Travel – Ferries of Europe

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  • Journal entry: 7 Sep, 2001 Thursday Athens to Santorini Ferry Up at 5:30, hotel let us into the dining room early for cakes, simit and coffee. 6:15 Transfer to Piraeus and the 7:30 ferry to Santorini. The docks make WA state
    ferry system seem puny. Ferries docked for a mile or more, large multidecked, fast catamarans, and slower hulking ones. Taxis everywhere letting out passengers. We board, and take our assigned seats. Nice interior, comfortable seats. Polished wood floors. Snack bars, reasonably priced. Once boat is underway, no one is allowed to stand outside, though (too much spray). Leave on time; come into Signos harbor about 10:15, just time to get a coupla pictures, then on to
    Santorini. First views of Santorini look like the caldera is snow capped, then the white resolves into houses and hotels cascading down the brown volcanic slopes. Unload about 11:45, met by Fantasy Travel and bussed up the switchbacking road to Volcano View Villas/Hotel. Beautifully sited, all rooms look out into the caldera and spread across the hill with swimming pools spaced among them.Journal entry: 9 Sep, 2001 Thursday  Santorini – Crete Ferry
    Had time for a refreshing swim before transfer to the port. Driver just backed into a parking place at the end of the dock, unloaded our luggage & bid us goodbye. Chaos – people everywhere, lining up for multiple ferry arrivals, dozens of others filling the local cafes while waiting. Cars & taxis spitting out more people at random, trucks maneuvering, with a few police pretending to direct traffic. Had to ask several times to find, then confirm where to go for the Crete ferry; no signs or other details anywhere. Crowd grew impatient when a first ferry docked, disgorged, then immediately backed water and took off without loading anyone. But our boat, the Minoan Lines, El Greco, was just waiting its turn, and backed into the dock, tossed its mooring lines and dropped the ramp. Might as well have cried ‘Havoc’, ’cause the dogs were loose – any attempt at lines ceased to exist as everyone surged forward and up the bumpy ramps, wheeled luggage only a slight advantage.

    Once entering the maw of the ferry, the real journey began. I was directed up and onwards, and then down a long narrow corridor with cabins, all with closed doors. Emerging at the other end, there was no one to direct traffic, and I looked briefly into several smoke filled salons, already jammed with people, many sitting on the floors. (Turned out these were only for those with cabins). When I tried to go further I was turned back, since I had dared to press into first class territory; but no signs to indicate that. Told to go up, but no immediate way to do that, other than return the way I’d come. Finally found stairs up to another deck, only to find packed video game rooms and yet another ‘pullman’ salon just as crowded as the others. After asking several uninterested and unhelpful workers, I finally made my way out to the deck, to find Audrey, Marv & Rosemary who’d fought their way up from below without the trek thru cabin land. They’d checked their bags, hoping it would be possible to recover them in the crush of the anticipated disembarking procedure. All still a hurried jumble around us.

    Finally found a place on the top deck, under cover, and commandeered several movable plastic chairs, more comfortable than those bolted to the deck in sections. Things finally started to sort themselves out, we managed to have chosen a place with few smokers, and the boat pulled out just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset over Therissa and the volcano islands. Ferries let you settle down to read and doze for the 4 hour trip to Crete. Leaving about 7:30, we docked at Heraclion at 11:30 or so. We’d decided to wait for the first wave to cram its way thru the gates before moving down. From the upper decks I was able to use my zoom lens to find the agency agent holding a card with my name on it. When we finally emerged and regrouped about 30′ later, he took us over to the parking lot, in the dark, went thru the paperwork formalities, and gave us instructions to find the hotel “go out that road, and follow it until you see the hotel, it’s not too far”.

  • On 9/11/2001  we were on Crete
  • Rhodes, Greece to Marmaris, Turkey: Sep 16, 2001 Sunday – Rhodes to Bodrum Up around 6, allowed in early for breakfast,then picked up by taxi around 7 and down to the ferry terminal.   On board, it’s an easy ride – comfortable airplane type chairs and tables, 3 decks, with adequate air.  Luggage on ferries is stored in a central area, under cover.  Good early morning views of the harbor and fortifications, with yachts sailing past.  8:10 sailing, supposedly 50 minute catamaran ride, but took nearer 1 1/2 Probably 2/3 or more of ferry’s passengers were just heading across for the day.   So there was no big line for visas, though a bit of a wait to get thru passport control.

Turkey – Hiking Selge and Aspendos

Turkey offers day hiking that combines moderate exertion with a journey into the past. We hiked along mountain paths that include parts of Roman construction for Silk Road traffic.

With an early morning start, we drive to the Pamphylonian city of Selge – one of the most isolated and dramatic of ancient cities. The road narrows as we climb out of a narrow canyon, crossing Roman bridges. The pine forest gives way to chestnut, thorn and olive trees. The conglomerate rocks form lopsided towers, creating a vast, natural stone metropolis. We arrive at the village of Zelk (modern Selge), populated by formerly nomadic people. As we hike thru the village careful observation reveals many Roman columns and capitals and other architectural elements become raw building materials in stables and farm houses.

Starting at the impressive Roman theatre, we are joined by a local guide to explore the remains of the agora, acropolis and city walls. Then we hike down the valley, dropping almost 1000 feet. After about 10K we emerge from the Koprulu Kanyon at the ancient Roman bridge. We stop by the river for a lunch of local fresh fish, at a restaurant overlooking a mountain spring.

Freya Stark Alexander’s Path

Strabo mentions these bridges in the mountainous country which abounded with precipices and ravines and kept the Selgians from being ‘at any time or on any single occasion, subject to any other people’. This one joined two cliffs with one arch across the river far below and its road, cut in the precipice continuedto show itself at intervals, in slabs of stone placed end to end for miles into the hills.

.. here solitude floated up from the vertical gorges, filled with cypress or cedar as if with black spears. The silence buried the sound of its own waters, and a thin haze, spun in the blueness of air, divided one range from another, as if the heights wore haloes… Higher up the oak leaves lifted into sunlight, and their tyrunks, and those of a tall tree like a chesnut, stood furrowed like stone among the strange hieratic stones. These ribs of rock, symmetrically ranked, descended, one felt, into the hill’s foundations, and the bare rain-washed scaffolding that shows must be a part of the hidden scaffolding of earth. … There was a human kindness about these trees; as there was in the floor of the road whose giant stones we kept on meeting, and in a cistern scooped solid through the rock at the rim of the cliff.. The symmetrical, natural rocks encircled this place and must have made it religious long before the days of known history or the knowledge of the Greeks. Small pointed hillocks were framed in these formal borders, and … we reached a cemetery of stones and marble fragments scattered under high oak trees and saw the village now called Zerk .. scattered among prostrate columns under a Roman theatre in a hollow.

It was shallow as a saucer and the ploughed fields filled it and small pinnacles surrounded it, where temples had stood on easy slopes. Beyond them, the high peaks rose with unseen valleys intervening.

The town of Zelk lies today at the end of a winding road, but in ancient times was an integral part of trade on the Silk Road. It’s a less visited place along the Aegean Coast. The amphitheatre is in decent conidtion, except for the columns and blocks of stone that now form parts of stables and houses in the village below.Don’t worry about a guide, as soon as you appear, local girls appear to show the ruins. They also just happen to have beautiful handicrafts they’ve made and you just might convince them to sell you one. From here, it’s an easy hike down through narrow gorges and fragrant strawberry trees and osmanthis.

Nearby Aspendos is a day trip from Antalya and contains one of the best preserved Greek theatres. It’s still used for performances.

Again, from Freya Stark:

The theatre stands on flat ground, like a box from which the lid has been lifted. Proud, limted and magnificent, there is a prison air about it – a difference as of death and life that one feels between the Roman and the Greek. No landscape stretches here beond a low and unobtrusive stage, for the easy coming and going of the gods. Human experience,that moved with freedeom and mystery, is here walled-in with balconies and columns; its pure transparency, the far horizon window, is lost.

In the Greek theatre, with its simple three-doored stage and chorus undertone of sorrow, the drama of life could penetrate, without any barrier between them, the surrounding vastness of the dark. I have listened to the Hippolytus of Euripides in Epidaurus where the words of Artemis and Aphrodite with the mountain pines and the sunset behind them, become a limpid fear – a play no longer, but nature and all that ever has been, anguish and waste of days, speaking to men.

Book – The Afghan Campaign – Into the Valley of Bones

Author : Steven Pressfield

A Macedonians soldier’s account of the long war fought by Alexander the Great’s Army in Afghanistan covering the last years of Alexander’s campaigns in Afghanistan, trying to quell insurgencies and tribal warfare. The book is told from the point of view of a ‘Mack’, one of Alexander’s veteran Macedonians.  But it could just as easily been written by Sebastian Junger in ‘War’ describing how little things have changed more than 2000 years later.

On the Afghan tribes:

It is impossible to dislike these fellows. I find myself envying their proud, free life. Labor is unknown to them. Their ponies graze on sweet grass in summer, dry fodder when the passes close. Their wives and sisters weave their garments, prepare their dal and ghee. Families shelter in stone houses, ownership of which they recite back twenty generations, whose only removable parts are the wooden doors and roofs (in case of evacuation due to feuds). Every kin-group holds two residences, summer and winter. If a rival clan raids, the khels drive them out through superior local knowledge. Should an alien power enter in force, as Cyrus in the past or Alexander now, the tribes withdraw to loftier fastnesses, sending to wider spheres of kinsmen until they assemble the necessary numbers; then they strike.

The Afghan Warrior Code:

Nangwali is the Afghan warrior code. Its tenets are nang, honor; badal, revenge; and melmastia, hospitality. Tor, “black,” covers all matters concerning the virtue of women. An affront to a sister or wife’s honor can be made spin, “white,” by no means short of death. Blood feuds, the brothers tell me, start over zar, zan, and zamin: money, women, and land.

In cases of badal, vengeance is taken by father or son. In tor, it’s the husband, except in the case of unmarried women; then all males of the family may not rest until justice has been exacted. The code of nangwali forbids theft, rape, adultery, and false witness; it prosecutes cowardice, abandonment of parents or children, and usury. The code prescribes rites for births and death, armistices, reparations, prayer, almsgiving, and all other passages of life. Poverty is no crime. Reverence for elders is the cardinal virtue, succeeded by indispensable. They crave above all to win back his love. Alexander, of course, is exquisitely attuned to this and knows how to exploit it for all it is worth. Now he adds a further element to set the country on its ear.

Corruption through Money

The wealth that has poured into Afghanistan with the army of Macedon has deformed the economy of the entire region. In the city market, a pear costs five times what it used to. The locals can’t pay. Meanwhile, a second economy has sprung up-the camp economy, the economy inside the Macedonian gates, where the pear may still cost five times its original price, but at least a man can afford it. The natives face the choice of starvation or submission to this new economy, either as suppliers or servants, both of which occupations are abhorrent to Afghan pride. Worse still, the aikas system lures their young women. Soldiers reckon every currency of seduction that can nail them dish, fig, cooch. Now they have a new plum to dangle: marriage. The native patriarchs seek to lock up their daughters. But the draw of the Mack camp is irresistible, for money, adventure, novelty, romance, and now even the prospect of acquiring a husband. For by no means are these invaders unappealing. Mack regiments parade, awash with youthful captains and Flag Sergeants, horseback and afoot, made swashbucking by the brass of their tunics and the dazzle of their glittering arms. Maids slip from midnight windows to consummate trysts in the arms of their ardent, hazel-eyed lovers. When delegations of city fathers appeal to Alexander for assistance in curbing this traffic, he makes all the right noises but takes care to do nothing. He wants the girls infiltrating. His object is to weaken, even sever, the bonds of family, clan, and tribe. He prosecutes this deliberately

Books – Alexander the Great

Steven Pressfield

  • The Virtues of War – Alexander’s story thru his own eyes.
  • The Afghan Campaign-A Macedonian solider’s account of the last years of the long war fought by Alexander’s Army in Afghanistan, trying to quell insurgencies and tribal warfare

Mary Renault’s Alexander Trilogy  holds up to a second reading after 40 years – her story is of the young boy who first takes control of a kingdom, Fire From Heaven.  He discovers the divinity deep within him. In the second book, victories come easily as he conquers ever eastwards, and the story is told by his servant/lover, Bagoas, The Persian Boy. Then, Alexander’s death is expanded from the previous book, the successors, Ptolemy, Seleucus and Antiochus, begin their political and military takeovers  in Funeral Games, shattering Alexander’s empire.

Freya Stark – Alexander’s Path

  • “Eighty percent of Afghans today live in the same exact landscape Alexander the Great must have beheld when he sacked Balkh in 327 B.C., and Genghis Khan when he sacked it again in 1221: walls of straw and mud, half-gnawed away by weather and age; hand-sown fields tilled by doubled-over farmers in unbleached robes with knobbly, wooden tools. Most have no electricity. No clean water. No paved roads. No doctors nearby…” Foreign Affairs, 4/28/2010 

 

In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan. By Seth G. Jones. presents the war in its historical context, beginning with Alexander the Great and the proven ability of Afghans to bring down strong empires

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Recipe – Chicken Adriatica

 

A Tasty & Easy Chicken Recipe

For this recipe I combined elements of Italian and Turkish cooking and
flavors to produce  an Eastern Mediterranean dish.

Meat from 6 chicken thighs, sliced in thin strips

1 T  of flour

3 T of olive oil

¼ cup pine nuts

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 T fresh rosemary, chopped fine

3-4 cloves garlic, minced fine

½ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

½ cup white wine

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

½ cup crumbled feta

 

1. Slice the chicken into thin strips. Dredge chicken in flour.  Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan  or skillet.  Sauté chicken  for 5’ on each side, letting it brown.

2. Remove chicken, to a small bowl. In same pan sauté the pine nuts, minced garlic and sliced  mushrooms for 5’, stirring.  Add wine to deglaze – scrape any brown bits from the pan. Add rosemary & tomatoes, mix, and reduce heat to simmer

3. Return chicken to the skillet, mix. Place the sliced onions over the chicken mixture. Cover and simmer for 30’.

4. Remove from heat, mix onions into chicken. Add feta, mix and serve with rice or pasta and a steamed vegetable.

 

Serves 4

 

Variations:

 

1.      Use chicken breast, reduce cooking time

2.      Substitute blue cheese or parmesan for feta

3.      Substitute yogurt for the cheese

4.      Use thin strips of lamb shoulder instead of chicken

 

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Books – Democracy Through the Ages

Everyone speaks of democracy as if there’s a common understanding of what this word means, but it’s one of the harder of political labels to actually find in the world. With perhaps the exception of a few New England town meetings or other small groups, true democracy has never been in place for long, and in the US, it really was never considered and actually opposed by most of the Republican founders.  So, despite Bush’s arrogant claims to ‘bring democracy’ to Iraq, we really need to question and examine just what is being proposed.  Democracy is actually a fairly recent concept in terms of actually being used; flowering a few times in history, but only setting
solid roots in the 18th century, and the question is still open as to whether it will thrive.

There are many books to recommend, both fiction and non-fiction; history and polemic.  Historical fiction is often a superb way to show the actual workings of past societies

The earliest true attempt at democracy was in Athens in the 5th century BCE. and its lifespan was brief, emerging from resistance to tyrants and lasting only a few decades until oligarchies and tyrants regained control. The Peloponnesian War was in large part the struggle between  the Athenian Empire [ democratic, but including both slavery and subjugation of an extended collection of ‘allies’ for tribute  and resources] versus the Spartan league [ dominated by oligarchies with a feudal basis].  The final result of this long war was to weaken both antagonists and undermine their political systems.  Events in the war’s aftermath are described in,  The Trial of Socrates .   I.F. Stone places the writings of Plato in the context of  Plato’s and Socrates’ support for oligarchy rather than democracy.

The Roman Republic was a later experiment in the development of democracy, with an elaborate system of balances that worked for a time, but was again unable to respond and adapt to the needs of an expanding empire. Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series of novels is the best re-creation of the politics of the last century of the Republic.  While relying on the noblesse oblige of an aristocracy, the Republic also had democratic elements.  Often, as in Athens, democracy was usurped by demagogues.

Venice was the next state to try forms of democracy, and by far the longest lasting, although once again, its constitution was more republican or oligarchical.  Various smaller experiments in city-state communes of medieval Europe followed, including the long struggles against Medici domination in Florence.  [Machiavelli – The Prince ]  The 17th century saw renewed democracy in philosophy and practice, especially in England and the new Dutch Republic.  But it was the 18th century that gave violent birth to the major democratic revolutions in America and France.

Revolutions always need to deal with the ideas of liberty and freedom, but sometimes, these ideas themselves are not mutually understood.  For example, the American revolutionaries from different parts of the colonies had very different concepts of liberty

In Radicalism of the American Revolution, like an earthquake that turns solid ground to jello,
Gordon Wood,  tosses out idea after idea that turn established concepts into shambles

More than two centuries later, the American experiment in democracy has degenerated into a plutocracy, in which wealth and power preempt democracy’s ideals of equality and freedom [cf Kevin Phillips’  Wealth & Democracy or Isaiah Berlin – Twisted Timber of Humanity].  While Phillips gives a depressing history of the decline, and its corruption thru the centuries,  Cadillac Desert focuses on perhaps the biggest corrupter of all – the sprawling water projects of the  American West, in which water is diverted at huge cost to grow crops no one needs, all to support giant corporations that threaten to wipe out the family farms that were the rationale for the projects in the first place.  Taken together, these books demonstrate that ideology or the party in power matters little – elections become a charade, masking the control of government by capital and its corporate controllers.  Kim Stanley Robinson examines these transnational corporations in his science fiction Mars Trilogy

From the left George Orwell‘s analysis of why socialism fails is apt today, especially in re the Tea Party movement

It was easy to laugh at Fascism when we imagined that it was based on hysterical nationalism….  For Socialism is the only real enemy that Fascism has to face. The capitalist-imperialist govern­ments, even though they themselves are about to be plundered, will not fight with any conviction against Fascism as such. Our rulers, those of them who under­stand the issue, would probably prefer to hand over every square inch of the British Empire to Italy, Germany and Japan than to see Socialism triumphant.

The job of the thinking person, therefore, is not to reject Socialism but to make up his mind to humanise it. Once Socialism is in a way to being established, those -who can see through the swindle of ” progress” will probably find themselves resisting. In fact, it is their ,special function to do so. In the machine-world they have got to be a sort of permanent opposition, which is not the same thing as being an obstructionist or a traitor. But in this I am speaking of the future. For the moment the only possible course for any decent person, however much of a Tory or an anarchist by temperament, is to work for the establishment of Socialism. Nothing else can save us from the misery of the present or the night­mare of the future. To oppose Socialism now, when twenty million Englishmen are underfed and Fascism has conquered half Europe, is suicidal. It is like starting a civil war when the Goths are crossing the frontier.

Socialists have a big job ahead of them here. They have got to demonstrate, beyond possibility of doubt, just where the line of cleavage between exploiter and exploited comes. Once again it is a question of sticking to essentials; and the essential point here is that all people with small, insecure incomes are “in the same boat and ought to be fighting on the same side. Probably we could do with a little less talk about” capitalist” and ” proletarian” and a little more about the robbers and the robbed. … and that Socialism means a fair deal for them as well as for the navvy and the factory-hand.

For more on this peculiar American Empire ….. after the American Century

 

Elements of Architecture

Tour Ancient Troy

The Dardanelles has been a strategic water route and an object of conquest throughout history. The city of Troy was placed strategically to dominate the straits, the site for Homer’s epic tales.
Troy Tours

The Dardanelles take their name from Dardanus, the mythical ancestral founder of nearby Troy – He was born, according to our guide, when Zeus was‘naughty’ with Electra, the local king’s daughter.. Also, according to ancient writers, it’s the place where Helle fell from the back of the golden-fleeced ram while passing through the strait on the way to Colchis in the Black Sea, setting the scene for Jason’s quest of the Golden Fleece. Further it’s the setting for the fatal attraction of Hero to Leander, leading to his drowning while trying to swim across to meet her. Such sacrifice, however foolhardy, naturally led later romantic poets to idealize and even try to imitate them.

The Dardanelles has been a strategic water route and an object of conquest throughout history. The city of Troy was placed strategically to dominate the straits, the site for Homer’s epic tales. Then in the 5 BCE the Persian king Xerxes built a pontoon bridge for his army on his invasion of the Greek city states. It was later fought over by Alcibiades in the Peloponnesian War and Alexander used it on his invasion of Asia. A thousand years later the Rumeli Turks crossed here, establishing their first European beachhead, which culminated in the capture of Constantinople a hundred years later. Their castle today benignly observes the European-side ferry landing. In World War I it lured yet another over-confident invader when the British made their landings.

Troy (Troia, or “Wilusa” in the Hittite language) is an ancient settlement located in the province of Canakkale, Turkey. Troy is well-known because the events told in Homer’s epic, “The Iliad”, took place at Troy. The drama of the Trojan War lies at the heart of the Iliad, which is one of two epic poems attributed to Homer. “Trojan” refers to the inhabitants and culture of Troy.

Today Troy is the name of an ancient site, the location of Homeric Troy in Hisarlık, Anatolia, close to the coast in Canakkale province in northwest Turkey. It is also slightly southwest of the Dardanelles near to Mount Ida.
Troyas  has existed for over 4,000 years and is known as a center of ancient civilizations. For many years people believed that it was a city mentioned only in tales and never actually existed until it was re-discovered in the 19th century. Troy (“Truva” or “Troya” in Turkish) is located at Hisarlik hill near the village of Tevfikiye in Canakkale province, where the remains of this once-great city can be visited.

In 1865 an English archaeologist nameed Frank Calvert carried out the first trial excavations at Hisarlık. Later, in 1868, a German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, began excavating on a much larger scale and at his own expense. From this it was discovered that the city had nine distinct layers and that Homeric Troy was probably what we now call Troy VI. What is left are the remains from the destructive dig carried out by Schliemann.

Today, an international team of German and American archaeologists bring the Troy of the Bronze Age back to life under a sponsored project . A Turkish legal team is work negotiating with Russia and Germany to retrieve stolen Trojan treasures.

The site of Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.

A walking tour of Troy is both rewarding and easy; just be sure to bring sun
protection and water, as it can be hot and exposed. Homer immortalized Troy
in his stories of King Priam, Hector, Paris and beautiful Helen.
Archeological excavations have revealed nine separate levels of cities. A
symbolic wooden Trojan horse commemorates the legendary war. There’s more to see here than we were led to expect, though it’s not as dramatic as some other sites. The walls of Troy VI and I are easiest to discern. Then we got a better view of Troy I looking across Schliemann’s Trench, the deep gash early
archaeologists cut thru the midden. Continuing around we passed the ramp and gate of Troy II, then remains of Troy VII and IX, including the Odeon, South Gate. As we returned, we were reminded that this area is still a military
crossroads – overhead, US jet fighters flew back to their Turkish base after
sorties over Kosovo. [1999]

Troy tours include the following:

  • The Odeon
  • Temple of Athena
  • Entrance ramp to Troy II
  • Place of Sacrifice and Altars
  • The Wooden Horse

You can do Gallipoli and Troy as a long day trip from  Istanbul, but it’s much more rewarding to take several days, which then lets you expand to Pergamum. There are good hotels in Cannakale with convenient ferry connections. A guide is highly recommended.

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