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Published: October 2nd 2012
I have been very lax in keeping up to date with my blog (too busy relaxing in Greece!). So I left off with our flight from Beirut to Athens. As I mentioned previously, this was a smooth flight with the exception of a disruptive (and may I say drunk) passenger. It turned into a bit of a comedy in the end – though we felt sorry for the people sitting next to him. I think he was Greek – the air crew had quite a time getting him to sit down (the only time I saw the old flight attendant guy do anything was to tell him to sit and be quiet). Walking off the plane, we saw blood drops on the floor and didn’t know what it was until we saw the old man being carted off by the police and other passengers telling the police he was punched out by the guy sitting next to him (oh and he peed his pants too apparently). So getting through passport control was another drama. As there is in all EU countries, there was the EU passport queue and one for everyone else. So the EU line had 2 officers stamping passports/checking EU ID cards, and our line had one. And (I’m not exaggerating) he took at least 10-15 mins per passenger AND he took a break during duty as well!! Once we waited well over half an hour, the EU queue changed to a queue for everyone else – at the BACK of the line (including flights that came after us) GRRR. Finally (after we got through with a 2 minute passport checked) we were out and stamped into the country and with our bags, headed to the train station. Which, after an hour long wait in the passport queue, we missed the last train and got a very expensive taxi to Piraeus. Piraeus is the ferry port, and as we were going to Santorini via ferry the next morning it was a natural choice. The area seemed a bit dodgy, and, despite all the glowing reviews on trip advisor, there was one that said the hotel also served rooms on a per hour basis if you get what I mean. Walking into the room with wall-wall mirror in front of the bed and porn when you turn on the TV, you get the picture! Still it was very clean and after a shower and watching a documentary about procreation with actors dressed in white (to emulate sleeping sperm) and re-creating the journey of fertilisation (it was hilarious) it was to bed.
Bright an early the next morning, we set off on the 10 minute walk to the ferry terminal for our 7am ferry to Santorini. The 5 hour journey was non-eventful (well except for the handsome Greek server at the kiosk that is!). We arrived to Santorini and ah, tourist-touting central. I don’t know the last time we experienced so many tourists and touts. We found a mini-bus taxi and headed to Firostefani, our home for the next 5 nights. After a journey through Fira (the capital and SO touristy and packed) we arrived at Firostefani. Our apartment was a short walk form the main road and the guy at the hotel was very vey helpful in giving us information about the island, what to do and how to get around. Despite the throngs of tourists hiring quad bikes and moped’s, we didn’t. I have driven mopeds before – mind you that was riding through rice fields in Thailand and I was 15 – so I wasn’t game to re-learn in the tourist packed streets and cobbled stoned backstreets! We had a lovely (and expensive) lunch then we just relaxed most the day.
Our apartment had a view of the Caldera, the beautiful coastline you see on postcards of Santorini. The next day we set out to Fira to do some sightseeing and shopping. Now, Santorini, whilst not the largest island of the Cyclades, is the most popular so it is tourist central. Not only that, there are cruise ships that dock every day so there are MORE AND MORE tourists. Most tourists from these cruises, it seems, are older Americans…. I don’t know how, but I spent a lot of money in Greece and mainly in Santorini! The prices aren’t much higher than Athens; I think my female spending habits just kicked in! We had originally planned to go to Naxos, which in retrospect, I’m glad we stayed on in Santorini as it was beautiful and lots to do, yet part of me wishes I didn’t cancel Naxos at the 11th
hour. Anyhow we still had a lovely time.
The next day we joined a tour to the volcanic island. There is a cable car that takes you down the hill to the old ferry port. Now, we decided to walk down the stairs to work off breakfast rather than take the easy way down. What a mistake that was! Windy stairs, donkeys coming in either direction and donkey crap everywhere – we wondered why walking around that particular corner to Fira it always smelled a bit rank! Anyway, 20 minutes later we were down and got on our boat. It was a lovely old cruise boat (I have no idea what type of boat it was but it’s like those pirate ships you see). So we docked off at the volcano island and had a lovely walk around and the guide was very knowledgeable. After that we went to the hot springs, which involved the boat docking about 100 metres away and us diving into the cool Mediterranean waters to swim to the hot springs (which should be renamed lukewarm springs). It was lovely and refreshing. Bill hasn’t been swimming in the Mediterranean before Byblos in Lebanon. However, this reminded me of my first trip to Turkey and staying a gulet (Turkish boat) for a few nights and just diving into the waters. So nice. After that we went to the island of Thirassia for lunch. After that back to Fira. That evening we had a lovely dinner in Fira.
The next day we went on an organised tour of southern Santorini. After that experience I never (and I have had no desire to anyway) join a coach tour fully i.e. Contiki, Trafalgar etc. Crammed into a large coach seeing the world go by through a bus window, no thanks! That’s where I like intrepid, maximum 12 people at least you’re crammed into a minivan or local bus! Anyway, parme, we were off. We visited some nice churches, Santos winery, a small village, archeological site and Perivolos beach. It was a nice tour, but yes don’t want to experience that again!
The next day was our last full day in Santorini so we visited Oia, a lovely little part of Santorini and on the very tip of the island. That is where all of the popular photos of Santorini are taken and the views there do not disappoint! Very picturesque indeed. We were enjoying the sounds of Greek busking – bouzouki players and singing, until a group (I’m going to say Croatian but it could have been Serbian or Russian for all I know) started their tour there and basically ruined the lovely sounds of Greek folk music with her shrill voice! None the less we had a great time. Taking local bus back to Firostefani, we then got changed to go to the beach for one last time. Perivolos – a very nice black sand beach although it was a bit rough so got dunked into the shoreline a few times! After we came back to the apartment, we got ready for dinner and met up with someone I know from Sydney, a fellow belly dancer. Jamil (yes male belly dancer somewhat a novelty in Australia!) has been travelling around Europe to and we arranged to meet up for dinner. We had a fun last night in Santorini sharing travel stories and fun anecdotes.
The next day we had a walk and last minute shop around Fira before we departed for the airport for the short flight back to Athens. Now we decided to fly back since the ferry times were very late, so we booked only about 2 days in advance. 195 euro EACH for a 30 minute flight….ekkk. Oh well we learnt our lesson! The guy at the apartment was very helpful again, organising a taxi for us and carrying my bag to the main road (wonderful apartments – Vallas apartments). He even gave us free laundry as it turned out. So we flew back to Athens on our premium economy tickets, seeing our Euros fly by!
Athens. A quirky town. The streets are FILLED with graffiti and closed shops. I wonder if many of the shops were just closed or if they had gone out of business because of the euro crisis. Nonetheless, despite first appearances, Athens proved to be a nice and safe city. Of course, take your usual precautions and don’t venture out into the known dodgy areas you will be safe. After a stroll through Monastiraki square for photos and window shopping, we went for dinner. We have to learn not to order too much food (and we are small eaters too)!! It ends up being expensive and wasteful! The next morning, we were greeted with rain L after breakfast we ventured to the Acropolis. Now, even though this was a must-see ancient site and very important site, after having seen the ruins at Baalbek on this trip we were somewhat….. not as impressed. I suppose travelling does that to you – comparing this to that. But it was very lovely and just grand atop the hill overlooking Athens. What impressed me more I suppose is the aspect of early civilisation an in particular, the Greek civilisation. Though a few less tourists and no cranes and scaffolding would have improved the experience as well!! We also saw the Agora and others sites there too. We ventured up the hill to an old chapel and heard a service – judging by the guests and people fawning over a cute Greek baby, we assumed it was a christening. Then the rains started again, and after sheltering form the rain, we were off again to have lunch. After that we went back to the hotel for a rest, then afterward some more window shopping and dinner.
The next day (yesterday) was our last day in Athens so we went to the archeological museum. Before that, we went to the shopping street (which was closed on Sunday) and did some retail therapy! HM&M, Bershka, Pull and Bear…my favourite European clothes shops! After a quick retreat to the hotel, we were off again – to the museum! A walk through the neighborhoods and we arrived – such a large museum of sculptures throughout the ages – Hellenic and Roman. It’s amazing how and why these sculptures were created (I know I am sounding like Selim here!). In the museum was also various types of pottery, including a whole floor of vases. All this spanning from centuries BC (before Christmas as Selim would say!), to AD. There was also an exhibit of early astrology and devices created which I found absolutely baffling (not that I could understand any of it). WOW. After that, bill went back to the hotel whilst I went souvenir shopping. After that, we spent AGES booking hotels and flights since we have recently decided to go to Milan on our way to Venice. So after all that, we had a traditionally late European dinner (10pm) and lots of wine to compensate for the stressful-ness of booking hotels and flights!
Early morning start today (4.30am wake up!) to catch the first metro to the airport. Now our experience entering Greece taught us that it might be a long wait to get through passport control. But NO, it was the check-in this time. Only about 20 or so people ahead of us yet it took a good part of an hour to process us through. Why? I don’t know perhaps a computer glitch, but some people just took AGES (a tour group of older people and 3 or 4 oversized suitcases per person didn’t help either). We worked out that people were paying for oversized luggage. Amazingly, the plane left in time! The passport control was just hilarious! There were 3 windows open – one for EU, the other 2 non-EU. We joined the short line, but the police officer told us to get into the other line for non-EU. Now, the line we were in (with about 2 people ahead of us) had one booth in front – one window all passports, the other EU. But, we do as we are told and go to the non-EU booth. He was also telling other people to go to the other non-EU line too. It’s just hilarious because….. stamping a non-EU passport is just as easy as stamping a EU passport!!! Ahhh! Greece, love it, I want to go back for a longer trip but I’ll be prepared with reading material and music for when I go through passport control again!
En-route to London now, to transit to go to Glasgow…..yes me, miss my body is made for southern Europe, is going from 27 degrees to 17!! I’m sure it will be fun, but yes not overly thrilled to be leaving sunny Greece and the wonderful food for stodgy meat and potatoes diet!! Oh wells. I’ll be looking for the nearest Thai restaurant!!
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