Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coming Home

We were in transit for about 26 hours total from the time of leaving the ship to arriving at my parents home in Phoenix. It was harsh. Then when we arrived in Phoenix I couldn't wait to see my son. I hurried out of the terminal to see him and would he come to me- no. He wouldn't come to me, wouldn't let him hug him or hold him. He went right to daddy. Hugged daddy and wouldn't let go. This lasted a little over an hour. My mom suggested that maybe its because I never leave Al for more than a couple hours at a time, While my husband leaves him everyday for hours at a time. He was more mad at me for leaving him for so long. The next few weeks our little guy has been more clingy but my friends with sons around the same age say their sons have all been really clingy lately too. So not only is it a phase its I traumatized my son by leaving him for 2 1/2  weeks. Well everything is getting back to normal. I am still living on vacation in my head. It was a long trip. But I enjoyed myself so much that I wish it was longer. Although I was happy to come home to my

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Port: Naples (Pompeii)

Going to Pompeii was my number one place on my list! I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Pompeii. I have always been so interested in it. As a child I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on about Pompeii. I would have been devastated if we had ended up missing this port like we did Khios. 

Mt.Vesuvius is a dormant volcano in constant monitoring

This was the only shore excursion that we did not do with our the rest of our group. They decided that since we disembarked in the morning that they were only going to go to Pompeii and then back to the ship to pack. My husband's choice was to hike Mount Vesuvius. He told me I could come with him or go with his parents. I was willing to hike. Hiking isn't my favorite thing but I can do it and I did it. It kicked my rear-end though, but I went up and came back down. I was freezing, but did it.
Pompeii was cool. There was so much of it preserved. It made me wish we had also made it to the Naples Archaeological museum also. That's where all the best frescoes, statues, and artifacts. I was a bit disappointed. I don't know if it was just a tour guide and where she took us in the city, but I didn't see what I wanted to see. That's all I'm going to say on the matter.
We were rushed through the tour and then rushed to the bus and back to the ship. We made it to the ship on time. But a number of tours didn't and the ship left port over an hour late.
One last thing. Mt Vesuvius use to be one Large mountain. Now it is two mountains that are connected peeks. While we were on Vesuvius and our Volcanologist guide was explaining this to us, I had a hard time
envisioning this and understanding it. But when were in Pompeii and looking at Vesuvius from a distance, it is so obvious that you are looking at a huge mountain that literally "blew its top" off. The last time Vesuvius had an eruption was in the 40's (want to say 1944). It is considered a dormant volcano. There are evacuation plans in place and constant monitoring of the volcano's under surface activities.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Port: Athens

On Acropolis overlooking the Temple of Zeus and the first modern Olympic stadium
Temple of Athena under Acropolis Museum
I was looking forward to Athens. With the unrest and riots in Athens we were worried that this port would be canceled. We did the shore excursion called "Athens on your own". The plan of this excursion is they drop us off in the middle of the city and then tell us to be back to 4:00 because the bus will be there at 4:15 we get on the bus and we'll leave. If you aren't back by that time, the bus will leave you. We decided to do this one so that we would have time to do all the things we want in the time.
We had a goal to go to the Acropolis and Acropolis museum, the National Archaeological museum in Athens, then to the Temple of Zeus ruins.We did it all but the Temple of Zeus, but we could see the ruins below while on the Acropolis.
The Acropolis Museum was super cool. Its opened last October (2009) and built on the active archaeological museum of the Temple of Athena/Nike. The floors are clear so you can look down and watch the active site. Also they have taken all the plasters of all the frescoes and statues, put the plasters on the Acropolis and the originals are in the museum.  Also any frescoes or statues that are in the British Museum or the Berlin Museum  there are plasters of them in the Acropolis Museum. Seeing everything at eye level was very cool. Also I think its cool that these artworks are now protected in environmental controlled rooms but without depriving us of seeing them where they belong.
I also enjoyed see the ongoing restoration project of the Parthenon. I wanted a documentary on it before going and to see the work up close (or at least as close as I could get) was a big deal for me. I enjoyed have the opportunity to explain the process to my fellow travelers too. For your information, the process is this, they remove each damaged piece one by one. A plaster cast is created of the missing section. Then a laser cuts the marble to be an exact replica of the plaster cast. The copy is then fused to the original marble piece and they are replaced onto the temple. Since the new marble is so much more white and shinny, its obvious what has been replaced and what is old.
To reach the archaeological museum we walked through one of the main streets. It was crowed and noisy and just like any big city street. The National Archaeological museum wasn't much of a disappointment. It had less of the big stuff in it, but it had a lot of wonderful things to see. I'm grateful we were able to go. There were many of the big famous statues there.
Outside the museum there is a cafe/restaurant. I believe its considered the Museum's cafe. On their menu they had a burger called the "Royal Castle" Burger, the description read "no comment". This was so intriguing to my husband and his brother that they just had to order it. I didn't catch everything that was on it, but it was like a gyro on a bun. Yummy too.

When done at the museum we took Athens' awesome subway system back to the Plaka to rendezvous with our group. We had some gelato while waiting and when the bus came we went back to the ship exhausted. This was the evening we went and sat in the hot tub to sooth our sore legs and feet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Port: Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey

Categorized stones
Brent and Brenda
This port was our biggest surprise. We had not chose this cruise because it stopped in Kusadasi, but was one of our favorite ports. Kusadasi is the port near the ancient city of Ephesus, the one of the Bible fame. But Ephesus was more than just the city that Paul preached to and wrote to the Ephesians. It was a huge important Greek and then Roman port city. It then over time it was ransacked,destroyed by earthquake, pillage, left abandoned, and then sediment covered it up. 

Then rediscovered in 1860's. It is estimated that even today only 20% of Ephesus has been excavated. As the site has been excavated they categorized everything, laid it out, and as they find pieces to put together they reconstructed what it looked like. Its fascinating. I was so in heaven. There is even a section that is an active Archeological site. It reminded me about being back in Elementary school I wanted to be an Archeologist and go out on digs. It was just awesome. We both enjoyed walking around the ruins. So beautiful- so awesome.
cats were everywhere, sidewalks were 

reconstructed archway

my husband in the fou

Justin with Theater 

Library at Ephesus
forum walk at Ephesus
The other thing we did in Kusadasi was go to the 'Virgin Mary House'. Its an old house that's foundation dates to the time that Mary could have been living in Ephesus. John was given the charge by the Jesus while on the cross to care for his mother, Mary, until the end of her days. John moved to Ephesus and lived there for a long time. If Mary was still alive at that point he would have brought her with him to Ephesus. This house is now a small chapel and is recognized by the Catholic church as the sacred site where the Virgin Mary lived out her days. Now I don't know if it was her home or not. I admit I'm skeptical, but there is a point at which places that are treated with a certain level of respect and sacredness have a sacred feeling. There was that sort of feeling there. I was grateful for the experience. 
Virgin Mary House
In Kusadasi was the only port that I bought a souvenir for myself. I bought a leather purse at one of the shops in the bazaar. Its nothing special, but its a purse that fits what I've been looking for for a while now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Port: Istanbul

It was Sunday in Istanbul. We thought that visiting these historical Mosques and Churches would make a great Sunday activity. The only down side to that was Turkey has their "day off" on Sunday to be the same of the western world. So all the stores were closed. More stores were closed on this Sunday than you find in the States, even in Utah or Florida on Sunday. What does that say that a mainly Muslim country (and big city too) is honoring the Sabbath than Our Country that is founded by Christians on Christian values and where apx 75% of Americans consider themselves Christian. That is a sad commentary on our religious values in this country that a Muslim country, even inadvertently, honors the Sabbath more than we do.
Putting that aside, we had chosen the shore excursion: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Bosporus Lunch Cruise. We started our excursion by being dropped off at the site of the ancient Hippodrome, a place for chariot races under the Byzantine Empire.  There really isn't much to see there, but some obelisks. From there we went to the Blue Mosque. It was impressive inside, but I was actually more impressed with the exterior than the interior. Everything I had read said that they require women to ware a head scarf to enter, but they didn't. So I don't know why that was. They had them there available, but didn't require them.

We then walked across a park area to the Hagia Sophia. This place is huge. From a distance it didn't look as large as it was. I was taken back a little by that. It is a massive building all in total. I don't know if it was just that my sister is a Mid-evil History Major and talked it up so much that I was more interested in it, or the art History books I read before leaving, or that they have been removing some of the Muslim artwork uncovering the Byzantine Christian artwork from the days it was a Christian Church, exposing artwork that was lost to the world for centuries. Brief history of the Hagia Sophia. The building that stands there now is the 3rd church building to be on that site. The first two met fates of fire. It was a Christian church for all 3 of those churches. When the Ottomans took over, the church was converted into a Mosque. All the iconic Christian art was covered up with plaster and decorated with Muslim artwork.
 In the 1935, it was converted from a Mosque into a Historical Museum. Since then, there have been efforts to remove the plaster in some places to restore the art underneath. There are plans to leave some of everything visible so that visitors can see what it has been. So here is my concern, if removing the plaster destroys the Muslim artwork that is also historical a part of the meeting, then should they be removing. I don't know how they are removing, but to destroy it is a shame. Along the same lines, how do they know that the mosaic they are uncovering is the mosaics most worthy of being uncovered? These are all questions that I have not received answers to. So the mosaics they have uncovered are beautiful. I loved seeing them. But I couldn't help but wonder about the questions I've posed. 
When we were done visiting the Hagia Sophia we went on our Bosporus river cruise and lunch. Up one side and down the other. We thought that this would be the best way to get to see the bulk of the city. So our lunch. I did not know that eggplant was such a huge part of Mediterranean cooking. I knew they used it more than our cooking but I had no idea that it was used so much. It was everywhere in the food. The reason this is important is because I'm allergic to eggplant. I know its an odd food to be allergic to but its the only food I'm allergic to. In Italy it was on the pizzas, on our lunch cruise on the Bosporus it was in everything, and there was no alternative. So upon being informed the chef has to make a completely separate meal for me. All in all I had to get use to asking everyone each time I got food, "Does this have eggplant in it, I am allergic to eggplant." I had learned to say eggplant in Italian, I should have learned to say it in Turkish, Arabic, and Greek. Oh well, I lived, and its not like eggplant could kill me, it just causes me to break out in hives.
Lastly we went to the Topkapi Palace. Where the Ottoman Sultans lived. In truth I didn't see much there. We only went to a few places within. They are very grand.

That raps up Istanbul. Impressions- it was very clean and orderly (most clean and orderly of all the places we visited), it is a shinning example of how western cultures and middle eastern cultures can live cohesively. I was most impressed with it as a whole than anyone one place (but the Hagia Sophia is a close 2nd). I would love to visit Turkey again someday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Port: Egypt (2 days)

 Day 1 Cairo: 
The port we were in was Alexandria. Cairo is a 3 hour drive south of Alexandria. There is almost nothing to see on that 3 hour drive. I fell asleep and slept for a good portion of it going down. We had arranged for our Shore Excursion through Princess and we had chose "The Best of Cairo", which included going to the Nation Archeological Museum/ the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, lunch at a hotel's restaurant, and seeing the Pyramids and Sphinx. When I was in elementary school I wanted to be an Archeologist. I was fascinated with the ancient cultures of Western Civilization. So going to the Pyramids and to the Egyptian Museum were both musts for me and everyone else in our group (6 of us total: my husband and I, my in-laws, my brother in-law, and our cousin) agreed that if you only get to spend one day- that sounded like the best.
When we arrived we were taken first to the Egyptian Museum. There are two museums that when you're looking at Egyptian art in a book, that are credited with holding the item. There is the British Museum in London, and the Egyptian (National) Museum in Cairo. Those are the main two. So I was super excited about this. It was my biggest disappointment. No pictures, no cameras even, it was hot, humid from human sweat from crammed rooms of people, no AC, very little air circulations, and then it felt like hardly anything was there. I saw so much more at the British Museum of Egyptian Antiquities then I did in Egypt. Sadly I couldn't wait to leave. The heat/human sweat in the air was making me nauseous. We did see the Tut displays. I wish we had had time to see the Pharaoh mummies, but by the time we saw them we only had 5 minutes to spend to find our way back to the entrance to meet our group. They did have the two funerary boats that were discovered in pieces and put back together, they were cool. There was a cat just sleeping and hanging out on the top of it. None of the guides or guards there seemed to care, people aren't allowed within 10 ft of it but a cat can sleep on it. There were cats all over in the museum. You'd never see that in an American museum. I don't regret going, I just will not go again until they have a modern facility.

From there they took us to the lunch Mena House Oberoi, it use to be a palace, now its a 5 star hotel. It was a yummy lunch. Then they took us to the Pyramids. My husband and I (and our cousin) were able to go inside the 2nd pyramid. They say not to go in if you're claustrophobic or have back problems. NO JOKE. Remember those drawings of the inside of the pyramids from your school day text books. Besides the passageway shown they are solid bricks. The passage way is about 4 ft by 4ft and its highlighted on the drawing. I could feel myself panic as I went through it. There wasn't much to see either. But I can say I've done it. I've been asked if the pyramids were disappointing. I wouldn't say that at all. I would say that they are  just so gigantic that its overwhelming and then numbing. There is just no way to comprehend them.
After going into the pyramid and taking our pictures we were given some day by the Sphinx to take some pictures. The Sphinx was disappointing, but only in the sense that I always thought it was bigger. I was actually not very tall/big compared to the way all the picture make it look to the pyramids. From there it was the 3 hour bus ride back to our ship. This time I slept little, although exhausted, and read my book.

Day 2: Alexandria. Alexandria is the 2nd largest city in Egypt. It is a very old city but very very little of the old city is around anymore. The shore excursion we book for this one was the Fort Qait Bay/Great Library. Fort Qait Bay is a fort that was built by the Ottomans. Its a great place to see and is built on the site where the Great Lighthouse was, that fell due to an earthquake long before the fort was built. From there they took us to the site of the ancient theater and where all the items brought up from the sea from the Great Lighthouse are. Lastly we went to the New Great Library. Built on the site where the Great Library at Alexandria once was. The new library is huge and is trying hard to be a place of culture, learning, and history as the original library was in its day. They have a cool website if you want to check it out.

And that was our trip to Egypt. Thoughts on Egypt: The people were very friendly. They'd smile and wave at you, I enjoyed waving back. They were many families out together, and it made me miss my son. I can't say it was beautiful. There wasn't natural beauty to see and the cities were old and not grand in anyway. But it had its own beauty. It also had a sadness. The poverty, the filth and trash, the wonder of what happened to that glory in their civilization that now is gone.