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June 16-July 3, 2010

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January 29 - February 5, 2011

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story

Yassas from Greece.

(click to skip straight to the pics)

I’m finally taking a break from scurrying around islands and getting rocked on our cruise ship to scribble down some thoughts from the journey so far.  We arrived in Athens last Saturday after a long night of flying.  Because our rooms weren’t ready at  11am when we arrived, we decided to try trekking to a flea market, got mega lost, got rained on (note: white marble, which is everywhere in this city, is super slippery when it’s wet – Bon Jovi titled it correctly), and ended up at the new Acropolis Museum which just opened in June.  We strolled through the four floors but everyone was so tired that we’d all nod off when sat down.  So we headed back to the hotel and napped.  Afterwards we were out looking for dinner when we heard some live music.  We followed it over and found a Communist rally where everyone was wearing red and holding flags…and singing along to a Carpenters song.  Pussies.  That said, when I saw about 30 cops hanging around the periphery, we skedaddled.  That night we went to a nice traditional greek taverna and my dad, who is known for making bold clams, proclaimed that his lamb stew was “the best meal that I’ve ever had”.  The rest of the night I followed him around asking him, “serious, the best EVER?”.

On Day 2 we got up early and headed to the Acropolis to try to beat the crowds – who were drawn in by the ancient theater where Yianni performed his legendary concert “Live at the Acropolis” (aka Big Moustaches, Big Tunes).  When we got to the Parthenon at the top there were only about 10 other tourists on the far side.  That made for some really cool time on top, being able to see something that’s been standing for thousands of years.   What shocked me most about the top is that there seemed to be a lot of ancient ruins scattered around the grounds and anyone could basically climb on them.  Pretty shocking stuff to me that they weren’t preserving it better but I guess you can’t spit in Athens and not turn up some clay pot or naked Greek wrestling memorabilia.  Case in point, at the Acropolis metro station they had a picture of the result of the digging when they first drilled the new subway line.  The whole tunnel was filled with priceless relics, either that or gypsies had set up a fake souvenir shop on the new territory because they didn’t think there were enough bad tourist shops selling the same Athens shirts, fake pottery, statue replicas, or dirty playing cards.

On Monday, my 30th birthday, we got up and headed to Pireaus (the port of Athens) and I boarded my first cruise ship for our Aegean cruise.  That night we docked in Mykonos and had some time to stroll the alleyways and shops.  Everything on the island (and the other islands that we’ve seen) is painted white.  It’s like every Greek got together at the local Sherman Williams and asked the cleric, “How much of a discount could we get if bought 10,000,000 gallons of white paint and 500,000 gallons of blue paint for our roofs?”

The next morning we woke up docked in Kusadasi, Turkey.  In Turkey we went the House where the Virgin Mary supposedly spent her last days.  In the 1800s a German nun who had never been out of her homeland had visions in her dreams of a place in Turkey.  A scribe took down here story and they searched the Turkey country side and came upon a place exactly as she had described it.  From there we moved on to the remains of ancient Ephesus.  Pretty cool ruins mostly still in tact and a 24,000 person amphitheater that’s hosted two extremely ugly things – Bob Dylan (musician) and alligators (beasts for beast fights).  We ended our trip at a rug maker shop where we were given free drinks and got to see the rug director yell out Turkish commands to two servants who ran around the room like mad men throwing out rugs of all colors.

That afternoon we cruised to Patmos, the location that St. John wrote the Book of Revelation after he was exiled from modern day Turkey.  The main selling points of that tour were a cave filled with some religious art, a hole in the wall where John would rest his head, another hole which he used to help himself get up (sleeping in a rock cave had to be painful), and the desk that his writing was done on.

Today we were in the ancient city of Rhodes, the original home of one of the Ancient Wonders of the World – The Colossus of Rhodes.  The Colossus fell down a long, long time ago but in its place now are two statues of deer.  How this is related, I don’t know.  From Rhodes we rented a car and drove to the southern tip of the island to see the acropolis of Lindos.  Not knowing where to park, we headed towards the ruins down a very steep road that was filled with hundreds of people walking.  When we got to the bottom we realized it was a dead end.  Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but considering there were so many people and the road could barely support two cars and considering the fact that I haven’t driven a stick shift much in the last 10 years, it was an interesting experience.  At one point with cars behind and in front of me and with just a little room, I tried easing on the gas and ended up peeling out so loudly and for about four or five consecutive seconds that it scared the crap out of the pedestrians and made them slide over.

We arrived in Santorini late Thursday, ready to get off the cruise ship.  Santorini is known as the Sunset island, it’s the one in all the pictures of Greece with the white churches with blue domes, and some people think it’s the lost city of Atlantis.  Because of this, I was hoping to see some merpeople (half man, have mermaid). Tiff had booked one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in.  We had the top floor of a converted windmill with one of the best views of the island.  Cool fun facts about the hotel include the fact that it came with a free rental car and free mini bar use.  Which meant that the second we arrived, we drowned all the beer in the fridge and considered bathing in Coca-Cola.  Sadly, we later learned that the mini bar didn’t get refilled so maybe we should have taken it easier on the soda.

Santorini is a volcanic island that, when it exploded, left the island with amazing cliffs, amazing beaches, and hundreds of tourist shops selling the same ten t-shirts and postcards.  Our first day we visited two of the local wineries because my Dad claimed he wanted to get “drunk enough to die.”  While he didn’t succeed in his quest, we did get to do some fun rating of wines and compared our scores with Wine Spectator.  I think Tiff has a second career in judging wine color if computing doesn’t work out.  Hopped up on booze, we made our way to a white beach, a black sand beach, and my first red beach (also known as a ginger beach). The red beach took a little hike to get to it and was probably one of the neatest beaches I’ve ever visited.

We tried to rent scooters but were denied because we didn’t have any international scooter license.  To prove our worth we offered to demonstrate our skills by emulating the riding style in old DMX music videos but our offers to “stop, drop, shut ‘em down, open up shop” were just received with confused looks.  We had to settle for the bus to ride around the island.

On our last day, my dad and I walked down 250 steps from our hotel to the beach at the bottom of the cliff.  I use the term beach lightly as it was more of a concert platform with rocks that could be considered steps.  It was cold and probably in the low 70s and the water was really cold.  After 10 minutes of “no you get in first” arguments, I jumped in.  I spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince my Dad to join me.

From Santorini, we flew back to Athens and then took a boat to the island of Hydra.  Hydra was a greek shipping center in the 1800s and is filled with big mansions and, the coolest part, no cars, scooters, or other electric transportation.  This means that the only way to maneuver the island is by walking or by donkey.  During the course of our day there we saw donkeys hauling bags of cement, tourist luggage, Greek men, food and beer, and (best of all) a dishwasher.  The dishwasher was an interesting problem and I enjoyed watching three people figure out how to strap it on.

On our last night we returned to Athens, checked into a dumpy hotel, did some last minute shopping, and went to see the changing of the guard.  It was a pretty cool ceremony but the guards, dressed in traditional garb, rivaled the Swiss guards at the Vatican for goofiest outfit of all time.  They had on a dress, tights, and shoes that looked like elf shoes and had balls on the toe.  Like in England, they have to stand completely still looking straight ahead.  Unlike in England, when changing, they did some sweet high leg kicks and foot tapping.

There was also a stray dog laying right in front of a guard stand obviously not intimidated by the fancy clothed guards.  In Greece it seemed like people didn’t have pets so much as cities had pets.  There were wild dogs and cats everywhere and they seemed to just hangout and try to get food whenever it was available.

The next morning we flew home.  All in all, it was a really nice trip.  Lots of great weather, company, and sunsets.

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