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Published: December 3rd 2012
If you were to believe the news reports, Greece is falling apart. There is constant rioting in the streets, and no one trusts the banks so you can't use the ATMs. That wasn't exactly our experience...
We did have a few bets with friends whether we would be spending Drachmas or Euros when we finally got there (I lost, I bet Drachmas) but we mostly wondered if the weather would be hot enough to quench our thirst for some actual
summer weather. We needn't have worried about any of it, everyone was going about their daily lives just like anywhere else in the world, and 38 degrees is plenty hot enough thank you very much.
It’s quite frustrating to watch news reports about the European economic crisis, there is so much negativity from the media I wonder how much of the crisis is a media self-fulfilling prophecy, I mean, everywhere we went in Greece it everyone was friendly, helpful and for the most part, full of tourists. Maybe we should thank the media for portraying such a poor picture of Greece, as we were able to stay in hotels one step above where would normally stay for less money
that we would normally pay.
About a year ago I wrote a list, a list of all the places that I am somewhat embarrassed not to have been to. Especially considering you could readily find the majority of the list in a brochure for Topdeck or Contiki on one tour. Not to say that I'm just going to book Topdeck euro trip and do
(it pisses me off when people use that term) all the countries on the list in one go, especially considering I'm old, have long since forgotten the art of avoiding hangovers, and I certainly can't dance Gangnam style. But we still use the "list" as a working document of where and what we would like go or do next. With Greece hogging a lot of the news headlines and therefore always being at the front of our minds, we thought it would be nice if we could lend a hand and give an extremely tiny bit of economic stimulus of our own... because we normally need an excuse to holiday!
In our preparation for the holiday we noticed that a lot of hotels that would be considerably out of our price range normally were
readily available at reasonable prices. This was a sign of things to come as generally this was the least slummy holiday I’ve ever been on! Almost enough to ruin me into thinking that I actually need
a Jacuzzi in my hotel room, but as Lara will always inevitably point out, why get a fancy hotel room when you can get an acceptable room and holiday for twice as long with the money you save. Strangely I didn’t hear any objections to some quite nice rooms so, man, these rooms must have been cheap!
When we arrived in Athens we got into the taxi we had booked as a transfer to our hotel. We got talking to driver only to find that conversation took a large lull after he started talking about illegal immigrants in Athens… awkward, especially after Lara had just explained where she worked! Anyway according to old man taxi driver there are millions of illegal immigrants in Athens alone and that is the cause of the economic problems, a rather simplified view, we thought. Once we got over that we were actually kind of fascinated to hear that he used to drive a coach from Athens to
London and back almost non-stop, but with low cost flights a couple of days on a coach doesn't win very often. We were happy listening to his stories about his journeys on the drive into Athens.
We arrived in Athens under the cover of darkness, only catching glimpses of the world famous landmarks. It wasn’t until we got into our room did we get a proper look of the Acropolis lit up on the top of the hill. Very cool. We headed out into the thick Athenian air for some Souvlaki and beers and then went to bed excited of immersing ourselves in all the history.
… Along with the 1000’s of other tourists with the same idea! After walking around for a while we made our way up to the Acropolis. Once in, we looked at the ancient buildings and structures, I always feel in awe looking around historic sights and this was no exception, but the difference between most places and here was the sheer volume of people that did their best to ruin my
time with the birthplace of modern thought. It may sound selfish, but normally we are able to find a quiet place
and collect our thoughts, soak it all in and appreciate the site. It was very hard to do this here. I do however think this should be taken as a compliment for the Athens as a whole: It is so well known, so well visited and yet there are still such large numbers of people coming to visit. I guess afterall this is THE ancient site, it is only fitting that there is a constant stream of tourists trying to get their head around the fact that the buildings have been standing there for 2,500 years.
With only limited time in Greece we were very keen to get into the water so after some very nice meals (including one on a hotel rooftop overlooking the Acropolis) we got a ferry to Ios. We weren’t quite prepared for how Australian
Ios was going to be! On the way to the hotel in Mylopotas, I thought about some people's reasons for travelling: Australia has some of the best beaches in the world, so why would people travel half away around the world to visit beaches in Greece only to complain about the fact that volcanic sand isn’t quite as white as
you are used to... Ahh, Australians you are quickly becoming the least liked tourists around the world, I might start calling myself American, then I might get less hostile receptions from shop keepers!
Apart from drunken Aussies (which you can avoid), Ios is great, there is enough space to get away from the throngs, and if you are keen on sightseeing, and haven’t gone out to hard the night before, you can get up at a reasonable time and the whole place is deserted!
Generally we did as little as possible whilst on Ios, lounged by the pool and had beers and only really wandered out at meal time to eat some seafood. Although we did manage to climb to the little churches above the main town Thira. We really tried the whole lazy holiday thing on for size. I've got to say I could really get on board with it!
Deciding that we needed a little more time in Santorini than we had spent in Ios we moved on, having booked another nice hotel, we thought we were all sorted. We got off the bus, I boldly said we didn't need a cab or any maps
or direction, I "knew" where we were going. I very successfully navigated us directly to the "F" in Fira on Google maps which is where it said out hotel was. It was not there at all, but as the hotel didn't have a street address that where Google decided to say it was (should have used apple maps!)
Once we eventually got there, our hotel was great, everything we wanted or needed was catered to. Santorini is supposed to have some of the most amzing sunsets in Europe so we planned to catch a few while we could. To get around we hired a car which I would recommend to anyone going to Santorini, it's not much more than a scooter, it's air conditioned, it is protected from the gale-force winds we encountered and the chances of gravel rash is a lot less. It also has the plus side of not voiding travel insurance. Geez, I am old.
I have to say, Santorini Island may be one of my recommended “must see” places in Europe now that I have had the chance to get there. It packs so much in for a small island with towns dotted around
the cone of a dormant volcano. It has the iconic cliffs, windmills and white washed buildings of Oia (pronounced E-ya), the ruins of Ancient Thira and Aktoriri, some surprisingly good wineries, beaches etc. It really has so much for everyone. And of course with only a few days on the island we spent quite a bit of time driving around trying to get to all the places on the list above. We even caught a few of the famous sunsets from the fort in Oia and from Fira - thinking 'why are people only watching the sunset over the sea, when clearly the golden light over the buildings and caldera is what makes the sunset so special'.
As is the case with all holidays, it ended too quickly and abruptly and I felt shocked going back to work on the Monday. We had loved Greece - the weather, the scenery and especially the food (which was always amazing) that we would have liked to push on through all the different islands and make our way into Turkey...some other time perhaps. Clearly my immune system was also in shock as I managed to develop a mystery allergic reaction that put
itchy hives all over my torso and swelled my face. Lara thought it was amusing at first but when I had to go to A&E not so much! But that is another story…
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