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.

Picture It, Sicily 2013

First things first.  Apologies are no doubt due to the late Estelle Getty who famously portrayed the fictional character Sophia Petrillo-Weinstock on the hit TV series The Golden Girls for the shameless rip-off in my title of one of her most popular comic devices.  She would start a sentence “Picture it, Sicily 1922”, or some other year, with a hilarious story inevitably ensuing.  Thanks Estelle, for all the laughs.

Marina in Massina, ItalyYou needn’t expect this blog post to meet, much less exceed, the high comedic standard set by that show.  Fortunately, regular devotees of Travel By Terry probably figured out mid-way through my initial post to keep their expectations lower than a world champion Jamaican limbo dancer.

The next few posts will recount my recent voyage through the Mediterranean on Royal Caribbean’s incomparable Navigator of the Seas.  In each post, I will relate one of my favorite aspects of the ship, i.e. A Favorite Feature and describe one of the enjoyable ports of call, i.e. A Port To Ponder.  In that fashion, keeping to two simple points, even my readers on Ritalin can stay engaged.

A FAVORITE FEATURE

Did I mention that I celebrated my birthday on my Golden Circle cruise?  Possibly not.  Did I mention which birthday?  No chance in #@%$*!  In any case, some of my dear friends invited me to share a birthday dinner with them in the Chops Grille which immodestly but accurately touts “the best steak on the high seas.”   If you are not familiar with specialty dining on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, it is the opportunity to upgrade your dining experience from merely great to gourmet.  Take a moment and watch this video!

Chops Grille on Navigator of the SeasThere is a modest up charge of $30 per person for the experience but because I am blessed with magnanimous friends (thanks Tim and Margo!), I did not have to bother my pretty little head with that pesky detail.  The food was sumptuous, the wine delectable (thanks Roger!) and the convivial atmosphere delightful (thanks to the entire table!).  Even if it is not your birthday and you are not accompanied by friends from whom you can con . . . ahem charm an invite, you still owe it to yourself to visit one of the two specialty restaurants during your cruise.

A PORT TO PONDER

Our first port of call was Messina, Sicily.  After perusing my handy Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion guide, a settled on “Taormina On Your Own“.  (There were eleven choices by the way!)  I did this for two reasons.  The price was easy on my pocketbook which, by this point in my travels, was getting lighter by the day.  Also, I figured staggering around through a small village like a vagrant looking for a cigarette butt was well within my limited capabilities.  As it turned out, I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.

I amused myself no end by taking pictures of things that for some odd reason you were not supposed to photograph, like this shop window.  I suspect that this was actually a little Sicilian reverseTaormina, Italy shop window psychology to get you to stare at their window.  If that was the case, all the little signs with X-ed out cameras had the desired effect as I found myself unable to withstand the temptation to take a picture.  The same is true, apparently, of the guy on the right.

Speaking of signs, this little jewel caught my attention.  Who would Street sign in Taormina, Italyhave thought that flashing, Mardi Gras style, was a huge law enforcement issue in Taormina? The tiny print under the top image says, “Circolare a torso nudo – Do not go bare-chested.”  Considering it was about 40 degrees that day, a violation of that edict might have proved very interesting, if you catch my drift.

Taormina is an absolutely charming village.  It is an excellent place to get your cannoli fix, as I must confess, I did!  On the edge of this quaint village is a magnificent Greek theater built in the 3rd century B.C.  This tour offers a relaxing three hours to tour the shops, stop off for lunch at a sidewalk cafe and, on a clear day, view the snow-capped peak of Mt. Elba.

Taormina's Greek TheaterI may have missed the mafia tour called, “In The Godfathers’ Footsteps” but I live with no regrets.  I walked in my own footsteps and had a wonderful time doing so.  And just for the record, I kept my shirt on the entire day . . . sparing me a fine and the entire populace a grotesque visual!

Travel Hopscotch: Name That Destination

I am writing today to assuage the concerns and quiet the fears that surely must be roiling cyber space over my brief hiatus.  I have not published a new post in a couple of weeks which is quite unusual for me.  I can only imagine how sick with worry you must be.

What’s that you say?  You hadn’t noticed?  That’s not very charitable.  It’s not that difficult to feign a little heartfelt concern, you know.  I do it all the time and in one of my finer moments even manufactured a tear once.   If not grave concern, is there at least any idle curiosity out there as to why I have not posted recently?   The short answer is “I’ve been busy!”

Semaphore

International signal for “Dos cervezas, por favor”.

I know most of you think this travel thing is all foo-foo drinks and tiny umbrellas.  You assume all we do is drag our deck chairs from one shade-drenched palapa to the next but you would be so wrong.  In the first place, we would never drag it ourselves if there were a beach waiter within semaphore range.  I got a very nasty splinter doing that once.

Secondly, I will have you know this industry ranks right up there with thinning trees in the pacific northwest and roughnecking in a west Texas oil field for sheer back-breaking exhaustion.  OK, I might be embellishing a tad but the pace, nonetheless, can be quite frenetic.

Here is a bit of good news for those who live for the next installment of these posts.  I am soon to embark upon a rather exotic spate of travel that should provide loads (or would it be bales, or perhaps stacks?) of fodder for future riveting posts.  So where are my travels about to take me?  Are you up for a little cyber parlor game?

Below are pictures of six stops on my itinerary presented in chronological order.  They are labeled, not illogically, Stop One to Stop Six.  I invite you to write a comment with your best guess for each one.  In some cases I have intentionally avoided the more iconic images of the destination.  You won’t see any Sydney opera houses or Eiffel Towers.

Dubai AirportSTOP ONE

Ladispoli, ItalySTOP TWO

Messina, Sicily Athens, Greece

                      STOP THREE                                                  STOP FOUR

Goddess Nike at Ephesus STOP FIVE

Chania, Crete, GreeceSTOP SIX

Give it your best shot.  I am looking not just for the country but the city.  If anyone gets all six correct, I have an immediate opening for you in our vacation travel department!!!