Friday, 29 March 2013

Ancient relics, bombs and desecration.

Adding to the list today is not something I went out of my way for but seeing the 2,500 year old Acropolis with the Parthenon has to be worth a mention.

The night I arrived in Athens I was having dinner when a bomb went off a couple of blocks away, enough to shake my beer. Apparently someone was sending a message to a shipping magnate outside his house, nothing to be concerned about (no one was hurt) but an interesting experience non the less.

And finally today I peed on a national monument. Don't look at me like that! I felt the need in the middle of a huge park with no one around and I found the Prison of Socrates so it seemed justifiable.

Alas the one thing I did want to do I just wasn't able to organize. I wanted to see Meteora but it's a 5hr bus ride either way and taking into account the public transport and only one day to do it in I just couldn't swing it. Good to leave something to come back for.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sunset in Santorini (or My Greek Oddysey)

I think my fascination with this postcard LIFE LIST goal came from Darryl and Sara's trip there a few years ago.

Gemma my travel agent had me booked on Mykonos for three nights followed by three nights on Santorini. "Just grab a ferry from Mykonos to Santorini then another one back to Athena" she said. "Easy" she said. "no problem" she said.
"Sure" says I.
On my last day on Mykonos I enquire about the ferry. "Oh no not now, only in summer" they say. "No flights either" they say. Hmmmm.
So the options all seem to involve going back to Athena for the night and foregoing my first night on Santorini.

So I take the six hour ferry ride to Athena which is nice and purchase a ticket for the eight hour ferry ride to Santorini the next morning as well as book a cheap hotel near the port, all set!
It was a fleabag hotel but that's ok, it's only nine hours. The corner souvlaki shop was pretty bad too but that's ok, just something to eat (that gives me indigestion until 3am)
I rise at six to get to the port by seven and.....the ferry is cancelled due to bad weather! The bad weather means it won't be very nice on the island but I am stubbornly determined now, dam the gods!
Past experiences of this nature have taught me to smile, breathe and take a moment. So after getting a refund from the ferry company-

"No sir you have to go to the travel agent to get a refund"
"That was in Mykonos"
"Do you want to go to Mykonos sir?"
(Calm and unflinching) "no. You will give me a refund, now"
She stares at me to see how much further she can swindle me, no measure, sighs and gives me the refund.
"Thank you, have a nice day"

- I find a cafe and relax with a coffee and a cigarette. There is a travel agent next door. It's expensive but an hour bum numbing bus ride later I am at the airport. The check in machine says "invalid, cannot process your request"
"No Zeus I will not give in to thee!"
Eventually I am at the gate, boarding pass in hand.
"Flight 256 to Santorini has changed from gate 11 to gate 19. Passengers on flight 256 are advised to move to gate 19"
Come on Zeus is that the best you can do?
Three cheers for the captain for getting us down safely, it was rocky but he did a great job. Disembarking you can lean into the wind without falling, no easy flying condition.
Finally a bus and a taxi later I arrive at the "Suites of the Gods" Hotel and my upgraded room! (the "Hera" suite-goddess of women and marriage!?!?)

It is gale force winds and overcast, no sunset today so I head off to find a restaurant for some warm food and red wine, lots of red wine.
Worth mentioning, bless the old lady and her son at Athermi. It is almost 3pm on a public holiday (independence day), atrocious weather and they aren't really open but they take me in, cook me a pizza to have with a glass of red. They give me a bottle to take back and after I pay they insist on driving me the fifteen minute walk back, I'm glad I left a five Euro tip under my plate.

I have a cigarette on the balcony at seven the next morning, blue sky and sunshine, today is the day. By ten the black clouds start rolling in.
Out of spite for the hotel that is isolated and only offer a shuttle service to their partner restaurant or winery but no tourist destinations, I decide to walk the 15km to Oia for the sunset (and to walk off some of this fine food I've been indulging in) I leave at twelve thirty. After 12km along the cliff tops with a relentless wind and a bleak, cloudy sky I walk down to the road at 4:30 and hitch the last 3km with a couple of local lads giving me time to relax with some well earned beers and find the best vantage point for the sunset which is still not looking promising.

Then at the last minute the universe intervenes and the magic happens-sunset in Santorini! Tick!

I also ran into Jason and Mel, an Aussie couple from my hotel who save me 30euro in taxi fare by giving me a lift back-thank you universe!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

East meets West

It was with a certain excitement I travelled by boat the 30kms of the Bosphorous, the narrow strait that is Europe on one side and Asia on the other. Viewing historic castles, mansions, mosques and other landmarks in the narrow waterway that has provided such power to Turkey for centuries, joining the Black Sea with the Marmara and eventually the Mediterranean via the Dardanelles.

I'm adding this to the LIFE LIST of unique things I've done as
: breakfast in Europe, lunch in Asia and returning to Europe for dinner.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Hagia Sophia

Aya Sophia - St Sophia - whatever you want to call it is 1,500 years of Christian and Muslim history in an incredibly grand building right on the edge of Asia and Europe. More recently used in Argo and Skyfall I think I must've gotten my fascination with it as a kid in From Russia With Love, I don't remember exactly where and when but I've wanted to see it for years and today was the day.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Ice Hotel

Despite having "stay in" on the LIFE LIST I can quite happily live with "see" the Ice Hotel.

It is a unique and impressive complex that would be an experience to stay in however after an hour of viewing all the masterful artwork and carvings I happily returned to my cosy room in Kiruna with a soft bed, heating, TV and en-Suite as opposed to my nose sticking out of a sleeping bag in minus five on a hard bed with a share bathroom across an outside open area.

As well as the hotel rooms there is an Ice Church, Exhibition hall and Ice Bar. Also OH+S dictates they must have a fire alarm system!

So not really a tick on the list for this but worth an entry for getting there and for the photos.