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Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cruising the Eastern Mediterranean Part III

Off the ship and bussed to Florence, heart of Tuscany,
Which we both had explored in previous visits.
Time for only a half-day expedition led us to the Medici Chapel
To see Michaelangelo's sculptures commissioned by the Grand Dukes.

Then to Rome to have a Chinese dinner near the hotel.
Next day, a long walking tour on a hot day
All over the Colisseum and up through the Forum
To visualize the citizens of the mighty empire at work and play.

Modern Rome is obviously a city in trouble.
Traffic chokes the streets; cars park double and on sidewalks.
Graffiti defaces all the fine old buildings.
Commerce and residence are mixed indiscriminately.

Athens is worse, with little distinctive architecture.
Both cities are capitals of their respective countries.
Grand plans for civic improvement
Are jeopardized by perilous debt in each.

By contrast, we were pleasantly surprised at the
Beauty and order of Izmir in Turkey.
Well laid-out boulevards pass between rows of
Handsome apartment buildings in residential areas.

A dinner out at a little cellar trattoria in Rome,
Followed by an illumination tour and a visit to the fabled
Trevi fountain, where we each threw a coin
Over the left shoulder to assure a return to Rome.

So that two American college students will meet on a
Tour to Italy in 2035, he a geeky blond English major, she
An art student who reminds her family of her wild great aunt,
Barbara; both will wonder what drew them together.

At St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, amidst all the
Renaissance art and churchly opulence, one wonders how
The authorities would react to the presence of an itinerant
Preacher who proclaims: "Blessed are the humble in spirit."

Cruising the Eastern Mediterranean Part II

Watched the ascent of Santorini Island by fellow passengers
By bus, cable car, mule, or on foot up to the town.
Admired the scattering of white stucco houses
Across the island of Myknonos.

Almost every home had a small chapel and mausoleum on site.
Ancient windmills ground corn, like those on Cape Cod.
Admired a startling Baroque church in the middle of a monastery,
Adjacent to a shopping mall where we were served ouzo and sea delicacties.

Back to Venice for a day to take on new passengers.
Boated into Piazza San Marco to visit the Duomo.
Took a special trip on the vaporetto to Santa Maria dei Frari
To see Titian's famous "Assumption of Mary into Heaven."

Dubrovnik lived up to its billing as an
Enchanted walled town with its Renaissance charm intact,
Perched on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea,
Surviving earthquakes and wars over the centuries.

Realized a goal of a lifetime
In seeing the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens.
The new museum at the foot offers a splendid panorama
And displays the original artifacts that adorned the temple.

The ruins of Ephesus, near Izmir, Turkey
Combine the heritage of ancient Greece, the glory of Rome,
And the flowering of Christianity,
Where John lived and Paul preached.

Too worn out from clambering Ephesus
To make a visit to Nafplion,
We viewed and photographed
This jewel of a resort from the comfort of the ship.

Cruising the Eastern Mediterranean Part I

Venezia! What a joy! Beginning with
A mad speedboat ride to the Grand Canal.
A walk through the Jewish Ghetto, no longer
Locked at night to keep in the ghost of Shylock.

A tour of the Rialto and the Piazza San Marco.
Respite in the cool, subdued confines of
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection of modern art,
Its garden courtyard, museum cafe, and buried dogs.

Dinner at our Hotel Principe
With candlelight, music, and sights of the canal.
Boat ride to Murano to see glass blowing,
Fabulous and expensive glass objects for sale.

On board the Norwegian Gem on Saturday,
An immense floating hotel for 2,400 guests.
First shore excursion to Split, in Croatia,
An ancient resort on the Dalmatian coast.

The tour centered on the palace erected by the
Roman Emperor Diocletian in the third century,
Now containing a tiny Orthodox cathedral,
Restored vaults, and modern apartments.

Next a drive in Corfu, a seedy and rundown island,
Past dealers for every car and motorcycle on the planet,
To visit a late nineteenth century palace built by
A deeply neurotic Austrian Empress who was bored in Vienna.

She was whacked by an anarchist in 1898.
The palace was then bought and occupied by the German Kaiser.
None of which we much cared about, except for photographing
The gardens and the statuary surrounding the palace.