Swan Hellenic Black Sea
Batumi, Georgia is our port of call on the following day. The sun shines and the air is chilly in the early morning as our guide leads on a walking tour of the city. As with all guides, Salome is very proud of her city and it is certainly putting on its Sunday best on this day. The building sparkle in the early morning sun, especially the odd folly that may become a hotel with a ferris wheel attached to the side high off the ground and a shiny spear pointing to the heavens.
The afternoon offers a special performance of the Adjara Company of Song and Dance at the State Musical Centre. This has been organised for the ship’s passengers and proves to be a captivating performance. The Musical Centre is modern with good acoustics and the performance is a precise and coalourful display of Georgian dance and music. We are treated to musicians and singers as well as dance performances and come away with a lasting memory of this part of Georgian culture.
Trabzon, further along the Turkish coast, is our next port of call. Established round the 7th century with expectations that it would be part of the great caravan route to Persia, it is a port that you are unlikely to visit unless you travel by ship. Steeped in history of course, the port does little to give this away, it is industrial looking and in the seedy part of town. We have not chosen to do a tour of the city and visit the Agia Sophia founded in the mid 13th century, but to take the bus trip to the Sumela monastery.
It has been rescued and is currently being restored. Attached to a sheer rock cliff, like a wasp’s nest, the monastery is an amazing feat of engineering by the monks and their workers. Self-sufficient with a bakery, a kitchen, water supplied by an aqueduct, a library and student’s rooms it is entered via the guard room after climbing steep stairs through the forest.
We set sail from Cannakale in the late afternoon and headed down straits towards the Bosphorous and Istanbul. By 6.00 a.m. we had reached the outskirts of the city that was once called Constantinople and by the time we were up we were passing under the first of the great bridges. The morning was misty, the sun was watering trying with an orange glow to be seen through the thick grey clouds, but without success.
Next day we set off to explore the Plaka by daylight and explored the narrow streets and laneways of the old town beneath the Acropolis. After sampling ouzo in an ouzo bar – yes at 11.00 a.m.! – we caught one of the tourist buses and did a tour that took us to the Acropolis (which we didn’t climb thinking we might come back) and down to the port Piraeus. Beautifully warm sunny weather and a good reintroduction to Athens, which reminded us of Buenos Aires with it’s broken footpaths, graffiti and abandoned building sites. We couldn’t leave Athens without finding a Lukumades bar. We loved these Greek sweets when we were here before and we found a modern take on the old bars in the Plaka. Two enterprising young guys are filling them with chocolate and banana cream as well as the traditional honey and cinnamon… we preferred the traditional…. of course they too are accompanied by Greek coffee!!
Our adventure in Norway ended in Bergen. The new adventure would begin in Athens, Greece 2 days later. Our last day in Bergen was very wet… not unusual for Bergen we were told, in fact quite normal. It is didn’t deter us from riding on the cable car up to the top of a mountain and looking down on a toytown Bergen through the mist and raindrops. The best way to see Bergen, whether it is rainy or sunny.
Watch the blog for our adventures. We leave in about 2 weeks and will be sailing on the Hurtigruten up the coast of Norway – and then we will fly to Athens and sail up the Dardanelles and into the Black Sea on Swan Hellenic’s Minerva!!