Tuesday, August 31, 2010


August 22 & 23, 2010

This morning we spotted many flocks of Scopoli's Shearwaters and a few Balearic Shearwaters, en route to Santorini Island!

Numerous islands lie offshore from the 15,000 km-long-coastline, including those along the west (Mediterranean) coast known as the Ionian Islands (including Corfu), those sprinkled across the Aegean known as the Cyclades, those along the Turkish coast known as the Dodecanese (including Lesbos and Rhodes) and Crete. On previous voyages in the summers of 2008 and 2009, we enjoyed visits to many of these islands.

The island of Santorini is perhaps the most breathtaking of all the Greek Islands. It has been said that the sunsets in Santorini are the best in the world. Around 1500 BC, a volcanic eruption destroyed the center of the island, leaving a crescent shaped rim of cliffs around a harbor formed in the volcano's caldera. As we only had a few hours to spend on Santorini, we opted to take photographs of the many blue domed buildings.

On the island of Rhodes, we hired a taxi and headed to "Butterfly Valley." Strictly speaking this should be called "Moth Valley," as each summer it is used as a gathering place by millions of a brightly colored moth, the Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria. They gather here because the valley has a permanent spring and is therefore the coolest and moistest place in high summer on an island which is otherwise dry and arid. From all over the island, and perhaps, from Turkey, too, the moths fly to roost on the damp rock faces. They stay huddled in aestivation (the summer equivalent of hibernation) until autumn. Then, they mate, fly out lay their eggs and finally die. July and August are the best months to see this most extraordinary wildlife event. The park is every well laid out with trails that meander through a rich broadleaf forest. A few Great and Blue Tits were about in the woods, along with a bathing Eurasian Jay.

Rhodes is the jewel in the Dodecanese crown. Its Old Town with its labyrinthine back streets and Mediaeval fortifications is a World Heritage listed sight. We spent the remainder of our time on the island wandering the back streets of the Knights' Quarters. The Knights were divided into seven "tongues" or languages, according to their place of origin — England, France, Germany, Italy, Aragon, Auvergne and Provence— and each was responsible for protecting a section of the bastion. The Grand Master, who was in charge, lived in the palace, and each tongue was under the auspices of the bailiff.

To this day the Avenue of the Knights exudes a noble and forbidding aura, despite the modern offices now occupying most of the inns. These lofty buildings stretch in a 600m-long unbroken wall of honey-colored blocks, and its flat facade is punctuated by huge doorways and arched windows.

Soon it was time to board our sailing ship for the Egyptian coast.

Debi Shearwater
On board the Star Clipper
Famous Ports of the Ancient World Voyage

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