The Acropolis of Lindos

Lindos, Greece
Lindos acropolis rock
The rock above Lindos.
Acropolis street sign
This way to the Acropolis.

I followed the signs through the winding backstreets of the old Greek town of Lindos, on the island of Rhodes.  The streets were only about eight feet across and were too narrow for most vehicles.  The square buildings were painted white in the Grecian style.  The buildings had old wooden doors and small blue address numbers.  Some 17th century mansions have been converted into restaurants, where today’s diners can sit on the rooftops on hot summer nights and eat traditional Greek food.

Lindos street
A typical street in Lindos.

The town was built many centuries ago at the foot of a rock that is 350 feet high.  The rock towers over the Aegean Sea with sheer cliffs on the seaward side.

In the sixth century B.C., a tyrant called Kleoboulos ruled Lindos for many years. Kleoboulos led the Lindians to build an Archaic temple of the Greek god Athena at the highest point of the rock.  It took the place of an earlier temple structure that had been destroyed.  The new acropolis was a place to give votive offerings and sacrifices to Athena.

Unfortunately, this temple burned down in 392 B.C.  Perhaps one of the worshippers accidentally knocked over a candle.  Not to be deterred, the Lindians rebuilt the temple.

Today, the ascent to the acropolis is still by the same steep road as used in antiquity.  I found the start of the road at the back edge of the town. I hiked up the narrow road that wound around the rock. I passed old women who were setting out tablecloths and other locally made linens.  They were ready to sell their goods to the busloads of tourists who would be following me later in the morning.

Lindos acropolis view
The view to the Aegean Sea from the Acropolis.

Near the top of the rock I walked through an outer entrance to a medieval fortress.  The Knights of St. John conquered the island of Rhodes during the Crusades and later fortified the existing structures in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Further inside the fortress is a large stairway, originally built in the first century B.C., which leads up to something called a stoa.  A stoa is a covered walkway or portico.

acropolis stoa
Remants of the acropolis stoa.

Athena’s temple was isolated from the outside world by a wall with five entrances.  The inner stoa flanked a courtyard in front of the temple.

Temple of Athena
The partially rebuilt Temple of Athena.

The acropolis was destroyed during Ottoman rule, which started in the 16th century.  The Italians occupied the island of Rhodes in the 1930s and partially restored some of the temple.  Today, the Greeks continue the restoration work at a pace commonly referred to as “island time.”  I saw two guys in overalls operating a power saw to cut through some old stone for a few minutes before stopping for a smoke break.

As I walked down the road back to town I wondered what it would have been like here 2,400 years ago.  How did the Lindians react when their leader told them to build a temple for worshipping a statue made of stone?

Lindos, Greece
My house is the white one.
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The Lost City of Ephesus

Temple ruins in Ephesus

Our new friend Giljan was eager to show us around the ancient ruins of the lost city of Ephesus in Turkey. Sure, it was her job as tour guide, but she was young and fairly new at her job and was still enthusiastic.  She kept mixing up the apostles John and Paul.  I cut her some slack considering that she’s a Muslim.

She met us at the port of Kusadasi and her driver took us 20 minutes inland to the entry gate high in hills near the city of Selcuk.  Ephesus was a thriving metropolis of approximately 250,000 people in the first century A.D.  It was largely destroyed by a massive earthquake and the ruins of the city were covered by dirt for centuries until partially excavated in the 20th century.

Temple ruins in Ephesus
Excavated temple ruins in Ephesus, Turkey

Entering the high gate and walking downhill through the main street of the town was awe-inspiring.  The wealthiest people of the time lived in a sophisticated fashion with many conveniences. Some of these people lived in fancy condos built into a hillside.  The walls were covered with painted scenes and the surviving floor mosaic patterns were very intricate.

Excavated remains of ancient condos in Ephesus
The ancient condos had painted walls and fancy mosaic floors

The leaders of the city owned slaves.  Of course the slaves did all the work, including cooking for the leader’s families.  Most of the condos did not have kitchens.  The food was “take-out” food prepared elsewhere and delivered by slaves.  The condos had private bathrooms for the women with indoor plumbing.  The men went down the street to a communal bathroom.  In winter, slaves were commanded to sit down and warm up the marble of the cold toilet prior to the master’s bowel movement!

toilet seats in Ephesus
Warm my seat for me!

One of the most important buildings in Ephesus was the library.  The library contained thousands of scrolls with all of the knowledge of the area.  In Roman times, Marc Antony pillaged the library by shipping all of the scrolls to Egypt as a present to Cleopatra.

library facade in Ephesus
The facade of the Library in Ephesus

Since Ephesus was such a large city, it was the major trading center for the entire eastern Mediterranean region.  The marketplace was a bustling place where goods were bought and sold from all over the ancient world.

Market gates in Ephesus
Gates to the marketplace in Ephesus

Just down the street from the market, a woman’s footprint is etched into marble on the side of the road.  It is the image of left foot, and there are two intersecting lines above it.  Farther down this road was the port of Ephesus on the Aegean Sea (the Sea is now eight kilometers away due to falling water levels in the Sea over the centuries).  Sailors and traders would leave their ships and walk up this road to the big city.  The footprint informed them that the brothel was on the left side of the road up ahead by the intersection.

The great amphitheater where Paul preached as described in the Bible is near the end of the road in Ephesus.  The amphitheater holds 25,000 people and is still in use for concerts.  They only allow classical and jazz now.  A few years ago a rock concert was held and vibrations from the loudspeakers caused a small landslide of part of the upper portion of the ampitheater.  That’s rock and roll!

Great Ampitheater in Ephesus, Turkey
The Great Ampitheater in Ephesus where Paul preached

After the tour of Ephesus we stopped at a outdoor café for a traditional Turkish lunch.  First came various salads with fresh bread, followed by grilled chicken skewers and meatballs.  Desert was a plateful of fresh fruit.  Giljan told us about her city of Selcuk and attending a university quite far away.

“Would you like to see how Turkish carpets are made?  They are a specialty of this region.” she asked.

“OK. I have no idea how that’s done.” I said.

We were driven to a local weaver’s co-operative where rural women were taught how to weave carpets.  A first demonstration showed how silk is harvested from thimble-sized pods.  The silkworm eats the leaves of a Mulberry tree and spins silk into a pod.  It must be an enormous amount of work for the silkworm.  The pods are harvested and put into a bath.  A worker teases the pod with a brush to get the outer silk thread of the pod.  A dozen or more of these first threads are gathered into one starting point and hooked to a spinning machine.  The spinning machine unravels all of the pods at once and combines all of the individual threads to make silk yarn.

The silk yarn can be dyed and are then woven by hand on a backing matrix of threads made from cotton or wool.  The work is typically done by a woman who sits hunched over the loom for months on end to make a single carpet. The price of the resulting carpet depends on the complexity of the pattern, the material used (lamb’s wool, sheep’s wool, goat’s wool, or silkworm), and the density of the weave.

making carpet in Turkey
This woman is making a carpet for me

Back at the port, as I was walking through the shopping area, I noticed this sign.  I’m not quite sure what it means!

Turkish watches for sale
I'll take two in case one breaks
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Sizzling on Santorini

View of Oia, Greece

“Give me your ticket,” snarled the scruffy looking man.

“What for?” I said.

“You need ticket here. You have cable car ticket.”

“What?  I don’t believe you.” I said. “This is not the cable car!”

The ship was anchored off the coast of the Greek island of Santorini.  The curved shaped island was formed from remains of a volcano that erupted in 1,700 BC.  The bay is what is left of the caldera.  The island is hilly and rocky, with the main city of Fira perched on a high cliff above the Aegean Sea.

Along the ridge of Santorini, Greece
The Aegean Sea from the top of Santorini, Greece

Since there was no dock, we took a small tender boat to shore.  The day was hot and windy and the boat heaved up and down like an amusement ride.  The tour bus wound back and forth along the narrow switchbacks until we reached the summit.  At the top we visited a winery specializing in Vin Santo dessert wines.  I didn’t care for the wine; I thought it tasted like cough syrup!

The bus careened along the spine of the island.  We could see the sea far below us on either side.  We stopped in a traditional fishing village called Oia, on the north end of the island.  The village is built into the cliff side.

View of Oia, Greece
The fishing village of Oia, on Santorini, Greece

Most of the buildings are several hundred years old.  Rich sea captains built the houses and had them painted with paint left over from painting their ships.  Thus, most houses are white, although a few are red, blue, or yellow.  The village had many nice shops.  We bought a print of the Oia seascape from an art gallery.  The elderly owner/painter, who didn’t speak much English, sold us the print from behind his ancient desk.  There was a painting on the wall of a much younger man.  I asked the painter if it was a self-portrait of him many years before.  His face broke into a big smile and he nodded vigorously.

Almost sunset in Fira
Almost sunset in Fira on Santorini

After more touring of the island, we ended up back at Fira.  We sat in a café on a balcony overlooking the azure sea as the sun started to go down.  We had two choices to get back to sea level and the ship from our lofty perch – take a cable car or walk down 600 steps.  There was a big line for the cable car so we chose the steps.

“I don’t think you need my ticket.” I said.

He wouldn’t let us pass.  I started to get annoyed.

“Get out of my way or I’ll go find the police.”

He finally backed down and let us through.  He was a mule herder.  He wanted my cable car ticket to sell.  The mule herders ferried tourists from the small dock hundreds of feet below up the steps on the backs of mules for a fee.  Since we were walking down instead of riding the cable car, we didn’t need the tickets provided for us by the ship.

There were many mules milling about on the trail.  Some of them were tied up, and some weren’t.  At times packs of mules came running up the hill toward us.  We had to dodge them as they ran by, hugging the wall so as to not get stepped on or body-checked.  These mules were not as big as horses, but they still would pack a mighty wallop if they run into you.  After several close calls we made it down all of the steps to the dock for the boat ride back to the ship.

I have never run with the bulls at Pamplona, Spain, but I can now say I have safely run with the mules of Santorini!

Fira on Santorini
Fira and the Aegean Sea
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