The Aegean – Prequel and Day 1

In June of 2016 I took a gulet cruise with seven others through the Dodecanese Islands with Peter Sommer Travels.  (The boat is pictured below, at Day 1.)  Because our two guides are archeologists, that was the main feature.  Here is Peter Sommer’s description of it:

This spectacular gulet cruise takes you from the famous island of Kos through the entire Dodecanese chain, including eleven of the most beautiful and evocative of the Greek islands and no less than three UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites.

The islands’ strategic location, between the open Aegean and the mainland of Asia Minor, has made them a well-connected cultural interface throughout history. Carians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, the Crusader Knights of St. John, Ottomans and Italians visited or settled them, leaving behind a rich legacy of grandiose ancient sanctuaries, mighty castles, serene monasteries and traditional villages, all set within an ever-changing maritime scenery.

The sites you see on this itinerary include world-famous relics, like the Asklepieion of Kos, the extraordinary archaeological museum of Samos, or the medieval fortifications of Rhodes, each among the best of their kind. On the smaller, off-the-beaten-track islands you gain a more intimate view of traditional Greek island life, with their picturesque harbours, village squares adorned with pebble mosaics, and beautiful domestic architecture. These islands are also rich in diverse landscapes: craggy hilltops, strange volcanic formations, and of course coastlines featuring a succession of bays and islets. Another highlight of the cruise is the series of you will meals enjoy at selected venues throughout the islands, ranging from home cooked local cuisine in family-run tavernas to real gourmet food, the finest the region has to offer.

Sightseeing aside, your stylish gulet will moor in secluded coves, allowing you to bathe in azure seas, admire the pristine scenery, or simply relax. From fabulous food to epic history, this is a fascinating journey through Greek culture, past and present. Don’t miss it!

Day -2

Had to get up in Tucson at 3am for an early flight out. My daughter picked me up at 3:45, and we were astonished to see how many people were already in the baggage check line. I had read recently that security was tightening up at airports and people were missing their flights. Luckily I had a TSA pass (for good behavior), so didn’t have to take off my shoes, take my liquids out, or stand in line for 45 minutes, and had time for a latte and a croissant.

Because I’m flying on mostly frequent flyer miles, my connections are not ideal. Tucson to Chicago, a couple of hours in that airport, then on to Madrid. Took a sleeping pill, had my own pillow, curled up in two seats (24″ instead of only 12″), and still got only two or three hours of sleep, tossing and turning with a seat belt on, my knees sore.  A few hours in that airport (all of the women with thick hair and very tight clothes, even women my age in those leggings that are barely thicker than tights), and on to Athens for an overnight.

Day -1

About 6:30pm, picked up by the owner of the B&B, driving 70 in a 40 zone, crossing double lines to pass. Because I had had a terrible dinner on the plane at what might have been 3:30pm, and with almost no sleep in a day and a half, I had no desire to eat dinner. All I wanted to do was flop into in a comfortable bed, which I did,  forgoing the pool, and even seeing the acropolis.

Day 1

gulet 2The next morning at 3am, yet again, I had to get up and shower (lovely after a few days) and take a taxi to the airport to fly to Kos, an island in the Dodecanese chain in the Aegean. Because I arrived there at 6:30am, with only a 30 minute taxi drive from the center of the island to Kos City on the coast, before the city was properly awake, the gulet, the Agean Clipper1, had come in the previous evening, special for me. I boarded and crashed for two hours in my cabin, a small one, but larger than the one my son and I had shared on a cruise ship in the Galapagos.

Spent the rest of the day wandering about Kos.  (Yes, that is bougainvillea on the Medieval Phoros Gate.)  Tried to find a 110V/120V to 220V/240V voltage converter.  I had a worldwide adaptor plug, but thought that I needed a power converter, remembering in Malaysia when one of my coworkers fried his laptop.  The hairdryer switched from 125V to the 250V used here in Europe, but I didn’t realize that the USB cable with its power plug has universal circuitry, IMG_6115so you can use a simple adapter and won’t need a voltage converter outside of the US.  (One of the other passengers explained it to me later.)  Hence my tablet and my phone were set.  Anyway, the quest gave me an excuse to see a bit of the city, with one phone store suggesting I go a few doors down to the electronics store, which sent me a block away, next to the post office, to a tiny hardware store, and so on.  Everyone was super nice, and many spoke English.

IMG_6116

IMG_6117

By evening I had met the seven other guests, two guides from Peter Sommer Travels (Dr. Maria Girtzi and Heinrich Hall2), the owner of the Turkish gulet, his girlfriend, and the crew of five (captain, first mate, cook, mechanic, apprentice). Unlike the cruise through the Galapagos, which traveled at night to the next island, we shall travel by day to the various islands in the Dodecaneses.

dodecanese
Three of the other passengers are from Australia, three from England, and one from Belgium.  The woman from Belgium is my daughter’s age, the woman from Australia halfway to my age, but the rest are all retired, and quite an interesting and well-traveled group.  (I keep wanting to spell these words in English, such as “travelled”, which comes with the accent, but the American editor keeps simplifying them.)

The man from London (who contends that he’s still Welsh and roots for their football team) has been on something like 15 of these tours; this is his third time in the Dodecanese. For the woman from Perth, these are her last two weeks of a 6-week tour of Sicily, Italy, and Greece.  The woman from Yorkshire had studied archeology and done a dig in Greece, before she went into TV work.

One Aussie who I sat next to at dinner last night (great food), a retired professor from Sydney, also taught business in China for seven years.  His compatriot, another retired professor, is a thespian and author.  And what a great sense of humour they have, as well as our guide and the retired commercial (v. BBC) TV director from Yorkshire; after a few drinks at dinner, we’re all in stitches. 

1http://www.petersommer.com/greece/tours/cruising-dodecanese/
2http://www.petersommer.com/expert-tour-guides/

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