Tag Archives: Greece

Welcome to BEAUTIFUL Santorini, Greece!

Ever been kicked by a donkey? I have!

Santorini was one of my absolute favorite ports of our entire trip, and also one of the most memorable.

This was the only time we had to take a tender (smaller boat) from the ship to the dock. Not only did our group get separated (my dad on one, the other 5 of us on another), but it started POURING rain and we were on the top deck. Luckily I had an umbrella, but it didn’t cover my camera bag too well! Our boat happened to take about a half hour just trying to dock because of the choppy water (my dad waited at the dock for us).

When we finally disembarked (if that term can even apply to small boats), we found that there were three ways to get up to the town at the top of the cliff: a cable car with an hour-and-a-half wait in the rain, donkeys, or walk up 800 steps. This choice was another in which we all differed. My boyfriend’s dad and his girlfriend chose to WALK UP. I thought they were insane. The rest of us chose the donkeys.

We had to wait a short while for the little burros, and we weren’t allowed to carry an umbrella while riding. So if you think we were already wet just standing in the rain, imagine riding WET JACKASSES. I was just about the last person to start up the hill with Toula (what I named my donkey–after Toula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding), but my little lady HAULED ASS (haha–pun!) up the hill, passing EVERY donkey that was in front of us, not caring to clip corners. And because the stairs they were climbing were wet sometimes their hooves slipped off the edge, causing little terrifying jerks on what should just be a bumpy ride.

So it’s Toula and I against the world, I stroked her and cooed, “Good girl! I think I can! I think I can!” all the way up. Until we had about 100 yards left to climb. There was a herd of other donkeys to the side, and Toula decided she wanted to stand directly behind them and NOT MOVE. I can’t say I blamed her, but I had hoped she could have picked a better place to stop because one donkey (let’s call him Dr. Evil) did not appreciate Toula getting all up in his hind quarters. And the kicking began. But Toula didn’t feel a thing! Know why? Because that’s where MY SHIN happened to be! So I tried to scramble to get off (not so easy to get a small girl untangled from the stirrups and off a big donkey). After that I had to haul my own ass up the rest of the way. Climbing the wet steps. Where the donkeys do their business. Which is being washed down the steps. I was wearing flip flops. And you know what? I was laughing the ENTIRE way up! Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that fustercluck since it was raining too hard to get my nice Nikon out.¬†While the walkers beat us to the top (expected when one of them is a MARATHON RUNNER), we definitely got the better memories!

The town of Santorini was beautiful, and we walked around a few of the shops, but eventually we took a city bus to the small town of Oia. If you’ve seen photos of the white-washed buildings and the domed roofs of Greece before, this is EXACTLY where those photos were taken. Oia was absolutely stunning. We walked through small alleys, catching glimpses of the sea below the cliffs. The buildings were stark white, with gorgeous blues and pinks to accent. I would LOVE to have a vacation home here.

A little history: Santorini was once an active volcano known as Stongyle, or “round island,” but a massive explosion in 1628 BC blew it apart. The event must have been felt all over Europe! A huge chunk of solid rock shot straight up in the air, landing with such violent force that is spawned a catastrophic tidal wave. Many scientists believe the eruption wiped out the late Minoan civilization on Crete–70 miles away!

Although it looks like several separate islands, and each individual islet has its own name, Santorini is really a single land mass. The watery separations are just the places where the volcano rim is submerged.

Fun facts: The volcanic explosion on Thira (Santorini) in 1628 BC is believed to be the largest such even in recorded human history. Also, if a word has a ‘oh’ in it, it is probably of Greek origin.

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Welcome to Argostoli, Greece!

Although we had absolutely no idea what to expect at the second Greek port of our trip, we really lucked out finding some cool things to see.

We managed to rent two small cars–impressive, given the huge language barrier–and drove to the other side of the island. This was more difficult than you’d think since the road signs had Greek letters all over them, which we couldn’t even begin to pronounce, much less understand! It was a beautiful, mystical-looking island that was very mountainous and green, with fog rolling in between the peaks.

Our first stop was Melissani Lake–and underground lake! Currently it is actually an open-air cave. Hundreds of years ago the roof caved in, which is how the lake was discovered. It was slightly overcast when we were there, but the water was so pure and teal I could have gone for a swim if it wasn’t too chilly outside! Once we walked down to the water level, we got in rowboats and our guide paddled us around, seamlessly switching between Greek and broken English, trying to describe the geological phenomenon. While the tour didn’t last long, it was definitely a sight not to miss!

After that we stopped in town for a quick lunch and ate at Captain Corelli’s–right in the harbor where the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz) was filmed.

Our last stop was Drakena Cave, a huge cavern full of all the- ites–both stalact- and stalagm-! This cave wasn’t connected to a series of caves (like Kartchner Caverns in Arizona), but was still great to see.

While Argostoli wasn’t our most exciting port of call, I would definitely stop there again to explore a little more!

Fun facts: Cephalonia’s name honors Mythological hero Kefalos, who sought refuge from Athens on the island.

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Welcome to Corfu, Greece

Corfu was our first stop in Greece on our Mediterranean cruise. We didn’t sign up for any excursions, but we really should have! We pretty much just walked around the city, which was packed with small shops and peddlers (is that even an appropriate modern-day term?). Wear dark sunglasses, or if they catch you looking they’ll be all over you to buy something. There was a lot of beautiful silver jewelry available–I even bought a necklace with a traditional Greek design, but I was so uncomfortable bartering! (Which is odd since I have no problem with it when buying purses on Canal Street in New York!). A lot of what was available was typical tourist fare, but you gotta wonder what they think American tourists must be after–there were A LOT of raunchy souvenirs–right out in the street for kids to see! Beer bottle openers shaped like mens’ private parts, shirts with cartoons and sayings that made me blush (especially when traveling with my parents and my boyfriend’s family), and more unspeakables. I’m no prude, but I certainly hope most American travelers in Corfu are just as disgusted by this stuff! At least in America that stuff would be kept at the back of a Spencer’s store!

We did, however, have a lovely traditional Greek lunch at a cute little cafe (sensing a theme here? Cute cafes are everywhere). I’d been waiting a long time to try an authentic Greek gyro! It was delicious–though I think I still like the gyros I can get a mile away from my house is Phoenix a whole lot better!

If I were to go to Corfu again, I’d definitely do my research ahead of time to find some cultural event or something.

A little history: The legendary “island of the Phaecians” (The Odyssey by Homer), mountainous Corfu is names for the nymph Kerkira (daughter of the river Assopos). Much Corfu architecture is Venetian-, French-, or British-influenced, rather than the iconic white-washed buildings and blue domes (which you’ll see in a later post).

Fun facts: In Corfu (also known as Kerkira), it is rude to wave open-palmed. Also, a traditional Greek proposal method calls for tossing an apple to one’s intended bride (no apples were tossed to me during our trip).

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