Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Journey to A Sacred Island - Patmos, Greece



We departed Kusadasi on a beautiful cloudless night under the glow of a full moon. Forecast for our upcoming day in Patmos also called for cloudless skies and moderate temperatures with comfortable temperatures.

Around midnight I started experiencing a nightmare. I was floating along and without warning was suddenly pitching forward and falling to my left. Then just as suddenly I was pitching forward and falling to my right. It was a crazy dream which was shattered by a violent shudder as our ship rolled steeply on one side and everything in our room came crashing down to the floor. Lisa and I both lay there still groggy from sleep as the ship continued to roll and dip and all the while every door and drawer in our room kept opening and shutting loudly with each roll. I tried to stand up but could not do so, and so I lay back down and we both started to laugh. As the doors banged and the drawers opened and shut, it reminded us of a Laurel and Hardy comedy routine. Eventually, I was able to get up and look outside only to find clear skies, and relatively calm seas. What I see, however, were the shadows of very long and deep swells which were causing our vessel to wallow so violently. Next morning dawned as forecast, clear and sunny. We had to look at some of the debris in the room to be certain that what we “dreamed” had really happened.


Patmos is a special place, being the only island set aside by the Greek government as a “sacred island.” It was here that Saint John took refuge when his presence in Ephesus was no longer wanted by the Roman Empire. On this island, John retired to a cave for 18 months and while there received the visions that resulted in the Book of Revelations. For this reason, the island is considered one of the most holy spots in Christendom.

In the year 1088, a Saintly Abbot came to Patmos to build a monastery in honor of his patron saint, and for so doing the island was given to the monastery. The monastery and small surrounding community are still here today.

Like most islands in Greece, Patmos is simply a pile of volcanic rock covering some 13 sq. miles. It does not have sufficient rainfall to support the population, so water is imported daily. The buildings have been constructed at the very highest point of the island, and the monastery itself looks like a fortress. This is because like all the Greek islands, it was frequently attacked by pirates, a practice that continued well into the mid- 19th Century.


Walking up and down the steep and narrow streets was quite a challenge. We visited the oldest home on the island, a nunnery, and of course the Monastery.


Within the Monastery is one of the most important religious collections anywhere in the world. The library contains over 2,000 ancient printed books, the most important of which is The Purple Codex. This is the first known hand written document of the Gospel of St. Mark. Most of the pages have been moved to a more secure location, but it has two pages of the original. The parchment is a purple vellum, which the writing carefully scripted in silver ink. The most important names are inscribed in gold lettering. In addition to books the museum contains heirlooms, jewelry and a fine collection of holy icons; all in all very impressive.

By the time we got back to our ship we were very tired, and ready to move on, but not before one little glitch.

After dinner last evening, Lisa and I finally had a chance to sit on our beautiful verandah to enjoy the moonlit evening and have a drink before going to bed. Suddenly with no warning, we were both drenched in water, as was everything we had with us. It seems as if someone decided to wash down the upper decks above our room at 8pm in the evening and never gave any thought to people below with a power washer. Usually this kind of thing is done very early in the morning. I called the front desk while Lisa went to take a shower, but they did not seem very interested in our little problem. In a nutshell, that is Princess for you.

Today while at sea we cleared Israeli immigration in preparation for our arrival in Haifa tomorrow morning. Lisa and I will be off the ship for two days touring Israel, so it will be some time before we can get back online.

I hope everyone is enjoying my little attempt at sharing our travels – catch you on the flip.

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