A Detour into the Twilight Zone


I ran across these photos of the infamous Dachau death camp when I was going through my negative files. Viewing them made me think about the political and economic climate today compared to the 1930’s with the rise of Nazism. I am amazed at the cyclical nature of history. In the 1930’s the world economy was in shambles. We had a madman dictator saying just give him all the former Germanic territory ceded at the end of World War I and that will satisfy the German people. He calmed world fears of another war. However, he lied and plunged the world into war. Today we have the dictatorial leader of Russia saying to give him Ukraine and he will not start a nuclear war. We have political leaders in this country branding their opposition as Nazis, semi-fascist and enemies of the state. The 1930’s saw economic turmoil and one man who decided he needed absolute power over the world. Today we have economic turmoil, one man with absolute power trying to conquer his neighbor and one political party trying to hold on to political power by almost any means necessary.

 Why black and white? I decided to use black and white film at the time I visited Dachau because color would bring out the beauty that now abounds in the camp. It is but a veneer. This was not a place of beauty no matter how well it is landscaped. I did a very minimal amount of retouching because why beautify the photos of a place so ugly? Now my detour into the twilight zone.

The Post

It was a beautiful, sunny, early fall day in Bavaria. I was on my way back to base after a relaxing three days in Munich at the Oktober Fest. The fog had cleared from my brain, and I decided to take backroads instead of the autobahn back to Frankfurt. That decision led me to the town of Dachau. Dachau is a town with a big, infamous reputation. It has the dubious distinction of being the first concentration camp of the Third Reich. Opened in March of 1933, it was a prison for “enemies” of the state. Those imprisoned were political prisoners, Poles, Romani (more often called gypsies), Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic priests, and Communists. This place of horror was finally liberated by the American Army on April 29, 1945. On that day, the New York 42nd Infantry Division, also known as the Rainbow Division for its service in World War 1, entered the camp. Even though they knew this was a prison camp, nothing could prepare them for what they were about to see. It left an indelible mark on the minds of all who saw it.

I arrived in Dachau and, as a student of World War II history, knew the name. However, there was nothing that could prepare me for what I was to encounter. The experience was so surreal that it left an indelible mark on my mind as well. I had entered the Twilight Zone.

I entered the parking lot of the camp, and all was well. Birds were singing and bees were hard at work. It was a typical early fall day: warm and sunny. I paid the entrance fee and entered the camp. In an instant everything changed. The camp was cold despite the sun shining. Not a bird could be heard. There was nothing but silence. Even the people visiting did not speak or spoke so softly so as not to be heard lest they shatter the silence. It was as if the very earth itself wanted nothing to do with this place. All you could sense is depression, despair, and hopelessness. Despite the colorful flowers and greenery, there was no joy. Just a somber feeling and sorrow for the victims of this place.

The main gate to the camp.

The main gate greeted you with this motto. It means “Work makes you free.” Until April of 1945, the only road to freedom was the dark embrace of death.

Main administrative building. Prisoners formed on the grounds for roll call. When it was in use as a prison, the Nazis painted across the roof:

“There is one road to freedom. Its milestones are:

Obedience – diligence – honesty – cleanliness – temperance – truth – sacrifice – and love of one’s country.”

The hard reality of Dachau was that only death granted freedom.

Main gate building.

One of the buildings that bordered on the electric fence.

Inside one of the remaining barracks. This is a prewar sleeping area which had space for the prisoner to live.

As Dachau grew, all empty space in the sleeping area was removed. People were stacked in here like so much cordwood. Disease was rampant in such close quarters.

Prisoner mess area. Extraordinarily little unused space.

The old barracks are gone and the view leading to the main buildings is clear.

Memorial to the Jewish victims of Dachau.

Monument to the unknown prisoner. The inscription reads:

“Den Toten Zur Ehr Den Lebenden Zur Mahnung”

“To honour the dead, to remind the living”

More empty space where prison barracks stood along with a preserved guard tower.

The camp crematorium was the final stop for those who did not survive to the end of the war.

Two more of the incinerators used to “destroy the evidence.”

This is the legacy of Nazi Germany. The marker to a mass grave of the thousands of unknown that lost their lives here.

I spent eight years in Germany in the 1970’s and 1980’s and found the German people warm and friendly people. I knew, worked with, and supervised German civilians who either served in the armed forces or grew up during the war. I will always remember a lady who would talk to me about the war but whenever she spoke of the Nazis her voice would drop and she continually looked over her shoulder. That was how deep the fear of the Gestapo, and the Nazis was in the German psyche. From 1932 to 1945 the German people learned to keep their mouths shut so that they would not become one of the disappeared. The Gestapo was feared more than death. Silence was a matter of survival for the Germans then. Today they have a breath of freedom they cherish. DO NOT paint the German people of today with the same brush as the Nazis of that long ago, dark era.


Upon leaving the grounds of the camp, everything returned to normal. The birds were once again singing, the sun was warm, and the bees were back hard at work. I looked back completely unnerved by the experience. It is an experience to be taken with somber reverence. This was my detour into the Twilight Zone.

Looking at these photos again speaks, at least for me, of a warning and an unkept promise. The warning is about government, the cult of personality and the branding of the opposition in politics. When people vote, they should vote for what the politician stands for and not their force of personality or their soaring oratory or their branding of the opposition. Hitler was voted into office, and it was his force of personality and his oratory that put him in office. If you listen to Hitler’s speeches, you may not understand them but his force of personality and his oratorial command comes through. He told the German people that it was his political enemies and the Jews that caused all the nation’s woes. He said what the people wanted to hear. This allowed Hitler and the Nazi Party to lead the German people into war and down the path of death and destruction. We as a people must be on guard every election that when we vote for a person it is for their policies and not their oratory, personality, or fear mongering. We must remember that in politics, the first casualty is the truth.

The promise unkept goes with the phrase “Never Again.” Never again will we stand by while genocide is taking place. This is a promise we have failed dismally to keep. Why can I say that? Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge slaughter 1.5 to 2 million of its own citizens in the 1970’s. Rwanda with the Tutsi slaughter of the Hutu. The French finally stepped in but not before a massive slaughter of humanity. The murder of the Kurds by both Turkey and Iraq. The list goes on and yet we still do nothing. The latest is the genocide China is performing against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic Muslims. We say nothing because we must not upset China. We also have a rise in antisemitism once again vilifying the Jewish population. Unless and until we are ready to take a stand and truly stop genocide, the words “Never Again” will forever ring hollow.

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The Art of Black and White Photography

Here we are in 2022 and hoping the Covid pandemic is behind us. We are in what they call the endemic stage.  During the almost two years of this pandemic, I took the time to reevaluate what I am doing as a photographer.  I have found that I have lost contact with my roots in photography. I have been enamored with the siren song of digital photography and got away from the rules and discipline of film photography upon which everything is based.

When I was a youth starting to pick up a camera, back when wagon trains were plodding across the prairies, there was no such thing as digital anything for the masses. Computers were the size of buildings! For us, the height of technology was an IBM Selectric typewriter. Film, both black and white and color, were king. I had to learn arcane procedures like using a light meter, study f stops and shutter speeds and their relation to depth of field and the darkroom protocols to process my own black and white film. Color film was always turned in to a processing center because the developing and printing this film was too complex for the average person. Black and white film was easy to process and print with a rudimentary darkroom. I miss this so I am returning to monochrome film photography. It is a challenge.

Those of us blessed with the gift of sight and normal color vision, see the world in all its vibrant colors. Color photography is easy and made even easier in this digital age provided you have an eye for what makes a good color photograph. Today we can even take great photographs with our cell phones. No need to learn about shutter speeds, f stops, and film speed as the new digital cameras and cell phones are minicomputers and do it all. We just snap the shutter.

However, it was not always this way. For the first 100+ years, photography was black and white. Color film did not really come into existence until the 1930’s but due to World War II, did not really get into the publics hands until the late 1940’s. All color film was given to the Government for the war effort. So, the medium of black and white is not new but a lost art.

This blog may sound a little preachy but that is not my intent. I am going to explain why I am going back to the arcane practice of using monochrome film instead of just desaturating a photo in PhotoShop. So, here we go.

Why do I say black and white photography is an art? Everyone with the gift of sight works in color today because we see in color. There are those who have a varying degrees of color blindness and an even smaller group that nature has drained color from their world. The art is that you see in color but must be able to “drain” your world of color. You must be able to look at a scene, which may be an excellent color picture, and previsualize it in shades of gray. Not every scene we see will look good in black and white. So again, why work in black and white?

Black and white offers so much that cannot be provided by color, depending on the subject matter. It can provide drama to a scene. It can whisk us back to a bygone era. It can provide an ambiance you cannot get with color. It can be stark and harsh or soft and gentle.

There are aids to learn to see monochrome. I will say before embarking on a black and white film project, get yourself a trio of books written by Ansel Adams: The Camera, The Negative and The Print. This trilogy still is my bible. You should also find a processing company who does film and inquire if they also digitize the final product.

Ansel Adams suggests a Wratten #90 filter to aid in learning to see in shades of gray. This filter has the effect of muting color so that the scene becomes almost monochrome. It is an aid that allows you to see how assorted colors translate to shades of gray. Eventually, you will train your mind’s eye and not need the filter.

It goes without saying that along with using film I must use film cameras. Fortunately, I kept my film cameras. That is just the packrat in me. While high-end digital cameras offer a monochrome setting, working with film has both an advantage and a disadvantage. The main advantage is using filters to enhance a scene. Certain filters do different things with monochrome film. The main challenge and disadvantage to film is when you snap the shutter, you either have the picture or you do not have it. There is no washing the photo through PhotoShop to save the picture. That subject is for another blog.

Here are examples of what black and white can do.

Old Gas Pump, Point Reyes

This image of the old gas pump was taken near Point Reyes. It would have been an uninteresting photo if done in color. The badly faded paint on the gas pump made for a mildly interesting picture. On monochrome film, there is interest and a bit of a throwback to a bygone era.

I said that there are photos that should be in color because monochrome does not suit the context.

Rainy Day, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

This is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This ancient city has survived intact through many wars including World War II.  I have been here multiple times and, on this visit, it was raining. Most people put their cameras away to protect them. I saw a certain beauty in the scene with the muted colors, headlights reflecting on the rain-soaked street and the rain coming down.  I snapped the shutter and got the photo I had previsualized. All of this happens in a split second.

In black and white this photo is nice but lacks the mood set by the color photo. It does not set a somber mood. The muted colors of the original photo deliver that feeling of a cold, drab day. The black and white image is much brighter and therefore less atmosphere.

I said earlier when shooting in black and white, the photographer needs to previsualize the scene in shades of gray. Digital programs like PhotoShop and Zoner allow you to convert a color photo to gray scale. However, the photographer is still thinking in color when he/she pressed the shutter. With film, the photographer must look at each photo and try to imagine it in gray scale.

Street Performer, Central Park New York

This is a street performer in Central Park. He seems isolated due to the sea of red brick that surrounds him. It is also noontime, so he is casting a minimal shadow. Note the small pop of bright red from his “stuff” inside one of the gray circles.

The black and white photo lacks the same impact. The brick is just gray and the pop of red from the inner small circles is gone.

Black and white can be sinister.

Main Gate, Dachau Concentration Camp, Bavaria, Germany

This ironwork sign is part of the gate at Dachau, Germany. It translates to “Work makes you free.”  So, what makes this so sinister? Dachau was the first of the concentration and death camps set up by the Nazis. I went there going back to base from the Oktoberfest and it was one of the strangest experiences of my life. It was a glorious fall day. The sun shone bright and warm. I pulled into the parking lot of Dachau, and all was well. The birds were singing, and it was a warm fall day. Once I walked into the camp, while the sun still shone brightly, it was very cold. You didn’t hear a single bird chirping.  It was if the very earth wanted to excise this plot of itself as if it didn’t exist. While I photographed it in black and white, I then copied it onto lithographic film with this result. Color would not have delivered the sinister chill that monochrome does.

Black and white can invoke a feeling of calm and familiarity.

OB’s, Truckee, CA

Truckee is one of California’s older towns that sprang up as a supply depot for the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. OB’s, back in the early 2000’s was situated in one of the original town buildings from the 1860’s. The bar and restaurant are no longer there having been replaced by, I believe, the Bar of America. This shot is both nostalgic and inviting. It harkens back to a simpler time. Makes you want to stop by and have a beer and sit a spell.

All Aboard! State Railway Museum, Sacramento, CA

Very few people alive today actually remember the Age of Steam and the art of running to catch a train. Oh, we think we do but if we miss a subway train or commuter train, another one will be along shortly. We, for the most part, do not use trains for long distance travel. During the Age of Steam from the 1920’s to the early 1950’s, steam trains were the primary form of long-distance transportation. Air travel was in its infancy and far too expensive for the common man. We see it in movies and can sometimes experience how it was by visiting a rail museum. But it is all artificial. To convey this bygone era when I was at the California State Railroad Museum, I shot it in black and white. Here we have two final passengers trying to catch their train. Only the modern clothes give us the sense of modern day. The big giveaway is the man. In that bygone era of steam, the man would be in suit or work clothes and wearing a hat. It isn’t until the 1960’s that hats went out of style for men. Black and white transports us back to that Age of Steam.

The final two photos are of the town of Locke, CA. At the time I visited, Locke was a sleepy town just north of Walnut Grove along the Sacramento River. Built in 1915 by Chinese immigrants, it had its heyday in the 1920’s and Prohibition with many “Speakeasies” or illegal bars. In 1990, Locke was designated as a National Historic Landmark and is preserved for the ages.

Don’t Let the Outside Fool You, The Locke Hotel, Locke, CA

The old Locke Hotel was up for sale. To bring out the textures of the wood and to keep the ambiance of a bygone age, I felt that black and white film, not color, was what was needed here. I love the sign above the For Sale sign that reads “Don’t let the outside fool you.”

Main Street, Locke, CA

The main street through the center of town required that old world look. The old truck and the Volkswagen Carmen Gia did not detract from the ambiance.

Hopefully, I have shown a little of the Art of Black and White photography and the beauty that comes in shades of gray.  Not only in black and white challenging but doing it on film helps preserve the art of film processing and printing.  We need to keep these skills alive because it also connects us to the roots of photography. I have only scratched the surface with this blog. However, I hope this explains why I am going back to this art form.  Give it a try. You may find you enjoy the challenge as well.

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Hot August Nights 2021

It has been a while since I posted. Covid19 seems to not want to let us go. This is the first event I have gone to because I felt safe. People adhered to the required rules so that a fun time could be had by all.

On the evening of August 1, 1986, a tradition was born in Reno. Looking for a way to bridge the gap in tourism, the Reno-Sparks Convention Center hosted a nostalgia dance concert featuring famed radio DJ Wolfman Jack with acts like Jan & Dean and the Righteous Brothers. The convention center was bursting with 10,000 guests. But the center got more than they bargained for. The concert goers brought along their vintage cars and cruised Virginia Street like in the 1950’s and 60’s. What was to be a one-night concert became a yearly event with vintage and custom cars on display and nightly cruises of Virginia Street. Because the first event was in August and the night was hot, this event became known as Hot August Nights. The event brings together restored vintage cars, custom hot rods, and many different smaller events.

This event happens almost every year. Covid19 caused last year’s Hot August Nights, along with everything else, to be canceled. Despite the Delta variant coming along, precautions were taken to allow this year’s event to go forward. The four main casino/hotels that hosted the event are The Atlantis, The Peppermill, The Nugget, and the Grand Sierra Resort. These venues have large parking lots to accommodate the number of cars that come in for the event. These lots are also large enough to accommodate cruise areas within the lots so that the cars can be driven around and paraded passed the judges for awards. They also cruise Virginia Street in the evenings. A whole cottage industry has grown up around the event.

Festivities kicked off in Virginia City on July 30th. For those who do not know, Virginia City was founded in 1859. The town has maintained its Wild West look and revels in its rich history. Tourists flock here every year for more than Hot August Nights. The most famous other events are Comstock Days and the Camel Races.

On August 2nd, the show moves into Reno proper.

This year I went to The Peppermill and Atlantis to see some beautifully restored cars. Here at The Atlantis a Woody and a nice 1930’s touring car were parading around on the cruising track.

This show is not limited to the “cool” hotrods and nicely restored cars of the 30’s and 40’s, but a nicely restored Rambler Nash was on display. This was a small car before small cars were cool.

The Peppermill also had its cruising track as well. All three venues had cars galore. Some from the area but many more traveled long distances from all over the country to be here.

This car always gives me the blues. (No pun intended.)  My Grandmother had a ’57 Chevy Bel Air. When I was stationed in England, she told me that she wanted to get rid of it for a newer car. I told her to wait until I got home, and I would buy her a car and take the Chevy in trade.

Needless to say, she did not wait. She said the nice man at the dealership gave her $500 for her old car. I could have cried. I am sure the weasel sold the car for $2,000 and that was in 1975. I will say I got to ride in a ’57 Bel Air when I was in England. On my base, RAF Alconbury, the work centers were 3 miles from the barracks.  At the time I had no car, so I waited out by the hitchhike point to hitch a ride to work.  Another airman stopped to give me a lift.  At first, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary because you know the driver sits on the right in England.  Then I woke up. Hey, this is ’57 Chevy! Why am I sitting on the left side of the car? He told me that this was 1 of 500 built and sent to England. He knew how rare this car was and planned to ship it home. He said he would be the only one in his state with a right hand-drive ’57 Chevy.

Custom rods were the name of the game at Hot August Nights. I am sure this car participated at the “Burn Out Competition” at The Nugget Casino area.

There were cars on display that were works in progress. This is a 1927 Willys Knight. Yes, this is the same company that would give the world the Jeep in World War II.

It is still a little rough, but I am sure that next year it will be a contender for Best in Show.

Of course, the 1950’s Chevy Corvettes were out in force. This 1959 model Vette was very nicely restored to showroom condition by the owner.

You must marvel that the Vette has survived for so long. The first model came out in 1953. In 2020, the model got an upgrade from a front engine car to a mid-engine car. 64 years old and still going strong.

As I said, this show is about the classic, the custom and the unusual. This is a 1952 Nash Rambler station wagon. To be honest, this is the first car of its kind that I have seen. I am not sure I want the engine exhaust just under the driver side window. Seems to me that is inviting carbon monoxide poisoning.

And who would not like a nice GTO? Growing up, my next-door neighbor’s son worked hard and bought a GTO. It has four two-barrel carburetors and got a whopping five miles to the gallon.

With gas at $0.30 a gallon, who cared. We joked that this was the only car where you could watch the speedometer needle, going around to the 110-mph mark, race around to meet the gas gauge needle headed toward “Empty”. We also use to joke that GTO stood for gas, tires, and oil, the three things this car burned.

The nice cars of the 1930’s. For me, these cars had class. I got to see so many nicely restored to original condition.

Nothing like a soft-top coupe with a rumble seat.

Even the interior had everything exactly right. Yes, back then it was three on the shaft. In other words, this is a three speed, manual shift car with the shifter on the steering column.

Even the rumble seat is nicely upholstered. I have heard countless tales of women being deflowered in the rumble seat. That is why it has a notorious reputation.

Here is another 1930’s car that looks like it was restored to original condition.

A closer look shows that a ‘Vette engine was shoehorned in in place of the stock engine. This thing must scream down the highway.

The interior dash shows great diligence with some upgrades.

Yes, even the People’s Car, a.k.a., the Volkswagen, was amply represented. After all, it was designed by Ferdinand Porsche in the 1930’s for Adolf Hitler. After the war, to get the German economy running, the British helped get the VW factory up and running again. The Beetle was one of the most popular imported cars in America. It became an icon.

Now we come to my personal favorite in show. The 1935 Supercharged Auburn Speedster. This is a fantastically restored model.

The Auburn Automobile Company was in existence from 1900 to 1937. The Great Depression and stock manipulation sounded the death nell of this luxury automobile company. It went into bankruptcy in 1940 and merged with the Central Manufacturing Companies. In 1940, the now Auburn Central Manufacturing Corporation, to supply jeep bodies for the Willys-Overland and Ford Companies. In addition to supplying jeep bodies, Auburn supplied trailer bodies and aircraft parts. After the war, Auburn changed its name to the American Central Manufacturing or ACM as it was now called, began manufacturing household appliances.

The interior of this Speedster has been nicely restored and oozes luxury.

The front gives you that roadster feel. You know this is a fast car. Too bad the owner was not around and dressed in vintage clothes.

Hood ornaments were big back in the day. You do not see many cars these days with such decoration.

A beautifully restored Buick on display between two more modern cars.

Buick had a great hood ornament. While they looked great, I am sure today these hood ornaments would be considered hazards in an accident.

As usual, the interior is just as lovingly restored to its former glory by the lucky owner.

I then spied this old Ford. The driver looked vaguely familiar.

Well, what do you know? Even the Tasmanian Devil comes to Hot August Nights.

Not all vehicles are in pristine condition. Some vehicles are brought to show the condition they were in when found. We will see this car again next year and see how far along the restoration has gotten.

Last, but certainly not least, is an art deco tow truck replete with slasher lug nuts. Compared to the utilitarian looks tow trucks of today, this is an object of beauty.

And as usual, the owner has completely restored the interior as well.

As you can see, Hot August Nights has grown from a one-night concert back in 1986 to a yearly classic car rally and a harkening back to the 50’s and 60’s. All these cars and cruising as well. I am looking forward to next year where hopefully we will not be wearing masks.

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2020 is Over! Big Hopes for 2021!

2020 has finally ended!  2020 is the year everyone wished never was.  We started the year with such high hopes.  At the beginning of the year we had a booming economy and we were hopeful for a year of new adventures.  For me, having moved to a new state, was a year that boasted new travels and exploration.  It quickly devolved into a medieval plague nightmare with a worldwide pandemic.  Instead of exploration, we got lockdowns.  Instead of a year full of things to see like Hot August Nights, Air Races, and other events and festivals, we all got cancelled events.  The movie “Groundhog Day” took on special meaning for many of us because we felt like Bill Murray.  So many lives were lost to an insidious virus.

However, the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 brought new hope.  A vaccine has been developed in record time and given us hope of returning to life as normal.  We can once again become the social animals we are instead of hiding behind masks, hiding indoors away from others or doing “social distancing” at great risk to ourselves.  We are not out of the woods yet.  Many people need to be vaccinated so that we can develop what is called “herd immunity.”  This may not be completed until the summer of this year but at least there is hope where there was once hopelessness.  No matter what you think of President Trump, we must give him credit for getting us a vaccine in record time.  As there was a changing of the guard in January, we must hope and support President Biden in his drive to get the vaccine out to everyone.

I too have started to make plans for the year.  My cameras have sat too long gathering dust on the shelf.  Projects have sat unfulfilled.  I am now planning posts for this coming year.  It is time to prepare to go back out into the world and explore.

Things are changing in the photography world as well.  Vinyl has made a comeback in the audio world.  So too, film is starting to make a comeback in the photography world.  I started photography when film was king.  Film requires a lot more attention than digital.  With digital, the camera does so much for us.  If we still screw up the shot, there are computer programs we can wash the picture through to get a good result.  With film you must make sure you are using the correct film and set the proper exposure for the shot.  There is no washing a bad photo through PhotoShop to get a good picture.  

Going back to work with film will be a great homecoming for me.  It offers a challenge that I don’t have with digital photography.  It will allow me to use my large format cameras such as the Crown Graphic, which uses 4X5 sheet film as well as my roll film cameras.

Finally, it will be a time to start traveling again.  Many things left on hold, such as a trip to Austria or, on my bucket list, Tombstone, may finally be fulfilled.  Maybe not right this year, but what seemed like a pipe dream have come closer to being a reality,

So here’s to a new year and the hope of fulfilling the promises that 2020 left unsatisfied.

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The Move

Somebody may have noticed that I have not posted in over a year.  This is not due to lack of interest on my part in presenting my work. It is due to a more mundane, or so I thought, reason.  Plain Vision Photography has moved from California to Nevada.  But the move was not without pain.

Those who watch HGTV have seen the series “House Hunters.”  For those of you who have not seen it, it is a show about people looking for a new place to live.  The clients go through three proposed houses, pick one, and a month or two later the show returns to update you on how the clients are doing in their new digs.  It is neat, tidy and quick. Our move was nothing like this. 

From the time we put the old homestead up for sale until we sold it and moved took 5 months.  We first had to find a realtor to sell our place.  Fortunately we knew someone who knew a good realtor.  We also had to find a place to move to.  This required we find a realtor in the area we planned to move to.  That accomplished, let the search begin!

During that 5 month period, we made trips to the area we wanted to move to up in the Sierras and did not find anything we wanted.  We had to cast a wider net.  This required finding another realtor that specialized in the new area we were looking at.  To complicate things, the old homestead hung like an albatross around our necks.  Why?  Because we could not move forward on a firm offer for a new place until the old place was sold.  To make matters worse, we closed the sale of our home the beginning of January.  Winter had arrived! 

The winter of 2018-2019 was a bad one.  The Sierras received record snow and the passes through the mountains were closed.  We had nowhere to go except to a parent’s house until we could find a place.  We had to play millennials, living in the basement, until the weather cleared up.  Once we found a place, we had to have it inspected.  This is standard on any home sale.  The inspection found problems that the seller needed to fix.  It wasn’t until June that we moved into a hotel in Nevada to finish the necessary paperwork to buy the new homestead.  Finally, we got to move in, albeit without furniture, the middle of July.  It wasn’t until the middle of August, after new carpets were installed and new paint, that the movers could deliver our household goods.  Now began the arduous task of unpacking and putting away everything.  That took until November to get 90% of the stuff unpacked.  Now the holidays are upon us! 

Work stops on finishing up the unpacking until the holidays are over.  After all, there is a lot to do to set up for the season.  But at least I have access to a computer to restart posting.

So, if you plan on moving and you own your present home, be in it for the long haul.  It is not for the faint of heart.  There will be plenty of bumps in the road.  But, in the long run, it is well worth the pain.  So, hears to a new year with a new environment to explore.

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Greek Trek 2017: Santorini Part 2– Oia

Our last stop on this trip is the town of Oia on the island of Santorini.  First, the name is pronounced Ē’ă.  That is a long e with a short a, with the emphasis on the e.  Oia is the polar opposite of Fira.  Fira you had to go up and down tons of stairs.  Oia has all its major shops on one main pedestrian walkway at the top of the town.  You can descend stairs to other places, if you so desire.  Oia is also the best place for watching sunsets.

              Oia is on a peninsula while Fira’s location is at about the center of the island.

This is the main shopping area.  It is linear so you don’t have to go up and down stairs.  Makes shopping a much more pleasant experience on a hot day.

Original inhabitants lived in the caves, which are now luxury hotels.  They are naturally cool in the summer.  The temperature inside the caves can reach a balmy 68O and as low as 62O.  That compared to the high 90’s outside on a summer day.

This interesting item is, believe it or not, on top of a building that is below street level clinging to the side of the cliff.

This shop had two interesting Pinocchio puppets on display outside on an old child’s tricycle.

Art is everywhere like this mosaic on the wall of a restaurant.

This restaurant had a very classical painting type sign out front.

As well as this art gallery.


I decided to have something to eat on the rooftop dining area of a taverna.  This place offered a variety of nice views from the terrace.  You can look out over the caldera and enjoy the scene.

Or you can look out over the town of Oia and enjoy the view.

Or you can concentrate on the view closer to the taverna.

This church was along the main walking area at the top of Oia.  Unfortunately, it was closed to visitors at this time.

Here is an unfortunate sign of the times.  Because of Oia’s rich and famous visitors, the Paparazzi in particular, and the public in general, cannot fly drones around Oia without special permission.  There was a sign on the school that said that photos of the children are prohibited.  It is a sad commentary of our times.

Oia is a jumble of juxtapositions and contradictions.  Here is a beautiful church.

But zooming in closer there is a bikini babe working on her tan on the wall next to the church.

It was a very hot day but this woman looks a cool as can be.

Artisans of all types have their shops along the main shopping walkway.

And even the Great White Whale has a shop here.

There are steps along this main shopping walkway but they are very gentle descents and ascents, unlike Fira.

The fish are busy here in Oia as well cleaning people’s feet.  (We first saw the fish do their thing in Athens.)

As with all the islands, the cats are on Santorini as well.

One shopkeeper was so enterprising as to set up a cat rental.

This building stood out because it wasn’t white.

I couldn’t help but notice that there was always a place close by if the need for food or drink suddenly overtook you.  This was the case all over Greece.  If anything, you will never go thirsty or hungry.

Oia has stunning views no matter where you looked over the caldera.  And yes, Oia has windmills.

But as the sun sets I must go back to my hotel and busy myself with getting ready to return home.  I have bags to drag and planes to catch.  It is on to the next adventure.

If you are interested in taking the same tour I did, you must not be faint of heart.  It is a grueling trek.  It consisted on 3 nights in Athens, 3 nights on Mykonos, 3 nights on the cruise ship, and 3 nights on Santorini.  Homeric Tours offers this tour and it is called the Aegean Escape.  Be aware, depending on your flight arrival in Athens, you must be up early the next morning for the Athens tour.  The cruise ship taking you to Mykonos leaves Athens at noon your 4th day and takes until 6:30 pm to arrive at the port in Mykonos.  You do not leave the hotel to board the ship for your cruise until 5:30 pm in your 4th day on Mykonos.  When you leave Santorini, you have the choice of paying to fly out or take a ferry back to Athens for your return flight.  I suggest paying for the flight.  I will say that if you are up to the schedule, this tour is great.  You get to catch the different flavors of Greece.  By this I mean not just the food, which was fantastic, but the people you meet along the way as well.  But, like I said above, it is time to say good bye to Greece and be off on a new adventure.

Copyright © 2018  John J Campo

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Greek Trek 2017: Santorini Part 1 – Fira

My chariot departs Crete at noon for an afternoon cruise to Santorini.  To my amazement, the sea was a little rough.  Until now, the sea had been quiet and placid.  We arrive at the town of Fira on the island of Santorini at 4:30p.m.  Because of the rough seas, the ship cannot dock and everyone must take a tender to shore.  There is nothing quite like boarding a tender in rough seas.  You need to time you step from the ship to the tender just right.  Fortunately for me, as I can’t swim, the crewmembers helping all of us disembark from the ship are very skilled at reading the waves.  The ride in the tender was rough and, once docked; disembarking from the tender wasn’t any easier.  However, everyone made it to shore without incident.  For those of us leaving the ship, to stay on the island, were taken to one dock area where we could get our ground transportation to the hotels.  Those going on a tour were dropped off at a different area.  I will explain the reason for this later.

Santorini, or Thira, and her sister islands of Thirasia, Aspronisi, Palia Kament, and Nea Kameni, were once the volcanic island of Thira, also known as Strongili or the Round One.  A catastrophic eruption ending with the collapse of the volcano destroyed the island and gave birth to the five smaller islands and the caldera we see today.  Santorini itself has towering cliffs on the caldera side, covered with white buildings, and looks majestic. Now comes the Crete connection.  It is thought that the eruption of the volcano on Thira caused a giant tidal wave and destroyed the Minoan people and culture.  However, geologists working in the caldera say they may have discovered evidence that this volcano had its catastrophic eruption several hundred years earlier than first thought.

Santorini is not a party island like Mykonos.  The rich and famous come here to “get away from it all.”  At a hotel in Oia I was told I just missed Chris Jenner.  Looking out over the caldera you can see why the rich and famous come here.

Santorini has two main towns: Oia and Fira.  Because they are so different in structure and what you see, I have split this into two parts.  As the title says, we will be looking at Fira first.

Okay, let’s get the culture shock over first.  The bus from the hotel dropped me off next to that bane of American culture: McDonald’s.  No, I did not go in.  (And NO, the thought never crossed my mind!)

Across the street in a little shopping area stands the symbol of Fira in particular and of Santorini in general.  Yes, none other than the donkey.  You will see why later.

On the same street is Nick the Grill.  No, that is not Nick.  That is none other than Jack Daniels.  I saw his face in other bars in Fira.

At last an entrance to the rabbit warren of shops.  Many from Britain come here to vacation and enjoy the warmth.  Obelix is a popular comic magazine in Britain.

 Fine leather goods are a hallmark of the area.

Some of the pedestrian areas have flowers as a nice, cooling canopy over the walkways.

Santorini may not be a party island like Mykonos but it has its fair share of bars.  Here we have “The 2 Brothers.”  Judging from the waitress at the door, business must be slow during the day.  I don’t know why because it was hot!

There are many little alleys and walkways lined with shops in Fira.  This is on the island side of Santorini.  This eventually leads you to the top of the town and the view into the caldera.

The truly picturesque part of Fira is looking down into the caldera.  Much of Fira, and Oia as well, is attached to the cliff side of the caldera.

Looking back towards one end of Fira and you can see Oia in the distance to the left.

There are several doorways at the top of Fira that look like they lead nowhere.   Actually, this leads to a restaurant clinging to the side of the caldera.

Another of the “doorways to nowhere” but at least you see people sitting there.

There are a ton of stairs to climb in Fira. 

Entrance to the Greek Orthodox Church on the crest of the cliff overlooking the caldera adorned with a mosaic of the baby Jesus.

The interior of most Orthodox churches are more ornately decorated than Roman Catholic churches.

Outside on the street is the double headed eagle of the Orthodox faith.

You never know what you will find down any flight of stairs or alleyway.  At the bottom here is an Adidas shop.

I said there were two dock areas in Fira.  The one I was dropped at had a way for busses and cars to come down and pick people up.  The other dock you have three different ways to get to Fira proper.  You can always do the old bag-drag and walk up the path. There is a cable car that will deliver you to the top of the cliff.  You just have to go up these stairs to get to the cable car going down.  Or, there is another way.  You can usually smell the mode of transportation before you see it.

You look over a low wall down to where the smell is originating.

Yes it is that symbol of Fira and Santorini.  You can ride your ass to and from the port.

There are many different places where you can wet your whistle.  This one is Scottish themed.

This is a jazz club.

I have been to many countries and the one thing I always find is an Irish Pub.  Welcome to Murphy’s.

The middle of the day and the pub is exactly like the sign says: Dead.  And there is a picture of Jack Daniels on the wall to the right.

But it does offer the opportunity for stress relief.  Looks like it has gotten a whole lot of use!

There are even hookah bars if you want a drink and an alternative to cigarettes.

In one store I saw these words of wisdom from Socrates. 

But now it is time for a nice repast and prepare for the next day going to Oia.


Copyright © 2018  John J Campo

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Greek Trek 2017: Crete

Our trip from Rhodes to Crete is not uneventful, but in a good way.  The crew cooked up a BBQ with entertainment on what could be termed the Lido deck, aka, outside in the fresh sea air.  I opted for this instead of a regular dinner in the dining room.  (Who would choose a stuffy, staid dining room to BBQ steak and chicken outside in the fresh air with entertainment thrown in to boot.)  With a full belly I retire to my cabin.  When I wake up to get ready for the tour of Crete I see we have already docked at the port.

We dock at the port city of Iroklio, also called Heraklion, to tour an ancient site and around the city itself.  Crete has a longer history than most of the islands because it was the center of the Minoan civilization, which predates the Greek civilization.  We know some history of the Minoans but, unfortunately, we cannot read any of the writings this culture left behind.  We can read the hieroglyphics of Egypt because of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.  For those not familiar with the Rosetta Stone, it was a stone discovered in 1799 in Egypt.  This stone had a decree inscribed on it in hieroglyphics, Demontic (an ancient Egyptian script) and Greek.  Because of this we were now able to decipher the hieroglyphic and Demontic writings.  Unfortunately, we have not discovered any such stone to decipher the Minoan language.  Although the Minoans have vanished, they left behind the massive palace known as Knossos.

Crete itself was governed by several different countries over its history: the Romans, Venetians and the Turks to name a few.  In World War II, Crete had the dubious distinction of being the first major land objective of size to be captured almost entirely by airborne forces.  The German Fallschirmjägers (paratroopers) invaded the island in May of 1941.  They succeeded in capturing the island, which was a first.  However, this was accomplished with a large number of casualties which made Hitler vow that he would never again use his precious paratroopers in any such operation.  (This is why the island of Malta, which was next on the list, was never invaded.)  A memorial was erected in 1941 by Germany to commemorate the paratroopers who perished taking the island. It is located in a rural area 3 kilometers outside Chania.  Only the pedestal of the monument remains today and has been engulfed by the expansion of Chania.  German rule ended in 1945.

The cruise from Rhodes to Crete was made more enjoyable with on outdoor BBQ.

Chicken and steak cooked over charcoal never tasted so good.

Entertainment was provided by The Plug and Play Duo.  Their forte was ABBA tunes.

These two youngsters just had to dance to the music.

With a belly full of steak and chicken, it was off to sleep.  The morning begins early and will provide new adventures.

In the morning it was off the ship, into buses and away we went.  On the trip to our first stop we passed a bowling alley.  Found it strange to see a bowling alley in Crete.

We arrived at a place that, from a quick glance, would be a pile of rocks.

However, our guide held a drawing depicting where we were really at.

Welcome to the Palace of Knossos.  Once a grand palace for the Minoan civilization, it is now, as with most ancient landmarks, a ruin.

We walk around almost in awe of the vastness of the palace.  This is just looking across the palace grounds.  The sheer size is nearly overwhelming.

Some sections still retain the original colors they were painted so many centuries ago.

The Minoan people must have been short considering the height of the different stories of the buildings as illustrated by the man on the balcony.

A throne room with its ancient wall art is only viewable from behind a barrier.  The throne doesn’t look all that comfortable. 

This wall decoration is still mostly intact and now protected by plexiglass.

It is thought that ancient acrobats used these “horns” during their performances.

Another ancient piece of decoration where you can see that it is a relief, i.e., this is not flat but has actual depth to it.

The immensity of the complex is what amazes visitors.  It is said that in its day it was able to accommodate over 2,000 people.

More wall paintings: one of a dancer to the right and one of dolphins.  Whatever was on the two panels below the dancer, have vanished with time.

A storage area with storage jars intact.

But where you have a tourist attraction you have vendors.  This one takes advantage of the myth of the Minotaur.  It is said that it was the palace of Knossos that gave rise to the story of the Minotaur, the half man half bull monster.

There is even a restaurant across the street from the entrance to the palace.  Did not have time to eat there as I had to return to the bus and head for Heraklion.

Heraklion is a bustling, cosmopolitan city.  Our tour was headed to the historic center of town.

We start at this beautiful fountain built by the Italians.  At one time the Italians governed Crete. 

They also left their mark in the form of the buildings they left behind.

This art gallery was once a Roman Catholic Church, the Basilica of St. Mark.  Remember, the dominate religion is Greek Orthodox.

Most of the Italian architecture is close to the port area.  This is now a government building.

A look through one of the arched entrances of the building reveals a tranquil scene.

Once inside there are doors leading to staircases.

One of the things that I didn’t expect to see was Ben and Jerry’s.

On the border of the Italian section is a pedestrian shopping section with nice cafes . . .

. . .and plenty of shops.

On one street was this Chinese restaurant.  I noticed, as you can see to the left of the restaurant, handbills were posted everywhere.

The streets do get crowded.  The sign telling you to hold onto your child was a sign I had not encountered anywhere else.

Motor scooters seem to be the main mode of transportation in this section of town.  I was amazed at the number of posters plastered to the walls of the buildings.

Artisans’ have their studios open for the buying public.

A travel agency reminds me that the time has come to say good bye to Crete and return to the ship for our last stop on this trip: Santorini.  (Just like the sign says.)


Copyright © 2018  John J Campo

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Greek Trek 2017: Rhodes

Quietly, like a thief in the night, my chariot arrives at the port of Rhodes.  Rhodes is as famous as Patmos is obscure.  Everyone learns in elementary school about the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.  The Colossus of Rhodes is amongst them.  While the Colossus no longer exists, the city of Rhodes on the island of Rhodes still thrives.  What many don’t know, even war movie aficionados, (unless you read the credits) is that you are seeing Rhodes when you watch the movie “The Guns of Navarone.”  Since no such island as Navarone exists, Rhodes became the backdrop and set for the movie.  (The studio planned to use the island of Cypress but political unrest on the island prompted the change to Rhodes.)

The island of Rhodes has a very long and interesting history.  Besides the famous Colossus, the island boasts a medieval old town and the second most visited Acropolis in Greece. (Only the Acropolis in Athens receives more visitors.)  The old town was built along with a mighty fortress and the Palace of the Grand Master by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Rhodes was under their control from 1309 to 1523.  It came under Turkish rule with the Ottoman Empire taking possession of the island in 1523.  After World War 1 the Italians took possession of the island.  After World War 2 Greece took possession of the island and it has been under Greek rule since.

The tour I am taking leaves at 7:15 in the morning so it is early to rise to get breakfast and be ready for the tour.  Stefanos is our guide and is very informative.  Our first stop is the town of Lindos when the second most visited Acropolis is located.

When you leave the ship you are greeted with this beautiful sight.  (No tender ferrying you from the ship to the shore.)  That is the old city of Rhodes.  You board a bus and are swept off to Lindos.

Lindos has many narrow streets packed with shops.  But we are here for the Acropolis first.

This is the Lindos Acropolis seen from where the tour busses park.  Yes, you have to walk down a long, steep slope into the town before you can walk up to the Acropolis.

There are 2 ways to get to the top of the Acropolis.  One way is easy and I will show that later.  Or, as you can see, there is what I call the death march way: the stairs.  Yep, you guessed it.  I took the death march way following my tour guide.  What I am showing is the easy part at the base of the Acropolis after the long climb.  The stairs below this point are narrower and you can only move in 2 single files: one up and one down.  The single file up side is against a shear rock cliff and the single file down has no guard or hand rail and a straight drop!  There was no such thing as stopping to take a nice scenic picture during the climb.

You think you are at the top when you reach here but that is not the case.

You go up more stairs until you reach this nice shady spot.

This is our guide, Stefanos (I hope I spelled his name right).  He makes the climb every day during tourist season so he is fit and looks like he is out for a walk in the park.  I, on the other hand, was soaked in sweat and very worn out by the climb.  (God, am I that out of shape?!)  Most of the tourists on this climb were totally soaked with sweat as well.

This is the final staircase to the very top of the Acropolis. 

This is the complete scene of the final climb.  If the ruins in the foreground look familiar, it is because this site was used in the movie “The Guns of Navarone.”  Gregory Peck and company walked pass these columns.  It was a short scene but these are the columns.

I could have inserted a nice photo taken from where these people are standing but it would not show the scale of the site.  The site is truly magnificent.

The site also gives superb views of the bay.

And can see the pristine expanse of the beach below with rows of neatly arranged umbrellas.

The Greek government is trying to restore as much of the site as possible.

You are treated to a bird’s eye view of Lindos.  These nice, white buildings were not marred with graffiti. 

Lindos itself is interesting. Along the street to the Acropolis you pass a bar and grill.  (Note to self, stop by for an ice cold beer on the way down.)

And pass along narrow streets packed with shops.

An unusual offering of dresses, coffee and Nutella is made along the street at the crepe shop.

I said there was an easy way up to the Acropolis.  Here it is.  Yes, via donkey. 

For a mere 6€ you can ride to the top.  (The donkeys may be beasts of burden but they certainly don’t need to be burdened with my tubby little butt!)

As an aside, according to our guide, all the donkeys on the islands are American.  After WWII, the United States instituted the Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe.  All sorts of vehicles and rebuilding supplies poured into Europe.  However, the Greek islands had few usable roads that could accommodate trucks.  To get around this, hundreds of donkeys were sent from America to be used to transport material and equipment around the islands.  Once the rebuilding was done, the donkeys were left to the Greeks.  These donkeys thrived and bred.  Hence, all the donkeys are American.

The next and last stop on the tour is to the old city of Rhodes.  Our guide explains the maps that we will find around the old city.  He stated that you can get very lost without these maps.

We walked across this bridge that spanned a park to the gate ahead.

This beautiful park under the bridge was once the moat that protected the approaches to the city walls.  Picture this area covered with water.  It is quite a formidable barrier for any invader to overcome.

One of the ancient cannons still guards the entrance to the old city.

We funnel through one last gate to enter the old city.

Once inside the walls, the old city is a bustling place.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly crowds can gather and then disperse.

The streets of the old town can be a bit hard on the feet.  Anyone with mobility problems will find this a challenge.

And in the summer it is so hot that any shade will do.

With one last look down an ancient street it is time to head back to the ship.  There are just two more stops: Crete and Santorini.  We head back to the ship for the all night cruise to Crete.

For more information on the sites used in Rhodes along with stills from the movie and how the site looks today, see the magazine After the Battle Issue #177.  The company offers many interesting books and magazines.



Copyright © 2018  John J Campo



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Greek Trek 2017: Patmos

It is time to leave Mykonos but once again I feel like I am back in uniform.  I vacate my room by noon and then hang around the lobby of the hotel until 6:00p.m., when the bus takes everyone down to the port for a ship due to arrive at 6:30p.m.. Once at the port everyone shows their passports to a rather disinterested custom agent.  My chariot once again is the Celestryal Olympia.  Once aboard, having surrendered my passport to the ship’s purser, it is time to look for my assigned cabin.  Like most cruise ships, the cabin is utilitarian but not spacious.  However, the cabin is there for you to sleep and shower.  The rest of the time should consist of roaming the ship with its lounges, swimming area, and dining areas and going on excursions.  This being said, I must make a comment on the shower portion of the cabin.  I have had to use some small showers in my day, but this was a small, small shower.  It was so small you would have to get out of it just to change your mind! But I digress.  Once settled it is off to find a dining facility to eat and then a lounge to relax. 

The Olympia does not leave Mykonos until around 11:00 p.m. setting sail for the port of Kusadasi, Turkey.  The ship arrives early the next morning at Kusadasi but having been in Turkey before, I decided to stay on the ship and try to catch up on some sleep.  Besides, the excursion leaves the ship at some ungodly early time in the morning.  I find the dining facility for breakfast.  It is pretty empty as most passengers are off seeing Kusadasi.  We depart Turkey at 1:00 p.m. and sail to the island of Patmos.  We arrive in the late afternoon and prepare to go ashore to visit the town of Skala.

For those not familiar with this island, it does have a claim to fame.  In the early days of Christianity, Saint John the Divine, also known as John the Apostle and John of Patmos, was exiled to this island and was forced to live in a cave.  While in exile he receives a vision and from that vision came the last book of the Bible: The Book of Revelations. A grand basilica was built on the island was destroyed by Muslim raiders.  Monasteries were built and in 1207 came under the rule of the Republic of Venice.  It was in 1340 that the Knights Hospitaller came to the island and built a fortress.  They stayed until 1522.

The Olympia arrived at Skala but did not dock.  Those of us going ashore had to transfer to tenders, kind of a waterborne taxi, to the dock at Skala.

The port of Skala is small and loaded with tourists.

Docked in the harbor are the luxury yachts of the rich and famous.

High above Skala is the town of Chora and the Castle of Patmos can be seen from the docks.

And, of course, the obligatory tourist gift shop is right at the docks as well.

In the town square the locals sit with the tourists enjoying a libation and to see what the crazy tourists are going to do next.

And in the heat, and it was very hot, a vendor sells pop corn with the help of Mickey and Minnie.

I noticed that the streets look the same on all the islands.

Found a nice bakery just inside the town.

Here is just a small sample of the goodies for sale.

It is July and that means heat and humidity.  I was in shorts, a tee shirt and sandals. I was still hot.  Then I saw this muslim woman and I was even hotter.  She looks as cool as a cucumber and not showing the slightest concern for the heat and humidity.

This was a welcome sight.  Nothing like a nice ice cream shop on a hot day to cool you off.  They had not shortage of customers either.

If ice cream isn’t your thing, there was a liquor store close by.

Churches like this one abound on the island.

Even the side streets are picturesque.

Motor bikes are a primary transportation vehicle on Patmos. 

If you have an international driver’s license you can rent a motorbike to get around.

But remember, even in this serene setting, the long arm of the law is there.

Of course Patmos has its share of island kitties just like Mykonos.  This one didn’t even budge when I approached to take a photo.

The pharmacy here is not as grand as the pharmacies in America.

The aid station is small and up a small alley.

Craftsmen and artist studios are open to the public with beautiful items for sale.

But this lovely lady was in front of a cosmetic store.

Most unusual name for a store but definitely gets your attention.  Didn’t know I lost anything.  (Except maybe my mind)

After a look down one last street. . .

. . . and one last shop, it is time to leave Patmos.

 I go to the waterfront to board my chariot for an all night sailing to Rhodes.  Patmos was a nice respite.  Rhodes promises to be a bit more challenging.

Copyright © 2018  John J Campo

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