Friday 17 May 2019: Roger
Our meeting place in Athens is St George Lycabettus Hotel on the edge of Mount Lycabettus. I had flown From NZ via Singapore and Istanbul arriving at the hotel around 10am
Sylvia’s sister, Debbie, and her husband, Dave, had flown in from NZ via Hong Kong and Rome, arriving yesterday.
Joel, Debbie’s son also arrived yesterday having visited Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest and Belgrave over the past two weeks.
Sam and Hannah, Debbie’s son and his fiancee, arrived in the afternoon having been on the road for the past four-plus months, travelling through Hong Kong, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Rome, Poland, the Check Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro.
Sylvia arrived around 5pm, having flown Singapore to New York last Sunday, then to St Louis, back to New York all for meetings, and finally direct New York to Athens.
Hayley and Chris, who currently live in London, where Chris is the NZ Defence Attache, arrived via Warsaw and Monte Cassino, where they had attended the 75th anniversary of the WWII battle there.
On arrival I contacted Joel and after checking in headed off to meet them at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. They had headed off early and visited the Acropolis, well and truly visible from our hotel that hosts the best views in Athens.
We strolled the streets, which were pretty crowded in places, passing the odd arch and ending up in the Place, a nice little restaurant area, where we dined on the local food in a rather expensive part of town in the shadow of the Acropolis.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel to meet Sam and Hannah, strolling past the parliament building where the two soldiers are dressed in a quite unusual costume, including pom poms on the end of their boots and equiped with WWII M1 Garand rifles.
It was decided to take a stroll up Mount Lycabettus. We asked the Lilya, the customer service manager in the hotel, what the weather was going to do. “I am not god” she laughed, “but expect rain in 30 minutes”. Off we we went and half way up the hill it pissed down. Soaked we returned to the hotel saw the lady in the foyer and she cracked up laughing.
We dined in the restaurant on the 6th floor taking in the stunning views over Athens as the sun set. Interestingly the city itself is not particularly pretty as you drive and walk the streets. Apart from the odd bit of really old stuff the buildings are really drab.
Saturday 18 May 2019
We all met for breakfast at 9am to enjoy the view and introduce Chris and Hayley to everyone.
At 1100am a van turned up to take us to the boat, a 30 min drive. Arriving at a part finished marina we were impressed by the number of large and very flash boats. Luggage loaded and a quick brief from the Captain and we were underway.
A chat to the captain revealed a few details on Cudu, the boat Sylvia had chartered for out trip. She is 28.2m or 92ft, powered by two 1800 horse power Catterpila Motors, carries 11,000L of fuel giving her a range of 500 Nautical miles. with a top speed of 24 Knots. She carries a tender, which is under a cover that lifts up near the bow, and a jet ski. With four cabins on the lower deck, all with ensuites, and a lounge and bridge on the main deck, the upper deck has a dining table and lots of seats to relax.
Heading southeast at 18 knots, everyone chatting and catching up on the different journeys we had taken to get here and consuming the odd beer, it seemed in no time we had covered the 80kms and arrived at Kythnos Island and moored in a little bay. Kythnos was first inhabited in1300BC and at one point had a large temple, which was plundered and rebuilt many times over many years, just like every place in this part of the world. It now makes its income from tourism.
Here we swam and went on a stroll up the hill above the bay revealing great views of arid landscape, dotted with pretty white buildings and stone walls. Dave and Joel stayed behind and tried to master the stand up jet ski. The ski circled them each time they fell off; that ski performed a huge number of circles that afternoon.
Chris and I went a little further into the island discovering a shepherd’s hut complete with a stone fenced yard to keep the sheep at night. A few sheep and goats wandered the hills.
A chap and his wife from Austria came swimming past at one point and I invited them on board for a beer. They informed us of a hot pool on the beach to add to the swimming experience.
We finished the day with a delicious dinner, served on the upper deck. The sunset and then a moon providing a pleasant backdrop to the banter and general camaraderie of the group.
Sunday 19 May 2019 – Sylvia
Today is Joel’s 25th birthday. We have somehow made a habit of celebrating his big birthday’s with him. He had joined Roger and I in Norway for his 21st, 4 years ago.
We had leisurely morning, enjoying a huge breakfast on the top deck and then motoring about 90-minutes to Serifos. The wind had come up a bit and most of us didn’t feel like swimming so we decided to walk over the island to the port and main village – leaving Sam and Joel behind to carry on their jet ski adventures. They are becoming quite proficient.
We climbed up over the hills and enjoyed a pleasant stroll around the island with magnificent views out over the arid countryside and ocean. I particularly appreciated the scatterings of poppies, adding a bright dash of colour to the environment. We arrived at the Port town just as Cudu pulled in. After a brief stop for an ice-cream we headed up to the top of the village passing some lovely old churches and lots of white-washed buildings. As Roger said – owning a white paint shop around these parts would be good business. Wending our way around the narrow streets and up the steps between the buildings it seems it would be easy to get lost but I guess you are either going up or coming down so not too difficult really.
Once back on board we headed to the nearby island of Sifnos and moored at the dock. After a quick stroll through the village we returned back on board for another delicious meal (tomato and mozzarella, mushrooms with bacon and parmesan, lamb and chocolate brownies).
I retired to bed almost immediately after dinner – the jet lag was taking its toll. most of the others partied on on the upper deck to celebrate Joel’s birthday in style.
Monday 20 May 2019: Roger
We headed off at 8am to make room for the arrival of a ferry. I was the only one up – we had celebrated Joel’s 25th birthday last night. I must say he handled it a lot better than when I took him out in Bergen, Norway, for his 21st where he failed to keep down a small amount of red wine!!
We left behind another bay of white and blue houses, although they had broken tradition here and there was the odd place with brown or green trimmings. The white paint shop owner in this part of the world must be pretty well off.
Heading south and around the bottom of Sifnos we then headed east, passing Despotiko island and heading into a canal between it and Antiparos. The water was calm and only a few meters deep. The front of the boat lifted up and the crane lowered both the tender and the jet ski into the water. Water skis came out and the fun began with various people demonstrating a range of abilities or in my case lack thereof. By now Joel, Sam and Dave had mastered the stand up Jet ski and soon Chris was up and away as well. I have a bit of work to do on that one too. A fun morning was over all too soon. Dave, Chris, Haley and I had all done a individual watercraft course to qualify to ride a jet ski over here. We were expecting a sit-on type of easy-to-ride jet ski but it turned out the boat only has a stand up pole ski.
At around 1pm we were ferried over to the small settlement of Agios Georgios on Antiparos Island, the plan being to explore the Cave of Antiparos, a walk of about 6 kms, then carry on and meet the boat at the port further up the coast. A big deal in this part of the world are windmill towers, originating in the 1600’s and now a trendy building on the islands. With large spines, originally fitted with sails to drive the mills inside that ground the wheat up until the mid-20th century, they are a neat looking building – all round with a cone shape roof.
Buildings in this part of the world are pretty solid with thick concrete columns and beams which are then filled in with mainly brick, plastered and, you got it, painted white with blue trimmings.
Unfortunately my knees were a bit uncomfortable so I decided to skip the cave and 400 steps inside and just stroll the 12km to meet the boat at Port Antiparos. The others turned up a couple of hours later having visited the caves, which Sylvia will tell you about.
Sylvia: We meandered up the hill, realising halfway up that we needed to boost it as the cave would shut at 3pm and last entry would be 2:30pm. I raced on ahead and bought tickets, promising the woman behind the counter that we would be in and out quick smart. There was a lovely little church just outside the huge cavernous entrance. We proceeded to climb down passing loads of stalactites and stalagmites. It was very impressive. I have been in several different caves and this would be up there with the best of them. The engineering feat of the steps was quite incredible. We made it to the bottom, had a bit of an explore around and then headed back up – exiting with about 5 minutes to spare.
We then meandered our way towards the town of Antiparos, about 7km away, passing many farms and lots of arid countryside dotted about with wildflowers and the occasional church.
Roger: The evening was a relaxing one with Joel and Chris making a trip to the local laundromat to be told to leave the washing here, we will do it, pick it up tomorrow at 8am.
Dinner tonight was seafood with the main course being large shrimps. The chef really knows how to put great food on the table from the boat’s small galley. We have three dining areas on the boat, one on the top deck, one in the main cabin and one aft, which we chose tonight. Nicole, our waitress, is very obliging always providing us with outstanding service.
We were surprised by the continuous coming and going of ferries, dropping off and picking up both passengers and cars, all of which entered by the ramp lowered to the wharf. The ferry then backs out and spins around in a tight circle before steaming off to the next stop. Many of them just make the short journey between this and the close by Paros Island.
Tuesday 22 May 2019: Sylvia
Today was a pretty lazy day. The weather was a bit grey with occasional showers and that may have contributed to our lower energy. After a late leisurely breakfast we departed Antiparos for Naousa on the nearby island of Paros. On the way a pod of dolphins played in our wake.
Naousa is a picturesque town with little narrow alleys filled with quaint little tourist shops, bars and restaurants. A half ruined, and now almost submerged Venetian castle, originally built in the late 13th/early 14th century makes up part of the sea wall. Bright fishing boats line the rest of the sea walls adding to the colour of the area with octopi hanging over their stays to dry.
We wandered around the streets for a while and then Roger, Chris, Hayley, Debbie and I decided to rent a car and explore the island. We drove the perimeter, passing through the main port town of Parikos to the end of the island opposite where we were moored last night on Antiparos. Around the other side of the island we headed inland to Lefkos. From there Chris ran back to the boat while the rest of us stopped for a light bite over-looking this quaint village nestled into the nook of a hill, originally built so high up to avoid the marauding pirates.
Returning to Naousa we meandered through the narrow streets and headed back onboard Cudu where a raucous game of Cucumber (a card game) kept most of us amused for several hours. Eventually we headed back into town for dinner onshore at a little Tapas cafe next to the port.
Wednesday 23 May 2019: Roger
A few of us stayed up a little late last night fixing the world so it was a fairly leisurely start this morning.
It was around nine when we rose, enjoying a leisurely breakfast and a chat with an American couple, John and Elyse, on the boat next door, who are planning a trip to NZ later this year. We left Naousa around 11am and cruised to Delos, an island famous for its ancient Archaeological Site. Mooring in the channel we set off in the tender to investigate the ruins. A strange male figure is in the water as if guarding the island. It turns out that this and many other steel statues are part of an exhibition by an English artist.
Landing, we followed the route as laid out on the map passing the sacred port, then along the sacred way, passing the lions then through what was once the marketplace out to the stadium, back to the museum then up the hill to the sanctuary of a few gods, with a great view across to Mykonos, past the theatre and back to the entry point. It was at the theatre when we were looking at some green water in a large tank with arches over it that a chap explained that this was a cistern to provide water for the 6500 seat theatre.
He then went on to explain that every building had a cistern under it and lots were connected. As there was no fresh water on the island every drop of rain that fell in the winter was collected and what was not used was stored to get them through the summer. Most of the surviving statues and other important artifacts are now on display in the museum on the island.
The city was developed rapidly after 167BC . The buildings were built of stacked stone, which was then plastered and painted. Features such as pillars, window frames and door ways were made of marble gathered from a nearby island. Delos became the trading capital of the world with its port and large markets. Merchants and bankers moved there from all over the world building stately homes. It was attacked by various forces in 88 and 66BC and abandoned. Like many ruins worldwide tourism is funding the restoration of what must be like a large jigsaw puzzle with many of the pieces having been removed for construction material over the centuries until it was rediscovered in the 1700s.
Cats are a big deal in Greece and seem to roam the streets everywhere.
I finally found out Whyte houses here are wile and blue! When the Turks invaded Greece way back, they were not allowed to fly their flag so they painted their houses white and blue, the colours of the flag.
The afternoon we spent relaxing and I had another go with the pole ski manging to get on my knees at one point.
Around 5 we set off, heading north to Mykonos, which is quite close and which we had observed from the top of the hill earlier in the day. This place is a popular tourist spot with a couple of large cruse ships moored in the outer harbour, the passengers being ferried to town. Established in the 11th century BC by the Ionians, one of four major Greek tribes, it is now a tourist mecca renown for its nightlife.
We wandered the streets, exploring the quaint and sometimes very narrow alleys. with lots of shops and restaurants tucked away in many places. Lots of windmills are placed around the city, which rises steeply into the surrounding hills. The well kept white and blue buildings, with the odd bit of red thrown in, make it a clean and tidy city; even the paved paths through the town make claim to white painted lines. Best only described by photographs.
Interesting Place Mykonos: Religious Iconography on one side of the alley and canabis on the other…
Our great Cudu Crew
Thursday 23 May 2019: Sylvia
Mykonos is renown for its nightlife and for many on board it was true to form with Joel. Sam, Hayley and several of the crew not returning on board until the wee small hours. Based on their stories it sounded like a great night had by all – I was quite content to get some good sleep.
We opted to take another stroll in the morning only this time Debbie and I detoured into a jewellery store and made a few purchases!
Afterwards we headed out and moored in a stunning bay off the small uninhabited island of Rinea to enjoy a day of sun and watersports. The toys on board got a great workout today. I personally had several failed attempts at waterskiing but was very happy to manage the pole ski (even if only on my knees). Roger managed to get upright on both.
This is definitely what real relaxing is all about. Lie around in the sun, get warm, dunk in the ocean to cool off, have a go on one of the toys, rinse and repeat.
After several hours we headed off to the nearby island of Syros with its Venetian style buildings. It looks quite different from many of the other islands we have visited with much bigger domed churches and buildings in pinks, yellows and oranges dotting the hillside. We spread in all directions to explore the little city before convening again and heading ashore for dinner at a lovely gyros and souvlaki restaurant, polished off by some nice gelato.
Friday 24 May 2019: Roger
Prior to breakfast we took a stroll up the hilltop to the Greek Orthodox Church, which dominates the skyline from the city below.
This town has a different flavour than the others we have visited with a Venetian style and surrounded by lots of industry, including a dry dock and large oil tanks on the hill nearby. Some of the narrow streets are paved in marble and others in stone. It’s mostly tidy and the buildings well kept apart from the odd ruin, yet to be restored, along with the odd set of disused steps. We came to the conclusion you would need lots of friends to live in some of the houses as getting furniture up to many of them would be a major task. I got chatting to the old priest who told us he had worked in a fish and chip shop in Manly, Sydney for 14 years before moving back here to become a priest, which he has been for the last 43 years. Sylvia and Debbie headed across to investigate the other church on the next hill – a catholic one. The priest took Dave, Hayley and I in to show off his church which, although very grand, seemed to have few seats for the parishioners.
Sylvia and Debbie found there was a bit of up and down to reach the other church. We made our way down the hill by different routes admiring the fantastic views as we went.
Syros has a population of around 24,000. Inhabited by various conquerors over the centuries, it became part of Greece in 1829. It boasted the first post office of Greece, commercial law courts and a public school. Until WWII its main industry was textiles. It now has an airport, a casino, a hospital and frequent ferries making it an all year round tourist centre.
After a leisurely breakfast we steamed north to the island of Kea. Rounding a headland we entered a calm bay with lots of unfinished houses looking almost like bunkers. Construction started prior to the recent and ongoing financial crisis and has yet to be completed. On the beach there is a resort, which appeared unoccupied, whilst waiting for the tourist season to get underway. At the other end of the beach a large truck had dumped builders mix, which was being carted in sacks up to a nearby house under construction by a bunch of mules, which when task was complete were loaded onto a truck and carted away.
The holiday nearly over we decided to relax for the afternoon and enjoy this beautiful spot. Sylvia mastered the pole ski getting to the standing pose without falling off, making it all look quite easy. Dave, Chris, Joel and Sam really got it preforming, doing sharp turns and demonstrating some great spills. The captain mentioned that we were the first group he had had on the boat to water ski and pole ski as the water at 20 degrees is far too cold for most people, who tend to just stay on the boat and relax.
The food on the boat was simply outstanding with a huge variety of food on offer at each meal. Captain Panov and his crew have been outstanding, with a special mention to Calypso, who waited on us with nothing ever being a problem and always sporting a great smile.
Saturday 25 May 2019: Sylvia
We were all very sad this morning that our time on board was coming to an end. After a final breakfast on board – an unbelievable spread of yoghurt, muesli, hams, cheeses, fruits, pastries, toast, omelettes etc, the captain started up the boat and headed for Athens, about a 2-hour cruise away. Those of us who hadn’t already packed had to sort through and pack everything up ready for our departure. The rest of us lazed about making the most of our opportunity to soak up some sun.
All too soon we arrived in Athens and farewelled Dave, Debbie, Sam, Hannah and Joel, who were heading to the airport to catch their flights. Roger and I returned to the St George Lycabettus Hotel and Chris and Hayley headed to another hotel in Athens.
Roger and I spent a very quiet afternoon relaxing and enjoying a massage in the hotel spa before catching up with Chris and Hayley again for a last G&T and a lovely dinner over-looking the Acropolis from the roof top bar.
All in all it has been a fantastic week.
Sunday 26 May 2019: Sylvia
We decided to get up early and beat the crowds to the Acropolis – and boy I am glad we did. We arrived at the ticket booth not long after opening at 8am. There were many groups of tourists from the cruise ships already milling around as we headed up to explore the ancient ruins. It is quite impressive although as Roger pointed out most of it has been restored now; the most real bits are the scattered bits of marble lying around, and the buttress walls which date from around the 5th century BC. Nonetheless it is very inspiring. I am sure not much of our current civilisation will still be lying around in 2,500 years.
After wandering around the Acropolis area we headed back down the hill and through the beautiful Botanic Gardens, past the guards outside the Presidential Palace and into the Olympic Stadium. This is the only fully marble stadium in the world and is really impressive. We picked up the audio tour and enjoyed meandering around the structure listening to the commentary. The climb to the top of the seating area is quite steep in parts and I wondered what it must have been like during the 2004 Olympic ceremony when it was full of people. We even had the opportunity to explore the underground tunnels which now house the changing rooms and a gift shop, but was once where young women danced naked before the gods in the hope of finding a suitable husband!
In all too short a time we had to head back to the hotel, then on to the airport for our flight – first to Paris and then on to Montpellier, where I have to work for the next week…