Greece Part 5 – Crete

Day 86: June 6, 2018

Early early morning. Up at 3:15 am for our 4:00 am cab ride to the airport. Our host was nice enough to arrange a cab for us. We dropped our bags and went down to arrivals where there was a printer. We printed our Egyptian visas and some other tickets. Then we went through security. On the other side of security Danny and I got into a tif about him taking his plastic belt off to go through security. I ended up stomping away and went a slightly different path. Danny followed so I went back the other way, but he followed me again. Looking back it was quite funny, but at the time I was mad. We reached the gate and Danny stayed there while I went for a walk to cool down. I called my mom to chat. It all sounds so stupid when you tell someone else what happened.

I walked back to the gate and we boarded the plane. The flight was around an hour to Heraklion on the island of Crete. We were given hard candies at the start and a beverage with cookies in the middle of our flight. We landed and retrieved our bags.

We walked out of arrivals and found a guy with our name on a sign to collect our rental car. He walked us up passed all the different rental car booths. As we passed we kept wondering which car was ours. We ended up with a Hyundai i10 again. Danny likes the shifting, but its turning radius is huge.

We picked up some groceries then drove off to the Palace of Knossos. On the way there Google Maps wanted us to take a back entrance. We were going to loop around, but there was a very large pothole. We backed up and this old guy came out to look, then threw his arm up like, “Stupid tourists”. We turned back around, but on the road back there was a van broken down with some German tourists. A local was able to pull the van out of the way.

The site of the Palace of Knossos was first settled in the Neolithic period (6700-3200 BC). The first palace was built around 1900 BC. The new palace was built around 1700 BC. It appears to have been the centre of political, economic and religious authority.

We saw the remains of the theatre and the Royal Road named by the main excavator, Arthur Evans. Then the North Lustral Basin which is believed to have been used for purification ceremonies.

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North Lustral Basin, Palace of Knossos

The north entrance and pillar hall were the location of the entrance of seaborne trade.

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North entrance and pillar hall, Palace of Knossos

Next was the Grand Staircase which was surrounded by tons of tour groups.

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Grand Staircase, Palace of Knossos

There was a huge line up for the Throne Room so we didn’t enter. There was a stone seat discovered in the room as well as frescos of plants and griffins. We saw the Shrine of the Double Axes where different ritual objects including a double axe were found.

We continued down away from all the tourist groups to the Stepped Portico that led to the southwest entrance of the palace. The South House had been partly reconstructed.

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South House, Palace of Knossos

Further up was the Minoan Viaduct. The path to the palace would have been over the viaduct about 10 m above ground level. It would have been the main road between north and south Crete.

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Part of viaduct, Palace of Knossos

We saw the Caravanserai, a building complex with residences, storerooms and bathing facilities. From there we headed back to the car and drove to our Airbnb in Mixorrauma, near the town of Spili. We met our host at his taverna in town. We were a bit early so I had a very creamy milkshake and Danny had an orange juice. The host paid for our drinks then we followed him on his motor bike up the road. It got very narrow between buildings and the i10 just fit. At the end of the road was a church on a hill and a bunch of ruined buildings. We followed the host around the bottom of the church and then down a path. The view was into a lush forest and the path was through a stone walled garden. The place had stone floors and was very rugged. It was nice, but not as clean as I would have liked.

The host left and we had cheese, crackers, sausage, olives and wine for lunch. Too much wine. We realized there was no toilet paper and had to message the host. We used up his napkins in the meantime.

We drank wine and chatted about everything: our past relationships, how to share the lessons we learned with our kids, our relationship and how we can improve it. Danny and I had always thought we were close before, but there were certain things we would skirt around talking about. This trip has definitely opened us both up to talking about anything and this has just brought us closer together.

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Chatting outside our Airbnb

Danny made smokies for supper with fried peppers. We ate outside then Danny phoned his parents while I cleaned up. I was in the washroom when I looked outside and there was a white kitty with some black spots staring at me from the path. I walked outside and the kitty came over. I pet her and she was very friendly. She even sat on my lap when I sat down. I pet her head a bit too much and she attacked my hand then went behind me. She then tried to bite my back. Moments later she was happy again when I pet her. She followed me down to where Danny was sitting and greeted him. She even let him pick her up to show his parents. Danny finished his call with his parents and we went up to bed. Thankfully the bed is clean and comfy.

Day 87: June 7, 2018

We woke up and had breakfast: yogurt with cereal only as the raspberries we bought were all rotten. We dressed for a beach day then drove to Kourtaliotiko Gorge. We drove along it first to scope it out and see where you could enter.

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Kourtaliotiko Gorge

We found parking along the road and walked down to where we had spotted a staircase. It went quite far into the gorge. There we found the Church of Saint Nikolas.

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Church of Saint Nikolas

We continued down and there was a river hidden in the trees and some waterfalls. It was very pretty. We spent some time there and then prepared for the walk up. Everything is so much harder in this heat. It was probably 31 degrees.

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River along Kourtaliotiko Gorge

We got back to the car and drove to Frangokastello. There was a castle there so we used its shade to eat our wraps for lunch. We walked down to the beach, but couldn’t see the nude section that was supposed to be on the east side. We drove up the road a bit to another beach and we could see the nude section there. It looked like a really long walk down and I didn’t like the idea of that. Instead, we drove an extra half an hour to a purely nude beach close to a nudist resort. We looked up prices for the resort and it was 50-100 euros per night with breakfast and dinner included. That didn’t seem to bad, but I’m not sure we would have felt comfortable with nudity all day.

Driving around Crete takes much longer than expected. Everything looks so close, but there are mountains everywhere and winding roads. We were able to park very close to the beach and paid 7.50 euros for two sun beds. Most people there seemed to be from the resort. There was even a bar there.

We went in the water and I snorkeled for a bit. There were lots of medium sized white fish and then a couple of different others. The water was crystal clear. The outside temperature was around 32 degrees.

Later, we went in the water further down the beach and Danny handed me his sunglasses so that he could snorkel. All of a sudden I felt this electric shock on my right forearm and then another on my right shoulder. I yelled, “Owww”. And moved out of the water. It was still stinging a bit and both spots started puffing up. We went to the bar and they put some afterbite on it. I said I thought it was a jellyfish because if felt similar to when I was stung in Hawaii fifteen years ago. The lady said there weren’t really any jellyfish there so it must’ve been something else. She didn’t know what. I Googled jellyfish stings and the pictures looked like my arm so I still think that’s what it was.

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Sting on my arm

I sat out of the water for a bit and Danny did some snorkeling. After one last dip for both of us we headed back to the car. We were hungry so we stopped at the closest taverna. We then realized we had no cash and they didn’t accept credit card. We tried a couple of other places along the way back, but none took card. The nearest ATM in the right direction was one hour away in Plakias. We were very hungry by the time we got there. We found the ATM then ate at the closest restaurant. The town seemed very touristy.

Our waiter was an older man that had clearly started drinking early. He had a bit of a slur and a strong odour of alcohol. He was very pleasant. We had fried feta as an appetizer. Danny had stuffed pepper/tomato and I had moussaka.

I rubbed Danny’s arm and the waiter came over and said, “Is she satisfied?” Danny responded that I don’t usually touch his arm like that. I had thought the waiter was just asking about the food, but Danny took it a different way. Danny then said, “We’ve been together seven years,” and the waiter started talking about that. He even brought us a shot of, I think, raki to celebrate. As we left he told us to stay together and that is our plan.

We drove the half an hour back home and our kitty was there to greet us. Danny stayed outside with her while I showered. Then I stayed with her while Danny showered. She was not happy when we went to sleep, meowing right outside the door.

Day 88: June 8, 2018

We woke up and started chatting then heard our kitty meowing. I went outside and the kitty was on our roof! The bedroom was a loft and the bed is quite close to the ceiling so the kitty was meowing right above us.

I called her over and she meowed until I pet her. I got breakfast ready and ate outside. She was looking up on my lap. Danny came out and she got so excited she jumped up on my lap. She just kept meowing at us. We thought she wanted our food.

I looked up the path and said to Danny, “Is that a tiny bunny or just a leaf”. We walked over and it was the upper part of a rat. The kitty came over and was super happy, rubbing our legs. She had obviously brought it for us and was trying to tell us all morning. When we left she walked us to the car and we gave her lots of good bye pets.

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Dead rat and our Crete kitty

We drove 2.5 hours to Balos. It was on the main highway running east-west in Crete. The road was mostly two lanes although people overtook whenever and if you are being passed you needed to move to the shoulder. It is an interesting flow of traffic in Greece.

At the entry to the road to Balos beach we had to pay a fee of one euro each. The SUV in front of us went 10 km/h along the road. It had some small rocks, but no need to go that slow. They were also driving in the middle of the road. Danny let the SUV behind us go ahead to pressure them to move over. It worked and we were able to pass as well. We still went about 40 km/h and the drive was 7 km long.

The parking lot was already pretty full, but Danny managed to squeeze in to a good spot. There were goats laying behind and underneath cars for the shade. We took the path 2 km down to the beach. It was already very hot.

There was a gorgeous view of the water and the beach along the way. We continued walking down to the sand and then along the water to some sun chairs. We had to pay 9.50 euros, but at least there was an umbrella for shade. The beach was quite busy.

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Balos Beach

We went into the water. You had to walk out quite far to not be able to stand. It would have been a great place for kids. We walked over to the other side and it was even more shallow. We walked over some rocks that were a bit sharp on bare feet. There were some wooden planks so I was wondering what was on the other side. There was only some deeper water.

We went back to check on our bags then into the water again. When we got out next we ate our lunch. A goat was walking around and came up to us looking for food. We sent it away. A guy up from us on the beach got out some bread to feed it and everyone flocked to take pictures. The goat then went further up looking for more food. Someone had left their bags on the sand and the goat tore into a plastic one while a lady just stood by watching and videotaping. A person nearby finally went over to stop the goat. We were a bit disgusted watching it. The goat was already a bit aggressive and aimed for plastic bags knowing it led to food.

Danny went in the water once more then we packed up. The climb back up was brutal. First there was the sand to climb through and then 2 km of steps. We stopped at the viewpoint for a break. By the time we got to the car I was overheated and feeling nauseous. I drank a bunch of water and the A/C started. The red in my face started to fade. We checked the temperature in the car and it was 36 degrees. Way too hot for physical exertion.

We drove three hours to our next Airbnb near Heraklion. We stopped at a Lidl for groceries before checking in. The host had to message us a picture of the outside as there were two of the same numbers. When we received the picture we had no problem getting inside.

I had a shower and Danny brought in the chicken we had planned to cook for supper and said, “Smell this.” We were wondering why the car had been smelling, but we hadn’t even thought about the chicken we brought from our first grocery stop sitting in the car in 36 degree heat. It didn’t fair too well. For supper, we had potatoes and I made fried wraps with strawberries and chocolate inside.

We did some laundry in the sink hoping that it will dry by the time we leave tomorrow. We won’t be able to do any laundry for another week so we thought we should get it done.

Tomorrow we fly back to Athens to catch our flight to Cairo. We are looking forward to moving on from Greece. We were able to do a lot in our time here and have gotten comfortable. Similar to leaving the Balkans, we are nervous to go somewhere new and different. In Cairo we meet up with our GAdventures tour for a week long whirlwind experience of Egypt.

M

Greece Part 4 – Relaxing

Day 77: May 28, 2018

We were able to sleep in today! We had some random leftover food from our road trip for breakfast then walked to a grocery store. The first place was just fruit and vegetables so we walked up further and went to another store as well. We had quite the load to haul back.

I baked a cake and then made it into cake pops with Oreo icing and crumble. They were very dangerous. I watched Friends and Danny started a blog post. He made pasta for supper and we watched the end of 7 Years in Tibet. I read about our tours in Egypt and Morocco and realized the flight I booked wouldn’t work. I also decided I would need to go shopping for more conservative clothing. It will all have to be done tomorrow.

Day 78: May 29, 2018

We didn’t sleep in as much this morning. I got up and did some yoga to loosen up my hips. We had yogurt for breakfast then got ready to go to the beach. We took an UberTaxi to Glyfada beach which was a free public beach. The driver said we should stay further south from Athens, but we had read you had to pay to enter Voula beach.

We got to the beach and walked in the water. It got deep pretty quickly and was pretty rocky. We went in and out of the water and ate lunch on the beach. Around 2:00 pm we decided to head back. We walked to a bus stop, but there was nowhere to buy tickets so we just requested an UberTaxi to get back. We waited where there were about seven cats. Only a couple of them let us pet them, but they kept hanging around.

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Greek street kitties

We got dropped off on the main street and picked up some more groceries that we had forgotten. It was a longer walk back than we anticipated and we were very sweaty by the end. We chilled at our Airbnb for the rest of the night.

Day 79: May 30, 2018

Date day! We slept in then had breakfast. I had to make changes to our Cairo to Casablanca flight. Our Egypt tour ends June 16, but we don’t get in to Cairo until the late morning as we are on a sleeper train. I didn’t realize this and had booked our flight for 5:30 am and a night in a hotel in Casablanca. I had to pay $167 for changing the flights and the Casablanca hotel was non-refundable. Changing our flight to late on June 16th would have been way more expensive. I had our travel agent book us a hotel in Cairo. She found one close to the airport and reasonably priced.

We took an UberTaxi to Athens Metro Mall so I could find some clothes for our trip to Africa. I tried on a bunch of stuff at H&M while Danny got his hair cut. I settled on a pair of pants. All the shirts were too baggy and most of the pants were too tight.

We got some pitas in the food court. Luckily they had an English menu we could look through. I still find it odd that they put fries inside their pitas. After, we got some ice cream then kept shopping. I tried on some other things, but none of the styles were me.

Around 2:00 pm we went to the arcade in the movie theatre as we had been to all the stores. Danny whupped me at air hockey and foosball, but I beat him at Dance Dance Revolution. The song choices were pretty limited.

We played some racing games then decided we would see Deadpool 2 at 3:00 pm instead of Solo which didn’t start until 5:00 pm. We weren’t sure if the movie would be in Greek or in English. We were glad when we heard Ryan Reynolds voice at the beginning. It was in English with Greek subtitles. It was an enjoyable movie; we laughed a lot.

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Date day

After we went up a level in the mall to T.G.I. Fridays. We both had burgers and I finally had a legit strawberry daiquiri. We sat there chilling and chatting. Danny decided we could have dessert. We shared an Oreo ice cream cake: chocolate biscuit, vanilla ice cream, chocolate biscuit, Oreo crumble and chocolate sauce. It was so good.

We left the mall and decided to walk off some of the food we ate. We came across a clothing store and it had clothes I would actually wear. It said Italian fashions, but it was all made in China. It was super cheap. I tried on a bunch of things and settled on a shirt and a scarf.

We walked a bit more until our feet hurt. Sometimes I wonder how we still have things to talk about when we are with each other 24/7. We enjoy reminiscing about the past and dreaming about the future. We talk about our upcoming travels, history and what we’ve learned from our travels. It is nice to have someone to talk to about all these things. We called an UberTaxi to take us home for some sleep.

Day 80: May 31, 2018

We woke up and Danny read an email that our Russian visas were approved and the visa company had sent our passports back. Thank goodness! Even a day early.

I was getting ready to do yoga when I saw a message from Caitlin. We chatted about her time in Santorini and discussed her arriving in Athens.

Danny and I walked to the water straight down from our Airbnb. There were tons of small, free beaches. We found a quieter one. Danny tried out the snorkel he bought at the mall. He gets so excited about things. Snorkeling is his new thing. His eyes just light up when he gets out of the water. He tells me everything he saw even if it was just one small fish.

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Danny snorkeling

It was super hot on the beach. We basically had to go back in the water every five minutes. We were too hot in the afternoon so we walked back. We had showers and got ready for Caitlin’s arrival. I waited for her outside our Airbnb twenty minutes after she messaged me that she had arrived in Athens. I sat and petted the garden kitty.

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Voula garden kitty

It took her longer than I expected because there was a huge line up for taxis at the airport. Our cab driver the day before had mentioned that there was a huge labour strike that disrupted the flights. I’m not sure if that was still the reason.

We had cauliflower rice and burgers for supper then watched some Netflix before bed.

Day 81: June 1, 2018

We slept in then had yogurt for breakfast. We packed lunch and got ready to go to Vouliagmeni Lake. We took an UberTaxi there and paid the 12 euro entry fee. We found some chairs we could lie down on and sat for a bit.

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Vouliagmeni Lake

The lake is brackish water and home to garra rufa or Doctor fish. They were all over the bottom of the lake and if you stood still they came over to nibble. I couldn’t handle it at first. Danny loved it and had them all the way up his legs. Caitlin got used to it after awhile too so I decided I needed to suck it up. Their nibbles felt like little pokes, but once you had enough on you it wasn’t so bad. It almost felt like your legs were vibrating. They started at your feet and then moved up. Once they hit my inner thighs I swam away. I had imagined they would latch on, but the moment you moved they left.

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Doctor fish nibbling Caitlin’s legs

Danny had brought the snorkel and I took it along the cliff edge. You could see some bigger fish, but nothing too interesting. We went in and out of the water. The water temperature was 27 degrees and the air temperature was 30 degrees.

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Snorkelling

We had brought sandwinches, but couldn’t eat them at the lake as outside food wasn’t allowed. We ordered some fries and tzatziki to tide us over.

We were all starting to overheat so we got changed and walked up the road a bit to a Greek restaurant. We ordered Greek salad and some shrimp for a starter. We also tried Ouzo which is a dry black licorice flavoured alcohol. The waiter showed us how to drink it: pour a bit in a glass, add a couple of ice cubes, it will start turning white, then top it with water. None of us were huge black licorice fans, but we thought we needed to try it.

We were also given bread with an olive yogurt spread. Danny and Caitlin had moussaka and I had stuffed pepper/tomato. For dessert we were give mosaiko, a Greek chocolate and biscuit dessert. It was so good! I could have eaten 20 of them.

We tried calling an UberTaxi, but none responded so we walked for a bit. There was quite a traffic jam on the road we were walking along. After 30 minutes my feet were killing me from my flip flops so we tried calling an UberTaxi again. One responded, but he was on the other side of the traffic jam. What Uber said would take 7 minutes to get to us, took more like 20 minutes.

Danny was feeling overheated, probably from too much sun. We got back and had showers then watched some Netflix. Danny went to bed and I stayed up a bit and chatted with Caitlin before bed. She heads home tomorrow and we head to a new Airbnb near the port of Athens, Piraeus.

Day 82: June 2, 2018

We woke up around 8:00 am and had random leftovers for breakfast. Just after 9:00 am I requested an UberTaxi to take Caitlin to the airport. We waited outside with her and hugged her good bye. I was very sad to see her go. We very much enjoyed having her with us. It was nice to have someone else to talk with and break up Danny and my fighting.

Danny and I packed up all of our stuff and called an UberTaxi about an hour later. As the taxi pulled up and the driver got out, we started to laugh as it was the same driver that had taken Caitlin to the airport.

We were dropped off at a cafe that we were hoping to sit in until we could check in to our Airbnb, but it wasn’t open. We begrudgingly walked up to the Bowling Centre that was close to our Airbnb. The crappy part was that the neighbourhood was all hills. Walking up stairs and hills with our packs was not fun. My legs were burning and the sweat was flowing everywhere.

The Bowling Centre was closed when we arrived, but upstairs there was a cafe, a really big cafe with a wonderful view to the water. We sat and I ordered a milkshake which was blended, but not as good as what we make at home. Danny and I played some cards while waiting for our 1:00 pm check in.

Five minutes early, we walked down to our Airbnb. It is very nice and has a homey feel that has been missing in the last couple of places. It has vaulted ceilings and is very spacious. Danny and I can spend the day in separate rooms to get some alone time. The host came back down with her son to see if we had any questions as she said his English was better. They also brought us a dried fruit dessert. I felt a bit bad that I didn’t ask them in, but it’s hard to know the protocol in that situation.

We had leftover sandwiches in the grill then walked down to the grocery store. We have a wonderful view of the bay with tons of sailboats, but we have to walk down to go anywhere and then back up to get home. We bought some things at the store then went up the street to a fruit and vegetable stand and then to a bakery. We bought cookies and ate them all once we got home.

I did some blogging then tried making the Greek potatoes like we were told by the waiter at our last restaurant. Bake chicken, potato chunks, water, olive oil, lemon, salt and oregano in a pan at 300 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes. They were pretty tasty, but I think next time a bit less oregano, a bit more lemon and chicken broth instead of water. We watched some history videos on YouTube then went to bed.

Day 83: June 3, 2018

I’ve been feeling a bit off recently so before we went to sleep we made a schedule for the day to add purpose to our relaxing. We woke up a bit behind schedule. I did yoga and Danny went for a run. Danny made eggs, sausages and zucchini for breakfast.

I did some blogging then made Greek salad for lunch. I also made my first homemade tea latte. We drank it on our little deck and chatted, with the sailboats in the distance. We could hear a cat fight going on up the street. We ate lunch on the deck as well then got ready to go bowling.

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View of our balcony in Piraeus

There was a birthday going on at the Bowling Centre and then us so it wasn’t too busy. We played a total of three games: Danny won the first and then I won the next two. I was sweating by the end and my hand was hurting. It was ten pin bowling which always makes me feel like my arm is going to break from throwing the heavy balls.


We walked down to a book store, but everything was closed because it was Sunday. We walked along the marina a bit then back up to our Airbnb.

I did some blogging while Danny made supper: pasta with eggplant. It was nice and spicy. We watched some more history videos then an episode of Outlander before bed.

Day 84: June 4, 2018

I slept in a bit with Danny wagging his tail beside me waiting for me to wake up. I did some yoga and Danny went for a run. I was wondering why my forearm was so sore, but Danny reminded me we had gone bowling.

We had breakfast then emailed the Embassy of Canada to make sure they had our package which FedEx had said was delivered on Friday. They replied that we could pick it up today. We walked to the main road and requested an UberTaxi. None wanted to take us the 40 minutes to the Embassy. We decided we would switch to have the taxi take us into downtown Athens then request another one to take us the rest of the way.

When we arrived in Athens we decided we should save some money and just take the bus. It took forty minutes and then we had to walk five minutes. We talked to the security guard when we arrived at the Embassy. Once Danny mentioned his name, she said, “Oh” and she told us to wait two minutes and they would bring it. A lady came to security with the package and had us show ID then sign for it. She passed the package through the slot and we were on our way. We were a bit disappointed we didn’t even get to go inside.

When we opened the package we were super excited because there were our passports with Russian visas. Yay! Danny was pretty happy to have his passport back. I kind of liked not having to worry about me losing it for a couple of weeks.

We walked back to catch the bus into the main part of Athens. We had to switch buses to get home so we found a place to eat before we transferred. We shared a covered gyros pita with potatoes. They said potatoes on the menu, but it was fries. It was very filling and very good.

We caught the next bus to the book store we had tried to go to the day before. It was another 40 minute bus ride. The temperature was around 31 degrees, but hotter on the bus.

The book store was open and we found a section of English fiction books. I picked one out, but Danny couldn’t find one that caught his fancy. We stopped at a clothing store and I found a simple grey T-shirt that will do well for Africa. We walked to a grocery store and picked up some food for the next couple of days. Then we walked up a million stairs to get home. C7084251-B05A-4D25-9A80-87E659C7BA4B

I made pizza for supper and we ate on the deck. Danny started booking flights and Airbnbs for Crete now that we have our passports back and can leave the mainland.

Day 85: June 5, 2018

We slept in and Danny brought me breakfast in bed. The host and her son had brought us breakfast at 9:30 pm last night. We were just getting ready for bed. It was four fresh muffins (amazing), little slices of bread with cheese and toasts with orange marmalade. It was very yummy. They also offered a friend who is a cab driver to take us to the airport early on Wednesday morning.

After breakfast we got ready to walk down to get visa pictures done. We have our e-visas for Egypt, but I’m worried we might still need the photos. We stopped at the grocery store on the way for cake mix and a toothbrush. I’ve been craving to bake something. Up the street we found a place to get pictures. We then walked back home.

We did some planning for Spain as we are now confident we will not have to make a detour back to Canada. Danny planned the sights and I booked flights, ferry and Airbnbs. We had sandwiches for lunch then I made muffins. More planning then Danny heated up our random leftovers for supper and chopped our remaining veggies. We had Greek yogurt with the remaining orange marmalade and muffins for dessert. We will only have some remaining salad dressing and margarine to throw out.

Our relaxing time in Athens area was not necessarily planned. It became a necessity with our lack of passports. It was good for us to be stationed in one spot for a while. It forced us to do some chilling and get some planning done for the next couple of months. We received our passports back just in time for us to get in a trip to Crete before our tour starts in Egypt. It will be a good chance to experience a different Greek island.

M

Greece Part 3 – The Mainland

Day 70: May 21, 2018

We woke up and cleaned up the Airbnb. After breakfast we took an Uber taxi to the airport. It was 8 euros more than the metro, but way less sweaty and way less time.  We arrived at the airport a bit late then weren’t sure where to pick up our rental car. The agency wasn’t one of the big ones so they didn’t have a booth inside. We found the instructions to meet at departures Gate 4, but no one was there. We called the company and she said that someone would meet us. He finally came over and said he was calling, but there was no answer. We had used our Croatian number to book the rental car and hadn’t updated it. Oops.

The car is an older Nissan Micra that smells of smoke and has cigarette burns, but it will do. We drove around the metropolis of Athens and over the Corinth Canal. The water was very blue and the canal was very steep and deep. It is 6.4 km long and only 21.4 m wide.

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Corinth Canal

We drove on to Ancient Corinth which was built in the 6th century BC. Corinth had a population of approximately 90,000 in 400 BC. We saw the South Stoa which was built in the late 4th century BC.

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South Stoa, Ancient Corinth

There were some fountains and shops.

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Fountains, Ancient Corinth

We walked around the area for quite awhile to see all the ruins. We didn’t hire a tour guide, but we listened in on a couple. There was some signage, but tours do tend to give more history. Our walk around the ruins ended with The Temple of Apollo.

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Temple of Apollo with the Acrocorinth in the background.

We went down to where the amphitheatre would have been located. The ruins there were covered in grass and shrubs. We also saw the Erastus Stone which may be the Erastus mentioned in the New Testament.

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Erastus Stone

Next was the climb to the Acrocorinth. We ate lunch at the parking lot then climbed up. We thought we’d be able to ascend the Northwestern (Frankish) Tower, but it was closed off. We did get a nice view of the site. The Acrocorinth was the acropolis of Ancient Corinth and was occupied from archaic times to the early 19th century.

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View from Acrocorinth

We walked down and drove on to Mycenae to visit the citadel. The palace dates to the 13th century BC. There is evidence that the site began use in 3000-2000 BC. Mycenae was most important in the Late Bronze Age in Greece. We visited the museum then walked around the ruins. We were getting tired from all the walking and the heat.

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Mycenae

We drove on to Nafplio and picked up groceries. We had some time before checking in to our Airbnb so we took a look at the public beach which was fairly small, but looked nice.

We drove to the Airbnb and the host’s father met us and showed us the place. It is nice and spacious. Caitlin made us delicious pasta for supper and I made brownies out of chocolate spread and eggs. We all ate too much.

Day 71: May 22, 2018

We slept in a bit then drove up to The Fortress of Palamidi, a complex with eight bastions. It was built between 1711 and 1715 at the end of the second Venetian rule. It was conquered by the Ottomans before completion.

Fortress of Palamidi

From the fortress you could see down into the town of Nafplio and into the bay. We climbed around then headed back to the car very sweaty.

View from the Fortress of Palamidi

We drove up the road a bit to Karathona Beach. It was quite long and not too busy. We checked into the cost of sun chairs: 8 euros each. As we were debating, the man said three for 10 euros. We agreed. It is nicer to sit on the chairs than get sand everywhere.

We walked into the water and it was shallow very far out. The water was much warmer than in Corfu or Croatia. We threw the frisbee around a bit, read our books and swam. We ate our lunch there as well and just enjoyed a relaxing day at the beach.

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Karathona Beach

In the afternoon it started to get a bit windy which made the swimming less enjoyable. The water would get up your nose and in your eyes. We left around 4:00 pm and went back to get ready for supper.

We walked around the old town of Nafplio. There were very aggressive boys trying to get money from tourists. I kept saying “Ne” which was no in Croatia. I soon learned that “Nai” is actually yes in Greek which was probably confusing to them. This seems very backwards to all the other languages I know “No” in.

Old Town, Nafplio

We found a restaurant in the old town and I had lamb with spicier Greek potatoes and a fancy drink that came on a truck.

After supper we climbed to Acronauplia Castle within Nafplio. The original settlement there dates to the 4th century BC. We got a nice view of the city of Nafplio.

View of Nafplio from Acronauplia

We walked back down and purchased some ice cream. The owner was quite chatty with Danny about basketball. I think Danny enjoyed the male conversation after being stuck with Caitlin and I the last couple of days.

We went out to the water to watch the sunset, but it was already behind the mountains. It was still a nice view. We went back home and went to bed after a long day.

Sunset from Nafplio
Day 72: May 23, 2018

Early wake up to drive to Mystras, a fortified city from the Byzantine era (1262-1460). There were lots of friendly kitties there, even a little kitten. There was also a small museum showing fragments of cloth they had discovered. From that they produced a re-creation of a woman’s dress and shoes.

Recreation of a woman’s dress and shoes from the Byzantine era

We saw the Metropolis, a church built in the 13th century and some other churches as well. The look of the churches was different to other things we have seen.

Church, Mystras

We drove up further and climbed up to the citadel. You could see down to the churches and palace below. We climbed down towards the palace, but the path looked blocked. It started thundering as well so we decided to go back to the car.

Palace, Mystras

We ate snacks for lunch on our drive to Diros Caves. We were ushered to a boat with four others and a man with a paddle. The temperature in the caves was 17 degrees Celsius and the water was 12 degrees Celsius. It was quite windy outside, but the temperature in the cave was very nice.

Boats inside Diros Caves

There was a stream that ran through the cave which we moved along. The ceiling was quite low and in places you had to duck. The stalactites and stalagmites were incredible.

Inside Diros Caves

The last 300 m we walked through the cave then back up to the entrance. The view inside the cave was well worth the 12 euros. We had read that the caves can get quite busy, but there were very few people when we were there. It could be that in the heat of summer and on weekends it is busy.

From there, we drove up to Kalamata. We arrived three hours ahead of schedule and the host’s friend wasn’t able to meet us until 6:00 pm. We parked and sat on a bench near the beach. I was tired and just wanted to rest.

We met the friend and she showed us the apartment. She was able to explain a lot without much English. We settled in and Danny made BBQ chicken pizzas for supper. We ate out on the deck. Danny phoned the visa company, but they haven’t received our documents yet. Danny started getting very worried, but I’m sure it will be all right.

Day 73: May 24, 2018

We slept in this morning as all of us were exhausted from all the driving yesterday. The heat also didn’t help. Danny called Hellenic Post to ask about the status of our shipment of our visa applications as the last update online was from May 18. They told us that it arrived in Canada on May 21, but they can’t track it passed that. We put the tracking number into Canada Post’s tracker and it showed that it was in customs with a timeline of 3-7 days. This calmed Danny a bit.

Caitlin made sausages, asparagus and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We left around 10:00 am and drove to Olympia.

The presence of man in the area of Olympia dates back to 4000 BC. The first monumental buildings were erected in the 7th-6th centuries BC and it reached its peak in the 5th-6th centuries BC. The Olympic Games were established in 776 BC.

We started our tour in the Archaeological Museum which had lots of different artifacts and statues.

Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD)

We then moved to the actual site starting with the Thermae dating to the 2nd century BC. It was the place for agricultural activities. We also saw the gymnasium which was the training area for foot race, javelin and discus throwing.

Gymnasion, Olympia

Next was the Prythaneion from the 5th century BC. It was the seat of the dignitaries responsible for the sacrifices at the altars. Inside was the hearth of Hestia where the Olympic flame was lit. Sadly there wasn’t much left of it.

A round building up from the Prythaneion was the Philippeion which was built in celebration of Philip II of Macedon’s (Alexander the Great’s father) victory at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.

Philippeion, Olympia

We saw the Temple of Hera from the end of the 7th century BC.

Temple of Hera, Olympia

Then a prehistoric building from 2150-2000 BC which contained many finds including vases.

Prehistoric Building, Olympia

Bases of Zanes (4th-1st century BC) were erected when an athlete cheated. Statues of Zeus sat on top with inscriptions of the athlete’s name and the nature of their enfringement. They were located along the path to the stadium as a warning to other athletes.

Bases of Zanes, Olympia

Next was the stadium built in the 5th century BC. The distance between the stone starting and finishing lines was 193 m. The capacity of the stadium was 45,000. The only stone seats were for the judges. Everyone else sat on the ground.

Stadium, Olympia

Danny ran along the track, but only went part way and we were super disappointed. When we were about to leave, he said, “I have to go back and run the full length”. We cheered him on a second time.

We saw the Echo Portico or “Heptaechos” where the sound would echo inside seven times. It dated to the 4th century BC. Next was the Council House Bouleyterion (6th-5th century BC) which was the building for meetings of the Olympic Council. It was also where the athletes and judges took the sacred oath before the games.

In the centre of the site was the Temple of Zeus constructed around 470 BC. The fallen pillars were surrounding and you could see how the notches in the stone were used to hold them together.

Temple of Zeus, Olympia

We saw the Leonidaion (4th century BC) which was for the accommodation of the officials. In Roman times, the central court of the Leonidaion was converted into a swimming pool.

Central court of the Leonidaion, Olympia

The site of Olympia was very interesting to walk around. The area of Olympia had more trees and green so it must get more rain than other places we have been in Greece. It was also much less busy than the other sites we visited.

Next was the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games. They were held without a break from 776 BC to 393 AD every four years in August. In the beginning it was a one day event, but with added events more days were added.

Special officials would travel to all Greek cities to announce the beginning of the Sacred Truce and the date of the games. The Sacred Truce was a suspension of hostilities before, during and after the games for a brief period.

To be an athlete in the games, a man had to be Greek and born free of parents who were free citizens. Athletes traveled to Elis, the headquarters, one month prior to the games. Officials checked the origins and physical conditions of the athletes and excluded those not up to caliber. Women were disallowed from competing in the Olympic Games or from watching the events. The only woman allowed to watch was a priestess connected with the earth and farming.

We walked back to the car and tried to find the amphitheatre we had seen in pictures online when we searched Olympia. It seemed like it wasn’t actually at Olympia, but then we saw signs to Olympia Theatre. We followed them and ended up at a newer outdoor theatre. We drove right up and did a loop around then back out. I looked into it a bit more after and the pictures we had seen were from a different site.

We drove back to Kalamata and rested for a bit. Then we walked to a restaurant recommended by our host called Sef. It was a basic pita, gyros and souvlaki place, but it was really good and not very expensive. I had a chicken souvlaki pita and Greek salad. The Greek salads here come with a huge piece of feta. We even had legitimate Kalamata olives.

After we went to a frozen yogurt place and spent our savings from the meal. We walked along the beach and out on the break water with the sun going down.

We walked home and did some planning. Caitlin planned her trip to Santorini and we planned our stay in Athens. We did receive a confirmation from the visa company that they received our application. Yay!

Day 74: May 25, 2018

We woke up this morning to an email from the visa company saying our passports wouldn’t be back by May 28. We had realized that based on how long it took to get there. They also said there was an issue with the application. We decided we would call them later to figure out the issue.

We had a breakfast of leftovers which was really good. At supper they had given us too much bread so we wrapped it and put it in my purse for breakfast.

We left and drove three hours to Nafpaktos. I read my book to Danny as the radio wasn’t working well. On the drive, there was a two lane road with large shoulders. Everyone was driving on the shoulder and then people would pass in the middle. Traffic was much more fluid, but it was odd to see. It worked, but you could see how it could go wrong.

To get to Nafpaktos we had to cross the Rio-Antirrio Bridge which was finished right before the Olympics in 2004. Before there were only ferries to get from the Peloponnese peninsula to mainland Greece. The toll roads were quite expensive at 3.5 euros per toll and the bridge was 13 euros.

We drove up to the castle and paid the 2 euro entry fee. There was a guy there chatting with Danny and he offered a walking tour around the site for 20 euros. We said 15 euros was more reasonable so he agreed. He took us around the different levels of the castle, but told us very little about it. He studied theology and had a lot to say about that. He discussed how the Orthodox religion is not just about practicing religion on Sundays, but about living the lifestyle. We were all a bit sceptical that we were going to get pressured or lectured, but he just explained his views.

Selfie with our tour guide, Nafpaktos Castle

He knew very little about Nafpaktos Castle, but based on signs, the earliest fortifications were established in the 12th century BC by the Dorians. It was fortified in the early Byzantine period. The fortifications seen today are mostly from the first Venetian period (1407-1499).

Nafpaktos Castle

Nafpaktos comes from the ancient word “nous” meaning ship and “pēgnym” meaning construct. Dorian tribes would have built rafts there to cross over to the Peloponnese peninsula. The castle had twenty-five towers. We visited the location of many water collection holes. About 100 people and soldiers would have lived within the walls.

View down to Nafpaktos

We saw a church which our guide explained was a castle within a castle because religion protects you. He talked a lot about using a knife to cut bread instead of hurting a neighbour.

At the top we saw the rooms the soldiers would have bunked in. On our walk down our guide talked about how many people in Greece are struggling due to the economy and some resort to killing themselves. He talked about the need to ask for help and not be ashamed of it as everyone needs a hand up sometimes. He also talked about how the Greeks meet for afternoon coffee and that is their form of psychiatry. It is much more taboo in North America for people to talk about their issues. He had a lot to say and actually most of it I agreed with, but it wasn’t much about the city or the castle. When Danny and I were talking later we both agreed that five years ago we may have scoffed and ignored what he had to say.

After the tour we said we had to get going because our guide wanted to show us the town as well. We drove down by ourselves to the port. It was a horseshoe shape and mainly consisted of Venetian fortifications. It was the location of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 which was a very important event. It was a great clash between the Christian West and Islam. The West came together to halt the Ottoman Empire’s expansion to Italy, France and Spain.

Sea gate at Nafpaktos

We ate our salad lunch there then saw the statue of Yorgos Anemoyiannis, a mariner who died trying to blow up a Turkish flagship in the port during the Greek War of Independence in 1821.

Statue of Yorgos Anemoyiannis, Nafpaktos

We went out to the beach then back to the car to complete our drive to Ioannina. We arrived in Ioannina and stopped at a grocery store then on to our Airbnb. The host met us and was very pleasant. Caitlin had booked this Airbnb, but the host spoke mostly to Danny and handed him the key. I didn’t notice this until we were talking about the male treatment of women in Greece later on. There does still seem to be sexism in Greece.

Caitlin made taco salad for supper. I was feeling a bit shaky and nauseous. I’m not sure if this was from the heat, the water or blood sugar. Even after supper I wasn’t feeling great.

We called the visa company and he explained that the confirmation number on our applications wasn’t in the correct place which is frustrating because I had confirmed it with GAdventures. We had resolved that he should just send our passports back, but he went to talk to a colleague first who said it would be 3-4 days to mail them back to us. They suggested trying to submit the application today to see if the embassy would accept it. If not, they would just sent it back to us that day. So we will see what happens.

We watched an episode of 13 Reasons Why and Danny talked to his parents. Then we headed to bed.

Day 75: May 26, 2018

We received an email from the visa company saying the Russian Embassy had accepted our applications! Everything might just work out.

We headed to Meteora which was a two hour drive from Ioannina. We went to the Great Meteor monastery first. It was quite busy with cars and tour buses. We had to walk up the road a bit then up the stairs to the Greek Orthodox monastery. Access used to be only by rope ladder. The steps weren’t cut into the rock until the 20th century. The monastery was founded in the middle of the 14th century.

Great Meteor Monastery

Inside Caitlin and I put on provided skirts and had our shoulders covered. Danny had worn pants. We paid the 2 euro entry and walked around. We visited the History and Folklore Museum then went outside for a view of the neighbouring monasteries. There was also an old traditional kitchen, a cellar with farming equipment and tolls and a carpenter’s shop.

As we were leaving a group came up to us and a lady spoke to us in Greek. We understood that there were no more skirts at the entrance and they wanted ours. I started to untie mine and she pulled it off of me. Then grabbed the one from Caitlin. Another lady was waiting for Caitlin’s and the two began arguing. We left as we couldn’t understand what was being said.

We decided the insides of the monasteries weren’t as exciting as the outsides. We drove down to the Monastery of Varlaam and took photos of the Great Meteor and St. Nicholas. Then we drove on to Monastery of Rousanou and stopped at a viewpoint for a picnic lunch. We had a nice spot down on a rock looking out at the monasteries.

Meteora

We read a bit and learned that Meteora translates to “suspended in the air”. The rocks are over 400 m high. It is unclear exactly how they were formed. The belief is a river formed the rocks along with weathering by rain, wind and earthquakes. It is a bit mysterious as the place is not mentioned anywhere in Greek mythology. Twenty-four monasteries have been built on the rocks and only six remain. We took tons of pictures then drove on to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and the Monastery of St. Stephen.

Monastery of St. Stephen

We drove back to Ioannina and chilled for a bit. We walked down to the lake front and around the castle to a restaurant called No Ties. Danny and I had pizza and Caitlin had ravioli. We walked back through the castle where apartments were located within the walls. How cool would it be to say, “I live in a castle”.

The streets in Ioannina reminded me more of Nepal than Western Europe as everything is a bit more run down. We watched some Netflix then got ready for bed.

Day 76: May 27, 2018

We woke up early for a long driving day back to Athens. It seemed much more lush around Ioannina than Athens. There were larger trees and more shrubs.

We drove to Delphi with a stop in Nafpaktos for the washroom. One thing we discussed was the Canadian use of washroom or bathroom over toilet. For anyone to understand what you are talking about in Europe, you must use the word toilet. To us, it feels rude.

We parked at Delphi and it was very busy. We went to the museum first. There were so many people inside, mostly tour groups. It was also a Sunday and it is fairly close to Athens which may have added to the busyness. I basically flew through the museum because there were just too many people around.

We went out and found the archaeological site. The whole thing was set on a hill. We started in the Roman Agora which only has the stoa preserved. It was where meetings and commerce would have taken place in the 4th century AD. It was one of three stoas in the agora.

Roman Agora, Delphi

We saw some buildings that were treasuries. They were small, temple shaped buildings dedicated by Greek city-states as sanctuaries. The Treasury of the Athenians was one of the best preserved. It commemorated the establishment of democracy in Athens after the collapse of the Pisistratus tyranny (510 BC) or the Athenian victory against the Persians (490 BC). It acted as a treasury for the Athenian offerings to Apollo.

Treasury of the Athenians, Delphi

We saw the tripod of the Plataeans which was a votive for the Greek victory over the Persians in 479 BC. A gold tripod sat atop a 7.5 m tall bronze column in the shape of a three-bodied serpent.

The tripod of the Plataeans, Delphi

The Temple of Apollo was in the prominent position in Delphi. Apollo was the god of music, harmony and light. The temple was dated to the 4th century BC and is the third temple built in the same place. The foundations of the first temple in the 7th century BC were said to be laid by Apollo himself.

Temple of Apollo, Delphi

We walked up passed the theatre to the stadium. It hosted the athletic contest of the Pythian religious festival. Initially in the 5th century BC, a racing track existed with spectators on the ground. In the 2nd century AD, Roman emperor, Hadrian, created the stadium where 17 or 18 runners would compete in a foot race. The distance was one Pythian stage (178.35 m). The Pan-Hellenic Pythian Games were second only to the Olympic Games.

Stadium, Delphi

We stopped there to eat our wraps for lunch then made our way back down to the theatre. It hosted the musical and dramatic contests of the Pythian Games and other religious festivals. Its present form is from the 1st century AD and would have had a capacity of 5,000.

Theatre, Delphi

We walked back down and headed towards Athens. We stopped for a view back at an interesting looking town (maybe Arachova).

View along our drive

We arrived at Athens Airport a bit early and waited for the rental car representative to show up. We left the car and went to a pick-up location for Uber Taxi. We said good-bye to Caitlin who was going to spend the night in the airport for an early morning flight to Santorini.

We arrived at our Airbnb and our host showed us the place. We unpacked and I even hung up my clothes! We took out the things we want to send home with Caitlin. She will be meeting us back in Athens before she goes home.

We ordered some sushi and Ramen as we hadn’t gone grocery shopping. The delivery guy called because he couldn’t find us. I had no idea how to direct him so I just kept saying the address and even texted it to him. The main office called and asked for a nearby street then said he had figured it out. He showed up not too much later and explained his internet wasn’t working. The meal was very yummy and a nice change from our typical meals. We started watching 7 Years in Tibet and I called my parents. I started getting too sleepy so we went to bed.

Mainland Greece was much less busy than we were expecting especially the roads. The driving was not as scary as we thought. Greek drivers do have a different way, but once you accept it you make it work as well. Danny very much enjoyed the driving because you could throw the rule book out the window. The further from Athens, the more relaxed and less touristy it felt.

We booked a week stay in Voula, a suburb of Athens, while we wait for our passports to return to us. We are looking forward to staying in one place and getting in some beach time.

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Greece Part 2 – Athens

Day 67: May 18, 2018

We were up at 3:00 am to head to the Corfu airport. We ate our remaining food and drove to the car rental place. There were very few cars on the road that early in the morning. Just after we arrived the guy showed up and opened the car rental shop. He drove us to the airport right away. We were a bit early to drop our bags so we just sat and waited. We dropped our bags then had to wait some more for the domestic security to open. Once we got there we had to wait even more on the other side. There were only two gates. I bought some muffins and we boarded the plane.

The flight was only an hour, but I was able to sleep a bit. This was the first flight that we were offered refreshments and cookies. The flight was with Aegean.

We arrived at the airport and picked up our bags. We went to the information desk to ask about printing our letters for our Russian visas. There was a place with computers and a printer that we were able to use for free within the airport. We printed and signed then double checked all of our documents. We returned to the information desk to ask if there was a courier service at the airport. There was a national post office so we sent our documents with them. The lady said it may take 4-5 days to get there by Express. Monday is a holiday in Canada so they won’t look at it until Tuesday anyways. We sent our package on it’s way and I actually felt a bit better once it was gone. I’m not in control of it anymore.

We went and stood at the arrivals to wait for Caitlin. It took about 30 minutes for her to arrive. I gave her a big hug. It was nice to see a friendly face. She was tired from not sleeping on the plane. We got some pastries and water then walked across the street to the Metro. The ride was quite long from the airport. It took 40 minutes and then we had to switch to another train followed by a 15 minute walk to the Airbnb. The walk was all up hill. We were very sweaty by the time we arrived.

We got the keys from the lockbox and settled in. The place wasn’t quite as nice as the pictures, but it will do. We relaxed a bit and Caitlin laid down. Danny and I snuck out and purchased some groceries for the next couple of days. We came back and then all went to the bakery. We bought some buns and cookies.

We walked to the square suggested by the host for supper. Apparently Athens has an enforced quiet time from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm which we did not know about. We were out just after 5:30 pm, but no one else was out. Greeks don’t each supper until much later.

For supper we had a whole bunch of appetizers: tzatziki, zucchini leaf rolls, meatballs, chickpea mash, Greek salad and baked feta. It was all super yummy. While we were waiting for the bill we noticed a fruit on the ground so I went to pick it up. One of the guys that works there made a motion like, “You can eat it”. He then climbed the tree to collect more. They were small yellow plums that were very juicy. The unripe ones were green and sour like Granny Smith apples. After supper we walked back. Caitlin and I watched Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why and then we went to bed.

Day 67: May 19, 2018

We woke up around 7:30 am and had breakfast. We walked about 30 minutes to Hotel Amalia where our walking tour started. Our first stop was the Greek parliament which used to be the palace. In 1832, the Great Powers put in the first modern king of Greece, King Otto. He was from Bavaria and only 16 years old. He ruled until the Greeks revolted in 1843 and a constitution was granted.

We watched the changing of the guards which happens every hour. Men in Greece have nine months of mandatory military service which they can postpone for university. Only the tallest and straightest legged men are chosen as the guards. When they left their posts they did a weird almost dance and bent their legs then kicked them out. The guide said it may be to bring back circulation to their legs after standing still for an hour.

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Guard in front of the Greek Parliament

Behind the guards was a monument for the unknown soldier. The idea came from the war between Athens and Sparta in the second half of the 5th century BC where the Athenians were defeated. The Athenians had an empty grave dedicated to the soldiers that didn’t come home.

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Monument for the Unknown Soldier

On our walk we saw many olive trees. We were told that 370,000 tons of olive oil are exported from Greece every year. An acidity of 0-1% indicates a good quality of olive oil. We even saw pink pepper trees which I didn’t know existed. Danny picked some and we tasted them. They tasted exactly like pepper except pinker.

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Pink pepper tree

We saw the Temple of Zeus which was constructed in the 6th century BC, but not finished until the 2nd century AD when the Romans took over. The temple was constructed of limestone. There were originally 104 corinthian columns, but only 15 columns remain standing and one laying down. It would have had a double pitched roof made of wood. There was also a gold statue of Zeus inside, but it was taken by the Byzantines to Constantinople and melted to make coins. Other groups occupying Greece and then many earthquakes have destroyed most of the temple.

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Temple of Zeus

We moved on to Hadrian’s Gate. Hadrian was a Roman ruler in the 2nd century AD. He was a fan of Greece and wanted to make Athens the cultural capital of the Roman Empire.

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Hadrian’s Gate

The Acropolis of Athens is one of its best known sites. Acro means high and polis means city. During the Brozen Age in the 13th century BC it is believed there was a fortification at the Acropolis. In the 5th century BC, Pericles coordinated the construction of the main buildings. It was believed that the Cyclops built the buildings as they would be the only ones able to lift the stones that high.

In the 13th century AD the crusaders took over Greece and the buildings on the Acropolis were converted in to Christian buildings. In 1459 the Ottomans captured Athens and then converted the Parthenon to a mosque. They stored gun powder inside and when the Venetians sieged the city, the Parathenon was damaged.

Many statues from the Acropolis were taken during the Ottoman rule. A British ambassador bribed the Ottoman officers so that he could take them and make replicas. Instead, he kept them and sold them. There are now sculptures all over Europe originally from the Acropolis.

At the base of the Acropolis we were told about the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It was built in the Roman period for musical performances and could hold a crowd of 5,000 people.

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Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Up further was the Theatre of Dionysus that was built in the 2nd century BC. It is believed to be the oldest theatre in the world. Tragedies were told with people dressed in goat skins singing religious songs and dancing.

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Theatre of Dionysus

Atop the Acropolis, we saw the Temple of Athena Nike depicting the Athenians deafeating the Persians.

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Temple of Athena Nike

We walked through the Propylaia to enter the Acropolis. Propylaia means a monumental gateway. It was constructed from 437-432 BC, but was never finished.

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Propylaia

The marble used for the buildings have iron in it so it has rusted and lost the original white colour. Preservation includes filling holes in the marble like a cavity in your tooth. Lasers such as those used for cataracts are used to clean the black spots caused by acid rain. Plants are also removed from the holes to prevent their roots from destroying the marble.

We walked along to the Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. It was built between 421-406 BC.

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Erechtheion

The protectors of Athens were Athena and Poseidon. In a competition between the two, Athena gave the people the olive tree and Poseidon gave the people the sea. Poseidon brought the sea by striking the Acropolis with his trident and water flowed out. The roof of the Erechtheion had a hole to show where Poseidon’s trident would have gone through. In the end, the people voted for Athena which caused Poseidon to get angry. He took away the women’s right to vote because of this.

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The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to Athena. It was built between 447 and 438 BC. The east engravings depict the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus. The west shows the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for protection of the city.

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Caitlin and I in front of the Parthenon

From the Acropolis you could see the sprawl of the city. The population of Athens is five million. The highest building allowed is ten stories due to the frequency of earthquakes.

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Sprawl of Athens

We were given free time to walk around and take pictures. We walked down and got a better look at the Theatre of Dionysus. Then we exited and sat to eat our lunch.

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Theatre of Dionysus

We walked back to the Hotel Amalia to catch the second part of our tour. It was an hour bus ride south to the Temple of Poseidon. Along the way we were told that the main wealth in Greece comes from tourism followed by agriculture, shipping and industry.

The location of the Temple of Poseidon was a sacred spot during ancient times as soldiers returning from the Trojan war were buried there. It was also easily accessible by boats. Sailors could see the temple as they returned to the Attica Pennisula. Down the hill there was also a smaller temple for Athena. Temples were homes for the gods so the Ancient Greeks did not go inside. They would worship and perform sacrifices in front of the temples.

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Temple of Poseidon from afar

The Temple of Poseidon was in pretty good shape, but the guide said it was easy for people to take marble to their boats from that location.

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Danny, Caitlin and I in front of the Temple of Poseidon

We drove back and were dropped off closer to our Airbnb. Danny made us supper, we watched a cat documentary on Netflix and stayed up chatting before bed.

Our guide had mentioned that Greeks usually don’t eat supper until 9:00 pm and then go to bed at midnight. This explains why the restaurant the night before was empty at 5:30 pm. It seems odd to us to eat that late, but with the heat and the siestas it makes sense.

Day 69: May 20, 2018

We woke up this morning around 7:15 am and made eggs, sausages and zucchini for breakfast. We walked to Monastiraki Flea Market. Lots of shops were not open yet so we went to the Ancient Agora. It was a large square on the northwest slope of the Acropolis. In Ancient Greece, social and religious activities, commerce, theatre and sports would occur there. It was also where important administrative and judicial functions and political assemblies took place.

The Stoa of Attalids was reconstructed how they believe it would have looked in Ancient Greece. It was interesting to see all the columns and the wooden roof.

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Reconstructed Stoa of Attalids

We moved on the the Nymphaion which is under the Church of Holy Apostles built in 1000 AD.

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Church of Holy Apostles

We saw where the water clock would have existed. A flotation device would record the passing hours as the water level fell.

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Location of water clock

Next was the Middle Stoa built between 180-140 BC. It would have been the largest building in the Agora.

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Middle Stoa

We saw the Odeion of Agrippa which hosted musical performances and would hold about 1,000 people. In front was a gymnasium or “Palace of the Giants”. It had statues of the Tritons and Giants from the Odeion.

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Gymnasium

Then we saw the Altar of Ares and the Temple of Ares. We also saw a container for offerings to the dead from the 5th century BC. We saw the bust of the Emperor Hadrian and you could see how the arms would detach.

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Bust of Emperor Hadrian

We saw the Old Bouleuterion that may have served as a meeting place of an early council that prepared legislative bills to be voted on by the Assembly of the People. The council would have consisted of 500 members.

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Old Bouleuterion with Temple of Hephaestus in the background

The Metroon was where the official documents were kept, but there was not much left of it. The New Bouleuterion housed the council in the late 5th century BC. This council was also made of 500 citizens from each of the ten Athenian tribes. The Tholos or Skias was a round structure that was the headquarters of the 50 person executive committee of the council. They served 35-36 days and then were replaced by another 50 people.

We walked up to the Temple of Hephaestus which was the most intact temple we have seen.

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Temple of Hephaestus

There was a view over the Agora with the Acropolis in the background from the temple.

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View of Ancient Agora with Acropolis in background

We stopped for lunch and had a mixed meat plate. I think just the gyros would have been better. After we had ice cream. The flavours were delicious.

We walked back through the markets to Areopagus Hill which wasn’t where we were aiming. We continued our hike to the Monument of Philopappos which is where we were aiming. There was a good view of the Acropolis from there.

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View of Acropolis from Philopappou Hill

We walked back down the other side to our Airbnb. We chilled then Caitlin and I went in search of dessert, but everything was already closed. Danny made supper and we watched more 13 Reasons Why before bed.

Athens was a bit less exciting than I anticipated. I very much enjoyed seeing the Acropolis and walking around, but I didn’t get the same excitement as when I was in Rome. I do feel Athens is a place that you have to see to take in the history.

Tomorrow we leave on a road trip of mainland Greece. We are a bit nervous about the driving as we have read that Greek drivers are not the safest. The bus system around Greece seemed a bit complicated and we felt we couldn’t plan properly so a rental car was the only way to go. We are looking forward to the freedom to go where we want and see all the sites.

M

Greece Part 1 – Corfu

Day 61: May 12, 2018

Leaving for Greece today! I feel a bit anxious. We’ve been stationary for a bit and I’ve grown accustomed to the way of life in the Baltics. Greece will be a different experience.

We slept in and ate our remaining food. Only a few items needed to go in the trash. We caught an Uber around 10:00 am for a 30 minute ride to the airport. We checked in, went through security and spent our remaining kuna on a lunch of Greek salad and burek. We managed to time everything just right. Usually we get to the airport way too early.

We arrived in Rome after an hour flight and got through customs fairly quickly. It then took awhile to get our bags. We went out the doors to say we were in Rome and then tried to drop our bags. We were about an hour early so we had to sit and wait. We’ve learned that you usually aren’t allowed to drop your bags until two hours before the flight.

When the hour was up we were first in line to drop our bags and then we went through security. On the other side we found a place to sit and I called my friend Caitlin to talk about our trip plans when she meets us in Athens. She was worried about what to pack, but also wanted to check how much we were sending back with her so she had enough space.

After the call we got burgers for supper. Our flight was delayed an hour due to a strike in France. I went for a walk and found lots of shops and a couple of gelaterias. I thought about buying some gelato, but then decided it wasn’t fair.

We got on the plane and I was able to sleep for a bit. Once we landed in Corfu, we got our bags and walked through customs to scout out a place to lay down. We found some benches near the check-in counters. The benches were metal with holes again, similar to Riga airport. This time we laid down our jackets to provide some insulation. We also had our earplugs and face masks ready. I called my family for a bit, but the internet wasn’t too great. Then I tried to sleep.

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Merai ready for sleep in Corfu airport
Day 62: May 13, 2018

At around 4:30 am I woke up and went for a walk to warm up. It was warmer than sleeping in Riga airport, but the metal was still cold. I sat and typed for our blog until Danny finally woke up. We bought some spinach pies for breakfast then went to meet the car rental representative at the arrivals at 9:00 am. He drove us to their office about five minutes away.

We now have a Suzuki Alto which is the worst car we have had so far. The worst part is there is no USB connection so we can’t listen to our music.

We stopped at a kiosk on our way out of the town of Corfu to buy a new SIM card. Trying to communicate without knowing the language is difficult. As English speakers, we are so dependent on others knowing at least some English. I had to sign up for the SIM card with my identification card. It was interesting because the form also asked for my father’s name. I’m starting to know what to ask with new SIM cards: “Do I need to send a text to get internet?”, “Do I need to load money onto it?”, “Is there a pin to unlock it?”, etc.

I got it working and then it stopped. I figured out that I needed to use the money I had loaded on to buy a package. It was 7 days, 3 MB for 4 euros.

We drove to a grocery store in Palaiokastritsas where we are staying. There were fresh fruits and vegetables, but not much selection. We bought enough for a day thinking we will be able to find a larger store later.

Further up the road was the Paleokastritsa Monastery. There was a beautiful view out to the sea. The water was so blue and so clear. We both wanted to jump in the water immediately, especially with the heat.

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View of the Ioannian Sea from Paleokastritsa Monastery

We drove up the road to find our Airbnb which always seems to be a struggle. We asked at the pool if they knew where it was and the bartender was actually the person that showed us the place. The owner’s were away so she was helping out.

The wifi is not very good here, but she said that we could use the pool’s wifi. We unpacked our groceries and ate leftover pasta for lunch. I laid down on the bed and ended up sleeping for five hours. I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before. Sleeping in the airport seems like it will save so much money, but it eats up so much time because I get so behind on sleep.

For supper, we had smokies in croissants with fried onion and peppers on the patio with a very sweet red wine. After some reading we went to sleep.

Day 63: May 14, 2018

We slept in and had yogurt, strawberries and cereal for breakfast. We drove up the hill to Angelokastro, a Byzantine castle, at the top of a hill with very steep cliffs.

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Angelokastro

The castle never fell despite many groups trying to conquer it. It is suspected to have first been fortified by the Byzantines between the 5th-7th centuries AD. There was a nice view to the bay where we are staying and you could even see the beach. There was an underground chapel with some interesting artwork and another chapel further up as well.

We watched some ants trying to bring a shell into their mound for much longer than we expected. The rain clouds were moving in so we walked back down to the car. It started pouring rain just as we reached the car.

We drove to another town where Google said there was a grocery store, but it was just souvenir shops. I bought some baklava which was super sweet. We drove on and stopped at a gas station to buy some apples for our next stop: Corfu Donkey Rescue.

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Corfu Donkey Rescue

We were greeted by a very friendly orange cat. We walked through the gate and a volunteer met us to explain what was up. We were petting the donkeys, but I had my lunch in my bag so they kept nudging at it. We sat at a table out of the penned area and ate lunch. Cats came and sat with us.

After lunch, we took a donkey for a walk, but she mostly ate the grass. We pet the cats that came over. One orange cat was super funny trying to chase a piece of grass, total Gunther moves, jumping all around, but not catching anything.

We went back in and brushed the donkeys. Then we sat back down with the cats. One really cuddled in and was even drooling. The donkeys were cool, but I liked petting all the cats more.

As we were about to leave, they brought out a newborn donkey, only a day old. It was running all around its pen while its mom stood by.

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Day old donkey

We reluctantly left and stopped at another grocery store which was also very small. They seem to have lots of “supermarkets”, but they are really all small corner stores.

I updated our expenses and Danny called the visa company. It all seems to be sorted out now. I made a Greek salad for lunch tomorrow and Danny made pasta with sausages for supper. Then we went to bed.

Day 64: May 15, 2018

Rainy day today so we took a road trip after breakfast. Our first stop was an old Venetian shipyard/arsenal in Godiva. It was also where the Serbian army debarked in 1916 in WWI.

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Old Venetian shipyard/arsenal

Our next stop was Old Perithea. The village dates to the 14th century and hosts about 130 semi-ruined houses near Mount Panokrator, the highest mountain on Corfu.

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Old Perithea

We stopped for a tea near the entrance so we could use the washroom. We then realized we only had a 50 euro bill to pay with. The manager was not very pleased especially when I laughed at the awkwardness of the situation.

We ate lunch in the car then walked around the village. There were a few occupied homes, but not very many. We found one house that had vines growing everywhere. It reminded me of “Ever After” when Drew Barrymore meets up with the Prince and they are chatting.

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Abandoned house in Old Perithea

It started pouring rain so we stood under the trees until it let up. We walked back to the car and drove on to Sidar. We walked up the main touristy strip that had a whole bunch of shops. We stopped at an arcade and played air hockey and foosball. When I was done losing, we went back to the car and drove to Canal d’Amour Beach. A van drove by with fruit as we were walking and they listed their items. We stopped them and bought cherries and a quarter of a watermelon for 10 euro. We paid way too much, but it was too tempting.

Canal d’Amour Beach is set between two cliffs. The beach was small and the water was very silty. There were some nice hotels with pools surrounding it.

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Canal d’Amour Beach

From there we drove back home. Danny made chicken, rice and eggplant with tomato for supper. We ate out on the deck. There are a lot of stray cats here. The one in this territory is pretty rough looking; he’s seen some things.

Day 65: May 16, 2018

We had our typical breakfast of yogurt, berries and cereal and then got ready for hiking followed by a beach day. We drove to Kaiser’s Throne which was built for Kaiser Wilhelm II who liked to spend his summers there between 1908 and WWI.

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Kaiser’s Throne

Danny had understood it was a hike up, but we drove basically right to it. There was a panoramic view of the island. It would have been beautiful at sunset. We were able to see the sea in three directions: east, west and south. To the north was a mountain range including the highest peak on the island. To the east we could see mainland Greece and Albania across the sea.

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View of Albania/Mainland Greece from Kaiser’s Throne

With the extra time from not hiking, we stopped at a store and bought condensed milk to add to the leftover rice from the night before to make rice pudding. We also bought sun screen and olives. We drove to Mirtiotissa Beach which was for nudists only. We are truly embracing the culture.

We walked down to the beach which had a small sandy section with rocks and cliffs on either side. We found a spot in the sun and settled in. We rented two beach chairs for three euro each to avoid getting too sandy.

The water was glorious! There was a sand bar out from the beach and the water was crystal clear. We forgot our books so we just went in and out of the water. There was a little bit of wave there so it was fun. The beach did get a little busy, but not awful. We didn’t take any pictures, but I wish we would have to show how beautiful it was. The temperature was perfect: around 24 degrees Celsius.

We drove home and showered then went down to the pool bar. I got a strawberry daiquiri and Danny got a beer. We came back home and I made ramen for supper. We ate out on the deck again and a different kitty came to visit. We gave him some tuna, but it didn’t let Danny pet him. I made rice pudding for dessert. It’s always a bit hard to make things without the proper ingredients, but I did what I could.

Day 66: May 17, 2018

We woke up and had eggs and toast for breakfast. Then we drove into Corfu town. We walked to the spa I had booked into. Danny left to go explore the town and I started with a pedicure. I had some time before my massage so I sat on their balcony. The owner came to chat with me about how I found out about the place. He didn’t seem to get my humour. I would make a joke and there was no acknowledgement of it. Strictly business, but still pleasant.

After my massage I went downstairs for a hair cut. The girl cutting my hair didn’t speak English, but her co-worker was able to translate.

Following my hair cut I walked around the streets of the old town a bit. I went into some shops, but the clothes weren’t really my style. For lunch I had a pork gyros wrap. It had tzatziki, lettuce, tomato and fries with a tomatoey sauce and seasoning salt. It was really tasty although the fries seemed odd. I also bought a circular shortbread cookie with cinnamon sugar. Also very yummy.

I walked around the streets and started getting very hot. I bought a scoop of strawberry sorbet and as I was walking I ran into Danny earlier than we had planned to meet. We got him some gelato and chatted about what he had seen.

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Saint Michael and Saint George Palace

We walked around the old town a bit more. I bought a postcard and Danny showed me some small guitars and a chess board made from olive wood.

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Streets of Old Town Corfu

Danny had visited the new Venetian fortress, but we walked over to the old Venetian fortress together. It dates back to the mid-6th century AD when the inhabitants moved onto the peninsula. The Byzantines walled the peninsula and built towers. The current form of the fortress is from the Venetian rule (1386-1797). They used it as defence against Ottoman attacks.

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Old Venetian fortress

From the top there was a view of the old town and the harbour.

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View of Old Town from the old Venetian fortress

On our walk out we saw the Church of Saint George, which was built when the island was a British protectorate (1815-1864).

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Church of Saint George

Danny was tired after a long day of walking so we went for supper. I had a pork roast and Danny had Greek ratatouille. After supper, we got into the car and drove to a kiosk to reload the SIM card. I was uploading pictures to Dropbox and it used up all the data. We drove home and Danny called his parents. Early to bed to get up early for our flight to Athens.

We enjoyed our relaxing time in Corfu. The things we had planned were not must sees we were able to do what we felt like each day. I would label Corfu as a has-been island as there were lots of abandoned hotels and buildings. There was also no garbage collection the entire time we were there and the bins were overflowing. We really didn’t mind being on a less busy island as it meant it was less touristy. It was also very good for beach days.

Next up, we are meeting my friend Caitlin in Athens to do some exploring of mainland Greece!

M