The Greek Islands

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From the mainland we now take to the sea aboard the ship Emerald for a tour of the Greek islands. Our first stop is at Mykonos, an extremely popular tourist destination in what is known as the Cyclades. Many of the island's permanent residents are expatriate artists, writers, and cheerful replicas of the hippies who flocked there in the 1960s. The island, looking very much like one would picture Greece, is noted for its windmills.
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It's enjoyable just to wander the streets of Mykonos Town for shopping and sightseeing. The island boosts some 400 churches--and an offical pelican and his mate. Mykonos is the closest island to the country of Turkey and it was there we went to visit the ancient city of Ephesus, long associated with the preaching of Paul and presence of John and Mary the Mother of Jesus. The city was once the citadel of the goddess Artemis whose influence declined with the arrival of Christianity. It is said that the city was established here in the 11th century BC after a consultation with the Oracle at Delphi.
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At one time Ephesus ... about 190 BC ... was the biggest trading center of Asia Minor. It at one time had 250,000 inhabitants. At about this time Christianity became widespread here. The city's golden days were over about the 6th century AD. Highlights of a visit to the site include the Library of Celsus which during the Roman period possessed almost 12,000 rolled papyri. The Great Theater had a capacity of 25,000 people. It was the site of the revolt against Paul's preaching at Ephesus.
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John stayed here for three years during his third mission trip and probably accompanied the Virgin Mary here. He wrote his gospel here and died here. John's tomb is located in the large Basilica of St. John built near Ephesus. A visit to the island of Patmos brought us even closer to John. It was here that he was exiled in about 95 AD by Emperor Domitian.
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It was while living in a cave here that he heard the voice of God and had his visions which resulted in the writing of Revelations. Today that cave is a holy place with a church built around it. This is the chapel built at the cave; photos could not be taken in the cave itself. High above the cave is the Monastery of St. John. The Monastery is famed not only for its religious and historical significance but also for its architecture.
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Construction on the monastery began in 1088 and it has been operating since. Recent renovation here brought to light frescos from the 14th Century. Rhodes is among the most cosmopolitan of the Greek islands. The picturesque old town of Rhodes City reflects the medieval history of the island. One of the most imposing buildings from that time is the Palace of the Grand Master.
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The entire town is surrounded by walls from the time of the Knights of St. John. Outside the old city, at the harbor is believed to be the site where the legendary Colossus of Rhodes straddled the entrance to the harbor. Crete is the largest Greek island and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. According to the myths, Crete was the birthplace of Zeus who fathered Minos who gave his name to the Minoan civilization, the oldest on the European continent.
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The most brilliant period in Crete's history is the Bronze Age and that is reflected in the major archeological site, the Palace of Knossos. It occupies an area of 72,000 square feet. The museum at Herakleio, the major city of Crete, has excellent examples of the artifacts from the history of the area. We conclude our journey to Greece at the island which probably is used most often to represent the country, Santorini. It is also in the Cyclades.
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When you arrive in the bay outside the island the village of Fira catches your eye, clinging to the top of the rocky terrain. When you reach the town ... by cable car, mule, or on foot ... you come face to face with the colored structures which so much typify Greece. The island's current shape was caused by a volcanic eruption in about 1500 BC which took a bite out of the original island and dropped it into the sea.

Last updated: 5/24/06