Friday, October 11, 2013


Forty-nine members of the Cleveland Yacht Club charted the yacht Galileo to tour the Greek Isles, bound by a shared bond of culture, cuisine, and all things alcoholic.  The Galileo is a 48-meter steel hull motor sailer with a beautiful lounge and shaded outdoor deck.

 Greece, a country of over ten million people, has a coastline equal to half of the African continent and more than 2,700 islands, of which 500 are inhabited. We will scratch the delightful surface of these sun-drenched islands by visiting eight of them. 
 After arriving in Athens, we travelled to Glyfada for a stroll and lunch at the restaurant in the photo above, Delfinia, with a beautiful harbor and a terrific multi-course repast.  And, yes, we enjoyed several bottles of wine and far too much laughter. 

 At every turn along the way you will be met by the sight of stunning ruins

Aboard the Galileo 
Sunset on the way to Kea 


 Illuminated church at Kea

We departed from the Marina Zea and set course for the enchanting isle of Kea, approximately an hour journey from the mainland.  Docking at the port of Korissia, one of the calmest harbors in the Mediterranean, we enjoyed a stroll of the quay and a few libations.  Kea is not frequented by tourists and retains a relaxed, tranquil atmosphere that entices one to linger in a cafĂ© or taverna and enjoy the quiet passage of an evening with friends. 

Of course, after that quiet passage of time, we all adjourned to the Galileo for a raucous evening of Adults Behaving Badly. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Haunting Island of Delos

The now barren island of Delos, it's origins shrouded in mythology, welcomes visitors into a sheltered cove of impossibly blue sea.  Legend has it that the always lustful Zeus impregnated Leto and--surprise, surprise--angered his wife, Hera.  A vengeful Hera pursued Leto, declaring that no place on earth could offer her refuge.  Poseidon, taking pity on desperate Leto, offered the island of Delos to her and she subsequently gave birth to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, and to the sun-god Apollo.  While the lore of ages may seem fanciful today, there is no denying that Delos retains a magical, yet tragic, aura.

At its peak, more than 20,000 people inhabited Delos and, in addition to the Greeks, came from cultures as diverse as Egyptians, Syrians, and Jews.  Delos rose to prominence as the financial hub of the Mediterranean and erected monuments that reflected its power and glory.  It is possible today to stroll through narrow streets and alleys, a soaring theater, and broad avenues lines with multi-ton stones.  A mammoth stone pedestal, likely weighing in excess of thirty tons, once supported a huge statute of Apollo.  How those who constructed Delos were able to transport and position such gigantic stones remains a mystery on a par with Stonehenge (see post of 9/25/12).

Shop to sell fish

A palace

Beautiful mosaic, the original is in the museum




Due to inter-Greek warfare and pirate attacks, Delos was eventually abandoned.  Today, the once vibrant island is completely uninhabited.  Indeed, no trace of its human occupants remains.  Around 426 B.C. the Athenians cleansed Delos by declaring that no one would ever live there.  Further, all graves were exhumed and the remains unceremoniously carted away.  As one marvels at the poignant Terrace of the Lions, a series of sculpted lions gifted to Delos in the seventh century B.C., it is not difficult to imagine the ghosts of the disinterred flitting about between tumbled columns and gazing forever upon the endless, deep blue, sea.

Terrace of the Lions

                                                          Mosaic from the Palace

The island across the bay where the deceased were moved
Back to the ship 

Or, perhaps, the imagining of ghosts is due to the excessive vodka consumed the prior evening.  In either event, Delos is an unforgettable experience, ghosts or not. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mykonos: Sun, Skin, and Sunsets

Mykonos has a well-deserved reputation as a playground of the Mediterranean.  As one approaches the harbor, the crescent-shaped beaches for which the island is justly famous stir the imagination.  There are beaches for those of any orientation, including a few that promise raucous evenings of uninhibited hedonism.  My wife refused to let me go to any of those. 

It is easy to see why the island became so popular.  In addition to the glorious beaches, Mykonos town is a charmer.  Twisting, white-washed alleyways and narrow stone staircases are beguiling, the Little Venice quarter is delightful, and the windmills dotting Kato Myli ridge are postcard-perfect.  Yet all of these attractions pale in comparison to a sunset so picturesque that it quiets any crowd. 

A restaurant of note is Sea Satin Market, a gem of a place that juts into the bay just beneath the windmills.  Fresh grilled fish, served only a few feet from the gently lapping waves, is the order of the day.  Spotlights play upon water so clear that it is possible to watch seaweed flutter beneath the gently lapping waves. 
Windmills standing guard over top of the restaurant 

We strolled along the quay, crammed with young tourists waiting for the evening to explode, and caught a cab to our pier.  Mykonos may be known for its anything-goes party atmosphere, but I'll remember the oleander, the hibiscus, and a slow stroll through winding streets to enjoy a sunset and a seaside dinner with friends. 

Samos, Platanos, and an Unforgettable Evening of Greek Hospitality

The beautiful harbor of Pythagorio, capital of Samos, the Greek island which lies closest to Turkey, curves along a quay lined with charming restaurants and shops.  Looming above the harbor are the ruins of the Kastro, or castle, which was erected in the 19th  century and successfully used to thwart a Turkish attack in 1824.  The city was named for the famed mathematician Phythagoras, although the change of name occurred in 1955--better late than never, I suppose--and his bust stands before city hall. 

Our draw to the island, however, was far more than an appreciation of lovely Pythagorio, however.  For obvious reasons, I never identify individuals on this blog, but two members of our group, husband and wife, have strong family ties to Samos and, in particular, the mountaintop village of Platanos.  They arranged for us to spend an evening touring the village and, after a bus ride surmounting a series of switchbacks, we arrived at the mountain peak to be greeted by a welcome sign, prepared by village schoolchildren, that was draped over the roadway.  Followed by a welcoming cocktail in a tavern with a panoramic view of the valleys and beaches below, we visited the fire station, the school house, and both new and old Greek Orthodox churches. 

Welcoming sign

Typical home

This spring has served as a water source since time immemorial

The band

The locals

The food

The dancing

Our friends' relatives graciously accompanied our group at every step and we ended our tour in the town square, where we were met by townspeople and a live band.  What followed was course after course of terrific Greek food and a seemingly endless supply of wine.  Oh, and dancing.  Traditional Greek dancing in which several of us were invited to join.  Perhaps against our better judgment, we did.  I believe that the wine may have had something to do with it.  Other than the fact that we set Greek culture back by decades, a good time was had by all. 

                                                       My new friends are thrilled

                                                                  Just kidding around

And we danced some more

The welcoming Greek people were a highlight.  Several made an effort at conversation and many of us, as the wine continued to flow, came to believe that we could speak Greek.  One of the restaurant owners produced a bottle of a type of alcohol that is likely illegal in most countries and proceeded to share shots with many of us.  A member of our group reputedly imbibed seven shots and proceeded to perform a type of acrobatics on the bus trip back downhill. 

Before the evening concluded, however, we shared hugs and handshakes all around.  It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the fact that our traveling companions were so willing to share their friends and family with us displayed a generosity of spirit that will not be forgotten.