Crete’s Neat! Who Knew?

I fully intended to wrap up this Golden Circle saga in 2013 and begin 2014 with a fresh assault on your literary sensibilities.  In my own defense, however, may I point out that even failing this objective, I am still way ahead of George Lucas and his announced twelve Star Wars episodes (coincidentally, the number of posts in this series).  Come on George, pick up the pace!

Regrettably, all my good intentions to wrap this up in 2013 went decidedly south, not unlike my ambitious New Year’s resolutions . . .  and yes, I do realize it is only January 7th, thank you very much.

Lighthouse in Chania, CreteMy last port of call before returning to Civitavecchia was perhaps, in some ways, the most surprising of all.  I’ll be honest, after scintillating Sicily, awe-inspiring Athens and exhilarating Ephesus, my expectations were not very high for conventional sounding Crete.

I opted not to do a structured tour and instead decided to hop a city bus that took me to the old part of Chania.  I set off with high hopes of buying one of those Uncle Si Robertson growing beards.  You can imagine my disappointment when one of the locals on the bus pointed out (with uncalled-for disdain I might add) that we were going to Chania, not Chia.  Having already sprung for the bus fare, I decided to make the most of my day.

Public market in Chania, Crete   Olives in Chania, Crete

I noted upon stepping off the bus that we were in front of the Agora, a huge, cross-shaped, indoor public market.  Reassured that I could always find directions back to this massive building and thus the bus stop in front (under no circumstances does one want to view the sailing away of one’s cruise ship from the dock), I decided to set off with nary a compass, map or any intelligible plan of attack . . . sort of the way I have approached my entire life.  The second picture above is a concession to my fellow lovers of Greek olives!

Resisting for the moment the urge to sit down in one of these comfortable looking green chairs and let Chania pass me by, instead of visa versa, I continued to amble down narrow streets lined with quaint shops and various eateries.

Sidewalk cafe in Chania, CreteThe pictures below represent a nice study in contrasts!  The first house I took note of on my walk through this charming city had alabaster white walls and second story windows set off by black wrought-iron railings.  It had beautifully carved wood doors and was classically framed by small trees.  As you can see, it was the picture of orderliness and care.   Not so, the second house. May 20th, House in Chania, Crete1941 marks the day the Germans started aerial bombing attacks which rained down significant damage upon the Old City.  I don’t know for sure if this second house was left as it now appears as a testimony to that destruction but I suspect that to be the case.

The bloody Nazis were very adept at wreaking havoc and raining down destruction.  Their meteoric rise to prominence, which thanks to God and the US military flamed out in a few Old house in Chania, Creteshort years, is one of history’s saddest chapters.  Sorry, that is more than enough time devoted to those sadistic miscreants.

On a more uplifting note, I am rather certain that there are guardian angels in heaven whose sole responsibility is to guide the steps of clueless travelers as they wander aimlessly through strange surroundings.  In spite of the fact that I headed north from the Agora for no particular reason it was only a short time before I stumbled upon the most picturesque part of the city, the Venetian port of Chania.  From a strictly utilitarian point of view, it was never very viable as a port being small, shallow and vulnerable to north and west winds.  (Strangely, I also have been called small, shallow and susceptible to just about everything but that doesn’t need to be explored here.)  Crete is, in fact, a fascinating destination and I hope my travels permit another and much longer visit in the future.

Chania's Venetian PortTo close out this series on an amusing, some might say disgusting note, any idea what is going on here?  For the record, these are not my feet dangling in the water.   Actually, thisFeet exfoliation in Chania, Crete is touted as an excellent form of exfoliation.  To quote the poster, the Garra Rufa fish have an enzyme in their saliva called diathanol which has healing properties.

So how did I spend the last couple of hours in my last port of call on the Golden Circle odyssey?  See for yourself below.

It is the quest for moments like this which motivates all of us who restlessly wander the wide world.  We ask only for a few priceless moments to pause, to reflect, to drink a local beer while we drink in the incredible surroundings and to pretend for a brief span we haven’t a care in the world.   Such moments are not just gloriously lived but gratefully relived whenever we rummage through the corners of our minds.

Relaxing by the Venetian Port of Chania, Crete

As we come full circle (pun intended) and move on to new adventures, I would love for you to take a moment and share your thoughts through a comment on this post.  I know full well that everyone has not been blessed to travel as widely as I have. I write these words in the hopes of giving you a small taste of the experience and inspiring your zeal to see as much of this amazing planet as resources, time and the grace of God permit.

Athens: The Eye Of Greece, Mother Of Arts And Eloquence

If you like the title of this post, be sure and look up John Milton when you arrive safely on “the other side” and shake his hand. He has been over there for more than 300 years signing autographs so he should be almost caught up by now. The phrase comes from Paradise Regained (1671), Book IV, line 240.  My little gray cells have taken off early for the Christmas holidays and the best I was coming up with for a title for this post was Athens Is Really Neat . . . not exactly Miltonian in its rhetorical splendor.

Following Sicily (see previous post) our next port of call was Athens.  In just a moment I will tell you (sadly with none of the lyrical brilliance of John Milton) just how fascinating it was. But first, let’s take a stroll around the Navigator of the Seas and focus on what I am calling in this series of posts:

A FAVORITE FEATURE

Navigator of the Seas' Two Poets PubThese good folks, whoever they may be, are sitting outside the Two Poets Pub. (I am not that great a judge of age but I am pretty sure the lad on the left needs to be carded!) Here is a nice little YouTube video taken by a guest who was obviously having a good time back in May at this pub. It is a great place to sample a pint (or two) from all over the world.  They Famous Beer Quoteshave a very clever and informative menu with categories such as: Good For What Ales You, I Just Like The Taste, Brawny Browns and Second Cousins.

There is a section shown here with a lot of very funny quotes.  If you can’t read the small print, call me and I can book you on the next sailing of the Navigator out of Galveston for a mere pittance and you can read the entire menu while plying the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  I love the etymology of words and sayings and from this menu I learned this little gem.  “In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts.  So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender used to yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down.  This is where we got “Mind your P’s and Q’s.”

A PORT TO PONDER

Quite obviously, in the time remaining, I am not going to be able to do justice to one of the Our guide in Athens marvels of the ancient world.  But here are a couple of highlights.  We were extremely blessed  to have such a knowledgeable and erudite guide for our day in Athens.  I would be only too happy to share her name with you had I not managed to lose her business card somewhere between Athens and Ephesus.  Dear lady, if you recognize yourself, send me your contact information and I will update this blog post!  What I especially appreciated is that she spoke slowly and methodically which permitted even my plodding mind to keep up!

We spent most of the morning on the Acropolis.  This picture, taken as we descended from the Parthenon itself, gives you a sense of how all the edifices built upon this famous hill dominated, and still dominate, the entire landscape.

Descending from the Parthenon

As you can tell from this picture below, the Parthenon is in the midst of substantial renovations.  The ravages of time and modern pollution have taken a heavy toll.  The Parthenon was dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.  At one time there was a magnificent golden statue of her standing in the midst of the Parthenon.

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

This model from the museum will give you an idea of how it looked in the ancient world.  Model from the Acropolis Museum

Following our tour, we ( a couple of busloads of my closest friends and I) stopped off for a delicious lunch of traditional Greek food at one of the many restaurants nestled between shops in the Plaka district.  This happens to be one of my favorite cuisinesRestaurant in Athens for those of you who are assembling a scrap-book of all my preferences and peccadilloes.

Following lunch and a brief time to browse the shops, we made our way to the breathtaking new Acropolis Museum. I could have spent hours in there.

All in all I would have to say, it was a great day . . . and a Greek day, as I think about it!  I was worn out from all the trekking about but also very inspired.  So, as I was taking a long shower back in my cabin getting ready for dinner, I decided to do a little carving with the bath soap and my toe nail clippers.  Not too shabby, huh?

New Acropolis Museum in Athens