We docked in Piraeus, the largest port in Greece and the ship’s power failed right after we woke up. We dressed by the light of the rising sun, thankful that our cabin has a balcony. As we trudged the eight flights of stairs to the buffet, we saw handicapped folks on scooters looking wistfully at the nonfunctioning elevators. The crew had gotten breakfast prepared before the black out and eventually the power blinked and returned. It’s probably good that the Constellation is heading to dry dock after the next cruise.
Most tourists cruise here to go to Athens and see the Acropolis and its new museum, shop in the Plaka, watch the changing of the guard in Syntagma Square. Been there, done that. We were glad that the ship offered an alternative and spent the day with an excellent guide about an hour’s drive away in Corinth. Good Christians know the name of this town from the letters Paul wrote here to the growing Christian community. Greek and Roman people have been living here for eons and we started the tour with some small ruins of the old city next to a museum, small enough that our walk around the place ended before Ken got bored. The museum had a case of body parts; everything from arms and legs to genitals. They appeared to have been mass produced and plugged into statues as needed. Another theory was that they were used as offerings as part of worship. The guide explained that the Romans turned making statues into an assembly line process. The cranked out the bodies en masse and plopped on the heads, taking an effort to make those look like the person being honored. On some statues we could see the seam where the two were joined together. Other statues were just torso. Perhaps the head fell off again; perhaps it was never there.
Red poppies bloomed brightly amidst the pieces of temples and market place buildings. The road out of old Corinth which headed to the sea a short distance away, was in amazingly great condition. Most other parts of this ancient city had fallen apart in various earthquakes. At its peak this city may have had 100,000 inhabitants and was so powerful it colonized other Greek cities. Slowly but surely this old city is being excavated, but large parts of it are covered over by modern Corinth. The owner of a small restaurant perched over the old road to the sea, may not take kindly to losing his property and livelihood to the work of the archeologists. This is a problem in Greece everywhere you go. The subway in Piraeus has been in a state of becoming for years. Every time the laborers dig a few feet, they find something historically significant and they have to stop for six months while the archeologists study the spot and try to learn as much about it as possible.
The other sight that drew us here was the Corinth Canal, a narrow cut that connects the Aegean to the Ionian Seas and saves 200 miles of sailing around the Peloponnese. This four mile long gash is only 70 feet across, so tonight our ship is going to have to sail those 200 miles to Katakolon. We have vivid memories of sailing through the canal in the 1980’s on a much smaller cruise ship towed by a tugboat. We also remember that our cabin was so small, we couldn’t both get dressed in it at the same time. The canal was first proposed before the birth of Christ and an abortive effort was made to build it in the 1st century. Construction started again in 1881 but was hampered by geological and financial problems that bankrupted the original builders. It was completed in 1893 about the same time as the Suez Canal but, due to the canal's narrowness, navigational problems and periodic closures to repair landslides from its steep walls, it failed to attract the level of traffic expected by its operators. It is now used mainly for tourist traffic and we spent a delightful hour sailing back and forth, munching Greek goodies. We passed underneath three bridges; one is used these days for bungee jumping. No thanks.