Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kusadasi & Athens - Part VII

October 23 Kusadasi/Ephesus: Deb organized our tour to Ephesus for a spectacular price of $39 per person to include lunch at a local restaurant. We didn’t want to dine in any touristy place with bad food. Genghis was our guide, who was very informative. Our tour began at 10am. I was thrilled to tour Ephesus, especially after reading about it and seeing photos of the Celsus library and Temple of Hadrian. The outdoor theatre seats about 40,000 people and is still in excellent condition. We also saw the latrina, marble street, and Prytaneion.

We drove to see the House of the Virgin Mary, where she apparently lived out her life. The building is very small and one could feel the spirituality of the place. Several of us drank the water from the spring, which is supposed to have healing properties.

For lunch we dined at Ege in Selcuk, which serves ground beef meat kebabs. We all had a delicious bean salad and meatball kebabs with onions, tomatoes and rice. We also ordered some tzatziki to go along with the bread. Everything was very good and we were the only tourists in the place! It rained a little while we were having our lunch. Our next and last stop was to the Ephesus museum, which is also located in Selcuk. We were there for about an hour. There were lots of sculptures and artifacts and a special exhibit on Gladiators.

Back in Kusadasi, we were dropped off at the ship and I went off to do some shopping in the bazaar. Alan, David, Larry and I walked together for a short while before splitting up. There were many stores in the area, including a mosque. Kusadasi is a lovely resort town, a place I would like to return to some day and to spend some time there. I felt very comfortable walking alone and wasn’t really bothered by the sales people like in Istanbul. I bought a beautiful Turkish plate. I almost went for a smaller one but knew I’d be happier with the larger one. I had bubble wrap in my suitcase and would have it in my carry-on bag. I also bought a charm – the evil eye Amulet. I ran into Larry, who had left David back on the ship. I continued my walk along the water where I saw some men fishing.

Back on board the ship departed at 7pm. I meet the gang at the stratosphere lounge. For dinner I had the chicken cordon blue and Deb and I shared a filet mignon that Jesso served us. My appetizer was also delicious – a spinach gnocchi with a slice of fried parmesan cheese.
October 24 Athens: Down to our last three days on the ship. I met up with Larry, Craig, George, Mike and Mike and we spent the day together touring Athens. This was my fourth trip to Athens, so I was their tour guide for the day. We walked about 30 minutes to the metro, hugging the port as we walked. For some reason Larry and I ended up paying 1 euro for our ticket rather than .80. Not sure why the guy gave us a different ticket. The ride to the Thissio station took only 20 minutes or so. We walked along Apost. Pavlou to the Parthenon, arriving before the crowds did (although there were plenty of people climbing the acropolis). The Parthenon was completely covered in scaffolding. We walked around the area for a while and tried to visit the museum; however, it was closed. The artifacts in the museum are being moved to a new museum in the city. This project will take about 10 months to complete. The Greek government is hoping the British will return the Elgin marbles now that there is a new acropolis museum. We will have to wait and see.

After hiking back down, we stopped at a café for coffee and snacks. Our acropolis ticket included sights such as the temple of Olympian Zeus, which was across the street from the café. It was completed during Emperor Hadrian’s time. It was an overcast day, so it was difficult to get a good shot of the temple.

Our next stop was to the parliament building to watch the changing of the guards – the Evzones of the Presidential Guard. They looked regal in their pom-pom shoes and navy blue skirts in front of the tomb of the unknown solider.

Heading into the plaka, we window shopped along the way. We visited inside the Metropolis Greek Orthodox Cathedral, which the façade was under scaffolding. There is always something under scaffolding in Europe!

Lunch time! We headed to Platanos Taverna (4 Dioyenous in the Plaka), where Tony and I dined a few years back. It’s set in a very quiet square away from the crowds. We sat outside underneath a large plane tree. For lunch we ordered a variety of mezes and meats: pork and lamb souvlaki. The bottle of white wine was the most expensive on the trip so far, as far as local house wine goes. But it was very good, as well as all the food.

After lunch we walked through the Agora, which was included in our acropolis ticket. It wasn’t very crowded. We continued on to see the Kerameikos Ancient Cemetery. It was one area of Athens I hadn’t visited before. It is located just west of the Monastiraki metro station. We didn’t have the time to visit the museum there since time was running short. A quick hop on the metro and we were back at the port. Larry and I went off on our own to find batteries for his camera – he missed taking photos after we left the acropolis. The sidewalks along the port were completely filled with people. I guess it was rush hour. Up on deck I watched the city skyline disappear as we left Athens. I later took some pictures of the sun setting with some islands in the distance. It was beautiful!

Craig and George were running out of wine for our cocktails, so I brought two bottles of red wine from my room. Craig kept telling me he would pay for them, but I refused. After all, they have been so nice to include me in their evening gatherings and I enjoyed their wine and food in their room.

After dinner (yummy french onion soup; filo pastry filled with seafood; chicken kiev; crème brulee (horrible!!)), Cathy, Ed and I went to the stratosphere to enjoy the Greek White Night Toga party. Crew dressed people in white sheets. I was wrapped too tight to dance – almost mummy like – that I had to take it off after a few dances. Plus it got too hot to wear. The captain showed up again to say hello. Who’s driving the boat??

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