On board the Callisto – part 1
On Friday morning November 8, we checked out of the hotel in Athens and were transported to the National Archeology Museum – the largest museum in Greece. Each time we go to a new site, our guide Athena gives us an hour or so to explore after she discusses the things she considers to be the highlights. She knows a lot, not only about Greek history and mythology, but also about plants, birds, architecture, and in fact, virtually anything we ask her about. She was actually a substitute guide – the one that was originally scheduled for this tour had a family emergency three weeks ago, and Athena was called to replace her. She frequently explains that there’s a fine line between Greek mythology and history, and sometimes my head spins trying to remember everything she tells us. I learned some of the mythology during freshman year of high school, and Brooklyn College even had a required class in Classics, but that was a VERY long time ago! I even took an elective called Ancient Greek Science, but most of what was covered in that course also escapes me now.
It is quite astonishing to see all the artifacts from 15 or 16 centuries ago and it’s unfortunate that so much restoration needs to be done, but it’s good that it is happening. At the museum there was a temporary exhibit on beauty and art, and the video had some cool quotes – and even mathematics! There were references to the number PI – showing it written out with hundreds of digits, as well as a very cool equation: e to the iPI + 1 = 0. They also mentioned the golden ratio and showed the equation that yields it.
After a few hours at the museum, we had a huge lunch at a restaurant downtown, and eventually made our way to the boat, which was docked at the harbor. Our group of 31, plus the guide, fills every cabin. Our room is fine, with enough space for our stuff, and decent lighting. There’s a living room and dining room on the level just above us, and both seem very crowded since the seating consists of chairs that seem too large for the limited space. There are a lot of friendly crew members, and the food is excellent. The captain is on the ball, and informed us yesterday that he was changing the itinerary to encircle the Peloponnese in the reverse direction (from the original plan) due to the expected winds from the south. So the boat left Athens and headed directly to the Corinthian Canal. The boat was rocking and rolling right away, and we made the mistake of going down to our room to unpack. About one minute after I took a pill for motion sickness, I lost it and most of my lunch. Eventually the seas calmed down, and I went up on deck to look at the horizon as the sun set. We went through the canal, and then eventually ended up at Itea at 12:30 PM. I was fast asleep.
On Board the Callisto Part 2 - written by John
The ship docked in Itea in the middle of the night, and we had a peaceful night's sleep. The berths are nice and firm, exactly the way we like them. Lois & I can set the temperature in the cabin to suit us, so we are very comfortable. We got up at 6:30 AM so we could get to breakfast at 7 AM. That way, we could have a nice leisurely breakfast, and get to know our fellow passengers. By 8:30 AM, we were boarding our bus for a 30 minute ride to visit the site of the Oracle of Delphi, also called the Temple of Apollo. When Athena explained the oracles, it was obvious they were written very much like most religious texts. That is, you could interpret them any way you wanted. For example, when asked if they should attack the Persians, the Oracle declared, “A great army will be destroyed.” The Greeks thought the Oracle was referring to the Persian army, when in fact it was the Greek army that was destroyed. When a goddess asked if her baby would be a boy or a girl, the Oracle said, “A boy not a girl”. The goddess was pleased she would be having a boy. However when it turned out to be a girl, she went back to the Oracle to complain. The Oracle replied, “I said a boy not, a girl.” I can’t understand why they kept being consulted.
What is impressive is the quality of the statues and the buildings. Many of these things were done 300 - 500 years before the birth of Christ! For some reason, I get bored very quickly in museums. My attention span is about 30 minutes, but when we get outside to the actual site, then I can spend hours marveling at what was built. I also lose interest listening to all the Greek myths. I just keep thinking, who could believe those wild stories? The people who designed and built these temples were smart!
We were supposed to have the afternoon to explore the town, but the captain said the weather forecast called for strong south winds late in the evening, so he wanted to get to port before those winds came up, and so we set sail while we were eating lunch. We also changed the port where we were going to stop, so we could have a comfortable night’s sleep. It will just mean we have a slightly longer bus ride on Sunday to Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games. When the weather forces a change to the ship's itinerary, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes changing of buses, making different restaurant reservations, etc. that we don’t have to concern ourselves with.
Two of the people who clean our cabins are from the Ukraine, so this afternoon I had a nice chat with Alexandra about the current living conditions there. It seems pretty bleak. She said that when looking for an apartment she could live in while attending the university, the cheapest thing she could find was $250 a month. A teacher earns $300 a month, and her mother, who is a physician, earns $500 a month. It is no wonder people start looking around the world for a better place to live.