It seems like weeks since we left Rome. We’ve had two full sea days aboard the ship and there appears to be a role reversal that has happened upon boarding. Megan and I have been doing traditional activities that are associated with elder couples, whereas her parents and their friends are acting like young bucks. To give you an idea of the true magnitude of this swapping of characters, Megan and I spent the other day playing bingo, learning to Cha-Cha and capped it off by watching Casablanca……while the “old folks” laid in the sun drinking margarita’s, walked laps and danced the night away! The only time we were able to keep pace with them was on karaoke night. Megan and I actually won an award for our rendition of Billy Joel’s, “It’s Still Rock –N-Roll to Me!”
We have gotten to see some amazing sights in these past few days at sea. We passed Stromboli, a small active volcano island of only a few hundred inhabitants. Smoke billowed from the top while the town went about its merry way, hopeful that there wouldn’t be another eruption like the one in 74 that made 90% of the population leave for good. The captain slowed down and circled the island so we could see its natural beauty. From there we sailed on, eventually passing through the Straights of Messina, which separates Sicily from the rest of Italy. While we passed through this mile long channel, we were treated to the beautiful scenic homes and beaches; all while being entertained with a talk on the rich and sordid history of this island.
The next day, we finally did our first shore excursion. We landed at Katakolon, Greece. We hopped aboard a bus and headed for Olympia, the site of the first Olympic games and one of the original Seven Wonders of the World; the Temple of Zeus. Although only one full pillar remains of his temple, our guide did a wonderful job in painting a vivid picture of what it would have looked like. The history and tradition all throughout this place was overwhelming. We learned all about the true meaning of the Olympics, to bring peace and honor, and to unite the people. We also learned that all the athletes were naked……glad we’ve changed that tradition! Each year the Olympic torch is lit at this site amid a big ceremony, and carried on to wherever the games are to be held…..even though the torch wasn’t a part of the original games at all.
Next we headed to the oldest winery in Greece, the Mercouri Vineyards. This land wasn’t simply full of succulent grapes and fine wine, it also was a home to numerous animals (including peacocks) and a family that had over a century and a half of tradition of cultivating this land. The vines were imported long ago from Italy, so it’s no wonder that the wine was so good. Megan was put on the spot by our tour guide to identify an ambiguous mural of Hercules fighting a Centaur that was on the bottle of white wine. It was very difficult to distinguish who was the hero and whom the villain. She noticed that one had what appeared to be an anatomical anomaly, but was nervous to point it out, in fear that she was wrong and would be embarrassed. When pressed, she took a chance and was correct, but then had to identify why she chose the figure on the right as Hercules and not the Centaur. In an uneasy voice she stated, “Because that one has a man part!” The crowd erupted in laughter…..and she was indeed correct. Remember, the Greeks did a lot of activities in the nude!
Next we landed in Larnaca, Cyprus. We did three excursions and also passed by the church of Lazarus. Evidentially, after being brought back from the dead by Christ, he carried on the message of Christianity in Greece for over 30 years. Our first two stops were interesting (we visited an old church and then an archeological site) but both paled in comparison to the town of Lefkara. Lefkara is a quaint town situated on top of the hill roughly 30 kilometers inland. At one time, every home in the entire town was required to be painted blue. You can still see the antiquity and charm that oozes from this little gem. Although they are famous for their silver and lace, we loved the ancient architecture and a church at the edge of the village that was built by selling part of the cross that Christ was crucified on. They kept a small piece and locked it behind a fortress of stone. However, you can enter a beautiful door and kneel before a cross, knowing that a piece of the one that Jesus shed his blood on is a mere few feet away. It was surreal, powerful and humbling all at once.
We are back on the ship, heading to Egypt…..did I mention how surreal all of this is?!?!
I hope everyone is happy and healthy. We have to pay for internet service, so pardon the lack of communication. Just know that we love you and miss you all. We’ll post another blog after we check out the Pyramids!