Brian here, trying to help Michelle get us caught up on the blog. I was assigned Greece because I loved it. What's not to like, history, scenery, lamb? All good things.
After a couple of great days in Istanbul, we jetted over to Greece. We started in Athens where we only had an afternoon to see the sights before heading to Santorini. We were cutting it dangerously close with our travel agenda. I was more than a little concerned that there would be a transit strike or something to derail our plans. We ended up having no issues, but I think that there have been 4 or 5 mass transit strikes in Greece since May when we were there.
We only saw a fraction of Athens, the city is huge and we were really just there to see the main sites on and around The Acropolis. Even in the mainly touristy area, you can see the effects of the economy. We are fortunate enough to travel to a lot European capital cities and unfortunately you can tell that Athens has seen better days. The mood is somber, graffiti is rampant, and there is no glitz or glamor. On the plus side, everything is crazy cheap and the people were incredibly friendly.
|Us and the Parthenon.|
After a quick check in at the hotel, we headed straight for the Parthenon! I was like a kid, I was so excited. This was the main reason that I wanted to come to Athens and not just grab a connecting flight here. Everyone is familiar with the Parthenon, it reminded me of when I saw the Colosseum in Rome. We read about it in books, take tests on it in school, watch movies set there, it's so iconic the world over. In person, it did not disappoint. I had an incredible sense of history standing in the shadows of the pillars, looking over the city of Athens. It's a truly amazing feeling to be there, knowing what has happened on the grounds that you're standing on.
Quick side note, a few months before our trip to Athens, we visited the British Museum in London. They actually have a massive collection of the Parthenon on display. The Greeks are not too happy that the British have so much of it, but that's another story. The point being, you can see fragments of the building, whole sections of the Parthenon in the museum. Seeing this type of history in a museum is just not the same. You can view it, but you don't really experience it the same as when you are there.
Okay, Michelle is sitting next to me on the couch telling me that I have rambled on about the Parthenon long enough and everyone knows that I got a kick out of it. I guess the points been made.
|Odeon of Herodes Atticus amphitheater |
|This is Erechtheion, just across from the Parthenon. It's a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseiden. What you see is the Porch of the Maidens, which are 6 columns, all in the shape of women. Really cool, built around 421 BC!|
|Great view over the city. Imagine what it was like thousands of years ago.|
The Acropolis must have been an incredible site from miles around.
|Michelle says I need a caption here. |
She wants me to say "happy me" as if I am not always happy....
|Does everyone remember the 3 types of columns from 6th grade? Doric, Ionic,|
and Corinthian. I was actually very pleased with myself that I remembered. Thanks Mrs. Dowd!
|Still geeking out on the Parthenon.|
|Looking down to the theater.|
|The main entrance, Propylaea. Check out what it used to look like here, crazy.|
|View of the entire Acropolis from Mars Hill.|
We left the Acropolis via Mars Hill and snaked our way down the side streets and alleys, eventually making our way to the Roman Agora. After all, once you see ancient Greek ruins, it's only natural to want to see ancient Roman ruins. Why not?
|Side streets leading away form the Acropolis.|
|A small part of the sprawling Roman Agora.|
After the Agora we had a ridiculous lunch, first meal in Greece and it did not disappoint. No pictures unfortunately but I do remember €1.80 local beers, grilled lamb, fresh baked pita and some of the best tzatziki I have ever had. In fact, everything we ate in Greece was delicious. The food was very fresh, simply prepared, and unpretentious.
Finally we had to leave my new happy place and head back out. We made our way to the Greek Parliament and the main square, Sintagmatos. No protests today, just a few tourists and the obligatory guards on duty.
|Sintagmatos square in the background.|
|Michelle standing guard.|
Done with the sights for the day, we headed to a random rooftop bar for a beer.
|View from the rooftop bar, tables on stairs, great atmosphere.|
We decided that the rooftop bar was not scenic enough so we grabbed a couple of tall boys and headed up to Mars Hill to watch the sunset. Keeping it classy, as we do. It was spectacular, one of our most memorable sunsets.
|View from Mars hill over Athens.|
And it gave us one last iconic view of the Acropolis at dusk.
|Bottom of the hill by the Agora.|
We debated back and forth about going to Athens. Is it worth it for an afternoon? Will the transportation work out? In the end, our short time in Athens was incredible and we're so happy to have made the trek.
On to a more relaxing environment though, from Athens to Santorini! Anyone use the TripAdvisor iPad application? When you open the app, that picture on the front is Santorini! Crazy picturesque, ridiculously romantic, and one of the most chill places I have ever been.
|Our hotel from the foot path leading up to it.|
First things first, our hotel. Iconic white building with blue roof? Check. Hanging off a cliff with ocean, island, and sunset views? Check. Private balcony with personal hot tub? Check. Breakfast for two on private balcony delivered each morning? Check. Incredibly helpful staff from, and I kid you not, Aphrodite and Demetrius? Check.
|Looking up at our neighbors, our balcony is just to the right.|
|Walking down to the pool. See it down there just by the cliff?|
Okay, Michelle went photo crazy and she is sitting here saying "let me know what photos you delete". I'll just leave them here without any comments, you get the point, beautiful hotel.
As nice as the hotel was, the weather could have been a little better. It was not bad, but we did catch a tiny bit of rain. After checking in to the hotel, we walked the foot path into town. The path winds along the edge of the island, snaking between houses and hotels along the way, giving way to wilderness, and then finally into the 3 small towns on the island.
|Walking into town.|
There are donkeys for the absurd amount of steps leading down to the water, but we did not ride them. Michelle heard that they are not treated well so that ruled them out.
After a quick walk into town, we grabbed provisions (wine and olives) and headed back to our balcony for our first Santorini sunset.
|My happy place.|
|Self timer, 1 of 100 that I was forced to take.|
|Michelle and Imerovigli in the background. Picture perfect.|
|After living in Ireland for over a year, you learn to praise the sun and quite literally welcome|
it with open arms. I may or may not have been posing for the camera. I tend to do this regularly
these days. Ireland will do that to a Californian.
|Almost gone for the night, 2 more amazing sunset ahead of us.|
|I sat and enjoyed the sunset, Michelle ran back and forth taking self timer shots.|
Hey, as long as we are both happy, that's what counts.
The next morning we woke up to (almost all) blue skies and an incredible breakfast on our balcony. I could definitely get used to having breakfast here every day.
We decided to hike from our village, Imerovigli, to Oia the next town over. It's a good hike about 3 hours and mostly on a dirt and gravel trail, so naturally we wore our flip flops. Not the best idea, but a beautiful walk with one amazing view after another. There is not much between the towns except for a few old cliff top churches, and of course really spectacular views.
|Church at the of the hill.|
|My new stray dog friend that walked with us for a mile or so. I named him Thunder.|
|Thunder and me approaching Oia.|
|Main church in Oia.|
|Walking through Oia. See the windmill in the background? There are a few in town.|
After our crazy long hike, we decided to have lunch in the harbor.
Down the hill. See the harbor? All the way down there.
We debated since we were hot, tired, and hungry. Thankfully the trek was worth it.
What a table, right? We could literally see our lunch swimming in front of us through the clear water.
And the local brew from Santorini Brewing Company, Ass Kicking Ales, are great.
Perfect end to a long hike.
That's where we ate on the far right.
Of course now that we were fed, we had to hike back up the hill. Needless to say we took to bus back to our hotel. Oia was cool, but was certainly more touristy than Imerovigli. Very nice place, but we didn't go back the rest of the trip.
We of course had to stop off for more wine and decided to have dinner on our balcony with the typical spread from the market. Olives, charcuterie, cheese, bread, dolmas. Hard to go wrong, especially with the view.
|Me telling Michelle she can't bring the camera in the hot tub.|
|2nd night, 2nd incredible sunset.|
The next day we rented a quad and explored the rest of the island. Pretty rad. We basically were sun chasing all day, you can see the rain clouds out in the distance.
|Me on my hog!|
|Panorama of the valley on the road.|
First stop was the red beach, named for the red rock surrounding it. We found some sun and I had my first swim in the Aegean.
The clouds moved in to the Red Beach so we high tailed it south to the Black Beach. See the black sand? Crazy hot on this part of the island. Absolutely deserted beach, just the two of us.
|Cooling off from the sun by the Black Beach.|
After an Irish Winter, it was tough leaving the beach. This was my first opportunity to lay out in the sun in a year. Alas, we had to leave though and on our way to lunch found another incredible church, go figure.
Lunch was 1 of only 2 kebabs that we had the entire week. Crazy, right? I'm in Turkey and Greece and only have 2 kebabs?! Greece had the 2nd best kebabs that I have had though, second only to Israel (best felafel was in Helsinki believe it or not, blog post coming shortly).
Post kebab, blue skies, looking nerdy, and ready to ride. We were headed from the south side of the island up the middle to a little winery we heard of.
|Yes, I know, we look pretty bad ass.|
See the blue sky in the picture above? That changed quickly! Without warning we were driving in a torrential downpour. Thankfully, due to the plummeting economy, there was a 1/2 built house that we ran in to to escape the rain. We stood there for 15 minutes, saw some blue sky down the road and just went for it! A couple minutes of rain and then back to blue skies.
|Michelle (sort of looking like an alien) escaping the rain.|
After the rain, time for some wine. Small family owned winery, 3 generations and counting. Delicious wine and amazing setting.
After the wine we went to Santorini Brewing Company. The tasting room was empty though and I was driving so we didn't do any tasting. They only brew 3 beers and we had them all in town already. What a business though. Move to the islands, open and micro brewery, and they will come.
After dropping off the hog, we headed into town to cruise around. Surprise, surprise, more amazing views everywhere you go.
And of course more churches.
We had one more night in Santorini. One more sunset and another amazing dinner at a small local restaurant. The next day we flew out fairly late, around 7:30 or so, back to Athens and then back to Dublin. Our hotel was so nice, they let us keep the room all day. We had the whole day to lounge by the pool and soak up as much sun as possible. I really needed one full day of sunshine and mellowness by the pool.
We landed in Dublin late that night and the temperature was around 40 F, slight rain, strong winds. You know, your typical May day in Ireland. Definitely not in Greece anymore and definitely not taking our time traveling for granted. Like most places we travel to, we only saw a fraction of the country and it only makes us want to go back and see more.
Until next time, thanks Greece.