Tuesday, December 8, 2015

O’la Kala’ ~ All is Good in our Corner of Greece

“Looking forward to hearing more reports from The Mani.”
“How are things really going in Greece?”
Your comments and questions to recent posts – similar to those above --  prompted this week’s report from Greece:

Traditional dance - Oxy Day Celebration - Kardamyli 
First, we can’t speak for all of Greece, as it is a country spread out over 131,957 sq. kilometers, (50,949 sq. miles) with a population of more than 11 million people. It’s northern border runs the length of Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria. There are so many Greek islands that the generally accepted number for their count is 1,425 with 166 of them being inhabited.Greece colour.png 
World news brought Greece to the forefront of headlines back in June when the country’s economic situation shook all the world’s markets.
Since then we’ve all followed the story of what a tough time Greece and the wonderful people who make up this country are having. Greece’s financial lifeline cast by its European Union lenders has tightened with demands for accountability and severe cuts to government spending.
Since spring thousands of Syrian refugees have landed by the boatload on Greek beaches; most needing food and rest before moving on. The Greek government and its citizens have stepped up to provide food, clothing and shelter for those uninvited and unexpected arrivals.
We are far removed from the front line of the exodus from the north here in The Mani but local food and donation drives have been held to send help to those areas serving the refugee population.
Greek flags displayed for Oxy Day
In recent weeks we’ve noticed Greek unions (opposed to the austerity measures) are stepping up their schedule of strikes. A bomb went off in Athens last week – no injuries, as those responsible for it called to warn authorities in advance of its detonation.  A few days ago Greek fighter jets tailed a Turkish fighter jet they claim got into their airspace over the Aegean.
We’ve not been impacted by the strikes here in the village. We saw the report of the bomb on a television in a village cafe (where a Greek man told us it wasn’t a terrorist bomb; it was ‘just Greeks’ and they warned people in advance).  We watch air force planes fly over the coast every so often, none of them appear to be chasing Turkish jets.
Just harvested olives waiting their turn in the press
What we can tell you about is our little slice of Greece, the Messenia’s Mani, where olive harvest is underway in full force now, with truckloads of olives arriving at all hours of the day and the presses running into the late night hours.
Our home and the surrounding villages are near the Messenia/Laconia border, both prefectures within the Peloponnese.  We are far removed from the headlines of Greece; much like living in Washington State on the US west coast removes us from the headlines of Washington DC, our nation’s capital.
By the truckloads olives are deposited into the press
Here residents may make reference to ‘the crisis’ and the impact of capital controls but there is no hand wringing and  ‘Oh, woe is me’ – in short, they don’t dwell on it.
Eggs for sale at the supermarket where we shop
Grocery store shelves are well stocked, with imported as well as locally made products. Some of you would be surprised to see HP Steak sauce and Wheatabix and Kellogg’s breakfast cereals, Heinz ketchup, S&W canned products, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Kikkoman soy sauce and other brands ‘like home’ in plentiful supply.
Christmas decorations are going up throughout the area
Christmas – true Christmas, not ‘holiday’ – displays are (now that December is here) going up in all the villages; something we find a curiously refreshing break from the PC-bickering in the United States.
The Kalamata Yacht Club has had a busy summer
 Storefronts in Kalamata, a city of 95,000, about an hour away from us, are decked out offering designer clothes and furnishings as well as practical every day items. There’s a beauty shop on every block it seems and the cafes along the pedestrian mall are lively places; this time of year filled with more Greeks than tourists.
Heading into the village 
There are still limits of 60-euros per day on bank machine cash withdrawals from your Greek bank account. We can use our account in the States and withdraw much more, but are also limited to the 60-euro limit on our Greek account.  Something, though the media headlines back last summer didn’t mention it (at least back in the States) was that those Greek bank debit cards could  be used at retail stores to make purchases of groceries, drugs and other items.
Village of Stoupa has calmed after the summer's tourist crush
A handful of sun-seeking tourists remain in the villages. They are being replaced by the winter visitors who may be fewer in number but who still beat a steady path here from northern European countries. Snow birds, we might call them in the United States, as they ‘fly’ south when winter arrives.  The beaches were packed and the villages filled with tourists all summer long and only a couple weeks ago began heading home. They were wise enough to not let headlines scare them away. 
Of note, is that Delta airlines has announced increased flights between Athens and New York and British Air is introducing twice a week flights between London Heathrow and Kalamata in the 2016 season.
PicMonkey Collage
Scenes from our corner of Greece - the Peloponnese

Those of you wanting more of an in-depth look at Greece and the events leading up to its current situation would likely find a book by James Angelos, second-generation American-Greek of interest.
Angelos, a former correspondent with the Wall Street Journal, has written a book – The Full Catastrophe, Travels Among the New Greek Ruins -  that is easy to read and filled with real life stories of Greece.  He puts a face on this economic crisis.

As we’ve sadly learned from New York, Paris and San Bernadino, life can change in an instant. But for now, reporting from the Stone House on the Hill in the rural area of The Mani, I can assure you that all is “o’la kala’’~ all is good.

That’s it for this week but we do want to welcome to our new readers who’ve signed up to receive TravelnWrite posts in their inboxes.  Thank you!

If you’ve not done so, you can by providing your email in the box on the right hand column.  You’ll be sent an email by Feedburner, asking you to verify that you want to receive the posts, and after you confirm that, they’ll start appearing in your inbox.

However, you arrived here, we are glad to have you with us. Hope you’ll be regulars. Until next week, happy and safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Photo Friday
Travel Photo Thursday
Wordless Wednesday
Our World Tuesday
Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens

Monday, November 30, 2015

‘Oh there’s no place like. . .’ Cairo for Christmas

Sub-title: ‘Twas just days Before the World Went Willy-Wonkers again…

Timing is everything when it comes to travel. Our mantra, as regulars here know, has been ‘research, wait, watch and research some more’ before making any travel commitments. We like flexibility and options.

For that reason we arrived in Greece back in October without a return ticket to the States.*

Emirates has non-stop flights between Dubai and Seattle

Because there are no non-stop Seattle – Athens flights, we must have a connecting city somewhere between the two. We wanted to pick and choose our return routing from the myriad of possibilities that Europe affords. We also wanted a reasonably good airfare – often times the departure city does make a difference when seeking deals. So The Scout went to work and over the course of several weeks and several options, it seemed he’d found us both an interesting routing and at a good price.

Business class seats British Air

Again, you long-time regulars know that a plus for having a home base in Greece is that it we have a launch pad to explore more places on this side of the Atlantic Ocean without a 20+ hour trip to do so.

Europe’s low-cost regional airlines offer such enticingly low fares that we’ve felt like kids in a candy store when pondering the many possibilities The Scout found for our return. In the last few weeks we’ve considered:

Gift shop display in the Dubai airport

*Flying to Dubai, taking a round-trip 7-day Royal Caribbean cruise around the Saudi Arabian peninsula and returning to Seattle from Dubai on Emirates Airline (which has non-stop service between the two cities). Starting price for a balcony cabin, $524, with a ship board credit of $350 on select balconies.

Airbus 380 has two levels of passenger seating

* Flying to Istanbul and spending a few nights there. Various prices and places to stay and airfare of about $100 to get there for each of us.

* Or heading to Budapest for a few nights and returning from there.

Night time in the Middle East aboard the Oceania Nautica

*Flying to London, taking the Queen Mary across the Atlantic (rooms begin at $599 for a seven night crossing) and flying to Seattle from New York.

While the two cruise options were enticing we really don’t have clothes in Greece that are appropriate ‘cruise attire’.  Blue jeans and flannel shirts, shorts and tee shirts make up our wardrobe. So, I voted against the cruise options.  Budapest almost got the nod but then we checked December temperatures and with an average high of 28F-degrees, decided we didn’t have enough winter travel clothes to handle it.


So we decided on Cairo, Egypt. It is a long-time, high-ranking destination on our ‘must-see’ list. Friends who’ve been there rave about their experiences. Two tickets on Aegean Air: $350. We are using Marriott hotel points for our stay in this fabled city. And we found a good business class airfare flying Air France from Cairo to Paris, then connecting with with Delta, arriving back in Seattle on Christmas Day.

We booked the stay and the airline tickets.

Two days later the world went willy-wonkers again: 

First, the Paris attacks. Then news of New York City on ‘heightened terrorist alert’. A few days later Brussels was shut down. If you read travel news headlines, as we do, you've seen travel warnings are all encompassing. Literally, the US State department has issued a world-wide travel alert reminding Americans to be vigilant no matter where they are – home or abroad.

edited_20151114_093933So what do travelers do? 

In our case, we are going ahead with our plans to visit Egypt – our tickets can’t be changed or cancelled without great penalty. Christmas Eve in Cairo sounds pretty exotic. Hopefully the time for connecting flights in Paris in light of heightened security there will be sufficient or we might find ourselves spending Christmas in Paris.

We will continue to monitor world events – just like all of you.

A person could reason that sitting here in The Stone House on the Hill for the rest of our lives might be the safest option. But just the other day a woman was killed in her home when an earthquake in the northern Greece caused one of her stone walls to tumble on her. 

Note:  We do take safety and security seriously and for that reason – for the first time ever – I have enrolled in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, STEP, a service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, US State Department. I’ve submitted our dates of stay in Cairo, location of stay, and emergency contact information for us while there and our designated emergency contact friend in the United States.

[If you are a U.S. citizen planning to travel abroad here’s where to find more information and enroll in STEP: https://step.state.gov/step/]

The information I provided has been sent to the Consulate in Cairo. Staff there will know where we are supposed to be and how to find us. By enrolling in this program we will receive email advisories and any security alerts both by email and phone. Currently, there are no alerts or advisories about Cairo for Americans. . .other than that world-wide alert I mentioned above.

We've got a few more weeks left in Greece so will show you more of The Mani next week. And if any of you have recommendations or links to articles on Cairo that you’d care to share, we’d love to see them.  As always, thanks for the time you’ve spent with us ~ hope you’ll come back often.

Until then, safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Photo Friday
Travel Photo Thursday
Wordless Wednesday
Our World Tuesday
Mosaic MondayThrough My Lens

* As Americans traveling on tourist visas, we can be only so flexible because Greece is among those participating in the Schengen Border Agreement, an agreement among 26 European countries that basically opens up travel between them without border checks. For those of us outside the EU it also means our tourist visa is good for a 90 day stay within each six month period in the Schengen zone. (Longer stays require a different visa).

Monday, November 23, 2015

Autumn In Greece ~ Days of Thanks-giving

The days are shorter now and the air softer in The Mani, the part of the Greek Peloponnese that we call home a part of the year. Jeans and long-sleeved shirts are the gear for watching the sun quietly slip away shortly after 5 p.m. – a much different sunset than those of the spring when at 9:30 p.m. it was boldly and blindingly still taking aim at the horizon.

Sunset from the village of Stoupa
Even the morning sun’s arrival over the hill on which our house sits seems slow and timid compared to even a few weeks ago, in early October, when we came for our autumn stay. But even with a kinder sun, daytime temperatures are still reaching the 70F-degree level at times. We’ve been experiencing an Indian Summer, or Little St. Dimetrios summer, as they say around here.

The Stone House and the Hill on which it sits

Stateside social media friends are reporting their hectic pace of preparations for Thanksgiving Day. It is curious to read their reports from afar where Thursday will be just other weekday – no marathon football on television, no stuffed turkey, no pumpkin pie. We do send holiday greetings to all who will be celebrating the day.

Instead of just one, here, you might say, our autumn has been filled with many  ‘thanks-giving’ days, including:

Oxi Day October 28th, celebrated annually in Greece since back in World War II when the Greek Prime Minister said “Oxi!” to Mussolini’s plan to bring Italian troops into the country. Oxi, pronounced, ohh-hee, means ‘no’. The nearby village of Kardamyli was decked out for the day and hosted a parade and presentations by students from schools throughout the area. That is the major autumn holiday in this part of the world.

Students wearing school uniforms and traditional dress dance on Oxi Day
The Chestnut Festival – A small village, Kastania, tucked away in the hills behind us hosts an annual Chestnut Festival of singing, dancing and eating which draws hundreds from as far away as Athens (a four hour drive). We didn’t let a rain-storm keep us away – nor did others who made the trek to celebrate.

Roasting chestnuts at Katania's Fourth Annual Chestnut Festival

Olive Harvest: The hills are alive with the sound of chainsaws and tree shakers. The pace of the harvest has intensified with the olive presses running into the late night hours. (Glad we beat the crowds and can now sit back and literally enjoy the fruits of our labors).

Waiting their turn in the press - bags of olives 

Days spent with friends ~ We had two sets of ‘courageous couples’ who made the trip from Washington State to spend a few days with us this fall. They were adventuresome enough to get off the well-trod Greek tourist track and explore the beauty of this peninsula. There is nothing better than sharing a morning’s cup of coffee or an evening’s glass of wine with friends and doing a lot of exploring in between!

PicMonkey Collage
Memories made in The Mani

The Days the Cats Returned – All of our previously reported upon stray cats are now present and enjoying life – with plenty of food and beverages – at The Stone House on the Hill. That would include Princess and Tom who we introduced you to last winter and Mom and the two kittens, now teenagers, who you met last spring.

Tom, left, and Princess have returned
And hen there have been those ordinary-but-very-extraordinary kind of days . . .

The Mani

‘It was one of the loveliest days in early autumn,
the general atmosphere had a tendency to subdue everything of the heart
and threw me into a thoughtful mood.’
    -- Charles Lanman, 1840

The sea - The Mani

‘Autumn is the perfect time to take account of what we’ve done,
what we didn’t do,
and what we’d like to do next year.’
    -- Author Unknown

A walk beyond Trahila

‘Autumn is the hush before winter.’ – French Proverb

And as always we are thankful for all of you who take a break from your busy lives to spend time with us!  We hope you are having a lovely autumn and that whatever the holiday is you are celebrating, it will be filled with happiness.  Hope to see you back again soon ~ in our next post I’ll tell you our off-the-grid plans for Christmas!

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration
Mosaic MondayThrough My Lens
Photo Friday Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Being An Expat in Greece ~ A piece of cake?

‘Do I have time to bake my cake before we leave?’ I called out to The Scout in the middle of an October afternoon. In a couple hours we were heading out to the village.
“How long will it take?” he replied.
“Well, I don’t know. I’ve never baked a cake in Greece before.”
The fact is, there are many routine things – as simple as baking a cake – that we’ve not done before in Greece. Simple things really but all which need to be mastered when you are an ex pat settling into the lifestyle of a new country.  Rethinking life’s routines. It is a challenge faced by all who venture to new countries and cultures whether for a few days, weeks, months or longer.

For the most part, our adjustment to daily life in the Greek Peloponnese has been remarkably easy. But still we have had to stretch ourselves out of that old staid state-of-being we’d slipped into back in the States. 

PicMonkey Collage
My measuring spoons in Greece

Many contemporaries of ours - those of a ‘boomer-age’ – often sing the praises of apps and games on on their devices which they are using to keep their aging minds sharp. We’ve opted to do the same by experiencing a new culture and country. Our choice isn’t for everyone - It certainly isn’t always a piece of cake – but your brain will get exercised and the exercise often results in some good laughs. Both of which, research shows, helps keep you young!

That Piece of Cake

Our lemon crop at The Stone House on the Hill

Somewhere in the ex pat fantasy world of mine (fueled by Frances Mayes in Tuscany and Julia Child in France), I’d envisioned myself creating culinary feasts in this new home of ours. It seemed that baking a cake would be a good start - not just any cake, mind you, but a lemon drizzle cake made from scratch with lemons plucked off the tree just outside the kitchen.  Doesn’t that just sound like a Julia and not a Jackie ambition?

In preparation, I signed up for Pinterest and for months collected recipes so that I could put my plan into action. Reality set in during the first few weeks last winter at our Stone House on the Hill. I discovered that the stove didn’t work nor did I have bake ware, measuring cups or mixing bowls. No cake baking that time. (When life gives you lemons, give them to a friend. We did and she baked us a cake in return!)

Logistics of Life

New stove and granite counter tops were added in spring

During our spring stay we replaced the stove (and installed a new countertop), but it was off season for the lemons. The baking would have to wait for fall.

A few weeks ago at the start of our autumn stay here I bought a loaf pan. I’d found a small mixing bowl in the cupboard and had purchased related equipment like the measuring spoons and cups (shown in the first photo). The kindly ladies at the grocery store helped me when I couldn’t figure out which package was cake flour (they all have grain on the front but some is for bread) and which was sugar (they have brown, large crystal, small crystal and powdered in opaque packages and are labeled in Greek). Flour and sugar purchased and armed with baking powder and baking soda I’d brought from the States. . .I was ready!

I picked out the recipe I would use from the many I had collected. Of course it called for two loaf pans so I would just mentally divide it and make half the recipe. . .

As Easy as baking a cake!

And so it began. . .
Set oven for 350-degrees. Whoops, it is centigrade here. Check the conversion chart: 350F is 180C. Turned the knob – temperature set. But minutes later the oven still was cold. Oh yes, like back in the States, you have to turn the oven on as well as set the temperature!

Cream half a cup of butter.  Hope I bought butter, it might be margarine. Oh well. Here goes: half cup is how many of those little lines on the butter package marked at 30 gram intervals? A tablespoon is 50 grams, isn’t it? Check the chart. Do some multiplication, divide than add a blob that looks like a half cup. Yes, I could have just used the measuring cup but remember, I am working at keeping my mind active – math equations do that. But why hadn’t I paid attention in school when they taught the metric system?

Fresh lemon zest added to the batter

‘Mix the butter and milk and slowly add sugar.’ Now how did we used to do that? (I used cake mixes back in the States on the rare occasions that I made cakes). OMG! I don’t have an electric mixer, let alone a food processor, I have a hand beater. Awkward, but it worked. And upper arm muscles got a workout as well as the mind.

‘Half cup of shortening’ – I’d missed that part when preparing the shopping list but wouldn’t have known where to look for it. I threw caution to the wind and used a half cup lemon flavored yogurt in its place. What could it hurt?

Finally my creation was in the oven, counter was cleaned and I realized I hadn’t purchased a cake rack on which to set the cake to cool. Think. Cake rake. The solution wasn’t pretty but it worked:

Good to have construction bricks laying around outside

There it was – a less-than-picture-perfect cake to be sure, but it tasted just as I had it envisioned. I’ve made another since this first attempt and have even expanded my culinary efforts to include an orange cake using fresh oranges my neighbor plucked from her tree and shared with us. I am still using the hand beater and whisk beater. I’ve purchased a glass cake pan. No use rushing into the culinary world.

PicMonkey Collage
A piece of cake?

Ex pat life a piece of cake? Yes and we’ve only just sampled it!  Some are still wondering why anyone would give up ‘the comforts of home’ for something so new and different as living in a new country.

The writer Patrick Leigh Fermor best explained it in his observation:                                                   It is ‘a longing for the stimulus of the unfamiliar.’
Have you experienced such a longing? If so, what did you do to ease the longing? Did you find it stimulating?  Tell us about them in the comments below or send us an email, we’d love to hear your stories.

Thanks again for the time you spent with us today. Hope to see you back again and tell your friends to join us as well!  Until we are together again, safe travels to you and yours~

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Greece ~ A Time of Harvest, not Halloween

The olive harvest season officially got its start in this part of the Greek Peloponnese on Oct. 26th, St. Dimitrios name day. At The Stone House on the Hill, harvest took place a few days later on the day commonly known as Halloween back in the States. (I am happy to report the U.S. hasn’t yet exported that holiday to this region; there wasn’t a ghost, goblin, costume or party anywhere to be seen).


Here, the olive and its harvest take top billing this time of year.


I’d been envisioning this harvest since last December when we purchased The Stone House on the Hill with its olive terraces that slope down the hillside on which the house sits.  There are 15 olive trees on the property some estimated to be a 100 years old, plus one we planted after taking ownership.

PicMonkey Collage

My daydreams about the event (thanks to Frances Mayes and Peter Mayle whose tales of  Tuscany and Provence inspire such adventures) had us harvesting under blue skies, surrounded by friends, drinking and eating and making it an event worthy of a book about our lives here in Greece.   Reality quickly set in:


The wind didn’t just blow the weekend of our harvest, it howled. We had to interrupt harvest for an hour to allow a rain squall to drench the trees and ground. No singing like Zorba. No eating like Frances. No drinking like Peter.  It was work. Hard work. (But you know? It was also fun!)


We’d had the good sense to hire our gardener and his wife to assist us since we didn’t have the slightest idea of how to harvest olives. Ares and Donika came with equipment loaned to us by our friend Yiannis who runs the family restaurant at the foot of our hill and who also owns 1,000 olive trees.


We had some of the easier tasks: Joel hauled the cut branches -- from which we had beaten off the olives -- to the burn pile. While Ares ran the automated olive-shaker-offer and cut branches, I helped beat those fallen branches so that the olives were released onto the enormous nets spread below the trees to catch them.  Donika and I would then get on our hands and knees to sort the smaller branches from the olives. We’d all roll the nets and put the olives in the burlap bags.


The grove, like the house, had been neglected for the past few years – trees hadn’t been trimmed, olives not harvested and weeds grew as tall as the grove’s terrace walls. So even the TLC we bestowed in recent months, we didn’t have a bumper crop but that didn’t detract from the fact it was ‘our’ olive crop and we were in Greece harvesting it!


It took a full morning to harvest our small crop. We were ready to quit but to begin preparations for next year’s crop Ares returned in the afternoon for the first round of trimming the trees. They’ll get another cut in February.


That afternoon at 5 p.m. we watched our olives become oil. Let me tell you that in life’s magic moments, this ranks right at the top of the scale! That’s our crop I am standing next to, we were the next order up:


And then there they went! Within minutes our first harvest had come to an end. . .or so we thought.


I posted a real time report on FB Saturday evening while we were at Yianni’s restaurant for dinner. But a few hours later we got a call saying they’d sent us off with the wrong oil (mysteries of oil production) so the next morning we returned those two cans and left with our olive oil:  4.5 gallons of oil (shown in the photos below).


A number of you asked after seeing the FB post about what one does with that much oil.  There are options of selling it to the processor or leasing out the grove to others who will manage it, harvest and then provide you a portion of the oil. We didn’t produce enough this year to worry about it.


The proof is in the pudding they say. . .and let me tell you, this oil is nectar of the gods! Wish all of you could sit around our table breaking fresh loaves of bread, cutting chunks of feta cheese and smothering both in big servings of olive oil.

Hope you’ll return for more tales from our adventures in Greece.  We appreciate the time you spend with us and look forward to your comments!  Safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cruising the Middle East: Preparing for Danger

No one skipped the Pirate Drill held on board our small cruise ship as we sailed from India’s waters into the area we’d been advised was an HTA, or ‘high threat area’ for piracy. It was mandatory.

Our ship, the Nautica, had been attacked by pirates a few years back. If it happened again, the crew – and we passengers – would be ready.

And no one on the ship’s tour from Egypt’s Safaga port city to Luxor, fought over the two front ‘view’ seats in the bus. We’d been advised they were for the armed guards that would be traveling with us. 

We also willingly submitted our hand bags for screening by Israeli security officers as we left the ship in Haifa, our entry point to that country. Usually bags are screened when you re-enter the ship – not the place you visit. But that is life in Israel these days.

Oceania Nautical anchored at Phuket, Thailand

Prior to booking our passage, we – and our nearly 500 fellow passengers – knew the routing of our Oceania Nautica ship from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey would take us to parts of the world where ‘unrest’ can occur and accelerate on a moment’s notice.

Once on board we all seemed to share the same approach to the trip: what better – and safer – way to get to and through these areas than on a cruise ship that had a security plan in place?

One day at sea in the HTA - We had a country fair
The ‘fear’ we talked about was the ‘fear’ of having to miss a port of call if unrest broke out prior to our arrival which could result in the ship skipping that port and the ‘fear’ of having the cruise cut short if the attacks on Yemen should expand further into the Gulf of Aden – a waterway we sailed en route to the Red Sea. The Gulf of Aden is part of the Suez Canal shipping route and used by some 21,000 ships each year. About 11% of seaborne petroleum is transported on this route.

Pirate Protection

Think about it. How often in life will you get to participate in a pirate protection drill?

Pirate drill had us sitting on the floor in the hallway
The safety drill was really quite simple: go to an interior hallway, sit on the floor and stay put until further directions are given. (The person standing in this photo was our cabin attendant who was checking cabins of those not sitting on the floor).

Why sit on the floor?
Because in the event of an attack the ship might need to take quick evasive action and quick turns could knock people over. They didn’t want guests falling on the floor and hurting themselves.

Why an interior hallway?
You remember I said our ship had once been attacked by pirates. Apparently the guests – adults-who-know-better-guests – couldn’t resist snapping the ‘selfie’ and other photos from their cabin decks or windows. The temptation to capture the action was too great to stay out of harm’s way.

I am using two photos, taken during our very safe, calm days at sea to illustrate this point:  both were taken during Happy Hour in the ship’s lounge – on the left, the setting sun was a magnet drawing shutter bugs to the windows on a regular basis. The photo to the right was taken as word of a whale sighting filtered through the crowd – it was as if the window had sucked people from their chairs (with camera and phones in hand). Had it been a pirate ship sighting,. . . well, you get the picture (pun intended).

PicMonkey Collage
Shutter bugs aboard the ship
All puns and jokes aside, safety and security of marine vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea are taken very seriously.

Pirates to the left and war to the right during this segment of our cruise
For that reason, our cruise ship’s fire hoses were uncoiled and attached to high pressure nozzles mounted to the outside of the ship’s railings on both sides of the ship. Crew members stood watch.  The nozzles were not removed until we entered the Mediterranean Sea several days later.

PicMonkey Collage
Pirate watch and protection
We weren’t the only ship taking safety measures. We couldn’t help note this freighter which had their water system going continuously---perhaps as a warning to would-be pirates?

We weren't the only ones taking safety seriously
In certain areas along this stretch, our ship at night reduced its lighting to only essential open deck lights and we were requested to turn off cabin interior and balcony lights or to close our curtains if the lights were on.  None of which was alarming or an imposition, I assure you.

PicMonkey Collage
That is Yemen in the background - this is the closest we came to that war-torn country

We had wondered how close we’d get to Yemen and Somalia when we passed through the 20-mile wide opening that separated the two as we entered the Red Sea. It was actually so wide it was difficult to get photos of the land. The most danger we had was from the high noon sun, which in less than an hour of being on deck burned us both.

There was no security need to eliminate any ports of call in Egypt, Jordan or Israel; places so interesting and deserving of more time for exploration than we had allotted for them. We’d love to return for more land-based explorations. We’ll tell you more about them in upcoming posts. 

As always, your time with us is appreciated! If you are enjoying the blog we hope you'll share it with your FB friends.  Happy travels to you and yours until we see you back here ~

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday


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