Sunday, 28 April 2013

Rhodes: Lindos

Lofty outpost of the Roman empire
Saturday 23 March: Taking a day trip to Lindos I climb up to to the ancient city atop a rocky outcrop above the pretty modern village. Like Rhodes, the whole village reeks of fresh paint as busy locals prepare for the tourist season.
Sunday 24: Departing from Rhodes I find a comfortable corner of carpet in the lounge of ANEK's ferry Prevalis for the overnight sailing to Crete. There's only a handful of other passengers.
Slideshow of Lindos.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Rhodes Town

Fortress gateway to old Rhodes
Monday 18 March: It's off-season but, even so, my spacious double-balcony twin-aspect apartment with lounge and kitchen in the Panorama Hotel, just southwest of the Medieval city walls, is exceptional value (13 per night). I'm ravenous but the lady in the local Taverna speaks no English so I simply give her a 10 note and indicate that I want food. Soon she brings me a feast of mixed starters: deep fried sardines, various beans, potatoes, stuffed vine leaves, bread and a bottle of Retsina. She offers to bring more but I'm full.
Tuesday 19: The old city of Rhodes is a Medieval Crusader fortress full of narrow wandering lanes, restaurants, shops, mosques, an archaeological museum, a clock tower and a grand palace. Now a World Heritage Site, the town's moat is dry and grassed over which makes it a fantastic walk around the great bastions.
Tuesday 19: Walking inland I reach Rhodes' acropolis with a few surviving columns of the Temple of Apollonas.There are good views over the old port with a lighthouse and several old French windmills.
Thursday 21: The Archaeological Museum, in the former Knights of St John hospital, is interesting enough but if I see another Greek urn I think I'll scream.
Friday 22: The Grand Masters Palace is an impressive castle-like building with fine mosaics on the floors. Restored during the Italian occupation it was intended as a holiday home for Mussolini, but never used. 
Slideshow of Rhodes Town.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Greece: Athens

Ancient landmark, Athens' Acropolis
Friday 15 March: There's no longer any ferries from Egypt to Europe so I'm forced to fly to the country of Alexander the Great's birth, Greece.
Saturday 16: I'm in Fivos Hotel just off the touristy Monastiraki Square in the shadow of the Acropolis but it's also handy for the James Joyce Irish pub where I spend most of the day, pint of Guinness in hand, watching the culmination of the Six-Nations Rugby. Disappointing results and the pub's full of noisy drunk Welshmen but I've had a huge all day breakfast, my first taste of bacon for several months, fantastic.
Sunday 17: Circumnavigating the Acropolis I climb to the summit of Filopappos Hill for great views over the ancient and new cities, then down past Ancient Agora to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This is just a quick visit so I don't go into any of the sites. I'll be back but, as there are no ferries yet, tomorrow I'm flying to slightly warmer climes, the island of Rhodes.
Slideshow of Athens.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Alexander the Great's capital city
Friday 5 March: I can't find my hotel so I take a horse-drawn Caleche (98th mode of transport) but even so it takes an hour or so as the driver asks directions. Eventually we find it and I've walked past it several times this afternoon, a name plate would have been useful.
There's not much left of the city founded by Alexander the Great around 2,350 years ago. No Cleopatra's palace, no lighthouse, no great library, even the museum is closed for renovation. Only a few Roman remains survive: an amphitheatre with mosaics, a single standing great pillar and some catacombs but the jewel in the crown is Alexandria's new modern library, an attempt to replace the ancient one. It's a cool and relaxing place away from the heat, noise and dust. There is even a small map library, the ideal place to plan the rest of my trip, fantastic.
Thursday 14: It's my last night. I've downloaded the movie and I end my visit to Egypt in the 1940's style Cap D'or bar in Alexandria's backstreets . . . Ice Cold in Alex, sadly John Mills and Sylvia Sims are not here to join me. 
Slideshow of Alexandria.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Modern Cairo

Cairo's wickerwork tower
Monday 25 February:  The title 'Modern Cairo' is a tad misleading as most of the modern city is stuck in a time warp, middle of the last century. Today I'm climbing Cairo Tower to get a panoramic view of the city but the pollution is so bad I can't even see the minarets of Islamic Cairo let alone the pyramids at Giza. As compensation there are good views across the Nile to Tahir Square, the Egyptian Museum and, if you look carefully, a block of white masonry on the riverside, The British Embassy.
Saturday 2 March: Back in Islamic Cairo I'm visiting the former home of a British Major, Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, who was an obsessive collector of Egyptian artifacts. Now a museum, he bequeathed his collection to Egypt and in 1945 King Farouk honoured him with the title of Pasha. Several scenes from the he James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me were shot in the reception area and on the rooftop terrace where you can just imagine Roger Moor allowing 'Jaw's' sidekick to drop to his death after loosing his grip on 007's tie.
Thursday 7: Cafe Riche, the long established meeting place of Egyptian intelligentsia, is my restaurant of choice in downtown Cairo, but today I'm taking an old Glasgow tram (97th mode of transport) to the Belgian built northern suburb of Heliopolis, a place old allied soldiers would have known well. It's my last night in Cairo and two bars on my mini pub crawl are reminiscent of that era.
Friday 8: Taking the Metro to Cairo's newly named 'Al shohadaa' station I get the train from Cairo's magnificent station. I'm off to Alexandra and the Mediterranean coast.
Slideshow of Modern Cairo.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Egyptian Museum

Warehouse of wonderful treasures
Monday 18 February: I've been here before, of course, but it's never disappointing. It's an old warehouse of wonderful treasures but nowadays photos are not allowed. Today I'm focusing on the Old Kingdom artifacts on the ground floor, Tut's riches can wait for another day. First I head for the Narmer platter, a mere 5,150 or so years old carving. I've managed to smuggle in my camera and  can't resist taking an aerial shot of the statue of Khafre from the 1st floor balcony. There's a winged carving of Horus behind his neck as protection. Also, there's a tiny statuette of Khufu. Ironically the only one surviving of the great pharaoh who built the great pyramid.
In the evening I dine in the Windsor Hotel, the former home of the British Officer's Club in Cairo and, apart from the TV, is doesn't look like it's changed a jot since the war.
Thursday 7 March: Returning to see the magnificent Tut collection the museum scanner picks up my camera, no photos.
Slideshow of the Egyptian Museum.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Giza Plateau

The Great Sphinx at Giza
Tuesday 5 March: A free lift, organised by my hotel, drops me at 'El Haram', the entrance to the pyramids, and I've allowed a whole day to look around this magnificent wonder of the ancient world. So, avoiding the camel and horse hawkers, I head first to the Great Sphinx, then to the relatively small Pyramid of Menkaure and onto the large limestone-capped Pyramid of Khafra which, because it was built on a hill, looks to be the largest of the three main pyramids. Finally, I look around the Great Pyramid of Khufu which is the oldest of the trio and largest pyramid in Egypt. All three pyramids were built for Old Kingdom 4th dynasty pharaohs who ruled around 4,500 years ago.
It's really fantastic to just wander around the spacious site, particularly as it's a grey windy day and there are few tourists, perfect. You can no longer climb the pyramids but you can still sit on the bottom courses of stone blocks and this is where I have my picnic lunch. All too soon, as the site closes, I fall asleep on the 4pm red number 135 bus back to Cairo (E£2).
Slideshow of the Giza Plateau.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Saqqara revisited

Stairway to the netherworld
Thursday 28 February: Now that I have time to explore Saqqara I'm pleased that several of the New Kingdom tombs are open including the vault of the 18th dynasty great warrior king, Horemheb, but he real highlight for me is the Serapeum.
To ancient Egyptians Bulls were sacred and many of these huge animals were mummified and entombed in great stone coffins. The massive sarcophagi and burial chambers are astonishing and it's almost unbelievable that the huge heavy sculpted stone coffins, and their contents, were manhandled deep into this great rock-cut underground warehouse, fantastic.
Slideshow of Saqqara.