Monday, 28 September 2009

Part 5 - Santorini

28 September 2009 - 1 October 2009

28 September 2009
Today we were leaving Ios and heading to Santorini, which is said to be the prettiest island. Unfortunately our ferry was 1.5 hours late but we eventually made it. We found a place to stay, it too was up and down another hill but it was okay and I think we paid around 15.00 per night which was good as Santorini is also quite expensive.
That avo we walked through the winding streets of Santorini browsing at the shops and taking in the scenery. Santorini - is a small, circular archipelago of volcanic islands located in the southern Aegean Sea. The largest island is known as Th─ôra . Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion.

The township of Thera is positioned on top of a hill. You will see from the photo above that most of the houses and business are actually built on the side of the hill. So that means that the only way up and down to the township are specially built paths. You can either drive up in the car or get a lift with the donkey. The donkey rides were 5 euros each way so we decided to walk down the donkey path to the port and then take a donkey up. They were huge donkey's, I actually think they were mules. I never knew the difference before but mules are actually a cross between donkeys and horses. The locals tried to scam us, they told us that you can't get donkeys at the bottom and that we had to go up and down on a donkey, but that so isn't true so just keep a watch our for that.

This is the donkey path here.

29 September 2009
This morning we got up early and took the cable car down to the port instead of the donkeys as we were going on a boat ride out to the volcano, a tour of the volcano, a stop at Therasia and a stop off at Oia.

The Minoan eruption of Thera was a major catastrophic volcanic eruption which is estimated to have occurred in the mid second millennium BCE. The eruption was one of the largest volcanic events on Earth in recorded history.

We took a boat ride out to the hot pools near the volcano. You can't get that close to the hot pools with the boat so we all had to jump off the side and swim to the hot pools. Luckily I had a new waterproof camera and was able to take it with me to get a pic. You can see our boat in the background.

After our dip we headed for a walk around the volcano. Our tour guide was in a bit of a hurry so we power walked up to the top of the volcano. Volcanic rock is quite different from normal rocks to walk on and can be extremely sharp if you slip and fall (which I didn't for the record:))

<------The volcano from Santorini
Casey and on on the volcano with Santorini in the background -->
After our walk around the volcano we stopped off at the port of Therasia - is a small Greek island west of Santorini in the Cyclades. The population was 268 inhabitants in 2001 . The island is part of the community of Oia . Santorini and Therasia were separated by the Thera eruption.

We only really had time here to have a walk along the port front (as you had to take a donkey up to the top as well) a quick swim and something to eat. It was however worthwhile stopping there as its the only place we saw flags on the windmill.
After Therasia was went over to Oia which is another township in Santorini - Oia remains one of the foremost tourist attractions of the Aegean Sea. The famous Oia sunset, considered by many as one of the most beautiful in the world - to have a look around and watch the famous sunset and we weren't disappointed. It was amazing and looked even better with one of the Greek Island windmills in the picture.

30 September 2009
Today we decided to head to the beach. There were a few to choose from and we choose Perissa Beach. It was nice to have a relaxing day down by the beach for our last day to soak in some more rays and a relaxing massage.
That night decided to check out the Santorini nightlife we headed out around midnight but, as with most other places we found there weren't that many people out. We stayed out for a few hours and had a dance but came home fairly early.

1 Ocotber 2009
Today we spent the morning laxing out by the pool and last minute souvenir shopping before getting back on the ferry to Piraeus Wharf. Unfortunately for us we didn't really time our trip right as we originally planned on getting a night ferry back but they only ran every second day which was annoying so we ended up having to get a ferry at 3.30pm and wasting the rest of the day on the ferry. We did however get aeroplane seats which were nice as the ferry didn't dock until 12am. We stayed that night at Piraeus wharf and then headed to the airport for out 10am flight back to London.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Part 4 - Ios

26 September - 27 September 2009

People waiting for you to get off the ferry - this was actually quite tame compared to some of them. In the second photo, the guy in the blue is who we went with.

26 September 2009
This morning we quickly checked out of our hotel (someone broke the shower...) and went for a walk around Old Town Naxos as we had to wait sometime for our ferry. Today we were leaving Naxos and heading to Ios - the party Island, apparently...

Ios -is a Greek island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. Ios is a hilly island with cliffs down to the sea on most sides, situated halfway between Naxos and Santorini. It has gained a reputation and a half as the party island. In the height of the season - mid July until end of August - its ludicrously over crowed, with the attendant problems of noise, poor sanitation, alcohol and theft - all of which are more evident than on the other islands and with the locals getting in on the act with god-knows what in your spirits it can be quite dangerous if you are not sensible.

That afternoon after getting a lift to our new room (15 euros a night I think, and this one had a kitchen) we walked down the hill (and I can tell you that hill wasn't fun - think we walked up and down it about 3 times per day !! phew) we went for a quick walk around town. As with most islands the town was a mass of windy streets, but imagine the slippery, sloping steps that are awkward enough when sober, never mind when totally sozzled and in the dark and which is why there is always someone hopping around with their leg in plaster!

After trekking down the hill and up again after dinner we decided to get on our glad rags and head into Ios town on a Saturday night. this should be good we thought, it was the end of the peak season being mid - late September but surely it should still be going off. At around 10ish we went into town for a few pre-clubbing drinks, mmmm quiet, but thats ok its only early. After a few cocktails we decided to have a look around and check out the potential "hot spots". Alright 12 rolled around and we looked but there was still not much going on then I saw a group of young people "must be a tour. We need to be where they are going!" I said, so we secretly followed them to this bar, their group were the only ones in there but it was enough to look lively so we followed them in and had a few drinks.

After some dancing they left and so did we to this next bar that had all kinds of shots, including Creme Egg and Malteser ones which were my favourite. After a few shots we had another look around, but to be honest for a Saturday night on the party island it was pretty much dead. There weren't a lot of people around and most of the nightclubs seemed to be closed for the season. Unless you come in the peak season I don't recommend coming to Ios as there isn't a lot to do here.
This photo was taken with the beauty setting on my camera, don't we look lovely for 1.30am!
27 September 2009

View from our accommodation - we walked up to those three churches

This morning we had a nice sleep in before exploring Ios. From our accommodation at the top of the hill we could see into the town and in the middle of the island is a hill with three churches perched on top. That we decided would be our destination.

We walked down the hill into town, after going the wrong way a couple of times in the windy streets we made it to the top of the hill and to the churches. It was a good walk and was sooo windy at the top but had fantastic views of the island. The hill actually looks a lot steeper and harder to climb than it actually was.

After our walk we decided to head to the beach. It was a pretty overcast day so wasn't great for swimming but we wanted to check it out anyway. We walked to Milopotas Beach which is one of the best beaches in the Aegean. It is large enough to accommodate even the High Seasons crowds and looks like it would be a little village town. When we were there however it looked like a deserted ghost town. All the shops were closed for the season, renovations were being done and hardly anyone around.

After an afternoon rest we headed up behind our accommodation to the Amphitheatre - Odysseas Elytis Theatre: Odysseas Elytis was considered to be a revolutionary Greek poet who wrote modern and defining poetry unlike other poets who used ancient Greece as a source of inspiration. The Odysseas Elytis Amphitheatre named after the famous Noble prize winning poet himself is located at the top of the hill of Chora in Ios behind the whitewashed windmills that stand there.Though the amphitheatre is made of marble in ancient Greek style, it was constructed relatively recently as compared to other architectural wonders of Ios. It is a colossal structure and can hold upto 1100 people at any given time. It has breathtaking views over Ios.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Part 3 - Naxos

23 September - 25 September 2009

23 September 2009
We decided to leave the beautiful Mykonos today and brought two tickets to Naxos. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture.
We brought the wrong tickets but ended up on a super fast boat and got there in half the time, which wasn’t such a bad thing. Today we managed to get accommodation for 10 euros (it was the worst place we stayed at) whilst it was still clean and fine, it was a mish and a half to lock the door with the ancient key!

As we were still close to town that avo we walked around the headland to have a look around.

Whilst Naxos wasn’t as pretty and maybe that is because it wasn’t as touristy it still had its highlights – which we see tomorrow.

24 September 2009
Today we decided to check out all the touristy things in Naxos

The Venetian Castle - Naxos town is located under the Venetian Castle built by Marco Sanudo after the fourth crusade. The Kastro was built on dense constructions of the Middle Ages. The "Barozzi" House is located at the southwestern gate of the Kastro and is still in property of the family. The Barozzis were one of the 7 families who founded Venice and were barons on Santorini. One of the houses has a nice shop "Antico Venetico" selling old dishes, furniture and textiles in the backroom, reminding the rule of the dukes. Actually, it is more or less a museum and has 4 columns of classical temples.

The castle is basically a whole bunch of buildings (mostly the brown in the photo above) and winding paths up the top of the hill. We decided to do a castle tour which included:

- The Venetian House Museum - which is a small private museum run by the decendants of the original owners.
- Taste of the traditional drink which I can't quite remember the name of

- History of the castle

- Archaeological Museum

- Byzantine Museum

After the tour we headed to The Antico Veneziano Shop which is just down the path from the Venetian House Museum. The Shop is housed in another Venetian House and is well worth a visit.

We were also told about the The Mycenaean city – which is located in the area of Grotta, in Naxos Town. Some ruins still stand, while part of the city is under water. According to recent findings, the agora of the ancient city stood in the area.

This is a little church on an island in the port of Naxos, there seemed to be some festival going on whilst we were there. --->

After the tour we headed to the gate which you can see for miles. Naxos Gate: This is all that is left of what was once to become a grand Apollon temple. The construction of the temple was started during times of prosperity around the year 530 b.c, but was never finished, and throughout the years most of the blocks of marble have been removed and used in the construction of other buildings. What is left of the temple today is only this 6 metre high frontal gate, as well as parts of the foundation wall. The idea of this gate standing like this for more than 2500 years without collapsing is incredible. Especially considering the number of powerful earthquakes that have hit the area throughout the years.

On my Greek Island Hopping book I got there was a picture of this gate on the front cover with someone standing in the doorway. The gate however was fenced off with, well, a fence that is just asking to be jumped over. When the coast was clear me and Casey jumped the fence and took our picture in the centre just like the book and quickly ran away again just in case 2009 was the year it was all going to come tumbling down! Can you imagine it – “Struck down by Ancient Ruins” “Two female tourists living in the UK were struck down my ancient ruins in Naxos Greece whilst trying to copy book cover”.

After spending the morning at the castle we decided to catch a bus to shark rock. I had been looking forward to this since I read it in my book and had the instructions on how to make it look like a shark to hand! (anyone who knows me, especially Debra, will know how excited I would get about something like this!). We jumped off the bus and walked towards shark rock, as we walked up the hill I was starting to get excited and then Casey yelled “there it is” I took one look to my right and then started power walking away. “What are you doing?” yelled Casey. “OMG did you not see that man, that was all I saw, I didn’t even see the bloody rock”. “No” she says and has a look again. Ewe ewe w ewe ew was all we could say and quickly walked away. OMG what a freak, lets get out of here and come back later and hopefully he has gone. Now you are probably all wondering what we saw, lets just say … this man must get excited by rocks that look like sharks and wondering tourists. So we walked down the other side of the hill, down the board walk and stumbled upon a nudist beach, eyes down we kept walking and then I saw somebody on top of the sand dunes, naked and staring right at us. OMG I say, what kinda place is this, just a free for all to pleasure yourself. Ewe w ewew ewwe ewe. So we kept walking and after about 30 minutes decided to brave it and walk back to take a very far away picture with super zoom, of shark rock. The boardwalk was clear, phew and we got to the top of shark rock hill. We made it and creepy man wasn’t there, snap, snap, snap and then suddenly from behind the rock creepy man pops out. "Run!" I yell he was coming towards us and because I had sneakers on I just bolted through the bushes, once I stopped I thought crap where is Casey? Some friend I am, just running and leaving her behind. Fortunately she made it down again and we power walked back to the bus stop to get out of this creepy place!

25 September 2009
Today Casey decided to do a bus tour of the island whilst I decided to go to the beach for a tan. Unfortunately the weather wasn't that flash hot so just had a few quick dips and had an afternoon nap.

For dinner we headed to Susanna’s an Italian Restaurant that had amazing mussels and homemade wine. We walked home and then settled in with the ipod speakers and some drinks to get ready to go out. Being a Friday night and being in the know (ie. Don’t go out until midnight) we were ready for a good night. So we walked into town at 12ish and looked for the hot spots. Hmmm, there was music blasting but no many people, so we walked up and down the main street for a bit, hmm no one, ok lets just sit down and have a few strawberry frozen daiquiris and hang out and wait for a bit at 1.30am we were like, what this sucks, lets go home to bed. I am not sure where you are supposed to go there but it was pretty dumb!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Part 2 - Mykonos

21 September 2009 – 22 September 2009
Mykonos is part of the Cyclades, lying between Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos. There are 9,320 inhabitants. It is believed that the island was named after a local hero, who is considered an offspring of the god Apollo and was worshipped locally in antiquity.

Today we got up at 5.30am and headed to the Metro station to jump on a train and head to Pireaus
Wharf which is where the ferries leave for the Greek Islands. Unfortunately we didn't pre-book seats, which I would recommend for the long ferries (this one was 5 hours), so I found a possie outside with my trusty blankie braving the elements to have a snooze whereas Casey did the traveller’s hunch over a table inside.

A little later in the morning when the sun came out --->

When we were planning for our trip we did a lot of investigation into tours, books, etc. We were told by everyone that the best thing to do is just cruise! Don’t pre-book your accommodation or ferries as its easy peasy when you get there. People will just be lining up at the docks with places to stay. Ok we said, we are independent woman, we can go on holiday and not pre-book accommodation, gulp! As we were due to dock we grabbed all our things and hoped what everyone said was as easy as they said. Fortunately for us it was. As soon as we got off the ferry all these people came towards us, bombarded us (I felt like a celebrity) offering accommodation. We took the first guy who talked to us, Bobby, because he was patient and didn’t pester us and also because it seemed that they were all the same price. We were travelling just off peak season so we paid 20 euros each per night, which we thought was pretty good – Mykonos was the most expensive place we stayed but it was our favourite. You will find as well that the people will drive you to and from your accommodation which is great! No wondering around in the dark looking for your hostel.

That avo as we were close to town we decided to walk down the hill (note: most islands are hilly!).
We had a look around the harbour, the famous Greek Island windmills - The windmills of Mykonos are the trademark of the whole island. They can be seen from every point of Chora (main town) village and they are the first thing to see when the ship gets close to the harbour, as they stand on a hill overlooking the area. There are 16 windmills today on Mykonos. Most of them were built by the Venetians in the 16th century and till the early 20th century, they were used to grind the wheat. They were an important source of income for the inhabitants and supported a lot the economy of Mykonos in difficult times. With the evolution of economy, their use gradually declined till they stop working in the middle of the 20th century -

We also saw the filming of “Wog Boy 2: Kings of Mykonos” - is set to star both Nick Giannopoulos& Vince Colosimo (Vince also starred in Underbelly) and is set for a 2010 release. The sequel will be filmed on location in both Melbourne and Greece, and will involve Frank (Vince Colosimo) following Steve (Nick Giannopoulos) to Mykonos in order to collect a family inheritance. It was pretty exciting and we even had a word to Vince.

22 September 2009
This morning we slept in (after having to get up at 5.30 the previous morning) and then went to the beach. Unfortunately for us we caught the wrong bus and this beach wasn’t as good so we jumped back on another bus and headed to Paradise Beach. In peak season this beach would be packed but it was quietening down so wasn’t that bad for us, we managed to secure two chairs right near the edge of the water and spent the afternoon reading, sitting in the sun and just generally relaxing.

That night we decided to get dressed up and see what the Mykonian night life had to offer. We had a few drinks at home and headed in around 9.30ish. When we got there we were told it was far too early for dancing and that midnight was the time to go out. Ok then, so we went to a busy restaurant called Nikos for dinner. We were seated close to a local man and ended up chatting to him through
dinner. He grew up in Mykonos but now lived in San Francisco. He was really nice and chatted to us about growing up on the island, helped us with some Greek letters, shared his wine and even paid for our dinner! After dinner he took us to his brother’s bar that had amazing views of the windmills, where we had some drinks, listened to some traditional Greek music and watched some Greek dancing – I even got dragged up for a bit of a dance. We then headed to the Downunder bar for a shot before heading to Scandinavia Bar where we spent the rest of the night dancing and chatting to Syros who told us he was a male Gigolo!

When it was time to go we decided to try and walk home, now imagine the streets of Mykonos in the day time like the labyrinth, how’s about in the dark with two semi fully intoxicated girls. I was convinced we could find the way home, but after we ended up in sooooo the wrong direction, I agreed to get a taxi home.
- being a bit silly on the way home!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Greece - Part 1 - Athens

The time had finally come! I had finally tidied up my room, packed all my things up and shipped them home. My time in London is almost over but, I have an exciting two week trip planned in Greece which is what this blog is all about.

19 September - 20 September 2009
After getting up in the middle of the night to get to Gatwick Airport from up North, me and my travelling buddy, Casey (who I met on my Scotland tour) were on our way to Athens. We got to Athens at around 10 in the morning which left plenty of time to find out hostel and start looking around.

That afternoon we spent looking around the city to get our bearings and we stumbled upon the changing of the guard. It was sooooo funny, they had cute little outfits (don't tell them I said that) and were kicking their feet around like horses. I took a couple of videos because it was so bizarre.

That night we headed up to the roof bar at the hostel and looked out at the Pantheon.

20 September 2009
Today we decided to looking around the Acropolis (The Acropolis is a flat-topped rock that rises 150m above sea level in the city of Athens, with a surface area of about 3 hectares) Hill and all the other sites which were included in the ticket (12 euros - recommend it). The site included:

- Parthenon
The Parthenon is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their protector. Its construction began in 447BC and completed in 432BC on the Athenian

Unfortunately, like most sites in Europe the Parthenon was covered in so much scaffolding you didn't quite get the same wow factor like most other sites, but it was still cool to
see it and learn the history and on the hill you got an amazing view over Athens.

Also up the top with the Parthenon was the ancient Greek temple Erechtheum (The temple as seen
today was built between 421 and 407 BC.)

Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora (The Agora was an open "place of assembly" in ancient Greek city-states. Early in Greek history (900s–700s BCE), free-born male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council) of Athens is the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora.

Roman Agora
The Tower of the Winds, also called is an octagonal Pentelic
marble clocktower. The structure features a combination of sundials, a water clock and a wind vane.It was supposedly built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus around 50 BC, but according to other sources might have been constructed in the 2nd century BC before the rest of the forum.

Hadrian's Library was built by Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD 132 on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens. The library was seriously damaged by the Herulian invasion of 267 and repaired by the prefect Her
culius in AD 407-412).

The Temple of Olympian Zeus
also known as the Olympieion, is a colossal ruined temple in the centre of the Greek capital Athens that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD some 650 years after the project had begun. During the Roman periods it was renowned as thelargest temple in Greece and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world.

- The Middle photo is from the top of the Acropolis Hill - was testing my new camera's zoom, I think it came out pretty good and gives you a nice view

Theatre of Dionysus

The Theatre of Dionysus was a major open-air theatre in Athens, built at the foot of the Acropolis. Dedicated to the god of wine and fertility, it hosted the City Dionysia (religious festival). A stone-version of the theatre, which was built c. 325 BCE, seated between 14,000 to 17,000 spectators. After this the theatre fell into disuse and little is recorded until 61 CE where there is evidence of major renovations done by the emperor Nero.

- The photo on the right is from the top of the Acropolis Hill.
That afternoon we went on a mini train tour around the main areas of the city. It went past most of the sites we had already seen but it also went past the site of the Olympic Stadium which was host to the 2004 Summer Olympics it was also the first time since 1896 that the Olympics were held in Greece.

After visiting the stadium we went for a walk through a park and met a few of these little fullas just walking around, so cute!