The Crystal Caves ~~ June 29, 2017

(Another Mary Stewart allusion. Who knows, maybe this is where she got the imagery for her Merlin books…?)

Been so self-absorbed lately — my apologies. Of course this is a personal blog but I can see from the stats that people are actually reading it and I feel some obligation not to bore you with details about my health. At least, not all the time. 😏

Today we hit Sparta — at least we anchored at Gythion and could have gone to Sparta but instead we went caving. 

Gythion

Yes, I, the essential claustrophobe, voluntarily descended slippery wet steps and got into a boat that silently slid through crystal waters in underground caverns. 

Darn. That was about me. Sorry. I’ll try again. 


The Diros Caves are one of the natural wonders of Greece — if not the natural wonder. The rock formations go back millions of years and animal fossils and human remains thousands of years old have been found there, some of them possibly trapped in ancient earthquakes. Modern humans have been exploring the caves (there are three of them) since 1949. 

We had almost a 60 minute drive across part of the Peloponnesus to get there.  

It’s so hard to grasp that we were on the very spot of the history-changing war that raged across the region. Being in a place that you have imagined as you have read about it and seeing the reality changes the pictures in your head forever. That, to me, is the miracle of travel — it lights up parts of the world you have imagined and let’s you see them in living color. 

The tour guide in the bus with us was a walking history book, covering not just the caves, but a condensed version of Ancient Greek history, much of which I knew. She droned on, I finally fell asleep and when I woke up we were at the caves. 

They were truly remarkable. I can’t imagine how the first human being to discover them felt. Navigating the crystal clear waters in a shallow boat in pitch darkness or maybe with a torch casting eerie shadows everywhere. The stalagmites and stalactites must have seemed otherworldly, a spectacular and terrifying approach to Hades. 



Since we had the advantage of knowing they were just caves and not an entrance to the underworld, and since they have long since been wired with electricity (lights subtly placed so as not to intrude too much) some of that initial awe was missing. But not too much.


The caves were phenomenal. We stepped into flat, rocky boats holding 8 people. Jerry and I were lucky enough to be at the front of ours so we could pretend we were alone with the chilly grandeur. 


The clear water mirrored all the colors and textures of the rocks, all the long pointy spikes projecting up and down, duplicated over and over in endless reflection. There were electric cables to feed the lights running through the water but it was easy to be distracted by the awesome majesty of the caves and forget they were there. 


The guys steering the boats were good. I couldn’t see ours since he stood in the back with his pole, but time and again when we thought we’d be tipped into the water or clip our heads on an outcropping of rock, he steered away in the nick of time. 

It was cool and drippy, welcome in this heat wave Greece is having. The water in the cave is brackish — partly the salt of the sea and partly fresh, but it looked refreshing and inviting. Maybe being tipped in wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world….


After we left the boats, we crossed the last 300 meters of the caves on foot. Being able to slow down and really see and touch the rock formations was extraordinary. 


We left the darkness of the cave into the blinding sunlight bouncing off the bluest of waters. There were people swimming and a tiny church was tucked up against the rocks. Hard to tell which was the holy place — the chapel above or the rocky cathedral below. 

Gorgeous
 God this place is lovely. 

There is apparently a museum with the Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts that have been found in the caves, but we didn’t get to see them. Instead we were hustled back onto the bus and taken to a tiny village so that we could see how people really lived. 

Typical village cafe.

It’s not a bad idea in theory but it was the hottest part of the day by then (which was pretty darned hot) and nothing much was open except a few bars and cafes. Our tour guide urged us three times to go to the local bakery and taste local pastries. We didn’t — it was jammed with the content of two Seabourn tour busses.  Maybe it was really good and we missed something. Or maybe it was owned by her family. 

It really wasn’t clear why we all had to be dumped into this village and arrive back at the ship an hour later than the tour had been scheduled for. Seabourn hasn’t been arranging the best tours of late and this was a good example. No museum which would have been really fascinating; unannounced bakery stop for 45 minutes in the heat of day, which wasn’t. The one place in village worth a visit was the central church and it was closed. It was all very pretty but hotter than hell and a total waste of time. 

Main church, closed
Teensy charming chapel, open
Lemon tree, very pretty….
Get the hell away from that lemon, you infidel!

By the time we got back to the ship it was late and still hot and my stomach hurt. We lunched in the Colonnade (I just picked at some salads so didn’t bother to photograph) and despite the pig pills my stomach ache got worse. It was pain pills or sleep so I picked sleep. For three hours I was out in a slumber way too deep to be called a nap — woke up once, couldn’t remember where I was, and did the sensible thing and went back to sleep. Jerry was out the whole time too. There is much to be said for the siesta!!

I felt good when I woke up. Did the whole workout my trainer had designed for invalid-me for the first time, plus some yoga. Then we got ready for dinner, went up to The Patio where the menu was “Roast Duck” and found a table in the breeze. 

Us in the lovely evening breeze. Doesn’t get much better!
It seemed to be Asian might almost everywhere on the ship. On the Patio the appetizers were a spring roll with avocado and seaweed and shrimp with soba noodles. Both were good. Jerry had the duck with fried rice and a pancake filled with some vegetable. I had Asian stir-fried noodles that tasted like those kinds you add water to and microwave (Sorry, Seabourn. Jerry said the duck was terrific.)
Shrimp with spicy soba noodles
Spring rolls with avocado and seaweed
Jerry’s roast duck with fried rice and pancake

Even though there are fancy restaurants (4 of them) indoors, I really like the informal vibe and breezy atmosphere on The Patio. And I especially like the mint and lime slushy drinks they make me. They calm my tummy and refresh the rest of me.


Not sure what the plan for tomorrow is. We’ll be docked in Nafplion. It’s our 30th anniversary and also the night before a whole bunch of cruisers disembark in Athens which means, among other things that The Patio is closed for a big farewell shindig.  We’ll have to play it by ear. Too many plans feel like work, and I’m against that. 

Plus, it’s going to be hot

And hotter in Athens where we will be tomorrow

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