40mm ISO400 1/160 f/7.1
Farewell to Greece for now, but it’ll be back…
Monastiraki Flea Market, Athens
55mm ISO640 1/250 f/20
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Chatting with Kelly
After lunch we had a long and interesting chat with Kelly Agathos, a charming and intelligent young woman who is the Classical Greece Coordinator at easyCruise. Both Kelly’s parents are Greek, but she was brought up in the USA and Belgium and speaks perfect English, French and Greek. She studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University, where she met Stelios when he was invited to speak at Cambridge Union Society about his businesses and his life as an entrepreneur. She was invited to join easyCruise as soon as she graduated in Summer 2007.
Kelly explained that her main role on board to ensure that the Classical Greece tours functioned smoothly and that she was responsible for selecting the sites to be visited and for local arrangements, such as employing tour guides. When the tours are not running, she markets and promotes the Classical Greece Cruise as well as selecting the sites and excursions for the following season. We asked her why easyCruise, a company known principally for offering low-cost, high-value leisure cruises, had chosen to enter this market. She explained that they saw it as an unexplored niche market which presented opportunities for attracting a new client group and extending the cruise season at both ends. No other company offered a one-week trip which included visits to so many major archaeological sites.
She felt that the company also had a commitment to promoting and supporting the Classics, as shown by their recent sponsorship of a Cambridge debate on the Parthenon Marbles. In some cases, this support could have very practical benefits, for example, including the little-visited but important site of Kolonna on the island of Aegina in this season’s cruise itinerary. Taking easyCruise guests to this site could affect its future by showing the Greek Ministry of Culture that it merits longer opening hours and more maintenance.
Kelly noted that the cruises were attracting a unique client-group, across a wide variety of ages, country of origin and background, whose only common bond was a shared love of culture. This presented challenges in marketing the cruises, but they were trying to attract interested clients through classics societies and classics journals. She said that Stelios himself believed that was important to make culture accessible by making it fun and exciting. She compared the cruise to an affordable 21st century version of the Grand Tour, the 19th century practice of visiting the cultural centres of Europe, enjoyed by the leisured classes.
We thanked Kelly for her time and wished her every success for future cruises. We are certain that her own obvious commitment and enthusiasm will play a major role in ensuring that this happens. We know that she welcomes comments from any of the passengers, so if you have anything to say, please let her know.
55mm ISO640 1/80 f/11
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A quick breakfast passed without misadventure. The staff seem to be getting the hang of things. It was a longish and relatively uninteresting drive from the sprawling port of Patras up to the idyllic calm of Olympia. This area suffered badly from the fires that devastated large areas of Greece at the end of the scorching summer of 2007. However the museum, the temple area and the stadium were spared obliteration by divine intervention, or perhaps just by a stroke of good luck – is there a difference?
Our guide, Saskia was first class. She was clear, interesting, knowledgeable and patient. It was incredible to stand on the Olympic site and see the fabled columns and the stadium where history lived and breathed. What words can explain the tingle felt when standing in the gymnasium where the naked athletes trained? What phrases can sum up the magnificence of the temple of Zeus or the majesty of the fountains built to provide water for the participants and the attending throng. How can you express the thrill of passing under the ancient archway into the arena, seeing the starting line and putting a tentative toe into the groove. Some of the younger members of our party decided to try an Olympic sprint themselves, but we felt it more prudent to head back towards the museum.
We were truly privileged today as we were the only three busloads of visitors exploring this vast site. It certainly added to the splendour and grandeur of the site seeing it relatively tourist-free. Like the visits to Corinth and Mycenae, these digs help us to maintain a sense of continuity from the past to the present day, and give us hope for the future, despite our apparent headlong rush towards annihilation
Cultures rise and fall with appalling regularity, whether through god-sent or man-made disasters, but somehow we always triumph above our ineptitude and stupidity. There’s always some Odysseus or Heracles to wear the laurel wreath and devise a means or put in the effort to scale the heights again.
Of course, it also helps to appease the Gods. My vote currently goes to the level-headed, but rarely-seen God of Common Sense, to lead the new Pantheon. Suggestions for other potential members are welcome. (Karmanie)
Monastiraki, Athens, Greece
35mm ISO400 1/400 f/11
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Ithaca by night
Our evening started with a short but interesting Greek lesson on board, followed by a quick sniff at some typical Greek herbs. We then set out into Vathy to find an Internet Cafe and restore our plummeting ouzo levels, hoping to find some tasty snacks on the way. Once both the blog and the ouzo had been updated, we found a little Greek-filled bar serving excellent food. I can see the attraction of an onboard meal package from a budgetary perspective, but to get the full flavour you have to see Papa behind the BBQ in his greasy apron and Mama doling out baskets of toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano. We had dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and chicken souvlaki (kebabs), washed down with retsina from a copper carafe.
Heading back to the liner, we met up with fellow passengers Don and Maureen from St Albans and joined them in another bar for a couple of nightcaps, or was it another couple of bars for a nightcap? In either case, it was a wonderful end to another enjoyable day. (Karmanie)
Read the complete blog at http://greecefeb08.blogspot.com