Category Archives: Greece

On This Day – Terror on The High Seas

Yesterday I told you about the boat ride to Bodrum.  The return journey was many times worse…

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On This Day – Stuck in a Lift with a Turtle

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 20th August 2014 I was in Corfu in the Greek Islands with my family and a new pal…

Corfu Stuck in a lift with a turtle

There were a lot of steps at the Adonis and Asonitis Apartments so the sensible route to ground level was by the lift (elevator) so rather than tackle the challenging vertical concrete stairs my habit was to take the easy route.  Today, after clearing up the rooms as best I could before the hotel cleaners came in and passed out it was my job to follow the children down to the beach and bring with me the inflatable turtle.

We were on level four and I had to go to level minus one but somewhere between one and three the lift suddenly groaned, juddered then abruptly stopped and the lights all went out as though there was a sort of power failure.  I waited a minute or two (actually, if I am being completely honest, only a second or two) and then I descended into frantic panic.  I have always had a fear of being stuck in a broken down lift.  I jabbed at the control buttons and it was then that I noticed that they were all damaged and caved in as though someone had attacked them with a lump hammer so I could only conclude that this sort of thing was a regular occurrence.

I waited a minute or two (actually only a second or two) and then pressed the alarm button which emitted a deafening screeching sound rather like someone having open heart surgery without an anaesthetic but still nothing happened and I started to contemplate a day stuck in a broken down lift and wondering how I was going to pass the time.

I had no mobile phone (probably wouldn’t have worked anyway) no water, worse still no Mythos, no book to read, no knife and fork in case I was here for so long that I had to eat my green reptile companion and no weapon to defend myself with if it decided to try and eat me!

It was very hot and very humid stuck in the confines of a metal prison cell dangling from a cable and probably about to crash to the bottom in a nasty, messy accident.

Turtle in a lift

I pressed the alarm several times, blamed the turtle for our predicament and looked for a hatch in the roof like you see in a James Bond movie but the situation was hopeless so I put the turtle in one corner and told it to leave things to me and had another attempt at operating the controls.  The turtle didn’t seem to be as concerned as I was I have to say. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, but then after a few moments the hopeful flicker of lights, a welcoming hum of air conditioning and a faintly reassuring whirr of machinery as the lift returned to the top floor and to my relief the doors thankfully opened.

After that lucky escape I wasn’t going to risk the lift again so I walked down the steps to the beach and at the poolside bar realised that I needed a Mythos.  I found a table in the corner for Turtle and me (after sharing a traumatic experience together we were bonding nicely now) and went to the bar and ordered a glass of beer and a dish of nuts for me and a beaker of plankton and a side of seaweed for Turtle.

I sat and enjoyed the Mythos and had ten minutes lad chat and then left and made my way to the beach where everyone wondered why it had taken me so long to get there and completely refused to believe my (admittedly) unlikely broken lift story and accused me of just hanging around the bar while I continued to protest that I had been literally hanging around in a lift!

Turtle

I didn’t do a great deal more for the rest of the day but Turtle had to entertain the children.  He was exhausted by the end of it all so I gave him a lift back to the apartment.

Corfu Turtle

This is my son with a Turtle in 1993…

003

Can anyone name the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

On This Day – The Greek Island of Symi

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 30 July 2010 I was on the Greek Island of Symi close to Rhodes…

Symi

On arrival in Symi there was no one to meet us, no notes pinned to the door of the room or instructions giving any sort of advice at all on what to do and the phone was not being answered.

It was eleven o’clock and extremely hot and all we could do was sit on the sun terrace, sweat and wait.  Luckily I had a couple of tins of Mythos in the bag so I had to drink them quickly before they heated up in the midday sun and after an hour or so and I had almost recovered from the ordeal of the climb I went all the way back down the steps to get some more and to buy some food for lunch.

Getting back up the steps returned me to my previous state of sweat streaked exhaustion and what I really needed was a cool blast of air conditioning but still the phone remained unanswered and still no one came.

A French guest came and went and told us that usually someone came by at about two o’clock so this meant that we would have an hour or so to wait so we made some lunch and drank some more Mythos and competed with each other for the shade of the wooden  pergola.

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On This Day – On George’s Boat in Corfu

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 28th July 1983 I was enjoying a boat ride on the Greek Island of Corfu…

George's boat 1984

This was George’s boat and at mid morning we joined about thirty other holiday makers when we arrived at the untidy concrete quayside opposite the hotel.

We were welcomed on board by George himself, a man with a big smile and a flamboyant sense of humour who worked hard to get us all to enjoy ourselves before casting off and steering the brightly coloured boat with the steady rhythm of its chugging diesel engine away from Corfu and out into the Ionian Sea.

George's Boat Corfu 1984

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On This Day – Corfu Town and a Boat Ride

The architecture of the town is Venetian; the houses above the old port are built up elegantly into slim tiers with narrow alleys and colonnades running between them; red, yellow, pink, umber – a jumble of pastel shades which the moonlight transforms into a dazzling white city…” – Lawrence Durrell –“Prospero’s Cell”.

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 22nd July 2012 I was on the Greek island of Corfu.

Corfu Town 01a

Corfu Town boasts the stateliest of Neoclassical buildings, legacy of the nineteenth century British Protectorate of the Ionian islands.

Earlier during two short spells of Napoleonic occupation the French left their mark. This influence is best seen in the arcaded Liston, a tribute to Rue de Rivoli in Paris and a sun-drenched venue for sipping coffee and people-watching.

Before all this, the Venetians bequeathed all of the Ionian islands a distinctive landscape of Italianate buildings, silver-leafed olive trees and grape-heavy vines.

I am very fond of Corfu.  Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

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On This Day, The Greek Island of Tinos

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 18th July 2005 I was on the Greek island of Tinos in the Cyclades…

tinos-town-view

“If you’re spending your holidays to the popular Greek party island, hop on a ferry from Mykonos to Tinos and 20 minutes later you’ll arrive at the holy Tinos island. It’s a great chance to have a taste of both sides of Cyclades!  Trust us, you’ll be bewitched by the pristine beauty of Tinos!” – Greek Islands Travel Guide

One of the reasons so many Greeks visit Tinos is that it is an intensely religious island famous most of all for the Church of Panagia Evangelistria which holds a reputedly miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary and is the venue for an annual pilgrimage that is perhaps the most notable religious pilgrimage in all of the eastern Mediterranean.

Many pilgrims make their way half a mile or so from the ferry wharf to the church on their hands and knees as an extreme sign of devotion.

The day I was there was extremely hot and it was hard enough work just walking up the long hill to the church so I imagine that you would have to be seriously determined to do it on all fours, although to be fair there is a ragged strip of dusty red carpet at the edge of the pavement to stop pilgrims ripping their hands and knees to shreds or getting stuck in the melting tarmac.

Tinos Shop 1

 

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An Alternative World Showcase at EPCOT

In my last post I took you to Disney and World Showcase at EPCOT.  There are eleven countries showcased at the theme park and some time ago I wondered why it was those particular eleven and speculated on an alternative selection.

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Thursday Doors, Syros in the Greek Islands

Syros 08

As we walked we passed one hundred year old villas and mansions in various states of disrepair that are too expensive to renovate because restrictive planning laws insist on exact restoration due to their historical and cultural importance.  Instead it is cheaper to build new properties so these neglected fine buildings steadily decay and collapse.  One day they will be gone and that will be a real shame.

As the day continued to get hotter, shutters were thrown back like butterfly wings basking in the sunshine, washing hung steaming from open windows and every doorstep had a sleeping cat for decoration.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Cyprus, The Archaeological Site at Paphos

Paphos Mosaics 01

On the last day the weather was fine, we had put the coach trip mistake to the Troodos Mountains behind us and we took a final walk from our hotel to Paphos along the sea front, a very pleasant stroll of just over three miles.

My plan, but not Kim’s was to visit the UNESCO archaeological site.  We walked around the perimeter fence which was broken down in places and some people were avoiding the entrance fee by climbing through.  Even free entry could not persuade Kim to make the visit so we walked on past the castle and through the harbour area with its persistent waiters inviting us to sit down and eat and then to the seafront café that we had taken a liking to.

As we sat in the Spring sunshine we debated an option to rip up our return airline tickets and stay in Cyprus a while longer but came to the conclusion that this would be rather reckless so we abandoned the idea.

Paphos 14

We went our separate ways now, Kim took the bus back to the hotel to go the spa and I went to the archaeological site which was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1980.

The World Heritage list has been around for over sixty years as a consequence of events in 1954 when the government of Egypt announced that it was to build the Aswan Dam, a project that proposed to flood a valley containing priceless treasures of ancient civilizations.  Despite opposition from Egypt and neighbouring Sudan, UNESCO launched a worldwide safeguarding campaign, over fifty countries contributed and the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were taken apart, moved to a higher location, and put back together piece by piece.  At last the World was collectively protecting its treasures.

The site was good value at €2.50 (seniors rate) and I spent over two hours going over about a two thousand five hundred year old city  which turns out to be the most important Greeko/Roman archaeological site in Cyprus.

Paphos Postcard

After the Greeks came the Romans and they adapted the city to their own style and and here I walked around the remains of the Forum, the Temples, the Amphitheatre and sections of the old city wall and inside these the public baths and the once grand villas of the city patricians.  It wasn’t on the scale of Pompeii or Herculaneum of course but as only an estimated 20% of the site has been excavated then who knows what treasures lay buried under the parched dusty fields.

The site was only discovered in 1962 so having lay undisturbed for hundreds of years a lot of treasures that might have been lost to looters is still there, especially the very fine mosaic floors which in turn are being restored and moved to a vast indoor exhibition hall.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

After the Romans left the city was used by the Egyptians, Arab caliphates, the French Lusignan dynasty and then in the Middle Ages it began to be dismantled and used as a quarry and a convenient source of building materials for new towns and villages along the coastline.

We often think that development is all about continuous progress but that is quite wrong.

This is something that has always perplexed me. The Romans built a great city with roads and aqueducts, fresh water and sewage and waste disposal systems, grand villas decorated with mosaics and statues and then medieval man came along during the dark ages and tore them down – not to build something better but to construct something significantly inferior.

I would like to have overheard the town planning debates and the rationale applied to do this. “We don’t need stone roads”, they’d probably say “a muddy track will do just as well.” “We don’t need all these fancy sewers, we’ll dig a hole in the garden!” “We can’t really see the point of all these aqueducts and fresh water filtration systems, we’ll just drink the dirty river water!”  “And finally we don’t need all of these fine villas with air conditioning and shady gardens, we’ll take them down and use the stone to make the foundations for some mud huts!”

I spent a couple of hours at the site and could have stayed much longer but it was late afternoon by now so I left and took the three mile walk along the coastal path back to the hotel.

For our last evening we dined at the cheap kebab restaurant and were entertained by a British ex-pat explaining how good life was and his Russian companion who had clearly overdone the vodka.  We had walked nearly twelve miles today.

We had enjoyed Cyprus and once again contemplated stopping longer but by next morning were ready to go home.  We actually got to stay a few hours longer in Cyprus than we had anticipated however because a fault with the Easyjet plane led to a five hour delay.

The compensation came in handy!

Cyprus Postcard

Cyprus, A Tedious Day in The Troodos Mountains

Cyprus Postcard Map

The tour bus left the village of Omodos just as another coach tour pulled into the vacant parking spot, this is obviously a slick operation which keeps the souvenir shops busy and the tour operators getting their percentage.

It carried on now climbing into the Troodos mountain range, up and up and up through a succession of tight hairpin bends and narrow roads which I have to say quickly became tedious.  There were frequent stops to admire the repetitious scenery but after four hours or so I was completely bored and regretting the decision to sign up for the trip.

The Forest went on and on for mile after mile, a forest it seems to me is much like a desert or the Antarctic and becomes boring after a while.  Actually very quickly.  The tour promised a visit to Mount Olympus but apparently (or conveniently) the road was closed because of snow so the bus just relentlessly carried on.  Our next stop was the burial chamber and tomb of Cyprus independence hero Archbishop Makarios but without any real explanation that was closed as well.

So we drove instead straight to the monastery of Kykkos which was supposed to be the highlight of the tour.  It was alright but not especially spectacular – just a regular Greek Orthodox Church as far as I could make out.

Kykkos Postcard

I had travelled today in shorts which I had suspected early on might be a mistake and now I understood why.  Another man had also travelled in shorts.  Suddenly the tour guide said that we couldn’t enter the church because we were inappropriately trousered.  This seemed absurd as women were wandering around in dresses and skirts that displayed far more leg than I was showing off.

The other man, who’s shorts were similar to mine in terms of length, was shooed off but suddenly I was reprieved and allowed to stay.  I think this was because he was over six foot tall with big long legs but I am a lot shorter than that and having little legs my short trousers were longer than his and therefore considered suitable.

An interesting visit if you really force yourself to be interested but not really worth the long tortuous drive through the mountains to get there.

The Monastery is most famous for an icon, one of three icons attributed to Agios Loukas the Evangelist  (the Apostle Saint Luke). The icon – covered in silver gilt – is in a shrine made of tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl that stands at the front of the church.  It is considered so important that it is an icon that has served as a basic template for many other paintings depicting the Madonna in eastern Orthodoxy that most people will be familiar with.

According to legend it is apparently dangerous to look at the icon and its top half remains hidden behind a protective covering as it is said that whoever looks at it will be blinded. Well, Cor Blimey! –  interestingly Cor Blimey is an English slang expression which translates as God Blind Me.

The icon is rarely uncovered, although this does happen when considered absolutely necessary.  And here’s a thing.  In recent years there had been a drought affecting Cyprus in response to which the monks of Kykkos Monastery took the icon to Mount Olympus and whilst looking away from the uncovered icon (a very sensible precaution) read a special plea for rain.

The winter of 2019/20 was subsequently the wettest on record in Cyprus and the reservoirs are now full and Cypriots are complaining about how wet it is.

Cor Blimey, sometimes you have to be careful for what you wish for!

Maybe there is something in it but there again the Winter of 2019/20 has been the wettest on record in the UK even without the intervention of the icon.

These are some pictures of copies of the icon.  Do not make eye contact whatever you do…

There isn’t a lot to do at the Monastery site but we had two hours in which to do it.  There were souvenir shops selling crap and a small restaurant also selling crap so we found a seat in the sun and had a moussaka, which happily turned out not to be as crap as it looked and a beer which is happily never crap and waited for the joyous moment that we would be transported back to Paphos.

This took another laborious two hours including a stop at the village where Archbishop Makarios was born where the museum was closed and then a third monastery where the café was closed and most likely had been for the past six months.  Turned out that today was a bank holiday so lots of places were closed all over the country.  No one warned us about that when we booked the tickets.

I was so glad to get back to the hotel and enjoy the last few minutes of sunshine on the balcony with a glass of wine.  It had been a wasted day really and I vowed never to go on a coach trip ever again, I can think of much better ways of wasting a day.  I am not even going to renew my free bus pass now this year!

After sitting for several hours on the coach we only managed six and a half miles walking today.

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