Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mykonos

We pulled into Mykonos and immediately decided we wanted to rent a moped with Jim and Mel and scoot around the island.  It ended up being an awesome trip!

After taking a quick trip to the far northwest corner of the island, we decided for the first part of the day we would go beach hopping. The first beach we went to was Paradise Beach on the south part of the island.  We met with other Precoa people there as we sat and relaxed in the warm(ish) sun.  We didn't end up getting in the water yet since we had more riding to do and we wanted to be comfortable!

We hopped back on our bike and motored to Aphrodite Beach on the southeast part of the island. 

 The Precoa beach tour was there, so we saw lots of other Precoa people.  After a classic Greek lunch, Jared and Jim went off and explored the coastline and then came back and willed themselves into the cold water!
 


The landscape of Mykonos was gorgeous!  We toured around remote areas of the island.  Eventually, we made it to an area on the far east end of the island that we decided was the access to the landfill - even it was gorgeous!

We found our way over to the north part of the island where it was super windy and watched windsurfers.

After riding for miles (or kilometers since we were in Europe), we finally decided to stop into the town of Mykonos to walk around and to get something to eat - we had a delicious Gyro and some yummy pastries.. We initially, before parking, drove out near the bay, following some taxis and police cars, only to find out that it was a pedestrian only road (taxis and law enforcement excepted). As we were pulling out, a large group of moped and 4-wheel riders from Precoa went driving down the same road, only to be turned around as well.  It was entertaining to watch!

The area we ate was called "Little Venice" because of how narrow and windy the streets were. I loved the white highlights on the streets.  We didn't leave ourselves much time to shop (though most of the shops were selling things similar to both Santorini and Athens), but we definitely enjoyed our walk through the town. It was a quieter and calmer town than both Athens and Santorini.

Mykonos was a great change of pace and was an absolutely beautiful island and experience!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ephesus

Our day in Ephesus began with a surprisingly beautiful drive from the port city of Kusadasi through a scenic hillside to the site of the house of the Virgin Mary.

According to some historians, John the Beloved has a cathedral that was built to him nearby because it was believed that he was entombed there, and since John was to care for Mary, the mother of Jesus, she would have been close by.  At some point, an area with a spring was found in a hill side, and it was decided that that area could have been a place Mary could have lived.  We didn't take any pictures inside the small hut, but here's one outside.

Nearby, there is a wall, similar to the wailing wall in Jerusalem, where people write prayers or notes on napkins or other paper and tie them together.

The next stop on the tour was to the city of Ephesus.  One of the first things the guide said when we got there was that we were allowed to touch the stones there because, "they're thousands of years old, you won't hurt them!"  We found it interesting how different that attitude was compared to the forum in Rome.
 

Jared came armed for photo-taking!

Ephesus is huge - and we were told only approximately 20% has been excavated.  They have tried re-building some of the roads and buildings that lined the main streets, which really gives an idea of what the city may have looked like.  The Greek Goddess Nike, the god of victory, was found at one place in Ephesus.

One of the most interesting areas we toured was the terrace houses.  These 2 series of homes that were built on top of one another in terraces.  The entire area was protected by a breathable roof, which made this part of the tour quite comfortable!

The walls of the homes were covered in thin marble artwork.  There were rows of tables where archaeologists were trying to piece together the thousands of pieces so they could try to put them back on the wall as they once were.

There were many rooms that had complete mosaics on the floors and much of the marble walls completed.

One fun thing to watch was people taking pictures.  There were many selfie sticks, and occasionally, poses like Kelsey's to get the perfect shot!

At the end of the long road stood the Library of Celsus and the South Gate, with many of the pieces rebuilt.  The staircase and columns were a great place for some beautiful pictures!



The Precoa men, together in Ephesus.  At some point, someone got a text regarding work (the marketing and IT departments were moving to the 3rd floor that day), and they couldn't resist having a conversation!

The Hornibrook girls (Tyler's and Michael's) were cute to watch together throughout the trip.  It was rare to see one without the other three!

The last place was visited in Ephesus was probably the highlight, the amphitheater in Ephesus where the apostle Paul preached. 


A few minutes after we arrived, we were treated to a beautiful rendition of "How Great Thou Art" by Freddie Ashby.  The acoustics were beautiful, and all in the amphitheater fell silent to hear the moving lyrics and melody.  The spirit was so strong - it was beautiful to sit where the Apostle Paul preached and to feel the same spirit that would have accompanied his own words.
 

The amphitheater's setting, next to a rolling hill, added even more beauty to the entire experience.

After we arrived back in Kusadasi, we found our way to a highly-rated lunch spot with Jim and Mel and Carson and Paige.  After getting a tour of our menu to come, Carson and Paige decided to try something a little less authentic Turkish!  We were basically told what to eat by the restaurant's owner, and then food just started coming out - and didn't stop!

The first course was a large piece of Turkish bread (Ramazan) with dipping sauces, including tzatziki, hummus, egg plant, a spicy one, and a tomato one.  There was so much food - and it was so good!  Even the dolmathes, the grape-leaf wrapped rolls, were great!

And then the rest of lunch came out (with more bread) and blew our minds again!  With 3 different kinds of kebabs, grilled veggies, and other meats, we had so many options of amazing foods to eat.  It is a meal we want to somehow have again!

After eating, we went shopping - we aren't necessarily the best price hagglers, but we ended up getting a good deal (which we found out because Jim went price shopping for Mel and ended up at the same store we did!).  We spent time shopping (successfully!) for scarves for Dani and all of our help at home and for pottery, which we were happy to find a beautiful and unique vase that we now have behind the kitchen sink to remind us of this amazing day.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Rhodes

After a full day hiking through Santorini, we got a good night's sleep and decided it may be better to take a more relaxed approach in Rhodes.  We first took a self-guided tour of the Palace of the Grand Master (after walking through some fun streets inside the city wall).

The rooms were enormous with soaring ceilings.  The artwork to admire was more on the floors, where Italian dictator Mussolini, after invading Greece, had taken Byzantine-era mosaics and brought them into the Palace.  It was an interesting place to visit,

but we had places to go!  So, we went on a short (okay, close to 2 miles) walk to the beach

to relax for a few hours!  To our surprise, the Mediterranean is cold!!!  Jared had read about a platform out in the ocean that you could jump off of, and so, once Jim convinced Jared to get into the frigid water, they set off, and, once Jared convinced Jim to jump off, they had a great time jumping in.  It felt great to get some relaxing vacation time!

Santorini

The port that Dani has been looking forward the very most is Santorini, and it lived up to, and probably surpassed her hopes!  What a beautiful site we awoke to, looking up at the high cliffs with the white buildings perched on top.

We began the day bright and early on the first tender boat to shore so we could take a 6-mile hike from Thera to Oia (thanks TripAdvisor and Trevor and Leslie Winn for researching!)  It was neat to walk the usually tourist-filled streets of Thera before there were any tourists, enjoying the small, quiet town.

We made our way through a few small villages, stopping frequently to admire the scenery and take pictures.

After not too long, we were in the middle of the countryside.  There was almost nothing around, other than a caldera filled with ocean water.

And our ship in the distance

One thing that was interesting in the Greek isles, which we first learned on our walk around Santorini, was that there were many small churches dotting the landscape.  They would pop up out of nowhere!

Some had scenic arches that made for good photos.  All were white with blue trim. 

As we approached Oia, the thing we kept saying was, "Wow, there's an amazing picture!"  By the time we arrived in Oia, we concluded that there was no such thing as a bad picture on Santorini.
 

Views in Oia were simply perfect!  It is difficult to describe just how brilliant the white buildings are in contrast to the cliffs, sky, and water, and with the blue-domed roofs of the churches, it was simply breathtaking!

 


In Santorini, the homes were built on the side of cliffs, so many of the homes were built on top of a portion of their neighbor's homes.  In this case, a bookstore was built below their neighbor's home, and even below street level!

We walked all the way to the far edge of the island where we could see Oia on the caldera side and on the ocean side.
 

Lunch with Jim and Mel was unforgettable.  At first, it was memorable for the spectacular view.  Then the food came, and we ate food like we'd never eaten before, starting with a delicious block of baked feta cheese served with roasted peppers!  Wow!!!  The Greek salad was delicious, too.  Then, we had moussaka, a traditional Greek dish with eggplant, ground beef and Bolognese sauce, potatoes, and cheese.  It was simply amazing!!!  Fortunately, we took the advice of our server ("Don't eat too much - it's only lunch time!") and walked out comfortably full - and with enough room for another baklava!

One memorable experience we witnessed was Mr. Kindness (aka Eric Battles) in action, assisting a drunken crew member (it turned out to be the doctor that had helped Eric with an earache the day before!) make it back up to the gondolas - he was trying to walk down the path and was falling all over the place!

The streets of Santorini, winding through the white buildings, were quaint, and though it was pretty busy, especially in Thera, the small-island charm was present everywhere we went.  This day will go down as one of our favorite vacation spots!