Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

Mediterranean | Day 34-36 | Greece | Mykonos

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DAY 34: SANTORINI TO MYKONOS

The storm that came through the night before (photos in Santorini post) affected the boat trips the following day. When I was checking out, the owner of the hotel told me she didn’t think any ferries were running that day because her guests coming from Athens has already called and said they wouldn’t be able to arrive. This hiccup was going to be a problem as I had booked a ferry to Mykonos that morning.

She called the ferry company for me and found out that it was fortunately running, they were just sending a bigger boat. She assured me this was better because the big ferries were much smoother in the rough waters. I was already fully medicated but was also glad to hear I’d have a smooth 3-hour ferry ride.

I dragged my bags to the bus station in the middle of Fira, where there were hoards of confused tourists wondering about the ferries. I overheard one nervous tourist asking around if the Mykonos ferry was still going, so I interrupted and told him it was. I then acquired a travel buddy.

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Mediterranean | Day 29-33 | Greece | Santorini

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DAY 29: HERAKLION

We spent the day in Heraklion, Crete, probably mostly for the ferry port because there wasn’t much to see in this big city except Knossos, which are some Minoan palace ruins, that an archeologist reconstructed based on his vision. But this site is a waste of time. Seriously, don’t bother.

DAY 30-33: SANTORINI

The first day in Santorini was the last day of my Greece tour. A few of us went to the black sand (pebble) beach in Perissa while the others rushed up to Fira and Oia because they only had one day on the island. That night was our farewell dinner, and the following morning, I headed to my hotel, Anatoli, in Fira, which was a family-run hotel nestled up the hill, not in the main center, but about a 10 minute walk from the shops and restaurants. The owner Lea was so friendly and helpful, and the place was cute, clean, had a great breakfast and nice pool, so I highly recommend Anatoli if you’re looking for an affordable place to stay in Fira.

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Mediterranean | Day 27-28 | Greece | Crete | Loutro

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Loutro is a teeny-tiny waterfront town with about 5-8 small hotels tucked in a little cove on the southern coast of Crete. And it is magical. Like Shangrila in The Lost Horizon. Loutro feels like it would just up and disappear when the weather cools and summer ends, not to be seen again until the sun’s steam projects the mirage along the coastline. Loutro is like an amazing dream you were having right before you woke up, and you try to hang on to it, but it fades from your memory the more awake you become. Loutro is not just white hotels resting lazily on the coast as the sea laps at their base. Loutro is the essence of escape. It is where you always want to be when you’re not. Loutro is who you would be if you had no inhibitions.

But, to be fair, I think I’m particularly drawn to small towns when I’m on vacation, like my love affair with secretive Kayaköy. Having lived in three of the four biggest cities in the U.S., there’s something calming about the quiet simplicity of a sleepy town. I couldn’t live in one; I’d miss the culture and energy and arts of a large city. But for a vacation, Loutro is perfection.

DAY 27: LOUTRO

We took a 30-minute ferry in the late morning from Agia Roumeli and arrived in Loutro around lunch time. My room was on the 3rd floor of a walk-up, so I carried my bags upstairs, then came back down to help my roommate carry her monstrosity of a suitcase up the stairs because she had hurt her back earlier on the trip. As I was reaching down to pick up one end of her suitcase, out of no where a young man grabbed the giant suitcase, threw it on his shoulder, and carried it up the three flights of stairs. This was how I met Geni.

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Mediterranean | Day 26 | Greece | Crete | Samaria Gorge

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The Samaria Gorge is a beautiful region of Crete that was inhabited for thousands of years until the 1960s when it was turned into a national park. Historically, it was used as a place to hide from foreign invaders, particularly in the 1600s to 1800s when the Greeks were rebelling against Turkish rule in the region. Non-combatants fled to and hid in the gorge. During WWII, during the German occupation, Allies set up undercover units in the gorge and dispatched info to their Middle East headquarters by radio.

DAY 26: SAMARIA GORGE

We left the Chania hotel at about 6:30 a.m. and took an extremely windy hour-long bus to the start of the Samaria Gorge. And by “extremely” I mean, I almost had to ask the bus driver to pull over so I could throw up. But I managed to keep it down… barely. My roommate and fellow sufferer of motion sickness also barely survived the ride. Just a general warning to anyone who gets motion sickness, take meds all the time in Greece. Every mode of transportation is windy or bumpy or choppy.

We started the 13 km (8 mile) hike at about 8 a.m. I’m a slow hiker in general because I stop and take photos and carefully watch my footing, so most of the group broke ahead quite early in the hike. There were a few of us slower hikers who stuck together initially, but we eventually turned on our ipods and trekked on our own. Well, on our own along side a steady flow of other hikers.

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Mediterranean | Day 25 | Greece | Crete | Chania

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DAY 24: NAFPLIO TO CRETE

We left Nafplio in the late afternoon, took a bus to Athens, then the metro to the ferry. We boarded the overnight ferry, where we had rather posh sleeper cabins. We arrived in Chania, Crete, at 5 a.m.

DAY 25: CHANIA

We dropped off our bags at the hotel and then headed to the harbor for breakfast, the sun rising over the boats as we walked along the sea board. The rest of the day was free time to explore the town or go to the beach. A few of us girls took a cab out to Iguana beach, which was quite lovely. The water was warm and soft and sun was toasty.

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Mediterranean | Day 23-24 | Greece | Nafplio

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Not too much to report in this post. Nafplio is a cute coastal town and THE place to buy Greek worry beads, which are similar to the Catholic rosary or Muslim prayer beads. But the Greeks consider their worry beads to be a “friend at heart” or a game to play to help you relax. Actually quite a lot of Greek men walk around swinging these beads, but I don’t ever remember seeing women with them. I bought a strand but haven’t taken it out of my suitcase. Maybe I should bring it to my next group dinner as a stress transfer.

This post is mostly just pretty photos. There are three groups of photos. One is just photos of the town and a cute eclectic cafe we stopped in for an afternoon snack. The other two are artsy style photos of the town, color and black and white versions, as a tribute to my b&w photography classes. The b&w photos just have a different sentiment to them than the color versions.

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Mediterranean | Day 21-22 | Greece | Delphi

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Thanks for the notes of encouragement on my meltdown post. I am fine. It was just a couple of overwhelming hours. I did not go postal. And I managed to survive another mind-numbingly inane group dinner tonight, so apparently it’s true: whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But I am going to have to skip out on more group dinners so that I can enjoy the last month of my trip in peace and not have to listen to a bunch of random Australians prattle on about what color of car is better and how after last year’s drought people have started collecting rain water and how at a real estate auction they handed everyone lollipops! Can you believe it!?! ohmyfreakinggawdnotevenkidding. And those were the more interesting topics. There were some conversations I just had to completely tune out and concentrate really hard on chewing my pasta. I’m sooooo glad I’m not on that other tour.

Anywaaaay, back to Greece! Shall we continue the recaps? Let’s!

DAY 21 & 22: DELPHI

We had a 4-hour private bus ride in the morning from Kalambaca to Delphi. We grabbed a quickly lunch and then headed to the Archeological Museum where we met up with possibly the best guide in all of Greece, Kristina. This woman knew her stuff, and you could tell she loved sharing knowledge. Guides in Greece have to go to school for three years to become certified to lead tours, and they specialize in a specific area, and they are relegated to that region. They cannot “legally” lead tours outside their assigned area of Greece. But it makes sense. Greece has so much extensive history that to become an expert on it, you’d really have to focus on one region.

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Mediterranean | Day 19-20 | Greece | Meteora

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It has come to my attention [ahem, NC] that I “slammed” Greece in the last post. That was not my intention. All I was trying to say is that Athens was a bit of a let down. I expected to walk through the streets of Athens pulsing along to an internal soundtrack of a grandious symphonic overture. Instead, I heard the strings of the opening chords of Gangsta’s Paradise… you know if the gangstas were Greek youths and their hoes were olive skinned girls with bad blond dye jobs wearing clothing two sizes too small.

But, it’s no judgement on Greece. Athens has had multiple population booms over the last century, and no money to handle the mess. As a visitor, you just want so much more for a city that was the capitol of one of the most prosperous civilizations in history.

As I’ve already passed through Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Spain, and France, looking back over all the stories I still need to post on this blog, Greece has the best ones. Greece was the most charming of the countries I’ve visited so far. So, hang on, folks. It’s about to get real gooood.

DAY 19: METEORA & KALAMBACA

We left Athens at 7:30 a.m. and took the metro to the train station where we took a 4-hour train to Kalambaca, which is the main town closest to the hanging monasteries in Meteora. The train ride was quite beautiful through deep green valley and rocky mountains. There have been several gorgeous train and bus rides over the past two months in Europe, but blurry photos through dirty windows just don’t do it justice, so you’ll have to trust me that the train rides have had some of the best scenery of this adventurama.

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Mediterranean | Day 16-18 | Greece | Athens

athens_titleHello, my dear readers. Apologies for my long absence. I’ve been quite busy on these trips. It’s actually day 46 of my 3-month trip, so I’m a month behind in posts! Fortunately for you, but unfortunately for me, I was stuck in the hotel most of yesterday with traveler’s “sickness” and on my birthday, no less! There’s a stomach virus that’s been going around in our group. I’m the fifth person to catch it, and someone else got it the day after me. I did manage to drag myself out of the bathroom and walk around the cute town of Sevilla, Spain, for about an hour, and then I went to a fantastic flamenco show. But watching my tour-mates mates eat sizzling steak shish kabobs in front of me while all I could do was sniff them was about the most torturous birthday dinner ever. So my birthday is officially postponed until I’ve recovered.

For now, I’ll start catching up on the last few weeks of travel. So please be patient as I slowly update this blog. There are a lot of great stories coming!

DAY 16: ATHENS

First thing in the morning, at 9 a.m., I met up with tour guide Nikita, who works with Urban Adventures, the day-tour division of Intrepid. Nikita—at least I think that was his name, as he was very soft spoken and I could barely hear him when he introduced himself—is an architect in his 50s who has been giving tours for a few years. His wife is a tour guide, and he fell into the habit/career by taking her tours when she was overbooked. Two other tourists were scheduled to join us, but they never showed up, so I had a private 4-hour walking tour with Nikita around Athens, and it was fantastic.

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