Log #27g To Athens

October 27, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 27 Summer in Greece, The Logs

Oct. 27, 2002
Polemos Buku, Kekova Roads, Turkey

Hi Folks,

We are at this pleasant anchorage at the west end of Kekova Roads for the second time. We ere here earlier in the summer, and liked the ruins of Aperlae so much I wanted a second chance to explore them. Without a doubt, they are extremely interesting, isolated, and reeking of the ancient Lycian civilization that once dominated this part of Turkey prior to the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras. When we were here before, I wrote of snorkeling along the ruins of their docks, and finding interesting shards of amphorae. This time I went higher into the city’s ruins to the upper ramparts, through foundations of Greek and Roman structures and Byzantine churches, and a large necropolis with dozens of rock sarcophagi strewn around the hillside. I was able to identify Lycian and Greek inscriptions on various tombs and remains of columns. The entire area is uninhabited except by a couple of families that fish and tend a herd of goats. I would rate this as one of the best sites to explore, even better than some of the ones in parks such as Olympos or Termessus. It doesn’t have dramatic theatres or mountaintop vistas, but has the relatively undisturbed remains of buildings, walls, fortifications, docks, and walkways of this forgotten city. Judging from the extent of the remains, it was a very large town or small city, at least as large as Phaselis or Olympos.

We have met a couple of US boats here, Meg and Amulet, both of whom we have heard on the Med Net in the mornings, and both of whom are heading to Kemer for the winter.

Next week there is a national election here in Turkey. It will be interesting to see the outcome. Unfortunately the party favoured to win is the renamed Islamic party (the Justice and Development party or the AKP) which the government has tried to bar from the elections as Turkey has tried and continues to try to separate church and state, and does not want an Islamic take over. The leader of this party, Recep Tayyip Ergodan, has been banned from running earlier on the grounds of “Islamist sedition”. Some “bleeding hearts” in the EU and the “politically correct” see this effort as religious discrimination and a human rights issue.

Turkey has many other burning issues with which it has to deal. It has been trying for 10 years or more to join the EU, but has recently been put on the back burner, not included in this last group of ten nations which have been moved up the next step for membership, including Greek Cyprus. If Cyprus is admitted, it will create greater conflict between Greece and Turkey, and possibly harden or make permanent the separation of Greek and Turkish Cyprus. That issue should be resolved before Cyprus is admitted. Turkey has been a member of NATO since the mid 50’s, and is a good friend towards the US and Israel. Turkey has gone a long way to accommodate the requirements of the EU, including abolition of the death penalty and extension of language rights to the Kurdish minority. Dealing with the Kurdish minority, Kurdish separatism, and Kurdish terrorism is still a problem for Turkey.

I think Turkey should play “hard ball” with the US, and demand that if the US proceeds with a war on Saddam Hussein, that any resultant administration would not permit an autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq, otherwise the US would not be permitted to use any Turkish support, bases, or airspace. A separate Kurdish state in Northern Iraq would cause the Kurdish areas of Turkey and Syria to demand union with it, destabilizing the entire area. Thus Turkey should insist on the territorial integrity of Iraq in any subsequent administration.

Turkey, with its population of 60 million and its (hopefully) continued rapid economic and cultural development, is the “sleeping giant” of the Middle East, an excellent counterweight to Iraq and Iran, and a buffer for Europe from the non-democratic Islamic states. To help Turkey and Europe, it should be accepted into the EU. To help the US in dealing with Iraq, and to help Israel and Syria (it has good relations with both, and has the water they both need), and to avoid a conflagration in the Middle East, Turkey should be given assurances by the US of the territorial integrity of any resultant Iraqi administration. Turkey should be given as much developmental support by the US and the EU as possible, as it is and will be an important ally.

Needless to say, I like Turkey.

Enjoy this log on our arrival to Athens. It was OK, but we enjoyed the Greek islands more.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Log #27g To Athens

Oct. 18, 2002

We dinghied over to the sandy beach of the hotel beneath the Sounion headland and trudged up to the remains of the temple of Poseidon, only to find out they were not open yet. We nosed around the souvenir shop for a while and I selected a CD that showed 50 pictures of Greece and several traditional Greek musical numbers. (However on playing it a few days later I found that the images would not come up, and had only the music.) On opening, we were the first up to find the ruins roped off, permitting us to wander around the outside of the temple columns, but not to enter or look more closely at the architectural details. The 17 roofless columns stood white and proud, remnants of a temple built in the 5th century BC to the cult of Poseidon fostered by the growing supremacy of Athenian naval power. On a lower hill below the temple are the remains of a temple of Athena, only a couple of dusty columns in the middle of a field. The entire headland was fortified at one time, dominating the entrance to the Saronic Gulf (with Athens and Corinth at the inner end) and the south Euboean Gulf to the north. The silver mines at Lavrion 10 km to the north were also protected by this fortress. However, in 104 to 100 BC the headland was occupied by 1000 slaves in revolt from these mines. By the 2nd century AD and with the decline of the Roman Era, the sanctuary was abandoned.

We spent less than an hour wandering around the site, and didn’t bother going over to the few columns of the temple of Athena, as we wanted to get under way for Aigina, a large historic island in the middle of the Saronic Gulf. We were now in the historic waters leading to Athens and Corinth. There is a free incomplete marina just outside the town breakwater, but it looked quite full and did not seem to have much maneuvering room for bows-on mooring without the anchor lines becoming mixed up like a plate of spaghetti. The town docks were reasonably clear, and so we went in bows to the dock, right along the main street. As we were to meet my foster son Alvin at the Athens airport three days from now, Sept. 20th, we decided this would be a good location from which to catch a ferry to Piraeus to pick him up. We had phoned a few of the marinas closer to Athens to get no response or to find out they were full, and so were happy to stay here at Aigina and catch one of the local ferries. There were several leaving every hour, and we had a choice of a regular car ferry, a high speed cat ferry or a hydrofoil, ranging in price from €5.00 to €7.00, and taking from 2 ½ hours to 45 minutes respectively.

The town itself is a pleasant one, with all the amenities needed, including chandleries, vegetable and fruit markets (including a couple of boats docked at the waterfront laden down with fresh produce), internet and DVD rentals, with a fuel truck and water available. We took a local bus up into the mountains to the Temple of Aphaia, built in pre-Hellenic 480 BC when Aigina was at its height of development. The pediments of the temple were decorated with Trojan War sculpture as Aigina (also spelt Aegina, but pronounced as “eh-yee-nah”, with a soft “g”) contributed several ships to that campaign; however they (the sculptures) were “spirited “away in the 19th century, were in the possession of King Ludwig I, and now have pride of place in Munich’s Glyptothek museum”, according to the Lonely Planet Guide. This temple too was roped off, but was more impressive than Sounion, and had more columns, capitals, foundations and construction stones distributed with explanatory stations around the site. One station I found of interest illustrated the construction methods used, with diagrams of how the stones and columns had niches carved into them for lifting and secure placement. It made the examination of the loose stone blocks of greater interest as we noted these carved niches used in the construction. This site also had what I had wanted to see in several other sites – a good explanatory museum with pictures of the original temple, its design, statuary, and construction features. Because of the museum, I would put it as one of the best sites we have seen. On the way back in the bus we saw the Paleohora, the old town abandoned in 1826, but did not stop to snoop through it. The older ladies in black dresses were crossing themselves past every chapel and church.

The town and island, because of its strategic position at the mouth of the Saronic Gulf, emerged as a major commercial center about 1000 BC and by the 7th century BC was the major power in the area. However, even though it was a major contributor to the Greek side at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, it was attacked and defeated by Athens in 459 BC, and forced to tear down its city walls and surrender its fleet. As the Lonely Planet describes, “According to mythology, Aegina was abducted by Zeus, and taken to the island. Her son by Zeus, Aeacus, was the grandfather of Achilles of Trojan War fame.” Other details about the island:

– It was the capital from 1827 to 1829 of the partly liberated Greece.

– The writer Nikos Kazantzakis wrote “Zorba the Greek” while living on the island.

– It is Greece’s main producer of pistachio nuts.

The day we were to meet Alvin, we took an early hydrofoil to Piraeus. It skimmed across the water at about 35 to 40 knots, covering the 20 miles or so in 45 minutes, dock to dock. It was a smooth crossing with very little sensation. It bumped over the small waves feeling more like a bus than a boat. Some of the early pioneering work on hydrofoils was done by the Canadian, Alexander Graham Bell, on the Bras D’or Lakes on Cape Breton Island. The Canadian Navy even developed one of the first hydrofoil warships in the early 1960’s, HMCS Bras D’or, but after being built and sea trialed she was scrapped and now lies derelict some place in Quebec. At least the government didn’t destroy it as they did with the Avro Arrow, another piece of high tech development scrapped by the government.

But I digress. Piraeus, a suburb of Athens, is a large commercial port with the ferry terminals at the inner end, adjacent to a good bus terminal with frequent buses to the airport. We rapidly saw how Athens’ traffic system is a “dog’s breakfast”. Cars were parked every which way, especially at corners, creating congestion on narrow streets. While we were there, Athens was experimenting with a “no car” day, permitting only taxis, trucks, and buses, and offering free commuter bus service. It was a shambles. To reduce the traffic, Athens has already instituted an odd-even license plate system where on alternate days only cars with odd numbered license plates are allowed into the city, and then next day for even numbered plates. I would not want to own a car in Athens.

We went over to Zea marina to see it and to visit some chandleries to try to get a whisker pole for Veleda. No luck. They either had never heard of such a pole, or didn’t stock them. (For you non-sailors, a whisker pole is an extendable aluminum pole that attaches to the mast, and extends out to the clew of the genoa sail to hold it out when sailing downwind.) We broke ours last season and need a new one. As well, we went to the Athens Maritime Museum, located next to the marina. It was not an exceptional museum, but did have some items of interest.

Back at the port we caught the airport bus for a 1½ hour ride, a distance which could have been covered in 30 minutes with reasonable traffic. The new Athens airport is modern and efficient. Athens is working up its infrastructure in preparation for the next Olympics to be held there. Alvin’s plane arrived a bit early and he was through customs rapidly, as he was cleared through in his stopover in Amsterdam. The EU can produce some efficiencies.

After another 1½ hour bus ride we caught the hydrofoil again back to Aigina. The ferries serve the island every half hour with one of the three types of ferries used. The Greek ferry services are quite impressive to all the islands and coastal areas, with a variety of companies competing for customers. The route took us across the inner end of the Saronic Gulf, passing the island of Salamis. The straits around the northeast side of the island are the location for the famous Battle of Salamis where the Greek fleet defeated the Persian invasion fleet in 480 BC. Judy had wanted to sail Veleda through this historic waterway, but when she saw the many merchant ships at anchor in the vicinity, and the traffic going into the straits heading to the Corinth Canal, she felt we didn’t really need to put ourselves through that industrial congestion. So we shelved plans to sail around Salamis.