We have carried a couple of well-respected travel books on this cruise. As a longtime guidebook writer, I believe in the important role of printed guides for foreign travel. But they’re never the be all and end all of travel knowledge.
These last two Greek islands, on April 23 and 24, were both ignored by these volumes. Our visits to Naxos and Lemnos were symbolic of the Voyages to Antiquity approach to creative port calls and unusual itineraries.
It was a sunny day on Naxos, and, like Santorini, many buildings are whiter than white and very vertical. We climbed steps and ramps to reach two museums considered essential. The best exhibits in both were the high-level views over the harbor and lower portions of the city. A number of wandering cats caught visitors’ attention in the town.
Both islands may be of particular interest to women. In Greek mythology (or ancient history, if you are a believer), the warrior Theseus abandoned the princess Ariadne of Crete on Naxos. That was after she helped him kill the Minotaur on Crete and then escape together from the Labyrinth. Their joint adventure over, the guy never called again. Heartbroken, Ariadne ended up killing herself.
Lemnos, however, demonstrated a certain female determination. After the island’s male population deserted their wives and girlfriends to pursue some young Thracian women, the ladies of Lemnos took their revenge by killing all the men on the island.
This was verified some time later when Jason and the Argonauts stopped by Lemnos while on their search for the Golden Fleece. They found only women on the island, which was then ruled by daughter of the dead king.
Today, however, all is forgiven, and the two islands – menfolk and womenfolk alike — welcome the relatively few travelers who seek them out.
The weather forecast for Lemnos, “mostly sunny,” turned out to be wrong this time, and getting on off the ship’s tenders proved problematic with heavy waves bouncing the boats up and down. On shore the clouds began to drizzle on residents and travelers alike.
Still the relatively sleepy port town was attractive, with small shops and cafes along a few streets, and all guarded by the ruins of castle atop a high hill – and some shops guarded by the family dog.
At sea on the evening of April 24, the several Australian and New Zealanders on board noted that the ship would pass Gallipoli, Turkey, on the eve of ANZAC day, the date and place where 10,000 in the Australian-New Zealand Army Corps lost their lives during an ill-planned invasion in 1915. It’s a national holiday in both countries.
A short service was held on deck, many threw red poppies into the sea, while others took photographs as the ship passed the nearby cliffs and memorials marking the tragedy.
April 23/24, 2012
Photos by Robert W. Bone