The last few days have been gloriously sunny, and today was no different. This morning we awoke in the harbor of Katapola, one of the two ports of Amorgos, the easternmost of the Cycladic Islands. From Katapola we take the main road up switchbacks to cross the island’s central ridgeline. We pass through Chora on our way to the east coast and Panagias Chozoviotissa. This breathtaking monastery was built on the edge of a cliff face perched hundreds of feet above the stunning blue ocean. The story goes that, after recovering an icon of Mary from the sea, efforts of the local inhabitants to build a monastery to house it were miraculously forestalled until they moved the worksite higher up cliff face. In the 11th century, it was officially endowed by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I, and today it is still home to a small monastic community. The monastery is only accessible via a long stone staircase made of the local granite which climbs some 400 feet. The views along the way are spectacular.

On our way back to Katapola we stop at Chora, the main town on the island. Chora was founded in the 9th century AD on the central ridgeline and was situated so that it would not be visible from the sea – piracy has long been a concern of the Cyclades. We explore its meandering paths between whitewashed walls, running up and down the contours of the hilltop. Flowers, window frames and doorways bring splashes of color to the experience. The small island towns of the Cyclades are idyllic, and while seemingly sparsely populated, we find coffee shops and tavernas catering to the hungry traveler.

After returning to the Sea Cloud, the crew hits the rigging and we set sail.  This afternoon we had two lectures on the Lido Deck. Expedition Historian David Brotherson gave us the lowdown on Greek Mythology and Homer’s World, while Expedition Leader John Frick later talked us through the many lives and glamorous past of the ship.