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Page 6 of 8

Antiquity - The Acropolis, Athens

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Nautica quietly docks at the Turkish port of Kusadasi. In summer, this port is a beehive of tourist activity, but at the end of November the town seems all but dead. With the rain pouring down and many shops already closed for the season, we see a town that is so different from the summer euphoria that most cruise ship passenger know and love.

Still, there is more to Kusadasi than carpet shops and jewelers. And visiting the town in winter has its distinct advantages. Gone are the over-ambitious street sellers. Prices in the shops are significantly lower than in summer. And best of all is that there are no crowds at Ephesus, the ancient Roman city that lies only 20 miles (30 km) away.

I visited Ephesus in October, 2000 and while the ruins of this ancient town made a lasting impression on me, the tourist crowd made it almost impossible to get a good view of the magnificent Celsus Library, the Agora and … the brothel! Now, at the end of November most hotels have closed for the winter and only a handful of cruise ships are left in the Eastern Mediterranean, which means we have Ephesus almost to ourselves. Our guide leads us through the marble streets, shows us the intricate Roman mosaics and makes antiquity come to live. The most eye-catching structure in Ephesus is surely the theater, originally constructed in 3BC and consequently enlarged under Roman rule. Once used for gladiator fights, the 25,000-seat theater is still operational, albeit for concerts instead of gladiator fights...

That evening after sailing from Kusadasi, the winds pick up and make Nautica roll slightly as the vessel sets course for Rhodes, our next port of call. We wake up the next morning as Captain Brajcic announces over the PA System that Nautica is unable to enter the Port of Rhodes due to high winds. Instead of our call at Rhodes our Captain decides to call at Marmaris in Turkey, only an hour or two away. Right after breakfast we enter the narrow rocky strait that leads to the Bay of Marmaris, a stunning passage in this wild weather. With gale force winds almost blowing us from the open decks, Nautica anxiously tries to keep her position but it soon becomes clear that we are unable to dock at Marmaris either. With a sharp turn we set course for the open sea again and Captain Brajcic then announces he will take the vessel straight for Piraeus and skip tomorrow’s call at Nauplion. Which is a disappointment for many guests.

Still, arriving a day early at Piraeus enables us to discover more antiquities in the ancient city of Athens, half an hour away by bus (depending on traffic conditions, which can sometimes be horrific). Greece shows its sunny side and dolphins accompany us as we sail into port in near-perfect conditions. The sunshine and balmy temperatures stay with us as we venture south by coach, visiting the temple at Cap Sounion. The next morning we venture into the old part of Athens, climbing up the Acropolis to closely look at the Parthenon, thé sight of Athens and a further remnant of former times. As we gaze over Athens, all memories of gales and choppy seas have vanished.   

Celcus Library, Ephesus
The theater, Ephesus
Kusadasi as seen from the decks of Nautica
Celsus Library, Ephesus
The massive theater, Ephesus
Kusadasi cruise ship facilities - impressive!

Dirk and John enjoying a glass of raki

Laid-up cruise ships at the port of Piraeus

The Parthenon
The temple at Cape Sounion

View of Athens from the Acropolis

Ships galore at Piraeus

Near Cape Sounion
View from the Acropolis
The Parthenon - Athens landmark
 

 

Photos and text: © 2005-2006 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on March  5, 2006

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