Now, where did we leave off? Ah yes, Athens. After Athens, we were incredibly hot and tired. We actually considered skipping Rhodes the next day because I was still nursing a sprained ankle (did I mention that I started our honeymoon with a sprained ankle as well?) and we were not sure there would be much to see. I am so glad we didn’t skip Rhodes! It is a small Greek island which was taken over by The Order of St. John during the infamous crusades and the thirteenth century Grand Master Palace still stands prominently over Old Town, located in the center of the municipality. The areas around the fortress have an old market feel with plenty of shops that sell everything from wooden male appendages to fine jewelry and furs. Tim and I wandered the streets for a few hours and walked the entire moat (which is obviously now empty) around the palace before going inside. (See the photo below of Tim standing in front of the moat wall for size reference. Tim is 6′ 1″.)
And yes, you read that right. All over Greece, small shops and souvenir stands sell wooden phalluses in various shapes, sizes, and colors. They are not meant to be sexual, but sort of like lucky rabbits’ feet symbolizing good luck and fertility. To an American, however, rows of wooden penises are just shocking. We were forced to suspend our Westernized immaturity and see the, um, pieces, for what they were…art.
Again, we found a lovely rooftop restaurant where we dined on Greek salad, olives, warm pita bread, hummus, tzatziki, roasted eggplant, cold wine, and lots of still water. We thoroughly enjoyed our morning in Rhodes, and we also enjoyed our time floating in the cruise boat pool afterwards!
And now we arrive in my personal new favorite city in the whole world: Santorini, Greece. I thought Mykonos would be my favorite, and it was wonderful, but Santorini stole my heart and my stomach. The main island of Santorini lies on top of a large cliff, or the caldera, which was created when African and Aegean tectonic plates shifted and created a large area now filled with water with visible land masses (the Santorini islands). Two volcanoes can be seen from the main island, and the views are beyond impressive. We took our cruise director’s advice (more like a mandate) and did NOT ride donkeys up the steep 800 foot cliff, but rather opted to take the three minute cable car ride (in spite of Tim’s fear of heights). The 24 total euro spent (12 per person, round trip, cash only) was well worth not abusing the poor animals that are overheated and over worked. It was equally worth the price to not hike up the 600 or so limestone steps.
The cable car puts you right in the middle of Fira, a central city of Santorini. While Oia is well known for the blue roofs (i.e. every stock photo of Greece ever), Fira is just as beautiful and boasts stunning views, delicious restaurants, lots of shopping, and breathtaking churches. I wanted to see EVERYTHING and we had not paid for an excursion, so we had hours to wander the narrow streets of Fira. We stopped early to enjoy fresh squeezed juice, a sweet and cold coffee drink, and some baklava. After some more shopping and wandering, we treated ourselves to a very slow and restful lunch of roasted pork and moussaka while overlooking the Aegean sea, and we visited two very old churches. I joined a prayer service in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist with my head covered and lit a candle to pray for protection over our families as we traveled. We ran our fingers through the iron gate that holds love locks strategically placed by couples from all over the world. We wandered through shops and alleys and witnessed a photo shoot of a beautiful woman covered from head to toe in more traditional Mediterranean female fashion.
It was a truly magical day, and I told Tim I had never felt so happy, rested, and calm all at the same time. The pace of life in Santorini is contagious, and I hope we are able to return one day.
We did not want to leave Santorini, but we had many more adventures ahead of us, so we reluctantly returned to our boat via tender and rested before arriving at our next stop: Chania, Crete.
Which we never saw, because I proceeded to sleep for about 12 more hours…
Which leads us to Malta! Tim and I had booked a beach transfer in Malta because we couldn’t figure out exactly what there was to see in the quirky little island country, and now we know why. At any given moment driving through Malta’s capital city Valetta, we thought we were either in Italy, England, The Middle East, or France. This is because the tiny little nation has been conquered by each of these cultures at one point in history or another. We drove through Valetta and saw the stone partitions which resemble the fields of Scotland (due to the rocky soil and nowhere else to put the rocks), castles and fortresses, high rise apartment buildings, and a huge marina filled with small fishing boats and countless yachts. For an island that looks very poor, they sure own a lot of yachts. We visited the beach in Gozo which is crowded with bright umbrellas, bronzed Europeans, and plenty of quirky little beachside grills. I could not wait to jump into the Mediterranean ocean, and it did not disappoint! I just wanted to float for hours in the brilliant blue waters. We were not able to stay longer than a couple of hours, but it felt incredible to submerge my body in the warm Maltese waters while admiring the hundreds and thousands year old buildings around us.
Well, friends, this will now be extend to a three-part-blog, so please stay tuned for our adventures in Italy.