Thursday, July 7, 2011

Exploring the Greek Islands.

It was time for us to say good bye to Turkey and to begin our cruise of the Cyclades; a group of islands in Aegean Sea between Turkey and continental Greece. Greek islands are considered as one of the most beautiful place in the world and it didn’t take us long to figure out why. Most of them inhabited and with a rich past dating back to antiquity these islands may have a relatively simple landscape and vegetation but their villages in their traditional architecture are breath taking. Under strong northerly winds called the Meltemis navigation in this group of islands is made by waiting for the proper weather window hence sometime forcing us to be “stuck” in places of beauty to make you weep with villages made of white cement, blue doors and windows, embellished by blazing flowers and surrounded by pristine blue Mediterranean waters.

Between Marmaris, Turkey and Mikonos Island, where Claudette left us heavyhearted to go back to Canada, we stopped at the following islands; Simi, Kos, Leros, Levitha, Amorgos, Naxos and Mikonos. Each of these islands had their unique charms and it is impossible to show them all in the limited time and space we have in the presentation of this blog. But here you can see in order Claudette admiring Levitha Island, the stunning interior view of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Simi and myself waiting for Danielle and Claudette in one of Kos’ streets.

One of the unique places we visited in this first part of our island tour was the Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa of Amorgos on Amorgos Island. This hillside built monastery was accessible only through its long and winding stairway in order to climb the hundreds of meters between the road and the entrance of the building. A big congratulation to Claudette for climbing it since despite the fact that she has a very young hearth has accumulated many years in her legs. The site became even more famous by the production of the movie “The great blue” in the 80’s and the bay you see behind Danielle and I was used, as well as the monastery, for the shooting. Ironically we had never seen the movie but this was not a worry since one of the bars around the bay in Katapola where Chocobo moored presented the movie every week. Hence we attended a wine and movie night to make up for this cultural deficiency.

Our visit of the Monastery of Panagia may have been unique but the highlight of our stay on Amorgos Island was without contest the village of Chora built on a hilltop. Obviously used for the shooting of the movie “The great blue” this place is by my appreciation the most beautiful village I’ve seen in my life. Relatively small, we go round the town in one afternoon, its streets are calm enough to relax the most stressed stock broker. White walls and blue doors and windows are everywhere while strolling about the meander of flat stone paved streets. Greek food obviously has the place of honor in the multiple small restaurants with their tables set right in the middle of the street and surrounded by vines in which small grape buds start growing and by all kind of flowers giving the rustic look of a mountain village. And the wine, the wine!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Arrived in Greece.

We arrived at the Island of Kos, Greece from Marmaris, Turkey with a one night stop at the Island of Simi along the way on June 16, 2011. The total distance is only about 90 miles as the Greek Islands are very close to the Turkish continent

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pools of Pumakale.

With its millenniums of history and culture, Turkey is full of sites to visit and obviously we have to choose which ones we want to see unless we plan to stay two years. With our visit of Istanbul behind us we came back to Marmaris in the south of Turkey where Chocobo was waiting for us. For this ride we took the bus. However here unlike Canada there is no quasi monopoly for bus companies. When we arrived at the bus terminal we were in the middle of a swirl of transport companies and trust me when I say that it makes your head spin when you don’t expect it. We already had dealt with that kind of bus terminal in Peru and Bolivia but yet we needed a few minutes to adapt. Nevertheless, without too much trouble we quickly found our bus and left for a nearly 12 hour overnight ride taking us back “home”! We were not back to the boat for more than one day that Danielle had already booked our next visit while I was busying at fixing the boat in preparation for our cruise to come in the Greek Islands. And hop we jumped again in a bus in direction of the site of Pumakale where lays an interesting geological formation. A water source with a high concentration of calcium bicarbonate flows down the hillside and creates these white pools. Unlike the site of Los Salinas in Peru, which is made of salt, Pumakele is formed by calcium bicarbonate. Like you I had no idea what is was so I tasted it. It was basically chalked or at least it tasted like it! Later our tour included the inevitable visit of a local business where they show us what they do then try to sell us their products. This time it was the visit of a Turkish carpet factory where they showed us their fabrication techniques and their huge inventory of magnificent carpets. We obviously didn’t buy any carpet but it is always impressive to admire a carpet on which every one of the million knots were handmade and took over two years for a family to complete. With fresh images of carpets of wool and silk in mind we resumed our trip back to Marmaris when the temperature inside the coach started to rise sharply. The diagnostic came out to be the air conditioner that decided to leave us for a better world despite our driver’s effort for reanimation. It is then with our sweaty forehead that we enjoyed the unique Turkish scenery along the way back to the boat while I felt a certain satisfaction knowing that continuous breakups happening at the worst possible time are not only the features of boats!