Athens is a dirty, drug infested, crooked town!
At least this was my first impression as I was driven to our hotel by a taxi driver who took every opportunity to extend our trip further than the necessary to maximize the cost of the already expensive fare! The driver dropped us off at the hotel after explaining that it is best not to walk around the town as we may be mugged. Upon arrival to the hotel our tour director then informed us that the street running alongside the hotel was a known drug selling hotspot and that we should expect a strong police presence in the area. These are all the things that you look for when starting out a tour in a country you don’t know from a bar of soap.
Things started to get alot better from that time forward. We went out to dinner with our contiki tour group in the area called ‘Plaka.’ The area was packed full of great Greek stores and little corner cafe’s. Liz opened the tour spending with a purchase of a lovely Greek top after dinner. We had dinner at a full Greek resturant (go figure) including greek dancing, live music, and of course ‘the Zorba!’ Many ‘OPA’s’ later the celebrations had come to an end and we made it back to the dodgy hotel for some sleep – satisfied that Athens is in fact a beuatiful city with deep history and a worderful culture.
I would recommend you visit athens if you have the chance. Just stay away from the taxi’s and make sure you spend alot of time in the Plaka area and visiting the acropolyse.
Mykonos was great! The idea is to get lost in the back streets of the town and discover Mykonos on our own! Liz and I took to the streets with new found friends Mark and Janine and spent the first part of the evening embracing our ‘inner tourist’ by taking photos of everything we could find. We arrived in the town late afternoon so the natural lighting was perfect!
After all the photographic dreams had been reached we decided that food was a great idea! Our tour guide Dan recommended a meal called a Gyros ( yee-ross). Gyros is close to a wrap in South Africa bit it uses a much thicker pita to wrap your filling in. The filling is always the same, lettuce, tomatoe, French fries, onion and then you choose your meat – pork or chicken!! What more could you ask for? Especially because they are cheap and filling!!
Desert was next and this meant walking through the streets for 10mins tofubd the crepes! Basically pancakes with whatever filling you wanted! My recommendation – nutella and almond! Fantastic!!
Everything was pretty much done and dusted in Mykonos now so we headed on back to our cruise ship for a good nights sleep to get rid of our jetlag!
It does need to be mentioned that Mykonos got extremely coldonce the sun went down! At least I got the test drive my new winter jacket!
This stop was only a few hours long but was well worth it! We spent the first part of the morning touring the ancient ruins of the Ephesians! A very informative tour in a city that is mentioned so often in the New Testament! It was great to visit the site that Paul was so involved in, to sit in the theatre that be preached in, see the prison he lived in for a few tears and understand the civilisation a little more! Truely an awesome experience!
After the tour we went on to a leather factory that made the softest leather jackects I have ever felt! It took a lot of will power not to leave the factory with a souvenior that looked like a jacket and was made of leather.
The temptation of one shop was defeated but we were then dropped off in the middle of every tourist trap in Turkey! The Turks are the best sales people I have ever come accross and they are not shy to drag you off the street into their store either! We almost made it through Tourist Trap Central when I remembered that Turkey is well known for it’s role in the drumming and percussion industry. Turkey is home to three cymbal makers, Zildjian, Sabian and Istanbul cymbals. So I decided that I needed to take home some small part of the Turkish music culture. So by the end of the morning I had purchased a Darabuka!
I had been looking forward to this island since the cruise began abs it was better than I expected. Patmos is where God showed John the vision of Revelation. The cave where this happened has bow been turned into a chapel and is deemed the holiest place in the world. Even the Vatican is less holy than this cave as God never spoke to any man at the Vatican.
We got to do some much needed exercise up to the cave and were angle to enter the cave itself. Personally I felt the the cave was not well portrayed. The significance and meaning of the events in the cave were never explained to interested tourists the decoration is steeped in Catholism where the book of Revelation has meaning across all Christian denominations. All in all it was great to hike up Patmos and see the site of Johns vision.
After the hike we made it slowly back to the town and spent sometime shopping and catching another crepe (ham & cheese)! Liz loved the shopping and I loved the crepe!!
The best part of Rhodes was that we got to spend the whole day there. The city/town is split into two main parts, old town and new town! New town is the more cosmopoliton area while old town holds the history of Rhodes. Rhodes was a prosperous medieval city complete with Nobleman and women, knights and peasants. We never took any planned tours around the town because they were quite expensive and the town was fairly easy to navigate with the use of Janines book on Greece!
The plan was to explore Old Town for the morning and then hit the beach in the afternoon but Old Town blew us away! We spent almost the whole day there with only a short break to jump off the 5m platform into the Mediteranean Sea at Elli Beach!
This city does not come recommended to anyone going to Greece on holiday. Basically it’s where the ship stops to fill up with fuel so they let you get off and explore. The place looks like Durban and has very little to offer tourist in search of greek culture. A very big city and probably where most of the industry of the Greek Islands happens so if you are looking for work it may be useful, but not for touring! Needless to say that withing 90mins of touching Crete soil we were back on the ship catching the sun on the pool deck.
What a refreshing change from Crete! It all started as we watched the cruiseliner approach the island covered with white washed houses. I took photos but it’s hard to capture the landscape of the island. Santorini, along with three smaller islands surround a dormant volcano. The volcano is not extinct and is continually monitored at 80 degrees to make sure it won’t be erupting soon.
All four islands used to be one island before the last eruption which cause the land to split into the islands.
The first stop was a small port just below a Santorini village where we caught a yacht to the volcano for a hike to the top. A completely unique experience! Walking on a volcano is not easy as the paths are covered with loose stones and ash, so you slide around a fair amount as you climb up. At the top you have the veiws of the volcanic craters, the panoramic sights of all four islands and the annoying people getting in the way of all your photos! Flipping tourists!
After the volcano hike the yacht set course for 20mins to the hot springs. The idea here is to swim out to the hot springs on the coastline of the volcano. The catch is, that even though the water in the springs is about 25 – 30 degrees (I think?), you have to swim through water roughly the temperature of a magnum icecream in winter first. I thought Liz would chicken out as she really hates the cold! Her small body almost shuts down when it gets too cold. Liz surprised me by making it all the way to the springs and back (which is worse than getting to the springs on the first place!). I was very proud of her!
Next stop, Santorini for a whirlwind exploration that lasted about an hour. 20mins waiting for the bus, 20mins riding the bus up the cliff face and 20mins to see the beautiful city! I would love to go back there again sometime, we just couldn’t take it all in the time we had. My approach was ‘shoot now – look later’, so in 20mins I took about 400 photos as I made my way up the path towards the cable car, which was our lift back to the port. Liz visited every shop she could and found our shot glass for our collection. Mission Accomplished!! She also managed to find two cookies the size of a small island which were welcomed with open arms!
Santorini was amazing – just needed about a day there to take everything in.
Friday was our last day in Greece! Around 10am we were already on at the airport waiting for our plane to Prague which left at 4pm. We had planned to do the Acropolyse tour in Athens on our last day in Athens but the entire city went on strike for labour day so we missed our chance. The good news was that we got a free trip to the airport after our cruise. Wooohoooooo!!