Thursday, June 12, 2008

Getting Home

The trip home included one last night in Athens, where we stayed at Hostel Zeus, quite possible the seediest place in Athens. We picked it because it was the cheapest place available and we only had one night to spend there. In the morning before our flight left we checked out the Achaelogical Museum to see the mask of Agamemnon, many sculptures, the Vaphio cups, and much more.

With that, we headed back to Zeus to collect our luggage, took the metro to the airport and boarded an Olympic airways flight back to London.

Do to our layover, we spent the night sleeping on a bench in Heathrow airport. This is what I’m talking about when I say I lead a glamorous lifestyle:

Refreshed from our very comfortable accommodations, we boarded an American Airlines flight at 7:00am and watched eight hours worth of movies to kill time until we arrived back in Chicago.

Unfortunately, our adventures weren’t quite over. I noticed a security dog sniffing around the passengers at the luggage corral. I didn’t think anything of it until he got quite excited when he got close to me and jumped up with his paws on my back! I was clearly a threat to national security! Turns out, he was actually an agriculture dog and he was only interested in the two apples I had in my backpack that Eva and I bought in Athens for a snack. I willingly gave up the apples but not before the entire airport had stopped and watched the scene go down. I got a special mark on my customs form that meant Eva and I had to get our bags x-rayed for more illegal produce before we left the airport.

Now we’re safely back in Wisconsin and happy to enjoy our own beds, hot showers, and toilets that you can flush the toilet paper in (ah the miracles of modern plumbing). According to many of the Greeks we talked to, in our three weeks in Greece we managed to more than most of the natives!

Now it’s back to the reality of school, work and responsibility. *Sigh.* It’s a good thing we’re already planning our next adventure, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


As we arrived at Paradise Beach in Mykonos, we soon realized why our accommodations only cost us 10 Euro each – we were staying in a little tin shed that had two beds and – well, that was it really! Our little bungalows actually turned out to be a lot of fun though. There were tons of “campers” in similar set-ups, so we just left our door open and made friends with everyone! That’s how we met James and Ogie, two Aussies who were on a three month backpacking trip across Europe.

We soon got into the Mykonos routine, relaxing on the beach all day, taking a nap in the evening, and enjoying the nightlife ‘til all hours of the night. The first night we were at Paradise, the big club there, Cavo Paradiso had it’s opening night which entailed a big party with a big name DJ that neither Eva nor I had ever heard of. I guess that means we’re getting old. During the course of our stay, we also checked out the scene in Mykonos Town:

Eva and I also rented an ATV to help us get around the islands, especially to the grocery store so we could continue our cheap eating habits! I can’t believe we forgot to take a picture of us on it because it was quite the sight to see! We opted for the ATV because it was a bit more stable than the scooters available, even though it didn’t have the speed. After seeing numerous people all scraped up, including our friend Paddy who nearly dislocated his shoulder in a bad fall, we were very happy with our sensible decision. We were also sure to use our Darth Vader-style helmets at all times, modeled here by James:

All these days of laying in the sun have given both Eva and I a nice tan, even though we’ve both been very good about using our sunscreen! It’ll be nice to be back in the United States with a little color since we’ve heard that everything in Wisconsin has been underwater for the last few days! We’re so lucky to have missed out on all the rain!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Monday, we arrived in Santorini via a high-speed hydrofoil. It only took us two hours to get here from Crete.

We met three Canadians, Danielle, Ky, and Brittany in Crete and we convinced them to catch the ferry with us and stay at Tony's Villa. Tony is a legend in Santorini. His son has Down Syndrome and in order to convince the government to let his son go to school, Tony chained himself to the highest mountain in Santorini for six days until the Prime Minister of Greece took notice and rectified the situation.

We found out that Ky was able to drive stick shift, so we rented a car to go about the island.

Our first stop was wine tasting at Boutari winery, the same place we checked out in Crete. At 25 euro a day, split five ways, it was completely worth it! In fact, Eva and I are determined to learn how to drive stick when we get back to the states. Anyone up for teaching us?

In the afternoon, we went to the beach for a bit, got some groceries, and drove to the capital city, Fira to catch the sunset and do some exploring.

Tuesday morning we checked out Santo winery and bought a few more bottles of wine.

In the afternoon, we relaxed on one of the scorching hot black volcanic sand beaches that Santorini is known for.

In the evening, we decided to walk the footpath from Fira to Oia, the northernmost city on Santorini. It was a 14 kilometer (8.7 mile) hike past all the beautiful villas on the cliff's edge as well as up and down paths made of volcanic rock.

We made it to Oia just in time for sunset and then grabbed a table at a cliffside restaurant to get some dinner. I opted for the moussaka, a traditional Greek dish made of ground vegetables and mincemeat (ground beef) topped with cheese and breadcrumbs. Don't be fooled by the picture, it was filling and delicious!

Wednesday, the Canadians left and Eva and I took the bus to Fira to pick souvenirs and wander the maze-like streets.

In the evening, I had a "celebrity bartending" gig at the Full Moon Bar. I talked to Jason, the bar manager and told him I had some bartending experience so he let me show off my skills for a few hours. Jason is from Wisconsin (small world!) and he lost all his money gambling on a transatlantic cruise. He decided to get a job in Santorini to make some money to pay for his way home but he ended up staying here because he loved the island so much!

We also made friends with some boys who were also staying at Tony's. They turned out to be a pretty good time and we almost took them up on their offer to go to the island of Ios with them. Instead, we boarded our ferry to Mykonos for the last leg of our journey. Paradise Beach, here we come!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Crete, Part II

After Boutari Winery, we returned to the hotel and had a bit of a rest before meeting up with Garreth, an English guy who runs a water sports business in Crete. We had met him the night before at the Axos hotel bar and he had offered to take us to one of his favorite spots for dinner. We were super excited to try some traditional Greek cuisine and Taverna Fantastico was the perfect place to do it! It was far from the tourist traps, up in the mountains with a great view of the sea and the sunset. We chowed down on fried aubergines, stuffed vine leaves, saganaki (fried cheese), tzatsiki (yoghurt and cucumber dip), zucchini balls, fried zucchini, and bread – and that was just appetizers! We also enjoyed “village wine,” made locally. As if that wasn’t enough we also each had a main dish. I had beef and Eva had tomato and cheese spaghetti. Everything was incredibly delicious but we were definitely surprised at how much fried food the Greeks eat. We were expecting to eat the traditional Mediterranean diet of fruits, nuts, beans, etc, but we’ve been finding the food a lot unhealthier than we expected. It’s a good thing we’re staying active!

After dinner we headed right to bed because we had to wake up at 5 AM to catch our bus to hike Samaria Gorge. The gorge is the longest in Europe, stretching about 14 kilometers. The hike was fairly strenuous, with lots of rocky paths down the side of the gorge and through it to the other side. It took us about four and a half hours to complete our trek, which is about two hours faster than average! I guess dinner the night before had really energized us!

At the end of the gorge there was another 3 km walk into town. We were rewarded with a relaxing swim and a few hours of laying on the beach before we had to catch the bus back to Rethymno. The sand was very black and rocky but the water was crystal clear – probably the purest water we have ever seen!

Sunday, we were supposed to meet up with Garreth again so we could do some of the water sports that his company offers. Unfortunately, when we woke up our leg muscles ached from the hike the day before and all we could even think of doing was lying on the beach all day. We caught a bus to Prevali, a gorgeous, secluded beach that is fed by a stream. Little did we know, there was a hike involved to get to it! We rallied and made it to the bottom and it proved worth the effort.

Back at the hotel, we packed our suitcases to prepare for the next part of our journey to Santorini and then met up with Stephano, another one of the locals, at the hotel bar for a farewell beer and a few shots of Raki.

They even let me behind the bar so I could show off my pint-pouring skills!

Crete has been an amazing time. The island has a lot to offer and we’ve made some great friends. Looking back, we wish we had rented a car so we didn’t waste so much time on long bus rides but it’s probably best we didn’t because it would have been fairly expensive. Now we’re on the ferry to Santorini and we’ll back in the United States in just one week!