Thursday, May 28, 2009

2nd port of Celebrity Cruises Mediterranean itinerary, 11-night-cruise

Today we went to Delos island and Mykonos, Greece. Mykonos was in all the tour books as this bustling hub, which was all the rage. But if you look at the tours offered by Celebrity Cruises, there wasn’t much available for this port, (there was exactly one available: the one we chose) so that kind of led me to believe there wasn’t much going on here.

So, without much competition, we did the historical guided tour of Delos. My first thought was that the tour would be drawn out and boring, ‘historical’…and mythological at that. It was going to be a bunch of ruins, a small little island, and four hours of walking. Four hours on this little island? Surely the tour guides were going to have to get pretty creative to fill up that time and earn their keep! About the birthplace of a greek god? Could it be considered historical if it was a myth?

…The background… (which you can research on your own since my knowledge is limited) is that Delos is famous for being the birthplace of Apollo, the god of light (however not necessarily the god of Sun, there is Helios for that, but the two are often crossed – this is why I suggest you research on your own if you are interested) and his twin sister Artemis, goddess of hunting, chastity, and childbirth. So what happened was that Zeus had an affair (surprise, surprise) with this mortal Leito, who was destined (was it destined or just predicted?) to give birth to gods. So the wife of Zeus was pretty annoyed at this (and quite jealous) so she banished Leito from having her kids anywhere in Greece. So Delos is where she went to give birth and was regarded as the birthplace of the two gods.

My thoughts: Do this excursion. In fact, do this exact excursion.

First of all, unless you are an archeologist or a voracious reader of Greek mythology and history, you will not get as much out of your experience on Delos unless you have a tour guide. They really paint a picture for you while you’re there. Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language by a ‘teach yourself’ book? Has it worked?

So, the tour guide walked us through the whole island basically, she started by showing us the difference between the shops and the houses and the mansions. Now, keep in mind its all ruins, so it’s not so obvious to the uninformed, untrained eye. If I were just walking this without a guide I would think “oh, great…more rubble. All of it looks the same, fantastic” but with the guide she was able to explain that the single rooms were shops, that the multi room structures were private homes. She told us they ascertained from artifacts left what kind of shop, there was a butcher’s block in one shop, then next door was a draining table possibly for fish market. There was a room with a three pedestals, as in for tables, so that is assumed to be a restaurant. A room with deep basins on the sides was most likely where they made fabric (you know, to dye it). These things I may never have picked up with my naked eye, and maybe I would have caught some of it if I had a book, but who knows, maybe I would have missed something. For example we were standing in the middle of the ‘market’ and our guide was able to explain to us that the whole place was the market, like a street fair or flea market, and that slaves were a huge part of the market. They know this because they have records denoting how old, how tall, how many teeth, for how much the slaves sold for. I happened to overhear a pair of ladies who were not part of a tour, standing no more than three feet away from us say “so, now, where is this market?” Now had they just had our guide, they would have known, they were standing right in it.

Maybe I just enjoy being a perpetual student, but I just relished the ‘living classroom’ of this excursion. Everything was so amazing, to think, how long ago they were able to accomplish such feats of building structures so large, creating statues with such precision? It is really amazing when we think of how advanced they were that many of their tricks are still used today (ex: the theatre, the sewage system, arches for building bridges and such).

So, without reliving the tour verbatim, let me just say this. While I thought Myknos was nice to see (the tour left us there to shop and buy souvenirs in on our way to the ship) it wasn’t much different to me than both the villages in Santorini (although far less pretty). This means that my favorite part of Greece so far, both yesterday and today, was the ruins on Delos, of which I was able to hear the stories of how past and present tie together.

In My Humble Opinion: this excursion is probably not for you if you have little kids that don’t walk (safely) by themselves yet. The roads are narrow and all made of stone, un-even, and I can only imagine what a rough time a parent would have with a child in a stroller. Even if the child is big enough to walk, if they’re not 100% completely sturdy, you will probably be paranoid they will trip over a stone (as the entire place is stones) and split open their knee. Also, this trip is not for you if you cannot part with your high heels. I kept reading ‘wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes’ and man, was that the best advice I got! The terrain was far from flat, and everything was uneven (as in stones are not flat like pavement)- even the boat ride over you needed to have sturdy footing because those boats were rockin’ as I tried to get to the ladies’ room! And my last tip: not just on Delos, but on the other Greek Islands as well: bring a jacket or sweater. I’m a person who is always cold, but it was so windy that it made the temperature always feel lower; even my always-hot husband felt the need for a jacket towards the end of today.

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