Friday, July 12, 2013

Towel Creatures

We are officially back in the U.S. It is 4:00 pm now, which would be at least 10:00 pm Mediterranean time, but we wanted to share some silly photographs of the creative "towel creatures" left in our room each day! Feel free to share what you think they are, a few had us stumped! Thanks for following our adventures!


We arrived in the small village of Argostoli today and had time to walk through the town. The people were very welcoming, and we enjoyed learning that the far side of the island boasts one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world! As you can see, the water color is incredible, and you can also see our cruise ship in the background!

We set sail for Venice tonight and will arrive there early Sunday morning. We look forward to sharing more of our adventures with the Calvert community upon our return to the United States!

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Today we had a lovely visit to the island of Santorini. This beautiful island has 16,000 fulltime inhabitants and over 300 churches. We saw many of these churches while traveling, and learned that several had been built following volcanic eruptions. In fact, Santorini was once a round island, but a large volcanic eruption broke it into a main crescent and several small islands. The round shape of Santorini led Plato, a student of Socrates, to suggest that Santorini was actually the long-lost city of Atlantis. He further supported this claim by noting its volcanic ash created black, white, and red beaches, consistent with descriptions of Atlantis.

After tendering to shore, we passed through the winding hills to Oia. This tiny village is known for its beautiful architecture, and many artists travel there to paint its beautiful scenes. Cars cannot access the town center, comprised of many private homes and a few shops and restaurants, which made touring very peaceful. We also visited the oldest church on the island, which contained a painting that originated in Constantinople, known today as Istanbul. We enjoyed making this connection with our curriculum as well as a previous port of travel. We are traveling tonight to Argostoli, our final stop before returning to Italy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Today we traveled to Ephesus, a city on the Asian side of Turkey.  This ancient city was conquered by Alexander the Great who is an important figure in our Ninth Age history curriculum. The city had to be relocated four times due to malaria and other diseases. Some of the highlights of the ruins were the terrace houses. Their excavation is ongoing, and students and archaeologists from many different countries, including the United States, are contributing. Fortunately, the excavation is protected by a roof, shielding these ancient ruins from sun and weather damage. The houses were built for the wealthy and were very advanced. For example, they had pipes for clean water and sewage as well as in-floor heating. The walls were decorated by frescos, and mosaics were used in place of rugs. At Ephesus we also saw the restored library of Celsus, which was discovered in 1905.

We were also fortunate to see the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. The original temple was much larger than the Parthenon and was supported by 117 columns; however, now only a single reconstructed column remains. As he was passing through the city, Alexander the Great offered to reconstruct the temple. To increase his fame, he asked for a plaque with his name to be added, but the citizens politely declined, telling him, “One god cannot give presents to another.” Alexander was flattered to be called a god and continued to donate to the construction even without the promise of a plaque.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013


We enjoyed a brief stop in the town of Mytilene on our way to the Asian side of Turkey. Due to the shallow water surrounding the port, we had to “tender,” or take a small (150 person) boat from the ship into town. We dipped our feet into the Aegean Sea for the first time and bought local olive oil. We also viewed the location of a former military post which is now the location of Mytilene’s Statue of Liberty. We look forward to a long day of sight-seeing in Ephesus tomorrow.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Istanbul Day Two

We spent the second day touring other famous sights in Istanbul. First we went to the Blue Mosque. There we removed our shoes and covered our heads to show respect. The Turks call it the Sultan Ahmet Mosque because it was constructed by the 14th Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I. It is one of the largest and most impressive mosques in Turkey.

After leaving the mosque we passed the Egyptian Obelisk, which is 3,500 years old, and Istanbul’s oldest monument. It was built in Egypt and brought to Istanbul in 390 B.C. Then we learned about the art of hand-woven wool and silk rugs. A local weaver demonstrated the process as we sipped on traditional apple tea in the showroom. Afterwards we spent a few hours in the Grand Bazaar, where we enjoyed negotiating prices of souvenirs with local merchants. Next we visited Santa Sophia. This was a Christian Orthodox church built by Justinian that was later converted to a mosque. Much later, it was converted to a museum. We then enjoyed a traditional Turkish lunch, followed by a trip to the Topkapi Palace. In the palace we visited the house of the sultan and his family, the walls of which were covered by hand-painted tiles. We also visited the palace treasury, which holds the crown jewels including war medallions, an 86-carat diamond, and a golden, jewel encrusted cradle. We were not allowed to photograph these treasures nor bring them home as souvenirs, but we look forward to telling you more about them when we return.
After a long day of sightseeing we were ready to re-board the ship and sail to Mytilene, a town in the Greek Isles.

Istanbul Day One

 Our ship docked in Istanbul overnight, giving us two days to explore the city. The first evening we traveled to an underground cistern. In ancient times, aqueducts supplied the city with water, however enemies destroyed them or poisoned the water during war. Cisterns were built to store safe drinking water during times of battle. The cistern we visited is supported by 336 columns, all of which were imported from Roman structures. At the back of the cistern, two Medusa heads (one facing sideways and one upside down) serve as the bases of two columns. Certain scenes from the James Bond movie, “From Russia with Love,” were filmed there!
Down the street from the cistern lies the spice market. There, locals and tourists alike shop for fresh spices, teas, and Turkish Delight candy.  As Ramadan begins tomorrow, the market was quite crowded with locals who were purchasing spices for feasts. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset but enjoy feasts at night.
Then we spent an hour traveling down the Bosphorus Strait, the waterway between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. We crossed under a large suspension bridge that connects Europe (on the left in the picture) to Asia (on the right).

Sunday, July 7, 2013


We enjoyed our full-day tour through the city of Athens. First we visited the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. Afterwards, we traveled to the Archaeological Museum to see many items discovered in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann in the tombs of Agamemnon and Cassandra. There were items from the Mycenaean period as well as a traveling exhibit of items from a shipwreck off the coast of Greece.
A headstone depicting the ceremonial gifts
Can you tell where the restoration paint was added?
From there we hiked to the top of the Acropolis to explore and learn more about the Parthenon and other ancient buildings located there. It was exciting to see the Bay of Salamis and to hear that the Parthenon was commissioned in an effort to create jobs after the Greek and Persian wars.

After heading back down the steep hill, we visited the Acropolis Museum and enjoyed seeing the excavation work below the glass floor outside of the museum. Finally, we had a bit of time to tour the placa, eat traditional Greek cuisine, and interact with the locals.

This morning we sailed through the Dardanelles (formerly called the Hellespont). It was fascinating to see how long Xerxes’s bridge of boats had to be to cross the strait.
Can you believe a bridge of boats crossed this strait?
We just docked in Istanbul for our tours tonight, check back for more details soon!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Trivia for our Readers!

We had an incredible day today! Can you guess where we are? Feel free to leave your guess as a comment below! Tomorrow morning we will post all of the details from today's eight hour tour!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Olympia Visit

Today we arrived in the small fishing village called Katakolon, Greece. We took a forty minute bus ride to the city of Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics. There we toured the ancient ruins, learning about the training and competition sites of the first Olympians. These athletes were required to stay on site to train for one month before the five day competition. The original Olympics consisted of five events: running, jumping, discus, javelin, and wrestling. In addition, we saw the ruins of the temple which once held the Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It cost 300,000 euros to restore just one pillar of this temple!
(Click to enlarge all collages)
Following our tour of the ruins, we traveled to the Archaeological Museum, which holds many of the items excavated from the ruins. There were items from the Iron and Bronze Ages as well as a number of ancient marble statues which were part of the temples and buildings of Ancient Olympia. We personally enjoyed seeing items from Phidias’s workshop. He was the man who sculpted the statue of Zeus as well as sculptures on the Parthenon, which we look forward to seeing tomorrow!