Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oct break cruise, Tues-Thur

So where were we... Right, we were being diverted to MALTA instead of sailing forth to ATHENS on Tuesday because there was a transportation strike planned for the day we were scheduled to visit the Acropolis.  What a big bunch of Greek twits, demonstrating and running off eager tourists like me ready to bolster the economy with some cash.  Thanks to the BBC, we hear a lot of reports about the European Union (EU) and feel the member countries are justified in their anger about bailing out Greece.  You wanna strike because you're gonna have to tighten up your belt?  Just be glad the rest of the EU is willing to save your hides during this financial crisis.

Our port of call was Valletta, Malta, and it was really gorgeous.  Here is a picture of me Tuesday morning as we prepared to disembark for our excursion.  The port was very clean and our balcony afforded us a great view of the cute sidewalk bistros.

Come to find out, one of my newer Brighton pendants is actually a Maltese cross.  I ended up buying a new Maltese cross in Malta at a silversmith shop we visited... minus the Brighton bling.  It's simple, but I really like it.
Everything in Malta was a warm shade of yellow-cream.  Malta rests atop limestone and the majority of the older structures were built of it.  The minute I saw folks driving around on the "wrong" side of the road, I realized it had been a British colony at some point.  We visited Mosta to see the Church of St. Mary (below) where a bomb was dropped by the Germans during World War II.  There was a church service happening at the time, but the bomb was a dud and did not explode.  You can still see the area in the beautiful dome where the bomb pierced it.  The Lord was definitely on hand to protect his faithful that day.

We continued our tour of Malta when we visited the ancient walled city of Mdina, nicknamed the silent city. It is said that in 60 AD the Apostle Paul spent some time here after being shipwrecked on the island.  

In Mdina, we got to take a peek inside St. Paul's Church.  It was built around the turn of the century... the 17th century.

We hustled back aboard the ship and got dressed in time for me and the youngest daughter to have our picture made on the balcony before the sun set and we headed out for dinner.

The highlight of our next day at sea was my fire and ice pedicure.  There's nothing so relaxing as having someone snip your cuticles and pumice the callouses off your feet.  We ate a heart clogging lunch at Johnny Rocket's - french fries as well as onion rings with a side of ranch dressing.  That evening, we attended a show that featured an ABBA tribute band from England.  They were really good, so good that an older gay couple started cutting a rug right there in front of the stage.  One of the gentleman looked like Santa's long lost twin while his younger partner was sporting a guayebera shirt on his long lean frame.  They kinda reminded me of the nursery rhyme - Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his gay lover could eat no lean.  These guys were really into the music and it was cute to see them shakin' their groove things to the sounds from the '70s.  Dancing Queens, indeed!

Thursday was another beautiful day drenched in sun when we visited Kusadasi, Turkey.  We started our day with a visit to ancient Ephesus and it was truly awe-inspiring.  I've always been mesmerized by historical sights, but it was just amazing to me that I was walking in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.  Only a portion of the city has been uncovered to date.  I think we need to return every 10 years or so to check their progress.

Above is the Library of Celsius, constructed between 117-135 AD.  It is supposedly the third most important library from the ancient world, after Alexandria and Constantinople.  It was truly a sight to behold.

There were several places where the intricate mosaic floors remained intact, though behind the chain that kept us from trampling over them.  The colors were still vibrant all these centuries after they were hand-crafted.

I love the picture above because it looks like the column and pediment equivalent of a modern used car lot.  I got your doric, ionic and corinthian capitals here at a good price and you sure can't beat this selection.  Caesar himself would be proud to put this on the front of his current palace.  Fluted columns?  Sure, no problem.  I've got a couple options with only a few decades on them.  It's obvious that some slave really put his heart and soul into such a fine piece of craftsmanship.  I'll even throw in a pediment if you purchase a set of columns today.

The slab of writing above makes me wish I had the ability to decipher it.

And look - they unearthed the ancient communal latrines.  Call me a prude, but I don't think I would have enjoyed taking care of my "business" while perched on one of these toilets with my neighbor or boss sitting next to me.  

No discussion of our visit to Ephesus would be complete without mentioning the stray cats.  They were everywhere and the girls were immediately doing the here-kitty-kitty and getting all weepy because they were strays.  Couldn't we just take a couple home with us?  The way most security folks haphazardly pay attention to the x-ray machines, we probably could have smuggled a couple of them back onboard in a tote bag.  As long as the cats didn't have any replaced hips or knees - can't tell you how many old folks on the excursions had to be "wanded" because some replaced or repaired body part set off the scanner.  Sadly, we had to leave the kitties in Ephesus.  They seemed to be in good shape and none of them were rail thin, so I assume someone around there takes care of them.

And if you sat down, some of the friendlier kitties would climb into your lap for serious petting.  Cal plopped down on the ancient street of marble there in front of the amazing library and ignored every bit of it to focus on making the kitty comfortable in her lap.

For the remainder of the morning, we visited the remains of the Basilica of St. John, which was constructed by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.  As we toured the site and looked down at the cross-shaped baptismal pool built into the floor where Christians were baptized so long ago, it dawned on me that these powerful symbols and figures so central in our religious history reside in a country where over 90% of the inhabitants practice Islam.

Below you'll see the entrance to the grounds, the site where the body of St. John is buried and the baptistry where our tour guide with the orange umbrella was explaining what we were seeing.

I was pleased to discover there were no stray cats at this ancient site, when out wandered a puppy.  And alas the girls got all weepy again, not in awe of what they were seeing but rather in concern for the puppy, its mother and littermates.  Once again, I had to listen to the pleas and explain why we couldn't attempt to smuggle it aboard the ship.  I swear, if these folks were smart they would put out a puppy and kitty donation cup because they would rake in the money from folks like us.  

Our final stop before a very late lunch was at the House of the Virgin Mary.  It sits all alone atop a tall hill that's full of hairpin switchbacks and guarded by the military.  It was a very peaceful place and deceptively green because a spring flows beneath the site, so it was a true oasis amidst the rocks and scrub that surround it.  

We ended our day with lunch at a nearby resort that caters to Brits - many of them on holiday lolling around in their tiny Speedo swimsuits... such a lovely sight to behold, their big old bellies and butt cheeks hanging out all over the place before you sit down to eat a meal.

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