Kaliméra means ‘good morning’ in Greek. I thought my sorority time in college would have me well prepared for Greece…but no. Sadly though the symbols are familiar and I can read what they say, I have no idea their actual meaning or how to use them when reading. Oh well, it was a solid effort!
I know it’s been several months since Greece but I guess I wasn’t ready to share with the world my experiences yet. That, or I’ve been a really lazy blogger. Probably the latter, sorry folks. Before I delve into fine wines, beautiful beaches and more baklava than one person should consume in a 2 week period…a quick update on Japan life.
Things here are pretty standard and a lot more calmer than last year at this time. Of course everything is still exciting and new, but I have certainly settled in to my routine a lot sooner. October break was a blast as Kristen came for a visit. I love getting to share this country with someone from home and boy did we make the best of 7 days! I will post on that later (promise). As we near winter break, a few things are coming to mind to mention.
1) We are coming home for Christmas! Yeah 🙂 I didn’t realize how much I missed that family time until I spent 3 weeks in Thailand and Cambodia. I am most certainly not complaining at all about the vacation time…it was wonderful and I am so very glad we did it. But you know the old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder…I suppose that applies to families as well because I do miss those gatherings and the ability to have them whenever I like. So, December 22 (I think) we shall be in Atlanta. We head back to Nagoya on Jan. 7. In that time we shall visit Charleston and hopefully fly to a tropical beach for a couple days. I did learn that I looooove the beach in December/January!
2) We have to begin the process of telling the school if we are staying at NIS or going. The only thing I will say for now is I REALLY miss my family and my wee one (London) and I might be putting feelers out in the universe to see if I can get a bit closer to home. Positive vibes our way will be accepted if offered 🙂
Now, on to Greece! Stories will be told through pictures and anecdotal sidelines by yours truly. That trip went by so fast–I still look at pictures and think…was I actually there?
Let me go back actually to BEFORE we made it to Europe…before even…wait. Let’s go alll the way back to that one time Paul’s parents dropped us off at the airport and we thought we were going to Greece by our original schedule…and on time. That was really a dream. A pipe dream. Cause let me tell you what actually happened. We arrive at Charleston airport (Which is a mess due to renovations) and get alllll the way down yonder at our gate. We are 3 hrs early for our international flights like good little travelers. Half way through Paul tells me we will be delayed. I of course didn’t believe the trickster Paul so I tried to ignore him. He tells me again, in all seriousness, that it’s delayed. Why is the delay such a problem you ask? Because we would have arrived in Newark about 1 hour or so PAST the departure of our Swiss Air flight heading to Zurich. I head up to the counter, patiently, I might add. I wait in line for….about 45 minutes. During this time some people walk away chipper, others angry. Another announcement came on saying the flight would be on time now…or delayed by maybe 10 minutes (freakin weather in Newark). I didn’t believe them…not really, so I stayed in line. Good for me because about 10 minutes later they said the flight was delayed a couple hours again. It’s finally my turn. The sweet guy at the counter puts on his fake smile and asks how he can help. When I explain that I am trying to make it to Newark for a connecting International flight, he promptly begins his slow and painful process of trying to make something work. I stand there making small conversation, watching everyone around me either crying, or angrily gesticulating (or just passed out) for about 15 minutes. Finally the guy says I think I might have found something. Then he didn’t. And at some point it’s decided to call customer service who advises he call Swiss Air because they aren’t a partner flight. Now, he sits on hold with customer service for about 12 minutes and then waits for anything from Swiss for double that. In the end, we never got in touch with Swiss. They were trying to get me on a flight the next morning but couldn’t tell me if Swiss air was cancelling their flight to Zurich that I was supposed to be on. I mean…this is just getting worse, not better. But, I am still positive and patient with them…it’s not their fault after all. Suddenly, as the guy is trying to book me another flight by way of somewhere, and somewhere else, someone runs up from the plane and says, “board everybody NOW!” Apparently Newark gave the all clear. Everyone jumps in line and starts boarding. Of course we can’t board because they had already taken us off the manifest…and were trying desperately to put us back on. We finally rush onto the plane at the VERY last minute and….our book bags don’t fit in the bins. Freakin A! The flight attendant is actually so flustered, she just tells us to take clothes out and hold them in our laps! LOL. Whoa. So we frantically pull stuff out, they fit, we sit down, buckle up and….we are told to get off the plane because Newark grounded flights again. Laughing…cause there isn’t much else one can do…we let everyone else off the tiny express jet and gather our belongings again…repack, and head inside. I get back in line, Paul finds food. While in line this time, they cancel the flight altogether. Well, at least I know that’s over with. Now, get me to Europe! It’s finally my turn again and I get the other guy behind the counter…he did seem a little more competent. We spend about 30 minutes looking up any flight that get’s me to Europe that night…and by some miracle, he said something out loud not really intending me to hear it…but I did. Fortunately, he mentioned a flight that worked for us in Zurich, where we could connect with our original flight. He had one of our times wrong, so he was going to pass it! Now we are cookin!
He starts to issue new tickets completely (including a slight upgrade to economy plus…like, whoa. Traveling in style!). The only catch…the new flight leaves in 10 minutes heading for DC. We get in line to board and all is good. Or so I thought…apparently the guy forgot to add one leg of the flight to our itinerary he printed…so he had to start over. At least all the flights were still there. We get on the plane for DC and off we go. When we land, we LITERALLY run through the airport because our next flight left for Frankfurt, Germany 20 minutes later. Thank GOD we only carried our backpacks for this trip. Luggage would have been such a pain to deal with. Travel light people. It’s worth it. Just ask Kristen Lee 🙂
We make it on board and our flight to Germany went on well without a hitch or glitch, or wayward error. Now, we arrive in Frankfort and have only 40 minutes until our next flight. So…off we go! And we get lost-ish. Silly German airport. At least we got to walk around outside…so I touched German soil! And after we found our way again, we went through customs. A long, slow customs. Were I had to pull many things out of my bag to show off like Vanna White. Then we went to immigration. That was fun. Those German officials look menacing. Finally, we made it to our flight with 10 minutes to spare. We board that flight and off we go to Zurich! We land and it’s beautiful watching the scenery, breathing yummy swiss air…and head to our final connection and our original flight to Rhodes, Greece. And….we aren’t on the manifest. I mean, really? So they work some fast magic and we got on the plane with another few minutes to spare. FINALLLLLLY we arrive in Greece, just as the sun is setting. That was most certainly the strangest flight experience ever. Moral of the story? Don’t fly United? Or do and they will help you? Or don’t fly through Newark? Or be positive and respectful to airport people because Karma exists? Take what you will from this. Needless to say, I was happy I’d be traveling by boat for the next few days!
These first shots are from our travels in and over Germany and Switzerland.
Rhodes, Greece (so stinking close to Turkey we could see their coast from ours)
The old town is gated and surrounded by these gorgeous 12th century walls. No motors allowed beyond the gate walls. This island is absolutely stunning. Cobblestone walks, castle walls, and blue azure water. Heavenly for sure.
There is a castle in old town. Thanks Wikipedia.
“The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, also known as the Kastello, is a medieval castle in the city of Rhodes, on the island of Rhodes in Greece. It is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Greece.During the Italian rule of Rhodes, the Italian architect Vittorio Mesturino restored the damaged parts of the palace between 1937 and 1940. It became a holiday residence for the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, and later for Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, whose name can still be seen on a large plaque near the entrance.” Now it was rebuilt in the 19th century after a fire destroyed most of it.”
The entire castle was just stunning. The floor mosaics were amazing.
About once a week the outer castle walls are open to walk on and view the city. Luckily, we were there on such a day. There was a moat somewhere and lots of tunnels leading to mysterious places, I could only imagine.
Dinner that night at Sarris- Greek salad #2 and bread with cheeese.
Beach day! It was freeeezing cold water, very crowded, a suuuper hot day, and the pebbles stung and burned my feet so badly. But, it was pretty! People walk by trying to sell massages, drinks, bracelets, and whatever else they can about every 5 minutes. That was annoying too. The chairs were cheap tho! 10 euros for 2 beds, all day.
Our hotel in Rhodes was owned by a Darling woman who was an amazing cook and very friendly. Very Greek too. I have never eaten so much food for breakfast in my life. True story! The hotel is very small both in size and number of rooms. It’s a 12 century knights quarters…and I felt the age. It was so very wow. However…I am not happy with the Greek way of using the toilet. All TP, and I mean ALL, goes into the wastebasket. Not the toilet. Ewwww.
Brief stop at a lovely pool (with a bad AC unit) for the night as we await our ferry departure the next day. The good side about this place? It was only 50 euro. The bad…I now know, with great detail, what the underside of an airplane looks like. Up close and personal. About every 10 minutes.
Last night on Rhodes island. Another brilliant blue sea and a top sunset. And a bit windy. If you couldn’t tell.
Goodbye Rhodes and hello Santorini. This was a 7 hour ferry ride and we arrived about midnight where we were picked up by our prearranged transportation and whisked away to our hotel. I had no idea what Santorini looked like since we arrived at night, but I know we rode for a very long time going up and down hills…what on earth would this place look like in the morning? Our hotel was quaint, and cheap, and we only stayed here the one night. I did splurge for the hot tub on our balcony. Still, it was only 60 euro for the night. And it was a windy and chilly night, so the hot water was welcome.
Breakfast hunting the next morning was fruitful with the English style brekkie. I added the Greek yogurt, nut and honey breakfast (which is actually a dessert here). BEST. YOGURT. HONEY. NUTS. ever.
Black sand volcanic beach day. Another cheap rental, but the beach was empty-quiet, relaxing. This was perfect. And it looked perfect. Like a painted picture. The downside…that sand was HOT. It would blister your feet if you stood still on it. The other weird thing…there is no sand in the water. No really. It’s solid, black volcanic rock. I walked out as far as I could touch…and though slippery and rocky in places….solid. Crazy! I didn’t see any fish either. That was sad. I was also unaware that technically, these islands are considered deserts because there is so little rain. The green below are grape vines. Otherwise, it’s all brown! No wonder they paint everything such vibrant colours.
As we packed up from the beach and collected our things, we grabbed a taxi towards Oia, the main cliff dwelling town seen on every postcard ever made. On the way, we stopped by a winery, for the most spectacular view on the island. I hear it’s even more so at sunset. This was some of the best wine I’ve ever had, and THE best Baklava EVER made. I should know, I’ve had mannnny. They added clove, nutmeg and pistachios. That’s a wonderful idea, I’d take note if I were you.
So going to Oia isn’t an experience unless you fight your way through the tiny cobbled streets of tourists from cruise ships to find your spot for the epic sunset Santorini is known for. We found such a place in the nick of time as we grabbed a rooftop bar spot for some dinner and drinks. I met a lovely interpreter who is American and spoke fluent Russian (Because why not?) She worked for the embassy in Russia and was on a little vaca. Lovely gal. Shared many drinks while Paul thanked the Greek Gods for having me distracted and occupied for a bit 🙂 This sunset is not done any justice whatsoever by these photos. It was breathtaking…and it was gone in an instant. The Lamb dinner was amazing and the sangria the wacky crazy, bartender concocted. I think he’s from Serbia. Interesting, colourful man.
We had great digs in a perfect location right on the edge of a cliff and down a small cobble alley *see above. No AC, which sucked at first, but it cooled down eventually. It was previously old captain’s quarters and is designed like a house. It’s a cave house actually. Carved out of the volcanic mountain and smoothed down and painted white. The above pictures show the original owners and notes left from visitors. You can see our ferry arriving in the far distance…it’s time to move on to Mykonos.
Apparently most of my Mykonos pictures are made of food. It’s a good thing though because it was all outstanding. I ordered my first actual fish meal, not knowing what bream is. I still am not sure really, but I would eat it again. It was sooo good. Mykonos is definitely expensive. You kind of just suck it up and live. The beaches in these photos are a 5 minute walk from our hotel. One side of the beach was sooo windy, you couldn’t really swim. You also couldn’t really swim there because it’s where the wind surfing happens…and it’s cool to watch. Flying through the air, flips and bends. If they had paint attached to them they would make amazing designs in the sky. Our hotel, pictured below, was a stunner. We paid middle price for the area, but it was still one of the pricier hotels we stayed at. But look at it…it was worth it. Picturesque. The breakfast buffet was one of the best I’ve had too. The beach was warm, sandy and moderately crowded. We found a small spot near the end. It’s a short spanse of sand too.
Walking old town Mykonos was cool too. Not as many hills or stairs as Oia, but definitely and older, more natural feel. Not so much done up for tourists…even though it was. We were there during their outcry and money losing time…but we weren’t overly affected by it nor did we witness much. The islands seemed normal from what I could tell. We could access money at ATMs when needed and other than one hotel asking for cash, we could use our credit card for everything.
Next in Mykonos, we hoofed it on foot only getting a little lost as we tried to find our new hotel. We stayed at the other one for 2 nights, and a 3rd one for one night due to the ferry arriving on specific dates. We really stayed at quite a few hotels this trip. Mainly, because we changed areas or needed one more night for the ferry…and our place was booked. The next hotel was nice too, but didn’t help us much when trying to find them, or find our way to the port. That’s ok…we survived the hike and the heat. The thing about Mykonos is there are limited taxis. Maybe 20 on the island total, and you can’t reserve them easily. So you take the public bus, which are located cerntrally in Mykonos town and span outward from there. They are older (90s model) charter buses. Tickets are cheap though and it’s the main way you travel there. We tried to get scooters, cause when in Rome…but they were too expensive. That’s probably best anyway…us on scooters? Next up, Athens!
When we arrived in Athens port we grabbed a cab to head into town. We had no idea what to expect in the city and I was slightly weary for several reasons. 1) Bankok let me down, so I was unsure, 2) riots and things happening 2 nights before…what would we encounter, 3) our cabbi had NO CLUE where we were going. I had the address in Greek too…and he was lost before we even left the port. We booked an adorable hotel called the Alice Inn. It’s a Wonderland theme and it was perfect. The British guy who owns it was a great host and when we called him begging to help our cabbi, he had no trouble getting us there. We had the suite at the tip top of the old home, which was very grand and intimate with only 4 rooms. Breakfast was serve yourself style but the maid was around to help find cutting board, juicer, etc. We ate family style with the other guests which was fun. Our suite also had access to the rooftop patio…only we could access. We had a private view of the Acropolis at night, and it didn’t disappoint. We ended up staying in the Jewish quarter which is one of the safer neighbourhoods. We did feel safe walking the streets, which we did that night to find food. We ate at a really good vegan restaurant and Paul had one of the BEST bean and mushroom burgers. I seriously couldn’t tell there wasn’t meat. Neither could Paul. That’s saying something! Next morning we headed out on a last minute hop on hop off bus tour ride cause we only had 1 full day and figured that was the cheapest, easiest way to sight see.
Ok, now he is one handsome dude in this hat! I wish he would consider wearing one for real!
This is a ruin of a theatre, that is still actually in use today. You can see how it’s been modernised for plays and musical performances. I can’t fathom the history here. I have always wanted to see Greece and be brought into the stories of Greek mythos. It is probably here, in the acropolis, that it finally happened for me. I felt rather disconnected to the mythological side of Greece up until this point. Also, if you plan to tour anywhere in Europe, download Rick Steeve’s audio tours. They are free and perfect for self guided tours. He has history, facts, music, and acting. I started the audio tour where he says to start, and as I walk up stairs, he tells me what to look at, and what I would have been looking at during the height of Greek culture. That was pretty powerful!
Just imagine you are walking up the stairs and see this gigantic Athena statue…30 ft high! It was so high, on top of the hill, that it’s said to be seen from the ocean as ships pulled into the harbour. That’s impressive as I could barely see the harbour from the acropolis. The views up there were amazing and the story Rick Steeves paints as he explains the monuments, buildings, architecture and festivals really helped bring the ruins to life. Especially since it’s still an active archeology site…there are tools, scaffolds and just mess around the whole site. That kind of made it hard to picture it all completed…that and all the PEOPLE. But, it was worth the heat and the crowds.
You could see cannons and cannon balls, and other relics of the time scattered around. Not sure when they were excavated, but I like seeing how the process works. I secretly would love to be an archeologist (like Laura Croft or Indiana Jones…) exploring ancient sites and looking out for their stories. But alas. The theatre below is most definitely in ruin, and it is still beautiful.
If you haven’t ever read about the amazing architectural advancements the Greeks employed for their buildings, you should. Just the way they engineered to make things appear a certain way is astounding.
You can see the acropolis from nearly everywhere in the city. It really was the center of Athens.
Zeus’ temple up close…couldn’t go it. Gates were locked so this was as close as we could get. It was still magnificent and so very tall! It towered above us.
What’s also cool is like Japan, you walk around seeing so many modern buildings. And then suddenly you look over and see something ancient. I love that! Here, is what’s left of some gate. I wonder if the whole area was fenced off with walls this high? There were little museums on the street…as you walk and turn a corner, suddenly there is some column, or grouping of items, or painting that had been unearthed sometime before. It’s roped off, or behind protective glass. Amazing.
And of course we travel all the way to Greece and on our last night, find a Japanese place. I was missing my Japanese diet quite a bit and this place was very good! After dinner we (paul) found a speakeasy. It was pretty hard to find and we walked through several doors, went down spiral stairs, and through more doors until we came to this quaint bar. It looked and felt old, and the bartender was so very traditional. Our drinks were the just right bitter and sweet that the era demanded. Later that night, our last in Greece, we walked home via a route that would take us by Syntagma square…where the parliament building stands and the site of many riots in the days previous. It was about 11:30, the latest we had dared to be out. It was busy out, bars and streets still packed with drinkers, even for a Sunday night. Perhaps that’s because a lot of places were closed…? The fountain in the square lights up in rainbow colours, so we went to take a look. A crowd started to form at one end of the square ahead of us, and behind us a news crew was setting up. I didn’t think anything was bound to happen, but we decided to head back just in case. The banks were due to open the next day for the first time in weeks…so we didn’t want to risk anything. As far as I know it was a quiet night, but I’m glad we went back anyway. The only thing we really noticed different in Athens due to the money issue was the banks all closed tight and the closer we walked to Syntagma square, the more riot geared police we saw on duty. Most were very casual, but they were out on all four corners leading into the main area. I suppose that was comforting should something happen?
Overall Athens impressed me more than I thought. You might need 2 full days if you’re not tired and weary of traveling, it’s not too hot and you are up for walking around many different ancient sites. I was happy to see some up close, and some from afar. We thought about taking day trips to Delos or other islands, but they were in ruins and it would have taken prime beach time away. As we were only on the islands for a couple days, we really wanted to make use of our sand and surf.
I would go back to Greece one day, and I would try other areas like the Peloponnese, Crete, or Cyprus. There are so far apart though, it would take several trips to see it all!
I leave you with some final picture from recent days and events 🙂 If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed going to Greece with us. Our flights home were much less taxing, for which I am grateful. I continually am blown away by the generosity of people I meet around the world and I know I am fortunate to have so many traveling opportunities.
Be well. Be happy. Do something for you.
K + P
This lil pumpkin monster got her face painted by me at the Kidzuna Halloween event where local families (and NIS families) are invited to share together in reading, arts/crafts, and fellowship. My costume for the event is below!