I Swear I'm Hardier than the Retired People
Trip Start Jul 28, 2004
16Trip End Sep 21, 2004
One of our first major visits was to Delphi, the site of the ancient Oracle (which we reached by private car and driver--Am I in a different Universe??). Both of us expected a small, isolated shrine on a mountaintop. Instead, Delphi appears to have been a thriving community, with a theater, a stadium, residences, etc. Athenians would travel a week or more to make offerings and seek their prophesies at Delphi. The site lies at about the same altitude as Denver and extends up a steep hillside, so reaching the stadium was quite a feat, and reaching the site of the Oracle was only moderately easier
After a few days in Athens we met up with the Smithsonian tour and boarded the SS Pan Orama, our 177-foot home for the next 10 days. So far, the people on the tour have been fascinating, and I barely mind the absence of people my own age. Our study leader Eleni knows, and I'm not kidding, every single minor detail of Greek history.
Our first major crossing was from the island of Aegina to Mikonos, and by morning the 12-hour trip in rough seas had left me a little wan. I skipped breakfast and waited for my stomach to settle. Shortly after breakfast my mom bounded back into the room, chipper as can be, and announced, "No one else got sick! You're the only one! Everyone else is at breakfast, and no one seems to have noticed the rough sail!" Great. I'm the biggest weenie on a boatful of retired people. I discovered later that her conclusions were based on a pretty small sample size, i.e. the 5 people out of 30 who felt well enough to make it to breakfast. The rest of us stumbled out of our rooms hours later, looking various shades of grey and green. A seasickness patch settled my stomach fairly quickly, but also rendered me practically incoherent. I'm still debating which is worse.
Before departing Athens, we visited the Acropolis and the Parthenon. The level of architectural complexity at the Parthenon is unfathomable. Each stone is perfectly placed, perfectly carved, with basically no room for error. People could spend weeks moving a single marble stone to the site, then weeks (months?) more shaping and placing it. Our guide made the point that technology in those days was based on time and patience
Since Athens we have visited a handful of islands and gotten a taste for Cycladic culture. Every nook and cranny is picturesque, with whitewashed soft square homes and sea-blue doors and shutters. It's all very uniform, but somehow does not seem cookie-cutter. The narrow streets and sidewalks of many towns are constructed of marble blocks. Around eight in the evening, the sidewalk cafes fill up quickly, and you can wander down marble paths listening to the animated Greek language, which is close enough to Ancient Greek that many modern people can still read the ancient texts
Unfortunately, wind and rough seas have not been in our favor, and we've had to change our itinerary a few times. We ended up on the island of Paros for longer than expected--in fact, we weren't expected there at all. Gale Force winds kept us anchored there until this afternoon, when we made another gut-wrenching passage to Syros. I was glad to move on, and I think the other passengers were feeling restless as well. No one wanted to say it, but I'm sure we were all thinking the same thing: If we don't get off this island soon, we're going to have to start eating the weakest of the group. Luckily the winds died down and by tomorrow, we should be on Delos.