Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Naples and Pompeii

Our ship docked in Naples this morning, and after breakfast, we boarded a small bus to Pompeii. In the background of the photo is Mount Vesuvius which erupted in A.D. 79. The city of 20,000 people was buried under 30 feet of hot volcanic ash. Excavation of Pompeii began in 1748, and it continues to this day.

There were many relics taken from the excavation stored in viewing cubbies. This is a plaster cast of a Pompeiian in his last moments. The people of Pompeii were quickly suffocated by an avalanche of gas and ash before their bodies were encased in volcanic debris.

Our tour took us behind the scenes into an archeological research center where artifacts found in the excavation were kept. This is a 2,000 year old loaf of bread preserved in volcanic ash. They found a bakery in which many loaves of bread were on the shelves and some were still in the oven.

Pompeii's basilica was a palace of justice. Today's basilicas are modeled after its design.

Since Naples is the birthplace of pizza, we thought it was fitting to end our trip eating a big one at a sidewalk café in the city. Tomorrow we head back home. Ciao!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Another Day at Sea

We had a relaxing day at sea today. We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast and a leisurely lunch. At the entrance to each public area (restaurants, pool, theater, etc.) there is a Purell station. You are required to put your hand under the Purell machine and get a squirt. If you try to walk past without Purell-ing, the Purell patrol will get you. That's the lady to the left. She has a large bottle of Purell and she will catch you and squirt your hand. I heard they have openings for this position and Carolyn would be ideal for the job.

At 2:30 there was a men's belly flop contest at the pool. I couldn't convince Don to compete.

On our way to dinner again.

Our cabin steward, Cherton, left me a chimpanzee hanging from the ceiling wearing my sunglasses tonight. That cracked me up.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Athens

Our ship docked in Athens today. Our tour bus took us to the Acropolis where we saw the Parthenon and other ancient structures. We sure are getting a history lesson on this trip. To get to the Parthenon, we had to climb 200 slippery marble steps to the highest point in Athens.

On our way up to the Parthenon, we saw a few incredible sights. The city of Athens is very densely populated as you can see from the buildings in the background. This is part of the Odean (musical theater) of Herodes Atticus. This theater was built in 161 A.D. and is still used for concerts today.

This is the Erechtheion which once housed a life size, olive wood statue of Athena in her role as protector of the city of Athens. This temple accommodated the worship of gods such as Poseidon and Athena.

The huge rock in the foreground with people standing on it is Mars Hill (also known as the Areopagus). This is where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians (Acts 17:23). Paul looked out over the Agora and started talking about an altar he had seen that was dedicated to an "unknown god." Then he proceeded to tell them about the one true God.

This is a shot of the Parthenon. It was so huge it was difficult to get the whole thing in. A restoration project has been taking place since 1983 and it is expected to be completed by 2020. All the light colored spots on the columns are new marble which will oxidize within 20-30 years to look just like the ancient marble.

This is a side view of the Parthenon. It is huge.

After our tour, we walked around the center of Athens for awhile, had Gyros for lunch and did some shopping. This man was selling all kinds of nuts from his cart.

I glanced down this street and saw the Arch of Hadrian which was built in 132 A.D. to celebrate the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Tomorrow is a day at sea, so no sightseeing. I'm glad to have a day off to relax. We will be in Naples on Tuesday, then on Wednesday we return to Rome and fly home.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Santorini

We woke up this morning back in Greece. This time in Santorini, a Greek Island that is a flooded caldera (a collapsed volcanic crater). Around 1630 B.C., the volcano exploded 24 cubic miles of volcanic material. The whitewashed buildings similar to those in Mykonos are located high up on tectonic plates.
We took a bus ride to the city of Oia (pronounced EE-ah). The views were spectacular. As recently as 1956, this town was in ruins from an earthquake. With the history of volcanoes and earthquakes around here, I wondered if we would have any warning if one were to happen again anytime soon.

After visiting Oia and the town of Fira and eating lunch in a café overlooking all this gorgeous water, we stood in line for an hour to ride the cable car back down to sea level. There, a small Tender boat shuttled us back to the ship.

The side of our ship is on the left. I took this photo just before re-boarding.
Our ship - Jewel of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ephesus

We entered a new continent this morning traveling from Europe to Asia overnight. We pulled in to the port of Kusadasi, Turkey at 7:00 a.m. After breakfast, we headed to Ephesus on a bus. The first stop was the house said to be where Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived the last eleven years of her life.

Her house was very small. I was curious as to how Mary ended up in Ephesus when she was from Jerusalem. No one knows for sure, but some believe she traveled there with the apostle John whom Jesus asked to look after her as he was dying on the cross.

Our next stop was the ruins of the city of Ephesus. We thought we had seen some ruins on the island of Delos, but these ruins, although not as old, were much more massive in size.

Ephesus was one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire. At its peak, around 27 B.C., a quarter of a million people lived here. This is a photo of the main avenue in the city.

The Library of Celsus was the third largest library of the ancient world with 12,000 volumes. It was built in A.D. 123 This was truly impressive in real life.

The triple arch entryway to the commercial agora. This was a huge marketplace that was the main shopping area of Ephesus.

The Great Theater dating from Hellenistic Greece, at least a century before Christ, is one of the oldest structures in Ephesus.

We ended our day with a short tour of the Basilica of St. John, lunch at a Turkish buffet, and sitting through a sales pitch on Turkish carpets.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mykonos and Delos

We arrived at the Port in Mykonos, Greece this morning and we were off the ship by 7:30 a.m. Mykonos is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. The water is very blue and all the buildings are painted white. I asked someone why that was. She said it is a tradition now, but originally, the buildings were painted with limestone to disinfect them in times of the plagues.

The center of Mykonos was designed by Mykonians centuries ago to discourage pirates and invaders from finding their way around. All the streets are narrow and wind around like a maze. It is easy to get lost. It would be hopeless for someone like me to live here.

The Church of Panagia Paraportiani

From Mykonos, we took a 30-minute ferry to the island of Delos. This island was one of the ancient world's busiest commercial ports. Today, the island is uninhabited except for archaeologists who live there while excavating. Delos is only 1 mile by 3 miles in size. One-tenth of the island has been excavated to reveal the ruins dating back to the 9th century B.C.

Some of the ruins from ancient Delos include the Temple of Zeus and Athena, Sanctuaries of Apollo & Artemis, Colossus Apollo and shops and residences.

Lions of the Naxians.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Day at Sea

The distance between Sicily and our next stop in Mykonos, Greece is too far to reach in one day, so we have been sailing since last night around 8:00. Seas have been calm and skies have been sunny. It's been a lovely, relaxing day.

Out at the pool in the afternoon, two of the chefs cooked huge stir fries for guests to eat for lunch.
This is a shot of our cabin. Nice and cozy, yet plenty of space to move around.

Our cabin is in the center of the back of the ship. We can relax on our lounge chairs and get some sun.

On our way to dinner.
Enjoyed the sunset this evening.

Our cabin steward left me a towel-elephant wearing my reading glasses.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sicily - (Taormina)

At 11:00 a.m. we docked at the Port in Sicily (Porta Messina). By noon, we were on a bus headed along the shore about 45 minutes to Taormina which is a town founded in the 3rd century B.C. Once we arrived, we had three hours to explore on our own.

The highlight for us was the ancient Greek theatre which was rebuilt by the Romans. The ampitheater is over 2,000 years old and overlooks the water.

Don standing in an opening at the theater.

Walking around Taorima.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Vatican and Setting Sail

Day two in Rome was a mad dash to the Vatican Museum. We were part of a very slow tour that we skipped out on around 11:30. Then we quickly finished looking around and ended up in the Sistine Chapel. It was very pretty, but the room was quite crowded. Fire fighters would not have liked it.

This photo is in the open courtyard. Thousands of chairs were set up, so I'm guessing the pope will be addressing the multitudes sometime in the near future.

We made it to the port in time to embark on The Jewel of the Seas. After the muster drill, we set sail. Unfortunately, there have been 8 foot waves all around us ever since. I've taken Dramamine and put my sea bands on my wrists. So far I haven't needed the barf bags the crew has strategically placed around the ship.

The internet connection is very slow so I'm only posting one photo today. Hoping tomorrow will bring calm seas and sunshine when we stop in Sicily.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Roman Holiday

We arrived in Rome today! We had to hit the ground running because we only have a day and a half to see everything. Our hotel is right by the Pantheon, so we went there first thing this morning after we dropped our bags off at the hotel.

The Pantheon is a temple originally built in 27 B.C. by Marcus Agrippa. It was rebuilt in 120 A.D. but the inscription at the top still dedicated the temple to him. The 40 foot high columns were taken from an Egyptian temple. The temple was dedicated to all the Roman gods. Inside there is a mathematically perfect domed ceiling measuring 142 feet tall and 142 feet wide.

 Next, we walked over to the Colosseum and joined up with an English tour guide. The Colosseum was built when Rome was at its peak in A.D. 80. This is where the gladiators fought and people and animals were killed as a spectator sport. The stadium held 50,000 people, and amazingly, it only took eight years to build. Only one third of the original Colosseum remains today.
This is a shot from inside the stadium. A partial restoration of the wood floor shows where the floor level was. Underneath were all the underground passages. The wood floor of the playing level was covered with sand to absorb the blood.

A selfie at the Colosseum.

 A short walk from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum - (ruins of it anyway) and Palatine Hill. For nearly a thousand years, the Forum was the heart of Rome. It contained temples, government buildings and shopping. It was where Romans came to hang out.

More ruins from the Forum. It was massive.

Tomorrow morning we are headed to the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. Then it will be a mad dash to get on the ship before it sails away at 5:00 p.m.