NILE BLOG 03
Sunday September 30, 2012
Sorry for the blog-gap, but these past three days have been full-on! I mean, our grand Middle Eastern adventure has only just begun, but we’re already been/done/seen HEAPS! So allow me (as best I can) to bring you quickly up to date:
FRIDAY: After leaving Singapore and flying through 11 hours of darkness, we touched down, bright and early, at Athens International Airport (Elefthérios Venizélos) – then headed to the Royal Olympic Hotel for an early check-in, some shut-eye, and some out-on-the-street exploration. At nearly every intersection in this famous Greek capital the glories of its distant past intrude on the present, and 2400-year-old monuments like the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Zeus could be seen – up-close and in-your-face – from the rooftop restaurant of our hotel. Talk about a photo-op – it was incredible!
Then, come late afternoon, we met Vicky (our fun-loving Greek guide) and went sightseeing. The Olympic Stadium, soaring Corinthian columns, the Plaka (old town) with its narrow cobbled streets and lively tavernas ringing with the music of mandolins – we sampled them all. And then we sat down at the foot of the ghostly, floodlit Parthenon to our first-of-many feasts: Greek salad (lettuce, onions, tomatoes, capsicum, feta, olives, whatever, all drenched in olive oil) … barbecued lamb, chicken, pork … and baklava (a pastry/honey/nuts dessert soaked in yummy syrup)!
SATURDAY: We were up-and-away right after breakfast for a walk-around visit to the Acropolis, the mighty rock formation dominated by one of the world’s most beautiful ancient buildings: the Parthenon – built around 400 BC and dedicated to the Virgin Goddess, Athena. We oohed and aahed and wandered the marble ruins, taking in two other gems while we were at it: the delicate little Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheum, famous for its Porch of the Caryatids (its roof supported by six stunning statues of Athenian women).
Then, in the afternoon, we drove west for some stunning views of the crystal-clear waters of the Saronic Gulf … the amazing Corinthian Canal (a 6km shipping channel carved through 80 metres of solid rock back in the 1800s) … and the archaeological site of ancient Corinth,where St Paul lived for two years.
Back in Athens (I can’t believe it was only last night) we enjoyed another Greek feast at the Old Stamatopoulos Taverna, set amongst the narrow lanes, colourful stalls and foodie-joints of the Plaka.
TODAY: We were packed up, fed and watered, all on the coach, and driving out of Athens (believe it or not) before the sun came up this morning … motoring north through Greece’s rich agricultural plains (past cotton fields and olive-tree plantations) to Kalambaka (an attractive small town nestled at the foot of mountains – rebuilt after being almost entirely destroyed by the Nazis in WWI). We parked our bags at the Divani Meteora Hotel and drove up a windy mountain road to our real destination – the sheer stone pinnacles that rise abruptly from the surrounding plains. Built into and on top of these rocky peaks are the famed Monasteries of Meteora – one of the most extraordinary sights in mainland Greece.
‘Meteora’ means ‘suspended in the air’ … and the almost inaccessible monasteries provided monks (at the end of the 14th century) with peaceful, safe havens from increasing bloodshed. Back then, the monks had to climb hundreds of metres up removable rope ladders – or get hauled up in nets. But access these days (lucky for us!) is via paved roads and steps hewn into the vertical rock walls.
We spent a couple hours in two of the six still-working monasteries, marvelling at the landscapes, appreciating the art and culture, and learning more than most of us ever have about the Greek Orthodox faith.
A good day? You bet! One out of the box, I reckon …
First on our agenda is the ‘biggie’ of Greek religious shrines, the Oracle of Delph. Then, late afternoon, we’ve got a date at the port of Piraeus (Athens) with our floating hotel, the ms Prinsendam. We’re going SAILING … yeehaa!
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this page, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.
Hi J & R…
Great to hear all your news, Greece sounds bee-utiful! Pics are amazing, esp that huge monastry on the cliff + the canal carved through the rock – lucky you! How’s your back J? I guess you’ve been popping Voltaren. Anyhow, hurry home, we’re missing you! Love from the Berts.
To Sheryl Robinson, Happy birthday 1st October , You sure would have had one you will never forget, keep having fun, hi to Viyaya too
Love And regards John & Nola
Umm John…. there were no Nazis in WW I !!! I think you mean WW II. Wow very jealous, would love to join in :-). Eat that Greek salad – there’s nothing better – & it only tastes so good in Greece, oh I hope you’re all popping Greek coffee, mmmmmm….Enjoy it Eric & Margaret.
Hi Pam – Wonderful adventures, great blogs, fantastic photos, wow, wow, wow. Love The Carmodys. PS ta for your emails too. Have fun. xxxx
Hi Tim and Dianna (nanny and grandad)
I hope you are having an awesome time it looks like you are having so much fun.We are missing u alot not having you here to babby sit us .Cant wait to hear from you when you come back .Stay safe we all want you to come back in one piece 🙂
To Annette Hattie.
Hi Annette, we are so glad that there were no disruptions of the trip in Athens. The protests and airport closure was on the news here the day you were in Singapore. Hope you climbed to the top at Metiora !! Following you every day in prayer. David misses you and says Hi. Keep well and hope you are coping with John’s jokes. If he wants to give you an “award” duck for cover !
Love Judy and Edgar