We arrived in Athens after a long day between airports. Our hostel was right in the centre of Athens, with the most peculiar bathroom attached. We headed out for dinner where Danielle sampled a traditional Greek salad which was delicious, and strolled around the Athens Flea Market.
We had just one full day here to explore the enormous ancient city, so viewed the world famous Acropolis ancient monument by distance only. We then went to Parliament House to watch the changing of the guards in their (hilarious looking) traditional costumes at the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’. We were very lucky to arrive on a day when a special ceremony was being held, attended by the navy and some important people who we have no idea who they were – given our lack of Greek language skills. We then got a funicular up to the summit of Lykavittos Hill for stunning views of the city, finishing with a late lunch of gyros (beef skewers on pita bread). We then headed to the port to catch our ferry to the island of Naxos.
Naxos is one of the larger Greek Islands and our first stop after Athens. The first impression was how big its mountains were (some are nearly 1000m!) As we were there in October the tourist season was nearly at its end – this was good for us, as it meant good prices and discounts. Starting with the accommodation we booked – the cheapest and most basic room, which upon arrival the owner upgraded us to the top floor, with a beautiful big balcony – winner! We also hired a quad bike for the day to explore the island and the scenery, we paid for the oldest model and they not only upgraded us to the newest model, but they discounted the price as well!
We set out in the morning and ended up seeing nearly all of the island, not because we planned to, more so because we got lost, and came painfully close to running out of fuel. It was tense, given that 4 petrol stations we went to were all closed or no longer in service! Luckily a local guy in a remote area transferred some of the petrol from his car to our quad bike, to get us to the fifth petrol which we finally made it to…!
We visited some beautiful beaches, ate some great food (including a restaurant where the owner invited us to see the kitchen to choose our food), and talked to the friendly locals, whilst quietly excited about our next stop – Santorini!!
Wow!!! Santorini’s postcard perfect reputation definitely did not disappoint us. We had 4 days here and loved it. For the first night we had booked a cheap guesthouse which ended up being quite a walk out of the main town, Fira, and not overly nice. However, because the low season was near, and it was fairly quiet we were able to move to a much nicer and closer place for almost the same price for the remainder of our stay.
One of the days, we got the local bus to the town of Oia which is famous for its sunset views, blue domes and bleached white walls. The restaurants have amazing views – with prices to match! So we bought a couple of beers from the supermarket and found a quiet spot to watch the sunset, it was beautiful.
The town is a truly amazing sight. Despite it being almost the low season however, there were still hordes of annoying (American) tourists from a cruise ship in the bay who were in procession through town – it would be a shame to come here in high season. From what the locals described of the crowds it sounds like it would be a real downer on what is otherwise, an amazing part of the world.
The last two days the weather was a little cloudy with a big storm one night (their first heavy rain in six months!) which gave us a chance to organise some things for the coming month or two!
On our final evening we went to a small local restaurant, where we got chatting to the friendly Greek waiters. After our dinner, a discounted bill, 3 free ouzo shots, a free dessert each and a map of Greece, it was time to leave Santorini on an 11 hour overnight ferry which departed after midnight for the island of Rhodes. We paid a bit more and had a cabin for the night which was totally worth it for a good nights sleep. Once in Rhodes, we spent the day wondering around its old town before getting another (much shorter) ferry to Fethye in Turkey.
See next: Turkey (Middle East Page)