Saturday, October 18, 2014

Greeting Greece: Crete's Town Center

Our cab driver then took us for a quick stop at the town center, where we saw this fountain. Constructed in 1628, it was made not for beauty, but to bring 1,000 barrels of water a day to this place from an aqueduct 15 miles away. It has 4 lion mouths, so that many people could fill their jugs at once. The ingenious thing is that the final point of the aqueduct were the lions' mouths, yet they had no pump to bring the water up to that point.  This town square was the center of the largest slave trade in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Arab rule in the 9th century, was the site of the Byzantine governor's palace in the 10th-13th centuries, and was where the Venetian Duke of Crete stood to determine the fate of these people. Now, it's surrounded by coffee shops and people, modern life wrapping itself around history.

I got to quickly see the Basilica of St. Mark, built in 1239. It's amazing to me how many earthquakes these structures have survived.

I briefly hopped out of the cab to take a picture of the Koules Fortress, built in the 13th century, destroyed by an earthquake, then rebuilt in 1540. It served to store supplies and military weapons, and also as a prison.

I loved the color and crowdedness of this picture.

Biblically, we know that  some Cretan Jews were at Pentecost and were converted. We also know Paul briefly stopped here, while being taken as prisoner to Rome. It was from here that his shipwrecked voyage occurred. Paul's letter to Titus references a church here and gives instructions about elders. I took this picture because it reminded me best of what it might have looked like then.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Greeting Greece: Crete

The next day, our ship stopped in Crete. We walked off, negotiated with a taxi driver for a quick 2 hour tour of his city, then took off. He took us to Knossos, the ancient civilization of the Minoans, which dates to 2700-1450 BC.

I could not resist photographing the color of these pomegranates.

Here are some of the ruins of Knossos. It was surrounded by beautiful mountains. The ruins were in wonderful shape and building structures easy to detect.

Much of the public baths reminded me of the ruins in Turkey.

Support beams have been added, but the rocks remain from thousands of years, earthquakes, and invaders.

While Turkey generally leaves its frescoes and original ruins alone (and even lets the goats and sheep crawl all over them!), Greece seems to work toward restoring to the original design. Fragments of this piece were found, then they crafted around it what the original would have been. You can see the Egyptian design, which has helped them date this civilization.

Many things were grown on the mountainside. I think some of it was tea. It was beautiful!

I found this mineral-rich rock.

These storage jars were found. It was impossible at the angle from which we viewed them to get the size orientation, but they were so big I could have climbed inside. But I didn't. Have I mentioned I like plenty of space around me?

This was the queen's chamber. Historians have said these people mainly worshipped goddesses and that it was a matriarchal society. Dating it alongside our biblical history, I kept thinking of our intentional God and his many warnings against idol worship like the peoples around them. It becomes more relevant how He insisted that His people be separate from the others.

This was the crowning find, the Knossos bull, restored to its original color and texture by historians.
It was a quick tour, but I am glad I got to see it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Greeting Greece: Greek Show and Buffet Breakfast

The cruise ship had nightly shows. Though it made us stay up WAY past our bedtime, we decided to take them in and get the full experience.

The first night they had a show presented by Greeks in traditional costumes. I loved it!

The gals were so feminine and flower-adorned.

The guys did this dance that reminded me of CC's Russian dance he occasionally breaks out into!

And when we got back to our cabin, our maid had folded our towels into this. So cute! She was selling a "Towel Art" book for a few euros. I knew Sweet Cheeks would have a ball with it, so her souvenir was chosen.

The next morning was breakfast, by far my favorite meal. Bacon! Sausage! Waffles!

Here's L!

Here's H!

And here's another towel art the next morning! (The maid benefitted from the purchase of the book, so we got extra special creations!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Greeting Greece: Patmos, the Isle of Exile

We would be seeing 5 Greek islands in the short 4 days. We were told that at some islands, we could pull right into the port. Others, we would need to take a tender boat to get there. Here's a picture of my tender boat. H and I were doing this night excursion to Patmos together. We were unsure of which tender boat and which bus to get on. We both saw a "1" on our ticket, so we followed group 1. We quickly learned that was a church group. We thought it might be wonderful to follow a church group and get some of the Biblical history with our tour.  Sadly, when we lined up, the leader quite rudely told us we were not to be with their group. Then a lady from the group shoved her arm out to stop us and let her 'people' go first ahead of us. Later, I discovered the name of the group, "The Spirit Filled Hearts Group," and I smirked. I decided to assume they were a lovely group, but just having an off day. (AND it will provide a wonderful devotion later about the 3 groups of people touring this holy site...those who have knowledge and faith; those who have knowledge but absolutely no faith; those who have knowledge and faith, but are not abiding in Him) 

Our first tour was of a monastery. The entire island of Patmos was given to a soldier-priest in the year 1088 by a Byzantine emperor. He built this monastery, which remains until today. There are about 40 monks living there now. The frescoes were beautiful!

We were set to tour Patmos in the daytime, but due to a delay at our port (it was a Turkish holiday), we got there at night. I thought a nighttime tour of the monastery was even better. There was an island breeze, a rocky path on which to tread up to it, and the candles were all lit. H and I wanted to find a quiet spot to pray, but everything was so rushed.

The monastery bell.

We were allowed to take photographs of the building's structures, but not the inner worship room. I can just describe it to you as very and silver candelabras and alters to the point that you could hardly walk through it. Our take on it was that it was very opposite the personality of the apostle John, exiled here, who did not even name himself in Scripture, he was so humble.

This was perhaps my happiest photograph on my trip. This is a portion of the oldest copy of the Gospel of Mark that exists. It is from the 6th century. Having just taught my students how we had Scripture passed down to us, I loved seeing it. I'll admit I had to hang back, snap with no flash, and do a quick camera-stash in my bag and shuffle out. I just could not leave there without a picture.

And then we toured the cave where St. John is believed to have had his revelations. Inside as we toured, we were told of a spot where he used his hand to hoist his elderly body up, a place where he rested his head, and place where he held his manuscripts, and a place where the rock was split into 3 to represent the Trinity. Honestly, I can find no record of how the Orthodox Church connected this one cave to the apostle John, so the holy spots where he reclined and studied did not hold the fascination for me that it might for others. What was very meaningful to me is when I peered out the cave window...I could see the grassy knolls, the ocean waves, the rocky crags. And I thought to myself, "He may not have been in this cave, but he was on this island...faithful and dear to the Lord in his old age." I felt I had found the holy site, not in the cave, but as I peered out further into the barrenness. I thought of our ship, and I thought of the prisoner's ship he would have traveled on. I thought of how he might have begun to feel useless and old and wish he could return to his Lord, and yet, God had a purpose for him on this island. From it, we got the 'bookend' at the end of our Bible.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Greeting Greece: Shipping Out

I could not get over how the whole ship was just like a floating hotel! You could get into the interior of this 9 level ship and forget you were on a boat. We had a safety seminar first...bringing our life jackets, trying them on, and ensuring that we knew where our "station" would be in the event of an emergency. I am normally fairly safety conscious (I am the girl who drafted fire escape routes for our family because the visiting fireman at school suggested we needed one.), but I did not get into the seminar nearly as much as the Korean group you see behind me, who actually turned on their flashing lights (activated by water), and blew their whistles. I was far more concerned that I might not be able to breathe in the smallness of our cabin than I was about going overboard.

Soon, the fog horn sounded and we started moving. We felt movement the most when shipping out and docking. Here's a shot of the carrier as we moved away. We met a Mexican-American on the ship's staff (in charge of scheduling island excursions) who was moved by the US military ship to the point of tears, as he thought of his cousins who are enlisted. We refrained from singing God Bless America, but we wanted to!

My shameless selfies began. What can I say? Remember...first time cruise, first time Greece!

Our first stop was the island of Patmos! I could not contain my excitement! I teach Bible! I just introduced the Gospel of John! He LIVED here!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Greeting Greece: Port Send Off/ Salute to the US Military

Ready to board our ship, we came up upon our port in Kusadasi.

There at the port is a castle built in the early 1800's. I would later explore it upon our return, but did not have time that morning.

After we passed through security and came out to the Aegean Sea front, we watched this beautiful aircraft carrier drift in to dock.

And quickly we realized it was a US ship with all branches of the US military upon it.

For these 3 American girls, far from our US home, it was like a gift neatly wrapped and presented to us by God. It was hard to pull ourselves away to board our own ship. We found out later it was the USS Bataan, finishing a 9 month tour, preparing to return to the US. We were able to tell a couple of soldiers thank you and "I'm praying for you."

When I saw our cruise ship, I was very shocked at how big it was. I was expecting something much smaller and not as nice.

After we boarded, we went up to the top to watch the carrier again, this time seeing the US flag raised up!

It was massive. I can't even describe it.

Soon, we would ship out, wave to our military, get some waves back, and be ready for our big adventure!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Greeting Greece: Leaving Turkey

I did something this Fall Break I have never done before, and that is see Greece. It's right next door, but with 5 kids to consider when planning trips, we've just stayed in Turkey. However, a couple of my teacher friends asked me to join them for a cruise from Turkey to some nearby Greek Islands. I agreed before I even knew where all we were going! I was, honestly, just so touched that they asked me. I'm sort of in a breed of my own here. I have very dear friends on staff and in our community...but I am older than most of the staff, and I am also their boss' wife. So it just touched me that they asked me; it was a first for me. CC told me I could go, that he would stay with the kids. And here's my was CHEAP! The cruise was off season, and the port is here in Turkey, so we got discounts. My flight there was less than filling up the car with gas. So, this was my chance. I had never done a girls' trip away here in Turkey (apart from women's conferences), I had never seen Greece, I had never been on a cruise.

The school year kicked off and flew by. I could not believe my Greece cruise was upon me. We flew out on Friday afternoon. The flight was only 1 hour. We landed and were transported to the city center of Kusadasi. I snapped this shot for Miss Middler. She's a Converse fan! I am sure they are all fakes, but that's the fun of shopping in tourist towns!

The bus transport driver was set to take us from the airport to a bus station, where we would catch a cab to our hotel. One of my buddies on the trip was on 1 crutch due to a knee fracture still healing. I used that as my 'crutch' (no pun intended) and asked the driver if he could just get us straight to our hotel. I've been in Turkey too long not to ask favors. He said he'd drop us right by it, then we should just walk straight, and turn left. It would be right there.

We did that and wound up in front of a shop called The S_x Shop. (I am editing so I don't get weird prowlers on here.) But you just have to see the whole picture. I didn't even know there was such a shop. We walked right on past that shop, sticking our 20-something coworker in between us. We asked another guy. Then another guy. Here we were, pulling and carrying our luggage, L hobbling with one crutch, having no clue where we were supposed to go. But we sure found out where The S_x Shop was. So the next guy told us to go back where we had gone and turn right. We did that. And we wound up here. (picture below) There were at least 16 tattoo parlors. There were also advertisements for body art (?!) and permanent make up. L told me not to tell CC where we wound up. I replied that I was sure to tell him after all the messages I get while he travels, like "Got off the plane in the wrong city. Please pray." So, anyway, we rolled/hobbled/walked down the tattoo parlor street. Honestly, I was not the scared. One guy did call out, "Hey girls!" but I was too happy to be called a 'girl' to be offended. And I thought as we walked down, if anyone got fresh, I would just speak Turkish, tell them I was a school teacher, and perhaps shame them a bit about what would their  mother think. They'd be calling me "big sister" and serving me Turkish tea within minutes. Finally we got to the end of that street and came to a taxi stand. The man at the taxi stand told us to walk downhill. We did that. Then the man at the sunglasses shop downhill told us to walk back uphill. Part way up the hill, we stopped at a soup shop. The man invited us for soup. We told him we wanted to find our hotel, but we would return for some dinner. He pointed further uphill. Finally, someone actually knew where it was and was not just answering us incorrectly to be polite. (It would not be hospitable to say, "I don't know.") Finally, we found our little hotel!

The hotel was clean, small, and nice. I paid about US$20 to stay there, so I was just happy I had clean sheets and a toilet! We dropped L off, who needed to get off her knee, and walked back down to the soup shop. He offered us a doner (wrap with shaved chicken and fresh veggies). After all that walking, it was delicious! He brought us this appetizer. Hot peppers and pickled hot peppers!

We slept well, and I rose just in time to see the sunrise over the city of Kusadasi.

This was outside our little hotel room. A tree was growing out of the roof of an old building.

These shutters drew my camera in.

Inside the hotel, I found a framed print of the Irish blessing, of which I took a picture for my daughter whose name means Ireland.

Included in that US$20 was this delicious Turkish breakfast, which I promise you I will eat the rest of my life whether I live in Turkey or not!

So tomorrow I'll tell you about boarding the ship and the surprise that awaited us at the dock!

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