July 9, 2015 Istanbul, the meeting place of West and East containing a whole new world inside it. Can you imagine being able to visit these places and feel the history? Feel the pulse of this part of the country? The history enriched with the mix of old and new all have their own attractions, not any other place can be so rich to start my journey with my son Michael (21) and we reached this beautiful destination on June 10th. We visited the exotic and soothing Turkish spa to refresh our tired souls to get the energy to explore this amazing place. We explored Istanbul June 10th – 16th.
From Istanbul we embarked on 17th June to visit Cappadocia to view the fantastic honeycombed hills. The place is called an amazing wonderland situated right in the middle of Turkey. We tested our hiking potential and saw the open-air museums while encountering the best of the underground cities.
After this we return to Istanbul on 20th June in order to board the Star Clipper Sail Boat to embark on the most amazing sailing ship we have ever been on. We boarded the boat and were so pleased with the beauty of this ship. Our stateroom was perfect with a window to see out to the sea. We will be on this luxury sailing vessel from June 20th – July 8th 19 day cruise. Our first stop was Canakkale, Turkey. Our first experience of the sails going up brought tears to our eyes. They played classical music and the wind caught the sails and we were under way to our first of many destinations. Our first dinner on board ship was delicious.
We reached Canakkale after a smooth sail on 21st June and I thought the Michael would enjoy going off with ole guys that had war stories to tell. He was ecstatic to be going with these history buffs. He was the youngest on board and they took him along like a child going to Disneyland. The ancient history of Troy and to hear about the ghosts of Gallipoli was a perfect tour for Michael to go on. They viewed the launching point of the heroes for the battles and wars they roamed the whole day to encounter the locations and the beauty inherited in them.
Time to see the island of Greece. On Monday 22nd June we arrived at Myrina situated on the west side of the Limnos Island rich with old-fashioned shops creating a relaxed old world charm soothing for the eyes. We tried different traditional foods and purchased handicrafts for having a story stay with us forever.
June 23rd we sailed to Ouranoupolis, a place where nature is in harmony along with its culture. Before the trip Michael and I decided to visit the lesser known places of every location in order to make sure we have the moments from the places other than the renowned ones. The landmark of the village is the fortified Byzantine watch tower which nests on the rocks of the seashore. Ouranoupolis has not been affected by mass tourism it was a slow sea side community. After a calm day in Ouranoupolis we visited to Skiathos on 24th June, the Greek island getting our hands on the water sports also to do some swimming and snorkeling. Skiathos is a pretty harbor filled with graceful yachts and its narrow streets and waterfront are crowed with trendy boutiques, bars and restaurants. In and around the walled town of Skiathos are many monasteries dating from the 17th to the 19th century.
Now from one island to another on 25th June we were at Skopelos to encounter the marvelous greenery present on the island. Skopelos is the largest of the Sporades island and the capital of the archipelago. Its wealth is derived from fine local produced wine. We checked the exotic foods of the place which were delicious and we had Greek beer and pastries as we watched the people of this beautiful island go about its daily life. The cobblestone streets were so nice to see and the shops were not your typical tourist places but local artists and handmade gifts.
I always wanted to see the houses built and situated on waterfronts, Poros had just what I wanted. We walked the city and enjoyed the community vibe it had. The town of Poros is built in the shape of an amphitheatre over two hills. Lush pine trees vegetation, crystal clear beaches, a lively waterfront adorned with shops, cozy cafes and restaurants, a picturesque capital (it has been declared a protected settlement) with grand traditional mansions and picturesque cobbled streets, as well as a wide selection of entertainment venues are the ingredients of this quiet, yet cosmopolitan town. Poros had beautiful beaches and the water was green and blue.
Visiting Greece, you cannot miss Piraeus, the main ferry hub and port of the country. The city was in a major financial crises at the time and we were hoping to not be a part of the demonstrations. We arrived 27th June and saw the magnificent statue of Apollo along with Hellenic Maritime Museum. We were here to visit Athens and we were so fortunate that it was not hot and the day had a nice breeze. We hiked up the hill to the most famous acropolis of the ancient world, The Acropolis of Athens and one cannot miss the over the top The Acropolis Museum warehousing the artifacts of ancient Greece. Back to the boat in the evening. We loved this ship.
As Greece is worldly renowned for its beaches, one can’t miss Mykonos. On 28th June Sunday we were on the island and were smitten with the beauty of the place, as decided earlier, we would travel to the other side to go to the famous beaches. They were beautiful. We took the public transportation which was cheap and so efficient. The town of Mykonos was white on white and the waterfront was gorgeous. I will later find out that this was my favorite island. We really enjoyed this town. We ate a fabulous Italian restaurant and then walked to photograph the windmills of Mykonos. When we were waiting for the tender Michael and I noticed that there was a lot of sea glass on the beach and we picked up specimen pieces. I wonder what I will make?
Santorini was next on our list. June 29th. Can you just imagine sailing into the caldun of Santorini. We were not able to anchor because it was so deep. Approaching the island under full sail is boat the immediate impression obtained is this is a Greek island unlike any other. The island of Santorini was formed out of the lava from the volcanic eruption in 1660 BC. The central part of the volcano sank into the sea leading to the emergence of Santorini itself and the tiny neighboring islands of Thirasia, Palaia and Nea Kameni close by. We went to cafés and bars in order to make the visit spectacular. Today, Santorini is the only inhabited Caldera (volcano cauldron) in the world. Unlike other islands in Greece, the towns and villages sit densely on top of the massive cliffs of the Caldera and from a distance appear like snow capping the towering mountain tops. The colored strata of the volcanic rock of these cliffs are spectacular in themselves: chocolate brown, rust red, yellow ochre, white and cream. The geological uniqueness however is not the only thing that makes Santorini a special destination. But I must say I was not impressed. I was surprised that the cliffs were not covered in white topped houses it was only the top of the hill. I prefer Mykonos.
Leaving Santorini on 30th June we were at sea to view marvelous small islands and the soothing atmosphere. The best thing in the sea was viewing the group of dolphins that were swimming around our boat. Now we sailed to our next destination Katakolon reaching there on 1st July, there are not many differences between other ports and in Katakolon but the main thing making it unique is the scenic seaside and the existence of the monuments reminding of the ancient Olympia. The place consisted a lot of things, transporting back to a thousand years visualizing the Ancient Olympic Games to occur in front of us.
Heading to Corfu on 2nd July we didn’t know more than a little about the place, but we were excited to see it. Michael and I were charmed by the Venetian look of the city reminding us very much of towns present in Italy and Europe. Corfu Greece is among the most beautiful and popular islands of the country. Due to its strong historical connection with Europe, this was among the first Greek islands to open to tourism. Located on the north western side of the country, Corfu island has a trendy cosmopolitan feeling combined with a special traditional character. The beaches were beautiful.
Kotor, Montenegro was the next place we headed to leaving Corfu we arrived the bay on Friday 3rd July as the place is recognized for its dramatically beautiful landscapes we were lost for a few seconds seeing them. We roamed the place and marveled at the medieval architecture along with various monuments present here. Due to its extraordinary natural beauty and rare unique cultural values, the Bay of Kotor has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
We were at Dubrovnik, Croatia on 4th July, which is recognized for its old town set-up and massive walls made up of stone providing an overall 16th century. Michael was invited to enjoy a 4th of July to see the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra play. We explored the city and really enjoyed this county. The city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nature lovers can find here a true Mediterranean landscape, sailors will find pristine marinas and the blue sea. Tourists will love the shopes and the food.
Island to Island now we embarked for Korcula, Croatia reaching there on Sunday 5th July to get to see the abundant place of vineyards, olive groves along with a glorious old town. An old ship building city.
On 6th July Michael and I reached to Hvar, Croatia to encounter the Gothic ornamented palaces and marble streets free from traffic. We visited the several restaurants to experience the local food along with putting our taste buds on a little adventure. This place has a mild climate, good beaches and fragrant lavender fields make Hvar, Croatia one of the most visited places on the Dalmatian coast. It also has one of the oldest theaters in Europe.
Now we headed to Mali Losinj and reached it on 7th July for watching the surrounding green hills and relaxing in the healthy air of the place. Michael and I hiked up the hill and encountered the sootiness of the pine forests surrounding us and blanketing the beaches as a cover. It was a beautiful quiet island.
On 8th July, we got up early to sail into the magical world of Venice, Italy. 19 days ago we started our journey. I will never forget my new friends and most of the places we explored. This is the last destination of our journey and yesterday was the last time to hear the wind fill the sails. When we left the ship we knew we would be back. But where shall we sail. The Star Clipper ships are beautiful well maintained and the food delicious. I hope that you too will enjoy this ship one day.
Venice, Italy. A day is not sufficient to explore a city like Venice so we decide to stay a day more for enjoying the exotic nature of the city. We walked and dined like a true tourist. We shopped like we have never shopped and we went to every nearby island by the wood hulled classy boats of Venice. Time to say goodbye to my son my friend and excellent navigator.