21-22 November 2014
 Funchal, Madeira: Now on Vacation

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We have arrived at the green and lush island of Madeira, about 1,000 kilometers or 625 miles west of the coast of Portugal. It’s a great place to visit, but for many guests it’s time to hitch a ride home.

Here are some photos from recent visits I have made to Madeira.

A MADEIRA ALBUM

FUNCHAL MADEIRA 26-27Mar2014 _DSC9888 FUNCHAL MADEIRA 26-27Mar2014 _DSC9896 FUNCHAL MADEIRA 26-27Mar2014 _DSC9879 FUNCHAL MADEIRA 26-27Mar2014 _DSC9869 FUNCHAL MADEIRA 26-27Mar2014 _DSC9847 FUNCHAL MADEIRA 26-27Mar2014 _DSC9843

All photos by Corey Sandler.

We’ve been onboard the lovely Silver Cloud cruise ship for two months and it’s time for vacation. I’ll be back onboard with Silversea in January, headed from the Caribbean to Devil’s Island and then up the Amazon River to Manaus and back; you can keep track of my schedule at

http://www.silversea.com/life-onboard/enrichment/destination-consultants/?staff=6417

Until we meet again, safe travels.

BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9358

All photos copyright Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me. 

 

 

 

 

19 November 2014
 Málaga, Spain: In Sweet Repose

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Málaga is the capital of the Costa del Sol, the Sun Coast, its very name brings to mind sweet repose, and sweet wine.

Both are conducive, I suppose, to great art, and it was here that Pablo Picasso was born and it is here that members of his family contributed pieces—some well-known and others quite obscure—to a small but rich museum.

MALAGA AND THE ALCAZABA

Above the bullring in Malaga is the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortification from the 8th to the 11th century. Alcazaba comes from the Arabic al-qasbah, meaning the citadel, and this is the best-preserved example in Spain.

RONDA

About an hour west of Málaga in the inland hills is Ronda. Ronda was first settled by the early Celts, but what you see today is the result of later Roman and Moorish rulers. Catholic Spain took control of the town in 1485, during the Reconquista.

Ronda is in a very mountainous area about 2,500 feet above sea level (750 meters) (2,500 feet). The Guadalevín River bisects the city with the steep El Tajo gorge.

Three bridges cross El Tajo: the Roman, the Old, and the New. All of them are old.The Puente Romano (the Roman Bridge, also known as the Puente San Miguel), dates from Roman times at least one thousand years ago. The Puente Viejo (“Old Bridge”, also known as the Puente Arabe or “Arab Bridge”) is a mere four centuries old, built in 1616.

The Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) was begun in 1751 and took until 1793 to complete. This is the tallest of the bridges, towering 390 feet or 120 meters above the canyon floor. There is a chamber beneath the central arch that was used as a prison. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939, both sides were alleged to have used the chamber to torture prisoners, killing some by throwing them to the rocks below.

Another important site in Ronda is the 1784 Plaza de toros de Ronda, the oldest bullfighting ring still in use in Spain. The partially intact baños árabes (“Arab baths”) below the city date from the 13th and 14th centuries.

Ernest Hemingway spent many summers in Ronda’s old town quarter, La Ciudad. Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls describes the murder of Nationalist sympathizers early in the Spanish Civil War.

Another frequent visitor was actor and director Orson Welles. About Ronda, Welles said, “A man is not from where he is born, but where he chooses to die.” Welles’ ashes were scattered in the Ronda bull-ring in 1985.

A MALAGA and GRANADA ALBUM. Photos by Corey Sandler

MALAGA 01April2014 _DSC0028 MALAGA 01April2014 _DSC0022

Downtown Malaga, fronted by the cruise terminal. Photos by Corey Sandler

Alcazaba1 Malaga2

The Alcazaba of Malaga. Photos by Corey Sandler

Malaga Cathedral1

Inside the Malaga Cathedral. Photos by Corey Sandler

Granada1 Granada3 Granada2 Granada4

Some of the glories of Granada. Photos by Corey Sandler

Ronda4 Ronda5 Ronda3 Ronda1

The bullring, the gorge, and a palacio in Ronda. Photos by Corey Sandler

GRANADA

One of Spain’s most spectacular and famous cities is Granada, just under two hours to the northeast of Malaga. Granada sits at the base of Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers.

The city has been inhabited for thousands of years. The original settlers were perhaps Ibero-Celtics. Then came Phoenicians, Carthagenians, and Greeks. By the 5th century BC, the Greeks had established a colony they called Elybirge.

The heraldic symbol of Granada is the pomegranate: Granada in Spanish. A Jewish community was established outside of the city, called “Gárnata al-yahud” (Granada of the Jews). In 711, the Jewish community worked with Moorish forces to take the city, which became known as Ilbira or Elvira.

The city became the capital of a province of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The city was mostly destroyed in war in 1010. When it was rebuilt the Gárnata was incorporated into the city, and from that we have the modern name of Granada.

In January 1492, the last Muslim sultan in Iberia surrendered control of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos (“The Catholic Monarchs”.)

The Alhambra, Arabic for “the red one”, or the red fortress, was built in the mid-14th century. It originally was the residence of the Muslim rulers of Granada and their court. With the reconquest by the Spaniards, it became a Christian palace.

Within the Alhambra, a new palace was erected in 1527 by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. After falling into disrepair, the Alhambra was “rediscovered” in the 19th century. It is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.

It exhibits the country’s most famous Islamic architecture, together with Christian 16th-century and later improvements. Like a house that has been built, rebuilt, and expanded dozens of times over centuries, the Alhambra is a bit of an architectural mess.

That’s actually one of its charms

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

————————————————————————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

 

18 November 2014
 Cartagena, Spain

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Cartagena is on the Costa Cálida, the Warm Coast of Spain’s Murcia region.

This is one of Spain’s more historically significant places because of its superb and easily defended naval port. As far back as the 16th century Cartagena was one of Spain’s most important naval ports; it still is one of the homes of the Spanish navy, including a contingent of minesweepers and submarines.

The original settlement was called Mastia. About 227 BC, Hasdrubal the Fair established a town at the great harbor. He called the place Qart Hadasht, “New City”: The same name as where he had come from: Carthage, across the water in what is now Tunisia.

Hasdrubal used the port as launching point for the conquest of Spain.

Roman general Scipio Africanus conquered it in 209 BC and renamed it as Carthago Nova, which—a bit confusingly—means “New, New City.” At least that helped distinguish it from Carthage.

The Romans, from Julius Caesar to Octavian and beyond used Carthago in their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. In 298 Diocletian constituted a new Roman province in Hispania called Carthaginensis and placed the capital in this city, a role it would hold for more than seven centuries until it was destroyed by the Vandals in 435.

When the first wave of Islamic tribes came to Hispania—the Umayyad invasion—the port was one of the landing places they used, along with Gibraltar.

Today Cartagena is a handsome coastal city,  holding within a section of ancient Punic or Phoenician wall, a Roman amphitheater (only rediscovered on 2000), Moorish fortifications,  16th century Christian sites including churches and crypts, and a beautiful downtown lined with Modernist or art nouveau buildings.

Here are some photos from my visit today.

A CARTAGENA ALBUM

BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9334 BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9336

BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9346  BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9326

BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9323

BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9309 BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9311

BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9321  BLOG Cartagena Spain 18Nov2014-9350

MURCIA and FUENSANTE

About 50 kilometers or 35 miles north of Cartagena in the interior is the town of Murcia, the provincial capital and university town, a much larger city of 440,000.

Murcia has a similar back-story to Cartagena, a mix of Roman, Moorish, and Spanish cultures.

Just outside of Murcia is the Monastery of the Virgin of Fuensanta, the patroness of Murcia.

In Murcia itself is the exquisite 19th century Murcia Casino, with an exterior inspired by the Alhambra in Granada; inside it is more like a British gentleman’s club, a place to socialize and play billiards.

A MURCIA ALBUM. Photos by Corey Sandler

MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0155 MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0133 MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0170 MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0172

The Murcia Cathedral. Photos by Corey Sandler

MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0119 MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0135

Monastery of the Virgin of Fuensanta. Photos by Corey Sandler

MURCIA 03April2014 _DSC0181 MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0182 MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0202 MURCIA 03April2014_DSC0187

Within the exquisite Murcia Casino. Photos by Corey Sandler

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

 

16 November 2014
 La Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Tunisia needs a better public relations agency.

It’s not a country that has been high up on many people’s list of must-see, historically and culturally important places on the planet.

For most of its existence—and we’re talking here about the past two or three thousand years—it has been a backwater, a relatively small and powerless piece of real estate.

Except when it hasn’t.

Except when it was the birthplace of Hannibal and the great Carthaginian Empire.

Except when it was one of the principal crossing points for the Islamic invasion of Europe, with wave upon wave of Moors coming from the Middle East.

Except when it played an important role in some pivotal action in World War II.

And except for 2011, when it was the first domino to fall in the Arab Spring, a seemingly unlikely place to overthrow a repressive dictator and set off a rolling earthquake in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

And even today, it is in some ways teetering on a razor’s edge as it attempts to build a stable democracy at home at the same time as it nervously worries about the possibility of radical Islamists coming back home to Tunisia from Syria or Iraq.

Tunisia is at the center of the Arab Maghreb—the Arabic word for the “place where the sun sets”—the western extension of the Moorish wave that swept out of the Middle East into Africa.

From Morocco, hordes crossed the narrow Mediterranean into Europe to occupy Spain, Portugal, and parts of France.

Tunisia is in many ways a straddle, a keystone at the top of Africa.

With about 98 percent of its population Muslim, it has strong links to the Arab League and Arab nations. It also participates in the African Union.

And then there are relations with the European Union and in particular France, and—in recent decades—a mostly strong relationship with the United States.

On this visit, I went with a group to the Cap Bon peninsula, a part of Tunisia not often visited by tourists. It includes the northernmost finger of land in all of Africa as well as the ancient Phoenician ruins of Kerkouane. Here are some photos I took:

CAP BON, TUNISIA

BLOG Tunisia Cap Bon 16Nov2014-9281 BLOG Tunisia Cap Bon 16Nov2014-9283 BLOG Tunisia Cap Bon 16Nov2014-9292 BLOG Tunisia Cap Bon 16Nov2014-9299

And here are some more photos from previous visits.

A TUNISIA ALBUM. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tunisia2 Tunisia

Roses des Sables

Les Roses des Sables. Sand roses from the desert

Carthage1 Carthage2

Ancient Carthage

Musee Nationale Carthage1 Musee Nationale Carthage2

Museé Nationale de Carthage

Sidi Bou Said3 Sidi Bou Said2 Sidi Bou Said1

 Sidi bou Said

Musee National Bardo2 Musee National Bardo1

The Bardo Museum, Tunis

Great Mosque Kairouan1 Great Mosque Kairouan2

The Great Mosque of Kairouan

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you’d like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me

———————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

 

15 November 2014
 Valletta, Malta: Castles in the Sea

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

At the considerable risk of jinxing a remarkable run of good weather, we returned to the wondrous island nation of Malta today for a reprise of summer.

Here are some photos I took today in the late November sun.

BLOG Malta 15Nov2014-9222 BLOG Malta 15Nov2014-9225

Sailing into Valletta, Malta in the early morning.

BLOG Malta 15Nov2014-9231 BLOG Malta 15Nov2014-9245

Our ship, Silver Cloud, at the dock. And a street scene in Valletta.

BLOG Malta 15Nov2014-9241 BLOG Malta 15Nov2014-9234

The spectacular Co-Cathedral of Saint John in Valletta, with a detail from the amazing frescoes by Italian artist Mattia Preti. Figures seem to lean out from the corners toward we mere mortals below.

For more about Malta, see my earlier Blog post of October 7, 2014 by clicking below.

http://blog.sandlerbooks.com/2014/10/08/7-october-2014-valletta-malta/

All photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image please contact me.

 

 

 

14 November 2014
 Trapani and Erice: Salt of the Earth

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises 

We returned to Trapani on the island of Sicily, and our reception could not have been warmer.

In mid-November, with winter around the corner,  we enjoyed a superb summer-like day along the sea and up in the mountains.

On this visit,  I went with a group of guests up the mountain to Erice, starting at the sea salt pans in the harbor and then climbing the switchback road up the hill.

Some photos follow.  For more about Trapani,  see my blog entry from October 6, 2014.

A TRAPANI AND ERICE ALBUM 

BLOG Trapani Erice 14Nov2014-9166

Erice above Trapani

BLOG Trapani Erice 14Nov2014-9190 BLOG Trapani Erice 14Nov2014-9177 BLOG Trapani Erice 14Nov2014-9184

The salt pans of Trapani

BLOG Trapani Erice 14Nov2014-9214

Looking down from Erice at Trapani

BLOG Trapani Erice 14Nov2014-9194 BLOG Trapani Erice 14Nov2014-9195

The Cathedral at Erice

All photos copyright Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image please contact me. 

 

13 November 2014
 Naples, Italy: Beneath the Mountain

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises 

We are back in Naples,  our last visit of the season to Campania. Silver Cloud is heading now for Sicily,  Malta,  Tunisia,  the south coas of Spain and on to Madeira before crossing the pond to the Caribbean and South America for the winter.

Many guests headed off to Pompeii or the on enchanting isle of Capri.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that,  but we’ve done that and more many many times.

See some recent blog posts: 11 November 2014 and 4-5 October 2014 for photos and stories.

Instead,  on today’s visit we choose to go underground: to two of the ancient catacombs below Naples.

Up on the hill of Capodimonte above Naples are the Catacombs of San Gennaro and nearby in the working class district of Sanita are the Catacomb of San Gaudioso.

BLOG Naples Catacombs 13Nov2014-9122 BLOG Naples Catacombs 13Nov2014-9160

BLOG Naples Catacombs 13Nov2014-9159 BLOG Naples Catacombs 13Nov2014-9149

BLOG Naples Catacombs 13Nov2014-9145 BLOG Naples Catacombs 13Nov2014-9110

BLOG Naples Catacombs 13Nov2014-9105

Photos by Corey Sandler 

Unlike the Catacombs of Rome,  these underground cities were not built as refuges for really Christians hiding from persecution.  Instead, here in Naples,  the catacombs are remnants of ancient burial cults.

Some date back several hundred years before the Christian era. The two we visited include some ancient chambers as well as Roman and Christian tombs.

The catacombs on Capodimonte have only been reopened to the public since 2009; they were cleaned and lit by a cooperative established by local students and parishioners. This year they expect to receive about 50,000 visitors. Today, there were eight of us–and the former tombs of perhaps three thousand former residents.

At San Gaudioso,  the 3rd century Christiana had elaborate routes that including doing of bodies,  separation of the head from the test of the body and the veneration and display of the skulls on a special chamber.

I almost joined the display myself: I clanged my head on a low hanging beam. I left the catacombs with an indelible memory and a temporary lump on my forehead.

All photos copyright Corey Sandler.  All rights reserved.  If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me. 

———————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

 

12 November 2014
 Out of the Mediterranean from Civitavecchia

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We begin now a journey from Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, toward the Pillars of Hercules between Africa and Europe and beyond.

Welcome aboard to new guests.

We have ahead of us the glories of Naples, Sorrento, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, and so much more. Then down to Trapani on ever-fascinating Sicily, and on to Valletta on timeless Malta.

We continue moving outward bound with a scheduled port call at La Goulette, the port of Tunis in Tunisia in North Africa. And then we hop back to Europe for resplendent Cartagena and Malaga in Spain.

This cruise will conclude at the lush island of Madeira, an offshore island of Portugal. Here’s the plan:

1434

A ROMAN HOLIDAY

ROME VATICAN 10April2014 _DSC0518 ROME VATICAN 10April2014 _DSC0491 ROME VATICAN 10April2014 _DSC0480 ROME VATICAN 10April2014 _DSC0469 ROME VATICAN 10April2014 _DSC0446 ROME VATICAN 10April2014 _DSC0426

All photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

 

11 November 2014
 Naples, Italy. Calm Before the Storm

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived this morning in Naples,  Italy. That had not been the original plan,  but weather conditions at Sorrento–where we were supposed to lie at anchor for the day–were threatening and the captain made the decision to head for the surety of the cruise terminal at Naples.

The city is at the north end of the Bay of Naples. From here the wonders of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Sorrento,  and Capri are reachable by various means.

And just off our ship is the chaotic, frenetic, and always entertaining city of Naples.

To our guests leaving us tomorrow in Civitavecchia,  the Port of Rome, we wish safe travels. It had been a thrilling voyage,  from Piraeus, Greece to Rhodes,  Israel,  Cyprus, Turkey,  Crete,  and Italy. Let ‘s do it again,  somewhere in this wonderful world.

And for those staying on board and new friends boarding in Civitavecchia: we head out of the Med through the Pillars of Hercules to Madeira. The other side of the pillars–between Gibraltar and North Africa–was once considered the limits of the known world.

It is ours to rediscover.

B-Naples 18Apr2014_DSC0831

Cathedral of San Gennaro,  Naples

B-Naples 18Apr2014_DSC0880

The Naples Archeological Museum,  home to many of the recovered treasures of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

POMPEII0

POMPEII3

POMPEII1

The Wonders of Pompeii.

CAPRI1

Via Krupp on the enchanting isle of Capri.

All photos copyright Corey Sandler.  All rights reserved. 

10 November 2014
 Messina and Mount Etna

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant

Early Monday morning, we sailed north along the coast of Sicily and into the funnel-shaped Strait of Messina. On our right was the toe at the bottom of mainland of Italy. To the left was the large island of Sicily, the football being kicked by Italy’s boot.

When we entered from the south, the strait was nearly 10 miles of 16 kilometers wide. Near Messina, the passage narrows to less than 2 miles, or 3 kilometers.

Almost anywhere the sea funnels into a strait, mariners expect strong and sometime treacherous currents.

That’s only one problem. In the same neighborhood, the Eurasian plate is moving down—south, if you will—toward the African plate. And one of the hotspots, where the plates grind against each other, is southern Italy.

And so we are in the proximity of Mount Etna: the tallest active volcano in Europe, nearly constantly bubbling over like a bowl of Arrabiata sauce left on the burner.

Today I went with a group of guests to Mount Etna. I have made this trek many times,  but on this mid-autumn visit we were between the clouds down below,  fresh snow on the volcano,  and blue sky above.

In a word: magnifico.

Here are some photos from today:

BLOG Messina Etna 10Nov2014-9069

BLOG Messina Etna 10Nov2014-9076

BLOG Messina Etna 10Nov2014-9083

BLOG Messina Etna 10Nov2014-9091

A MESSINA, ETNA, and TAORMINA ALBUM. Photos by Corey Sandler

Cathedral of Messina Cathedral of Messina2

The Cathedral of Messina, with its famous mechanical clock

Cathedral of Messina3

Inside the Cathedral

Santuario di Montalto1 Santuario di Montalto2

The Santuario di Montalto, above the port

Taormina1

Taormina

Taormina5 Taormina2

Overlooking Mount Etna from Taormina, as if you could

Taormina4

The Greek Theatre at Taormina, which has Etna for a backstage

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

 

8 November 2014
 Agios Nikolaos, Crete: Saint Nicholas and the Tsunami

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Crete is the largest Greek island, at the southern edge of the Aegean Sea.

In ancient times, from about 2000 BC to 1500 BC, it was the center of the great Minoan civilization, home of the Palace of Knossos which influenced places as far away as Spain and the Middle East, with outposts in places like the Greek island of Santorini.

Around 1500 BC, the Minoan civilization centered on Crete collapsed.

What happened about 1500 BC?

Santorini blew its top: one of the largest volcanic explosions in the history of the planet.

In addition to destroying most of the island of Thera or Santorini, the explosion rose up a tsunami that moved about 90 miles across the Aegean sea to reach Crete.

AGIOS NIKOLAOS

Agios Nikolaos is Greek for Saint Nicholas. Nicholas is the patron saint of those who sail at sea, which I suppose includes us.

(In some places, he is also the patron saint of merchants…and thieves. Which I suppose says something about something.)

Actually, there’s a connection. Nikolaos was a fourth-century Bishop in Myra which was part of Greece but now part of Turkey. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in shoes. Saint Nicholas became the model for Santa Claus, with his modern name coming out of the Dutch version, Sinterklaas.

Agios Nikolaos was settled in the late Bronze Age by Dorian Greeks.

Agios Nikolaos

BLOG Agios Nikolaos 08Nov2014-9064 BLOG Agios Nikolaos 08Nov2014-9022

The inner harbor at Agios Nikolaos and scenes around the island. Photos by Corey Sandler

SPINALONGA

The island of Spinalonga, officially known as Kalydon, is about 11 kilometers or 7 miles north of Agios Nikolaos.

Spinalonga was not always an island. During Venetian occupation in the 15th century the island was carved out of the coast for defense purposes and a fort was built there to fend off Arab pirate attacks that intensified after the fall of Constantinople.

What is it about Venetians and canals?

The Venetians were said to be unable to understand the Greek name for the town, stin Elounda (meaning “to Elounda”) and so they came up with their own version: spina lunga, meaning long thorn. They were borrowing from the name of an island with that name near Venice called Spinalunga; today it is believed to be the island of Giudecca.

BLOG Agios Nikolaos 08Nov2014-9054 BLOG Agios Nikolaos 08Nov2014-9036 BLOG Agios Nikolaos 08Nov2014-9034

Spinalonga, frozen in time. Photos by Corey Sandler

Spinalonga remained in Venetian hands even after the rest of Crete fell to the Ottomans in the Cretan War of 1645 to 1669. These three forts defended Venetian trade routes and were later used by Christians escaping persecution from the Ottoman Turks.

The Venetians held on to the small territories on Crete until 1715, when the Ottomans finally prevailed. Although they lost control of the island in the 1860s, a small community of Turks remained on the island until 1903.

The island was subsequently used as a leper colony from 1903 to 1957, one of the last active leper colonies in Europe. The lepers’ entrance was a tunnel known as “Dante’s Gate”, because the patients did not know what was going to happen to them once they arrived.

The facilities were apparently decent, a great improvement over living in caves, which had been the lot of lepers before the colony was opened. Today, the island is unoccupied.

KARDIOTISSA

The Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa is northwest of Agios Nikolaos, in the direction of Heraklion. It is believed the monastery was built in connection with what was said to be a 9th century icon of Panagia, the Virgin Mary.

According to the tradition, during the iconoclastic era when works like this were being deliberately destroyed, this particular icon was moved to Constantinople. Somehow, though, it returned to Crete: a miracle, or at least a mystery.

Then, during the period of the Venetian rule, the icon was stolen from a wine merchant and taken to Italy, where it is now at the Church of San Alfonso in Rome.

The beautiful little stone church has been expanded and elaborated over the years; 14th century frescoes only hint at their one-time magnificence. Today Kera has changed from a monastery to a nunnery.

THE LASSITHI PLATEAU

The surrounding region of Lassithi is one of the more beautiful places in the Aegean, and home to the remains of a number of ancient towns and slowly decaying fields of windmills.

Lassithi2 Lassithi1

Up on the Lassithi Plateau of Crete. Photos by Corey Sandler

KNOSSOS

But for some the most intriguing site of Crete is the ancient ruins of Knossos near Heraklion.

Knossos—the Labyrinth—is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. The ancient Minoans are believed to have built the palace of Knossos about 2000 BC.

The site has been partly restored and rebuilt—we’re not sure how accurately.

The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square. Some of the walls bear detailed images of ancient life.

Crete Greece Palace Knossos 29June2012 DSC_5792 Crete Greece Palace Knossos 29June2012 DSC_5756 Crete Greece Palace Knossos 29June2012 P1080441 Crete Greece Palace Knossos 29June2012 P1080438

The Palace of Knossos. Photos by Corey Sandler

The site was substantially restored by archaeologist Arthur Evans, an English gentleman of independent means who purchased the site about 1900. Some of the wall paintings and some of the restoration was entirely of Evans’ creation without historical evidence, at least according to some modern archeologists.

What we do know is that Knossos was an intricate collection of more than a thousand interlocking rooms, some of which served as artisans’ workrooms and food processing centers.

The site has had a very long history of human habitation, beginning with the founding of the first Neolithic settlement about 7000 BC.

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you want to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

7 November 2014
 Fethiye, Turkey: Land of Lights

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Fethiye is not going completely off the beaten path, but the modern city of 70,000 is in a slightly less visited region of Anatolia.

It is built on the site of the ancient city of Telmessos, the ruins of which can be seen in the city, including a Hellenistic theatre nearby the main dock. Telmessos was the most important city of Lycia, with a recorded history starting in the 5th century BC.Marmaris Turkey BLOG 25Oct2014-8567

Photo by Corey Sandler

The region fell to the Turks, coming under rule of the Anatolian beylik of Menteşe in 1284. The renamed town of Beskaza became part of the Ot­toman Empire in 1424, and was held for the next five centuries. The town grew considerably in the 19th century, with a large Greek population.

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the first World War, Greece and Turkey engaged in a massive exchange of ethnic populations. Nearly all of the Greeks of Makri were sent to Greece where they founded the town of Nea Makri (New Makri) northeast of Athens.

Coming the other way were Turks moved from Greece.

In 1934, under the newborn Republic of Turkey, Makri was renamed one more time, as ‘Fethiye’ in honor of Fethi Bey, one of the first pilots and first fatalities of the Ottoman Air Force, which participated in the Balkan Wars and the first World War. At its peak, the Ottoman Air Force had about 80 planes.

XANTHOS AND LETOON

The ancient cities of Xanthos and Letoon were the home of the ancient Lycians back in the 8th century BC and later by Greeks and then Romans.

Like much of the archeological shoes of Turkey, more lies in the ground than haa yet been revealed: perhaps only 10 percent had been explored.

We ventured 90 minutes up into the foothills of the Taurus Mountains to do our own exploration.

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-9018

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-9007

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-8994

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-8981

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-8973

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-8975

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-8967

Fetihye BLOG Xanthos Letoon 08Nov2014-8966

Photos by Corey Sandler.

MODERN FETHIYE

Today, Fethiye is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist resorts, apparently of special appeal to Britons.

Beautiful scenery, fine climate, and a relatively inexpensive cost of living. About one in ten residents, about 7,000, are British citizens. And about 600,000 Britons visit every summer.

DALYAN AND ROCK TOMBS

About 45 minutes away is the town of Dalyan, and the rock tombs near Caunos. At Caunos you can see Hellenistic fortifications, remains of tower and a gateway on Acropolis Hill, a Palaestra, Theatre, and Byzantine Church. And most dramatic, a set of tombs carved into the rocks near the town.

 

Kaunos was an important sea port which may date as far back as the 10th century BC. Because of the silting of the former Bay of Dalyan and the formation of İztuzu Beach, Kaunos is now located about 8 kilometers or 5 miles from the coast.

Today, the most unusual site of the Kaunos region are the Rock Temples. There are about a dozen of them; six rock tombs on the Dalyan river date from the 4th to the 2nd century BC. The façades of the rock tombs resemble the fronts of Hellenistic temples with a pair of Ionian pillars, a triangular pediment, an architrave with toothed friezes, and acroterions shaped like palm leaves.

The rock tombs were burial chambers for kings and queens of that era. Behind tall columns that stood next to the entrance is the main chamber where royalty was buried with their possessions.

Lycians believed that a winged creature would carry them into the afterworld. At least that was the path for the royalty of the time.

Putting the tombs on the high cliff faces make it easier for the airborne travel.

All photos by Corey Sandler.  All rights reserved.  If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

 

6 November 2014
 Limassol, Cyprus: One Nation, Two Governments, Four Militaries

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Cyprus is south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel, north of Egypt and east of Greece.

Choose your metaphor: fortress, warehouse, aircraft carrier. Cyprus was right in the middle for the movement of ancient Greeks, the Romans, Christians from the Middle East, Muslims in their path, the Crusaders, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Venetians. In more recent times the winds of World War II.

And modern Cyprus is one island–that much is not disputed. But it has two governments, two currencies, and four militaries.

On July 15, 1974, the Greek military junta engineered a coup d’état in Cyprus, with the intent of achieving enosis, the union of the island with Greece. That did not sit well with the Turks, and five days later the Turkish army invaded the island on the pretext of restoring the constitutional order of the Republic of Cyprus.

And that is where we are today. About 37 percent of the island is administered by Turkey and its proxies; most of the other two-thirds by the Republic of Turkey. And in between is a United Nations peacekeeping force and the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, a set of British military bases that predated the troubles.

KOLOSSI CASTLE

Kolossi Castle dates from 1210 by the Franks, latee used by the Knights Hospitaller who were in and out of the Holy Land during the Crusades.

Limassol BLOG Crete 07Nov2014-8919

Limassol BLOG Crete 07Nov2014-8932

Limassol BLOG Crete 07Nov2014-8935

Kolossi Castle. Photos by Corey Sandler

Limassol BLOG Crete 07Nov2014-8939

An olive tree in Limassol.  Photo by Corey Sandler

Limassol BLOG Crete 07Nov2014-8959

Saint George Church in Limassol.  Photo by Corey Sandler

Limassol BLOG Crete 07Nov2014-8942

Limassol BLOG Crete 07Nov2014-8950

The Limassol Museum. Photo by Corey Sandler

THE TOMBS OF THE KINGS

The Tombs of the Kings is a large necropolis very close to Paphos harbor. The underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BC, are carved out of solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials.

So, no known kings were buried in the tombs; the name is said to come from the magnificence of the tombs. Some tombs feature Doric columns and frescoed walls.

The burials sites also often included amphora—jugs made to hold wine, oil, or other material—amongst the offerings. Many were imported from Rhodes, and archeologists have found manufacturing markers on the handles which allows them to date the tombs.

HOUSE OF DIONYSOS

In the same area are several ancient villas, including the House of Dionysos the home of a 3rd century Roman nobleman. Now protected from the elements by a roof, you can see spectactular mosaics from the home depicting Roman legends and scenes from Greek mythology.

Nearby the tombs is the decidedly modern town of Paphos, a popular seaside holiday resort with cafés and shops.

Cyprus House of Dionysos Paphos 31Mar2012 DSC_4074 Cyprus House of Dionysos Paphos 31Mar2012 DSC_4078 House Dionysos House of Dionysos2

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

5 November 2014
 Haifa, Israel: A Grand Mix

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Haifa is a mostly modern city with an ancient back story. Built on the green slopes of Mount Carmel, it has a waterfront with beautiful sandy beaches, and some of the best restaurants in Israel, a place where people very much enjoy their food.

Haifa’s skyline includes Jewish synagogues, Muslim minarets, Christian church spires, and the transcendent Baha’i gardens—the spiritual center of the Baha’i faith.

Haifa Bahai Shrine 01April2012 DSC_4112

From near the top of Mount Carmel, looking down through the Baha’i gardens to the port. Photo by Corey Sandler

The earliest known settlement in the vicinity was Tell Abu Hawam, a small port city established in the Late Bronze Age of the 14th century BC. Over the centuries, the city was conquered and ruled by Phoenicians, Hebrews, Persians, Hasmoneans (the Kingdom of Judah), Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, the British, and the Israelis.

In the 9th century, after the Arab conquest of Palestine, Haifa established trading relations with Egyptian ports. Prosperity ended in 1100, when Haifa was besieged and blockaded by the Crusaders and then conquered after a fierce battle between the Crusaders and the Jewish and Muslim inhabitants. For the next 700 years, the small town went back and forth between Islamic and Crusader rule, eventually part of the Ottoman Empire from about 1596. With a few gaps, including a failed expedition by Napoleon, the town remained under Ottoman rule until 1918.

THE BAHAI CENTRE

In 1909 Haifa became central to the Bahá’í Faith, when the remains of their prophet, the Báb, were moved to Acre and a shrine built on Mount Carmel. The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded in 19th century Persia. There are an estimated five million Bahá’ís in more than 200 countries.

In the Bahá’í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time. These messengers have included Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and others, and most recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. In Bahá’í belief, each messenger prophesied of messengers to follow.

Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, with the goal of peace, justice and unity on a global scale. The Bahá’í Shrine in Haifa is one of the focal points of the city, with its golden dome and beautifully landscaped gardens on 19 acres. A promenade with fountains leads from the top of Mount Carmel to the shrine and down to its base.

Haifa Bahai Shrine 01April2012 DSC_4109 Haifa Bahai Shrine 01April2012 DSC_4125

The Bahá’í Shrine is an extraordinary oasis in a special place. Photos by Corey Sandler

THE GERMAN COLONY

Haifa’s German Colony was established in 1869 by the Templar Society (not the same as the Knights Templars), whose members arrived from Germany with the goal of settling the Holy Land and preparing residents for the arrival of the Christian Messiah. The Templars founded seven colonies around the country.

In recent years the German Colony has been restored, turning it into one of Haifa’s liveliest and most attractive entertainment centers. The district is centered around Ben-Gurion Boulevard, above the port.

 

Haifa German ColonyBet Haigefen  01April2012 DSC_4148

The German Colony is between the port and Mount Carmel. Photo by Corey Sandler

ACRE

Acre, or Akko, about an hour north of central Haifa, was the main port of Palestine for the Arab caliphates in the 7th century. The port was captured in 1104 in the First Crusade by one of the more obscure figures of world history: King Baldwin I of Jerusalem. Baldwin was a Frenchman, born Baudouin de Boulogne.

Along with his brothers, he fought in Constantinople and then moved on to Jerusalem. He succeeded in taking Acre with the assistance of a Genoese fleet; it then became the most important port for the Crusaders.

After Acre was retaken by the Kurdish leader Saladin in 1187, there followed assaults by other European crusader forces including one from Pisa and then combinations of French, English, Swabian (Bavarian), and German armies. The Knights Hospitaller, which operated out of Rhodes and then Malta, took control in 1229. And then Acre went back to Egyptian control in 1291, falling again to the Ottomans in 1517.

On this visit we decided to spend the day in Acre, or Akko as it is also known. It was another chance to travel on time,  and also to experience some of the mix that is modern Israel.

The Old City of Acre today is mostly Arab and Muslim, within the Jewish state of Israel. It’s alleyways include mosques,  ancient synagogues,  and Crusader-era ChristIan churches.

Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8897

Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8913

 

Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8900

 

Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8914

Acre, Israel. Photos by Corey Sandler.

NAZARETH

Nazareth—about 25 miles or 40 kilometers from Haifa—is considered by many Christians to be the childhood home of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem. Some scholars and sects, though, believe Jesus was born in Nazareth. Modern Nazareth is considered “the Arab capital of Israel.”

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

3-4 November 2014
 Ashdod, Israel: A Bridge Too Far

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived in Israel, fulfilling plans, hopes, and dreams; for much of the summer it seemed we would have had to go somewhere else…if there is a place worthy of substitution. But a tense cessation of hostilities is in place in Gaza and Jerusalem, with hope–if not promise–of peace.

Ashdod is Israel’s largest cargo port, bringing in about 60 percent of the nation’s imported goods. Ashdod is in the southern district of Israel, about 40 kilometers or 25 miles south of Tel Aviv and 53 kilometers or 33 miles west of Jerusalem. And to the south: about 40 kilometers or 25 miles to Gaza.

I’ll write more about Ashdod later in this blog.

Ashdod 02Apr2012 P1070119

The port of Ashdod. Photo by Corey Sandler

JERUSALEM

Jerusalem is a truly inspiring city—for Jews, Christians, Moslems, and anyone who appreciates history and culture.

The Old City is the walled core of Jerusalem. About a third of a square mile, or one square kilometer in size, it is home some of the most important sites of the three Abrahamic Religions:

The Temple Mount and its Western Wall, for Jews

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians. And, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.

Jerusalem Sepulchre 02April2012 P1070070

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by Corey Sandler

Jerusalem Dormition 02April2012 DSC_4170

The Church of the Dormition in Jerusalem. Photo by Corey Sandler

Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven sections: the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian quarters.

Eleven Gates to the City

During the era of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, there were four gates to the Old City, one on each side. The current walls, built by Suleiman the Magnificent, have a total of eleven gates, but only seven are open. Until 1887, each gate was closed before sunset and opened at sunrise.

The Damascus, Lions’, Dung, Zion, and Jaffa gates were each built about 1540. The New Gate is from 1887. Herod’s Gate may be from about the same time.

The phrase “Twelve gates to the city” from the Book of Revelation and in the gospel-like song refers to Biblical Jerusalem, but the gates of present-day Jerusalem are much younger.

Jerusalem 02April2012 P1070105 Jerusalem 02April2012 P1070062

The Via Dolorosa, and an ecumenical gift shop in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem. Photos by Corey Sandler

Jerusalem 02April2012 P1070039

Within the Armenian Church. Photo by Corey Sandler

Western Wall

One of the most important Jewish holy sites is the Western, or Wailing Wall.

Solomon’s Temple was said to have been built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BC, and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BC.

The exposed section is about 187 feet or 57 meters. Other portions are concealed behind structures running along its length; there is also a small section in the Muslim Quarter.

It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage from at least the 4th century.

Jerusalem 02April2012 DSC_4202

At the Western Wall. Photo by Corey Sandler

As if we needed any further demonstration of the complexities of the Middle East, all you need do is look up above the Wailing Wall to the Temple Mount, home of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Al-Aqsa is the third-holiest site for Sunni Muslims. Al-Aqsa means the Farthest Mosque, believed by Muslims to have been built in the seventh century.

Muslims believe Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during what they call Night Journey.

The Dome of the Rock is a separate shrine on the Temple Mount. It was first built in 691, a few decades after the death of Mohammed, and renovated many times.

Somewhere on the Temple Mount, perhaps within the Dome of the Rock, is the Foundation Stone, believed by some to have been the location of the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple.

Tradition views it as the spiritual junction of heaven and Earth, the holiest site in Judaism. And it may exist inside Islam’s third holiest mosque, after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and Al Masjid an Nawabi in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Nothing shows more clearly the interlinking and complexity of religion, and by extension politics, in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel and the Middle East.

TEL AVIV

We zipped up to Tel Aviv for the day, wandering the market and the Yemeni Quarter and on to the sea front before turning inland to the heart of the city.

Tel Aviv seems to us a place where no one walks; every is at a near full trot. We absorbed a bit of that energy, and a lunch of lamb schwarma with hummus and tahini.

Tel Aviv BLOG 03Nov2014-8886

Tel Aviv,  old and new. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tel Aviv BLOG 03Nov2014-8887

ASHDOD

Ashdod is built on the site of an ancient city, but today exists mostly because of its port–the largest in Israel or anywhere else in the Middle East.

We set off in search of a monument–not an ancient one, but one of great importance to modern Israel: the Ad Halom Bridge.

Ad Halom. which means “up to here”. was the northernmost point reached by the Egyptian army in Operation Pleshet in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Egyptians were headed for Tel Aviv, but were stopped here.

In today’s Israel, Ad Halom has come to mean the last line of defense that must not be breached.

As part of the Camp David Accords in 1978, Egypt was given permission to erect a memorial obelisk to their fallen soldiers. It stands today, an almost forgotten memorial in a place of great importance to the State of Israel.

Ashdod BLOG 04Nov2014-8889

A piece of Egypt in modern Israel.

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

————————————

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

 

 

1 November 2014
 Rhodes, Greece: Less Than Obvious

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises 

We returned to Rodos,  the capital city of the island of Rhodes and found a hint of autumn in the air,  a near perfect day in an always intriguing place.

We were just here four days ago; see my blog entry for 28 October for details and photos.

Rhodes is an extraordinary place,  and we have been here dozens of times.

On today’s visit I decided to concentrate on the less-than-obvious.

Here is some of what I found:

Rhodes BLOG 01Nov2014-8865

Rhodes BLOG 01Nov2014-8867

Rhodes BLOG 01Nov2014-8884

Rhodes BLOG 01Nov2014-8868

Rhodes BLOG 01Nov2014-8870

Rhodes BLOG 01Nov2014-8881

Rhodes BLOG 01Nov2014-8878

All photos by Corey Sandler.  All rights reserved.  If you would like to purchase a high-resolution copy of an image please contact me.