Greece

Day 1 – Athens

After travelling from Kuwait to Bahrain here is was 23$ for 2 drinks, then Bahrain to Athens it was around 6:30pm when I arrived in the city. Then it was onto the metro to get to Syntagma Square which was the closest place to my hotel. Luckily it was a strait shot down one road to find my hotel, which was easy to find. I checked into my room and then I hit the road to find dinner and drinks somewhere.

Before I get farther though let me tell you about Greece. Don’t listen to the prices in the guide book, they have changed in the few months or year since publishing. You need a special metro ticket to or from the airport that costs 10Euros. If you want something a little cheaper you can take the bus for 6Euros. There are a number of buses with the X9_ label that take you to different places. They take a little longer but you get to see more of the city as you travel through it rather than under it.

As I walked down the street I could see the Acropolis Hill all lit up on my left. The roads on either side of the road my hotel was on were pedestrian streets with lots of shops and the side roads that connected them had a number of restaurants and cafes with out door seating. I found a place with wine and WiFi and had a seat out doors. I had a traditional pasta dish and a glass of wine and a bottle of water. Dinner cost 15euros. After I wandered around for a bit before getting back to the hotel around 11pm.

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Day 2 – Athens

This morning was a bit different then others because I got up early to find the post office I had googled mapped to be sure it was close by. I usually saved a lot of money by eating a large (free) breakfast at the hotel, usually a little late (9:30am) and then having a second large meal around 3 as both lunch and dinner. This meal I usually budgeted about 20euros for meals and drinks. There were many places where you could find a meal for much cheaper though. There were places with 3E sandwiches and the bakeries had cheap options for eating at. I also paid attention to the price of water (.5E for a small and 1E for a large) and would move on from kiosks that has other things.

This morning I went out around 8am and found the post office and saw it opened at 7:30am, so I went back to the hotel and had a quick breakfast. Then I took my large suitcase full of things I didn’t need in Kuwait anymore and took it to the post office to ship home. In Kuwait it would have cost me about 1000$-1500$ to ship the one 17KG (40lbs) suitcase home. That was ridiculous. In Greece it cost me 105E. The ladies at the post office thought I was crazy and we had one hell of a hard time trying to understand each other. I had to walk up the road to a book store and buy brown packaging paper to wrap the suitcase in. I couldn’t find what I needed but the back of the wrapping paper the store sold was just what I needed. Then I needed packing tape because the post office didn’t have any…. So I went back out and bough some. Then it was wrapped, weighed, and ready to ship. Off to Canada it goes.

It is only now that I think of the trouble people might have picking it up, because I was mailing it to my mom and used her name but couldn’t ship it to her address because I needed a street address and she has a PO Box. So I used her name at my Grandma’s address. I don’t know if she can pick it up when the address and her ID will be different. Oh well, I’m sure they will figure it out. Maybe I’ll be lucky and they’ll leave it at the door of Grandma’s house.

After that I felt so light, both in wallet and physical weight. I began my journey through the streets of Athens to see if I could find my way up to the top of the Acropolis hill. I made my way up eventually. All I can really say is things are currently open 8am to 3pm. Get an early start if you want to fit it all into one day.

By the time I got up to the ticket gates of the Acropolis the line was over an hour long. So I waited. When I got to the front you could buy a ticket for the Acropolis for 20E or you could get a ticket for 30E that lasted for 5 days and allowed you entry to 5 other sights. You need to be sure that you are going to visit those sights and also that they are currently open. A number of ruins in Athens were closed in February due to lack of funding. Now you can only stand outside the gates and take pictures in places like the Roman Agora.

By the time I had my ticket and was in the gate it was about 11:30. I wandered all around the Acropolis sight and made it to a secondary entrance at the bottom of the other side of the hill. I tried to find the entrance to the Ancient Agora but couldn’t find it so I stopped for lunch by the closed Roman Agora. Near where I was eating there was a man playing the accordion, it added nicely to the atmosphere. After lunch I kept walking around and found the entrance to the Ancient Agora but it was 2:50pm and they were escorting people out to close at 3pm. So I wandered around the fence to see what I could see.

After that I wandered around the area to see what was in the area. Lots of shops and small museums that were all closed for the day. Your best bet in Athens is to start early, have a siesta around 4pm and then go out again at night when the atmosphere has changed. There are many places that will pull you in with free drinks or other offers. You can also look for a hostel that has event each night like bar hops or wine tasting.

I went back to the hotel for a siesta and to organize what I was going to do the next day. I was looking at taking the public bus up to Delphi (16E each way and a 12E entrance for the site and museum). There was also the cost of getting to the bus station (by taxi if you want to get the first bus). In the end I found a day tour through Viator for 120$US that included everything including lunch in Delphi. Shortly after I filled in my info I got a call at my hotel from the tour operator telling me where the bus could pick me up or I could walk to their office a couple blocks up).

After getting my next day organized I rested in the hotel room for a bit before heading back out to see what was happening in my area that night.

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Day 3 – Delphi

Another early morning because I had to be at the bus pick up at 8:30. I had my breakfast and packed up my bags and checked out of the hotel. Then it was a quick walk up the road to a different hotel where the bus picked us up to begin the day trip.

We were on a nice coach bus with comfortable seats which was nice because the drive takes about 3 hours. Our guide was nice and entertaining on the bus. She told us about the places that we passed, like the dam that holds the water reservoir for Athens and the city of Marathon where there was a great battle and the Athenians won a war so there was a runner who ran to Athens to tell them the good news. This was the first Marathon ever ran, and the distance between Marathon and Athens is the distance ran in a marathon to this day.

We learned a number of interesting historical facts about Greece and philosophers and Delphi and the Gods on our drive. We heard all about Apollo the god to which the temple was dedicated.

The drive began on nice flat plains and fields and soon we were headed up the mountains on small roads. The views were spectacular. We passed through a small town built on and into the side of the mountain. We stopped their for pictures on our return to Athens.

When we got to Delphi we entered into the site and began to walk the path the people would have walked a long time ago to make their way to the Oracle. You pass what would have been shops and stalls for the travellers to buy offerings and supplies. You walk further up and see what look like large stone mausoleums. They are vaults where cities or people left their offerings to the God Apollo. The are amazingly ornate for having stood for a thousand years.

You walk up farther and see the area where people would have been waiting to see the Oracle. It once had a covered area for shade and stalls to sell goods. On a side wall there are thousands of contracts carved onto the wall. They are the contracts of freedom for slaves at the temple of Delphi. Then you walk up the hill a bit and round the corner and the ruins of the Temple of Apollo where the Oracle resided are right there. You can see some of the columns still standing and you can see the foundations and where there are rooms under ground.

Up a bit from the Temple is the theatre. It’s built right into the hill. You can keep going up the hill and get to the stadium at Delphi this is where the Pythian games were help beginning is 584BC. These games, like the ones at Olympia, were a precursor to the modern Olympic Games.

After we walked to the Museum of Delphi. This is where most of the artifacts that have been excavated at Delphi have gone. The museum has amazing statues and gold offerings and carvings and sections of wall and roof with pained decorations. We spent over an hour getting a tour of the museum before we went to the local hotel and had a late lunch. Lunch was local dishes like salad, souvlaki, tyropita and spanakopita (respectively, cheese and spinach pie). Then we had a sweet cake in syrup called samali.

Then we were back on the road and off to Athens. We stopped in the small mountain town to take pictures and buy souvenirs if we wanted. When we returned to Athens it was about 6pm. I went from the drop off point and took the Metro to the airport. Then I waited for my 11:30pm flight to Thira, Santorini.

The Athens airport is very nice. They have many places to sit and rest out side the departure gate. They also have many places to charge electronic devices. Their WiFi is free and in 45 minute sessions. It’s not the best WiFi and can be hard to connect but it works fine. They also have many places to shop and to eat. You can spend most of your time outside the gate area.

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Day 4 – Santorini

I technically arrived in Santorini on day 4. We were schedules to arrive at 12:15am but high winds made it too difficult to land and we circled the island for about 30 minutes before it was safe to land. If we had been up much longer the plane would have turned around and went back to Athens. The landing was a bit bumpy but we made it just fine.

The airport is small. So small you can see the guys who are loading your luggage onto the conveyor belt. It takes no time at all to get out of the airport. I booked at room at the Santorini Royal Suites using hotels.com. I booked the room because they were have a 70% off sale. My room was 75$CA a night. I would have booked cheaper but I really wanted to spoil myself on this trip. I had scheduled an airport pick-up. Normally I find my way to my hotel or hostel but at 1am I was happy to have someone take me directly to the hotel. The other thing is that Fira is full of small walking roads, it’s like a maze. I never would have found the hotel, never, I would have spent the night on the street.

The hotel room was very nice. The room door was from an outdoor terrace. I had a balcony over looking the caldera. When I woke up in the morning I had breakfast delivered right to my door. I was fresh bread, jams and spreads, yogourt, nuts, juice, milk, and coffee. I could have done with some fresh fruit, but overall it was a very nice breakfast.

I got a few recommendations about the island, where to go and what to do and I took off from the hotel. My first direction was down. I headed down the stairs to the old harbour. It was small and many things were closed for the off season. There were a few cafes and gift shops. There were also a few shops selling different boating adventures. I looked at a few but I had a different plan for the day. Instead I took the cable car back to the top of the cliffs.

From there I began to follow the trail that leads from Fira to Oia. It’s expected to be about a 3 hour walk so wear good shoes. Mine were okay but didn’t cover the top of my foot so that part of me burnt and hurt for a few days. But the walk was beautiful. It mostly goes along the cliffs from village to village. There are markers in places so you can check that you are on track. A few time the trail seems to vanish or merge with the road. Just keep going. There are also places were you can stop walking and catch the bus if you run into trouble.

Oia is a beautiful town. It is where the pictures of Santorini are from. It has the blue domes on white buildings. I found it amusing that while I was there (in early April) the island was getting ready for the tourist boom. They were renovating, cleaning, and putting on fresh coats of paint to make the colours bold and strong. I walked around Oia from shop to shop. I stopped at a restaurant with a balcony to have lunch.

I spent some time in the shade in a church courtyard. There were lots of people who had the same idea sitting in the shade watching people go by. When it got closer to sunset I went back to a place I found that I thought would have great sunset views. There were a few other people there but as it got closer there seemed to be hundreds more gathering to watch.

The sunset real was beautiful, reds, yellows, and oranges stretched across the sky. Clouds over Oia were dark and foreboding. After sunset I joined the crowds headed back into the centre of Oia. I followed people until I found the bus station. Then I got on the bus that would return me to Fira. Once there I entered the maze that are the paths of Oia. I found lots of great places but they were not my hotel. It took a few tries until I found the bar I had passed the night before on the way to the hotel. From there I could find the hotel, but first I sat down to enjoy a drink.

Then it was back to the hotel and to bed to prepare for the next day. In the hotel room was a huge Jacuzzi tub, it was nice to relax in, but had no heating element so had cooled off a bit. Then it was the sleep of the tired and sun burnt.

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Day 5 – Santorini

I was woken up this morning by breakfast being brought to my door. I took it out to the balcony to eat and enjoy the view. Breakfast had ice cream included this morning, but the ice cream didn’t melt and wasn’t really ice cream. It wasn’t bad, just strange and I didn’t eat very much.

After breakfast it was down the hill again to get to the old harbour. From there I bought a ticket for a full day boat tour. We left at 10am and headed for the volcano. We hiked up to the top and our guide shared with us how Santorini and the other island came to be. Then we hiked back down.

We went to the hot spring. Now I’ve been to hot springs, I expected to dock the boat again and go for a bit of a walk to find a spring on another small island. That was not the case. This hot spring is heated by sulphur in the water that is said to be good for the skin. But this hot spring is not hot. It is open to the sea so the temperature of the water depends on the season. You also don’t just get into the warm water. The spring has to be swam to. The boat anchors in deep water and the brave and foolish dive off the boat into the freezing water and swim to the slightly warmer water. The spring is fine but the chemicals in the water have left a thick coat of slime on the bottom that you may not want your feet to touch. The hard part is getting up the nerve to swim out of the warm water and back into the cold sea to get back to the boat. Then you dry off in the wind.

After we headed to Thirasia Island. This island has a small village at the top of a new hundred stairs. You can normally walk the stairs to have a meal with a view but because we were there in April nothing was open at the top of the hill. There were three places on the harbour that were open. The menu’s were mostly seafood. I ended up having stuffed veggies. That means a pepper and a tomato stuffed with rice veggies. After that we had some free time on the island. I ended up having a bit of a nap on the rock beach. I added a sunburn on my nose to the increasing sunburn on my feet.

From Thirasia the boat headed to the harbour at Oia. You could get off the boat there and watch the sunset and then take the bus back to Fira. I stayed on the boat and took it back to Fira. At Fira I took the Donkey Taxi up the stairs. I spent time walking around the streets of Fira looking at what you could buy in the shops. I stopped at one of the restaurants on the edge of the cliff to have a drink. Then I headed back to the hotel and enjoyed the sunset from the comfort of my balcony. Then I went out and found a pharmacy and bought some sun screen and some aloe.

Santorini isn’t really a party island but you can find some bars and clubs. They like to try and lure you in with free shots or discounts. It’s not a bad way to get a few drinks. Then you go in dance and drink a bit and end the night how ever you like.

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Day 6 – Santorini

Today was my tour day. After breakfast I headed down to the bus station. My first stop was Akrotiri, the red sand beach. The bus drives through the town and down the hill and comes to a stop at the water near a cafe. No red sand or beach near by at all. You have to follow a small road away from the cafe, make a bit of a climb up and around the corner and you get to red cliffs.

I am not sure what the usual access to the beach looks like, or even where it is. When I was there all access was roped off. It looked like a land slide had taken out the path. There were area’s where you could see a metal guard rail that stood alone, like either end had been ripped away. I stayed only a little while and took a few photos. Then I headed back to the bus stop and the cafe. I sat by the water and had fresh juice and waited for the bus to come and take me back to Fira.

Back in Fira I decided to take a different bus to the black sand beach at Perissa. This area was much more built up than the red sand beach. They had beach chairs out and sea side restaurants. Not everywhere was open but there were a few nice places. The beach was quite long and you could go for a walk along the water.

I walked for a bit and found a pretty empty piece of beach. Then it was nothing to lay there and take in the sun and have a nap. To be clear though, I had my nap covered with 3 layers with of sun screen.

After my nap it was time for lunch. I went to one of the open restaurants. They had mostly sea food options. I ended up with salmon and pasta for lunch. After lunch I went onto some of the lounge chairs that the restaurants had on the beach.

I decided to take a walk down the road along the beach. After a short while I was approached by a man on a bike. He wanted to stop and chat. Where was I from? How long was I in Greece? Could he have my number? Did I want to get drinks when he finished work? Situations like these make me uncomfortable. I like to meet people and I like to talk to them, but when there is an expectation going along with that meeting I want to be small and as far away from the situation as possible. Eventually I said that I had a late night flight back to Athens that night (rather than 8am the next morning) and I was headed back into town to pack and head to the airport, unfortunately before he would be able to finish work and come to town. I know it’s wrong to lie but I really hate things like that.

Maybe it comes from growing up in a small town and knowing everyone. Maybe it’s just me. I like to meet people through work and friends and get to know them before there is anything more. If I don’t feel comfortable around the person already I am quite and a bit unsociable, it makes for bad dating.

I finished my walk and headed back to the area of the beach where I would catch the bus. I spent some time on the beach until the bus came and then headed back to the hotel. I did have an early morning flight so I packed my bags and then went to the roof top restaurant to have a drink. I found out that as a guest of the hotel I was entitled to a 50% discount on menu items, including drinks. So I sat on the open roof of the hotel, had a few drinks and watched the sun set for the final time in Santorini.

I went and wandered into the shops after dark to buy my few final souvenirs. I end up buying myself a nice set of jewellery and a Santorini hoodie. I bought other knickknacks to give to friends and family when I get home. They going the ones I already shipped from countries like Jordan, Egypt, and the Philippines. Then it was early to bed.

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Day 7 – Athens mostly

My alarm went off at 5:30am. I packed up my laptop and other things. I left my keys at reception and was on the road by 6am. I took a short walk down to the taxi depot and got a cab to the airport. Thira Airport is tiny and easy to pass through. Then you sit and wait for your flight to come.

Once I was back in Athens at 9am, I decided to take the bus into Syntagma Sqaure. It was only about 20 minutes extra but was only 5Euros and not 10Euros. It also drove through the city rather than below it and I was able to see quite a lot of Athens.

I took my bags and was able to find the hotel. It’s was only 10:30 though and not close to check out time, so my room was not ready. I was planning to leave my bags at the hotel and go for a walk to find breakfast/lunch when the lady at the desk made a room change so i could go directly to my room. This was nice because I was ready to have a rest.

I walked into the elevator and took it up to my floor and waited for the doors to open and waited and waited. I turned around to push the call button or something when I saw the elevator was open behind me. There were doors on both sides. So now feeling like an idiot I went to my room to drop my bag off.

After getting into the room I freshened up and then hit the road to head into the Monastiraki Flea Market. This is mostly shops with local craft items; olive oils, soaps, olives, spices. There are also tourist shops and other general shops. I took the afternoon to get myself lost in the the streets.

Eventually I had wandered most of the streets and decided to follow one to see where I would come out. It ended on one of the main roads, a bit farther down than I was expecting. It worked out well though because it came out across the road from the Arch of Hadrian and the Temple of Zeus. I was able to spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the ruins.

I decided that I wanted to find a curry place for dinner. It turned out that just down one of the side streets near the hotel was a few places to choose from. I pick a place that had a small outdoor seating area and enjoyed a spicy dinner. The only thing I hate (but an used to from Kuwait) is that smoking outside happens, admittedly a lot less than Kuwait but still enough to irritate.

After dinner it was back to the hotel. Spent a bit of time packing my bags and some time on the internet before it was off to bed.

Day 8 – Back to Kuwait

For my last day in Greece I had a lazy morning. I took advantage of the nice buffet style breakfast. I had a long pre-travel shower. I put off check out a bit because I knew I would have to wander around the city for a few hours.

I left my bags at the hotel when I checked out and went to the Flea Market area. I bought the last of my touristy items that I planned on giving to friends and family when I eventually make it back to Canada.

I had a late lunch on a small side street just to take in the atmosphere of Europe and Greece one more time. I had my last glass of wine before I headed back to Kuwait, the land of illegal alcohol.

After I went back to the hotel to get my bags. I packed the new items I bought and changed into my travel clothes. Travel clothes add layers to both lighten the suitcase and to provide comfort if the airplane is unbearably cold. Then I caught the bus to the airport.

I checked in and headed to the seats with plug ins to use the bad wifi until my flight. Waiting in the departure lounge I saw a co-worker of mine. We were both headed back to Kuwait before work on Sunday. We chatted until we boarded the plane.

When we transferred in Bahrain it was almost midnight and the airport was quiet empty. No lines at the security points, not many people in the departures area.

When we finally made it to Kuwait it was just after two in the morning. Areas of the airport were under construction. There were only 3 people taking non-GCC passport, which is 90% of the people. The line was this long snaking things and there was at least 2 planes full of people in front of us. At close to 3am we passed customs back into Kuwait. Then it was off to get an expensive taxi to go back home.

I say expensive taxi because the airport taxis are the only taxis run by Kuwaiti people. They have a set price depending on where you are going. To my home it is 8KD or 35$CA. A taxi from my house to the airport is 3-5KD depending on the driver and how you haggle, or 14-20$CA.

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  1. Pingback: A Travel Buddy – Thirty by Thirty

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