Getting a taste of Greece

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May 6th 2006
Published: May 6th 2006
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A continuation of my Egypt and Greece trip. Obviously, this would be the Greece part, and in my opinion, considerably less exciting.

So stepping off the plane in Athens provided a rather welcome change. It was weird really, as it wasnt just so much as if we were back in civilization (per say,) but it really almost felt like home- as though as if we were back in our own familiar world again. However, this was only partly true and mostly due to a quick but refreshing first glance. The Greeks definitely have their own marked identity and culture as well. It soon became "all Greek to me."

Thus, due toe it's somewhat familiar feel, it also isn't exactly as story worthy, so I will try to avoid the day to day, hour by hour rundown of things, and keep it more general instead.

After getting to the sort of hostel, we used the greater part of the day to catch up on sleep that we hadn't yet had. We later met up with Annezina (a Greek friend who studied in Stuttgart with a great, bubbly, energetic personality) and set about walking. I enjoyed my first Gyro, which is the Greek equivalent to the Kebab. However, I'll keep my loyality with the kebabs.

Next morning we waited in a square for a late Annezina (must be a Mediteranean thing) and heard some of the most strangest, yet somehow good singing ever. In fact, later we would see the man doing this singing on T.V. on a show talking about Greece. So we met up with her and also, eventually two of her friends. We walked about the Ancient Ogora and checked out the Haptheus (sp?) Temple, which is supposed to be the most well preserved temple of its kind. Since most of what there is to see in Athens is contained in one central area, it was just a skip over to the Acropolis and Parthenon. It is quite amazing, but I think I have been desensitized to all things ancient after Egypt and no longer get as impressed. In addition, lots of restoration work is going on there, meaning lots of scaffolding and cranes, thus taking away from that ancient feel. Fantastic Crepes for a late lunch were next and then Annezina and her friends parted ways and Jocelyn and I walked further up another hill. Up there was a monument who's name I never really found out and that closed the day basically.

Annezina met us again and we headed to the National Archeological Museum (I think) and Annezina and I cruised through there. Jocelyn spent most of her time enjoying a Lion sculpture, as that would be her Athens museum experience due to her being sick. Or maybe she just likes Lion sculptures and used that as an excuse. We took a visit to Annezina's University and got some Greek island advice from her friends there. We also saw a gate where during a protest in the 70s, I believe, got run over by a military tank and took out numerous students in the process. My memory is horrible for this stuff, and I can't overly remember what the whole thing was about. The two gals then went shopping and as much fun as that would have been, I went for a little stroll up Lytvakios hill (another Greek name I murdered) which is kind of the highest point in Athens that overlooks the city to all sides. Athens is also a rather large city and seems to be pushing the small mountains further and further inland. I also made a quick stop by the first Olympic stadium of the modern games. You may remember it as the one where the marathon where the guy in the lead got pushed by some random spectator took place. On a side note, Annezina talked about how Athens is still suffering from hosting the recent games there and will be for a long time still. It's a relatively small country and not overly rich in comparison with some of it's EU counterparts.

Early next morning we had to jump aboard our ferry to Mykonos. On the way to the port we were followed, more led, by one of the many stray dogs that tend to just run about the city and really make themselves present in the darkest, quietest hours. Dogs were just running around everywhere. I think the dog, perhaps in search of owners, knew that it wouldnt work out, so we said our goodbyes. I tend to enjoy the not-so-everyday modes of transportation, but Joce gets sea sick.

We spent two days in Mykonos and despite all the hype, I was somewhat dissapointed. It is more of a party island and I wasnt really with a party group (the two of us I guess,) so this may have been an attributing factor. The main port town itself is nice to walk through and there is some nice beaches as well, but not overly much to do. It might be fun to calculate how much white paint is used a year, their largest import...

Paros, the next island we visited, I liked more. Unfortunately, we didnt have an overly large amount of time there- a day and a night. It is a bit quieter and in my opinion, all around nicer. We rented some pedal bikes and pedalled to a nice, queit beach. The water wasnt overly warm, but upon getting used to it, was OK. The island is also home to and interesting church, called the Church of 100 gates, which sort of breaks the Byzantine, white-washed with a blue dome roof norm.

We furthered our trip to Santorini, the island which I was most excited about. This was due to hearing about its spectacular landscape and formation. Basically, a large volcanic explosion said to be responsible for the destruction of the Minoans occured ca 1500 B.C and the whole middle of the island blew out, sank and then filled with seawater. I was not dissapointed here. It is a really cool and unique place. The towns are almost built right on the steep cliffs. We stayed at a nice, cheap place with a small pool. Advantage Santorini, as the word cheap doesnt exist in Mykonos. We rented a quad and did some island exploring which included a wicked sunset in a town called Oia where half the tourists on the island also showed up for. We also took a boat trip out to the new (relatively) volcanoe in the middle of the caldera. There was some sulphur gases leaking out, but the last eruption was in the mid 50's. There is some ocean hotsprings as a result of all this volcanic activity nearby where we swam in, but hot is probably not the right description. The boat docked in the old port below the town of Fira, where there is a lovely 580 steps up the cliff. Nearby a unique cliff formation thing juts out, and hidden from the view of the town, there is a typical Byzantine church hiding on the cliff edges. There are also remnants of an old, old fortress that could not withstand time and the multiple earthquakes that have occured here. Our last day was spent mainly on the beach.

Lastly, we ferried on over to Crete, the largest and most well know of the islands, and an island that doesnt depend solely on tourism to survive. The main city of Heraklion if relatively large but also quite ugly, especially in comparison to the bliding white walls of the towns on the small islands. The bus rides in Crete were going to be expensive, so we opted to rent a car. This turned out to be a good idea because driving on those windy (turny) roads was good fun. In the city, however, this was a different story as road rules were not exactly followed. With the car, we headed to the Venetian town of Hania, which was suppose to be, well, Venetian and really nice, but it didnt really strike me so. Mind you, it was not ugly like Heraklion. The next day, we drove to the south coast to a gorgeous beach called Preveli. Again, the water was cold, but swimmable. There was also a monastery there where the priest once helped the ally forces escape to Egypt during the Battle of Crete. We then drove further to a town of 100 called Matala. It contained more Germans than Cretans I think, and even we switched over to German after realizing that our hotel lady had better german than english. The town itself has these caves in the cliffs that you can explore. The caves are actually artificial and were dug out for the purpose of a Roman cemetery. Later they were even used as dwellings. Climbing and jumping around there was fun.

On our last full day of the whole trip, we drove back to Heraklion and Knossos to visit the ancient palace. The is where the mythical Minotaur was kept in the Labyrinth. Much of the original palace is gone and it is said that lots of the restoration work done by a guy called Evans isnt accurate. Luckily, Greece also looks students and it was free for us, otherwise it wouldnt have been worthwile, but still interesting to see. A touch of irony here as well, as it is said to be home to Europe's oldest paved road- now the just have to learn how to use them... crazy drivers. For our final Cretan activity, we went to the Cretaquarium. This was really the first aquarium I had ever gone to so I was impressed. I think I even seen my "Big Guy" from Egypt in there. Later that night we had an interesting time finding a resturaunt, to say the least. Note: no chinese resturaunts in Heraklion and when Singaporeans are hungry, feed them instantly! The next morning our plane flew out of Heraklion putting an end to our 22 day little trip, and subsequently giving us a sigh of relief.

For me, this was just the beginning of travelling around. We'll see how long I last... Flames lost, wtf.


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