Darn, I thought to myself as I checked my blogs for Santorini. I’ve done a lot on the island. I can’t seem to help myself— it is so beautiful and unique. I really thought about doing something different today, but I had promised Santorini. Plus, as noted, I can’t resist. When I found a post on the churches I had done in 2013, I decided to put it up in hopes that there might be a few photos I haven’t shared on my blog four or five times. 🙂Still, even if you have seen these, they are always worthy of seeing again!
Europe is filled with great churches that are known as much for their art and architecture as they are for religion. Our cruise through the Mediterranean would take us to some of the world’s most renowned cathedrals. While the churches on the Greek Island of Santorini are no match for the splendor of what you find in Venice, Rome or Florence, they have a subtle beauty and uniqueness of their own. The following photos are meant to capture something of their beauty.
FRIDAY’S BLOG: Assuming the weather cooperates, I thought it would be fun to share my seven different offices on the property. If I am feeling the least bit stir crazy during the lock down, I move! (Grin.)
Peggy and I are continuing to self-isolate ourselves, as are so many of you. Medford, Oregon, the medium sized town where we do most of our shopping, is on the edge of becoming a coronavirus hotspot. (Nowhere is safe.) We have zero desire to go there and have enough food— and wine— that we don’t have to for a couple of weeks. I even have older blogs to repurpose. (Grin.) Something like 900. I’ve been blogging for 10 years. Last week I re-posted a blog on the Greek island of Corfu. Today is Mykonos. Stay safe.
The maze-like town of Mykonos (Chora) was designed to discourage invasion. It was easy for invaders to get lost in the narrow, winding streets that ran into other narrow, winding streets that ran into other narrow, winding streets.
Modern day invaders, otherwise known as tourists, also find it easy to get lost. But that’s half the fun. Except for finding a restroom when you really, really need it, there is no danger. You can easily spend an hour or several wandering along the town’s crooked roads and paths. There are beautiful white buildings slathered in stucco to admire, shops to explore, and cats to photograph. You may even find a Greek musician playing the bouzouki, a mandolin-like instrument that produces what most people think of as Greek music. Picture Zorba dancing.
We managed to get both lost and separated. There was no hope of finding each other in the labyrinth, but fortunately we had a plan. We would meet at the island’s famous windmills. Long since retired, five of them remain hunkered down on a ridge south of town. Mykonos is noted for its winds. The locals even have names for them based on their intensity: bell-ringer, chair thrower, and knock you off your horse. We experienced a brief example of chair thrower but fortunately missed knock you off your horse.
The windmills used cloth sails to capture the winds and run mills for grinding grain. Local bakeries then turned the grain into sea biscuits, aka hardtack, which is flour and water baked several times into a consistency of hardness just this side of rock. The value of sea biscuits is they are basically indestructible. Before modern refrigeration, they were used on long sea voyages. Throw in a lime plus a generous dollop of rum and it was dinner. Producing these ‘delicacies’ was the island’s main industry.
Following the coastline back into town we came upon Little Venice (pictured above), a community where sea captains of yore built mini-mansions perched on the ocean edge. Since it neither looks like Venice nor has canals, my thoughts are its name is derived from its proximity to water. Either that or a real estate agent was involved. The community is quite colorful, however. I’d be glad to call it home.
Mykonos has some 70 churches to meet the needs of its 7000 residents, which seems like a lot. I am reminded of the number of Baptist churches found in the rural South of the United States. When I was traveling through East Texas on my bicycle in 1989, I estimated there was one for each family. The Mykonosians had a unique use for their churches, however. They enshrined the bones of their dead relatives in the walls. I doubt the Baptists do this but it might give new meaning to the old saying, “the family that prays together, stays together.”
Scrunched between Little Venice and the harbor is the Church of Panagia Paraportiani, the most unusual church on the Mykonos. Once upon a time five different chapels existed side by side. Then they morphed together into what has become one of the most photographed sites on the island, with reason. We contributed our share of picture-taking.
The small harbor area of Mykonos definitely fits the description of picturesque. It was our last stop (except for lunch) on our way back to the ship. That’s where we met Petros the Pelican.
Unfortunately, it was Sunday and the local fishermen had taken the day off. We satisfied ourselves with admiring the boats. The area also features a small beach that would be crammed with sun worshippers in the summer. Now all it featured was golden sand and blue sea.
WEDNESDAY’S BLOG: Santorini. I’ve posted on this more recently but this beautiful island is always worth revisiting.
Seven years ago, Peggy and I made a trip to Europe and cruised the Mediterranean along with her brother John, his wife Frances, and two of their friends Lee and Kathi. Now that our wings are clipped due to coronavirus, I decided a little armchair travel might help satisfy my thwarted desire to travel. Instead of ‘wandering through time and place,’ I am wandering in place. You are invited along…
“The sea is high again today, with a thrilling flush of wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the inventions of spring.” Lawrence Durrell
I was visiting the Pioneer Bookstore in Placerville when I was first introduced to Lawrence Durrell and the Greek Island of Corfu. The bookstore was a favorite hangout of mine during my senior year in high school in 1960 and George Yohalem, the owner, had become a mentor, helping guide my 17-year-old mind to a number of good books. He and his wife Betty had retired to the foothills of California after long careers in Hollywood where George had worked as a screenwriter and she as an actress.
I had picked up a new book that had just arrived and read the first couple of pages. Since it looked interesting, I carried it over to George for advice. “It’s quite good,” he had told me, “but don’t tell your mother that I recommended it.” That caught my attention.
The book was “Justine” by Lawrence Durrell. The quote above is the first line in the book and Durrell is describing Corfu. He had lived there from 1935-40 and fallen in love with the island. “Justine” became one of my first ventures into serious literature and definitely my first venture into erotic literature— thus George’s admonition. The book transfixed me, not so much by the sex (well, maybe a little), but by the sheer mastery of the language and the sense of the exotic. I was picked up and dropped into Corfu and then Alexandria… the main setting for “Justine” and the other three books in the Alexandria Quartet. It was magic.
Durrell wasn’t the only author to find Corfu a touch exotic. Homer had the ship wrecked Odysseus land on the island during his long journey and Shakespeare used it for the setting of Prospero’s magical realm in The Tempest. In Corfu’s long history Corinthians, Romans, Venetians, French and English had occupied the island as a gateway to both the East and West. At one point, the feared pirate Barbarossa laid siege to Corfu and succeeded in enslaving a substantial portion of its population.
Corfu’s location in the Ionian Sea sets it apart from its Greek cousins Santorini and Mykonos in the Aegean Sea. We found no more sparkling white washed buildings perched on treeless terrain. Corfu is an island covered with over a million olive trees and its buildings are multi-hued with a well-lived-in look. Two massive forts serve as bookends for its main town, also known as Corfu. We wandered through its winding narrow streets, visited an Asian museum housed in a colonial British mansion, checked out a Greek Orthodox Church, and climbed the steep hill to the top of the Old Fortress overlooking the town.
There are some things that I am almost guaranteed to photograph when I travel…
FRIDAY’S POST: We made it up to Crater Lake National Park last week, practicing social distancing the whole way. Snow added to its natural beauty.
Today marks the beginning of a new series for me: Using Wednesdays for photo essays. When you hang out with cameras in lots of interesting and often beautiful places, as Peggy and I do, you end up with a few photos. Right? Our digital collection is approaching 90,000! What in the heck do you do with all of those photos? I have mainly used ours to illustrate blogs. Usually that involves looking at a hundred or so photos and reducing them down to 20 or 30. I’ve decided to use a few more by doing a “Photo Essay Wednesday.” It will be light on writing and heavy on photography. I’ll simply scroll through our photos, pick out an interesting subject, and download the photos onto WordPress. Voila!
It has an added advantage of being quick, which my more writing-focused posts aren’t. Given that I am now well into my next book, It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me, I need to free up all the writing time I can.
My first photo essay is based on a trip Peggy and I made to Costa Rica in 2012. I blogged about it at the time but I am going to assume that most of you weren’t reading my posts then. Grin. Without further ado…
NEXT POSTS: 1) Clickety Clack 3. We travel home from Washington DC, to Chicago, to LA and back to Sacramento on Amtrak. 2) A preview of Peggy and my travel plans and blogs for 2020.
“Postcard pictures” is how my dad used to describe sunset photos somewhat dismissively. He was a serious landscape photographer and considered them less than desirable as a subject. Yet, when he passed away and I was going through his photos several years ago, what should I find? Sunset photos. Lots of them. I just smiled. Who can resist a beautiful sunset?
Peggy and I wrapped up our timeshare and said goodbye to PV this fall. I know we will miss the city with its friendly people, culture, great food, beautiful art, interesting wildlife, scenic settings and camera grabbing sunsets. I know we will be back some day, but for now, like the cowboys and cowgirls of yore, we are going to ride off into the sunset!
NEXT POST: South on the PCT into the Carson Iceberg Wilderness
It’s time to return to Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon. In my last post about the seaside walk, I introduced you to some very strange creatures. There are more of the same today plus some graceful dancers, playful porpoises, a ferocious bandido, a unicorn of sorts, and PV’s iconic seahorse.
Love was in the air with this couple as they looked out to sea, or at least down the Malecon.
Since Peggy and I first came to Puerto Vallarta years ago I have been fascinated with Huichol art and the Huichol people. Living in the Sierra Madre Mountains of the Occidental range, they have been able to combine their belief in numerous gods with art that is highly popular among tourists. For example, it’s unlikely that many Huichol have ever seen a moose, but when Peggy and I were going through shops along the Malecon, we came across this beauty featured below.
The design on the right side of the Huichol antler is peyote, which is central to the Huichol religion. Each year, the members of the tribe undertake a 300 mile journey (usually on foot) to their sacred homeland to gather a year’s supply of the potent drug. The gatherer is expected to take a bite of the first plant he or she encounters. Maybe as a result, one of them saw a moose like the one I featured above. (grin)
NEXT POST: I’ll be back to featuring rock sculptures found on the PCT in Mokelumne Wilderness.
A walk down the Malecon is a walk down memory lane for Peggy and me. No trip to Puerto Vallarta would be complete without one, or two, or three. The ocean with its waves, and beach and sealife— like pelicans performing their insane dives— the attractive city backed up against the hills, and the art. Especially the art!
My next three posts will feature the work of the various artists starting today with the Roundabout of the Sea, a creative work by Alejandro Colunga from Guadalajara. It combines weird and fun at the same time. My kind of art. These photos have been taken on different trips at various times of the day.
Each of the pieces in the Roundabout is designed as a chair to allow people walking along the Malecon a chance to sit down and rest, or, more likely, have their photos taken.
The 65-year-old Hob McConville was on a mission: finish his second trip over the PCT. (His first trip had been back in 1976 when I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.) He had already hiked the Appalachian Trail twice, and the Continental Divide Trail once. He and his wife had walked across Europe three times. In other words, hiking long distances is pretty much what Hob does. He didn’t know whether he would do the Continental Divide again. Large bears, i.e. grizzlies, worry him.
“I’ve camped under this beautiful sugar pine,” he informed me, “because it is my tent’s last night and I want to give it a good experience.” Obviously he liked his tent. In fact, it was well-loved, like a child’s teddy bear after five years of hard loving. The tent was literally falling apart at the seams and Hob had been repairing it with Post Office packaging tape. “My wife is meeting me at Echo Summit with a new tent,” he sighed, more sad than excited. Hob deeply believes that anything you purchase should be used until it is beyond use, and then a little longer.
I hated to tell him that his beautiful sugar pine was a white pine. I’m not sure why I did, except older mountain men like the two of us enjoy knowing our trees. He wanted to debate until I pointed out the cones. And the tree was a beauty, regardless of the type of cones it produced. I am sure that his tent felt well-honored. I wondered if Hob would take it home and bury it in his Connecticut backyard, like a favorite pet. Hob’s pack was in similar condition, but apparently it had a lot of miles left.
The next morning, our discussion turned to the PCT and Hob’s philosophy on long-distance hiking. “It shouldn’t be a race,” he proclaimed fervently. His feeling was that it was becoming more and more like one. He could foresee the day when companies like Nike might sponsor races to see who could finish the trail in the shortest amount of time. I agreed. Just completing the trail in a season leaves little time to appreciate the beauty of the region. Jumping from the already long 20-25 mile days to 30 or 40-mile days would make such appreciation much more difficult. I see nothing wrong with the pride through-hikers feel in finishing the trail; it is a pride well earned. And Hob was quite proud of his accomplishments. But the ultimate value of the hiking the PCT— beyond personal satisfaction and growth— is in experiencing nature and developing a commitment to protecting wilderness areas. The PCT is not a race track.
While the conversation had been stimulating, Hob had miles to go to meet up with his new tent (and wife), and I had more nature to go appreciate. We parted company with Hob heading north and me heading south. Here are some of the things I saw along the way.
I passed a few more lakes and then the PCT did what the PCT always does.
I met a young woman who was talking on her cell-phone with her brother. “I just saw a bear up the trail,” she told me breathlessly. I didn’t see the bear, but I did see…
The last time I had hiked through this area, we had walked around the lakes. The night before, one of my long time trekkers, Nancy Pape, had choked on pills. My friend Ken Lake had jumped in with the Heimlich Maneuver and saved her life. The time before, we had hiked out from the lakes to the small town of Markleeville, California and happened upon the Clampers holding their sacred initiation rites. Men were walking around with toilet seats over their necks shouting obscenities. They were quite upset that we had women along who witnessed the ceremony. The women were amused.
NEXT POST: A walk down Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon and an exploration of the public art along the way. After that, I will do a post on Huichol art in PV and then another post on the PCT.
The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is a seriously fun holiday in Puerto Vallarta and throughout Mexico where the dearly departed are celebrated with hopes that the celebration will help them on their journey. People dress up in dead-people skeleton costumes, altars are established, and special foods are prepared. Gaily decorated skulls and skeletons are everywhere. Peggy and I have yet to be in Mexico when the event takes place (which is at the end of October/beginning of November), but the skulls and skeletons are still around, lots of them.
Of the life-size sculptures, I photographed, I could only find one man. This led me to speculate, naturally, as to why. I don’t think there is a reason particular to the holiday. About an equal number of men and women die, right. So is it that the girls dress up prettier, or that their eyes are more beautiful, or is it some other attribute, like the colorful bosom of the top photo.
NEXT POST: I am back on the PCT making my way between Carson Pass and Sonora Pass.
The Bush Devil Ate Sam is an important record and a serious story, yet told easily, and with delightful humor. This is one of the most satisfying books I have ever read, because it entertained me thoroughly AND made me feel better informed. —Hilary Custance Green: British Author... Click on the image to learn more about my book, the Bush Devil Ate Sam, and find out where it can be ordered.
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