Halfway around the world tonight, the flame is out, and the stadiums are dark and silent.
The swimmers are gone, as are the gymnasts, and the runners. From every corner of the earth, they came to the birthplace of the Olympic Games to write their names in the history books, for future generations. As it has always been, many came, but few wrote.
I'm a big fan of the Olympics, and I found the 2004 games especially interesting because of my recent visit to Greece. On back-to-back Mediterranean cruises in June 2004, I spent a total of about 10 days in the country, visiting Athens, Olympia, Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes. Each port was quite different from the others, and I recommend them all.
If you're interested in history, you can peel back layer after layer in Athens, Rhodes and Olympia. If you like beaches and watersports, you'll find that Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes have great options, though I like Mykonos best. For music and food and open-air tavernas, take your pick. And for taxis that pass everything that moves, including police cars and trucks going uphill, around blind curves, it's Mykonos, definitely.
Down through the centuries, no one has felt the ebb and flow of power, the rise and fall and clash of countries, cultures and religions, more than the Greeks. It's impossible to understand these cities without knowing something of the wars and occupations this country has suffered, dating back more than two thousand years.
While these Games will be remembered as a time when the Greeks proved a doubting world wrong, marvelously executing two weeks of global sports entertainment, they may also be remembered as a time when the Romans, Venetians, Turks, Goths, Persians and Germans all came calling -- and not a single drop of blood was spilled.
And so it is another warm summer evening by the Aegean Sea. The gleaming and ethereal Parthenon, bathed in white light, towers above the sprawling city of Athens, proof that science, art and philosophy flourished here while much of the world lived in darkness. The Plaka bustles with shoppers and strollers, and the restaurants beckon with the smell of moussaka, souvlaki and calamari.
It seems to me that the best vacations create memories that grow fonder as time passes. That's how I feel about my time among the hospitable people of Greece.
Vacations To Go
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