…’neath heaven’s sea

may 22, 2013

mykonos.

a comparatively lazy day today, no plans for exploration beyond the seaside cafes and restaurants of mykonos town.

another sunny, clear greek island day, a long trek from the ship to where mykonos town proper starts, and our first stop of many for refreshment: two tall, fresh orange juices, which both fortified us and made it possible for us to continue on in the heat…

along the mykonos seafront, with the tourists and the townspeople mixing almost unaware of each other; dogs and cats and seagulls aplenty, and many a sidewalk cafe, where cool or hot drinks and food can be had…our next unscheduled stop led us to first, frappes, a cold coffee drink very popular in greece, and then for me, to cappuccino, which I cannot get enough of in italy or in greece – they are always a joy, and they provide much needed caffeine, too.

this stop also provided a delicious treat: feta cheese, baked in filo dough with herbs, with honey on top – what a fantastic treat that was…and so memorable, that my partner made it for us for supper just a couple of days ago (now that we are home) – and it came out fantastically – a really nice dish added to the supper or snack repertoire – thanks to a sidewalk cafe on mykonos.  note:  “sidewalk cafe” also being a great instrumental song from the 1974 album “todd” by todd rundgren, the second todd album that “got me into” todd’s music (the first one being 1974’s “todd rundgren’s utopia”)…little known fact.

as this was a “lazy day”, by choice (that was the original plan, when we get to mykonos: do nothing, take photos, read, drink, eat, relax – and we stuck religiously to that plan!), we spent time reading, watching the tourists and passers-by, watching the thin, scrawny island cats, taking photographs…and taking it relatively easy when compared with the level of activity at our last two destinations, corfu and santorini.  we were happy enough to find a shady bench by the seaside, overlooking the bay, and take still more photos and gaze out at the calm, beautiful water.  taking photographs of the houses and buildings and churches and the famed mykonos windmills that were dotted all over the low hills surrounding the town capturing (on film, of course!) a seagull perched atop a small dome-topped shrine, or snapping pics of modern speedboats tied up at the water’s edge…just a lazy day of watching, filming and relaxing.

the famous mykonos windmills are lovely, with their characteristic spindly design; small shrines with red domes as well as the more common blue domed buildings, churches, houses, all splayed across the low hills in blinding white – again, the all white buildings intentionally painted white simply because of it’s reflectivity – it’s the best colour to build with in a hot, sunny climate such as the climate mykonos enjoys.  one renowned aspect of life in mykonos town we did not get to try out was the famed “night life”, apparently, for the young or young at heart, there is a thriving night life scene, with cool clubs and restaurants – for those who are…in with the “in crowd”.  amongst the cognoscenti, in other words.

where, suggests the usually-reliable wikipedia “many international celebrities visit the island every summer”.  we certainly didn’t see any when we were there 🙂

in any case, there is always one more cappuccino before we go, given the amount of effort it took to get over to the town, we treated ourselves to a taxi ride all the way back to the ship, after just a few hours on mykonos, after our difficult day on santorini on the previous day; we were tired, so heading back to the ship early seemed the thing to do – and of course, I headed straight to my favourite spot on the ship, the jacuzzi, while my partner opted for a shady deckchair in the pool area, and her latest kindle book adventure (she got a lot more reading done than I did, I can tell you that much) – a wonderful, easy day and while mykonos is often portrayed as a place where there is “not much to do” or “very little to do” – I disagree – eating feta in filo with honey; drinking, juice, frappes, cappuccinos, and most important of all, just relaxing – that’s what mykonos had, and the attitude of the people there was much friendlier than on santorini.

this was exemplified by the young man who arrived in the taxi to return us to the ship:  when faced with a wheelchair, his response was “no problem” and he set about securing the chair into the boot of his rather small taxi in no time, and then unloaded it for us at the other end – great attitude, and we were most appreciative of that in our semi-exhausted state.

so our relatively “lazy day” on mykonos, followed by a really lovely afternoon of swimming and reading, really was a most relaxing and lovely time, so I would discount those who say there is “nothing to do” on mykonos – that’s actually wrong, it should be “there is nothing to do on mykonos except relax” – and that is exactly what we did during our short but lovely visit there.

may 23, 2013

final island destination: katakolon (olympia) – also known as katakolo.

for the fourth and final day of greek island-hopping, we docked at katakolon in the morning, and our first destination was the train station, where my first and most important activity, while my partner was buying us tickets to travel to the site of ancient olympia (our main goal for the day was to visit this ancient site, which was about a 45 minute train ride away – 25 miles, approximately – from the port) was to get and consume at least one cappuccino, so I would have enough caffeine to tide me through the journey.

we just missed the first train, which was a real shame, as we had to wait quite some time for the next one, which was of course, late.

the train journey itself, was surreal – a strange gallery of landscapes, moving from extreme beauty and wealth to terrible poverty, it was almost as if you could see the entire economic struggle in microcosm as the fairly modern train sped along, hooting it’s horn at the many, many level crossings and travelling through a somewhat bewildering array of rural areas, including farms, beautiful brand new houses with massive ornate gardens, shacks, dilapidated houses and yards, graffiti-scrawled walls, with the untrimmed plants whipping at the train windows constantly…until we finally arrived at the town of olympia, which also happened to be the end of the line, so the train had obviously been purpose built to transfer tourists from the port to the site of olympics, first modern day, and then, to the  ancient site on foot, after traversing the modern town (wheelchair and all, a truly challenging  journey I can tell you, especially for my partner).

but, arriving at the site, it all began to feel like it was worth it, and we had a wonderful but short tour of the ruins, which were impressive indeed, and it was a slightly haunting and very impressive place, the birthplace of the modern olympics, and it was such a fantastic feeling, to see the scale of it – obviously, these games meant an enormous amount to the people of that time, given the amount of time and effort spent to create this massive training complex for the athletes – the scale of it is hard to write about in words – and some of the buildings are in incredibly good condition given the amount of time that has passed.

I particularly liked the temple of zeus, which was central on the site, and it was a wonderful day walking around and looking at the various different buildings, and reading about their purpose, construction and back story.  the site itself was fully overgrown with plants and trees, some stunningly beautiful trees with gnarled, old, twisted trunks – and the ruins, amid this greenery, was fantastic to visit – the place has a really good vibe about it, possibly because of what it represents (the birthplace of the olympic spirit) –  but, the best was yet to come – the museum.

we’d bought the combination ticket that allowed us to travel both to the ancient site, and to the museum, so at the end of our time walking around and taking photos at the site itself, we went to find the olympia museum, which was unfortunately quite a long distance away, but once we found it – our collective jaws just dropped.

tiny, delicate figurines of animals and people, statues – so many statues, that some of the “less interesting” ones were lined up in a protected hallway OUTSIDE the museum proper; the central gallery inside, on the other hand, containing absolutely staggeringly massive works, whole tableaux of full sized or even larger than life statues, of every type of greek person or greek god imaginable – an absolutely unmissable collection of statuary.

the other rooms of this fair-sized and incredibly populated museum contained a huge array of olympian artefacts, from helmets to weapons to jewellery to carvings to ceramics and back for more statues still –  some of them compellingly life-like and beautiful.  this gallery of photographs begins to give you an idea of what you would see, but does not in anyway have the impact that “actually being there  does.  what a wonderful museum – I cannot recommend it highly enough – do not miss it!!

then time raised it’s ugly head again – we didn’t know how long it would take us to get back to olympia station, to catch the last train at 14.30, so we were forced to cut our visit to this amazing museum short (which was quite upsetting!), locate a taxi, and return to the station post haste – where of course, we then ended up having to wait for the train.  more juice and more cappuccinos followed, until the train arrived and we could make the long journey back to the port at speed.

a short walk through the port town, which had beautiful red flowers blooming above the shops, and we made our way back to the ship on our very last day of island visits.  the island of katakolon (olympia) was an absolute high point, possibly my second favourite greek island after corfu, and the visit to the ancient oylmpia, and particularly, the olympia museum containing the artefacts of ancient olympia, are a do-not-miss item.

 

in case you couldn’t tell that I really liked it, the museum in particular was most, most excellent, and we dearly wished we could have spent hours and hours there – but it was not to be.  still, we did manage to capture the essence of the place on camera (how nice is that – a museum where you are ALLOWED to take photographs – fantastic!) – our photos came out fantastically well, so we do have great visual, and internal, memories of the ancient items we were privileged to see both at the site of ancient olympia and in the museum.

one more day at sea, one more day of jacuzzi and sitting on our balcony, watching and listening to the sea…and that sound, after a week, is ingrained in my brain now at the deepest level – and it’s a sound I will always, always love.

it was time to travel home.

back first to venice, and then straight to the airport for our flight back to scotland via paris – but, we only saw the paris airport, nothing more.  setting foot on scottish soil, edinburgh, late afternoon, presented us with a beautiful, warm day with big, fluffy white clouds in a blue sky – fantastic.

while it’s wonderful to visit such places, it’s also very, very good to be home.

 

very good indeed.

next time, we return once again to our usual topics of music, applications, looping, guitars and all of that pureambient stuff !!!  see you then.

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