Lara's Blog

Saturday, 28 October 2006

Greece Tour

Got up bright and early on mon morn to get to the travel agent by 745am, 15 mins before our bus was due to pick us up .8am comes... still waiting... 810am... sitll waiting.... have they forgotten us??? FINALLY at 840am someone starts saying "Graves? Graves?" yes that's us!!!! Follow them on to a bus around the corner... and there aren't enough seats to go round. this is going to be a fun four days!!!!! turns out we were only heading back to HQ where we would be split on to various buses dependin gon the tour we were on. so that was ok!

  • Corinth Canal - this was created so ships did not have to sail around the dangerous coast of the pelleponnese, and drastically reduced travelling time. Before the canal was constructed, they used to actually have a slip way with flat rocks and they woudl DRAG the boats across the land!
  • Ancient theatre at Epidaurus - "perfect acoustic".
  • Quick stop at Nauplia to let the 5 day tour people off the bus, but we didn't get off. then we went through the plain of Argos and got to Mycenae
  • Two Mycenaen archaeological sites - one is the Mikines Acropolis with lion's gate (17th century BC) and the guard dog's house and in the distance the mountains look like Agamemnon sleeping. Here we went to the museum and saw the mask of Agamemnon. It's called this, but was actually found in a tomb 400yrs too old to possibly have been his actual death mask. We also went to Agamemnon's actual tomb, from the 13th century BC. It is said to look like a beehive!
  • That night we arrived in Olympia
  • Had dinner... pork and rice. which was fine... but little were we to know that it would be followed by pork and rice, THREE nights in a row!!! Rhonda and i wanted to have a few drinks after dinner.... but everyone was in bed by 930pm!
  • Another early start, and we were one of the first groups at Olympia. Pretty amazing place: site of the original olympic games. There are heaps of ruins, from temples, the alter where they light the flame, the olive tree at the site of the original tree (obviously trees don't live for thousands of years!!) from which they made the crowns, treasuries, gymnasiums and the stadium. the stones they used to build the structures actually have seashells preserved in them. This means the site was once covered by ocean! The sun was streaming through the trees and it was a bit misty. Became much more crowded as we were leaving so timing was good.
  • Museum at Olympia
  • Lunch was at a great location by the sea. The water was beautiful. I had prawns - no pork in sight :)
  • Another long drive and we arrived in Delphi. Had some free time in the afternoon at Delphi - and of course spent more money. Delphi is known as the navel of the world - supposedly two birds flew, one from the east and one from the west and they met at Delphi so that must be the centre. Sunset from our hotel room balcony
  • Attempted the hotel pool, but it was ICE cold so didn't last long!
  • Dinner? pork and rice!

  • Museum at Delphi
  • Archaeological site at Delphi: the Sanctuary of Apollo - Amazing scenery from here. mountains and water. THe archaeological site was hte international politcal centre of Greece. Again ruins from temples, treasuries, gymnasiums, a theatre and a stadium. Making it up to the stadium was a feat in itself. There was a second smaller sanctuary across the road and it had a pool in the gymnasium!
  • Headed to Kalambaka which is a small town at the foot of the cliffs on which the Byzantine Monastries are built.

  • Meteora - Driving towards the monastries we were confronted with a unique environment. I am pretty sure it was located over a fault line, there is no other way it could exist! Sudden great cliffs erupting from the land, and on top some of these are precariously perched monastries. Apparently with at least one monastry, it took 20yrs to get the materials up the cliff, and only 20 days to actually build it!
  • We visited the Monastry of St Barbara and the Monastry of St Stephenos. The women had to put long skirts on over trousers or shorts.
  • Returned to Athens after a long drive and made it back to our hostel - everyone else in Hotels!!!

Met some interesting people on tour. Barb and George, a couple from Australia. They were heading out on a cruise of the islands when we got back so we were able to give them restaurant recommendations and showed Barb the jewellery we bought! Chip and Matt were father and son from Pennsylvania, USA. Matt's actually working in Afghanistan at the moment
THere were a few other Australians and Americans, notably Lesley from Brisbane, a 70+ yo who was particularly irritating!!!!! Tour guide was named Kallina and was our "mother" for the 4 days. She could be strict sometimes!!! and was not impressed when we rocked up for breakfast one morning at 9am. Even though everyone had understood that wakeup was at 8am, not breakfast at 8!!!! It was a good experience, saw some amazing things. Wont remember a single bit of the information that was imparted, but i bought a book on greek history and mythology so that will refresh me!!!!

That night in athens we had dinner with Matt and his dad Chip. After dinner Chip was keen to kick on for a drink and we managed to get Matt into staying out til waaaaaaaaaaaay past his bedtime! haha.

On my last day in Athens we visited the botanical gardens. Very peaceful (apart from kids!).

Had my last gyros! very sad!!!

Lots of stray cats (and dogs, but not as many as Santorini) in athens. We spotted this skinny queen with three kittens (two are hiding in the background). she was friendly but was pretty fluey. Sad, and i don't even like cats! (some vet i'll make)

Dinner was rushed although great, stuffed kalamari. This is a random typical street near where we had dinner. Parts of Athens were very dirty, but others (esp near the Acropolis, i assume it's more touristy there) were quite pretty.Made it to the airport by 830pm. Arrived at chris's doorstep at 2am this morning.

Monday, 23 October 2006

Santorini, Syros and Athens

random photo from thirassia i uploaded in the wrong place...

i last left you when it was POURING down with rain in santonrini....
well after i left the internet cafe we ducked into the next cafe for coffee and hot choc. sat down, enjoying ourselves... when who should be sitting on the table next to us, but costas, alex and a bouncer from murphy's. such a small island....
alex, me, rhonda - out at murphy's again that night. just for a change....
wednesday proved much better weather (meanwhile tuesday's storm BROKE my umbrella!!) and we wandered around some more. santorini is really such a nice place.
wednesday night we braved the menu-less restaurant, nick's taverna, and had teh BEST food of the entire trip. White eggplant for entree, then prawn with tomato and feta and also squid with white wine sauce. SOOOOOOOO good. the best. i wish i hadn't been so silly and we'd gone their earlier in the week!!!!!
thurs morning, what else but more shopping before catching the ferry to syros.
friday we had the whole day in syros. we saw the main square and town hall and about a MILLION pigeons (mainly white, its weird). Syros is much more like real greece. no souveneir shops (apart from a few magnets and postcards from santorini!!!), street markets selling meat, fish, fruit and veges, old men in coffee shops all day, lots of marble, lots of bouganvileas, LOTS of cats, and everythign actually shuts during siesta. tried a small restaurant off the main square for dinner. squid stuffed with feta and veges was great. although towards the end of teh night this cat kept coming inside the restaurant. the owners kept shooing it out but it was persistent. eventually i lured it over, scruffed it and threw it outside. that worked for a while, but soon it was back!!!! once more for good luck, with a bit less ceremony and hitting the concrete outside a little harder and it didn't come back. headed to a bar on the water after dinner, everyone was still drinking coffee!!!!! wasn't the same without all the tourists and the bar staff we'd come to know!!!!
sat morning we found ourselves at teh archaeological museum. so small it took us all of.... 10 minutes to view the lot. attempted to climb the stairs to ano syros despite lonely planets tip to catch the bus. who knows how far we made it before almost having heart attacks and turning back. got some pretty photos though!!!!! a speciality of syros is the loucoumi (turkish delight equiv) and halvathopita (nougat with almonds between 2 wafers).... SOOOOOOOO good!!!!! will attempt to bring some home but not sure if it'll last. in fact sweet shops are everywhere in syros.
so back on the ferry again and landed in athens.... with no hostel booking. she'll be right!!!! so we got lost trying to find the hostel... actually we were right where we were trying to be, only we'd misread the map and the hostel wasn't there.... eventually foudn it.... booked out. ok try the hotel on teh next block.... booked out... next hotel? about 200 euro per night. no thanks. FINALLY we made it to a hostel with space. only to find ourselves in a dingy CELL of a room down a narrow ricketty spiral staircase (attempt THAT with 30kg of luggage!!!), no mobile reception, and a toilet door that doesn't close. FUN! oh and we can hear every word spoken in the courtyard up til about 3am... then the early risers start from around 6. no i'm not tired...
today we got up bright and early (get AWAY from the hostel!!). made it to flea markets (junk - although rhonda liked it...) wandered around.
coconut sweet man's cart
then headed to archaeological museum. that was really good. we spent hours and hours there. annoyed though cos there was a sign of a camera with a cross through it and u had to check your bags so i left my camera in it. turns out you ARE allowed to take photos, just without flash. so i dont have any :( and the post cards were bad.
and now i'm in an internet cafe. avoiding the hostel.
tomorrow morning we start a 4 day tour of mainland greece which should be interesting.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006


Made in to Greece!
Had two nights in athens before coming to Santorini
Athens was... quite dingy aroudn the area we were staying. But we went on a walking tour of athens and saw the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the ancient Agora (market place) where the first shopping centre was built! the theatre of Dionysis, and of course the Acropolis. The Acropolis towers over athens, but the walk up is actually quite easy. But not a donkey in sight. The parthenon is covered in scaffolding and there's a sign announcing the restoration "was completed in 2006".... i think they built the sign before they even started!!! Very interesting though, and great views of sprawling athens.
Guards outside the president's residence
Early start on thur to catch ferry to santorini. Tickets were for economy which means you sit on plastic chairs in the cafeteria for 9 hours. luckily there was an announcement about upgrades and for only 2 euro each we got nice big comfy chairs!!!!! Arrived in Santorini to be accosted by hotel owners trygin to sell us rooms. we had already booked our first night in the hostel Lara stayed in (meanwhile they've drained the pool!!!!). made it up the hill from the port on the public bus - almost missed it though, it looked like one of the private hotel buses!!
So Santorini is very pretty with its storybook white and blue buildings, perched precariously on the side of the cliffs facing the water. Santoniri is actually the mouth of a volcano. there are heaps of dogs wandering around the streets. some look very skinny and homeless but lots have collars. and they dont smell or anythign which is more than i can say for my own spoilt puppies!!
friday we went shopping all day! there is lots and lots of fun tourist crap to buy here.
saturday the weather was ok and we went to Kamari beach. too cold to go in the water but we walked all along the beach. difficult on the pebbles!!!
Sunday was a nice day and we went to red beach. literally red sand up against a red cliff. you have to climb rocks to get to it, very isolated. Actually went in the water!!!! freezing, but pretty and green. stayed in for almost an hour! meanwhile other tourists were laughing at our bravery.
We went on a boat tour yesterday and visited the active part of the volcano with black magma rocks and holes in the ground with boiling hot steam floating out. on the tour we also visited the hot springs! which could've been warmer :) but still good!!! unfortunately now our swimmers are stained from the sulfur. had lunch in thirassia, an island on the other side of the caldera from santorini. ordered octupus pasta... came out with two long tenticles piled on chips!went up to Oia for the famous sunset.... unfortunately it was too cloudy! must've been these rain clouds on their way. the walk up from the port to oia nearly killed the entire tour group. i wanted to catch a donkey up but was wearing a skirt... not the most practical of donkey riding attire.
random dog that came and sat with us in Oia
the food is great, been having lots of seafood - octopus, cuttlefish, swordfish (but they chargrilled it!!!! ruined!!!!!) as well as dolmades, taramasalata, feta and greek beer.... etc rhonda wants to try on of the restaurants with no menu but i'm scared. what if they give me a big pile of lamb!!?!?!?!
our hostel room is cute. blue and white and we're the only two there. there are stairs to the attic where there are two more beds but its not busy enough. and we have a fridge!!! so been having a few picnics in our room hehehe.
our only hangout at night is Murphy's the irish pub. have become friends with alex the "guest" dj, costas the dj/bartender, katarina the waitress and kristos the bartender. such greek names!!!!!!!!
rhonda and me at murphy's, alex in the background
the weirdest thing about greece is that you're not meant to put toilet paper down the toilet.... the worst thing about greece is the smoking.
now today its absolutely pouring. so lucky we've had a few days of nice weather. we wanted to go to mykynos tomorrow, but chatted to the crepe guy and he said its incredibly windy, and even more expensive than santorini (which is up there with london prices!!). anyway all ferries have been cancelled so we're trapped!!!! booked to go to syros thursday and will find out thurs morning if its canceled or not. not quite sure what we'll do while its raining. and i left my gortex with chris in london - why would i need protected from the elements in santorini!?!?!?!?!?!