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Greek Isles & Turkish Ports Scenic & Historic Tour


Castles, palaces, temples, medieval cities, museums, and ruins

Ephesus, Rhodes, Bodrum, Santorini, Mykonos, and Delos

Sailing, Windstar, Wind Spirit ship, and Wind Star ship

Wind Star Cruise Ship.

Wind Star Cruise Ship.

Tours

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Windstar Cruise Line

Windstar is a high quality cruise line that operates small ships (yachts), and some with sails. Small ships have the advantage that they can go places that are impossible for the big ships to get to. Sailing Windstar is a fantastic cruise experience. We sailed from Istanbul to Athens on a seven-night cruse. The cruise itinerary is spectacular, and qualifies as a trip of a lifetime. A review of the cruise and ports of call follows. Some itineraries are different than the one described here.

Wind Spirit and Wind Star cruise ships

The Wind Star and Wind Spirit are sister cruise ships. We sailed on the Wind Spirit, which has a maximum number of passengers of 148. On our sailing there were 100 passengers. There were also 99 crew members, so the ratio was nearly one-to-one. The passengers came from a number of countries. Most of them were of a mature age, although there were also young passengers including honeymooners. Regardless of age, everyone had a great time. Everyone was friendly, and we made many new friends. A picture of the Wind Spirit is seen below.

Wind Spirit restaurant.

Wind Spirit dining room.

The Wind Spirit has fairly large staterooms with ample storage area and decent size bathrooms including the showers. You can check out movies and CDs in the Library to play in your room. Breakfast and lunch were offered in a comfortable setting on the Veranda deck. You could eat inside or out. Dinner was informal and offered in an attractive dining room, pictured above. There was open seating. If you did not have someone to dine with for dinner they would find someone for you to join. Both the quality of the food and presentation were excellent. The captain and crew were all first rate; they offered outstanding service. The sails were up 97% of the time while we were underway. At times the engines were cut and we were truly sailing!

The first day was spent at sea. On the remaining days there were shore excursions. The shore excursions were so extraordinary that many of us went on one in every port. A couple of the guides were exceptional. You see lots of beautiful scenery and very interesting ruins. On one night Greek dancers came onboard to perform folk dances, and on another night Turkish dancers performed. One of the Turkish dancers put on a beautiful performance of belly dancing. Pictures of some of the dancers are found below.

A picture of the Wind Star with sails is presented at the top of this page. The Wind Star was doing the same itinerary as the Wind Spirit, but in the reverse direction. The ships met in two ports. On one night at midnight both ships with sails were brilliantly lit. Dazzling maneuvers were performed in which both ships sailed side-by-side, front to back, and back to front. This was fascinating to watch, and a highlight of the cruise. On another night the Wind Spirit was scheduled to leave anchor prior to the Wind Star. Again both ships were brilliantly lit up. Before leaving we completely circled the Wind Star, and at one point we got close enough for an officer on the Wind Star to hand over to our captain a plate with a lobster dinner! They shook hands, and there was much applause. The way in which these two ships worked together added much to the enjoyment of the cruise. A night time picture of the Wind Star being passed is shown below.

Passing Wind Star at night.

Wind Star being passed by the Wind Spirit at night.

The Dardanelles

We boarded the Wind Spirit in Istanbul, Turkey. This is a great destination where you can easily enjoy several days. For information on what is found there see our review of Istanbul. We sailed into the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, and finally into the Aegean Sea. From time to time we saw attractive villages along the shore. Of particular interest were the monuments along the banks of the Dardanelles built by the French and Turkey in honor of thousands of soldiers killed in battle during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I. Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand were allied together in an assault on Turkey in an attempt to obtain a sea route to the Black Sea. They failed against tough Turkish resistance. Turkey was an ally of Germany in the war.

Ephesus, Turkey

Library at Ephesus, Turkey.

Library at Ephesus, Turkey.

After the restful day at sea we docked at Kusadasi, Turkey in Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea. The main reason for stopping there is to visit Ephesus, which was one of the prominent cities on the Mediterranean in the ancient world. It is also very interesting because it is one of the best preserved ruin sites in that part of the world. Two hundred and fifty thousand people once lived in Ephesus. During the April celebrations in honor of Artemis as many as one million people may have gone there. Ephesus was a popular destination in part because it had the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Heraclitus, the important Greek philosopher, lived in Ephesus from 540 to 480 B.C. In the years following the crucifixion of Christ both St. Paul and St. John lived in Ephesus and wrote gospel there. Many people believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived and died there.

Ephesus is thought to have existed as early as 2,000 B.C., and to have been located on the sea. Like so many other places in that part of the world, Ephesus was conquered by many different rulers. In its early history it was ruled by Ionians, Lydians, Persians, Athenians, and Spartans. The Macedonian general Lysimachos conquered Ephesus in 283 B.C. By his time sediment carried toward the sea by the Kucuk Menderes River had accumulated rendering the direct outlet to the sea impassible. Also, the marshy land was now a source of mosquitoes that were spreading malaria. Because of these undesirable conditions Lysimachos moved the city of Ephesus to a nearby valley. This is the site of the ruins. After Lysimachos, Ephesus was ruled by Egypt and Syria. In 190 B.C the Romans took control and made Ephesus the capital of the Roman Province of Asia

The famous Temple of Artemis was built by Croesus, King of Lydia, in about 550 B.C. It is also known by the Latin name Diana, and was very large and contained important works of art. It was rebuilt in 356 B.C. after being burned by a madman. In 3 A.D. the Goths plundered both Ephesus and the Temple of Ephesus, and in 262 A.D. the Goths destroyed them both. The temple was never rebuilt, and Ephesus never recovered to its former status. Ephesus was eventually abandoned and remained so for many years.

Sunny and Rebecca at Great Theater, Ephesus, Istanbul.

Sunny and Rebecca at Great Theater in Ephesus, Turkey.

When you visit what was the Temple of Artemis today you see only a single column and some stones on the ground near it. That is all that remains since material was removed and used in constructing other buildings in other places. Fortunately, there is much to see today at Ephesus, and it is a real joy to visit. Of special interest are the Library and the Great Theater. Both are pictured above. In addition, you will want to see the ancient public toilets, the footprint on Marble Street that points the way to the Brothel, Curetes Street, and other things that you will find interesting.

Rhodes, Greece - Rhodes Old City & Lindos

Greek dancer in Wind Spirit Lounge.

Greek dancer performing in Wind Lounge.

From Kusadasi we left Asia for Europe and cruised to Rhodes, Greece. Rhodes is the fourth largest of the Greek islands. It is the most easterly island in the Aegean Sea and is very close to Asia Minor, being only 11 miles (18 kilometers) from the coast. The terrain is very much like nearby Turkey. Its highest elevation is 3,986 feet (1,215 meters). The city of Rhodes is located on the north tip of the island. The city is divided into two parts. There is the Old City and the New Town. While we were in Rhodes Greek dancers came onboard and performed for us. See the picture above.

After the collapse of the Minoan Civilization in about 1,400 B.C. Rhodes became a powerful kingdom. It established colonies in Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Asia Minor. During the classical period Rhodes was aligned at different times with Athens, Sparta, Persia, and Rome. In about 290 B.C. the famous Colossus of Rhodes was erected. This was a bronze statue about 100 feet (33 meters) high that was dedicated to the sun god of Helios. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Sadly, it was destroyed by a massive earthquake in about 225 B.C.

During the Crusades Rhodes was used as a staging port. For more than two centuries the Knights of Rhodes turned the island into a fortress and successfully resisted the Turks. In the fourteenth century they built walls around the Old City of Rhodes. But in 1522 Rhodes was conquered by the Turkish leader Suleyman the Magnificent. Rhodes suffered under Turkish rule until 1912 when Italy took it. Italy brought improvements to the island including starting the New Town of Rhodes. By virtue of the Allied Peace Treaty in 1947, following World War II, Rhodes was awarded to Greece.

Castle and Harbor at Lindos, Rhodes, Greece.

Castle and harbor at Lindos, Rhodes, Greece.

There are two sites that are a must to visit on the island. One is the acropolis at Lindos and the other is the Old Town Rhodes. Lindos is located on the east coast of Rhodes about midway between the north and south tips of the island. At Lindos you can either take the path and steps to the Acropolis or for a fee go by donkey. Along the way you will find ladies selling embroidery. Once you get to the top you see stunning views of the surrounding waters. You also have a picturesque view of the white painted homes in the town. On the acropolis you see a third century B.C. Doric Stoa, which has 20 columns restored of the original 42. Some of the columns are seen in the picture above. You also find the ruins of the Byzantine Church of St. John from the thirteenth century A.D. On the highest level are the ruins of an old temple, which is the oldest building on the acropolis. It replaced a temple that was built in the sixth century B.C., but burned down in 392 B.C. At the base of the Acropolis in Lindos town there are a number of shops to browse.

It is a delight to walk around the walled city of Old Town Rhodes. Of special interest are the Palace of the Grand Masters and the Archaeological Museum. There are many attractive views including that of a Clock Tower, which is pictured below. As you wander through the streets you will find many shops and restaurants.

Clock Tower in Rhodes Medieval Town, Greece.

Clock Tower in Rhodes Medieval Town, Greece.

Bodrum, Turkey - Bodrum Castle

Turkish belly dancer in Wind Spirit Lounge.

Turkish belly dancer in Wind Spirit Lounge.

From Greece we sailed back to Asia Minor and anchored at Bodrum, Turkey. This is one of the more popular vacation spots in Turkey. While we were in Bodrum a Turkish belly dancer came onboard and performed for us.

In ancient times Bodrum was known as Halicarnassus, and it is located in southwestern Turkey on the Aegean Sea. Halicarnassus was a Greek colony, although it was not always under the control of Greece. It prospered because of its location on sea routes and it reached its height during the reign of King Mausolus. He ruled from 377 to 355 B.C. It is said that Mausolus collected high taxes, and even taxed people with long hair. When he died in 355 B.C. he was succeeded by his wife Artemisia, who was also his sister. She became the most famous ruler of Halicarnassus. She ordered construction of a large impressive tomb for Mausolus. This is where the word mausoleum comes from, and the mausoleum of King Mausolus was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1304.

Bodrum Castle, Greece.

Bodrum Castle, Turkey.

The most striking sight in Bodrum is the Bodrum castle. See the picture above, which was taken from the ship. The castle was built in 1402 by the Knights of St. John. Stones from the mausoleum were used in building the castle. This is a fascinating place to visit. There is an attractive chapel that now houses an exhibit of a life-sized model of a sunken Byzantine vessel that dates from the seventh century A.D. In the same area is a Turkish bath. Not far from the chapel is a building that has a wonderful display of glass objects dating from the fourteenth century B.C to the eleventh century A.D. These objects are all from excavations under sea or land, and are shown in special dim lighting. There is an aquarium that contains a very nice display of underwater excavations. In yet another building you find an eleventh century sunken vessel. The castle also has a display of the Sunken Vessel of Uluburun from the fourteenth century B.C. There are attractive towers in the castle with the names: Snake, German, French, Italian, and English. Some of the towers are decorated to show the lifestyle of the knights during the medieval ages. Before leaving the castle you should walk down the steps to the dungeon and torture chamber. From the castle you get a nice view of Bodrum, shown below.

Bodrum, Turkey.

Bodrum, Turkey viewed from Castle.

During the afternoon some of us went on a Bodrum wooden sailing boat to some coves on the Bodrum peninsula. We were served a very nice meal in a gorgeous setting. Those who wanted to went swimming from the boat.

Santorini, Greece - Fira, Oia, & Akrotiri

Wind Spirit and Costa cruise ships from Fira, Santorini, Greece.

Wind Spirit yacht with sails down and the larger Costa cruise ship in the distance viewed from Fira, Santorini, Greece.

In the morning hours we cruised into the Santorini waters. First we could see the whitewashed homes and buildings of Oia high on the cliff above the water. Soon we had a similar view of the town of Fria, about 1,000 feet (305 meters) above the water where our vessel tied up. The view was magnificent, as can be seen in the picture below. Crafted by the explosive forces of Mother Nature, Santorini is one of the most beautiful islands in the world.

To visit Fira, the capital of the island, you have three choices to get to the top of the cliff. You can take a cable car, ride a donkey, or walk. We chose the latter way, but since you are preceded by many donkeys that have been well fed you must be careful where you step! If you look carefully at the picture below you can see the windy path to the rim of the Caldera. Fira is a good place to shop, eat, and view the beautiful scenery. For example, note the picture of the Wind Spirit, Costa cruise ship, a small island, and waters shown above.

Fria, Santorini, Greece on top of cliff.

Fira, Santorini, Greece on rim of caldera high above the the water.

Santorini, which is in the Aegean Sea, is primarily the result of a massive volcanic eruption that occurred about 3,500 years ago. At that time the center of the caldera and most of the western portion collapsed into the sea. The water depth could be as much as 1,000 feet (305 meters), which is too deep for the Wind Spirit to drop anchor. Since the gigantic eruption two volcanic islets have formed in the central region and appear as attractive islands. Both volcanoes are active. The walls of the caldera display the successive lava flows that have taken place. Colors of red, white, and black are seen. The volcanic soil has proven to be good for growing grapes, and Santorini exports good wine. The summit of Santorini is at 1,857 feet (566 meters).

Through much of history Santorini was known by the name Thera, and that is still the official name of the island. Pottery has been found on the island that is more than 4,000 years old. Therefore it is likely that people lived there before 2,000 B.C. After the volcanic eruption in about 1,500 B.C. the island was covered with a thick layer of ash, and from that time there is no evidence of human activity for several centuries. The Phoenicians settled on the island in the twelfth or thirteenth century B.C. Following them were the Lacedaemonians (ancient Spartans), and they named the island after their leader Theras. The successors of Alexander the Great used Ancient Thera as a naval and military base from which to launch campaigns in the Aegean. However, through much of history Thera did not play a significant part. The name Santorini was given to the island by the Crusaders in the twelve hundreds A.D.

Church in Oia, Santorini, Greece.

Church in Oia, Santorini, Greece.

The most beautiful village to visit in Santorini is Oia on the north end of the island. There you find many nice shops, restaurants, beautiful churches, and fantastic views. The picture above is of one of the Oia churches. In 1956 a volcano in the middle of the caldera erupted and there was a large earthquake. A number of people in Oia were killed, many people were injured, and quite a few homes were destroyed. The city has been rebuilt.

The archaeological site of Akrotiri on the south end of the island is well worth a visit. It is pictured below. This was a thriving community about 3,500 years ago when the enormous volcanic eruption occurred. The site is covered by a roof and is slowly being excavated. Some of the many buildings have been restored and a lot is being learned about this Minoan civilization of long ago. No one has been found buried under the ash, so it is obvious that Mother Nature had given warning signals of the impending disaster. That these people had modern conveniences is obvious when you examine the houses. The houses have cylindrical clay pipes that carried effluent to the streets where there are drains that carried it away through the narrow winding streets. Sanitary facilities were found in all the houses. It appears that the walls were strengthened to resist earthquakes. Houses of both two- and three-stories were found. The walls were plastered and contained wall paintings. Many examples of pottery have been found. It is apparent that this Bronze Age community had achieved a high-level of comfort and affluence.

Santorini Abrotiri ruins.

Santorini Abrotiri ruins.

Mykonos, Greece - Mykonos Town

Mykonos, Greece.

Mykonos Town, Greece at waters' edge.

We arrived at Mykonos to see another attractive town of whitewashed houses and buildings. A waterfront picture of Mykonos Town is shown above. Mykonos was founded by the Ionians in the eleventh century B.C., and prospered under them from the eight to the sixth century B.C. Its fortunes paralleled the rise and fall of nearby Delos, which was an important spiritual and political center in the ancient Greek world. Mykonos was controlled by many different powers until 1204 A.D. At that time it was given to Venice by the Crusaders. In 1537 the Ottoman Empire (Turks) took control. The Turks allowed Mykonos to arm its vessels against the pirates that were preying on the island. Because of the difficult sailing conditions around the islands Myokinase were skilled sailors. However, many of them turned to piracy, and Mykonos became the place for pirates to meet in the Aegean. This sailing talent was important to Greece during its revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

Mykonos narrow street.

Mykonos narrow street.

The buildings up and down the hills of Mykonos have the same architecture with their cube shape and predominantly while color. It is interesting to walk around the narrow streets of Mykonos Town, one is pictured above, which can remind you of a maze. The streets were designed that way to confuse attacking pirates. There are many places to shop as well as cafes for spending time. A prominent landmark is a row of windmills perpendicular to the water.

Delos, Greece

Delos ruins.

Delos ruins.

Delos is a very small island about a forty-five minute boat ride from Mykonos. It is uninhabited today, and visitors are not allowed to spend the night there. Delos was a very important island in ancient Greece. In Greek mythology it was the birthplace of the god Apollo and his sister Artemis. Now it is known for its ruins, such as seen in the picture above.

People had settled in Delos prior to 2,000 B.C. Later there was a Mycenaen settlement, and in the ninth century B.C. the Ionians arrived. By the seventh century B.C. Delos was an important spiritual and political center. Because the Greeks worshiped Apollo, Delos had built a Sanctuary of Apollo, and festivals of music and offerings were made in honor of him.

During the reign of the Athenian Peisistratos in about 540 B.C. all births and deaths were banned on Delos. Later all graves were removed from the island and reburied on the neighboring island of Rhenea. Buildings were constructed on Rhenea to house expectant mothers and dying people from Delos. When Sparta defeated Athens in 404 B.C. Delos was granted independence. This did not last long as the Athenians were soon in control again, and after them the Romans.

Delos Terrace of the Lions.

Delos Terrace of the Lions.

Delos became an important Aegean trade center, and in 166 B.C. was declared an International Free Harbor. Because there were no taxes people immigrated to the island and it became very prosperous. It also became the center of the Aegean slave trade.

Because the island had remained faithful to Rome, Delos was sacked in 88 B.C. by King Mithridate VI of Pontus in Asia Minor. Thousands of people were slaughtered. There were also a series of pirate attacks on the island. As a result, by 42 B.C. Delos was mostly abandoned. During the first century A.D. the trade routes were changed, and they no longer favored Delos. All of these factors led to the demise of Delos. Later the temples at Delos were looted, dismantled, and taken away to be used as building materials elsewhere. This was done primarily by the Venetians and the Ottomans. Fortunately, there are detailed records of Delos, which are valuable in reconstructing the site.

It is always fascinating to visit a site that was important in antiquity. You can see examples of how these people lived and what kind of conveniences they had to make live easier for them. You find out what knowledge they possessed, and what they believed in. Important ruins to see at Delos include the Maritime Quarter, Theater, Cistern, Sacred Way, Sanctuary of Apollo, and the Terrace of the Lions, seen above. The site also includes a very nice museum with treasures and statures from ancient Delos. Note the statue in the picture below.

Statue in museum Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Statue in Delos museum near Mykonos, Greece.

Athens, Greece

We arrived in Athens where we disembarked from a wonderful cruise. It is one that will be hard to top. We were delighted to be back in Athens. Both Athens and mainland Greece are great places to visit. For our review of what to do there see Greece.

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Photo of Sunny and Rebecca by Jim Partin. Remaining photos by Sunny Breeding. We sell prints and images.