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Posts Tagged ‘Seas’

My beautiful family

My beautiful family

All good things must come to an end. When we left Crete, we were going to spend the last day of our cruise on open waters as we sailed back to Italy. The last day and half on the sea was a chance to wind down from the rapid pace tour we had just finished through five countries. I personally was ready for some down time.

I had taken the many pictures off my camera card and uploaded them to my laptop. It was fun going through them as each one brought back a different memory: The majestic sights of ancient civilizations, unfamiliar languages being spoken all around us, and delightful smells of the new and enticing foods we got to sample every day. Even the Mediterranean Sea wanted to leave us with a memory. There were storms that night, and in the darkness we could see flashes of lightening with distant rumbles of thunder. The water was a bit rough and it could be felt aboard the ship. It was nothing drastic, but there was a definite gentle rocking of the floating city that we were on. That next morning as I brushed my teeth, I would start out at the sink in my wheelchair and then slowly roll across the bathroom stopped only by the opposite wall. I kept brushing as the ship slowly rocked back the other way rolling me back to the sink. It was like the cartoons I remember as a kid of people trying to eat on a ship and the food would slide across the table each time they reached for it. Wendy and I found it quite amusing and fortunately neither of us are prone to sea sickness. Some in our group were not so lucky.

Our group had two final get-togethers nicely wrapping up the past 15 days. Wendy and I wandered around the ship enjoying the afforded pleasures one last time. That night was also our last formal night for dining. One of the couples sitting at our table was celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary and of course I had to put the dining crew on high alert. At the end of the meal they were serenaded by the staff from our section in English and Italian. They also got a special cake with a large candle to blow out. All of it made for great fun and a great memory.

When we docked in Italy, I had my private van waiting for me with the same driver that I had at the start of the cruise. It was nice to recognize someone. He drove us to the airport and made sure that all of our luggage and us were being assisted by an agent before he said goodbye. The agents at the airport were great and personally ushered us through customs so that we would not have any holdups. Our group started to disperse at this point since we were flying back to different destinations. I think there were about 10 from our group that was on the same plane.

We had a night flight back to the USA and I dozed off and on. I never sleep very well on planes but being very tired helped. After one layover in Philadelphia, we were bound for Greenville, SC. Kara and Ariel were there waiting for us with big smiles and hugs.

Without a doubt, this particular trip was one of the best that I have ever been on. But as we all learned from the Wizard Of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

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When we left Athens, we started the drive along the coast to the ancient city of Corinth. Before we got there, we stopped at a place to eat lunch that was right beside ofIMG_0610 the modern day Corinth Canal. Construction on the canal started in 1881 and was completed in 1893. It is four miles long and about 23 feet wide. Cut through solid stone and built at sea level, there are no locks involved. But because of the canal being so narrow, it serves very little purpose economically today and is mostly used by tourists with small boats. Even so, it is still impressive to see.

If you were to study the geography of Greece, it is easy to see why the ancient city of Corinth was such a strategic place for military and commercial reasons. Located on a narrow isthmus connecting northern and southern Greece, Corinth was the first century hub of Greek civilization. The narrow isthmus virtually provided southern Greece from any land invasion. A very small military regiment would be able to defend the land with little difficulty. And commercially, anyone traveling north, south, east or west would pass through Corinth with money to spend.

IMG_0602At the time of the Apostle Paul, first century AD, Corinth stretched the four mile distance across the isthmus. It would have been thronging with merchants, IMG_0605sailors, travelers and military. The central focus of Corinth, the Agora, was located near the Corinthian Acropolis which was close to 2000 ft. above sea level. This was the main thoroughfare to go from the Mediterranean Sea to the Aegean Sea, and Corinth took full advantage of that. The merchants shouting to the passing crowds to buy their goods, eating places with delightful smells enticing people to spend their coins, places to rest and spend the night, and many temples for the gods making their fortunes from the very old profession of prostitution. It is believed that the temple of Aphrodite had over 1000 temple prostitutes.

Because of an earthquake in 1858 which destroyed the city of Corinth, people rebuilt the present day city of Corinth about three miles away on the coast. This allowed unhindered excavation of ancient Corinth that has been going on since that time. One of the most imposing structures found was the temple of Apollo. Seven of the 35 original IMG_0607columns remain standing. And in the middle of all of this hustle and bustle, the Apostle Paul arrives to preach Christianity to the Corinthians. There was a large Jewish population in Corinth that did not like Paul’s message. They accused him before Gallio of breaking the law. The bema, that Paul would have stood on for his trial, has been found in the center of about 30 shops and businesses. Surrounded by unbelieving gentiles and Jewish people, Paul was prepared to defend himself and his message, but Gallio spoke before Paul could utter a word. He told the people that Paul had broken no laws and that they needed to deal with it themselves. So basically the case against Paul was thrown out of court. For those of you that might be interested, the account of this can be found in the Bible in Acts chapter 18.

While we were there in the middle of the excavations, looking around me, it was very easy to picture the entire scene of that time. I was asked to share a short devotional here which was very humbling. I say humbling because I had to ask myself “would I have had the courage of Paul, to stand so strongly for my beliefs, facing the opposition that he did?” I doubt it. Like many, I am content to live my faith in a very mediocre version. I certainly left Corinth with much to think about in my own life.

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IMG_0459Our first stop in Turkey was the ancient port city of Miletus. Visiting Miletus today certainly gives no indication that it was ever a port city. Over the centuries, the Maeander River has been depositing heavy silt, and the “port city” of Miletus is now 5 – 6 miles from the Aegean Sea. It was difficult to imagine that Miletus was once on a peninsula withIMG_0472 three major sea ports.

The focal point when driving in was the large and dominating Roman theater. Built in the 4th century BC, it was the second largest theater in Turkey with a seating capacity of 15,000. Still remarkably preserved, the larger part of our group was able to explore it uninhibited. And it was fun to watch all of them come pouring out of the “vomitoriums” (I just love that word!). Since the theater itself is not wheelchair accessible, I remained in front of it and was able to roll back and forth looking at all of the architectural wonders.

IMG_0462I want to mention something here that highly amused me but has absolutely nothing to do with Miletus or the theater – dogs. Most countries that I have visited always seem to have an abundance of stray cats. Miletus however had an abundance of stray dogs. Like the cats, they are homeless, skinny and I wanted to bring all of them home with me (Nasty look from Wendy). The amusing thing about theseIMG_0476 dogs was their behavior. For the most part they just sort of roamed around following our group hoping for a handout. They acted very “doggy” with slow wagging tails and their tongues hanging out. But they had one habit that made me snicker. They would be walking around with us, when without any warning they would just tip over and take a nap. And when I say “tip,” I mean it. At first I thought they must all have some medical condition to cause such strange behavior. I asked our guide and he just shrugged his shoulders, saying they all do it. It mattered not if they were under a tree, on a rock or in the middle of the road. Then some sound or smell would make them jump back up again until their next nap attack would strike. They actually reminded me a bit of myself!  Lol

We left Miletus and headed for Ephesus. The ruins of this ancient city were remarkable and it was very easy to see what a splendid city it must have been. We were looking at about 10% of the original city that has been excavated and that took approximately 140 years to accomplish. The main emphasis now is more on conservation and restoration of what has been unearthed rather than on further excavations.

IMG_0534The streets here are paved with very large stones that are worn smooth, cracked and some pretty rough going for wheelchairs. But my guide and bus driver were eager to help so I was able to move slowly along the streets and see everything. Once again the key is to have patience and take it slow. Three things here that I want to point out that have been excavated: the Celsus Library, the theater of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis.IMG_0520

The one that I enjoyed seeing the most was the Celsus Library. It looked exactly like the pictures in all of the history books but it was so amazing to actually sit in front of it and take IMG_0537it all in with its surroundings. Some of it had been restored, but much of the original was still intact. It gave off an aura that bespoke of splendor. Ephesus, which had an approximate population of 250,000 in the first century BC, was one of the largest and busiestIMG_0504 commercial port cities of its day. The library certainly gave testimony to that fact. We also saw the theater of Ephesus which once again dominated the entire area. It was the largest Roman theater which seated approximately 25,000 people. It was still in remarkable condition and restoration projects were in progress to maintain it. The Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was no longer much of a wonder. When the temple was built it had 127 columns that stood 60 ft high. Today, only one column has been partially resurrected to indicate where an ancient wonder once stood. I did include a model picture of what it would have looked like.

Miniaturk_009I end with a quote – “I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of ZeusIMG_0488 by the Alpheus, and hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.’”

Antipater, Greek Anthology (IX.58)

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fruitWhen we left the port of Haifa, the next day would be another full day at sea. Days at sea were nice because there was no set time to wake up. Wendy and I got ready for the day at a nice easy pace. We left our cabin and headed to the breakfast buffet. By now we had settled into a routine of where we enjoyed sitting best (a window seat) and the order of the things we ate. Once seated, the waiter would bring us a cup of steaming hot coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. I love the smell of coffee. Even if I didn’t drink coffee, I think I would want to smell it each morning to start my day off right. Then we would get a plate of fresh fruit: pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, bananas and strawberries. It was always fresh and delicious. Then Wendy would usually head to the hot cereal bar for a bowl of homemade oatmeal. I on the other hand would get some scrambled eggs, bacon and a sourdough roll. The waiter was always nearby to refill our coffee cups when he noticed they were getting low. After all of this, I would sometimes get myself a bowl of raisin bran cereal and Wendy would explore the endless assortments of new foods. We certainly never left hungry.

Since it was Sunday we planned on going to church. The ship had a beautiful chapel but our group had a conference room where we met together for services. It was a great time of fellowship and we even attracted some visitors along the way to join us.

Since we were at sea, all of the stores in the mall area were open for business. We enjoyed browsing the shops, sidewalk sales and listening to allmall the many languages being spoken around us. One of my favorite things to do in life is to buy gifts for Wendy. So I had fun seeing what would catch her eye and then go back later by myself to get it for her. I love surprises!

We would usually meet up with more people from our group and head to deck 11 for the lunch buffet. I’m sure that most (if not all) of you have been to buffets. I believe that I would have to have tried very hard to think of some food that was not available. Everything looked delicious, smelled delicious and was delicious. All of us seemed to try different items and then rave about it to the others. Of course that meant I had to then go try it also. I certainly am glad that I do not eat like that every day or I would have a serious weight problem! So many choices…so little time.

Mid afternoon we attended a lecture series of our next port of call. What we would see, why were going to see it and how it related to the Apostle Paul. This was also the time when our phenomenal EO representative would lay out the logistics for the next day. She was a champ and kept everything running smoothly.

deck 12Then the rest of the day and evening was ours. Wendy enjoyed going to deck 12 and walking with a couple of other ladies on the outdoor track or going to the workout center. This was when I would sneak back to the mall and start buying! Then I would go to the track and do a few laps around in my wheelchair. Deck 12 was always alive with people dining roomwalking, swimming, sitting in hot tubs and joining in the many activities available. This particular day, our group went and saw an Ice Capades show which was great fun. I also did my best to squeeze in an afternoon nap. Dozing off to the sound of the sea outside our balcony was wonderful.

ship1Our days at sea always ended with a formal dining experience in the grand dining room. So everyone would dress up and just have a lot of fun doing something out of the ordinary, or at least out of the ordinary for Wendy and me. We tend to be a lot more casual at home. We do have a formal dining room at home but it gets imagesCAWWXT1Edusted more often than used.

After dinner we would head back to our cabin and sit for a while on the balcony enjoying the moon shining over the water. Then Mr. Sandman would wind down our day as our eyes got heavy with sleep. We were eager for morning to come so that we could visit Turkey and see sites that we had only ever read about in history books.

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In the immortal words of Willie Nelson…”On the road again.”

There are many things in life that give the appearance of hindering anything a person attempts to do. This is not a new concept, but for people with disabilities, it does seem like the “curve balls” come faster and harder. Giving in, or quitting, to the trial often seems like the only course of action to be taken. And then we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel (praying it is not an oncoming train) and press forward. So that being said, let the journey continue.

IMG_0408Leaving the port of Ashdod behind us, we sailed our way northward to the port of Haifa. The city of Haifa slopes upIMG_0411 steeply from the coastline to the top of a small mountain. The view from the ship was beautiful as we were docking at 7:00 AM. Haifa is located in northern Israel and from here we would be touring many sites in the Galilee region: Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Church of the Primacy, Church of Loaves and Fishes, Capernaum, and a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

I had visited all of these places on my last trip to Israel, and despite my memory of some IMG_0412IMG_0417accessible challenges ahead, I was eager to see them again. Of all the places to visit in Israel, the beautiful region around the Sea of Galilee is probably my favorite. From the sloping hills of the Mt. of Beatitudes, to the steep Arbel Cliffs, the area isIMG_0423 filled with biblical history. The churches have a peaceful simplicity to them that welcomes a person to slow down and reflect. Our guide was wonderful, and made sure that each place we visited we saw and heard about it in great detail. She was completely at ease with me being in a wheelchair and anything that I wanted to attempt she was eager to make it happen for me.

The two sites here that I am going to focus on are Capernaum and our boat ride. The ancient city of Capernaum is amazing to say the least. Excavations here are remarkable including the remains of a synagogue dating back to the Byzantine period. Because IMG_1227IMG_1239Jewish culture demanded that the ground where a synagogue would be built had to be sanctified, it would be marked as holy ground. Rather than going through this process again, any new synagogues would be built on top of the older ones. So the remains of the fourth century white synagogue that we were able to be in is built on top of the first century IMG_0434synagogue that Jesus would have taught in. Just outside the steps of the synagogue there is an excavated site of the first century village. The homes were communal in fashion with larger central rooms for cooking and family gatherings in open courtyards. As the family grew, rooms were added to the central home for expansion. We also saw the site of what is believed to be St. Peter’s home. There is much biblical evidence, and physical inscriptions that have been excavated, for proof of its location. This park area is owned and maintained by Franciscan Monks, and once again, offers the tourist a place of peace and quiet to walk (or roll) around the grounds soaking up the serenity.

IMG_0448When we left Capernaum we headed to Nof Ginnosaur where we would get on a fishing boat for our ride on the Sea of IMG_0452Galilee. The last time I was here, getting from land to the boat proved to be a very accessible challenge. I was absolutely amazed this time! The dock area had been completely reconstructed with a smooth ramped surface taking me right to the boat. Last time I had to have men lifting me up and down stairs and slippery ramps to get me to the boat. This time I had complete independence and rolled my way along with no problems at all. When I got to the boat, three men lifted me and my wheelchair from the dock and set me in the boat. The entire transition was seamless and without fault. Once on the boat we headed out onto the waters as the crew played the US National Anthem and then the Jewish IMG_0794National Anthem. Once we were out quite a ways, the motors were cut off and silence and calm surrounded us. Our guide pointed out all of the many locations around the sea and then the party started!  Lol They played traditional Jewish folk music for us and taught anyone willing how to dance. The boat rang with music, dance, laughter and many good friends. Needless to say it was a wonderful time and I hated to have it end. But like all good things, end it must.

Once back on shore, our bus driver was waiting for us. He drove us back to the port of Haifa where we boarded our ship at a rather late hour. But there is 24 hour food available and wow, were we hungry! The smells coming from the buffet tempted our senses and we ended our day with a tremendous meal and many great memories.

As Wendy and I went to bed that night we felt the movement of the ship as we left Haifa and headed for the port of Kusadasi, Turkey.

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As we left Egypt and headed for Israel, all of us were eager to arrive, even though the news of Hamas militants firing rockets into southern Israel was being watched on the news. Our port of call, Ashdod, is just north of Gaza, so the cruise line and our tour group were paying close attention to everything concerning safety. Everyone was assured we would be secure, and having been to Israel before, I was eager to return to see our friends, beauty and history once again. The purpose of my blog posts is to discuss disability issues and to encourage disabled people to get out and live life. However, because of what is happening in Israel right now as I am typing this (Hamas militant terrorists set off a bus explosion in Tel Aviv) I am going on a brief rabbit trail to express my personal opinion against terrorism and support for Israel. For those of you who know me, I am a Christian, and I firmly believe that Israel as a nation has the right to exist and protect itself.

And now on to Ashdod. When we docked in port, we were met by our guide and driver like always. We drove to Old Joppa, toured the city for a bit, and then met the rest of our group for a wonderful outdoor lunch. The many and varied foods were delicious, but I think one of my favorites is always the warm pita bread and hummus. One thing to mention about rolling around in a wheelchair at the ancients sites – go slow. Most places are ramped or level but are not what I would call smooth. Cobble stones that are 2000 years old tend to be a little on the bumpy side. But taking things slow and easy make it very doable. And let me add here that other people in our group were eager to assist me wherever they could. So anytime something looked like it might prove difficult to maneuver, I had a friend helping me before I could even ask. If I worried about always being on flat smooth surfaces, I would never leave home! And who wants to live a life like that?

After lunch we drove to Caesarea. We visited the ancient portion of the city that has been excavated and is filled with many artifacts. Caesarea was built by Herod the Great as a port city about 22 – 10 BC. Herod the Great built this man-made harbor out of jealousy over the natural harbors in Egypt. He wanted something to rival other sea ports and give him excellent connections to all parts of the Mediterranean world. We saw ancient ruins of the port, public buildings, a theater, an amphitheater, hippodrome, two aqueducts, a colonnaded street and a temple dedicated to Caesar. The theater here seats about 4,000 people and is the first thing you see when entering the archaeological park. Looking out to sea, the hippodrome is on the right. It was fun to look at it and imagine chariot races like most of us are familiar with in Ben Hur.  The disciple Peter preached here and this is where the apostle Paul was in prison for two years.

When we left Caesarea we drove to the Moshav (village) Yad Hashmona. It is located in the Judean Hills just a few miles west of Jerusalem. The scenery here is beautiful and even has a view of the Mediterranean coastline. Here we were taken on a tour through the Biblical Gardens. This was like stepping back into biblical times and seeing many aspects of that life including an open air synagogue, watch tower, olive press, grape press, threshing floor, burial cave, a Mikveh (ritual bath) and many varieties of fruit trees and beautiful flowers. Here Wendy and I also got to reunite with some very dear friends from our last visit to Israel.

When we left here we drove back to the docks for a late dinner aboard our ship. After a long day of touring we were eager to get to bed. Jerusalem was our destination in the morning.

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I am quite certain that all of you have been invited over to a friend’s home for a “fun-filled” evening of listening to endless stories about their family vacation. Garnished with numerous pictures of places that you care very little about, and stories that make you wish your hearing was anything but perfect, you stifle your yawns and pretend to be interested. I must admit that I am feeling like that boring host. Being somewhere in person, seeing the sites, smelling the new smells and tasting the new foods is a wonderful thing – relaying those feelings of awe to others is a totally different thing.

But…a friend of mine, a very famous author in her own right, wrote something once to all aspiring authors: Be prepared to be lonely…the world is not waiting with baited breath to read anything that you have written.

For me, writing is a release. I way of expressing myself in a world that often times I am the only inhabitant. So as I continue telling you about my journey, I hope that you see and feel a touch of the wonder and fascination that I saw and experienced. So continue to join me on my journey as we visit Alexandria, Egypt.

Wendy and I started our morning early on deck five with a steaming hot cup of coffee and a wonderful blueberry muffin. When the gangway was let down, we were eager to get started on our last day in Egypt. Today’s itinerary included Egypt’s Ancient Lighthouse, Library, and King Farouk’s palace. We met our guide and bus driver at 7:00 AM and started off for our tour around Alexandria.

Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC and is the second largest city in Egypt. After the death of Alexander the Great, his general, Ptolemy I, became the ruler of Egypt and continued Alexander the Greats’ dream by creating two significant harbors. This is the location of one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the Egyptian Lighthouse, unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake. Stone blocks from the lighthouse have been used over the years in construction of other buildings, very similar to what we saw of ancient sites in Italy.

We also saw the area where the ancient city of Herakleion (named for Hercules) is located. Also destroyed by an earthquake and sunk into the sea. If I understand correctly, there are some tentative plans to turn the ancient harbor into a museum of sorts which would be fascinating to see. We enjoyed the sea here watching fishermen fish in the ancient harbor, as some very content cats patiently waited nearby for their share of the daily catch.

Another place we visited was the old palace of King Farouk, whose reign was ended with the revolution of 1952. The buildings and grounds were magnificent as we drove slowly through the winding roads. Controlled now by the Egyptian army, permission is granted for visits and the palace is sometimes used as a hotel for foreign dignitaries.

Our guide got me out of the van and pushed me around the grounds so that Wendy and I could get a better feel of the beauty. It certainly was a place of beauty but also filled with many interesting stories. We learned there was a nearby palace for King Farouk’s wife. The purpose for this was so the king could entertain “ladies” as he chose. Times and seasons may change, but man’s heart certainly does not.

The Egyptian Library was incredible. Completely designed to capture natural light and have perfect acoustics, the building is an architectural design of beauty. The university is across the street and the students have access to millions of pieces of literature and artifacts that are now digitally available. The Library is constantly adding more to its database and is available for the world to use at no cost. Their web site is www.bibalex.org I hope that you take advantage of this and do some exploring of the ancient world via the web. It will be almost like you are there.

After leaving the library we headed back to the ship for a late lunch. We pulled away from the docks at 7:00 PM. Wendy and I were on our balcony as we saw Egypt disappear into the distance. We sailed back out into the Mediterranean for our next port of call at Ashdod, Israel.

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