For Clara

September 2016.

Dycladic blue and white

Dear Clara,

The last time I visited Greece, the warm sands and sunny days that stretched out before me like a cozy blanket calmed my disquiet and assuaged my battered being. The rocky outcrops, volcanic remains, and sensual scenery that greeted me each morning stirred something deep in my core. The further I ventured, the more I fell in love with my environment.

Whenever I need to recharge my spirit and reclaim a vital part of my essence, the Peloponnese Coast, the Cyclades Islands, and the Dodecanese Islands top my list of locales. In the intervening years, as my budget has grown more accommodating, I have broadened my Aegean agenda, adding the breathtaking Bodrum Peninsula on the Turkish Coast.

The 10-night Greek cruise itinerary, which I have custom designed for you, encompasses the very best of what I have uncovered during my many return visits. My sincerest hope is that you will experience there the same peace, tranquility, and calming respite I did all those years ago. I hope your experience through this trip will be as fruitful as was mine.

Day 1: Arrival

Clara, today will be a calm day for you, to relax and settle in. You will be collected at the airport by Max, your guide and companion, who will take you to your hotel and acquaint you with your new surroundings.

Day 2: Poros

Off the Peloponnese Coast lies the volcanic island of Poros, your destination for the day. Densely populated with pine trees and the Lemonodasos lemon tree forest, Poros will appeal to the nature lover in you, while offering a blend of vibrant shopping, waterfront dining, and quiet taverns tucked down its side streets. As you approach this town built on rocky slopes, you will experience one of the Aegean Sea’s most attractive views. Follow the main road out of Poros for 5km to explore the ancient ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, which dates to the 6th century BC. Along the way, you will pass the monastery of Zoodochos Pighi (Life-Giving Source). According to Greek legend, it is here at the Temple of Poseidon that Demosthenes committed suicide in 322 BC by drinking the “Konio” poison.

Day 3: Hydra

Running parallel to the Peloponnese Coast is the long, narrow island of Hydra. A modern-day artists’ center, Hydra is renowned for its picturesque port and inviting coves. Waterfront cannons and stately villas built in the 18th and 19th centuries greet you. As you step back in time, perhaps the first thing you will notice is Hydra’s absence of vehicles. Within the island’s confines, donkeys provide the only means of transportation. As a result, a peaceful ambiance awaits you. A promenade spans Hydra’s arched back streets for leisurely strolls. After a day of relaxation, Hydra’s nightlife will not disappoint the partier in you. The island’s taverns and clubs awaken as darkness falls.

Day 4: Kythnos

Kythnos is barren, rocky island. The hump of the island is highest in the middle where the summit reaches 956 ft. Despite the modest height, the island is so folded and steep that it gives the impression of being more savage and higher than the figures suggest. The population mostly lives in the main town or chora (Kythnos) on the hill above Ormos Apokriosis and in Merikha. The island has some tourist trade in the summer, but the whole is little touched by tourism. Famous since ancient times for the “Constitution” by Aristotle, Kythnos is a typical Cycladic Island. Vineyards and fig trees provide dashed of green against the white Cycladic cottages and churches with their frescos and icons that cling to the hillsides above beautiful small bays and clear waters. Highlights will include monasteries, churches, and Loutra Village’s with thermal springs.

Day 5: Paros

Paros, the second largest island of the Cyclades is well-known as the beauty queen of the Aegean. The hills of Agii Pantes gently span downwards to lovely pebble covered and wide sandy bays. Instead of the usual barren landscapes of the Cyclades, the first impression of Paros is that of Mediterranean-green island. Apart from the numerous small inlets, there are two large bays. To the north, you will find the village of Naoussa with whitewashed houses, narrow paved alleys, arches, tiny chapels, and a range of excellent beaches.

Your other main destination on the west coast will be the capital, Parikia, which stands on the site of the ancient city. Here, stroll through the white alleys; then, settle back in below the Kastro or rest at one of the taverns opposite the gorgeous Byzantine church of Ekantontapyliani (our lady’s church with 100 gates), Greece’s oldest church that has steadily been in use. You can swim and do water sports until sunset.

Day 6: Patmos

Patmos is the island where St. John theologian was exiled in 95 AD. This beautiful landscape inspired him to write “The Apocalypse” (Revelation). Legend has it that in ancient time Patmos rested at the bottom of the sea, and was only visible when Selene, the Moon Goddess, would shine over it. Selene would often go to Mount Latmos to visit her lover King Endymion, who was granted the privilege (by his father Zeus) of not aging whenever he slept. As he was often asleep, Selene would sit on top of Mount Latmos and talk to Artemis (Diana), who had one of her main sanctuaries there. One evening Artemis noticed a small island glittering underneath the water from Selene’s beams as she approached. Artemis fell in love with it immediately and wanted it to be hers. Realizing she was not strong enough to raise it from the seabed, she sent telepathic messages to her twin-brother Apollo, who was not keen on raising the island. However, Apollo spoke with his father, Zeus, who promised to help. Zeus asked permission from his brother Poseidon, the powerful and feared God of the Sea, who had little interest in the little island, and so gave his approval. Thus, thanks to Zeus divine power the island of Patmos emerged from the sea in stunning beauty. Then, the all-seeing sun-god Helios warmed the island with his rays and thereby gave it life. Artemis next persuaded some of the inhabitants of Artemis on the same site the Monastery is today. The cubelike houses, sea masters’ mansions, high walls, little squares and narrow lanes remind visitors of the Aegean history of the island. Byzantine objects and frescos dedicated to Our Lady (dated 1210-1220) can also be seen inside.

Day 7: Kalymnos

Travel by boat today to Kalymnos, part of the Dodecanese Islands and is the fourth largest of the group. The island of Kalymnos has a lovely and picturesque capital, built amphitheatrically around the main port of the island, as well as some very attractive villages hanging on the slopes of verdant mountains or lying nearby beautiful coasts. The capital and main port of the island, Pothia, is a very attractive fishing village. The island is famous for its sponge fishing tradition and is the ideal place to buy natural, soft sponges. Los is typical of a Cycladic island with pretty harbors, narrow alleys, windmills, traditional white houses, crystal clear water, vineyards, olive trees and over 400 chapels. According to Herodotus, Los was the home of Homer, mother Clymene, and the burial place for Homer. On the 15th of May each year, the Homer festival – Homeria takes place on Los island and a flame is carried from the port to his tomb in Plakoto. Los is renowned for its nightlife and as a result, is a magnet for the young, therefore; this may be the liveliest of all the islands.

Day 8: Santorini

Santorini, the best-known island in Greece is home to a huge volcano that erupted leaving the town perched high on its famous white cliffs. The sea approach to the island is spectacular. Fira, the fiery capital, is a captivating marriage of Venetian and Cycladic architecture, whose white cobblestone streets bustle with shops, taverns, hotels, and cafés, while clinging to the rim of the caldera nine hundred feet above its port. You can take a cable car up from the port or alternatively take a trip on one of the hundreds of mules up the 588 zigzagging steps. Walking along the path for about twenty minutes will bring you to Imerovigli where you can take in the magnificent views of the island’s unique scenery from the tiny town. Just above Fira at the highest point of the island is the quintessentially Santorininian town Oia, with its whitewashed walls sunk into the volcanic rock and its blue domes rising above the sterling beauty of the stunning, russet Ammoudi Bay. At dusk, the town attracts people venturing to see the sunset. Santorini’s sunsets, vieyoud from Oia, are reputed to be among the world’s most beautiful.

Day 9: Kos

Kos is the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. In the 4th century BC, “Asklepeion,” located here, was considered Greece’s top hospital. Kos also features some of the most picturesque villages in the Dodecanese. The inhabitants here have held on to the traditional architectural style for most of the buildings and houses. The variety of churches, mosques, ancient and medieval structures, demonstrate the importance of the island and the diversity of the people that have inhabited the island over time. The streets of the modern town are lined with palm trees and fantastic beaches. You will have a leisurely day to absorb this atmosphere.

Day 10: Bodrum

Travel to Bodrum via Knidos and visit the archaeological site of Knidos if you wish, which stretched about a mile in length, with walls remarkably intact. Knidos is best known for Praxiteles’ the Aphrodite of Knidos, a text which has perished. Late copies of it exist, the most faithful being in the Vatican Museums. If you arrive early and walk along the Bars Street, you can find many outdoor cafes and restaurants. If you have extra time, you may wish to visit Bodrum Castle and the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology inside the castle.

Clara, it has been a pleasure planning this Greek adventure for you. If I can be of assistance to you in any way in the future, please do not hesitate to reach out.