30 Aug 2017, 21:16 Europe Time
We have spent the past three days visiting Greece. First, we went to Katakolon, then Mykonos, and finally Piraeus / Athens. It was, in all respects, exactly what we expected of Greece, and it did not disappoint.
In Katakolon, we went to Olympia, and the sight of the first Olympic Games. Seeing the temple of Zeus, standing on the exact spot where they – to this day – light the Olympic torch to start the Games, wherever they may be held, and seeing the museum and artifacts was amazing. We took a tour that was scheduled by the cruise lines. MSC’s tours are quite good – well worth the price you pay, and you don’t ever feel like you are unsafe. (Sidenote – yes, we were on the Splendida about 4 months before the shooting in the museum in Tunisia, but I do not feel like that was MSC’s fault in any way. It was terrorists, who are just assholes – plain and simple.). The tour started at the ship, and we took a bus all the way out to Olympia. The guide was English-speaking, although we were on the bus with German-speaking folks, too. They had their own translator.
The ruins you see on a tour like that are like nothing that you could ever see in the US. First off, we don’t have anything near that old in the US. Second, in the US, we are currently too busy worrying about what clothes someone is wearing, what type of car they are driving, or what school their kid is attending. We also tend to tear down old buildings and put up a new structure, instead of keeping the relics around. The Temple of Zeus would simply be a footnote in a history book in the US, I’m afraid. It looks to a certain degree like a pile of rubble, but to those of us history buffs around, it’s simply fantastical.
There are some statues remaining, in the museum, including the statue of Nike, who is a bad-to-the-bone winner. She was gorgeous. Others include statues of various heros, mythological gods and goddesses, and other relics that are just cool to view. you can take photos in the museum and on the site. The site is also pretty lax about sitting on the rocks, which are all limestone for the most part. You just aren’t allowed inside the temple or allowed to stand on the rocks, as they are fairly fragile, apparently. I wouldn’t want to be “that girl” who broke part of the temple rocks, if you know what I mean.
In Mykonos, we went to a really nice beach about 35 minutes from the port where the ships dock. It was a nice, sandy bottom beach, without much seaweed. ALthough the water was cold, it was bearable, and the sun felt great on our backs as we swam. We stayed about 3 hours or so, had a coke (in a glass bottle!) and then headed back to the ship. There was a bit of time to shop in a small shopping area, which was nice, since we had to get the typical magnets. I say magnets as plural, since we have to get two – one for me and one for my sister. I think she has started putting them up at work as she’s run out of room on her fridge at home. I have gotten her a magnet everywhere I have been over the past 15 years or so, so she has a lot of magnets. I think her husband is a saint, as he puts up with both her and her magnet collection. The latter, of course, is the more difficult of the two, but I’m only saying that because I am afraid she might read this blog. 🙂
Mykonos was a dry, arid part of Greece. There were the typical white and blue houses on the hillside. It “looked like” Greece. When we were in the water at the beach, we looked up the hillside and saw a spot that looked like it was the perfect location for a Hollywood sign, but of course, it would say “Greecywood” because, of course, we were in Greece. Perhaps we were partially frozen from the water, but it was hilarious at the time. It’s one of those “you had to be there” sort of things.
We got to the beach fairly early, so we had half a day to spend in town when we returned. We took the Seabus (2 Euro) to Old Town, and it was well worth it. We had lunch at a cafe that had a balcony literally over the ocean. Sitting there, Sweetie had his first taste of Ouzo, which is this Greek liquor that I had many moons ago in another lifetime. Let’s just say this time was much more pleasant, since no one was using a sword to stab a couch upon which I was sitting. It was Stuttgart (Arkansas), and that’s all I’ll say about that.
We also got to shop some, and honestly we got lost and ended up by the windmills which grace one of the hills in Old Town. We then turned back, went back down the hill, just near the sea wall, had a drink or three, and made our way back to the Seabus to get on our ship.
Today, we went to Piraeus / Athens, which is the largest city in Greece. It has about 5 million of the 11 million Greece citizens as residents, and it was like any large city – with a kicker. It has the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus, and a few other really cool relics. It also has the museum where the relics from the Acropolis are housed. Athens is named after Athen, who apparently kicked Poseidon’s ass in a god contest way back in the day. There were men and women voters, and low and behold, there was one more woman than there were men. So, Athena won, and thus the city is named Athens, instead of Poseidons, for good measure.
The Acropolis / Parthenon is like any other awe-striking structure you’ve read about. You see it from afar, it’s cool. You see it from the base of the hill, just a glimpse, and you can’t believe you are actually there. Then, you round the corner and you see it directly in front of you, and it takes your breath away. It’s massive – 17 columns on the long side by 8 columns on the short side. The columns themselves are gigantic – and they aren’t straight. Neither is the base, which is sloped toward the outside on both sides. You don’t notice it at first, but then when you ARe standing in fron to fit, or off to the side just a bit, you notice that something looks “off”. Then you think your eyes are playing tricks on you. Then, you realize that it’s not your eyes, it’s those clever Greeks who built it way back in the day. A pretty smart and resourceful crew they were. It’s amazing what you can get done when everyone has the same goal. Maybe modern-day American should try this. But, I digress.
There are three other structures on the hill along with the Parthenon. They are just as cool, and none of those have scaffolding like the Parthenon has and has had for many years. It’s all part of the continuing restoration project, which, as part of a working archeological site, is just part of the gig. Don’t go there expecting it to be all finished up – not in your lifetime anyway. There are still parts and pieces being found all the time, and if you own a house at the base of the hill, you might just find Athena’s hand one morning when you are walking your dog. It’s just a thing.
Seeing it up close was amazing. Being able to get that close to something that has been around that long is simply indescribable. If you are a history buff, like me, you have to go. Sell your car, buy a smaller house, save your money. Do whatever you have to do to go. Be part of something greater than buying a new pair of shoes every weekend.
So, you ask, what is the 27 years and 27 days reference? Well, I thought you’d never ask. Back in 1990, Sweetie was in the US Navy. He was on board an ammunition ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, headed for Greece. One of the places he’d not yet been, and one of the places he’d always heard about and thought was cool. It was full steam ahead for he and the crew.
August 1 rolls around. A certain dude decides to bomb a certain country in the Middle East. Instead of getting to go check out Greece, Sweetie’s ship gets to go sit in the Red Sea for weeks on end. It was his last long cruise / underway on his ship before he got out of the Navy, so it was his last chance to get to go to Greece – until now.
We stepped foot on Greek soil exactly 27 years and 27 days later. He had a smile on his face a yard wide, and I knew that all the sacrifices to come to this place, at this time, were worth it.