I'm a bit late this week, as I was jet skiing in Mykonos just now when I should have been writing. This spectacularly beautiful Greek Island is covered with whitewashed houses and domed churches, and ringed with stunning beaches that run the gamut from family-friendly to no-holds-barred. And I mean that literally.
I'm checking in as promised from the Internet cafe aboard the Silver Whisper
newest ship (as of 2004). I've been onboard for a week now and I can honestly say that this ship is as nice as it gets -- beautiful, elegant and immaculate. And in the ultimate sign of a well-run ship, the officers and crew seem genuinely happy as they go about their duties.
One of the big advantages of a ship with only 382 passengers is that it is easier to make friends, because guests tend to see the same people more often than is the case on a larger ship. About 70% of the passengers on this cruise are Americans, and the remaining 30% represent perhaps 25 different countries.
The prices for Silversea are not cheap, even when discounted to Vacations To Go customers, but it's important to note that such things as tips, alcoholic beverages and sodas are included in the price. In my opinion, the quality of the ship and service is unsurpassed on the sea, and far surpasses anything on land.
A couple of days ago, we visited Katakolon and took the excursion to Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic games. The Olympic torch is lit in Olympia before every Olympics, using only sunlight and curved glass, and the torch is carried throughout the world before arriving at the host city for the opening ceremony. When this summer's Olympics are held in Athens, the shotput event will be held in Olympia, in the original open-air stadium.
The ancient Olympics began in 776 BC, and consisted of events in running, jumping, throwing, wrestling, and a combination of wrestling and boxing. Later, horse racing and chariot racing were added. Riders (and competitors in all events) were naked, and women were not allowed to compete or even attend.
Of all the events, the foot races were considered the most important, and the winner of the shortest race, one time across the floor of the stadium (exactly 600 feet), was the most highly honored athlete of the games. Two days ago, we stood on the starting blocks in that stadium and I challenged my teenage son to a race to decide the day's champion. Mercifully, he declined.
While in Olympia, we were fortunate to have an intelligent and caring tour guide, Constantine, who seemed genuinely concerned that we take from our brief visit an understanding of the original spirit of the Olympics. From its origin, the Olympics was dedicated to competition, fair play and reconciliation. In fact, the ancient Olympics lasted five days, and during that time there was a cessation of fighting in all the lands represented by the participants.
Olympia is home to one of the most important museums in Greece, containing remarkable statues and thousands of artifacts from the ancient city. When our group had finished its tour of the museum and walked outside, the bearded and articulate Constantine took the hand of a blind tour participant and led him carefully back into the museum.
I thought at the time he was helping the gentlemen to a restroom, but I heard later that he had taken him directly to the statues of the Gods and had held the man's hands out to touch each statue as he described what the man was feeling.
Later, when the bus had returned us to the Silver Whisper, our blind fellow passenger was moved to tears as he shook Constantine's hand. I could see that the Olympic spirit lives on in Olympia today.
This cruise winds up in Athens the day after tomorrow and we're hoping to see some of the venues for the games, as our trip to the Mediterranean continues.
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