We flew to Athens in early November for a super cruising “deal” which included two 12-day segments. Most of our daylight hours were spent in exotic ports which we entered as the sky lightened and left during the brief twilight. In each, John and I took informative and fascinating tours of ancient cities, those descriptions filling my journal.
Lights brightened and twinkled as we sailed out onto the (often rough) seas and next adventure.
We knew temperatures would be down (along with the price) and that dolphins and whales would not be seen. Even flying fish were in short supply. Fortunately some sea birds were still around. As our ship sailed out of Piraeus into the darkness that first night, small white birds flew across our bow, visible in the lights of civilization.
From our balcony we saw stars and moon only occasionally, for the weather was seldom agreeable. Our tour from Volos, Greece took us up to Makrynitsa Village hung on the edge of Mt. Pelion. Cats stretched out on warm cobblestone paths, taking advantage of that day’s sunshine. Hundreds of seagulls had been on duty to meet and greet our ship, but their send-off was topped. As we sailed out into the Aegean Sea, a dappled cloud above us was made up of tiny bright pink pieces, each one perfectly reflected on the still surface of the water on which we floated. Constellations twinkled in the sky that night.
Mid-afternoon during the following day, excitement grew aboard ship, for we were approaching of Istanbul. Decks were crowded; cameras, cell phones, iPads held ready. Our ship was about to pass through this renowned city, split it in two by the Dardanelles – part in Europe and the rest on the Asian continent, en route to the Black Sea. (We would go ashore several days later – in sunshine.) The closer we came, the less we could see; fog increased, and then came the rain, getting heavier and denser, sending passengers inside to try viewing through wet windows. Our port lecturer described what we were unsuccessfully endeavouring to see!
Our route continued into the non-tidal Black Sea, which is not black, reaching Yalta, Ukraine the following morning in high wind. Pilot aboard, the ship was turned 180 degrees and backed into place, stirring up the bottom as the waves sloshed about in every direction. Despite a lengthy breakwater upon which numerous tourist boats were neatly lined up, spray flew up and over. Still in the Ukraine, we next stopped at historical Odessa.
Small birds, black with light-coloured beaks, were under orders to fly from one side of the wide bay to another while the ship entered port. Cormorants, some with wings spread in classic pose, greeted us as the ship was manoeuvred within the usual small harbour to the even smaller space at the dock. Here, hordes of greyish-green jellyfish were awaiting us. Some, we reckoned, would not survive the turbulence produced by the thrusters. The Odessa Hotel, glass and aluminium, looked out of place beside the dock where tour buses awaited us, buildings hundreds of years old beyond. As we watched doggies parade in their warm coats, complete with leggings, our guide reminded us how lucky we were that golden leaves still shimmered above narrow streets and around city squares. No matter how crowded the cities, healthy trees grew straight and tall within. Their branches would provide welcome shade in summer.