Tuesday, July 31, 2012

22 - 2 June

Friday 22 June 0600  Athens, Greece.  Currency: Euro.

I woke up this morning to find myself in Athens.  What a beautiful port, it looked a lot like Sydney Harbour but a lot busier and a lot older.  The weather was beautiful and like a dry day in Darwin.

My tour was a Princess organised one so I had to wait around until they were ready for us on shore and then we all were herded down to the terminal and put onto busses and proceeded into this old city which had been inhabited since 5000 years BC. 

As we were driving through Athens to the Acropolis we unfortunately just missed the ‘Changing of the Guards’ at the old Parliament but we were still able to take pictures of them. The soldiers guard the monument to the Unknown Soldier and they are there day and night, changing every 2 hours.   I watched a video of them marching and they march very strangely, they look like they are walking up a very steep hill by raising their legs up an out, very odd and quite difficult to do.

Our first stop was to visit the old Olympic Stadium.  The marble stadium was re-built on the foundation of the stadium of Ancient Athens from the 4th century BC to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and then more recently used in the 2004 Olympic Games.  My gosh, the seat would be really hard on you bottom! It seats over 7,000 people.

We started getting glimpses of the Acropolis as we drove through the city, it sits on top of a hill and just looks huge and totally dominates the skyline.  We drove for about a further 10 minutes before we pulled into the bus carpark along with about another 20 busses and we started our voyage back into history.  

The first structure you walk past, is Hadrian’s Arch (which was built to honour the Roman Emperor Hadrian) and then you walk up approximately 80 steep steps through a number of ancient buildings to the Olympian Temple of Zeus, which is being restored to its previous glory.  Slavery was uncommon during the first centuries of Athenian life, escaped slaves frequently found their way to Athens. The  Athenians had a special relationship with both Poseidon, god of the sea, and Athena, goddess of wisdom.  Athena’s characteristic owl was a frequent symbol on Athenian coins and her olive tree, signifying peace and harmony, commonly appeared on decorative works.

It was really interesting as we were walking around, the guide told us to look down and look at a small hill just below us and that was the hill that Peter the Apostle spoke to the people after the death of Jesus.

St Peter's Hill

It was really interesting as we were walking around, the guide told us to look down and look at a small hill just below us and that was the hill that Peter the Apostle spoke to the people after the death of Jesus.

I wandered into the bakery just down from the Acropolis and I saw freshly made Baklava and anyone who knows me knows my love of Baklava, Greek Baklava is delicious and not as expensive as in Aussie.


We went straight back to the ship as we were sailing in less than 1 hour.  Once again we only had time to look a small portion of this wonderful old city.

To honour our time in Athens, the ship had organised a Toga Party that night.  A group of us first went to the Steak House which is a 5 star restaurant which is the only restaurant on the ship that has a cover charge of $20 but you get a fantastic meal including a 600 gram steak that melts in your mouth.  It was funny as we were all in roman costume which included on of the guys wrapped in a sheet with left his left nipple exposed and there is a strict dress code so they wouldn’t let him in until they realised that we were in fancy dress.  Good fun, think there were a lot of sheets borrowed from the staterooms.

 Saturday 23 June 0700 Adriatic Sea  I slept in and woke up at 0800  and raced up to meet Yvonne for breakfast.  Another day at sea and we are enjoying them more now as it is a break from racing around a city, it is a chance to recharge the batteries. 

We had a boat building completion and the teams did a fantastic job of engineering, they had to carry a cargo of a six pack and travel the length of the swimming pool.

Monday, July 30, 2012

20 - 21 June

Wednesday 20 June 0700 Maramara Sea  Istanbul, Turkey We have travelled 4299  Nm   from Dubai and we have to travel 2.6 Nm to our next Port of Istanbul.  Heading 337.9 Temperature on desk is 22 degrees.  Speeding  knots.  Wind speed 25.1 knots across the deck.

Currency – Turkish Lira

We arrived in Turkey two hours ahead of time and the people who were going ashore by themselves were streaming down the gangplank at 0700 hours.  We were not meeting our tour guide until 0900, so we had a leisurely breakfast before our busy day.

Istanbul sits on both the Continents of Asia and Europe, starting of as a small commercial centre by the Greeks. Three great structures dominate the city: the Imperial Place, the Church of St. Sophia and the Hippodrome. 

The Hippodrome was our first stop.  It was originally a colossal stadium for chariot race, able to hold 100,000 spectators.  There is an Obelisk which was taken from the Temple of Karnak in Egypt where we were last Wednesday.

The Blue Mosque takes its name from the 20,000 blue Iznik tiles through out this magnificent building.  Minarets are the towers that surround a mosque from where the call to prayer is broadcast from; this mosque has 6 huge ones.  We had to take our shoes off as usual and we filed through the building.  The pictures do not do justice. 

St. Sophia the Church of Holy Wisdom was built by the Emperor Justinian in the year 1313 is a breathtaking building with a massive dome and an interior decorated with marble, precious stones and pillars from Ephesus.  I know I keep using the words ‘breath taking’ but that is exactly what it is.  You look up, look around and down and you are blown away with the beauty and the question of ‘how did they build this’?

Our guide told us that they build large false interior walls which enabled them to work on the huge dome and when the exterior was finished, they removed the inner walls and left this huge construction.  Fantastic work of engineering. Where did Romans get the earth from, right next door and what did they do with the hole?  They build an underground cistern (reservoir) which provided the water required for the city at the time, it was cold and dark and full of water and fish.  The ceiling was held up by 336 Corinthian columns, the guide was telling us that a request for old columns which were no longer need from other Roman cities.  This was the first type of recycling in the world; the end result was a total mismatch of columns.  The Romans were not interested in Greek mythology and so when given a column dedicated to the God Medusas they stuck it upside down in the ground.

Shopping Time.  We went to the Grand Bazaar which is the largest undercover markets in the world with over 4,000 shops and its own school, mosque, post office, bank and police station. We were given two hours to look around.  Wow! The shops were small but neat and there was heaps of room to walk around.  Trinkets, silver and gold, rugs and leather goods were all there, bargaining was not welcome.  I found it very expensive.  I only bought a small purse and some Turkish Delight.

The two hours went very fast and we were soon all gathered to go to the last tourist sight for the Day.

Darn- my camera has gone flat again and my spare camera is back on the ship.

The Topkapi Palace Museum and Palace Harem. Topkapi is a name which means ‘common gate’.  It is a lavishly decorated and the home of a remarkable art collection from the most exotic parts of the world, including Chinese porcelain and jade and some huge gems.  The largest gem is a Topkapi emerald which is bigger than an emu egg.  The emerald hung just above the seated Emperor’s head and the concubines had to try to touch the emerald and therefore placing all their assets in front of the Emperor.  This was their only opportunity of attracting the Emperor’s attention.  The girls were selected when they were 3 years of age and educated until they were presented to the Emperor when they were 18 years old and they have only 7 years before they are sent out of the palace.

We paid additional money to actually go into the harem and see where the 1st son of the Emperor spent the first 11 years of his life locked  in two rooms until his father took him away to live with the men.  The poor ladies were surrounded by 400 eunuchs, 30,000 soldiers and they may never meet the Emperor.  Once again, great place to visit.

We boarded the bus, a lot of the passengers were tired and hot as we had walked kilometres and ready for something cold to drink and nice to eat.  I went up to the buffet and had some lovely lamb chops and salad.

Thursday 21 June 0600  The ship sailed into ANZAC Cove at 0600 this morning and to celebrate this, the ship held a Dawn Service to commemorate the Gallipoli landing.  It was a professional presentation with hymns, a Catholic priest, wreath laying and the ode.  We were given rosemary to wear and it was a very heart wrenching time, I cried my eyes out.  I have mentioned before that I am in the ship’s choir and we sang the hymns and the Australian and New Zealand anthems.  I have taken a heap of picture a lot of that area was flat and accessible compared to the landing we had to take.  The majority of the passengers are Aussies and then New Zealander’s so you can imagine the feeling on board.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

17 -19 June

Sunday 17 June 0600, Alexandria. Egypt 

The ship was running a little late again and we disembarked about 0630 hrs, ½ hour late and met up with our guide who was a young man who spoke English to a high standard.

We travelled through Alexandria which is a large city which dates back to the Roman Empire.  It is a great city and would be worth a visit as Pa who spent the day there showed me fantastic pictures of the Library of Alexandria which is a complex of museums, exhibition area, educational centres, some of the books are centuries old.

Unfortunately we drove straight through Alexandria and headed for Cairo which was about a 3 hour drive inland.  The trip was uneventful and a lot greener than our trip to the Valley of the Kings.  The houses were interesting as we noticed that a lot of the houses didn’t appear to have roofs but just rods sticking up.  It seems that home owners do not have to pay tax until the building is completed.

Cairo is a new city in comparison to Alexandria and is only 10 minutes for the pyramids of Giza.  Of all the Sven Wonders of the Ancient World on the Sphinx and Pyramids remain.

Bit of trivia - The Great Pyramid covers 13 acres, Napoleon calculated that it contains enough stone to build a 10 footwall around all of France.

What did I think of the Pyramids?  My first impression when I first saw them in the distance was WOW.  You saw the largest one first peeping over the buildings and then the second one and then the third.  We drove closer and of course they got bigger and they were exactly as I had expected but they seemed smaller and they were bumpy!

We got out of the bus and we immediately surrounded by dozens of men selling everything from statues, postcards and camel rides.  Egypt has dropped from over 2 million tourists a year to thousands and unfortunately there of heaps of sellers and no buyers and the hawkers have become more aggressive, which in not fun for the tourists.

Close up the pyramids are awe inspiring and it is impossible to comprehend how they built them as there is nothing in the area and everything had to be brought in.  You can go into the Great Pyramid but as everything you had to pay an additional 100 Egyptian Pounds but you could go into the Queen’s Pyramid that is if you walk in backwards and don’t stand up.

We sent about well over 2 hours walking around and looking at the museum and just soaking in the experience.  We then travelled up to a small hill where we could see all the 3 pyramids in a row.

We then moved on to see the Sphinx next.  This lion body with the head of a man guards the tomb of the Pharaoh Cephren. Once again it was everything I expected and more.

We then travelled on the bus to the Nile and boarded a sailboat and travelled the Nile for about an hour and then onto a restaurant for lunch, stopping at a small Bazar for lunch.  The Nile is wonderful, it would be amazing to travel from the top to the bottom, and the Nile empties out into the delta in Alexandria.

Our trip back to the ship was again uneventful although I am glad that I wasn’t driving as the traffic was terrible.

The last few days have been amazing, I have seen the Valley of the Kings, the Treasury, the pyramids and the sphinx.   

Monday 18 June 0700 Mediterranean Sea  We have travelled 3576  Nm   from Dubai and we have to travel 300.5 Nm to our next Port of Myknos.  Heading 337.9 Temperature on desk is 23.7 degrees.  Speeding  knots.  Wind speed 29.8 knots across the deck.

Tueday 19 June 0600 Mediterranean Sea  Mykonos, Greece.

I was getting dressed at 0600 and heard the Captain announce that the ship was not going to stop at Mykonos as the weather was too rough.  The ship was not going to sail into the port and we were going to use the ships’ small boats to take us to shore and back as the weather was too rough and it was too dangerous for the passengers to go ashore.  It was a little disappointing as Mykonos is where a lot of the Greeks in Darwin come from and I was hoping to see the island.  Oh well it just means that we are now about 5 hours ahead of schedule and we will be able to see the Dardanelles in daylight, the ship usually travels this at night.  The Dardanelles is a narrow straight in north western Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

Monday, July 23, 2012

14 - 17 June

Thursday 14 June 0600 Gulf of Arabia  We have travelled 2810.7  Nm   from Dubai and we have to travel 45.8 Nm to our next Port of Aqaba.  Heading 16.0 Temperature on desk is 27.4 degrees.  Speeding 19 knots.  Wind speed 23.3 knots across the deck.

Aqaba, Jordan.  Currency: Jordanian dinar.

We had a later start today.  People have been talking about this trip to Petra for days.  How it is going be so hot, we have to walk about 4 Kms over rough terrain both ways and the ship was telling people not to go if you were old or not fit.  I know of a number of people who cancelled their trip and who decided to stay on board. I am really looking forward to the trip.

The Port of Aqaba is interesting as on the West Bank belongs to Israel and the other side belongs to Jordon and just down the road is Egypt.  Quite a boiling pot of nationalities. Aqaba is a beautiful resort city with sandy beaches, clear blue waters and a coral reef.  The city is clean and modern and much more pleasing that the small towns we travelled through yesterday when we were in Egypt.

This area is where Lawrence of Arabia fought and won the war in 1917 against the Turks and Germans, you can just imagine him and the Beduin racing through the sand on their beautiful Arabian horses.

We boarded the bus about 30 minutes late (again) and headed towards Petra.  Petra was built by the Nabataens who flourished in northern Arabia during time of the Roman Empire.  Instead of building, they literally carved a series of beautiful homes, intricately carved tombs and decorative temples out of the rock.   The name Petra itself comes from the Greek word for ‘rock’.  We travelled over well paved roads and everything was clear of rubbish and rocks and sand and more sand.  There were a few villages and a lot of Beduin tents in the sand dunes, goats, camels and sheep.

We had heard horror stories about how hot it would be, how bad the walk in was and how we would all die!!!  So we were dressed in cotton clothing, big hats, carrying bottles of water and spare food.

We stopped in the visitor’s carpark, of course it was noon and not a skerrick of shade.  We set off down a hillside, on the left was a lot of men driving carriages and others pulling horses, offering rides to the tourists.  The slope was OK and although a little hot, not too bad.  We walked about 1 kilometre and came to a chasm which the Nabtaens/Romans used to carry water to the city down town.  In the upper regions of the rocks there were a number of carvings to the various Gods.

 It was an easy walk down the valley and when we got to the bottom of the valley and turned a small corner I saw the most magnificent temple I had ever seen.  Khazneh or the ‘Treasury”     

It is an ancient tomb caved from solid sandstone.  Legend has it that pirates left treasure in the urn that sits on its upper level. The bullet marks on the urn were made by treasure seekers trying to shoot the urn open.

Heaven knows how they knew where to start carving.  You can see grooves in both sides of the temple where they hooked in the scaffolding. Unfortunately you are not allowed inside, but like most of the tombs etc. there is nothing left inside as most things have either been stolen by museums or thieves. 

 We walked further down the path to the Roman Amphitheatre which archaeologists believe the stunning 8,000 seat amphitheatre was carved out of the rock not by Romans but by the Nabtean people in the 2nd century BC.  There was much more to see but unfortunately time did not permit us to go any further down.

After a short break we stated the trek back up the hill to the carpark.  We had to keep jumping out of the way of the horses and the carriages.  I think the young men thought that they were in some sort of film.

We were to meet at the bus stop at 1600 and we were all there except for 2 people, we waited for another hour and they still didn’t come.  We had sent out people to look for them but they still were not found.  We had to leave as we still had to eat and then a 3 ½ hour trip back to the ship.

The restaurant we went to was up the top of the hill and it over looked the city, really great.  The meal was a mixture of western and Egyptian, I am still hoping to have a traditional meal somewhere.  The lost couple turned up, they had got the instructions mixed up and went to the wrong place.  We left the restaurant and started the long drive home. 

We arrived about 2000 and the ship sailed not long after.  The end of a wonderful day.   
Friday 15 June 0700 Red Sea  We have travelled 2979.4  Nm   from Dubai and we have to travel 446.6 Nm to our next Port of Alexandria.  Heading 225.5 Temperature on desk is 28.5 degrees.  Speeding 11.5 knots.  Wind speed 24.7 knots across the deck.

Saturday 16 June 0700 Suez Canal, Egypt  We have travelled 3166.7  Nm   from Dubai and we have to travel 247.7 Nm to our next Port of Alexandria.  Heading 358.3 Temperature on desk is 23 degrees.  Speeding 9 knots.  Wind speed 19.4 knots across the deck.

We were up at 0500 to watch the ship enter the Suez Canal.  The ships go in convoy and we were the first of 17 other ships and we travelled about 5 knots through 120 miles long, 79 feet deep d 673 feet wide, from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.  It is a marvel  of workmanship, 1000’s of men working with shovels, dug their way between two countries.  There is an environmental problem now as fish from the Red Sea have travelled into the Mediterranean and causing all sorts of problems. We moved through the canal and there were about 10 large container ships waiting to go the other way.  Today, over 17,000 ships pass through the Suez Canal each year.

Ships look like they are in the sand 

I wandered into one of the lounges and they were having a fashion show using passengers and showing off some off some of their lovely clothing and I entered into a free raffle and won of $50 dress voucher.  I will enjoy choosing something later on in the cruise.

The evening meal that night was interesting as we had an Arabian night and a lot of the passengers wore the costumes they had bought over the last couple of trips.  The guys were all wearing the white robes and headwear and some of the ladies had on belly dancing outfits.  Me, no I wore an Egyptian caftan, don’t think the ship is ready for me in a belly dancing outfit.