21 days on an ocean cruise was more than delightful. And this from someone who gets motion sickness on a child’s backyard swing. I made it through without much difficulty. With port stops in the Azores, France, Italy, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, and Crete, the transatlantic (New Orleans to Rome) and Mediterranean waters were brilliant and deep blue. We cruised by an active volcano island off the coast of Italy–Stromboli–and saw plumbs of smoke rise out of the top crater and steam arise off the lava flowing into the sea, all while eating dinner at window seats in the atrium of the ship’s casual dining room.
Sicily was a surprise–beautiful and mountainous. We went to the top of Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in Europe. It stands over 10,000 feet in height and when at the top, we encountered a blinding snow storm. Because Etna is belching black smoke and sand on a daily basis, the seismologists are predicting a build up to a major eruption. We were told we were completely safe while there.
The Acropolis in Athens was awe inspiring. Perched on the top of the second highest hill in the city, this ancient site of the Parthenon, and various temples and theaters is one of the world’s most important historical artifacts. We learned that the Parthenon was designed with the thought of representing a living, breathing building based on the Golden Mean (6 to 9). Purposely, there are no straight lines in this architectural wonder, called the greatest stone building ever constructed. To hide the planned irregularities, which took thousands of high mathematical calculations–remember this is over 2500 years ago, the building was positioned on the Acropolis in such a way as to let the sunlight play an optical illusion as the sun moved over the site during the day. From the Acropolis we could overlook Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul preached the great evangelistic sermon while he visited the city. I felt small here, thinking of the great philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, political leaders, writers and poets–from Pericles to Socrates–who walked the Acropolis and changed the world in so many positive ways. This was the cradle of the western world and I could only marvel at the privilege of being able to visit.
Ephesus in Turkey was the highlight of the trip for me. The city is over 3000 years old and was one of the largest and most important cities of antiquity. With its ocean port lifeline silted up, the city dwindled away after 100 AD and was buried under drifting sand and dirt over the centuries, thus preserving it in ways that other places in antiquity were not preserved. The slow pace of unearthing the city that had a population of over 250,000, making it one of the largest cities on earth, the New York City of its time, has already produced amazing beauty and grandeur. The colonnaded Main Street is spectacular–we actually walked on the ancient paving–and stretches as far as the eye can see. The theater seats 30,000 and has wonderful acoustics. The library was the third largest of all antiquity and sports a marvelous facade. Amazing terra cotta and mosaic flooring has been and is being uncovered. The forum where the Apostle Paul preached is unearthed. Unfortunately, while the vast majority of the city will eventually be uncovered, the great temple of Artemis, one of the ancient world’s seven wonders, has little remaining. Our guide explained that current economics is slowing work on the site, and that a sports stadium has been located that may seat as many as 50,000, but will take decades to unearth. I was humbled, awed, impressed and inspired by this historic artifact and simply amazed at the magnitude of the city and its monuments and public buildings. There is no other place like it–so massive and almost completely preserved.
These few highlights give a glimpse of our 21 days at sea and cannot describe all that we did see. WEG