Athens to Istanbul and A Week In Egypt

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Delos & Mykonos

Our last day before returning home (April 9th) gave us another opportunity to sleep in this morning – we did not come out of our cabin until it was time for lunch. The ship pulled in to the harbor of Mykonos just as we finished dessert at 2 p.m. A 10 minute tender to the main port, then the old Hera ferry took us to Delos. Delos means "that which appears" and according to mythology it arose from the waves to allow Leto to give birth to Apollo and Artemis. Before that, it was called Ortygis and had been inhabited since 3000 BC. The Ionians settled here in the 10th century BC and it became a major shipping and trade center by the 3rd century BC and had sparkling white marble signs at the port welcoming strangers. The Delians encouraged others to build temples to their own gods so there is a wide variety of worship that was carried on. Stories tell that no human was ever born or died here – this is not exactly true. The dead were dug up and moved to a neighboring island to purify Delos and from then on births and deaths took place off shore.

We arrived as the last regularly scheduled ferry returned to port so our small group had the island to ourselves. There have been some improvements since our last visit – more columns are organized or erected, more archaeologists’ housing is set up – but it is as beautiful as ever. The granite streets glitter with gold and silver at our feet, eye-dazzling white Naxian marble, a vast variety and profusion of wildflowers and sunshine peeking in and out of the fluffy white clouds greeted us. This is a very special place that still vibrates with life.

The main road leads past the Apollo Temple to the Sacred Lake. For a long time, the only tree on the island was the palm tree in the middle of the lake (Leto leaned on it while giving birth). Five marble lions gaze eastward across the lake as its guardians. The site extends into the low hills and contains a theater district, a stadium, an agora, fountains, an aqueduct, and a large number of homes. Some of these have been restored to demonstrate the high style and luxurious living the residents enjoyed. These several story homes have fine marble columns and were often adorned with extremely detailed decorative mosaics. All had running water from the aqueduct.

The ferry took us back to Mykonos harbor as the sun began its descent. Mykonos is perhaps the best known of the Cyclades and is a very popular tourist stop during the summer. Any other time of year, it is picture perfect, exceedingly beautiful and diverse, with a relaxed lifestyle that makes is a comfortable home away from home. Now that there is faster boat service from Athens, it will be an easier place to visit. It’s covered with white cuboid houses, blue, red, green and ocher shutters, blue church domes, and it has some gorgeous beaches.

Since this was our last day out, we did not want to go back to the ship until we had to sail. Virginia and Harvey were with us and we all played follow the leader by ducking down whatever alleyway looked appealing to whomever was in the lead. This is always a nice way to explore a small port town. Our general destination was Little Venice, and we drifted by whim up one street and down the another until we found it.There, at the Sunset Taverna, the host pulled a table to the edge of the sea. We watched the sun slowly sinking, drank a bottle of the local retsina, and shared a fine meal of tzaziki, salad, grilled octopus, and fried calamaris. We could not have asked for a more perfect end to our vacation.

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