Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Greece - Island Hopping & Athens

Hello Readers,
Before I cover our fantastic Greece vacation  I wanted to mention our Better Halves Club meeting at Thai Boron (link) last week.  We had full attendance for the first time in a while.  There were nine and a half people there including one and a half new members.  Food was good and it was interesting talking to the newb.  They had been over for less than a week so their assignment was just starting while ours is wrapping up.  In addition to me another member is heading home this summer so it's nice to see some more ex-pats coming over to add to the club. 
Now it's time for Greece.  I did have a few reservations on going with their current economic situation but Lori really wanted to go and we have been to Italy and Spain already so why not give it a shot?  Two other ex-pat families have visited there and only had good things to say about it so I did feel a little better about going there on vacation.  I did have transportation back up plans in case the ferries, buses or plane transportation didn't work out but we didn't have any issues.  Buses and ferries were a few minutes late but that happens everywhere but Germany so no big deal.  For this trip we scheduled a Wednesday to Wednesday trip to cut down on the costs.  Our Wednesday flight out of Manchester was an early flight so we rode the train up Tuesday night and stayed at a Bewley's hotel on the airport grounds.
Wednesday Day 1- We took Steve's travel suggestion and it worked out well for us so thanks Steve.  He suggested we fly into Athens, stay at the airport to fly to the islands, then work our way back to Athens to complete the vacation as opposed to flying into Athens, covering Athens first, then checking out the islands.  The travel forums seem to be 50-50 on transportation woes/no problems which was my concern but with Steve's suggestion we are already in Athens on the day we fly back so no worries on late ferries or island flights.  We did not have any transportation issues anywhere so either way probably would have worked but I was happy with our plan.  I do have to say it was a little boring waiting in the Athens airport for five hours for our twenty-five minute flight to Santorini but we did eventually make it to the island.       
Flying over one of the Greek islands between Athens and Santorini.
The only issue we had was our shuttle didn't show so we took a taxi to our hotel in Akrotiri.  We mentioned it to our hotel reception at check in when he asked us how our travel was.  As we left reception after checking in Lori could hear the guy yelling at someone on the phone, we assumed it was our shuttle ride who ditched us.  Kind of funny.  The taxi ride cost us the same as the shuttle was supposed to so it didn't end up costing us anything extra which was odd, maybe the hotel had only scheduled a taxi to pick us up.  One other strange part of the trip from Athens to Santorini was the amount of Americans on the plane and around us in the airport.  It was like I was flying in the US.  I guess Greece is a popular stop for the Yanks. 

Our view of the Sea of Crete from our bedroom balcony doorway.  The view would improve once the sun burned off the haze.

The three level balcony for our hotel, Kokkinos Villas (link).  It was built into the cliff as shown below.  The hotel was very nice, rooms were clean, had a hair dryer, staff was helpful, and located away from all of the touristy areas which is a plus for us.  Two thumbs up from us.

Walking down to Caldera Beach for dinner at Tavern Remezzo.  The hotel is on the left.  We arrived at the hotel in the evening so we just vegged until it was dinner time.

Kevin Coleman Pic - The Mythos was advertised as the most something Hellenic Lager and is supposed to be based upon a 2,000 year old recipe.  Mythos was smooth and easily the most popular beer in Greece.

Dana Johnson Pic - Bread on the left, Greek salad on top, and rice stuffed vine leaves with Greek yogurt on the right and upper left.  The Greek salad on the trip was great and ended up being mine and Lori's meals at many places.  The oily vine leaves were served cold and tasted pretty good dipped in yogurt.

Dana Johnson Pic - Kalle had eggplant stuffed with potato, lamb, mushroom, feta cheese, and a sauce.  I had a similar dish only mine was cooked in a clay pot shaped like a pig.

Dana Johnson Pic - Chicken souvlaki (skewers with meat and veg), potatoes, and Greek yogurt.  This is Lori's while Karl picked the lamb.  The souvlaki was one of my favorites in Greece.
Thursday Day 2- Our plan today was check out Oia (pronounced E-ah) and Fira using the public buses which was a good and bad idea.  All buses use Fira as a hub so to get from Akrotiri to Oia we had to go from Akrotiri to Fira (bus runs every 1.5 hours - bad) then from Fira to Oia (bus runs every 30 minutes - good).  The buses were cheaper than using a taxi (about half price) or renting a car/ATV/scooter.  Fortunately the trip planner had a relaxed itinerary for the trip so waiting around for the next bus was never a problem.  The ATV or bike/scooter option sounded fun but not really practical for a family of four.  

Dana Johnson Pic - Breakfast was pretty good.  The yogurt tasted good on the pound cake (not pictured) while the croissants were light and fluffy.  The mushroom omelet didn't do much for me but the layers of thin pancake/philo dough on the bottom left was very good.

After eating breakfast and realising the next bus was over an hour away we went back to the room for a bit then walked to Akrotiri.  Here is the hotel view from the road.

Looking down one of the streets of Akrotiri (Wiki link).  We really liked our location (except for the bus schedule) as we were away from the bigger, touristy towns.  It felt more like the "real" local experience which is our preference when travelling to foreign countries.

A common sight, these small one room churches in the middle of nothing.  The shrub patches in the background were ALL OVER the island.  They had little berry groupings growing on them, we speculated they were grapes but didn't ask a local.

The local bus map and the map of Santorini (Wiki link).  Our hotel is above the "5" and on the cliff facing the "Volcano's Crater".  We picked Santorini mainly based upon travel site reviews for the islands and pictures.  This and Mykonos (our second stop) are two of the few places where the real life views lived up to the postcard picturest.  Most places we have travelled don't live up to the advertised pictures but these places both did which more than pleasantly surprised us. 
Santorini is also called Thira or Thera and has the odd shape thanks to the volcano eruption (see volcano crater above on map for location).  The famous Santorini black and red beaches are also thanks to the volcano.  We didn't tour the volcano but Lori did mention it would be neat, unfortunately for Lori her motion didn't pass the majority popular vote and was denied.  Per the link the volcano erupted 3600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilisation and may be the inspiration for the Atlantis legend.  From the Wiki link - "Pipes with running water and water clostes found at Akrotiri are the oldest such utilities discovered[citation needed]. The pipes run in twin systems, indicating that the Therans used both hot and cold water supplies; the origin of the hot water probably was geothermic, given the volcano's proximity. The dual pipe system, the advanced architecture, and the apparent layout of the Akrotiri find resemble Plato's description of the legendary lost city of Atlantis, further indicating the Minoans as the culture which primarily inspired the Atlantis legend."  The island is part of the Cyclades Islands in the south Aegean Sea although a local told me they were actually part of the Sea of Crete.  We mainly picked this as our first stop because it was farther from Athens then Mykonos (we flew to the furthest island from Athens then took ferries back to Athens) and loved the pictures we found of the island when researching Greece online.

Walking around Fira (travel link) and fighting the massive crowds.  We saw a lot of tour groups and the docked cruise was transporting people to shore as we looking at the harbor which reminded us of the AM touring groups in Rome.  I guess that is the European tour time as Fira turned into a ghost town in the late afternoon.

Mosaic above a monastery entrance we didn't go inside since we were wearing shorts and not "properly dressed" for an orthodox church/monastery.  Lori and the kids were having a mild panic attack that I was going to enter it in my shorts. 
The cloister with someone's grave and church behind it.

Overlooking the volcano crater and the cruise ship passengers droving into shore.  This day was so windy by the coast we had to hold our hats otherwise they would blow off.

About to fight the crowds along Tourist Row.  Fira was as beautiful as it was touristy.

All we needed was the haze to burn off and the postcard would be perfect.

Looking down the switchback path to Old Port. 

Steve Frey Pic - Lori wanted to go on a donkey ride but didn't want to go by herself.  The three of us declined as riding animals is not high on my list of Fun Times.
Since it was lunch time and we were in Tourist City Fira we fell back to our default restaurant selection process - wander the streets until we find a place with a Trip Advisor endorsed sticker in the window.  And once again Trip Advisor didn't let us down as Lithos was very good and not very expensive.  We paid 54 Euro for a horrible lunch at the airport in Athens and 46 Euro for a great lunch here.

Dana Johnson Pic - Karl tried a gyro platter which was pita, cubed meat (lamb, chicken or steak - this was steak), onion and tzatziki.  The fries completes the platter.  Lori and I thought they tasted great while Karl likes the Brit gyros better.  He also says Brit beef tastes like US beef so Lori and I typically ignore his food tasting opinions.  

Dana Johnson Pic - One of my many, many Greek salad meals.  Lettuce, onion, tomatoes, capers, olives, and oil with some green sprinkles.  Tasted great on a warm day.  The other Fatboys would have loved Greece as I can't recall one meal that didn't include olives.
After lunch we walked a bit more then headed back to the Fira bus station to dodge buses and catch one to Oia (travel link).  The Fira hub is basically a small parking lot full of buses trying to back over oblivious tourists.  I didn't see any buses actually hit people but saw about ten buses drive less than a foot by people.  Oia was like Fira, beautiful and ultra touristy only smaller. 

Dana Johnson Pic - Greek gelato.  Slightly different flavors than Italy but as good.  The Italian gelato flavors were homogeneous while the Greek flavors had stronger bits of the flavor mixed in that snapped your mouth a bit.  The intense flavor bites were a little odd at first but quickly grew on you.  

A church at Oia.  The white walls and blue roof buildings were common on Santorini and Mykonos.

Looking along the cliff.  The sun is occasionally darting out from between the clouds now.

Amoudi Bay with its red cliffs.

Oia with its Greek style windmill and white walled, cliff side houses.

The kids on the western side of Oia.  One of the "To Do's" was to watch the sunset here but we didn't even consider it this day thanks to the haze.
 It takes about ten minutes to walk from the bus stop to Amoudi Bay which is the tiny town's high point so after seeing the bay and taking some pictures we were ready to head back to Fira.  Not only was Oia tiny but it is super popular which means the buses are packed going back to Fira.  The mob waiting to get onto the bus was more than the bus held (seated plus standing in the aisle).  We were near the back of the mob and didn't get onto the bus so we made sure we were near the front of the mob for the next bus.
Not a lot to see between Fira and Oia.

Walking around Fira after missing the Akrotiri bus by five minutes.  Time to burn an hour and change by walking around Fira some more before heading back to Akrotiri for dinner. 
Dinner was at Maria Restaurant, another fine Akrotiri eating establishment.  Not a great location for buses but a great location for restaurants.

Kevin Coleman Pic - A mini bucket of the house wine.  Not smooth, it had a strong bite to it that I didn't like.

Dana Johnson Pic - Moussaka which was superb here but not as good in a couple of other places I tried it.

Dana Johnson Pic - Lori found the tomatoes and peppers stuffed with Spanish style rice very tasty.

Kalle had pasta with shrimp as big as her head.  I am holding it by her head to show the size, no trick photography here.

Dana Johnson Pic - Lori had baklava (on left) a couple of times and found out it is always served warm in Greece.  She also said it tasted better than US baklava.  On the right is grapes swimming in honey which was very sweet.  A lot of places gave us the complementary after dinner snacks like these grapes which was a sweet little surprise.

Back at the hotel listening to the waves smash into shore.  Windy day all around the island.

What better way to enjoy a relaxing day then put your feet up and enjoy the view?  It was in the 70's F and cloudy most of the day but the evening is brightening up.

Looking at the striated cliff by Athinios.  Fira is to the left.

Cliff close up.  Come on out and enjoy the day sunshine!

The evening brightened up enough I decided to check out the black beach below us and dip my toes in the Aegean Sea.  Karl volunteered to join me and Kalle grudgingly said yes so Lori made it a foursome.

Looking out at the bobbing boats and black rock beach.   
Between the black sand beach and our flip flops was a row of small black rocks that we did not enjoy walking on.  The water was cold which fine until some bigger waves came in that soaked us up past the knees.  After a couple of those waves we called it a day and retreated back to our room.
I decided to try low-tech time lapse the sunset since the sky cleared for us. 

Getting lower.

Almost gone now.

And it's gone.  G'night all!
Friday Day 3 - Being on the relaxing Greek vacation we are on, we lazily started the day again.  Our bus choices out of Akrotiri were 9:05 AM or 10:20 AM so we chose the later bus which means we could sleep in (for us) and still be ready in time.  Our agenda today was Kamari and Akrotiri with a couple of trips to the bus terminal in Fira.

Our morning view - now this is the Greece you see on postcards and is the Greece we would see for the rest of the trip.  I miss Greece already.

Harbinger of another windy day as you look at the white caps rolling into shore.

We saw a lot of these housing skeletons on the island.  Obviously the building boom busted very quickly with the number of housing shells.  Kind of sad.  We loved the islands but with a drop in tourism it is easy to see how Greece has suffered. 

Sample rural view, kind of a combination of Tuscany with the villages nestled on the hills and Israel with its hills of sparse vegetation.

We finally make it to Kamari Beach and were promptly disappointed.  Super touristy but not as beautiful as the other towns.
I picked Kamari for a few reasons.  One - look at the open air cinema which unfortunately was closed that day so scratch that off of the list.  Two - Look at a close monastery (Profitis Ilias - read travel link) on a local hill which ended up being closed that day also so strike two.  Three - Ancient Thera (Wiki link) which is ruins on top of another hill which we decided not to see for a few reasons.  We are about ruined on ruins and I had ruins scheduled on the next island so I didn't want to overload us before Delos, the ruins are reached by a steep uphill 4 km walk which didn't sound fun, or could be reached by a spendy 40 Euro bus ride which seemed a little usury.  40 Euro for a 4 km ride while a taxi ride covering half of the island was only 25 Euro.  I was on the fence to see these already but once they told us 40 Euro that tipped the scale for Lori and I.  The kids were against seeing the ruins so the vote was unanimous.  The most disappointing stop for us on the island.

Nice looking beach but another windy day.  We had sand blown through us many times on the walk to the cave in the distance, not exactly the day to enjoy the beach.
The wrinkly Old Man Sea.

The view of Kamari Beach from the cave.  Pretty scenery and more of the postcard blue water. 

Interesting post office box.

From farther along the beach after walking back and forth along the beach and being whipped by sand enough times that we are done.  Time to wander the back streets and find a place for lunch.  We skipped all the beach side restaurants and found a back street place that was average.

Dana Johnson Pic - Another of the after meal snacks; this is a dense, crusty pastry that was a tad dry.  The bottom was actually part of the pastry instead of paper which was neat. 
After lunch it was back to Fira to check out Akrotiri.  We again opted not to tour the ruins at Ancient Akrotiri (link) although I waffled a little on this site.  Reviews were mixed but a common theme was hire a guide to tour them and since I hadn't hired a guide we voted on the site.  Not a majority yes vote (I was on the fence myself) so we skipped it and walked down to the Akrotiri Beach.

An awful lot of white water crashing into the beach.  Still very windy.

Close up of the Akrotiri Beach which was lined with restaurants.  The water above assaulted the break walls the whole time we were here.

The famous Red Beach of Akrotiri.  Big waves coming in so we didn't do any beaching this day but it was neat to see.  You can see the massive size of it by the people on the left side walking along the beach.  I wish the day would have been better as this would have been a cool beach to hang out at for a while.  The White Beach was further along the coast but I didn't have a good map of where it was so we didn't wander off in search of it.

Back to Akrotiri Beach.  We are loving the weather but the 80's F and sunshine is sapping our Englishised constitutions.  We are all pasty white and used to 50's F so we were all tiring sooner that I would have liked.  Good thing I am so flexible on my schedule.

We stopped at one of the beach front restaurants for a snack and refreshments while watching the waves assault the break walls.  I typically don't like sitting around a lot but I didn't mind sitting by the beaches and watching/listening to the water.

Kevin Coleman Pic - A new beer named Alfa.  Not bad, light and mild like the rest of the Greek lagers.

We enjoyed listening to the roaring waves pound the break walls and seeing how high they would splash on this cross.  A fun day to watch the beach even if we couldn't be on it.

On the upward sloping walk back to our hotel to veg for a while before supper.  A little barren but not many tourists. 
Fira from our balcony.  The volcano crater is creeping into the left side of the picture.

After another fine meal in Akrotiri, this time at Zafora, we headed back to our hotel.  This was our last night in beautiful Santorini.  We all loved the island food and views (which was helped by the sunshine).  So far our vacation is exceeding our expectations.
Saturday Day 4- Our ferry to Mykonos left around noon so we slowly started the day before hiring a taxi (25 Euro again, I think anywhere on the islands was 25 Euro) to drop us off at the New Port.  The 2.5 hour ferry ride was okay except for white as a sheet Kalle worrying me.  She tossed her cookies on the Scotland to Northern Ireland ferry so Lori brought seasick pills for her and Kalle this time.  The pills kicked in about three quarters through the trip and her color started returning so I started relaxing towards the end of the ride but didn't enjoy the first couple of hours at all.  The ride was pretty smooth for both of our ferry trips.

Random rock pic on the ride.  We couldn't go outside so I didn't take many pictures. 
The ferry stopped once at Peros to unload and load passengers then we were back to the sea.

Our first view of Mykonos.
Deferrying at Mykonos. 

Another winning hotel, this one is Hotel Madalena (hotel link).  The courtesy shuttle service was nice also.  One of the things I have noticed on these trips is how important it is to find the hotel promptly when arriving in new towns.  It doesn't make or break the stay but a smooth start sure helps calm the nerves.

The view of Mykonos New Port from our hotel balcony.

I hope I don't overload you with house building pictures here but we all loved the white walls, painted doors/shutters, and colorful flowers in Mykonos.  Santorini was nice but didn't seem as clean as Mykonos when you walked the streets.

More of the multicolored water here with deep water being a deeper blue than the shallow water.  The harbor water here has an added rock color closer to shore which I would try capturing later (greyish/brownish rock color, light blue color, deep blue color layered on top of one another) and pay for my foolishness. 

Steve Frey Pic - He may have qualms about me including a pelican in this category but how many wild pelicans do you get to stroke in your lifetime?  We all got to stroke this guy who was mugging for the cameras.  Lori and Kalle are taking their turn here.  His feathers were very soft and his neck hard as steel.  Mykonos Town is know for their resident pelicans which I knew but didn't think we'd be able to pet.  An awesome experience I have to admit.
We asked the hotel for a restaurant recommendation and he told us to try Niko's Taverna which we did and really liked it.  We even ate their twice as the food in Mykonos wasn't as good as Santorini so we double dipped Niko's later in the stay. 

Kevin Coleman Pic - Another fine lager.

Dana Johnson Pic - The saganaki or fried cheese.  We had them in a few places but Fira was my favorite as they seasoned it with pepper which gave it a little flavor.

Dana Johnson Pic - I saw cheese stuffed burgers on the menu a few times and finally tried them here.  Good but not great although everyone else really liked their meals.

Typical walking view through Chora or Mykonos Town.  Completely opposite experience of Venice so we loved it.

I loved loved loved the colors here.

Speaking of Venice this part of Mykonos Town is named Little Venice.

Looking at the windmills on the hill.  Lori asked what they were used for and they are mainly used as houses or grape/olive presses.  The windmill wheels spokes were wooden with a canvas wrapped around them.  I would guess the canvas is unwrapped and secured to the spokes to create a solid wheel in order to power the presses but didn't ask.

The islands were full of these tiny one room churches.  Usually I didn't enter as I was wearing shorts but this Catholic church didn't have a No Shorts sign so I ducked inside.  This was also bigger than most of the other churches.

This was more of the typical size.  The doors were open so I snapped a picture but didn't enter.  I would guess they were Greek Orthodox but none of them had signs.  I found it fascinating that they had so many of them, maybe they are just prayer chapels and not churches?  Mark that down as question #239 I didn't but should have asked a local.

More of my favorite streets.

A rare little square in Mykonos Town.

So thankful the sun was shining for us here.

Looking across the harbor to our hotel which is on the hillside to the left.

Another little church building.

The inside of it.  I didn't capture it but most of these had a row of high seats on each side.

Dana Johnson Pic - Ummm gelato.  My vanilla on bottom right, Karl's dark chocolate on bottom left, Kalle's chocolate chip and vanilla type on top left, and Lori's orange sorbet type on top right.

Back at the hotel.  Mykonos was as beautiful as the Santorini towns and just as touristy although it didn't seem to bother us as much here.  Maybe because of the heat stroke after 19 months of sunless living?

The one place we missed in Mykonos Town was the all white building in the middle, Panagia Paraportiana church.  We'll have to catch it tomorrow.

Our pool.  Kalle provided us (me and the few ladies already at the pool as Lori and Karl were a few minutes behind us) with a chuckle as she walked to the seven foot end of the pool and dropped in.  She didn't realize it was seven feet deep so when she dropped in and didn't touch bottom she kind of popped up gasping in surprise (not panic).  We all laughed for a minute while Kalle was embarrassed and a little mad at me for laughing.  I thought it was kind of cute although she didn't agree with me.
After the pool Lori discovered sun poisoning on Kalle legs so it was back to town to find a skirt and some aloe for the rest of us as we are getting a little pink now.  The sun poisoning never bothered her although she wore the skirt for the rest of the trip and took Benadryl every night.  She said it was never painful and didn't act any different than her normal demeanor.  Probably a conspiracy between her and Lori to get a new skirt.

An attempt at artsy although it is more Hiroshima as I look at it now.
We took our hotel's advice and ate supper by the water to watch the sunset along Little Venice.  The meal was the typical tourist spot okay meal except for Lori's sea bass which was really good.

It was neat to watch it rapidly sink into the water, I'm glad we went to see it.  It was kind of odd how most of the people applauded as the sun sank into the water as if to say, good job sun.

The sun falling off the face of the earth as the waves dance across the sea.
Sunday Day 5- Our only full day in Mykonos.  A beautiful island but small and barren so I only picked two nights here as opposed to three in Santorini.  We opted out of the Mykonos beaches since the Whiners like pools over beaches and our ghostly white skin would probably burn in an hour if we were on a beach.  Our agenda was to check out Delos then play the rest of the day by ear.

I really like mornings in the Cyclades.

Dana Johnson Pic - Breakfast was advertised as an American breakfast which was close but not quite the same.  The hot dogs were a strange pick as was the French toast with cheese and a piece of English bacon on it.  The kitchen did make scrambled eggs and omelets so I was happy.  And they had as much coffee as you could drink.

Vincent Price on location playing the jaunty tourist.  Nailed it!

We had some time before the boat left so we check out the Panagia Paraportiana church (Wiki link).

Which was closed so we walked around it twice, clicked our heels, and found a pelican.

Steve Frey Pic - We saw this pelican looking out to sea so Kalle was trying to call it to look our way which irked the lady next to us who was "tching" trying to get it to look our way.  She was also trying to take a picture but Kalle seemed to be bothering her so she walked down the dock a bit to get away from us.  As soon as the lady walked away and set up her camera the pelican turned and I took this picture.  The lady is off to our right so the pelican is still facing away from the crabby lady which kind of made Lori and I chuckle. 
Delos (Wiki link) is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis so its good enough for us.  You can also read about it here.  A few interesting facts from the websites:  It has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC based upon stone huts found on the island (we're talking Stonehenge old now), was a sacred cult center from 900 BC to 100 AD, and was second in importance only to Delphi to the ancient Greeks.  But it is hard to tell from touring it.  One of the few World Heritage Site let downs for us.  The girls were not happy here and the boys were not impressed.  It was all ruins and we unfortunately picked the path through the least impressive part to start so our first impression was "this won't take long".  It did grow on me a bit but not enough to say I really liked it.  This is another place we opted to tour ourselves.  The guide would have helped I imagine but just would have slowed down the women's sprint team so it probably wouldn't have been a good idea.
On the way to Delos, Mykonos behind us.
Our first sight of Delos.  I saw this and started thinking "uh-oh".

Some base in the Sanctuary.

More Sanctuary ruins.  Some artifacts are in Greek Museums and others are in the British Museum.  As I have mentioned before the British museums have a knack of "acquiring" a lot of foreign artifacts.

The still standing doorway caught my eye.

The Portico of Philip V.  Not really getting better yet.

These info boards were supposed to help you visualize what the ruins used to look like but everything was so destroyed now it didn't help a whole lot.  
You can see the worn walking path down the temple steps here. 

Looks like... ummm...

The Temple of the Delians, construction started in 476 BC and was never completed.

Picture of an artists interpretation of Delos.  This helped me visualize the island a little but it was still disappointing as we wandered the ruins.

Letoon, the sanctuary of Leto who is Apollo and Artemis' mother.

Walking down the Lion Terrace, you can see the lions on the left.  The lions here are replicas, the original 7th/6th C BC lions are in the Delos museum.

A bunch of houses.  After touring half of the island we headed for the museum to see some more weathered statues. 

Read below.

For above.  Interesting and ancient but very hard to distinguish any features which sums up a lot of Delos.

Statue of an actor in costume, 2nd - 1st C BC.

6th C BC statue of sphinx.  We've seen a lot of 2nd - 1st C BC artifacts but not much this old.

Boxing was a common theme on/near Thera.  It didn't say how old these were but they were found on the island.
After the museum was a brief discussion on seeing the other half of the island or calling it a day and heading back to Mykonos.  We were all underwhelmed so far and it felt like the hottest day yet but we decided to see the rest.  Okay, I wanted to see the rest and Lori backed me so we did but it was a long discussion.  The reason for the discussion was the boat back to Mykonos.  If we didn't get on the boat returning in about fifteen minutes then we have a two and a half hour wait.  So I decided to punish everyone and we hiked the rest of the island ruins. 

More ruined buildings and Mount Kynthos waaaaay far in the distance.  But nooooot far enough.  Lori is not my #1 fan right about now.

Another temple on the hillside.
The Temple of Isis at the base of Mount Kynthos.

The Temple of Isis.

At the base of Mount Kynthos looking up the steps.  I think Lori is conserving her climbing energy by not talking to me now.  Smart move Lor! 

A few feet from the summit.  I looked down and see all the hills and stone walls snaking through the brush.  The Romans settled here after the Greeks so I am guessing those are their walls.  Great views of the blue water all around the island.  Definitely made the trek up worthwhile. 

From the top of Mount Kynthos looking over the other side of the island.  The literature said 30,000 people lived here in the Hellenistic Period but I have a hard time believing it.

From the top of Mount Kynthos looking over the ruins and harbor.  The ankle breaking steps are taunting us.

But we succeed without breaking anything or falling.  The walk down was actually harder than the walk up.
Now we are in the Maritime Quarter which was the main residential area.  I enjoyed walking through here as the room walls were intact, columns were still standing, and floor mosaics could still be seen.  Much better than the overgrown rubble garden on the other side of the island.

Interesting (to me) stone wall construction.

Looks like a Greek wall with the rough face stones.

Looks like a Roman wall with the smooth face bricks.

Making our way back to the harbor.  Kalle now has sun poisoning on her arms so she is wearing the long sleeve shirt Lori bought for her shoulders.  At least Lori bought that shirt big so that's my shirt now.  Way to get sun poisoning Kal!

Another interesting to me wall construction comparison, this one is side by side.

Delos theater which sat 5500 people.

The House of the Dolphins. 

Mosaic from the House of the Dolphins.  Hard to believe this is still in such good shape.

Looking down the street.  I can actually picture this being a town.

The House of Dionysus.

Floor mosaic of Dionysus riding a panther in the House of Dionysus.  Fierce!

Last look at Delos.  Rough start but Mount Kynthos was worth the climb and the Maritime Quarter was pretty good.  Still not as interesting/fascinating as the other World Heritage Sites but not bad for being almost 3,000 years old I guess.

Odd looking rock formation.

We saw a few of these oddities, lone buildings on a rock in the middle of the sea. 

Here's me being a dummy.  I stopped at the break wall to take a picture of the water as it changes from the grey rocks color to shallow light blue water to deep dark blue water as a big waves splashes me.  Water soaks my camera, all the idiots along the wall "eek" as we get wet and I meticulously try to dry my camera as I curse out Poseidon.  Now my lens cover doesn't close all the way any more.  Someday I will be smarter but it doesn't look to be happening anytime soon.

Dana Johnson Pic - Lori's hummus and my Greek salad.  We needed to sit in the shade after spending half the day on Delos getting lobster arms and legs.  Plus it was past lunch time so we regrouped back at Niko's.

Steve Frey Pic - After lunch we saw our friends the pelicans again so Lori was going to pet the one on the right when it snapped at her as she reached to pet it.  It was quite funny but I missed the picture.  Apparently they are temperamental and don't always want to be petted.  You can also see from the top right and bottom left corners of the picture that my camera lens cover doesn't always open all the way either.  One more country, one more country, one more country.
After lunch we sat in the shade by the water and absorbed the environment for a while before aimlessly wandering around the town before going back to the room.  This day ended a little earlier than usual but we were all red from the Delos sun and Kalle's expanding sun poisoning concerned us enough to pack it in for the day.  We ended up ordering poor take out for supper. 

More Mykonos Town street walking pics.

And more.

On the way back to our hotel.

Watching the sunset from our balcony.

Close up of the sunset.
Monday Day 6 - Monday was our travel day to Athens.  We had an afternoon ferry so we did the spinning dart board toss method of selecting the morning activity.  We finally decided on a morning trip inland to Ano Mera, the only village on Mykonos.  It took us a while to find the Chora bus stop, we actually asked four different people because we kept following the directions but not finding it.  I'll show you later how we missed it.

I really really like mornings in the Cyclades.

This is the Ano Mera bus stop.

More colorful trees/shrubs and white houses. 

I later found out Ano Mera has the Panagia Tourliani Monastery (link) and not much else.  We were able to look inside the church and take pictures which was nice as we haven't seen many monasteries in our travels.  The monastery was built in 1542.

Looks like the pulpit.

Looking down the main drag.

The altar screen was made in 1775 by Florentine artists per the link.


Monastery from the village square.

Half of the village square.

The other half of the village square.  We've been here about twenty minutes and have pretty much seen the village.

Looks like a play ground with the sparsely populated hills of Ano Mera in the distance.

Burning time until we sit down for lunch.
Another side church/chapel that shares a common wall with out lunch spot.
Looking inside another small church/chapel.

The benches along the wall.

We ate at this cool tavern built around the tree.

Dana Johnson Pic - The gyro pita was another of my many favorites in Greece.  The food was so good here.  This dish is pita, onion, tomato, lamb, tzatziki, and paprika.

Dana Johnson Pic - Another after meal treat.  This was Greek yogurt topped with shaved carrots and honey.  Very tasty.  
I'm allergic to cats so am not naturally drawn to them but this attentive cat staring through the window made me stop for a picture.

The barren countryside on the bus ride back.  Not much to see in Ano Mera but we did manage to occupy the morning.  Mykonos has a ton of beaches but with Kalle's condition we decided to stay out of the sun as much as possible which we accomplished in Ano Mera.

On the hill overlooking Chora.  You can see the windmills.

Back at the bus stop which is actually the chalk board mounted on the post across the street.  It didn't help that our first set of instructions were incorrect and had us going in a different direction.  We had walked by this place many times as it is between our hotel and Chora but the bus was never parked there as it is now so it never registered as being the bus stop.  Even worse was the convenience store behind me which we stopped at a few times for drinks and snacks.  In case you were wondering, the "buses" in the Greek islands are really "coaches" which was pretty nice.  Unless you are in Oia fighting for a seat amongst the mob in which case the limited seating buses were not pretty nice. 

We had time for one more walk through Chora when I walked past this scenic view.  You are probably sick of these pictures by now but don't worry, Athens looks nothing like the islands so the scenery will change in a bit.

Map of Mykonos.  You can see Mykonos Town, Ano Mera and all the beaches.

The picture I was trying to get earlier along the break wall when I soaked my camera.  I am feeling a little bit smarter now.

Burned out car on the New Port car park that seemed to stand out here.  Something I would expect in Israel or Belfast but not here.

If I remember correctly Jim Lang, this was Syros.  It stood out because the houses were cream colored not white.  Lori and I would both love to come back for another vacation and tour the islands.  Sorry for the horrible picture through the dirty ferry window.  
We are in Athens now as the huge waterfront buildings tell us.

Look kids, the Acropolis, the Parthenon!  Channeling my inner Clark W. Griswold we could not find the Underground Line 2 station from the hotel's website instructions so we just gave up and hailed a taxi.
We finally make it to our Novotel hotel, check in, and ask for a place to eat.  The hotel has a restaurant but that is usually the last option for us.  They directed us down a very dark side street to a church with a few restaurants around it.  Full of trepidation and hunger we start off to find a restaurant.

Next to Restaurant Row was this church.  I think we are here.  Technically an always correct statement but you get it.

The square outside the church was a congregation point for the neighborhood.  There was a group of women talking on a bench, there was younger parents with a child playing in the corner, a few older men were talking by the gate, a gaggle of pre-teen age boys were playing football off to the side, some younger kids were playing tag all over the square.  This was a very neat "ambiance" type place to sit down and enjoy the evening.  Lori and I love these places that feel more "neighbourhood" than "tourist trap convenient". 
Our neighborhood restaurant.  You gotta love when they cook the food in front of you (you can see the grill on the left of the doorway).

Sitting in the tavern garden and loving the weather.  It has been upper 70's to mid 80's F every day and sunny except for the first couple of days in Santorini.  Just another reason to love Greece.

Dana Johnson Pic - Octopus on the left (not our meal) and a "big fish, very good" on the right.  They didn't know the English name but Lori found it online later and it was a Sea Bream.  Another great meal in Greece.  Our travelling restaurant experiences have usually been very good when the restaurant workers don't speak English very well.
Kind of funny experience on the after supper walk to the hotel.  We stopped at a small convenience store to get some drinks and the store keeper had to get up to unlock the door to let us in.  You gotta love the neighborhoods where the stores are open but locked after dark.  Now that's what I call authentic neighborhood.
Karl tried the Fanta Blue which is really orange Fanta without carbonation.  It was quite common on our stops in Athens. 
Tuesday Day 7 - We planned for one day in Athens to check out the Acropolis and whatever else fit into our relaxed pace schedule.  After breakfast we had the front desk call us a cab to take us to the Acropolis (Wiki link), another stop taken from my favorite travel destinations guide the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.  This one lived up to its designation unlike Delos in my opinion while Lori was not impressed by it.  Our cabbie was very friendly and gave us a "deal" on the way down.  He even suggested that we "work together" tomorrow for our airport ride so I said yes and told him what time to meet us at the hotel.  More on that later.

The area in front of the hotel looks nicer in the daytime.

On the cab ride down we saw an arch and temple remnants standing in the middle of the road.  Kind of odd I thought.

The cabbie dropped us off by the rear entrance, here's a map of the site.  We are the bottom right entrance.

Ever wonder about the slopes under The Acropolis?  Now you don't need to wonder.

Standing at number 1 (picture below) looking up at the Parthenon.  I have to admit I was getting a little excited to finally see the Parthenon in person.  I didn't have it high on my list of things to see when our secondment started because I didn't think we would make it to Greece but now that we are here I am pretty excited to see it.

Model representation of what the area is thought to have looked like back in the day.  It's hard to believe how advanced the Greeks then Romans lived before the Dark Ages set the world back a thousand years.
Standing in front of the Theatre of Dionysos (Wiki link).  The remains you see are from 4th C BC.  We also saw some Dionysos buildings on Delos.
Between the theaters were remains of buildings and temples being restored.  I'm not sure what they will end up looking like but they just looked like rubble now.

The Theatre of Herodes Atticus (Wiki link).  This new theater is from 161 AD and seats 5000 people.

It was renovated in 1950 which is why it looks so new.  Kind of reminds me of Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison, Colorado which is a spectacular place take in a concert.

The Temple of Athena Nike (Wiki link) on top of the wall.  It was built about 420 BC.

The Buele Gate which was disappointingly named after a French archaeologist.

Looking up at the Propylaia (Wiki link).  It was built in the 430's BC and was supposedly the basis for the Brandenburg Gates in Berlin.

I loved the columns and stones here, especially considering their historical perspective.

Finally in the middle of The Acropolis with the Parthenon on the right and Erechtheion on the left.

The Parthenon (Wiki link), the crown jewel of ancient Athens.  It was built between 447 and 438 BC and is in the middle of a massive renovation project.

Parthenon info board 1.
Parthenon info board 2.
Looking down the side of the Parthenon brought a couple of thoughts into my head.  Number One - probably not a good idea to store gunpowder in Parthenon during a war.  Number Two - it was great to finally see the Parthenon after seeing pieces of it in The British Museum, The Louvre, the Vatican Museums and the Glyptothek in Munich. 

The Pandroseion (Wiki link) location by the olive tree and  Erechtheion (Wiki link) which was a temple and was built around 420 BC.

In case you were wondering why Athens is named Athens instead of Poseidons.

Some Acropolis information you may never find useful.

The representative sacred olive tree from above.  Not much left of the Pandroseion now.

The restoration work and equipment detracted a little from the view but I am guessing it will be spectacular when it is completed.  I would be a little conflicted seeing the completed work knowing it is composite 2500 year old marble and modern day filler material but certainly would be worth it to preserve the temple for future generations.
Restoration close up.

The Propylaia on the left and Erechtheion on the right.

I found it interesting to see the different Erechtheion end designs.  On the right is a six column façade, for the opposite end scroll up a few pictures to the olive tree picture. 

Waiting behind the Parthenon for me to take one more picture.  Okay, I will oblige.

Looking down at the sprawl of Athens.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus (Wiki link) and Hadrian's Arch.  Only 300 more triumphal arches left to see in the world.  The temple construction started in the 6th C BC and completed in the 2nd C AD during Hadrian's reign.   

A rare panoramic picture that I take myself that I like.  Anywhere we went in Athens it was buildings as far as the eye could see.

Looking down at the Theater of Dionysos.

Restoration info board that may only interest me, my cousin Tim, and my father.

Picture of Parthenon picture without equipment cluttering the view.

Front steps on the Parthenon.

Rear of Propylaia on our way out.  This site must have been spectacular when it was still standing.  This picture is taken from the site of The Statue of Athena Promachos (Wiki link). 

Backside view of Temple of Athena Nike.

Looking down on Areopagos Hill (link).

Final look from the Acropolis.  I thought it was as interesting as the Roman Colosseum but the rest of the family thought the Colosseum was much better.

Walking on the slick rock surface of Areopagos Hill.  From the link above for the non-link readers: The hill is associated with Paul supposedly delivering his sermon on the Athenians worshipping of unknown gods in 52 AD.  He is supposedly to have converted Dionysios Aereopagitis here who would eventually be named the patron saint of Athens.  His name could be the origin of the rock's name.  

View of Ancient Agora from Areopagos Hill.  We'll be there soon.

View of Acropolis from restaurant we stopped at for lunch but decided against eating there after looking at the menu.  Nice view though.

I was tempted to stay as some TV crew was setting up for a piece since I wouldn't understand what they would be saying I didn't think it would worth the wait.
So instead of lunch we went to the Ancient Agora (link) which was the heart of Ancient Athens.  I mentioned how neat it was to walk in the footsteps of Socrates when the kids asked who was Socrates?  Okay, maybe they are a bit young for philosophy lessons but when they do learn about him I hope they remember walking here.  Karl had heard of Socrates' student Plato though.   

The Temple of Hephaestus (Wiki link) was built in the 400's BC.

Looking our over Ancient Agora and up at The Acropolis.

Looking up at The Temple of Hephaestus.

The Altar of Zeus Agoraios, a 4th C BC altar.

This was another Greek ruins site that left more to the imagination than the eyes which isn't real popular with my gang.  A lot of history which is great for me but not so great for the history averse girls.  Karl picked up bits and bobs here and there so he thermometered between interested and bored. 

The Middle Stoa built in the 2nd C BC and destroyed by fire in the 3rd C AD.

Odeon of Agrippa, a concert hall built in the 1st C BC.

The Stoa of Attalos.  The original was built in the 2nd C BC, destroyed in the 3rd C AD, and rebuilt in the 1950's.  Lori didn't like it but I enjoyed seeing what they thought the building looked like in its original design.  The Auntie "B" Word of the Week is stoa.  

Inside the stoa was some artifacts along the walls and in the museum.  Semi interesting since we have seen a lot of 2nd C BC to 2nd C AD statues already, we probably would have really liked it if we did this trip on the front end of the secondment.

4th C BC coin for Lori.

2nd C BC coin.

"Statue of Themis (?), 350 - 325 B.C."

Model of Acropolis.

Model of southern slope of Acropolis, the Theater of Herodes Atticus is on the bottom left of the picture.

Model of Ancient Agora.  We are standing in the Stoa of Attalos on the far left of the picture, the Temple of Hephaestus is on the far right.

"Statue of youthful Herakles, 2nd cent. A.D."  The lion's skin gives away this statue being Hercules.

Looking out over Ancient Agora from the second story of the stoa.  Lots of trees.
Walking along Panathenaic Way (link then scroll down), a street that goes through the central square of the agora.  Since we're on Greek words this week Auntie "B" I'll throw agora at you for your second Word of the Week. 

Standing by walls built by the Greeks (left wall) and Romans (right wall).  The Church of the Holy Apostles (Wiki link) is a 10th C church restored in the 1950's.  It didn't look to be open so we didn't look inside.
Our Acropolis tickets included the Ancient Agora as well as Roman Agora (link) so that was next on our list.  We didn't walk all of the Ancient Agora but saw the highlights before the Wet Blanket Gang tired of them.  On our five minute walk to the Roman site we decided to grab lunch and stumbled upon a TripAdvisor recommended site.  It was tucked behind a corner but had the small sandwich board on the street pointing towards it.  A great find as we were a couple blocks from a big touristy area which would have been our second option.

Walking around the Roman Agora as we look for a restaurant.
The Eastern Propylon.

Still walking.

Our table view from Platanos Taverna.  The meal was good again and was under 40 Euro which I did not expect to find in Athens.  Double bonus!

Temple remnants.  The agora was built between 19 - 11 BC by the Romans as they settled into Athens.  See the small booth under the tree on the left?  We walked almost all the way around the fenced perimeter before seeing it.

Looking down the center.  Another sight long on imagination and short on visuals.  Not that I am complaining but we have seen a lot of Roman ruins in England, Spain, Italy and now Greece.  Still neat but not the WOW factor anymore.  We're such snobs. 

The Eastern Propylon (check it out Auntie "B", your third Word of the Week).

The info board said the date of demolition is not known but it was in use until the 19th C.  How cool would it have been to be walking through almost 2,000 year old buildings every day?

The Tower of the Winds, read about it below

For above.

The Public Latrines, read about them below.

I wonder if you had to pay to use these?

Interesting facts I thought.

Some other ruins we walked past.

Walking down tourist row.  We had to find an Acropolis fridge magnet for our collection.  I almost bought some beautiful St. George and the Dragon art but didn't as we already have to many wall souvenirs for our Brownsburg house.

The Metropolitan Church of Athens (Wiki link), or Duomo was under heavy remodelling so we couldn't tour it.

Archbishop Damaskinos blessing the Duomo.
Constantine XI standing guard behind the Archbishop.

After finding the Hard Rock Café so Karl could get a HRC Athens shirt we hailed a taxi and knocked off early.  Our choices were a couple more museums (my vote) or back to the hotel for pool time (everybody else's vote).  I know Kalle voted for the pool and think Lori and Karl voted against the museums.  Either way I lost.
A couple of ponderings from our ride.  One - I think Rome adopted Athens' driving rules when they conquered the city.  Gotta love big city driving in Europe.  Two - Our cab ride back was 6 Euro while our bargain ride down was 10 Euro.  It kind of burned me but was totally my fault for not having him turn on his meter.  I did get my revenge the next morning when the morning cabbie showed up at the hotel all "buddy buddy" to take us to the airport.  I brusquely dismissed him saying he was to expensive.  He tried the "traffic" excuse but I just rudely brushed him off so he left kind of dejected. 

Interesting street art.  Belfast is still my favorite for street art with Barcelona a close second.

Pool time!  The Acropolis from our pool.  The rooftop views were typically big city and bland here unlike Helsinki which was much better.  I really liked Lisbon's rooftop views as well.

Our pool view over Athens.  Water was not warm (cloudy afternoon did not help) but Kalle made a friend (sarcastic surprise) who was in town from Scotland.  The water was a little cold every time we went in on the trip but we didn't battle massive crowds anywhere except the morning in Fira so it was a fair trade for me.

You'd be proud Dad.  My flipper blew off the bottom in Santorini so Spendy the Wife suggested I throw them away but instead I found a couple of rubber bands to finish off the trip.  In case you don't know my Dad he is the King of Reusing ANYTHING much to my Mother's chagrin.  No sense throwing it out when it just needs "a little fixing."  Right Dad?
Our neighborhood streets look a little better in the daytime.

Our neighborhood church in the daytime.  Since we knocked off early we were able to have dinner in the daylight which meant the church was open for touring and prayer.

The ceiling.

Looking down the nave.  I only stayed for a few minutes to say a quick prayer and take a couple of pictures.

Dana Johnson Pic - We liked the fish so much we came back again.  This time we tried the octopus also.  It wasn't bad.  The meat was a little squishy texture and the suckers were a little chewy.  The fish was good again.  This was easily on our favorite food trips.

We met some Kiwi's at dinner and talked to them for a while then went back to the hotel.  This is a look down Restaurant Row.
Wednesday Day 8 - Travel day back to crap weather England.  No issues using the taxi, airplane, train and taxi back home.  A great trip that was one of mine and Lori's favorites.  Lori's list of countries to revisit now includes Israel, Italy and Greece.  I would also add Croatia (to see family again) and Switzerland to my list.  One more trip to Iceland and then we are back in the U.S.A.  Time is starting to fly now.

Vincent Price contemplating a trip to Egypt to see the Pyramids now that we've seen the Colosseum in Rome, Stonehenge in England, Parthenon in Athens, and Old City of Jerusalem.  Maybe on Lori's next secondment?  (Don't tell Lori I said that.)

Sarah Anderson Pic - Efficient Kalle was in charge of carrying the hats through the airports.

Good bye Athens!

And finally the final May Facial Hair of the Month since the month had ended.  Vincent Price had a great time tripping to Cork, the Lake District, Helsinki and Greece but now has to leave us.  A lot of miles on those facial hairs.  Hope you enjoyed the ride Vincent!

Vincent Price is not happy with the 50's F and rain he came home to find.  Stupid England.
Kalle - Liked the blue and white houses on the islands, the vegetarian food, Santorini, pretty island sights/views, the pelicans, and the Parthenon was okay.
Karl - Liked getting the Hard Rock Café Athens shirt, the pelicans, and the Parthenon was okay.
Lori - Liked everything on the islands, petting the pelican, Acropolis was okay and food was fantastic.  Did not like Athens city.
Jay - Liked Acropolis especially the Parthenon, the island town views (blue water, sunsets, blue and white houses, Mykonos streets, black and red beaches), the pelicans, and loved the food.  Disliked how touristy the island towns were.
Thanks for listening,

1 comment:

  1. Interesting -- your love of the place didn't come out so much in the blog. Must have largely been the sun, blue water and good food (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    Enjoyed your humor as always.