDU.

We're off. First stop London, change planes, and then on to Rome. We take a car to Civitavecchia where we will board a ship.