Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's over!

Well, another odyssey is complete. I'm back in Toronto and feeling the effects of jet lag and a big credit card bill, but otherwise satisfied with the trip.

And, since things usually even out for me, I can report that not only did I get back into town safely, but in style.

My flight on Turkish Airlines was the best in my entire life. The food was amazing, plentiful and free, the entertainment system was excellent (I watched 4 movies on the nearly 10 hour journey) and plenty of extras were provided, including free booze and swag.

It was as close to flying first class as I've experienced, plus I got to see a glimpse of Istanbul, albeit from the plane and airport.

I've started posting photo albums on Facebook, so feel free to check those out, and as always, thanks for following along.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And I'm stranded...and I'm starry-eyed.

I've gone 29 years and 2 months without missing a flight (OK, I only started flying in high school, but you get the point), but today that streak has come to an end.

Thanks to some major delays/general slowness in both my overnight ferry and transit to the airport, I missed my flight back to Toronto. I didn't get to the airport until 30 minutes before my plane took off, and the gate staff was unwilling to let me make a run for it.

I mean, sure, there are worse places to be stuck than Greece...but it's extra travel and expenses that I could have done without.

Not much I can do but make the best of it, so I had a huge meal at a taverna in the town I'm staying at tonight, just 15 minutes outside of Athens.

The meal included my last authentic Greek salad...I've literally lost count of how many I had.

So now the plan is to wake up around 4 AM my time, get a lift from the hotel back to the airport, get on a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul, and then back over to Toronto.

Got another long travel day with weird hours ahead of me, so I'll be calling it a night soon.

Not the most ideal way to be ending this trip, but hey, it's just another story to tell in a trip chock full of them.

It's been fun, get your public transportation game in order, please. You're making Italian transit look good, and that's saying something.

Yiamas to all, and to all a good night!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Urban exploration, Greek style.

I’ve arrived at my final stop, Patmos. In just over 24 hours I’ll be on a ferry headed back to Athens to fly home.

I wouldn’t have had time to see the monastery and the Cave of the Apocalypse properly today, so I decided to do a little exploring around the island, which means what it usually means for me: climb up a big hill/mountain and get some panoramic shots.

This time however, there was a bit of a snag: around the area of Patmos’ ancient Acropolis, there was quite a bit of wire fencing, spiky weeds and stone walls, seemingly impeding my path back down to street level.

I drew on my experience in urban exploration to find creative ways to get around the many obstacles in my way, while also sneaking into some pretty cool looking places I probably shouldn’t have been in.

What can I say? I hate going back the way I came, especially when the way I came is almost directly uphill.

It was totally worth the extra effort, and suffered nary a scratch while doing so. I guess after three weeks I’ve got this thing down to a science.

I also managed to find a cheap and nice place to stay just a couple of blocks from the port, so I’ll be hanging out here tonight to rest up for the journey to Hora and the aforementioned sightseeing tomorrow morning, then perhaps one last stop at a beach before packing up and beginning the long journey back to Toronto.

You’ve been great to me, Greece...let’s bring it on home!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Two Acropolises for the price of none.

Acropolises? Acropoli? Acropolix?

Anyway, I managed to find my way out of the maze that is Rhodes Old Town to explore more of the island.

Yesterday I went to Lindos, a medieval village that was once the major trading centre of the island before Rhodes Town was built.

It has a pretty impressive Acropolis, and I was able to get in for free since one of the dudes I went with was a student and got free admission.

He was too tired and hot to go up so he gave me his ticket, and off I went to the top.

So was it as good as the famous Acropolis in Athens? Well, that one cost €12 to get into, and this one would have cost me €6, so I'd say half as good is a fair and accurate assessment of the Acropolis of Lindos.

Then at night we headed back to an area of the New Town nicknamed "Bar Street". You can probably figure out what goes on there.

The clubs in Rhodes are different from the ones in Toronto in several key ways: there are no lines, no cover, and no reason to show up early. In fact, there are people working there whose sole job is to get clubbers to come into theirs.

One of these people is staying in my room in the Old Town; he's from Nigeria and has worked in several cities in Europe; he's very interested in coming to Canada to work and live.

We've had several conversations about the harsh realities that most Africans deal with on a daily basis, whether at home or abroad. Even in countries like Nigeria that are relatively wealthy, all the money is being appropriated by a corrupt government that gives little to nothing back to its people.

It really makes me appreciate how lucky I am to be able to live the life that I have, and at the same time it shames me to realize how much I take that life for granted.

Today I walked over to the Acropolis of Rhodes, which wasn't as impressive as the ones in Athens or Lindos, but was still a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city.

I have an early ferry to Patmos tomorrow morning, so I'll likely have a quiet night of packing and relaxing, unless I get compelled to hit up Bar Street for the third consecutive night.

That's the great thing about Greece; it's after 9 PM here and I don't even have to think about what's going on tonight for another 3 hours or so. Just one of the things I will miss about this amazing country.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rhodes? Where we’re going we don’t need...roads.

After one hell of an overnight ferry ride, where the boat was an hour late and didn’t roll in till about 11 in the morning, I’ve had a groggy but enjoyable afternoon in Rhodes.

I’m staying in the labyrinthine and gorgeous Old Town; it’s the kind of place you want to get lost in on purpose.

My last day in Santorini was also filled with highlights, as I took a tour to the volcano and hot springs in the middle of the island. Naturally this provided some impressive scenery.

Then one last dinner in Fira: the Santorini variation on the Greek salad includes a milder feta, capers and sun dried tomatoes.

I also tried the moussaka, which was excellent. It’s basically like a lasagne, except with eggplant instead of pasta. Now, normally I hate eggplant, but the local white aubergines used in the moussaka are actually really nice.

With the Cyclades now behind me, it’s time to close out the trip amongst the Dodecanese islands. The tentative plan is still to go to Patmos after my three nights here, but nothing is booked as of yet, so that could still change.

It’s my last weekend in Greece...can’t believe it’s already almost over.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fira has cast its spell on me.

Hell yes, I managed to make a JRPG reference.

This side of the island is quite lively, with a lot to see. The caldera is impressive, though I feel like you need to be there super early to see it really misty and whatnot.

My Chilean friend from Perissa came along, and we walked around Fira and neighbouring towns. We got a bit tired, so we decided to take the cable car back to where we started. That was a bad move, as the cable car actually took us down to the cruise ship port, which meant we had to walk all the way up the 600+ stairs to the top, whilst avoiding donkeys and their “exhaust”. A fun time nonetheless.

Then I went to Ia, home of the famous Santorini sunset.

Things not to do when you’re going to a place for the sunset: show up at 11 AM. It was a loooooong day, so I basically walked everywhere I could possibly manage, stopped to rest a lot, and just waited out the sun until it finally started to go down around 8.

Today will be another long day to fill, as I have to check out in about a half hour, but my overnight ferry to Rhodes doesn’t leave until 1 in the morning.

I’m sure I’ll manage to find things to do; Santorini is an incredible place, and has definitely lived up to the expectations. I will miss it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

For relaxing times...make it Santorini time.

Two days of taking it easy on Perissa Beach, aka the black beach.

Well, mostly taking it easy...I did climb a mountain today, no big deal.

The ruins are Ancient Thira, which is super confusing, because the island of Santorini is also sometimes called Thira, and the main city, Fira, is ALSO sometimes called Thira. I guess they just really like that name.

Tomorrow I go to Fira to stay for two nights, and I’m glad, because as nice as Perissa is (and as refreshing as the hostel pool was this afternoon), I couldn’t have stayed here for four nights; it’s just way too slow.

Between Fira and Oia there will be plenty of caldera and sunset related photo ops, so naturally I’m really looking forward to that.

Hope all is well!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A night in Naxos.

I arrived in Naxos just fine, albeit a little late as the ferry was nowhere to be seen at its scheduled departure time. I'm assuming that's just normal Greek delays, and had little to do with the turmoil over in Athens.

As usual, negatives turn into positives, as I was able to explore Naxos Town at sunset, and had a fantastic (and cheap!) dinner at a place recommended to me by one of the guys at the hostel.

Today I'll probably check out the Old Town and any other random sights Naxos has to offer, and then hit the beach, which is of course only steps away. I can dig it.

Off to Santorini Sunday afternoon!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Delos, and the last night in Mykonos...maybe?

Today I visited the island of Delos, birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis, and former commercial centre of not only the Cyclades, but of the ancient world.

I’m supposed to be headed to Naxos tomorrow, but the ferries remained on strike today after the 48 hour general strike. Even though the lady at the port ferry office said they’ll be up and running tomorrow, I’m still not convinced.

Mykonos has been great, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve done pretty much everything I can possibly do here, and am ready to move on to the next destination.

When that will be isn’t clear just yet, but I did get a good sign while having a gelato at the old port: the appearance of Pelos, the famous Mykonos pelican. He basically walked around like he owned the place and allowed people to take photos as he went for a leisurely stroll through the port.

Hopefully between the visit to sacred Delos and the sighting of Pelos I’ve earned enough good karma to get me to Naxos as planned. We shall see.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On an island, in the sun.

Two days in on the Greek islands, and already I can see why everyone raves about them.

Mykonos is gorgeous. Even the ferry ride to Mykonos was picturesque (long, but picturesque nonetheless). It stopped in Syros and Tinos, both very nice looking islands, especially Syros.

I had a relatively tame first day due to being wiped from the 5+ hour ferry ride from Athens; mostly just crashed on the beach, which is a couple minutes walk from my room.

And by room, I mean wooden shack with a bed and a window. That said, it has an outlet which has come in handy, and I did get the best sleep of the trip last night, so I can’t argue with that.

Today was an adventure to be sure. After walking around the old town and seeing the sights (the windmills and Little Venice), I randomly ran into my buddy from Athens and his group, who were all staying at the next place over. They had also rented mopeds.

What followed was a whirlwind tour of the entire island, including a visit to an old lighthouse and a manmade lake.

Tonight we’re gonna get some much needed drinks at the beach bar after a long day of touring.

If this is what Mykonos and the rest of the islands have in store for me ahead, it’s gonna be one hell of a time.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Feeling very Olympic today.

Just because I never made it to Olympia didn't mean I wouldn't have an Olympic experience in Greece.

The Special Olympics are in Athens this year, so a group of us headed over to the stadium for some Olympic-sized hijinx.

Free stuff, sports and shenanigans...three of my favourite things!

The day before, I went on the hostel tour to Delphi, the home of the famous Oracle of Delphi, as well as one of the four main ancient temples of Greece.

Included on the tour was a light lunch and a visit to Arachova, a coastal town well-known amongst Greeks as a ski resort, but little known to the rest of the world, which apparently is just how they like it. I can see why they're keen to keep it a secret.

At night we stopped by Syntagama Square, where all the protests have been going on.

It's totally peaceful and a pretty cool atmosphere, considering it's the birthplace of democracy and all. There's going to be a 48 hour general strike starting on Tuesday, however, so I imagine things will get a little more intense then.

Oh yeah, we were also at the square again this morning, to check out the changing of the guard. Much cooler than Canada's version (sorry that I'm not sorry, Ottawa).

Off to Mykonos tomorrow morning for the first island stop of the trip!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Meteora, or My Adventures With Greek Taxi Drivers

Before I begin, there's something you need to know about me.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where things always even out for Jerry? Well, I am the real-life embodiment of that phenomenon most of the time, and it definitely happened to me today, though not in the typical way.

I made my way by train to Kalabaka, the town where you can then access Meteora, which is a bunch of monasteries atop huge rock pinnacles. Well, I could access it in theory anyway; I bought some supplies and attempted to head up the massive hill, but didn't really get anywhere.

I passed by a tourist restaurant, where George, a taxi driver was finding some shade. He motioned over to me and I could tell what I was trying to do was a bad idea. Like 16 km walk bad.

I promptly hopped into his taxi, and he gave me a personal tour of Meteora, dropping me off at the main monasteries and great vantage points, even taking pictures of me at each point. Really friendly guy, and he was basically the reason I was able to see anything, as opposed to my "show up after a 5 hour train ride and just walk around for 3 or 4 hours before taking another 5 hour train ride back" plan.

Unfortunately. this is where things get weird. The impromptu tour was going to cost me around 30-40 Euro, depending on how long it took. Fine with me, I thought; I have 20 Euro on me, and I'll just get George to swing by an ATM and I'll get him the rest.

Not so fast, dumbass. I normally travel with my passport, credit & debit cards whilst in Europe, but since Athens has gotten all this bad press about being unsafe (it's not) due to the protests, I've been leaving all that stuff at my hostel.

Therefore, all I had to my name was a 20 Euro bill, and my room key. I felt awful and apologized profusely for not being able to pay him adequately for his time. He understood and wished me well (I think).

So I take the train back to the Athens station, which is 5 Metro stops from my hostel. Here's the problem: I now have no money whatsoever, and didn't want to risk riding the Metro without a valid ticket.

I decide to hop in a cab to get back to the hostel. My driver didn't speak much English and for some reason didn't really know how to get there, despite me repeatedly mentioning the Akropoli Metro nearby.

He even stopped in the middle of nowhere to talk to a local girl waiting for the bus, who happened to speak English. So she hops in the cab too, and we make our way to the hostel.

As she gets out, she says that the cab ride will cost 20 Euro. Way too expensive for how long that cab ride should have taken, but I figured, you know what? It's time for a little instant karma.

I explain to the driver that I'm going up to my room to get his money, and to wait outside the hostel. I briefly considered not coming back down, but no, I needed to right this wrong.

As I returned, his eyes lit up, and he shook my hand, thanking me as I handed him the 20 Euro note. I could tell he was concerned I was going to screw him, and I don't blame him, considering how it looked.

But what he couldn't know (and not just because his English was bad) was that fate was on his side, and that when it comes to me, things have a way of evening out.

Hope you enjoyed that story. Off to Delphi tomorrow.

We need a myth
We need an amethyst bridge
We need a high hanging cliff
Jump, fall and lift

- Okkervil River, We Need A Myth