Friday, September 16, 2022

The Mythical Greek Island of Delos


One of the most unique places I've traveled to is the Island of Delos.  It was once a large city and the spiritual capital of the Greek Islands.  It is also one of the world's largest and oldest archaeological digs, started in 1870 by the French.  The Delos island near Mykonos is one of Greece's most important mythological and historical sites.  4000 years ago, this was their spiritual center, which can be compared to the Vatican for Catholics.  

"Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.  In 1990, UNESCO inscribed Delos on the World Heritage List, citing it as the "exceptionally extensive and rich" archaeological site that "conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port."

Our cruise ship stopped in Mykonos, where we were tendered to shore to catch a tour boat to Delos.  The tour boat was over 50' long and was comfortable with a snack bar.  We ride outside, sitting on seats on the gangway on the ship's side.  It's a short sail from Mykonos to Delos, about 30 minutes.   

We land right at the Park entrance.  Once at Delos, we are divided into groups and were assigned a tour guide.  The tour guide was indispensable in viewing the Island ruins and relics.  He explained everything in great detail.  We first walk through the sacred precinct to the Terrace of the Lions.  The Sacred Precinct is a large area filled with temples and alters from thousands of years of worship.  The Terrace of the Lions, also called the Avenue of the Lions, overlooks the Sacred Lake. 

After this, we walked through the shopping and residential district.  Including the House of the Dolphins, a mosaic depicting the Phoenician goddess Tanit indicates that Delos also functioned as a meeting place of cultures and beliefs.  We then walked through the House of Cleopatra.  Many houses had incredible floor mosaics which were in the process of being unearthed. 

The theater was an important part of the cultural life of the island.  The ancient theater could hold up to 5,000 people.  We got to sit in the seats and imagine what it was like to be there during that time.   They were the privileged few who, at that time, considered themselves living with the Gods of Greek Mythology. 

Sitting in the theater, we could see the abandoned ancient city with the Ocean in the background.   It was strange, but you could feel the history.  We were definitely caught up in the moment.  Our time on the tour had come to an end. So we headed back through the city to board our tour boat for the 30-minute trip back to Mykonos.  

Sunday, September 11, 2022

God Bless the Queen, God Save the King

During my Army and Government Contractor Career, I have spent some time with British Soldiers and contractors. Their love for the Queen was always there, worn on their shoulders for all the world to see. I remember a few fights breaking out over perceived insults of the Queen.

One time early in my career, at an international leapfest for paratroopers, I made a light-hearted joke about the Queen and the American revolution. It didn’t go over very well, creating scowls and faces of disgust. Taken aside by a contemporary, it was explained to me the etiquette I had broken. We don’t joke about the Queen.

It was like talking bad about someone’s mother but much worse. Their love was always evident, especially during the queen’s birthday, celebrated around the world, which I’ve had the honor to participate in a couple times.

Since then, I developed a fascination with the Queen and the British Monarchy. A few years ago we visited England. I had made a mistake on our Airbnb reservation in Chelsea. Our flight arrived a day before we could get into our flat. So I made a reservation at a small hotel across the street from Windsor Castle to kill time. It was one of those situations where we were glad that it happened, getting to tour the castle the next day.

This morning I was watching the news with the queen's grandsons, William and Harry, with their wives greeting the crowd outside of Windsor Castle. For a second, I caught a glimpse of the window of the room that we stayed in. Thinking to myself about how ordinary the Royal family really is.

Even with all the scandals laid bare in the newspapers and petty family bickering, now grieving for a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. This is really what makes the monarchy special. The people of Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations see themself in the Royal Family. This intertwinement is what makes them British.

Friday, September 9, 2022

The Heart of Tennessee: State Highway 56

TN Highway 56 is one of the best motorcycle roads in Tennessee for its varied terrain and length. It's one of those roads you can ride repeatedly and always find something different. It will always leave the soul refreshed.

Tennessee 56 cuts through the state from north to south like a knife. It separates the eastern mountains from middle Tennessee. A region I like to call the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau. 56 also crosses the Plateau twice. It's an incredible ride and one of the best fall colors rides in the Nation. Today it's a ride from Clarksville to Chattanooga to meet my new granddaughter Ella Clarie. It's a special trip; it requires a special ride. This is it.

I make my way to Highway 56 from Clarksville, going through Portland, Tennessee, on Highway 52. I catch motorcycle nirvana in Red Boiling Springs. Once on Highway 56, it immediately turns into a curve-riding affair. After ascending the Cumberland Plateau, it's a sharp descent into the Gainsboro Valley. This is a fun ride with long high-speed curves with a mix of short S-turns.
After reaching Gainsboro, there is a short 2 exit hop on Interstate 40. Then it's a fun ride above Center Hill Lake on my way to McMinnville. Then it's a climb to Altamont back up on the Plateau. Finally, I leave Highway 56 on the way to Chattanooga. I drop into the Sequatchie River Valley and the town of Dunlap. It's then another climb over Signal Mountain before reaching our destination of Chattanooga.

It's been a long day of riding. It's time to meet my new granddaughter. I recommend breaking it up into a 2-day ride. We will ride this again in the fall when the leaves start to change. This road makes several lists as one of the best fall color rides in the Nation. It truly ranks as one of the great roads of our Nation.