Sunday, April 25, 2010

ACT TWO: My big fat Greek vacation

A continuation...

We got to Athens on Saturday around 6pm without a map, without a hostel, without an idea of how to get to the city center and without a lick of Greek knowledge.

Napoleon once said, “Over preparation is the foe of inspiration.”

Over preparation, preparation, baseline knowledge or know-how….toe-may-toe, toe-maw-toe.

We asked for a bit of help from a few bilinguals then boarded the train to the city and before we knew it we were in the town square.

Next task: find a hostel.

We had the names and addresses of six hostels and finally found our way to the Athen’s International Youth Hostel. We put our stuff in our room, emailed our parents to let them know we were still alive and headed off to dinner.

We found a quaint little restaurant a few blocks from our hostel. The waitress spoke no English, Lyndsay and I spoke no Greek, but luckily we are well trained in the art form of charades and were able to get two good plates of food.

Our third plate was our biggest failure of the trip. As many of you know, I am afraid of fish and have been facing my fear here on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, I also hate seaweed and that was our third plate. No getting over that fear.

The next morning we awoke and started our hike towards The Acropolis. In one day we saw almost every big monument in Athens: The Parthenon, the Theaters of Herodes Atticus and Dionysus, Hadrian’s Library and Arch, Temple of Zeus, the National Gardens and several more.

[In Hadrian's Library, built 132 A.D.]

While the site seeing was nice I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Athens. Luckily, Lyndsay wasn’t either, so on Monday morning we boarded a ferry to the Island of Santorini.

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. But for the sake of space, let’s just say we set the alarm to the wrong time, couldn’t open our door and then experienced a high speed chase in a taxi with a man who spoke even less English than our waitress the night before.

But all's well that ends well and by 2pm on Monday afternoon Lyndsay and I stepped into the sun at the Port of Santorini.

Santorini is a small caldera in the Aegean Sea, meaning at one point in time it was a volcano, but it collapsed, so now is sort of resembles a crescent moon.

If you’ve seen photos of Grecian islands, you’ve probably seen Santorini. It’s hundreds of little white houses jetting out of the dark mountainsides into the perfect blue skies. The pathways are fine, stone paths that zig-zag in between the houses and restaurants leading down to old ports when tanned aged men fish with cane poles and large boats during the day and drink Ouzo at night.

The first night we were there Lyndsay and I sat out on the balcony of one of the restaurants eating brownies and ice cream, laughing about how ironic it was that we were sitting on top of an old volcano, not unlike the volcano in Iceland that forced our hands in coming to this place.

[Enjoying the Greek volcano much more than the one in Iceland]

For the next three days we were there Lyndsay and I rented ATV’s and explored the island. The island is small enough that we were able to make it from central Santorini (where we were staying, a small town, Fira) to the south side of the island in 25 minutes.

We tanned on the beach (read: burned), ate great Greek yogurt and Greek salads, traveled the island and spent time with two friends we met in Athens that also made the trek to Santorini.

Our last night on the island we went to the north side to watch the sunset in Oía. We were told by several people, that it was voted the best sunset in the world. Despite not having a source as to whom these “people” actually are, I agree with them. The colors were incredibly vibrant and we watched as the sun dropped behind a small island on the horizon.

There is something so peaceful about watching the sun set over water. I love the way the water reflects the sky and magnifies the colors. It was almost like the reds and oranges against the dark sky were in a contest with the white houses against the dark mountain, as to which could be more beautiful.

Thursday morning we woke up, assuming we would need to take the ferry back that afternoon in order to get to Athens in time for our flight the next morning.

Well, the ferry workers went on strike. Apparently, it happens quite often and honestly, after how the beginning of our trip went, this seemed like nothing.

So we ended up flying back to Athens later that night (a 45-minute plane ride vs. a 7-hour ferry ride), sleeping on the floor of the Athens airport, catching our flight back to Madrid on Friday morning and then taking a 7-hour bus from Madrid to Seville.

It was an exhausting trip home. I guess the best way to explain our big fat Greek trip was that it was an amazing sandwich on stressful bread.

But once we finally got off the bus in Seville, we could see the lights from the world famous Feria and our exhaustion turned into anticipation and excitement for the following day’s festivities.

[Cue lights in the distance as the stage fades to black]

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