A Travellerspoint blog

Messina, Sicily

Day 47, 13 May 2009

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Today I took the ship’s bus tour from Messina to the eerie lunar landscape of the Valle del Bove (at 6,500 ft), on the edge of Mount Etna and site of recent eruptions. The Mount Etna snow-capped summit at 11,000 feet is 100km SW of Messina. The mountain can be seen from 150 miles away (on a clear day) with its white smoke rising (maybe some concern when it turns black).
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Mount Etna, said by the Romans to be the forge of Vulcan, god of fire, is Europe’s largest active volcano. Etna has been credited with 150 or more significant eruptions. At various times, lava has reached the coast. In 1983, Etna erupted for 40 days. An eruption in 2001 lasted only 25 days, considered a modest outburst, but in late 2002 it re-awakened on both north and south flanks, destroying the local ski resort and lifts where the bus tour stopped.
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That afternoon the ship cruised close to an active volcanic island called Isola Stromboli (aka Mount Stromboli at 924m). The volcano releases a plume of dark smoke about every 15 minutes - quite an incredible site.
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Posted by dpedler 00:24 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Valletta, Malta

Day 46, 12 May 2009

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I’m feeling much better after a very bad previous day. Luckily it was a sea day so nothing was lost.

Malta’s capital has the largest and best naturally-protected harbour in the Mediterranean. After the Knights of St John had narrowly managed to beat off the Turks during the Great Siege of 1565, Grand Master Jean de la Vallette ordered massive fortifications and the creation of a fully planned city on virgin ground. The streets were laid out as a grid to allow cooling sea breezes to blow through them unimpeded. Today it remains a remarkably unspoilt historic city with splendid Renaissance buildings.

I started with a walk around the fortification to Fort St Elmo. Built in 1552 to ward of the Turks, the fort famously resisted their Great Siege of 1565. One of the halls houses the National War Museum. They pre-opened the museum (prior to the official opening still to occur) as three ships were in port. The museum was brilliantly done with both Maltese history and general history of the first and second World Wars – very impressive.

In 1942 King George VI awarded the George Cross to the people of “the island fortress of Malta” for their heroism and devotion during the Second World War. The George Cross, not the Maltese cross, adorns the flag of independent Malta.

Then it was a general wander around the picturesque streets of Valletta. Two things stand out in this city, they drive on the correct side of the road and English is an official language. Glad the ship stopped here for a visit.

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Posted by dpedler 00:22 Archived in Malta Comments (0)

Athens (via Piraeus), Greece

Day 44, 10 May 2009

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The plan was to take the train from Piraeus to Thissio to see The Acropolis. But first two phone calls home. The call to my Mum worked; the call to my lovely lady didn’t (bugger) – called her later from The Acropolis.

The train is only a 30 minute walk away. Jump in the train to Thissio but it stops half way and everyone gets out; I’m told I have to bus the next section – no reasons or anything as no-one can speak English. Finally we find the line is closed for repair, so bus it is. Lucky there are three of us on today’s journey.

Next problem is the bus dropped us off on a main road – no train station in site! But we found the train station, the Acropolis in the distance and a local trash and treasure – let the adventure continue…
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Major sites visited included:

The Acropolis of Athens

  • Propylaea
  • Erechtheion
  • Parthenon
  • Caryatid Porch
  • Shrine of Athena Polias

Theatre of Herodes Attikos
Theatre of Dionysos
Temple of Hephaestus – my favourite site for the day
Ancient Agora
Museum of Ancient Agora
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The rock of the Acropolis has always dominated Athens. For over 2,000 years, the imposing ruins of the Parthenon – built on the orders of Perikles – have provided a notable landmark for the city.
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Stopped at a local Greek café for lunch. They only had “white fish” or “flesh” – so I chose fish and the local brew to wash it down. It was the whole entire fish and plenty of them, ranging in size from about 5cm to 20cm in length. Another new experience…
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There is a lot of graffiti in Athens and makes Crete look tame. I also now understand why the Greeks in Melbourne built their homes in such a grand way – nothing is small in Athens. An interesting place, but I have no desire to return.

I have walked so far today and I’m so tired (and a little sunburnt too) – finally got back to the ship at around 6pm.

Posted by dpedler 00:15 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Mykonos, Greek Isles

Day 43, 09 May 2009

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A very pretty island with the blue doors and windows amid the stunning white buildings. A walk around these narrow twisting streets (including an area called Little Venice), lots of expensive shops and the various windmills – even a pink pelican.
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In the 12 hours here two large cruise ships have come and gone, and one huge ship has arrived this evening.
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The waters of the Aegean Sea are a beautiful clear green. I think this is more an island for the water oriented sun bather or party goer. Give me Santorini any day – I’ve been spoilt!
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Another spectacular sunset this evening as the ship headed west.

Posted by dpedler 00:10 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Santorini, Greek Isles

Day 42, 08 May 2009

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Tendered across to the foot of Santorini before climbing the 588 official steps (the cliff is approx. 300m high). Still more steps after arriving at the shops! I could have taken a cable car or a donkey but there is nothing like a good challenge. Besides, I don’t think they treat the donkeys very well so I couldn’t support that.
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There is one thing about Santorini - magnificent scenery on this picture postcard day without a cloud in the sky. The buildings are all striking in appearance and not just the blue domed churches. The side streets are narrow cobbled and only suitable for walking.

Santorini, on the isle of Thera, owes its unique topography and its elliptical shape to volcanic activity around 1700 BC when an eruption caused the centre of the island to sink and fill with seawater (up to 400m deep).

Then a local bus to the small Greek village of Oia at the northern end of the island. It is just as spectacular, if not more, than Santorini.
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A truly beautiful island geared for the tourist (and their euro); the people aren’t pushy trying to sell, sell, sell. Well worth a longer visit.

A most spectacular sunset as the ship cruised away from Santorini. Firstly it set behind an island mountain, reappeared on the edge of the mountain and set again on the horizon. At the same time the full moon rose over Santorini behind the ship.

Posted by dpedler 00:07 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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