My Greek Odyssey

Hello Greece, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you
The Ancient Agora and the Acropolis
The less popular Ancient Sites
The Archeological Musuem
Heading West to Peloponnese
Acoustic Perfection at the Theatre of Epidavros
The Palaces of Tiryns & Mycenae
The 999 steps to the Fortress of Palamidi
Socrates NOW!
Visiting the Oracle at Delphi
The Mythology of Delphi
The Overnight Ferry to Crete
The Palace of Knossos
Phaistos Disc
The Island Shaped by the Largest Eruption of all Time
Santo Wines
The Classic Day Tour of Santorini
Life is a Beach
Athens: A Reprise
Bye bye Greece

Hello Greece, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you

The warmth of the Greek sun welcomed me as I deplaned in Athens airport. After chasing the sun since that day in Berlin when I realised summer was fleeting, I felt like I’ve finally caught up with it! The thought of this and the fact that I’ve arrived at the culmination of my European trip painted a smile on my face as I waited for the train from the airport to the city centre. I jumped on the next one which took me straight to Monastiraki Station in 42 minutes (a very precise time I know, but every Athenian will tell you that’s how long it takes).

Leaving Monastiraki Station in search for my hostel, I was immediately surprised with what I saw while walking through the very centre of the capital: the streets are dirty, there’s graffiti everywhere, there are lots of stalls selling fake accessories and various knick knacks, and the buildings look like they’ve just been through a war. On top of that, the streets were dark, the sidewalks had poles built in the very middle of them (if there were sidewalks) and roads were about as flat as the surface of the desert. Come to think of it, it was a bit like walking around Downtown Cebu!

Still recovering from my initial shock, I finally found City Circus Hostel and checked in. I was sharing a room with an American Army Captain and an Australian girl who was as thin as a stick. I’m reasonably confident that the she is a compulsive liar, following the multitude of times she told us she was going out with friends who didn’t exist and inviting us to go drinking with her in bars when we found her just sleeping in the room. The Captain just finished his 3 year station in Germany yet didn’t speak a word of German. I had dinner with him in a nearby restaurant (where I had my first souvlaki and sample of greek red wine). He was actually a very nice bloke but unfortunately didn’t have much between the ears. Following dinner, we had a few more drinks in a bar just by Monastiraki Square, where we exchanged stories of leading teams and he told me about looking forward to his new station in Alaska.

The Ancient Agora and the Acropolis

My first breakfast in Greece! Not an exciting event for many people, but food is always exciting for me. The breakfast was one of the reasons why I picked this hostel, along with the reviews for it having extremely comfortable mattresses and being spartan clean. Breakfast consisted of home made jams (quince, strawberry, fig, marmalade and a thick, rich honey), muesli, Greek yoghurt, fruits, bread, juices and coffee. Nothing too extravagant I must say, but for Greek hostel standards this was top notch – and I’ll admit one of the main reasons why I made this hostel my base in Athens.

Knowing I had all the time in the world in Greece, I didn’t particularly want to rush to the Acropolis right away. I had initially thought about doing a bit of exploring first and learning a bit about Ancient Greek History before making the climb to the most famous acropolis in the world. So after finding out that the ticket to enter the acropolis gives me entrance to six other historical sites in Athens, I thought I would visit them first.

Looking at my map I saw that the closest of the six sites was something called the Temple of Hephaestus in an area called the Agora. Walking towards this place I had no idea what the hell I was walking to, what I was going to see or it’s significance in Greek History. I also would have never guessed that where I was going would become my absolute favourite spot in all of Greece.

After only about 10 minutes of walking, I arrived at one of the entrances to the Ancient Agora. The agora (or “gathering place”) was the center of political and public life in ancient Athens. It was where Solon in 594 B.C., Pesistratos in 560 B.C. and finally Kleisthenes in 510 B.C. each contributed to forming democracy, making the popular assembly the most important body in the Athenian state and securing the rights of all born native citizens to participate in public affairs (whereas prior to this all the power lay with the nobles and wealthy class, causing great instability and rivalry between social classes). It was also where Socrates, his student Plato and then later Aristotle used reason to question the nature of truth, virtue and knowledge, giving birth to Philosophy. And it is the home of the most beautiful doric temple in all of Greece: the temple of Hephaestus.

Hephaestus was the patron god of metal working and craftsmanship, and there were many potters and metal-working shops in the vicinity of the temple. Compared to other temples in the area, the temple of Hephaestus was nothing special in it’s day. However, now it remains the best preserved doric temple in all of Greece, all of it’s columns in tact and rising up to the friezes depicting the battles between Centaurs and Lapiths as well as the labours and deification of Hercacles (or Hercules, as we know him). The temple itself is on a hill higher up than all the other buildings in the agora and surrounded by lush vegetation giving it a poetic setting fit for it’s beauty!

The fact that it is practically whole and still standing despite being 2,500 years old is not the reason why this is my favourite temple, but rather because of this one can truly appreciate Greek classical architecture. It’s doric columns (one of the three canonical orders along with the later Ionic and Corinthian) give the temple a sense of strength and harmony by way to it’s construction. Although not immediately obvious, the columns are not straight but rather slightly arch inwards as they get higher; a design that gives both stability and a life-like shape to them. This, along with the scenes of Theseus, Heracles and the Gods depicted in the friezes and metopes, emphasise the essence of Greece in a time when people admired the greatness of heroes, strove for beauty and perfection (as their statues portray) and did good acts in honour of the gods.

Imagine what life would be like nowadays the same motivating factors were omnipresent in our lives. I think the world would be a much more beautiful place to live in! =)

The rest of the Agora, however, did not survive the test of time as well as the Temple of Hephaestus. The Athenian Agora was repeatedly destroyed and pillaged by: the Persians (480 BC), the Romans under Sulla (86 BC), the Herulians (267 AD) and the Slavs (580 AD). It was again destroyed in 1204 by invaders under Leon Sgouros, ruler of Nauplion, and in 1826-27 during the Greek War of Independence. One can only imagine the glory it exhibited in its time, and the Greek tradition of leaving ruins as they are serve as a constant reminder of the destructive nature of war.

The Stoa of Attalos is one exception in the agora of a temple rebuilt since its destruction (the Greeks are flexible with the rules like that) and now houses a wonderful little museum of the history of the Agora, complete with jars, wine vases and burial artefacts from Neolithic times, a large bronze battle shield that looks like it could be straight off from the movie 300 and beautiful marble statues of Gods and Goddesses. I was transported back in time to a glorious age, only to be brought back to the present by my grumbling stomach. So I left the Agora and grabbed myself a greek salad, a fish of the day and a white wine in a nearby restaurant with shade from a tree and a view of the Acropolis.

Suitably recharged, I made my way to the next historical site on my list: the Theatre of Dionysus. If there was one God I would pay tribute to if I lived in Ancient Greek times, Dionysus would be him! Dionysus is the God of wine and patron of music and drama, hence it was quite befitting that the Theatre of Dionysus is a major open-air theatre and one of the earliest preserved in Athens. To be honest, it pales in comparison with the nearby (and much later created) Odeon of Herodes Atticus, but there’s still something special about sitting in the seats where 2,500 years ago spectators sat in awe of dramatists playing roles from the Homeric epics. The advent of tragedies is credited to the Athenians as well, and dramatic festivals that were competitive among playwrights were also staged here.

Walking away from the theatre, I had intended on visiting the Temple of Zeus before calling it a day, but the path I chose wound its way upwards and later rather than sooner I realised I was fast approaching the Acropolis. So although I had planned that morning to leave the Acropolis for a later time in my stay in Athens, I thought it silly to be so close only to turn around. So into the Acropolis I went!

I walked up a series of steps towards the Propylaea (the gateway) of the Acropolis. Right outside by it stood the temple of Athena Nike (Nike means victory in Greek), celebrating the victories in war and wisdom as well as honouring the goddess in hope of a prosperous outcome of the long Peloponnesian War fought against the Spartans. A statue of Nike once stood on the temple, deprived of wings so that it could never leave the city. The temple served to protect the Acropolis and the Cyclopian walls that surrounded it (called so because it was believe that the Cyclops had built them).

Stepping through the Propylaea and into the city, there is no doubt the first thing that caught my eye was the Parthenon. Considered the most important surviving classical building on ancient Greece and generally considered to be the culmination of the Doric order, the temple truly is spectacular. The columns still standing are apparently as perfect as Doric columns can get, and seeing the pediments, metopes and friezes the next day in the Museum of Acropolis, I can easily imagine it must have been considered the most beautiful monument in its time.

However, history has taken it’s toll on the Parthenon and between the Christian’s destroying a lot of the structures on the pediments when it was converted to a Christian church, the Ottoman’s using it as an ammunition dump causing great destruction during a Venetian bombardment, Lord Elgin “buying” a number of sculptures and selling it off to the British Museum and your usual treasure hunters pillaging the temple, the Parthenon today is a long way away from the glory it used to be.

Regardless, it serves as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, ancient democracy and still shines as an inspiration for victory in war and wisdom over the whole of Athens!

For all it’s beauty and significance in history, I was more moved by the Agora than the Acropolis that day, but I loved both sites each in their own way. So much so that my experiences there fuelled me for three weeks of learning and exploring through the different historical sites and museums throughout the whole of Greece.

The All Faithful: FREE Walking Tour

Inspired by the previous day, I was really looking forward to the Athens walking tour I had planned on doing this morning. As I happily munched on my breakfast at City Circus, I channeled my opera voice and asked everyone else in the room who was planning on doing the same walking tour that day. A Turkish man called Anel said he was thinking of doing it, so we buddied up and took on the day together.

We went to Monasteraki square at 10:00am and met our half English, half Greek guide who spoke with a voice like Louis Armstrong. We walked through all the main historical sites in the Athens city centre while he told us about the battle of Marathon, the rise of Athens as the centre of Greece, showed us the rock where St Paul stood and tried to convert the Greeks to Christianity, and intertwined fictional history with Greek mythology like an expert weaver. Maybe I was caught up in the whole experience, but he was definitely the best guide of the trip. Overflowing with knowledge and oozing with passion (and every question I asked he elaborately answered with growing excitement)!

Anel and I both wanted to visit the Museum of Acropolis that day, a modern building that sat by the base of the Acropolis itself. So I grabbed a fig salad that tasted like it was soaked in honey (as if figs were not sweet enough) from a restaurant on the way and we made our way to the museum.

The Museum itself was absolutely wonderful! The floor was made of glass so you could see the remains of the ancient city that existed there previously, and the building was structured in such a way that walking through it was akin to walking up to the acropolis 2,500 years ago. The prize possessions of the museums were on the very top floor, where they kept everything they recovered from the pediments, metopes and friezes of the Parthenon. That, along with all the countless statues of Athena and other Gods as well as all the objects they found at and around the Museum, kept Anel and I transfixed for almost 4 hours!!! Naturally, we had a nice break in the middle at the museum cafe (which is built on a balcony facing the Acropolis nearby) where I had a nice greek coffee and a fat free cake. =)

Exhausted after our day, we went back to the hostel to rest a bit and then headed out for dinner at a gorgeous part of Athens called Anafiotika. There we met a few locals who were musicians, one of which was on his way to bristol to go to university to study music production. I promised him I would put him in touch with Nico, a promise which I am very behind in keeping!

The less popular Ancient Sites

Today I decided to visit the other historical sites in Athens that were included in the Acropolis ticket. This included the Roman Agora, Hadrians Library and the Temple of Zeus. Though the Roman Agora did contain the Tower of a Winds (an octagonal clock tower containing sundials, a water clock and a wine vane) that was interesting, I concluded after visiting all three that going into them wasn’t exactly a memorable experience. Having said that, the Temple of Zeus is an impressive sight to behold due to the sheer colossal size of it, befitting the King of the Gods. Now, unfortunately, only 15 of it’s original 104 columns remain. Despite taking almost 600 years to be completely built, it was damaged by invaders and pillaged in only a quarter of that time.

I went back to the hostel to see if I could grab someone to have dinner with and I found an American Geologist in my room fresh from a Geological conference somewhere in the continent. He decided to come to Greece so he could visit Santorini where the Thera Volcano is, a volcano that had the biggest eruption ever recorded in history! We agreed dinner would be a good idea and went to a nearby seafood restaurant called Ivis that one of the staff in our hostel recommended.

Jay (the Geologist) was keen on trying the famous spirit Ouzo (an alcoholic beverage made from grapes and anise. Tastes like a liquorice version of Saki) so we ordered a 500ml bottle between the two of us and had it with anchovies, bread and tomato salad. A German woman sitting next to us with her Greek husband started chatting with us, and after we warmed up to each other she decided to buy us a 500ml bottle of Raki (another spirit made from grapes but without anise) in hopes to educate us on the better stuff to drink (apparently, Raki is less likely to give you a hangover compared to Ouzo). A very nice gesture indeed and I actually did prefer the taste of the latter (I was never a fan of liquorice), but I think we were both more entertained about how completely off her rocker this woman was. She spoke like she was positively plastered and her eyes danced around their sockets like Mad Eye Moody, but she was good fun and we were glad to have sat next to her. Apparently, her biggest dreams in life were to go to the Burning Man festival in North America and visit the Pyramids of Giza (two subjects she spoke at great lengths about, many times repeating herself)!

The crazy German woman may have been speaking some sense as the next morning I woke up without a hangover. =)

The Archeological Musuem

Most of my mornings started off slow when I was in Greece. Since I felt I had all the time in the world, there was never any immediacy to rush anywhere. I only had to make sure I was down for breakfast before 11am, but I was always up before that time anyway. Then I would usually check my emails and maybe read up a bit on the history of what I was going to see that day. It was no surprise then it wasn’t until around noon when I normally headed out.

One of the things I read that was worth doing was visiting the Archeological Museum in Athens. More so than the museum of the Acropolis, apparently this was was not one to miss!

Following my aforementioned morning routine, I arrived at the nearest station to the museum (Victoria) just about lunch time. I was greeted with the smell from a grill just outside the station that prepared pork and chicken souvlaki’s served with fresh Greek salad. The place reminded me of Jun-Jun and Malou’s back home. Mmmm…. I couldn’t resist, so I ordered a few sticks and sat on a table with an older Greek man who spoke very little English. I offered to share with him my Sadziki dip (yoghurt, cucumber and garlic) and he soon started smiling and chatting a bit more. Funny how food brings people together!

Fired up from lunch, I spent the next 4 hours in the Archeological Museum. The collection was absolutely amazing, ranging from treasures of Mycenaean tombs (including the golden mask of Agamemnon), beautiful ancient Greek sculptures of Gods and Goddesses, the 2,000 year old Antikythera mechanism (referred by some as the first computer, it was a clock shaped calendar that could accurately determine the position of the moon for any future date through the use of hundreds of gears), and countless other important artefacts from Neolithic times (6,000 years B.C.) up to the end of the Roman occupation (330 A.D.). I was so amazed by the museum that I visited it again three weeks later, on my last day in Greece.

I made my way back to the hostel, where Jay and a group of other travellers from all across the globe met up for dinner. Even though I was only in Athens a few days at this point, I was considered the resident local by the group so I led them all to Anafiotika (where Anel and I had dinner two nights earlier). This time we were served by a Filipino waiter and once I revealed to him I was Filipino as well, the freebee’s came flowing like there was no tomorrow.

The evening continued until the wee small hours of the morning in two very trendy bars near Monasteraki square!

Heading West to Peloponnese

Inspired by all the history I learned during my stay in Athens, I decided to head west to the Peloponnese peninsula to visit the ancient sites of Mycenae, Tiryns, Olympia and Sparta. I seemed to be the only one in the hostel doing this, as everyone I spoke to was either coming or going to the Greek islands. Nonetheless, I packed my bags, jumped on a bus and headed towards Nafplio, a seaside town that the hostel manager suggested I use as my base.

Upon arriving in Nafplio, I was pleasantly surprised to find a stunning little Venetian town. I instantly felt transported to Italy walking through the little cobbled streets lined hanging bougenvilla and admiring the architecture of the buildings and colourful houses. There was also no shortage of Italian Gelato to help cool me down on a hot day!

I eventually found my way to Chroma Design Hotel & Suites (sounds fancy doesn’t it?). It was the cheapest place I could find and it was like staying in a 4 star hotel (it wasn’t really, but in comparison to the hostels I was staying in it sure seemed plush). My room had a jacuzzi shower!!! How awesome is that? And although I had to climb many steps to get up to it, it has a fantastic birds eye view of the entire city and bay area.

After having a delicious grilled fish and white wine in a restaurant at the port, I called it a night as the next day I had an early start.

Acoustic Perfection at the Theatre of Epidavros

The breakfast buffet at Chroma was quite similar to that of City Circus except this also had bougatsa, which I concluded at the end of my trip was my absolute favourite Greek pastry. It was just myself and an American couple that morning having breakfast. The husband looked like he ate one too many doughnuts in his life, but he incidentally held a history degree and spoke about the subject with such fervour it was refreshing. Every morning I would engage in conversation with him about Greek history, normally up to a point to where he would start waffling which became my cue to get on with my day.

Epidavros is yet another great example how the worship of Gods in ancient Greece led to the creation of beautiful sanctuaries and monuments. Asklepios, the much-worshipped god of health and well-being, attracted people from all over Greece to visit his sanctuary at Epidavros.

Visitors would first cleanse themselves in the Baths of Asklepios. They would then proceed to the Abaton situated immediately west of the baths where they would sleep in a special healing room. They would either be cured of their sickness upon waking up or they would receive in a dream the instructions of their healing, which a doctor on site would administer. Interesting story I know, but there are inscriptions on the walls of the temple recording the miraculous cures of all the people who were healed!

Whether it was truly the god of Asklepios healing these people or they just happened to have a damn good doctor on site, the popularity of his sanctuary led to great economic prosperity. This in turn financed many monumental buildings, a stadium, odeon and the famous Theatre of Epidavros (sounds like a great retreat area if you ask me!)

The Theatre of Epidavros is why most visitors, myself included, travel to the sanctuary today. It is the best preserved Ancient Greek Theatre and at 2500 years old still boasts to be an acoustic masterpiece. I heard stories that you could hear a coin drop on stage from the very back seat, so just imagine the quality of the sound one could hear during a performance!

So, after visiting the museum on site and the ruins of the other monuments, I made my way to the Theatre of Epidavros and climbed up to the very back row to enjoy the show. Not that there was a show going on, but I decided to enjoy the acoustics by waiting for other tourists to stand on centre stage and enjoy their moment in the spot light (or sun light in this case). Disappointingly, in the good half an hour I sat there people watching and taking comfort in my shady seat, nobody burst into song or thought about reciting Shakespeare. Everybody thought it would suffice to clap their hands to test the amplification of the sound, and only one old Italian man had the ingenuity to recite what I can only guess was a passage in Latin from the Bible. One man held a piece of paper and ripped it in half, and the sound of the paper tearing was as clear to me in the back row as it must have been for him. Amazing!

After years of studying the area, it was discovered that the amplification of sound was not only obtained by the structure of the theatre but also from the stone they used in the seats. The marble obtained from a nearby mountain contained the right composition to allow sound waves of high frequency to bounce off them and low frequency ones (i.e., audience whispering) to be absorbed by them. Of course, the Greek’s had no idea the seats would have this affect, but nonetheless to this day performances are still held in this theatre for those who want to enjoy the sound of a show in it’s purest and clearest form!

Next time I visit, I may be lucky to catch a concert going on. For now, I suppose I’ll just have to settle for the main concert hall of the Barbican Theatre. 😉

The Palaces of Tiryns & Mycenae

To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the Palace of Mycenae until I arrived in Nafplio. But for my larger-than-average American friend and the Australian girl I met the next day, Mycenae was the highlight of visiting the Peloponnese. Good thing I booked to stay in Nafplio for a few days then, because it gave me more than enough time to pick up on information like that and pay the acropolis a visit.

I sat with the friendly Greek lady at reception after breakfast (as I did everyday when I was there) to get the bus schedules that day. Even though the schedules are publicised, they apparently never stay the same so she always insisted on calling on the day to see what they really were. She recommended that I visit both Tiryns and Mycenae that day because the former was on the way to the latter and neither needed more than a couple of hours each. So a hop and a bus ride later I got off at Tiryns, only a short walk away from the main entrance to the acropolis.

As I walked towards the ticket booth, I saw a group of archeologists dressed like Indiana Jones digging and dusting objects around the site. I don’t know how they were doing it in this heat, but it was cool to see them in action at the very site I was visiting! I don’t want to say it went downhill from there, but let’s just say I had to use a lot of imagination when walking around the palace grounds. All the courts, storage areas, work shops and different rooms were pretty much reduced to piles of rocks lying all over the place, one hardly discernible from the other. What was still in tact was the 50 meter ramp that went through the great gate to the Upper Citadel (where they king chilled out in his court and received guests). They say it was built that way so that invaders would be swiftly dealt with should they find themselves on this ramp, trying to get in.

The next bus to pass Tiryns en route to Mycenae couldn’t come any sooner and I made sure I hopped on it in hopes that Mycenae had something better to offer. And it did! It was a bigger and better version of the acropolis of Tiryns, and to think the site predated Tiryns as well.

The Mycenaean civilisation existed between the 16th and 12th BC and was a great civilisation that spread throughout all of Greece. It was also a great military power, reaching all the way to the island of Crete where it conquered the Minoan civilisation. Stories passed down from generations tell of the hero Perseus who ruled as king here, and of one of his descendants (Eurystheus) who was said to have imposed the “twelve labours” on Herakles. But most famous of all is the Homeric story of King Agamemnon ordering the sail of a thousand ships to rescue Helen from Troy. A lot of times I find that it is the legends that make these ruins truly interesting, otherwise if you think about it all you are doing is looking at a bunch of rocks.

The Lion Gate and the tombs were really the most interesting things for the casual visitor to see at the acropolis. The former is the main entrance to the fortified citadel, named after the two lionesses in a heraldic pose standing above the entrance. It is the sole surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture, as well as the largest sculpture in the prehistoric Aegean. The tombs are fascinating too as they are perfectly preserved beehive shaped tholos tombs! There wasn’t really much to see at the Grave Circles but a pile of rubble, but is was impressive to be looking at the very spot where Heinrich Schliemann found all the Mycenaean treasures, including the mask of Agamemnon (and it is funny knowing that recent studies have proven that the mask of Agamemnon didn’t really belong to him, as it predates the reign of the Mycenaean king. Nonetheless, it is still referred to this day as such. A perfect example that how sometimes legends are accepted as truth simply because it is more interesting. Reminds me of the movie Big Fish!)

As I was admiring the Treasury of Atreus (also named Agamemnon’s tomb by Schliemann although Agamemnon was not in fact buried there), I knew I had only a short amount of time left at Mycenae as the last bus heading back to Nafplio was scheduled to depart at 15:00. Annoyingly early, but that’s the local transport system for you in the Peloponnese: unreliable and infrequent. I rushed back to the bus stop and got there at 14:55, only to be told by a cab driver when I arrived that I had just missed the bus!!!!

At first I thought he was trying to pull a fast one over me; surely a bus wouldn’t leave before it was scheduled to. But after waiting a good 20 minutes, I accepted the fact that he was telling the truth. He continued to describe to me every single passenger that got off with me on the bus when I arrived and then informed me that they all got back on. At this point I was quite impressed with the business opportunity he had capitalised by taking advantage of people like me who missed the last bus back, and at the same time disgusted at the price he was offering me to take me back to Nafplio (€25, as opposed to the €2 bus ride).

Despite him insisting I had no other way back, I proceeded back to the ticket office and asked a local if there was a nearby town I could walk to which would then have a bus to Nafplio. Sure enough, she pointed me in the direction to a town 5 kilometres away and I very happily made my way there where I treated myself to a coffee while I waited for my bus ride home.

The 999 steps to the Fortress of Palamidi

My morning started off like every other morning in Nafplio, except today I had breakfast with a young Australian girl who was travelling through Turkey, Greece and Italy solely to visit historical sites. She was a self-confessed museum junkie and history nerd, which made her very interesting to talk with about Greek history. Between her, myself and the larger-than-life American, we could have started a club together! We had different itineraries for the day so we didn’t buddy up then, although a few days later we met in Delphi to see the sights there.

Having seen the main archeological sites around Nafplio, I left my last day to explore the town and visit the Fortress of Palamidi. I decided first to go to the archeological museum, which was easier in theory than in practice. Both the internet and my Triposo travel application showed that the museum was located in the “new” part of town (despite being newer than the historic centre, it’s in terrible shape and damn ugly). I thought this was a bit unusual being a good 30 minute walk from the historical centre, but didn’t think much of it.

I wish I did think a bit more about it because I got lost twice trying to find the bloody museum! The first time by failing to locate the blasted address that was advertised online, and the second time finally arriving at the said address and not finding any museum in sight. I went to a nearby hardware store to ask the storekeeper where the museum was and he pointed me to the main square right in the historic centre, only minutes away from my hotel. By the time I arrived there, I probably spent a good two hours in journey time to find a museum filled with nothing much more than neolithic pots and jars (and one bronze armour). Needless to say, I didn’t stay very long in the museum. Oh well, at least I got to see the reality of the city outside the confines of the tourist area.

It was almost 5pm at this point, the time I decided would be good to make my way up to the Fortress of Palamidi. I honestly was looking more forward to the challenge of climbing 999 steps to reach the top than what I would find up there. So I found myself a nearby cafe, ordered a double espresso and a merengue-like dessert (caffeine + sugar makes for great fuel), and began my journey up to the fortress.

Climbing 999 steps was easier than I thought it would be. After 20 minutes of comfortable walking I found myself at the main entrance and still had loads of energy to explore the different bastions, munitions depots and the prison. Palamidi was a Venetian built fortress that was built in only four years between 1711 and 1715 (but fell into Ottoman hands before its completion). It is still in fantastic condition and has lots of sections to run around and play (I kept on thinking when I was exploring the area that it would make a great set for a Medieval movie). It also offers the best panoramic view of the city of Nafplio and the wild beauty of the landscape where the mountains meet the sea of Arvanitia.

After exploring the entire area, I made my way back down the 999 steps and by the time I got back to my hotel I was suitably drained. I had a well deserved 500ml carafe of red wine (which was my standard fare in Greece, as half a litre of house red wine only costs three to four euros) and a delicious piece of stewed meat that was big enough to feed a hungry Viking. All to the background music of a live duo performing Greek traditional music in the restaurant. A perfect end to the day!

Socrates NOW!

After four days in and around Nafplio, it was time to move on.

When I originally came to the Peloponnese, I had intended on also visiting the ancient sites of Sparta and Olympia. However, every single person I spoke to told me that there was nothing worth seeing in Sparta nowadays. So this left Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics and an archeological museum filled with great statues adoring the Greek Gods. The only problem was getting there and onwards.

By car it would only take about three hours. By public transport, however, it would take three buses, a lot of waiting in between and pretty much the better portion of a whole day. From Olympia to my next destination (Delphi) was the exact same story. So that was two whole days of travelling with all the bags that I was lugging along with me, in exchange for a destination I really didn’t know much about other than it had a good museum.

I also knew that today was the last day that the play “Socrates NOW!” was running in Athens. I had wanted to see this the previous week but all the tickets were sold out then, so it was my last chance to catch it. And with a bus ride of only two hours to get back to Athens, making the decision of my next move become more obvious the more I thought about it.

I had breakfast that morning with an English tour guide from Hampstead Heath who used to run a school in England (a life he gave up for a more relaxing profession). He was an extremely well spoken and educated man who came to Greece primarily to visit an old friend and buy him a computer. I told him of the play about the apology of Socrates and, interested in seeing it too, he jumped on the same bus as me back to Athens and we both caught the play that evening.

The Apology of Socrates was an 80 minute solo performance capturing the essence of Socratic ethics. In the Apology (told to us by Socrates’ pupil, Plato), the wise man of Athens firmly defends himself – rather than apologising in the contemporary sense – against politically motivated accusations of not believing in the gods of the state, and of corrupting the Athenian youth.

The performance was brilliant; very accessible, engaging and full of wit. It was directed and performed by Yannis Simonides, an Athenian himself raised in Greece but trained in Yale University as an actor/writer/producer. He also served as professor and chair of the New York University School of the Arts and Drama and performed in plays from Sophocles to Shakespeare. A very impressive resume indeed and there was no doubting his skill as an actor watching him on stage.

After the play finished, a few of us remained for the open forum that Yannis conducted. It was meant to show how Socratic ethics apply to todays world problems of morality, politics and economics. He opened the floor completely to the audience and was received with a multitude of questions from Americans, New Zealanders and local Greeks. Every single question was embraced with Yannis’ great philosophical mind and through skilfully asking back the right questions, the questioner would arrive at answers in line with virtue, justice and civic duty (thus perfectly demonstrating the power of the Socratic Method). One would almost think they were talking to Socrates himself!

There is a lot that Socrates teaches us in his dialogues, but I feel his main themes focus on the following:

  • “I only know that I know nothing”
  • “The unexamined life was not worth living”. In life, it is imperative to know who you are and who you are trying to become.
  • Believed the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development/caring for the soul and becoming virtuous rather than the pursuit of material wealth. For Socrates, virtue was attainment of knowledge.

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Visiting the Oracle at Delphi

Today was without a doubt the worst planned travel day in my whole trip.

In my mind, all I had to do was go to the central bus station and take the next available bus from Athens to Delphi, which run at frequent times of the day and take only three hours to get there. It all sounded so easy, so I made no attempts to think any more of it. In hindsight, it could have been that easy, but luck just wasn’t on my side that day.

After waking up at my own leisure, I took my usual long breakfast while checking on hostels in Delphi and booked the cheapest that I found. I then checked the bus schedules from Athens to Delphi and realised that to achieve the travel plans I had in mind, I would need to catch the 10:30 bus. It was 10:00am when I discovered this fact and the staff at City Circus (my favourite hostel in Greece) told me there was no way I could catch that even if I took a cab.

“Great! I’ll just have to take the 1:00pm bus then and arrive in Delphi just in time for everything to close!” (I thought sardonically)

Not a real biggie as I surmised that there would still be things to do when I got there. So I chatted with my roommates for a while and the staff at the hostel (whom I’ve established a lovely bond with), and made my way to the main bus station. I knew getting to the main bus station would be a bit of a chore because I experienced it firsthand when commuting to Nafplio, but it was an even bigger ordeal today because the local busses didn’t seem to have any bus tickets to sell for me on board (something they communicated to me via grunts and sign language, as none of them spoke a word of English).

I ran to the nearest metro station to buy transportation tickets there and returned to the bus stop, jumped on the next bus and finally arrived at the central bus station at 12:30… which I thought was a sufficient amount of time to buy my tickets and grab some lunch. However, when I went to the information booth to ask where to get the tickets for Delphi, the lady told me I was in the wrong bus station and that I needed to take another bus ride to get to the other regional bus station.

“Sh$t!” (is probably what I thought at this point)

So I run out in hope that I can still make the 1:00pm bus, forever optimistic despite the situation. Luckily, I didn’t need to wait too long until the bus I needed passed by and I arrived at the other terminal at 12:55. Channelling my inner Flash Gordon, I make a dash for the ticket booth and ask if I can still catch the 1:00pm bus to Delphi. The Greek lady just blinked at me and said there was no 1:00pm bus and that the only one after the morning bus was at 3:00pm!

What a palaver! So I grabbed a chicken salad and a drink at the station cafe, took the next bus and arrived at Delphi at 6:00pm! Six in the evening!!! A whole day of travelling for what should have only taken me three hours. And it’s not that I couldn’t afford the time (time was actually the one thing I could afford at that point) but I hate wasting anything, especially time.

Considering that 2,500 years ago people from all over the Mediterranean made the journey to the centre of Greece and climbed up to an altitude of 550 meters on the slopes of Mount Parnassus just to visit the Oracle, it seems almost poetic that my trip was a bit of an epic journey of its own. Of course, at that time they had to do it under the ruthless heat of the Greek sun by foot, carriage or boat while I was sitting comfortably in an air conditioned bus and enjoying the scenery of the bay of Corinth as the roads wound up the mountain. 😉

In any case, I had arrived!

Sept 9: Archeological site and museum with Aussie traveller.

The Mythology of Delphi

For many centuries, Delphi was the religious and spiritual centre of the Greek world. It was also believed to be the geographical centre of the world as it was here where the two eagles dispatched by Zeus at opposite ends of the earth met and fell to the ground.

According to Homer, Apollo shot his first arrow as an infant at Delphi and it effectively slew the serpent Pytho, the son of Gaia who protected the area. Pytho’s body fell into a fissure and fumes arose from its decomposing body. These fumes would eventually be the very substance that would intoxicate the Oracle at Delphi (also called the sibyl) and cause her to fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit and give her the power of prophesy.

As far as Greek mythology goes, it’s a pretty entertaining origin story. But like much of the content in the Homeric hymns, there exists as much fact as there does fiction… one just needs to be able to find it.

For almost 100 years geologists have declared that intoxicating fumes could not have possibly been released from the fissure as Mount Parnassus is not a volcanic area. However, recent discoveries have found a fault line right on the spot where the Oracle sat on her tripod and entered her trance. Scientists have also identified chemicals in this fault line can produce hallucinogenic effects corresponding to the behavioural characteristics described in the Homeric hymns.

Unfortunately, they also discovered that inhalation of such chemicals for extended periods of time causes death to the subject, which makes me dubious of the real reason why they chose a female to be the Oracle in an otherwise patriarchal society. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that they chose an “older woman of blameless life” to be the Oracle… if you’re on your way out, might as well make the city some money while you’re at it! Delphi did, after all, function as the de facto Central Bank of Ancient Greece due to it’s wealth in treasuries to commemorate victories and give thanks to the Apollo and the Oracle.

The most impressive section for me at the archeological site at Delphi was the Sacred Way, the path the led from the entrance to the Temple of Apollo. It’s just a path, but to the left and right of it the Greek cities erected their dedications: statues, temples and treasuries. Imagine 2,500 years ago standing in line (and if you weren’t a politician or a nobleman, you were in the back of the queue) and marvelling at all the beauty surrounding you while you wait. Then, moving up the path closer to the Temple of Apollo to gain an audience with the Oracle, you walk by the Omphalos – the egg-shaped boulder signalling you have now just reached the very centre of the earth! What a visit that must have been for the Greeks!

I wish I could jump in a time machine and go back to experience it as it was 2,500 years ago. Seeing all the beautiful statues and temples in the museum I visited that morning really brought the archeological site alive for me. I went to the archeological site twice that day. The second time I played the part of the historical tour guide for the Australian girl I met in Nafplio. However, despite all that I read and my half-day advantage at the site, she still managed to be the one giving me a history lesson. 🙂

The Overnight Ferry to Crete

Delphi is such a small town that once you visit the ancient city and the museum there really isn’t much else to do. So the morning after spending the whole day at the archeological site, I finally set forth out of the Greek mainland to one of the islands: Crete.

I woke up in the nick time as I had forgotten to set my alarm, grabbed a pan au chocolat on the way to the bus stop from the cafe across the road and caught the 10:00am bus from Delphi to Athens. This got me to Athens at 1:00pm, giving me ample time to eat lunch, pickup my luggage at City Circus and read up a little bit on my next destination. By 6:00pm, I made my way to the port to catch the 9:00pm overnight ferry to the Cretan capital, Heraklion.

I didn’t book myself a cabin in the ferry to sleep in as it would have cost me twice the amount and I would have had to share it with God-knows-who. So I took the cheapest fare (as most backpackers and locals do), which also involves scrambling for the reclining chairs on deck before they’re grabbed up by everyone else. If you weren’t quick enough, you would have to sleep on the carpeted floor (an option a few people with sleeping bags preferred anyway). What most people do is look for three or four available seats next to each other and lie on them crosswise as if it were a flat bed. I had been told all this beforehand by the Australian traveller I met at Nafplio and Delphi, so I made sure I got to the ferry early enough to do the same.

Despite being victorious in claiming a group of reclining chairs to fashion as my bed for the night (you really do need to be quick), it was still near impossible for me to sleep on a deck with dozens of other people making various noises, a television blaring late night Greek reality programs (then transitioning to the greatest football goals in the wee small hours of the morning) and with more than enough lights left on than was really necessary. Nonetheless, I tried my best. Fashioning my leather satchel wrapped in a towel as both a pillow and a means to protect my valuables and lodging my suitcase between the seats I was lying on and those in front of me, I must have caught three to four hours sleep tops… always in little bits and pieces.

A handful of locals and I tried to squeeze in a few more valuable minutes of sleep when we arrived at Crete, but sure enough as soon as we docked the cleaners had the vacuum’s out and were ushering us out the door. So there I was is Heraklion at 6:00am, with not much sleep on me and a check-in time still six hours away. It was going to be a long day!

I nonetheless walked to my hotel from the old Venetian port in hope that I could check in early or, if not, leave my suitcase at reception. It took me about 40 minutes to get there on account of taking the longer route by mistake, and when I did the best the receptionist could offer me was an early check-in at 11:00am which I gladly accepted (not that I had a choice).

Still a little bit dazed and starting to get hungry, I explored the local area in search for a nice place to perch myself for the next few hours. As luck would have it, a few minutes later I found myself sitting at Lion Square (the centre of town) having Bougatsa and a Greek coffee for breakfast in a famous traditional cafe. The cafe gained its popularity from the delicious bougatsa’s they’ve been making since 1922, as well as providing the perfect spot to watch the city wake up in the mornings. This was my second time now to sample the Greek delicacy and after breakfast was over, it had rightfully claimed it’s position as my favourite pastry in Greece.

As one might expect, I moved like a slug for the remainder of the day, spending a fair amount of time recharging my batteries at the hotel. Before arriving at Heraklion I had planned on going to the archeological museum that afternoon, but I now knew that would have been a fools effort given the state of my brain. So I just explored the city a little, pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t as ugly as people were billing it to be. Not that I’m saying I would have hung around there longer than I did, but it does very well to serve as a base to visit the Palace of Knossos.

The Palace of Knossos

The Palace of Knossos was THE reason why I came to Crete.

Knossos was where the Minoans, one of the earliest civilisations in Greece, inhabited and where they built the first palace in all of Europe. The palace itself is connected with thrilling Greek legends, such as the myth of Labyrinth with the Minotaur and the story of Daidalos and Ikaros. I would have never guessed when I was learning about these legends in my English Literature class in CIS that 15 years later I would be at the very spot where they took place.

Despite seeing some photos of the present day Palace of Knossos online, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the archeological site. I’ve read a few people referring it to as “the Disneyland of Greece”, a nickname born from the extensive reconstructions that the English excavator Sir Arthur Evans financed in the turn of the 20th century. Much of his reconstructions are based on his interpretation of what the site was like 3,500 years ago, and archeologists to this day are still divided on the true validity of his vision.

Nonetheless, I tried to keep an open mind (as I’ve discovered that I’m a little bit of an archeological Nazi) and jumped on a bus which took me to Knossos in about 20 minutes. I aimed to get there as early as possible to avoid both the tourists coming from the cruises and the midday sun, but upon arriving at 9:00am I saw that it was already swarming with people. Large groups of about 20-30 tourists, each one following their tour guide like little chicks following the mother hen, dominated the palace area in every corner. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact that many of the temples only had small passageways leading into them, which created massive queues that moved at a snails pace.

Mayhem aside, I actually did appreciate Sir Arthur Evan’s reconstructions. It really allowed me to see the magnificence of the palace as it was 3,500 years ago, something that you don’t quite get when visiting the other palaces around Greece. Sure it didn’t feel right seeing newly built reconstructions on an archeological site, but I managed to put that aside in my mind for a while and just appreciate the splendour of the site.

I honestly had no clue that civilisations were as advanced as they were at that time. They had complex drainage and water-supply systems, high quality art and beautiful wall frescos, as well as beams to support the different floors and stairwells to join them. It was interesting to see the labyrinth that inspired the mythology of the Minotaur, which was really an intricate division of workshops and stalls… an ancient, more compact version of the Medina in Marrakech. And the throne room where the king sat, completely reconstructed to show the stunning wall frescos and inner columns, did well to illuminate the glory of the palace.

Having completely explored the palace and with the noontime sun threatening, it was time to jump on the next bus and head back to Heraklion. The rest of the day was spent walking around the 1866 market (where I had a delicious white fish), drinking red wine and sleeping. =)

Phaistos Disc

After my first week in Greece, I sought out to buy a sleeveless t-shirt to help with the heat when I was out in the historical sites. Of the many different designs I saw in market shops, that of the Phaistos Disc caught my eye. There’s something about an ancient tablet with hieroglyphic signs inscribed on it that has a hidden meaning that tugs on the curious mind. I didn’t know what it meant then and although it was a finalist in the contenders of shirts to buy, I went with the discus thrower. The discus thrower won because he was an Olympian which connected him to the great Olympian Gods as well, thus combining two main Greek elements in one image (I do realise that I put way too much thought into things, but a habit nonetheless that gives me a great deal of satisfaction in the end 🙂 ).

In any case, a few weeks later I’m staring at the actual Phaistos Disc in the archeological museum of Crete. Funnily enough, I didn’t know what the disc meant when I first saw it imprinted on the t-shirts in Athens and I still don’t know what it means now despite coming to the archeological museum to see it. In fact, nobody knows its purpose or meaning, which is what has made it one of the most famous mysteries of archeology!

The Phaistos Disc was discovered in the Palace of Phaistos (on the south coast of Crete) and predates the Linear A tablets discovered there, the first written records of what became the Greek language. The disc contains 241 tokens, 45 of which are unique signs, inscribed on both the front and the back of the disc. The symbols themselves are very much like the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics that were deciphered with the help of the Rosetta stone (the head of a man, a bulls leg, a vine, a small axe, etc), except despite the efforts of all the archeologists that have studied it the true meaning remains a mystery.

After a long hard stare and trying to decipher it myself, I moved on to the other parts of the museum and one room of particular interest to me was the room of the frescos from the Palace of Knossos.

It was like being in a room of contemporary art looking at the frescos, except these were anything but contemporary being 3,000 years old. But the paintings of man, nature and mythological beasts filled with such vibrant colours were absolutely beautiful. Seeing the reconstructed palace the day before and now looking at all the original frescos that decorated them left no doubt in my mind of the splendour of the Palace and how amazing it must have been to live there at the time.

This was the eighth (and last) museum I visited in Greece. The historical and archeological artefacts in each one of them are remarkable for both their beauty and their quantity. Knowing that there were many more museums I didn’t visit and thousands of years of pillaging and destruction that happened before they even had a chance of being preserved, I wouldn’t be surprised if modern depictions of ancient Greece still don’t do it justice.

The Island Shaped by the Largest Eruption of all Time

From Heraklion, I had the option of visiting Chania on the west of Crete. It was apparently the most beautiful part of Crete by way of its Venetian town and it also offered the opportunity of doing a day trek at the Samaria gorge, a national park of Greece and a World’s Biosphere Reserve. And although the latter really appealed to me, I worked out the opportunity cost of doing the trek and it it would have involved a more euros and days that I would have liked so I decided to give it a miss.

So I felt it finally the right time, after over two weeks of travelling around Greece, to visit the one of the famed beach destinations that all of the tourists rush to: Santorini.

The fast ferry to Santorini, despite being only two hours from Crete, was expensive (€56)… almost twice as much as my nine hour ferry from Athens to Crete. I didn’t quite get the math behind it and as I was commenting this to the cute little Greek girl sitting next to me on the boat, she only nodded in agreement and said that sometimes it’s even cheaper to fly.

Regardless, not long after sipping on my double espresso and talking with her about travelling and Greek wines, we had docked at Santorini where my free pickup service from Petra Nera (the hotel where I was staying) awaited me. I was staying at Perissa Beach, one of Santorini’s beach beaches known for it’s volcanic black sand and crystal water. Petra Nera was at an ideal location in my opinion: right across a 24 hour bakery and big supermarket, next to the bus stop that takes you straight to Fira (the centre) and only a 5-10 minute walk to the beach itself. And at €20 a night, it was the cheapest accommodation I could find.

It made for the perfect location to sink into living the beach life.

Santo Wines

Today was a wonderfully lazy day of lying at Perissa beach, discovering the wonders of a Freddo Espresso on a scorching hot day, swimming in the sea and then taking a short trip to Santo Wines to taste a flight of wines while watching the sunset.


The Classic Day Tour of Santorini

Inspired by Jay, my geologist roommate in City Circus Hostel, I couldn’t visit Santorini without doing a Volcano tour. After all, the volcanic eruption of Thera in 3,600 B.C. is the largest recorded eruption of all time, responsible for giving the main island it’s crescent shape and rumoured to be the cataclysm that sunk the the Lost City of Atlantis.

Riveting backstory… one that the tourist companies thrive on and there are as many tours to chose from on the island as there are tour companies that offer them! I decided to do a whole day of the most famous sights: a boat ride to the islet of Nea Kameni (or Volcano Island), followed by a trek with a Vocanologist up to the crater, back to the boat for a dip to the nearby hot springs, then after a well deserved lunch the day concludes in Oia (the very north of Santorini) for a dramatic view of the sunset.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? I thought so, too. And with all that for €18, you can’t really go wrong.

After getting picked up near my hotel by the tour company and being whisked to the old port, we didn’t have to wait very long to get picked up by our cabin cruiser to make our way to Volcano island. I quickly made friends with a bubbly and cheerful Thai girl who made for good company the rest of the day, even though I struggled to find genuinely interesting topics to delve into with her.

Walking towards an active volcanic center (its most recent rock formations dating back to only 50 years) under the 35 degree sun in black sand did prove to be a bit of challenge. But with the highest point only 127 meters from sea level, we didn’t have that much to walk. We were with a German volcanologist who, bless him, spoke about the subject with such passion and authority that his enthusiasm was almost as impressive as his wealth of knowledge. To be honest, he lost me not long after he started, thanks to his in depth scholastic approach of information dispersal. Maybe some of what he said rubbed off, who knows.

Although it was indeed an experience to be walking on a volcano that only last erupted 50 years ago and can erupt again, for me this was one destination that can be better appreciated from afar than up close (as a lot of people do anyway, sitting in the balconies of the expensive restaurants and bars of Fira).

From the volcano we moved to the coldest hot springs I’ve ever swam in. It looked a little bit like an oversized pig pen and, in my sometimes overactive imagination, I considered this part of the tour could be for the sole amusement of the locals as they watch tourists swim around in what I could best describe as luke-warm mud. We thankfully didn’t stay there very long, caught a quick lunch in a nearby island and were dropped off at Oia for the famous sunset.

There were literally hundreds of tourists lined up waiting for the sun to set in hopes that they would see something spectacular. Though I was looking forward to it myself, I have done more sunrise and sunset tours around the world than I can remember that I wasn’t really expecting to witness something completely new, especially since I already witnessed a glorious sunset the previous day with a flight of nine wines (that’s hard to beat). So when it came to pass that an army of clouds completely obscured the spectacle of the sun set, I honestly didn’t feel like I missed out on anything and was already mentally focusing on dinner.

The Thai girl was stayed in a hostel just 20 meters from mine, so we decided to grab a bite in a cheap restaurant just around the corner from where we were staying. That was where we found her roommates also eating and decided to join them. It was an interesting combination of a Californian guy who had no meaningful contribution whatsoever to the conservations the whole evening, a chick from Vancouver and a Texan guy who was on some kind of quest to intellectual and spiritual enlightenment.

Funnily enough, the Texan guy and I got along pretty well and had random discussions about life (accompanied by generous amounts of red wine, of course) until I couldn’t keep sleep at bay anymore.

Life is a Beach

My last two days in Santorini were mostly spent at the beach soaking in the sun and swimming in the sea. The bakery next door knew that whenever they saw my face I would order a Freddo Espresso with no sugar (a top rate fix for my coffee addiction) and occasionally a pastry (when I wanted to test whether it was humanly possibile of ooze honey out of my pores). It was great and relaxing after visiting all those archeological sites around Greece the past month, but then I (being the active person I am) thought it would be a great idea for a change of pace after a day and a half at the beach to spend an afternoon hiking from Fira to Oia. My sister Nick told me about the hike and suggested I do it, and after reading the raving reviews about it on tripadvisor I knew I had to!

The hike itself is only 10 kilometers along the inside of the crescent shaped section of Santorini. The path begins in Fira (the center) and ends on Oia (the very north) and offers fantastic views of rock formations formed by the Theran Eruption as well as spectacular views of the island.

I took a bus to Fira from Perissa Beach and started hiking at 4pm, a time I chose both to avoid the deadly midday sun and to ensure I arrived in Oia just in time for the sunset. Along the way I met two young Brazilian girls who were walking a little too casually for a hike. I chatted with them for a while but then decided to move on as I knew if I decided to hike with them, I would miss the sunset.

Two and a half hours of beautiful views and a great walk later, I arrived at Oia just in time for the sunset and tried to find a good spot to view it from. There were no clouds in the sky this time so I was ready for a visual treat. Funnily enough, the very spot I chose also happened to be the spot the two Brazilian girls picked. They told me that thirty minutes after I left them they realised they were making very slow progress and so decided to jump on a bus for the rest of the way to ensure they didn’t miss the show as well.

The sun set (as it does every day) and, although better than the day before, I felt that it it was just another sea sunset that you can find in many other countries. I suppose the whole charm of Santorini, with its powdery white Venetian houses topped with blue roofs, and the allure of the topaz sea that adds the whole experience. The Brazilians were even less impressed than I was. =P

Funnily enough, the Brazilians were staying at a hotel near mine so we headed back to Perissa beach together and ate at a nearby restaurant with a great live band… A great way to say goodbye to Santorini!

Athens: A Reprise

As great as it would have been to spend even more time in Greece than I already did, my bank balance told me that it was time to move on to my final destination: Egypt. However before heading off, I thought it was only fitting to spend a few days more in Athens to visit my favourite place (the ancient agora) one more time and to return to the archeological museum to see Greece’s best collection of ancient artefacts anew.

Getting to Athens from Santorini involved a 7 hour ferry ride and the better part of a whole day, but it was nice coming back to City Circus where the friendly staff welcomed me like I was part of the family. I actually considered staying somewhere else just for a change, but after considerable research I knew the breakfasts, comfortable beds, location and price at City Circus just couldn’t be beaten!!!

So the next day I made my way to the Agora with the last remaining ticket on hand from the multi-pass I bought when I arrived. I didn’t waste any time when I went it and headed straight for the temple of Hephaestus, paying a lot more attention to the columns and the metopes than the first time I saw it. I did recognise that it seemed like a tiny baby that hadn’t grown and matured in comparison with the Parthenon, but the fact remains that it is still the best preserved Doric temple remaining today which allows the observer to fully appreciate the true beauty of Ancient Greek architecture.

I also revisited the museum at the Stoa of Attalos in case I missed something the first time (I didn’t), went to Emou street (the main shopping area) to buy some essential vitamins and after recharging my weary bones with a double espresso coupled with Greek yoghurt with fruits, I made my way up to Acropolis to maybe visit that one more time too. Alas, I was told I had to buy the whole multi-pass again even if I only wanted to visit the Acropolis, so I thought better of it as I was satisfied with my first visit and made my way back to the hostel.

Entering my room, I was welcomed with a beautiful smile from my new roomie, Christa. We exchanged hello’s and I quickly found out that she was a New Yorker with Greek heritage who was trying to secure a visa to stay in Greece longer so that she could learn more about the language and culture. At least that’s my one sentence summary of the one hour version she gave me. Being quite intrigued by her story and the life changing decisions she had to make in the next few days, we talked the rest of the day away and had dinner at ‘,,,,,,,,,, until 2 in the morning. With a magnetic personality and a face that could launch a thousand ships, it was no surprise to me that I kept her company until she left City Circus the next day. Maybe one day we will meet again… 🙂

After saying goodbye to Christa, I had the afternoon to revisit the archeological museum and it was nice to see the antiquities from the whole of Greece again to recap everything I saw and learned in the last month. Although being in a museum when you are hung over (the wine did floweth the previous night with Christa) is always a different experience, I was content with taking in as much as I could so I headed back to City Circus to have my last Greek dinner with a few Aussies and my last night out in Greece.

Bye bye Greece

Goodbye Greece… You were the crown of my European trip and I promise you I will come back!

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