GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 6) “Have No Fira!”

Fira, as you might know, is the capital of Santorini, the most spectacular of all the Greek islands, and arguably the most historically fascinating isle to be found in the Aegean Sea.  This mythical piece of ancient beauty is located about 120 miles southeast of Athens, smack dab in the middle of the incredibly lovely Aegean, which offers some wonderful diving and snorkeling opportunities.  If you look on a map, you will notice that the island is crescent-shaped, and therein lies an intriguing tale of wonder…..  Way back in 1646 B.C., the island’s volcano exploded, blowing out half the mainland and creating a huge caldera, which eventually filled with sea water.  The explosion was more powerful than a pack of Black Cat firecrackers, and subsequently caused a HUGE tidal wave that landed on Crete  (ninety miles to the south) and instantly destroyed the Minoan Civilization.

Crete has since re-built, and so has what’s left of Santorini.  Nowadays the island attracts a lot of tourists (many of whom are Cretins in their own right!) but somehow it manages to maintain its allure.  Last year, Santorini welcomed about 1.5 million visitors, and the number keeps growing each season.  (So try to get there while there’s still some charm left)  This was my third visit, and even though it was a little crowded, we still found much to admire.

We got an early start and took the cable car up to Fira  (you have to take a cable car, a donkey, or a VERY long walk to reach the top of the Caldera) and then we rented a vehicle so that we could explore the island with our special guests.  (My youngest daughter and her new husband!)  Santorini is a small island, roughly 37 square miles in size, and easy to explore.  Not counting honeymooners, the population hovers around 7,000 inhabitants.  I noticed that most of the locals are Greek.  (Duh!)

There is plenty to do and see on this island, but the most amazing site is the Ancient City of Akrotiri (recently excavated) and the adjacent Prehistoric Museum.  The museum is beyond cool.  The Greek government wisely constructed a permanent roof over the entire village, so visitors can stroll through and around the actual streets that were used prior to the volcanic eruption.  This is up close and personal archaeology, which I love, and couldn’t get enough of.  (Only a tantalizing Greek lunch pulled me away!)

By the way, a word about those beaches…  keep in mind that you will be walking on the remnants of a still-active volcano, which means little sand and lots of pebbles.  Water shoes are a MUST-HAVE item, and so is some serious sunscreen.  We drove to my favorite beach, the Perissa Black Sand Beach, but there are many others to choose from, and they’re all lovely.  Pick one, rent a sun bed and umbrella, and then find a taverna that looks appealing.  (The sun beds are free if you eat lunch or dinner at the taverna!)  You will thank me later.  Seriously.

Incidentally, as if a day in Santorini isn’t spectacular enough, our sailing vessel hosted an outdoor feast while we were anchored below the town of Fira.  When the sun goes down in the Aegean, and you’re sipping some good Greek wine, you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven.  Really, it’s that beautiful.  (If you scroll down you will find some photographic evidence to support my claim.)

Next week I will be reporting from the magical town of Monemvasia, Greece, so please clear your calendar and prepare for another enthralling adventure.  (This place was also mind-boggling)  Before I depart, allow me to publicly thank the Princess of Portugal (and Baron Lee) for hosting last night’s gala birthday party.  As usual, the food and drink were superb, and fairly priced.  We had a marvelous time, and feel very lucky to have such wonderful and generous friends.  (Which includes the “Terrific Talbott’s” and Sweet Sue, the hanging judge.)

Well, time to eat breakfast (photo attached!) so I shall take my leave and hope to meet again next Sunday.  Please have a safe and superfluous week!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

 

 

 

GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 5) “Revelation Station”

Well, here we are, in the port of Patmos, Greece, a UNESCO World Heritage Site best known as the sacred island where St. John (one of the Apostles) became rather depressed and wrote the Book of Revelation.  (Which includes the rather dreary tale of the Apocalypse.)  Bummer, dude.  Who wants to read about the end of the world when you’re lying on a sun bed and sipping wine?  Patmos is so pretty, an ideal place for nature lovers or just plain lovers.  Poor John must have spent too much time in his cave, because this place is truly one of the loveliest Aegean islands.

Our sailing vessel dropped anchor near the Grotto of St. John, which is where the Apostle heard the voice of God and then spent the next 16 months in a simple cave.  (Where he did some writing)  Being something of a writer, I trekked up the mountain to visit the famous cave, and perhaps receive some divine inspiration.  There was no inspiration, but plenty of perspiration.  Jeez, what a schlep!  No wonder John was so miserable.  (I was hoping that one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would give me a lift, but they must have been on their lunch break.)  Notice how there’s never a demon around when you need one?

Anyway, the cave was rather awesome, and certainly one of the most interesting sites on the island.  Continuing upward (if you’re in good shape) you will find the massive Monastery of St. John the Theologian.  Here you will see the charming chapel of Christodoulos, which is elaborately decorated with frescoes, (NOT Fresca!), and breathtaking displays of jeweled chalices, crowns, crucifixes, vestments, and old manuscripts.  Below the chapel, you will find the 300-year-old Simandris House, and some wonderful spots to grab a glass of wine while perched upon sheer cliff.  (There are lots of sheer cliffs on Patmos, but no Montgomery Cliffs.)

After our morning stroll, we rented a vehicle and drove to a lovely beach called Kampos Beach, which is a great spot to soak up some sun and continue ruining your liver.  Here you can rent a sun bed and umbrella, and when your body craves food and drink, you can walk to George’s Taverna at the end of the beach.  Do not miss eating at this particular place.  They serve a legendary assortment of pies, the vegetable kind, all homemade!  They also have a great selection of traditional Greek wines.

Before you head to the Greek islands, you should take a look at one of the many wonderful travel books that explain how things work in this part of the world.  (For instance, ferry schedules are classified as “works of fiction!”)  Or, if you’re so inclined, or even vertical, you can read about the Battle of Armageddon.  (Which mentions the New England Patriots.)  In any case, please remember that knowledge is power, and that cleanliness is next to Godliness.  (Especially within the confines of a small cave!)

I’m starting to ramble, so I must be hungry.  Before I leave, allow me to remind you that we are getting closer and closer to the day you’ve all been waiting for.  (No, I haven’t been subpoenaed by a Congressional committee!)  I’m referring to the publication of CAPONE ISLAND, the next book in the never-ending saga of Adam Gold.  As of now, we are looking at an April or May date, but I shall keep you informed of any changes.  (If I were you, I’d stay close to home.)

Well, dear friends, have a safe and sexy week.  I look forward to our next meeting and a lively blog post about…..  Santorini!

Until then, Iove to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 4) “TURKISH DELIGHT!”

Turkish Delight is better known as lokum (in Turkey) and happens to be a delicious confectionary treat.  (i.e., candy)  However, the above headline refers to our recent stop in Kusadasi, Turkey, “The Jewel of the Ottoman Empire!”  Just for the record, the Ottomans were a tribe of folks that liked to put their feet up at the end of a long day of rape and pillaging.  Hence, they invented a cushioned bench for that very purpose.  (They also had some stool problems, but that’s another story, and was related to overconsumption of lokum!)

Anyway, we arrived in the port of Kusadasi on a blistering hot day and decided to start the morning with a LONG jeep drive up the incredibly steep (and curvaceous) mountains outside of town.  Why?  Because of temporary insanity!  Our little tour ended up taking 9 hours, and it was truly a death-defying experience, not for the faint of heart.  Still, it was quite interesting.  We got to explore the ancient home of Mary (the mother of Jesus) and wander around the Cave of Hercules, where the big guy supposedly lived during his younger days.  The tour ended (believe it or not) at a beach-side club, where we were treated to a “bubble disco party.”  (Don’t ask)  I really love Kusadasi  (this was my third visit) but I would not recommend this jeep tour….. unless you love tempting fate.

The very best part of this port is the incredible city of Ephesus, which is just up the road and a MUST SEE.  We have been there several times, but on this visit, we returned in the evening and had a candlelight dinner amongst the ruins.  (I’m referring to the structures, not our fellow passengers!)  The tables were set up under the ancient library of Ephesus, which housed more than 12,000 ancient scrolls nearly two thousand years ago!

For my fellow gourmands, the Ephesus dinner menu consisted of stuffed grape leaves, eggplant in lemon sauce, purslane with yoghurt, veal stew, assorted cheeses, creamy spinach puree, Bulgur rice, and a carrot and broccoli pie.  (All of these items followed by an unlimited quantity of very good wine!)  Prior to making little piggies of ourselves, we were treated to a visit to the Grand Amphitheater (where the Apostle Paul delivered his famous speech to the Ephesians around 62 AD), a tour of the Temple of Hadrian, and a visit to the Virgin Mary’s House.

The country of Turkey is roughly 98% Muslim, but as you have probably guessed by now, a great portion of the New Testament takes place in this fascinating locale.  (Which also contains a fair number of Old Testament sites.)  Unfortunately, Istanbul is sort of “off-limits” for the present time, due to the knucklehead who is determined to return Turkey to the 14th Century.  Luckily, we were there several times before the current regime took over.

Next week will be chatting about the Greek island of Patmos, which is truly an amazing spot, so be there or be square.  In the meantime, please mark your calendars that I will be teaching not one, but two, writing courses in March.  (Designed for older Americans)  I will be at the Querencia at Barton Creek on March 7th, and then at Longhorn Village on March 8th and March 15th.  (Please feel free to drop in for an autographed copy of TURBULENT TIMES or THE SECOND MOURNING.  Both books will be available for purchase.)

Well, my dear friends, I must leave you now.  I’m off to breakfast with my family in downtown Austin and then it’s dinner with some dear friends tonight.  Have you noticed that I seem to be either eating or drinking all day?  Fortunately, I never order dessert.  (Remember my motto:  “Boys who eats sweets, take up two seats!”)

Have a marvelously enjoyable week!    Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

RETURN OF THE PROBABLE SON!

Wait a minute…  Isn’t that supposed to be “Prodigal Son?”  I’m not a prodigy, but the word prodigal certainly applies to me.  After all, if I remember correctly, “prodigal” means extravagant, self-indulgent, reckless, and wanton.  (God knows, I love wanton soup!)  In any case, I have finally returned from my latest ocean-going voyage to the Caribbean.  After two short, but sunny weeks, I am back in lovely Austin!  Back in Texas!  Back among sober people!  Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home.

In case you’re wondering, I was sailing around the Caribbean on my latest book tour/rum tasting cruise, spreading enlightenment to the sun-tanned natives (and pale tourists) of the Leeward Islands.  (Those islands are not as wild as the Wayward Islands, but just as gorgeous.)  Our venture began in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which has fully recovered from last year’s devastating hurricane and looks just wonderful.  We spent two days at the Marriott Resort Hotel and then boarded our vessel for a ten day jaunt to the lovely tropical islands south of Puerto Rico.

Just for the record, you can now purchase my books (both the mysteries and the histories) at the following literary locations…  Tortola, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts, St. Martin, and St. Thomas.  We visited at least one book store at each port, and after sharing a rum & coke with the proprietor, my books were prominently displayed in the window.  (Until we sailed away!)  Actually, the book stuff was pre-arranged, so you can probably pick up some books until the next hurricane arrives.  (After that, you’ll be forced to read “Gone With The Wind!”)

Lest you think that this was some sort of working vacation, allow me to remind you of my legendary work ethic.  (When I had a job, I did the work of three men:  Moe, Larry, and Curly!)  I don’t take life too seriously because I have a feeling that I’m not going to get out alive when my time comes.  Just saying.

So, how was I able to ingratiate myself to the locals so quickly?  Good question.  I’ve found that if you tuck one part of your pant leg into your sock, people expect less of you and are willing to give you directions.  (Even if you don’t need directions.)  On this particular voyage, I also observed that women spend more time thinking about what men are thinking than men actually spend thinking.  Just saying.

My best one-liner of the entire two-week hiatus was delivered at the Jolly Beach Resort on Antigua.  As we were entering the lobby, I spotted a donkey crossing the road.  Amazingly, the animal looked both ways before crossing.  I turned to my travel-mates and said, “Smart ass!”   (Everyone laughed except the local gendarme)

As usual, the best part of the trip was meeting and making friends with folks from across the globe.  We made many new friends, but I would be remiss not to single out a very special couple from Wales…  Sir Emlyn and Dame Gwyneth Jones. These whacky Welsh wonders were thoroughly delightful and enlivened many of our dinners with their brilliant repartee.  (Dame Gwyneth loves her white wine and frequently giggles before, during, and after sips!)  Another tip of the hat to Roger and Jo, and also to Steve & Edith, Scott & Martha, and Dr. and Mrs. Bali Rangpoor of Sri Lanka.  Thanks for making this such a memorable voyage!

And speaking of remembering things…  Today just happens to be Judge Susan’s 39th birthday.  (again)  Allow me to wish her “Happy Birthday” and ask her forgiveness for drinking her birthday rum on the way home from the airport.  (Hey, man does not survive by bread alone!)

By the way, have you ever locked yourself out of your hotel room and wondered how long it would be before your spouse came looking for you?  (The answer is 37 minutes.)  I shall elaborate on this fascinating bit of trivia at a later date!  Incidentally, while I was wandering around the Marriott (at five o’clock in the morning) I saw several guests leaving the hotel in shorts and sneakers.  I suddenly realized that some people do this on purpose to exercise!  Dear God, what is wrong with humanity?

For the record, I was up at that ungodly hour playing poker.  (I was not, as the San Juan papers suggested, up to “no good.”)  At my age, “getting lucky” is finding my car in the parking lot at the mall.  (Or an extra set of room keys!)  Just saying.

I will eat a slice of birthday cake in Judge Susan’s honor later tonight.  (Don’t repeat this, but I eat a slice of cake almost every day because somewhere, it is someone’s birthday.)  I know what you’re thinking.  They don’t make men like me any more.  How true, how true.

As I frequently remind Judge Susan, “judge not, lest ye be judged.”  (I didn’t make that up.)  I can tell when people are judgmental.  (Just by looking at them)  What can I say, folks?  These jokes might be old, but very few of them have made their way to Wales.  (I hope!)

Next week we shall return to our novel-in-progress, titled, GULLIBLE TRAVELERS.  Our last chapter dealt with Mykonos, and next week’s tale will take place in the wondrous city of Kusadasi, Turkey!  Please join me for another enthralling (and mostly true) adventure.  Until then, have a safe and smile-filled week…..  Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

***P.S.   If you scroll down you will see me in all my glory (partially clad) on the shores of glorious St. Bart’s.  (Please feel free to copy and enlarge if you need a wall poster for your dorm room)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 3) “The Mykonos Mouse Club”

M-I-C, K-E-Y,  M-O-U-S-E!  Hello, kids, and welcome to the Greek version of Mickey’s Clubhouse!  I didn’t actually find any Mouseketeers in Mykonos, but I did see a few rats.  (Down by the pier)  In any case, day number two of our Greek odyssey was spent on the enchanting island of Mykonos.  The best part of Mykonos is the little island just off shore… the uninhabited isle of Delos, which is one of the most important archaeological sites in all Greece.  This place is a MUST SEE spot, and contains numerous temples and buildings dating back to the 6th century B.C.  (Delos is the mythical birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis.)  There is no shade, so if you visit, bring a good hat and some bottled water!

Mykonos, as you have heard, is “party central.”  The island is notoriously famous for wild dance parties and drunken festivals.  Fortunately, most of these events take place at night (past my bedtime of 10 p.m.) so I missed all the fun.  (Nothing like watching a group of German tourist regurgitate yogurt and wine.)  During the daytime, you might want to visit one of the beaches, which are quite lovely.  We spent the afternoon at a luxury hotel near Agios Giannis Beach, which is surrounded by wonderful tavernas.  Be aware that some of the beaches cater to nude women.  (I didn’t notice any of the men, but there might be a few.)  I should also mention that naked Greek women are not very pleasant about posing for photographs.  (Even when you tell them you work for National Geographic Magazine.)

Once you find a taverna, order a glass of ouzo and a plate or two of homemade meze.  Stick with the basics (tzatziki, hummus, pita, moussaka, etc.) and you cannot go wrong.  The food and wine on Mykonos is very good, and most of the prices are fair, except for a handful of tourist traps.  (The “traps” are usually filled with tourists, so avoid them at all cost.)  After you become intoxicated (but can still walk) head over to a spot called “Little Venice,” which is down by the main port.  This is where you will find the famous windmills of Mykonos and the church of Paraportiani, the most photographed church on the island.  They also have some wonderful tavernas down by the water, so grab some grilled octopus and another bottle of wine.  (Hey, you only live once!)

I hope I spelled “octopus” correctly.  I hate spelling errors.  You mix up two letters and your whole blog post is urined.

By the way, Greek women are gorgeous, but the men leave much to be desired.  (Not that I desired any men.  That’s just a phrase.)  Anyway, most of the men refuse to shave during the summer months, and there is apparently a shortage of deodorant on the island.  Also, here are the reasons to have a man bun:  NONE!  There is literally no reason.  Stop it.

So what else is new?  Well, once again we were enthralled by the Princess of Portugal and Baron Lee, who jointly hosted another gala dinner party at their mansion in Round Rock.  (There were NO joints, but plenty of barbecue.)  Our special guests were the unofficial “Minnesota Goodwill Ambassadors,” Dr. Rick and Museum Mary.  We dined on gourmet brisket and ribs, but alas, there was no potato salad.  (Somebody forgot to check the bags!)  Nevertheless, we had a marvelous evening.  (Thank God you-know-who didn’t forget the beans!)

I was supposed to attend the new Monet exhibit last week, but I got my dates mixed up.  (Nothing messes up your Friday like finding out it’s only Thursday.)  I might give it another shot today, depending on the whether.  (whether or not I have the time!)  Monet is one of my favorite painters, and he always made a big “impression” on me.  (I have to “brush up” on my art jokes!)

Well, time to head for my brunch date, so adios until next time.  I hope you all have a wonderful week, and please remember that you should never fret about getting old… not everyone gets the chance!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

 

GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 2) “My Grecian Formula”

No, I am NOT referring to the brown shoe polish that I occasionally use on my hair!   I’m referring to the travel plan that I designed for our Grecian voyage.  I wanted to make sure that our (semi) sober captain brought us to all of the neurotic, I mean exotic, islands that were worthy of a stop.  Sailing around the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is serious business, matey.  By the way, have you noticed that no one disappears in the Bermuda Triangle anymore?  What’s the deal?  Maybe the Triangle is full.  Hey, did you know that Isosceles was a Greek mathematician?  (He was not a square guy, if that’s what you were thinking.)

Stavros is the most common Greek name in use today, but since I overate during my entire stay in Greece, our colleagues re-named me “Starve-ros.”  (I was always starving)  Last week I mentioned the delightful food tour we took in Athens, but I neglected to mention the names of the chefs.  If you dine in or around Athens, you might bump into Sue Vlaki, Philo Dough, Shish Kay Bobbie, or Lou Koumades.  (All wonderful folks, as their names imply!)

So, after 3 glorious days in Athens, we stumbled aboard our modest sailing vessel, the Titanic II, and set off for the enchanting village of Nafplio.  This stop was quite interesting, and the village is considered to be one of the most romantic places on the Peloponnese coast.  I actually hitchhiked into town and had a funny experience.  The gent who picked me up told me that he was surprised that I got into his vehicle.  After all, he said, he might be a serial killer.  I told him that I wasn’t worried.  What were the odds of two serial killers being in his car at the same time? (We didn’t chat much after that remark.  Not sure why.)

Anyway, if you go to Nafpilo, you must make time to see the Corinth Canal, which is close by.  (The canal dates back to 600 B.C.  It’s four miles long and 70 feet wide, and was carved out of sheer rock!)  Before the canal was built, the ancient Greeks had to sail all the way around the Peloponnese Peninsula, which added about 185 nautical miles to their voyage.

Another wonderful excursion would be a trip to the Epic Theatre of Epidaurus.  As the name implies, this is a very old Greek theatre, constructed in the 4th century, and famous for its marvelous acoustics.  This marvelous structure held up to 12,000 spectators and is the best-preserved theatre of ancient Greece.  (I’m not sure, but I think Epidaurus was the goddess of childbirth.)  As you can see, I’m a little rusty on my Greek mythology.  I do remember some of the big names…  Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and love.  (Hermaphroditus was her rather confused and conflicted brother.)  Apollo was the god of music and arts, and the owner of a theatre in Harlem.  Hermes was the god of travel, but he contracted some sort of STD.  Zeus was the head man, and the author of many highly-acclaimed children’s books.  (His most famous work was “The Greek Who Stole Christmas.”)

Do me a “fava,” as they say in Greek kitchens… don’t repeat any of these bad jokes to your children!  I have always believed that raising kids is like a walk in the park.  (Jurassic Park!)  Anyway, I must take my leave, as my bagel is ready and I am very hungry this morning.  (I think it was all this talk about food!)  I do hope you enjoyed the humor about the Greek gods and goddesses.  I was going to tell a few jokes about chemistry, but I never get a reaction.  (Come on, you never heard that one before!)

     Well, please have a wonderful week.  If you would like to see some more photos of Athens, you can scroll down and feast your eyes on some lovely scenes.  And speaking of feasts…..   Sesame bagel here I come!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 1) “Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts!”

Books By Stephen G. Yanoff

Well, as you can see from the above blog title, we are off on the second leg of our round-the-world cruise.  (The second leg cost an arm AND a leg!)  Nevertheless, our Mediterranean voyage has now become (semi) immortalized in its own book… “Gullible Travelers.”  If you recall, the first book was titled “Innocence Abroad,” which was a rather clever reference to Mark Twain’s book, “Innocents Abroad.”  (His book was not as funny as mine)  Book number two is a similarly clever reference to Jonathan Swift’s classic novel, “Gulliver’s Travels.”  (His book was not as funny either)

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we shall begin in Athens, Greece, the ancient metropolis that gave the world democracy, mathematics, philosophy, and hummus.  (The hummus was the most important, as it produced the world’s first musical trio…  Pita, Paul, and Mary.)

Being something of a poet, I have always been impressed…

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