Crisis? What Crisis?

We enjoyed a couple of weeks island-hopping across the Aegean, this time heading west. Yep, it’s still a windy place! Left Samos and headed for Fournoi, then Mykonos, Syros, Kythnos, Hydra and Ermioni on the mainland. Mykonos was memorable for both arrival and departure – just really windy and an appalling marina. We spent a bit of time on Syros, with it’s lovely island capital of wide stone-paved streets and winding alleyways. Hydra will always be remembered for being pillaged by rapacious Italian pirates (even the other Italians in the bay apologised on their behalf!) But all in all, we enjoyed the islands and a few spirited sailing days, making good distances. Alan W departed Loki at the island of Poros, before we headed back through the Corinth Canal.

The Corinth Canal is an amazing feat of engineering. It’s 3.2 miles long, 25 metres wide, with the sides of the canal rising to 76 metres at the highest part. Being so narrow, traffic only goes in one direction at a time, so you have to book to arrange to transit the canal. Before it was built ships were carted up and over this land. The canal construction was first  attempted by the Roman Emperor Nero, but after many false starts it wasn’t completed until 1893. Today they still take quite big ships through, up to a width of 17.6 metres.

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Found a lovely little village on the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth, Galaxidi. Rich in maritime history, but somewhat left behind since the world moved on to steamships. It’s a very quaint harbour less than 3 hours drive from Athens or about 6 hours sailing from the western end of the Corinth Canal. It is a good place from which to visit the ancient site of Delphi. Where else can you arrange to have a hire-car delivered from the next town for the following morning, through the local bee-keeper, whilst having dinner?

The sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi is set in a stunning mountainside location at the foothills of Mount Parnassos. For many centuries it was the centre of the ancient Greek world. It was from here that the Oracle would make various proclamations about assorted matters of great importance. Although signs of habitation date back to 14thC BC, the sanctuary became established around 8th-7th century BC. Very old rocks indeed! At this point we farewelled Tim and continued on to the Ionian.

There’s no shortage of beautiful anchorages in the Ionian. Cephalonia, Ithaca, Lefkada, Meganisi and Corfu are probably the best known islands, but there are plenty of other gems as well. Some have dreamy turquoise beaches as a result of the adjoining limestone cliffs, with seriously blue water. If you want to charter a yacht in Greece, this is the place to be. Flat water, reasonable shelter from the prevailing nor’ westerlies, blue sea and sky, it doesn’t get much better. Loads of places to find a taverna ashore for a mid-morning frappe or an evening meal. Crisis? What crisis? There doesn’t appear to be any kind of Greek tragedy going on here. That said, we haven’t been to Athens where we hear there are buses of riot-gear clad police on standby.

Lefkada was once attached to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, until the Corinthians decided to construct a canal back in 650 BC, which turned Lefkada into an island. The modern Greeks have worked out that if they maintain their status as an island they continue to get special government grants and tax concessions so they have a “ferry boat” which is actually a floating/lifting/swinging bridge that opens every hour to let water-borne traffic through. Navigation here can be a bit interesting. They were dredging when we went through, making it just a bit squeezy, but we’d checked it out the day before so knew what we were in for. Managed to negotiate the shifting sands without incident, thankfully. Levkas town has some unique architecture as a result of the devastating 1948 earthquake. In the island capital many buildings are built in a “quake-proof” style with the second story made out of sheet metal or corrugated iron, either pastel colours or brightly painted. Even the town clock is earthquake-proof.

Q. So what do you get when you cross a Greek Island with a Russian oligarch? A. Jacqui O’s slightly run-down beach shack. Skorpios Island, which was once owned by Onassis, has since been bought by the 24 year old daughter of a very rich producer of potassium fertiliser. My how the rich and famous have changed! On the south side there’s a tiny cove where Onassis built a small beach house so Jacqui could get away from it all. Today you can sail right past it, but the rest of the island is completely off limits.


We’ve spent the last few days in Corfu, trying to remember that it is in fact a Greek island. Having been inhabited by the Corinthians, Romans, Byzantines, Goths, Venetians (those guys knew how to do a good fortress!), the French and then the English before reverting to Greece, the architecture here is very different from the other Greek islands we’ve been to. There are some very grand buildings with colonnaded promenades and cricket is still played on The Esplanade greens every week.

Today we are sailing to Nisis Othoni, which will be our last port of call in Greece. Tomorrow we head for Italy. So that’s it for now. Don’t forget to click on the blue link at the very bottom of the email notification to go to my blog page with all the images.

Hope all is good with you and yours.

Bye for now,


One for the bucket list

If there’s one thing you should do (if you haven’t already) before you shuffle off this mortal coil, it’s take a dawn ride in a hot air balloon across the spectacular Cappadocian landscape. We had six fabulous days in Cappadocia, but the highlight was soaring through the valleys and across the unique volcanic rock formations known as “fairy chimneys”. There must have been 80-100 balloons in the air the morning we flew (too many to count), adding to the marvellous scenery. The skilled pilots fly you right into the valleys, then out again. Balloon “kisses” are not uncommon!

Having viewed the landscape from the air we also trekked through some of the valleys to get a worm’s eye view of the fairy chimneys. The locals made dovecotes within these structures so they could collect guano for fertiliser. Also to be found are the many rock-hewn churches carved into the fairy chimneys. Many still have colouful frescoes, but others are a bit delapidated. Exploring these churches is a bit like being inside a giant block of Swiss cheese. Rose Valley, Red Valley, Ihlara Valley, Love Valley (named for the phallic-like formations) are all worth a look and you can poke around inside many of these churches along the way. The Goreme Open Air Museum is also a must see. The complex is made up of chapels, churches and monasteries, some which date back to the 10th-12th centuries.

Another highlight in Cappadocia is a visit to one of the underground cities carved out of the soft volcanic rock. We visited Derinkuyu which is a maze of tunnels and assorted “rooms” over 8 levels. The complex housed cellars, wine and oil presses, chapels, etc, and extended to a depth of approximately 85m. The city was large enough to provide shelter for 20,000 people along with sufficient food stores and animals to keep them going for quite some time. Such cities we used by early Christians to hide from marauding Roman soldiers, then later from Arab Muslims, where they’d hide until it was safe to come out. They built an elaborate security system that could ingeniously seal off the city using a system of massive stone doors rolled across the tunnel entrances. Indiana Jones eat your heart out!

We found the government funded carpet-making school interesting, seeing how they harvest silk from the silk worm cocoons. Managed to resist the temptation to buy a carpet for Loki. Of course we couldn’t leave Turkey until we’d seen a Whirling Dervish performance. It’s amazing they’re not completely giddy after all that spinning!

We then farewelled Turkey and cleared into Greece at Samos. Whilst in Samos we took the ferry down to Patmos for the day, well known as the place where St John is said to have lived in a cave whilst writing the Book of Revelation in AD 95. The fortress-like Patmos monastery crowns the hill of the Hora. It was built in honour of St John in 1088 and is one of the most sacred Christian sites in the world.  A visit to both the cave and the monastery, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, is obligatory. The monastery museum houses a collection of religious art, relics, vestments and numerous original parchment manuscripts, some dating back to 1073. On first pass you could be forgiven for thinking all are printed documents, but as the printing press wasn’t invented until 1440 this is obviously not the case for the older ones. They are so meticulously crafted and illustrated its hard to believe these were created so long ago. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside.

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