Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 5: Mykonos

Quote of the Day:
There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast. ~Paul Scott Mowrer,
The House of Europe

Mykonos was our 5th island after Tinos, Naxos, Amorgos and Santorini in our September get-away hike on the Greek Islands:

Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 1: Tinos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 2: Naxos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 3: Amorgos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 4: Santorini
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 5: Mykonos

After saying good-bye to our tour group in Santorini, the two of us trouped on for another day and-a-half to explore Mykonos and near-by Delos.

Mykonos, with a population of 9,320, is known as a party island with lots of bars and clubs, gay and straight, for late nights. The days are for lounging and sunning on one of the many beaches, some of the most famous accessible by small boat. There are crowds of people everywhere and local buses are packed for standing room only on many of the rides from the beaches into Mykonos Town.

Wall to wall chaises, typical on the more touristic Greek Isles, were just outside our hotel, and stretched along the Platys Gialos beachfront that featured one restaurant after another.

For dinner that first night, we opted for a less touristy area, just north of here, and enjoyed a great low-cost meal that introduced us to what has become our favorite Greek desert--Karidopita, a delicious cake with walnuts. Be sure to ask for it the next time you visit a Greek eatery.

The next morning, we took the 25 minute ferry ride to Delos.

Oh, Delos. Delos is an outdoor archeological museum, once having been the most holy religious center for all of Greece. After a purification ceremony in 426 BC when all graves were exhumed and remains moved to a near-by island, no one was allowed to be born, live or die there. It does have a great museum which features objects that have been removed from the site to protect them against the elements.

There is also a nice giftee shoppe on Delos. One of us bought a small, ceramic vessel shaped like a pomegranate. It's decorated with two bands of a checkerboard pattern, common to the 7th century B.C., and a file of black painted water birds. The pomegranate was native to Greece and symbolized the fertility of the earth and good luck.

Here's all that's left of some centuries-old Roman notable.
"Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
"Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

One of tramps stands at the propylees, the vestibule of a Greek Temple, admiring a body-less statue. Woman to woman, bridging the eons.

Step right up, folks. Pausing on the way to the museum to point out an altar featuring a bullhead.

Inside the museum, the work goes on. A statue is being reconstructed.

The famous marble Delos lions, removed from the Terrace of the Lions, replaced by plaster replicas, are ensconced inside the museum. They originally numbered 16, but only 9 have survived. They are reminiscent of the Avenue of the Sphinxes at Luxor, Egypt.

We could have spent several more hours, but suddenly realized the last ferry would be leaving soon...

The weather had changed and the bartender on the ferry had to stack seasickness bags on the counter before she served up the drinks. We got a good tossing around...

and by the time we were back on Mykonos, the monster wind, the meltemi, was whipping us about as we made our way around the port.

Pelicans, long a perennial tourist attraction, had abandoned their usual haunt at the dock for the protection of this inland shelter against the fierce onslaught of the meltemi.

We made our way up into Mykonos Town for the evening. Again, we say, the sea was angry that day, my friends. We sat at one of the many watering holes in Little Venice to enjoy the sunset and a powerful drink made of Jamaican coffee, rum, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It was delicious, but it kept us up all night.

The winding streets of this island can be most enchanting at night.

Under the spell, one of us bought a gold and silver ring with a mini-mosaic panel that flips from one design to another. It's really two rings in one, plus a necklace.

The door closes on our escapades in Greece, but we can always lift that gorgeous Venetian, ringed knocker and re-enter for more.

But for now, thaaaat's it, folks.... For sure, our adventure continues. Who knows where????

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 4: Santorini

Quote of the Day:
There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast. ~Paul Scott Mowrer,
The House of Europe

Santorini, or Thera, was our 4th island after Tinos, Naxos and Amorgos in our September get-away hike on the Greek Islands:

Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 1: Tinos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 2: Naxos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 3: Amorgos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 4: Santorini
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 5: Mykonos

Santorini, still called by its ancient name, Thera, on some maps, was one of the most unique, but also most touristic island we visited. It has a year-round population of

This island is a surreal relic of what was probably the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history, around 1650 B.C.. The center of the island collapsed producing a caldera that the sea quickly filled. In fact, this is thought of by some as the location of the lost Kingdom of Atlantis.

The amazing thing about this island is that the sparkling white and blue towns are built to saddle the caldera itself. The houses typically have round, vaulted roofs to sustain tremors. Well below are the beaches reachable by stairways, donkey rides and cable cars. The two main towns are Thira, or Fira, and Oia to the north.

We started our caldera walk in Thira, ...

and then the trail between Thira and Oia, a distance of 7.6 miles.

These farms below were a patchwork of green.

The multicolored cliffs along the way were truly awesome. The rust is oxidized iron ore.

Our walk ended in Oia, at the northern tip of the island. Built on a steep slope of the caldera, many of Oia's dwellings nestle in niches hewn into the volcanic rock. We found the shops open, but too crowded to easily see the wares, and our whole group headed back to Thira for a sunset dinner.

This was our last evening with the whole team since we would be leaving the tour the next day to go on a "deviation" to Mykonos.

We shot this from the restaurant. Could anything be more ideal? What a perfect example of Santorini's famous sunsets attributed to the traces of ash still lingering in the air from the volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago. These islands off shore are the now detached continuation of the rim of the volcano of the original, larger island of Santorini.

Dorians, Venetians and Turks occupied Santorini, as they did all other Cycladic islands, but its most influential early inhabitants were Minoans. They came from Crete sometime between 2000 and 1600 B.C. They are memorialized all over the island with examples of their art found on frescoes in Akrotiri, an archaeological site. This one, one of the most famous, is called "The Blue Monkey".

We were intrigued with these frescoes. Our research led us to a fresco artist's blog and his amazing fascination with Minoan art.

The representations of the Minoan women are definitely reminiscent of our own comic book heroine, Wonder Woman.

The Boxing Children is another notable Minoan fresco. It is the oldest portrayal of the art of boxing. The bodies in profile show Egyptian influence.

The next morning, we met our ferry to Mykonos. This port was the busiest we had encountered. Passengers were rushing down the gangplanks along with buses and trucks to allow the hoards of other passengers, competing with buses and trucks filled with potatoes and tomatoes, waiting to board the ferry. We pushed along and got on board unscathed. Another triumph in our great Greek ferry adventure.

Next and last stop on our Greek Isle hiking trip, Mykonos and Delos.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Walk Hudson River Park NYC Downtown: Ferry to Gehry

Hiking is out for us when the icy conditions hit the mountains. Walking in New York City for fitness is in. We met our AMC group at the Staten Island Ferry Depot and walked to The Vietnam War Memorial. On this wall are inscribed texts of letters written by our troops. Next we walked to the haunting Merchant Marine Memorial, just in front of the lines for the Ellis Island Ferry, created from a photo taken by a Nazi sailor on the U-Boat that had hit and sunk the Merchant ship.

(song link) A swing inland showed many new downtown architectural sights.

On our approach to the World Financial Center Winter Garden, we passed this Memorial to NYC's 911 heroes.

Why is there a grove of palms in the Winter Garden lobby? Hint: it has to do with the holdings of the owners of the building.
There is an amazing can exhibit to walk through on the second floor. Here's where our outing turned into an art walk.

These literary gates flank the now deserted marina. This is part of a Frank O'Hara quote:

... and this one is Walt Whitman's: Another inland swing...

and we reached the Irish Hunger Memorial garden—located on the corner of 290 Vesey and North End Avenue. These fossils have been embedded in the entrance walkway.

Here is a slab from the Berlin Wall the city of Berlin donated to Battery Park City in 2004. And here's a link to another location midtown.
This must have been the western side.
Back along the Hudson River Park, we came upon this flamboyant sculpture garden. Where ever you go in New York City, there's art work of one type or another.

... such as all these wonderful creations of Tom Otterness.

Again we ducked a few blocks in to see this bluestone wall at Teardrop Park. Just inside is a giant slide and rocks to climb for lucky neighborhood kids.
Back along the river, we saw these new Meyers "green buidings." Count on saving energy when these babies are finished.
We turned inland here at Charles Lane, the oldest cobblestone street in the city!
Here is Westbeth, residences and studio spaces for artists. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company studio is within the Westbeth complex.
And wow! Here on West 11th Street, we came upon Palazzo Chupi, home of Julian Schnabel. Can it be that these apartments go for $20,000,000 and up? Did Richard Gere sell his?

The Highline on Washington Street... Link to 1930s tracks running right through buildings
going right through the buildings.

We ended our walk here at 23rd Street with the Gehry building zigging into view.
Time to check the old pedometer to see if we've walked our 10,000 steps for the day.

Click on Map of Downtown NYC to see our route: We walked North along the Hudson River from Battery Park City (lower left) thru Tribeca and the West Village to 14th St.