I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Our Days of Bliss

This small museum recreates the interior of the old houses of Al Balad as they looked a hundred years ago.

They served us Saudi coffee, which is very different from the Turkish or Greek-type coffee I was expecting. This was made from very lightly roasted beans that were still green, so the beverage looked more like green tea than coffee, and it had cardamom and other spices in it.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Not anachronistic at all

As we walked through Al Balad, we constantly had to jump aside to avoid the golf carts that the construction crews, and occasionally other, unidentified but obviously official, types were driving. And when the walk was over and it was time for us to meet the bus taking us back to the ship, we also went by golf cart. I took the picture on the right through the windshield as we careened around corners at a speed I hadn't realized golf carts could achieve, while the call to prayer from multiple mosques echoed through the streets.

That's actually my favorite memory of Jeddah. (The horse-drawn carriages at Petra have also been replaced with golf carts, and while I appreciate how much more efficient the carts must be, not to mention cheaper to feed, I did miss the carriages.)

More blues and greens

Those same colors are used for doors and decoration throughout Al Balad.

Blues and greens

Most of the rawasheen are left the natural teak color, but some of them are painted green or blue.


Al Balad became a thriving port in the 7th century. And because it is less than 50 miles from Mecca, Al Balad was, and Jeddah is, a gateway city for pilgrims. The 650 buildings in the district—now a UNESCO World Heritage site—mostly date from the 19th century; many were built from blocks of coral carved out of the nearby Red Sea, with distinctive wooden balconies called rawasheen (singular roshan).

Many of the buildings are dilapidated and some are in danger of collapsing, as the steep cost of upkeep led to many of the families leaving for the newer, more modern living options in Jeddah's suburbs. The Ministry of Culture has now financed a full restoration project, and the streets were full of construction crews when we were there. The pictures show examples of rawasheen on a building that has been restored next to one that is still waiting its turn.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Saturday reflections

A window in central Jeddah.

Building and rebuilding Jeddah

The picture on the left shows the view on the other side of the corniche in Jeddah. New hotels, new offices, new everything. And it looked like that all over central Jeddah.

The picture on the right shows another busy construction site, but this is renovation rather than new construction, in Al Balad, the oldest district in Jeddah.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The green Red Sea

I loved the colors of the water by the corniche. I think those are rocks covered with algae or seaweed but it was hard to tell.

Back to Jeddah

As I mentioned previously, this dumb sign was the big attraction on our tour of the corniche in Jeddah, along with the distant view of the “only partially built, but may eventually be” tallest building in the world. But I do like that I managed to frame one of the locals in the first giant D.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Seven Wonders of the World

This is the view from the Basilica of Saint John in Selçuk. The single column that you can see on the left-hand side is most of what remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Looking at this picture made me realize that on this trip I saw the locations of three of the seven wonders: the Temple of Artemis, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

They're always coming up with new versions of Seven Wonders, but the original is the only one I ever remember. I've seen the Great Pyramid, the only one of the wonders still standing, and I've seen where the Lighthouse of Alexandria was, so that's five of seven. I'm almost certainly never going to Iraq and no one knows whether the Hanging Gardens of Babylon even existed, so unless I happen to find myself in Bodrum, Türkiye, where the omnipresent Knights of St. John used stones from the famous Mausoleum to fortify their castle, five of seven is all I'm going to be able to check off. And that's fine with me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Stations of the cross

On the other side of the mountaintop, there's a giant cross, and the path leading up to it has 14 marble shrines representing the Stations of the Cross.

I don't think I've thought about the Stations—representing the events in the Passion of Christ—for decades, but when I was in grammar school we went to the church every Friday afternoon during Lent to do the stations. It started with the First Station, Jesus is condemned to death, and ended with the Fourteenth, Jesus is laid in the sepulchre, and there was a set of prayers we recited for each station. Our family bible had a set of fairly disturbing and graphic paintings (I used to have nightmares about the Eleventh Station, Jesus is nailed to the cross) but the church just had fourteen metal plaques. I actually liked the Stations of the Cross liturgy, the chanted prayers and the Benediction at the end with incense and music, and especially coming out into the sunshine afterwards and getting to go home early.

I left the church intellectually and emotionally when I was still in high school, but you never forget the rituals. When I took the picture of the Third Station, I knew automatically that it depicted Jesus falling for the first time.

Monday, January 22, 2024

And there were goats

I'd mentioned that at Delphi we heard goats but never saw them. Filerimos made up for it; there were at least a dozen goats hanging out on the hillside with the peacocks.

View from the top

The monastery is on top of a mountain with beautiful views of the island on every side. The tunnel of cypresses leads from the monastery to the overlook where I took this picture.

Another day, another monastery

The Filerimos monastery in Rhodes. The monastery was built in the 15th century by the Knights of St. John; there's a ruined temple to Athena from the 3rd century BC in the front yard.

Bright sun at midday is never the best for photography, but when you're a tourist that's usually what you have. I could, and did, lighten the harsh shadows in this picture, but it looks as though it was taken in the evening. Which is actually a nice effect.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Déjà vu all over again

The first time I went to Rhodes, in 2009, I posted this:


On our way back from Filerimos, we stopped at a ceramics shop, and it took me several minutes to realize it was the same one I'd been to 14 years ago. The potter has an electric wheel now, and he was working indoors instead of out in the yard, but I was happy to see that the family is still in business.

Sunday bird blogging

Peacocks at the Filerimos Monastery in Rhodes.

Technically, peacocks are birds, even if they seem more like minimally animated decorative objects. Who love to shriek.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Saturday reflections

A window in the old town in Rethymno. It looks like a poster for a Tim Burton-directed film of Cretan fairy tales.

Cats in Greece

A cat outside the monastery walls because of course there was a cat.

Random things I saw at the monastery

Two more pictures I happen to like.


The icon on the right portrays Constantine and his mother, St. Helena. In general, I love that icons of saints usually show a kind of weary wisdom and weight of experience that I much prefer to the ecstasies of St. Teresa, for example. But St. Helena appears resigned to a greater than usual number of griefs.

The Katholikon

The church of the monastery was built in 1587. It's small, beautiful, and absolutely serene.

Friday, January 19, 2024

The refectory

This was also the scene of a mass slaughter during the battle—there are bullet holes in the door and you can see the marks of both swords and bullets on the tables.

And I had a hard time with that. I can understand wanting to memorialize what happened here, but this is still a working monastery. I imagine generations of monks eating at those tables, looking at the bullet holes, and it doesn't seem likely that they would have been filled with warm feelings for their fellow man.

It may be that I had been thinking too much about Gaza to feel comfortable with one more long-standing historical grudge, or to understand wanting to preserve every last bullet hole. Maybe how we remember is as important as what we remember.

The Bullet Tree

This is the courtyard of the monastery. It looks like something in the southwestern U.S. to me, with the peace of mid-afternoon when everyone has disappeared inside for a siesta.

Except for that little white arrow you can see on the old blasted tree on the right, which points to a bullet hole from the 1866 battle.

Arkadi Monastery

This monastery near Rethymnon was the focus of the tour. It's not only a beautiful place, but was the site of one of the more horrific episodes of the Cretan revolt against Ottoman rule in 1866. Hundreds of women and children had taken refuge in the monastery; after a battle lasting for two days, the Turks were able to enter the monastery.

This is how Victor Hugo described what happened:

“Finally the last resistance was broken through; the masses of the Turks took the convent. There only remained one barricaded room that held the powder and, in this room, next to the altar, at the center of a group of children and mothers, a man of eighty years, a priest, the hegumen Gabriel, in prayer...the door, battered by axes, gave and fell. The old man put a candle on the altar, took a look at the children and the women and lit the powder and spared them. A terrible intervention, the explosion, rescued the defeated...and this heroic monastery, that had been defended like a fortress, ended like a volcano.”

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Random things I saw in Rethymno

Just a couple of extra pictures—an outdoor cafe, and the Venetian fountain.

More overlays of history

This building was the Augustinian monastery of Our Lady, built by the Venetians in the 1500's. When the Ottomans conquered the region in 1646, it was converted to a mosque and the roof was replaced with three domes—the minaret is a 19th century addition. Now it's a conservatory.

When I walked around the side of the building to take a picture of the domes, I found a market in the square, with a speaker blaring Jingle Bell Rock And I fled.


The harbor in this pretty city on the north coast of Crete shows how tangled the history of Crete is. The harbor itself, and many of the buildings in the adjoining Old Town, are Venetian. The lighthouse, which dates from the 19th century, is Egyptian.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Cats in Greece

Another kitten, this time in Rethymno, in Crete.

Moving on from the pre-cruise Classical Greece tour now, and since the spring semester starts soon, I don't expect to finish writing up this trip anytime soon. But there are still pictures I haven't gone through and some very cool locations to write about.

Random things I saw in Olympia

The site at Olympia is huge; there are ruins of dozens of structures, but also grass and trees and, when we were there, birds singing. And very few other people. In the summer it's hot and there are hundreds of people walking around, but on a pleasant day in late December in was idyllic.

Seeing the picture of the gymnasium on the lower left reminded me that the root of the word gymnasium means “naked,” so a gymnasium is a place where you exercise naked. If I'd ever known that I'd forgotten until the guide told us at Olympia.

Bases of Zanes

One last thing I found really interesting at Olympia. These pedestals outside the entrance to the stadium originally held statues of Zeus (“Zanes” was the plural of Zeus in the local dialect.)

The statues were paid for by the fines imposed on athletes caught cheating in the games, and were inscribed with their names. All of the athletes had to walk past them on their way into the stadium, so they were a reminder of the shame of cheating.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Temple of Hera

Not surprisingly, this temple was much smaller than her husband's, and the ruins are less impressive.

What is interesting about this temple though is that the altar in front—a small slab of stone near where I was standing when I took this picture—is where the Olympic torches for the modern games are lit before starting on the relay to wherever the games are being held.

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