In order to provide some additional time in this fascinating land we back track to Ashdod, the port developed to relieve the congestion of Tel Aviv. This gives us an opportunity to see Caesarea, the Roman port city developed by Herod and named after Caesar to facilitate the Mediterranean trade. With an ongoing archaeology dig this is a National Park. Included in the excavations are The Theater, Promontory Palace, Herodian Amphitheater, Bathhouse Complex, ancient outdoor running water toilets, Fortified Medieval City, The Harbour, The Statues Square, the Hippodrome (circus) and the Roman Wall. Movies at the beginning and end of the tour recount the 3000 years of history involved. A windshield tour of our guide’s home city Tel Aviv reveals a vibrant cosmopolitan environment without the marked religiosity of Jerusalem. Our guide reports the expression: while it’s difficult to get bacon in Jerusalem it’s difficult to get a kosher meal in Tel Aviv. The country’s capital is in Jerusalem for political reasons but the embassies are in Tel Aviv. Our lunch in Jaffa has local foods and after a short walk and relaxation we return to the ship.
Limassol, Cyprus is our next port of call and we use it as access for a visit to Nicosia, a city divided between Greece and Turkey after the Turks invaded the country in the 20th
century and only got this far before the UN intervened. This latest conflict provides entre to a discussion of how many times Cyprus has been invaded to provide the conqueror with access to its strategic location for shipping and trading. It is also steeped in religious history as the first mission of Jesus’ disciples was here and it is a strong hold of Greek Orthodoxy with Arch Bishop Macarios a past popular political leader. Today, the Greek and Turkish (37 % of the population) Cypriots get along well with 1/3 of the one million total population living in Nicosia. The recent war, although short in time, was costly in lives lost and people missing.
Our visit to Rhodes, Greece brought new meaning to exercise. Driving to Lindos, an hour from our port, we climb the over 200 steps to reach its Acropolis (a word meaning the highest land of a city) and then see how the Greeks honored their gods in the temple constructed there. There are excellent descriptions of how the archeologists approached preservation and restoration including correcting past efforts that actually harmed the remnants and partially restoring portions to allow the visitor to understand the original construction. The omnipresent shops at the base of the mountain are tastefully woven into a labyrinth of shopping opportunities at more reasonable pricing than elsewhere. As we drive back to Rhodes we learn more about Greek philosophies (“rent a house and buy a boat”, “blame the Turks”, “the Turks came in, destroyed everything and what was left they painted white and called it a mosque”). The guide also noted that the gypsies “were thrown out of Turkey and France and came here with no one to police them”. The street paved cobblestones are noted in saying that they used an old plan with new stones. The Greeks used to ride donkeys, now ride Japanese donkeys. They have 26% unemployment. Olive trees need lots of sun and no irrigation, produce fruit in 15 years and extra virgin olive oil is the first pressing of the season.
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