Saturday, April 10, 2004

We've been on the road from Marmaris, Turkey, to Rhodes by ferry, then another ferry to Iraklion on Crete. Sunny Mediterranean weather everywhere gives a golden glow to all we've done -- We visited the Acropolis in Rhodes as well as the most amazing medieval Old Town of Rhodes itself, an entirely enclosed medieval city, complete with the Grand Master's palace and the most amazing frescos from the Greek and Byzantine periods, the architecture a mix of Islamic, Crusader, and Byzantine styles. The streets narrowly twist and turn in unexpected directions; Greeks still live in the town, a vibrant combination of very old (most from the 1300s when the knights of St. John built extensive fortifications) and simple whitewashed box-like houses common to the Greek Islands -- as this area does suffer from occasional earthquakes.

We walked down the Street of Knights, each massive "row house" divided into the six different "tongues" that the knights spoke -- so six different languages -- French, Spanish, Provence, etc. French flags fly next to Greek flags. Our favorite was the Palace of the Grand Master with its very large inner courtyard; the entire palace was refurbished by the Italians for Mussolini in the 1930s -- and the island itself was occupied by the Germans between 1943 and 1947. But the Palace was beyond grand with its large Roman columns, early Greek and Roman mosaics everywhere -- gladiators and dolphins. We stopped for lunch in a square opposite the Turkish baths, delicious moussaka and like the palace, an immense Greek salad, summer-fresh tomatoes, fresh oregano and feta. We saw renovations going on everywhere in this World Heritage site, our second, and Rhodes Old Town deserves its designation. Here we really can get the flavor of medieval life -- a mix of Islamic, Jewish and Christian architecture -- though today only church bells ring in the hours. Here once the Colossus of Rhodes graced the harbor as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

We then came by ferry to Crete and found our home at the Kronos Hotel (think Kronos Quartet!), right by a charming string of waterside outdoor restaurants. Last night we ate baked melt-in-your-mouth squid and watched the ferries head north to Athens, our next stop. Yesterday we tromped around the Palace at Knossos, actually a Minoan palace through three different periods from about 1900 to about 1450 BC, a short period to have been so influential. The Minoans have a reputation for being peaceful, island people, but their palace was again monumental in scale. Some say the Minoan word for labyrinth actually means large palace, not the later gory Greek tale about the Minotuar who required 14 beautiful young youths and maidens each year in tribute (a tasty treat). Some parts of the palace have been closed off perhaps permanently because the murals are delicate.

Today we spent four hours in the musuem, appreciating the complexity of the Minoan pottery, statuary, and murals -- as well as their influence on early Greek art. Interestingly, we could see influences from Egypt and Mesopotamia on this island culture in the Minoan period and later. And I'm not so sure the Minoans were so peaceful; their religious rites did include animal sacrifice (common to the times). Some of the murals were so lovely (even if incomplete) with dancing maidens, dark hair in ringlets, and young men in religious processions, small waists, bearing gifts for the cult of the bull. I think I took too many pictures here, but the artwork is lovely. I'll try to post a few a little later as tomorrow night we head for Athens by the red-eye overnight ferry in a cozy cabin for four. Henry and Jamie are going to Athens as well, and they've been lovely company. Tonight we head for an Easter celebration at midnight at a local church which features, we've been told, fireworks and cherry bombs. Ah, culture!

I hope sunny skies are everywhere -- English language television is at a real premium at the hotels we stay at, so we're relying on the internet for news, unfortunately all bad. The Greek language seems very foreign right now, especially after five weeks of Turkish.

Be well.


PS Yes, that PHOTO LINK at the right hand side of this website works now. Check it out!
PPS Allen has written his end-of-stay-in-Turkey, so I'll post that later too.

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