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Published: October 1st 2015
Beautiful clear day
Blog from my Turkey/ Greece trip April 2015
For weeks I couldn't get the Gilligan 's Island theme song out of my head. I've made a few changes to reflect my recent tour of some Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea that almost ended in disaster.
Just sit back
And you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful ship
That started in Kusadasi
Aboard this tiny ship
The mates were mighty sailing men
The captain brave and sure
Thirty-five passengers set sail that day
For a seven day tour
The weather starting getting rough
The tiny ship was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The 'Artemis' would be lost
The 'Artemis' would be lost
So this is the tale of our passengers
They're here for a long time
They'll have to make the best of things
It's an uphill climb
Hotel manager Robert and Captain Ante too
Did their very best
To make the others comfortable
In our Naxos Island nest.
don't keep a 'bucket list' but I've always to see Athens and the Greek Islands. They are legendary for their beauty and ancient history. The promos for this trip lured me to send in a deposit. The real catnip for me was that the trip was going to start in Istanbul, my third most favorite place in the world - Cusco, Peru and Venice leading the list. The word most associated in travel brochures when describing a tour of the Greek Islands is idyllic. Pictures are shown of the windmills on Mykonos where ancient legend says that the rocks and craggy hills were formed by petrified bodies of Giants defeated by Hercules. Or, they speak of the spectacular harbor of Santorini, beneath which is supposed to be the lost city of Atlantis. It is a volcanic island, whose blue domed churche match the azure sky creating a stunning contract against the whitewashed houses.
Nowhere in the ads is one reminded that the Aegean is a tempestuous and dangerous sea. Students of Greek mythology must be laughing right now thinking of Theseus and his travails. Cliff notes version include: much fighting of centaurs and Minotaurs; much sleeping around; Amazon women
(fighting and sleeping around); and the quest for the golden fleece; a stop in Naxos. Most of us have read the story of Jason and the Argonauts and maybe recall St.Paul's writings of his treacherous trips through the sea documented in Corinthians where he tells of his shipwrecks and all the times he was dumped into the sea. Now there are the present tragedies where refugees are drowned or, if they are fortunate, rescued while fleeing war and persecution in their countries.
While we were in Ephesus, Turkey, Sophia, the thirty-something guide for my group, announced that we had to skip a few activities. The Captain had called and wanted to sail at 5 p.m. because a storm was headed our way. The sky that day was bright cobalt blue. The sun was lusciously warm after several cold and rainy says in Istanbul. Like puppies we followed our guide, boarded the bus, and headed for our ship.
Disclaimer: I am not a cruise person. The thought of being on a huge ship with 2-6,000 people makes me want to run in the other direction. I cannot think of a more unpleasant way to spend a vacation than to
be on a contained vessel with so many other human beings. I know I am in a minority on this because the cruise ship companies keep building bigger ships. Cringe worthy.
I'm not even sure the 'Artemis' qualifies as a 'ship'. It holds fifty passengers and a crew of twenty. It is193 feet in length, 35 feet long and has a 10 foot draft. I was surprised how small it was. The 'staterooms' range from 150-170 sq. feet plus each has a 30 sq.foot bathroom. It's more than enough for one but, I think, a bit cramped for two. My room was quite comfy. On board there is a spacious lounge with a bar, lots of sofas and plush covered swivel rockers. The dining room, with white linen tablecloths, was staffed by attentive waiters who catered to one's every whim. There is a large sun deck on the top floor which, because of the rough weather, never got used on this trip. The 'Artemis ' is ranked #1 in the world for small ship cruises. In the winter it sails the Adriatic but in late March it comes to the Aegean. This was its first cruise of the season.
As soon as we were all on board we set sail. The original plan was Patmos, Amorgos, Santorini, Naxos, Delos, Mykonos, and Syros. Instead we were going to sail all night, Tuesday, for a quick 2 hour stop in Mykonos on Wednesday and then head to Naxos, which has a sheltered harbor. We ended up staying there for 4 days! Thankfully, the ruddy face Croatian Captain Ante, in his mid 50's with more than a bit of a paunch, was very experienced. That first night he was very somber. After a short, perfunctory 'Welcome Aboard' speech, he let us know that our safety was his main concern and the he made the decisions. Aye, aye, Captain.
Wednesday dawned overcast and a bit windy. We walked around Mykonos near the port area. There was not much to see only a few ladies buying fresh produce. We sailed to Naxos and walked around visiting a church where Laurel leaves were being strewn on the raftersas people were getting ready for Easter. In the afternoon, some of the group went on a hike to the village of Kournochari and the hamlet Melanes which is famous for olives. I went
with the slower walkers by bus where we joined the hardy hikers for a further jaunt to see an ancient kouros sculpture which lies on the ground. The story told is that this particular statue was hidden from the Germans during World War II as it dates back to the Archaic period and may have been a portrayal of a guardian of Zeus. While there the weather turned. The wind picked up, rain started, then turned to sleet and the temperature dropped close to freezing. I unfolded my dollar store poncho and covered myself in yellow plastic. I put on my fleece hat, wrapped a scarf tighter around my neck, and pulled on a pair of cheap acrylic gloves -you know the one size fits all style. I felt confused. What happened to the lovely sunny Greek Islands? Wet and shivering I walked quickly to the bus wanting only to get back to the dry, warm ship.
Five crewmen had to hold the ramp leading into the door of the ship to keep it from blowing away. Two others were stationed inside the doorway to catch us as we fell into the ship. Bowls of Dramamine were scattered about
the ship like after dinner mints. The storm was intensifying. After dinner we were entertained by some folk dancers from the island. The fact that they came to perform while the storm was raging was much appreciated by the passengers. To be truthful the dancing was a bit 'pro forma'. Little looks and whispered asides between the dancers transferred their tension to the audience. After their show we were told by the Captain to return to our rooms and stay in our beds. During the night the ship tossed and rocked making standing and walking impossible and dangerous.
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