Day Sixteen (Sunday)

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July 9th 2006
Published: November 6th 2006
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Island of PatmosIsland of PatmosIsland of Patmos

The passengers that forked out the $30 for the guided shore excursion were given first priority on boarding the launches from the Sea Diamond to Patmos. We had to wait until 10:00 to head downstairs to the departure deck. While we waited we enjoyed the subdued lighting of Patmos in the early morning. By noon the sun would certainly be beating down mercilessly on any tourist foolish enough to venture out. I thought the structure at the top of this mountain was some kind of Medieval fort, but it was actually the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.
When I woke this morning I could still feel our ship moving. Debarkation for Patmos was supposed to start at 9:30. In my windowless room it was a bit difficult to guess just what time of day it might be and not having a decent watch with me I had no idea what was going on. After laying awake in bed for maybe 15 minutes while Mike blissfully dreamt of diving with frolicking dolphins and discovering sunken treasure, I fumbled my way over our pile of suitcases toward the bathroom where I could turn on a light and see whether we had slept through Patmos. I was a little bummed to see that it was 5:15 am - about the same time I usually wake up for work back home. It was going to be 4 hours until we could even try to leave the ship and I was wide awake. I performed my morning toilet duties and dressed.

Leaving the room I walked out to the observation deck to try to get a clue of as to what was happening. The ship was still steaming along at top speed. The spray coming up into my face was enough to
The port of SkalaThe port of SkalaThe port of Skala

It seemed like we were waiting forever to get to the tenders taking us to the island. I leaned out on one of the decks to take a photo of the tiny port where we were headed. In the foreground you can see one of the little boats ferrying the passengers ashore.
drive me back inside but not before I noted that there were big land masses on each side of the ship. We must be near something. But throughout this trip through the Greek islands we were always in close proximity to some sort of land, usually medium-sized islands. If Odysseus had indeed sailed through these waters then he wasn't exactly out on the high seas when he had his adventures. I think even I could almost swim between these islands.

Back in the room Mike was still sleeping and it was still too early for breakfast. I laid in bed for about an hour trying to fall back asleep but without luck. At around 7:00 Gail called and asked if I was ready for breakfast. With eyes wide open I bolted for their room only to find they still needed to shower. Forty-five minutes later we went down to the breakfast buffet.

Long lines at the buffet even at this early hour. Things proceeded rather quickly though. I scooped up some watery scrambled eggs, bacon, and a roasted tomato. Since I'd be starting my next trip to England in three days I figured it was time to start
A pleasant enough little shackA pleasant enough little shackA pleasant enough little shack

Our ship was parked right across from this beauty of an estate. I wonder what the wealthy owners though of 800 tourists gawking at them every morning.
eating like a Brit. I had to pass on the baked beans however.

While we were dining the ship began to slow down. We were anchoring in the middle of what looked like a fjord to me. There were high mountains on either side of the ship. On shore we could only see a few buildings. Nothing like the bluish-domed bleached-white homes of Mykonos or the tall sand-colored walls of the fortress in Rhodes. These were primarily white buildings but they seemed somewhat austere compared to the gaiety (pun intended) of Mykonos. The landscape was not quite as barren as Mykonos because there was a smattering of trees, but it still seemed desert-like. In fact, thinking back on it, the houses looked a lot like white-washed versions of the pueblos in the Southwest U.S.

Today we were scheduled to stop in Patmos first then in the afternoon we would visit Kusadasi, Turkey. We were a little leery of going to Turkey having seen Midnight Express one too many times, but we opted for the $55 escorted shore excursion which I figured would keep us out of the hairier neighborhoods. In Patmos the ship offered a $30 excursion to
Shuttling off to SkalaShuttling off to SkalaShuttling off to Skala

Just in case we didn't make it back on the last launch at noon, I thought maybe I should take one last shot of the Sea Diamond. It's no wonder that I could feel the roll of the ship on our deck near the top - the ship looks top heavy.
see a monastery and the cave where St. John wrote Revelations. I couldn't justify spending almost $400 for the family to do all that, so we agreed that we'd just get off the ship in Patmos and see what was close at hand. The captain got on the horn (nautical term) and explained that we were unable to get into the dock at Patmos so we would be using local boats to debark. What would really make things difficult was that the last boat from Patmos back to our ship would be at noon. We didn't want to miss the boat because we would later be visiting Turkey and the ancient city of Ephesus.

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What to do in Skale?What to do in Skale?
What to do in Skale?

It was a nice little 10 minute ride from our ship to the harbor at Skale - ten minutes out of our alloted hour and a half! When we got off the tender there was a cute little touristy street with more souvenir shops. We started to look around but most of the places still weren't open on this Sunday morning. A few were preparing to open as we watched shopkeepers sweeping in front of their shops, wheeling out carts full of vegetables and souvenirs, and rolling down big awnings at the front of their stores. I think Gail had finally reched her saturation point for shopping on this trip. She actually turned away from the shops and spotting a row of taxi cabs she suggested we go over and ask what it might cost to go up to the monastery. As we approached the cab stand we saw about a dozen other tourists from our ship get there before us. They spoke a few words to the cabbies and piled into three of the four cars waiting there. We almost turned around but the remaining cabbie called us over. He offered to take a carload of us to the monastery and to the Cave of St. John for 25 Euro. He promised it take under an hour. When we said we couldn't all fit in one cab, he somehow conjured up another cab thatrolled up the second he said he could find us another.
What a view!  And what a ride to get here!What a view!  And what a ride to get here!
What a view! And what a ride to get here!

With the upcoming retirement of Michael Schumacher, Ferrari need look no farther than the isle of Patmos for a replacement driver. The way up the mountain is yet another winding, twisting route full of hairpins and blind turns. Our driver and the one following behind us took to these roads like ravenous dogs. I swear they were tearing up the asphlat and spitting it out under their tires as we slalomed our way uphill. On one turn I could feel the back end powerslide as we reached the apex. These guys were oblivious to anyone or anything on the road. Thank God it was a Sunday morning so no one else was stupid enough to get in their way. Halfway up the mountain we pulled off the road and our driver directed us toward a medium-sized white-washed church. He told us he'd be back for us in half an hour then tore out of the parking lot flinging rocks our way as he climbed further up the mountain road. Knowing we didn't have much time we made our way over to the white building trusting that he would indeed return. Since we hadn't paid him yet I assumed we would see him shortly. This was the view down on our ship only halfway up the mountain.
Getting downGetting down
Getting down

When we reached the white chapel signs directed us down a steep set of stairs to the Cave of St. John. Those steps led to more steps which led to even more. This was going to be a pain in the knee to get back up.
Into the Holy Cave of the ApocalypseInto the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse
Into the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse

About 100 steps down from the chapel we found this other chapel which served as the entrance to the cave where St. John received the Word of God leading to his writing of the Book of Revelations. Inside some sort of ritual was going on. I was afraid to offend someone and take pictures. It really looked nothing like a cave. Inside it looked just like all the other ornate interiors of other Greek churches we had visited. The only difference was that one side of the room was a rock wall. There was a lot of incense being burned and some chanting going on. Every wall was decorated with icons and burgundy wall drapings. I never did see the crack in the wall that was caused by the Voice of God.
How lucky can we get!  Another souvenir stand.How lucky can we get!  Another souvenir stand.
How lucky can we get! Another souvenir stand.

When we assumed our half hour was up we broke out our grappling hooks and traversed our way back up the steps to the parking lot. I truly felt like a Geezer, not because I was out of breath, but because my knee hurt so much. Back at the parking lot we waited for our driver who hadn't returned yet. "Fortunately" for us there were a couple little souvenir stands conveniently situated across the street from the church property. While Gail killed some time looking at more junk I walked a couple meters further uphill to take this picture of the harbor of Skale. That isn't our boat berthed in the harbor. I guess the more expensive cruise ships get dockside service.
Monastery of St. John the TheologianMonastery of St. John the Theologian
Monastery of St. John the Theologian

We waited about ten minutes for the Taxi Cabs from Hell to return. Gail, Grandma and I piled into one while Tyler, Gen and Mike got in the other. Luckliy for us the drive further up the mountain was less serpentine. Of course this let our driver open it up even more. With clear views on all sides of us I was less worried about someone pulling out in front of us or having Stavros forget that there was a left turn up ahead. Again he dropped us off vowing to return in a half hour. I kind of wished he had taken us a little further up the hill. Didn't they think about the tourists when they built these places?
In the cloister of the monasteryIn the cloister of the monastery
In the cloister of the monastery

The walk uphill wasn't as strenuous as it looked. There were a number of interesting looking shops and restaurants along the way. Instead of climbing straight-up to the monastery our path bent back on itself as it rose much like a fire escape along the side of the hill. At the entrance an attendent gave the women in our group veils to wear over their exposed arms. Inside the walls of the monastery it felt much like the medieval castle it so much resembled. I feel certain that some time during its history this monastery was confiscated by some conquering power that used it as a fort. It seemed inpregnable high atop the mountain.
Icon not read the writing on this pictureIcon not read the writing on this picture
Icon not read the writing on this picture

Right next to the well at the center of the courtyard was the beautiful mosaic icon. As nice as this one is, there are much prettier icons inside the Greek churches but they are all so dark inside that you can never get a decent photo.
Back to the shipBack to the ship
Back to the ship

Giving us a half hour to look around the monastery was more than enough time. There wasn't a whole lot to see other than the cloistered area and a couple side rooms. Methinks the "interesting" stuff is off-limits to the tourists. We headed back down the hill stopping at a couple of the shops. Gail picked up a picture of St. John for our pastor while I bought a guide book describing the sights of Patmos. An informative little book with lots of nice photos it did not mention anything about my theory of foreign invaders taking over the monastery at some point. When we reached the parking area at the bottom of the monastery neither of our cabs were waiting. We spent almost 15 minutes waiting for our rides, all the while worrying we would miss the 12:00 tender. Finally just over the hill a cloud of dust and the high-pitched whine of over-revving Toyota four cylinder engines told us the boys were back for us. We piled in our cabs and got firm grips on the door handles while we plummeted downhill. Actually I was finally enjoying the ride. I began to realize that these guys were pros and probably flew up and down these roads for years. We reached the cab stand none the worse for wear. Gail gave our driver the agreed upon 25 Euro plus a 5 Euro tip for getting us back bruised but alive. We hustled over to the nearby docks where a crowd of about 50 people waited to board an awaiting boat. We were lucky enough to end up sitting on the deck at the back of the boat. The loading off this 35 foot boat took about 15 minutes as they just kept boarding more and more people. I couldn't believe how many people were sent below decks. They had to be standing on top of each other. When we reached the Sea Diamond, the crew was very meticulous about the unloading order, no doubt afraid we might capsize if too many people suddenly shifted from one side to the other.
Killing time before Turkey Killing time before Turkey
Killing time before Turkey

Back aboard the ship we needed to kill a few hours before landing in Turkey. We decided to enjoy a sit-down lunch in the Sapphire Room on the Mykonos Deck. Since most people seemed to opt for the buffet we were one of only a few tables ordering lunch. Once again I enjoyed Moussaka and french fries. We ate leisurely then returned to our cabins for short naps. Like I said, other than the food there wasn't really much on the ship that I could find to entertain me.

Mr. Excitement only got about an hour's snooze before I could feel us slowing down. We had signed-up for the shore excursion which would take us to the home of the Virgin Mary and to the ruins of Ephesus (the "Ephesians" of the New Testament). This meant we got to get off the boat first. On our way down the many flights of stairs I got this glimpse of the port.
My first visit to the Middle EastMy first visit to the Middle East
My first visit to the Middle East

I was pretty excited about my first foray into Turkey. I really had no idea what to expect. I knew it was a Muslim country, but that the other Muslim kooks hated the Turks for being too secular. I also knew that half of Turkey was in Europe and the other half was situated in Asia. We would only be touring through the European side. Back in my youth I had a female pen pal from Incirlik, Turkey. I recall her saying even back then that Turkey was a modern country and much like Europe. My first glimpses of the place seemed to bear out that contention.
Bloody tourists almost ran us overBloody tourists almost ran us over
Bloody tourists almost ran us over

As we were hustling off the ship headed for the tour buses we nearly got run over by this odd bicycle rickshaw bearing down on us. Upon closer inspection we discovered it was two of the kids from our group, Matt and Jamie.
Another crappy bus photoAnother crappy bus photo
Another crappy bus photo

We boarded our buses with no hassle. Our tour guide for the day was a rather pleasant young dude whose name I completely forgot. I knew we were in a civilized country when I got actually feel cool air coming out of the a/c ducts on the bus. We drove North out of town to get to Ephesus. Just before leaving the city limits we passed blocks of brand new condo and apartment construction rising up on the hillside. There were a number of "Remax" and "Coldwell Banker" signs on the finished units. We also passed a couple stores displaying British flags. Much of the storefront advertising was in Turkish and English. I got the impression that this part of Turkey, with its warm sun, beautiful long beaches and seaside breezes was the new hotspot for English vacationers and retirees. Just outside of town we reached the crest of a mountain. We drove along the spine for a little while then descended into this plain bordering the shoreline. The focus of this picture is the Cancun-esque resort hotel on the far right. Nearby we passed a huge water park as well as an amusement park. There was also a big RV campsite near the beach. This was not at all what I was expecting in Turkey.
Up another mountainUp another mountain
Up another mountain

After about 15 minutes of driving it was time to climb another mountain. Our bus took us up yet another twisty road that rose above the very flat plain below. Our tour guide informed us that this was a river plain that once emptied into the Aegean. It silted-up over the years, and like Mycenae, the shoreline gradually moved miles away. Those are olive trees down below us. The stone columns between the trees and the hill are ruins of the town gate. This is probably 3-4 miles from the main archaeological site. This was one huge city for its time.
Home of the Virgin MaryHome of the Virgin Mary
Home of the Virgin Mary

First stop of our tour was the reputed final home of the Virgin Mary. This is where Mary went after Jesus was crucified. It's interesting that it was the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD that first created the cult and sainthood of the Virgin Mary, who once lived in their city.
Inside the ShrineInside the Shrine
Inside the Shrine

This was becoming quite the religious Sunday. There was a line to get into the little house, now a chapel, of Mary. Inside there wasn't much to see other than this altar. I was put off by all the collection boxes set up around the church and on the path leading to it.

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