Floating Monasteries, Mopeds, and Obnoxiously Fruity Cocktails

9 05 2011

The phone rings around 8:45AM. Calvin, a fellow traveler, is on the other side informing me it’s time to wake up. Today we tackle the epic “floating monasteries” in Meteora, Greece. After slowly consuming the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we pack our bags and leave for the hills.

We walked along an old country road for the better part of two miles before turning off onto a trail recommended to us by the locals. Calvin, Scott and myself wind through the old goat path and quickly find ourselves ascending rapidly to a clearing that reveals one of the monasteries. A couple hundred meters later we arrive and the first monastery located atop one of the rock spires.

On a spire in front of one of the monasteries

This gave us our business idea

While taking a break in front of one of the monasteries, a random woman comments on my shirt – something in regards to being a Gopher fan in Greece. At the time, I was unaware that I was representing the University of Minnesota. It paid off  by earning us a ride to the next monastery. The next few hours were spent hiking from spire to spire and joking about starting a possible business. You know, like turning a monastery into a hostel, including a rooftop bar with epic views and featuring fresh brew made from chanting monks. Shows promise, investors needed.

We hiked back down and ate at a mom and pop Greek restaurant where they brought you into the kitchen to choose what you wanted to eat. Great food before our epic trip to the islands. The next 14 hours were spent traveling by train and ferry. We almost missed the ferry, due to the metro transfer point being closed. We sprinted down the port and boarded the vessel as they were raising the gate.

The next morning we arrived in Santorini; a small island known for picturesque sunsets and white buildings. We rented mopeds and toured the entire island. Battling wind and crazy tour bus drivers, we managed to survive and have a blast. We ended our day at Io (think postcard views of Greece)

Sweet local beach

Mopeds rock!

Some great laughs were had here

Scott and I sat on top of a corner of an old brick wall to grab a good view. After watching us, about thirty other people joined in and were able to secure some great views as well. After the sunset, we navigated our mopeds home and went across the street to grab some food before calling it a night.

Upon waking we found a cleaning service and dropped off our clothes before heading to the beach. We lounged for a few hours waiting on our laundry underneath straw umbrellas and sipped on some awesome tropical cocktails. A few hours later we left to grab our laundry before catching the ferry back to Athens. I don’t think I have received this intense of a sunburn since I was a kid. Sweet mercy, it’s going to be a long ferry back.

Chilling on the beach with a Bucanero

Crazy man on a moped with his horses

Tomorrow we arrive in Istanbul, Turkey!





Keep your glass on the napkin please

6 05 2011

Yesterday morning was spent planning our next few trips throughout Greece. Later in the day, after a bird decided to defecate in my lunch (Did I mention I hate birds?), we walked up to one of the highest points in the city. Athens is massive in size and seems to go as far as the eye can see.

View of Athens

That evening, the man working at the hostel sent us to a quiet restaurant away from the tourist scene. Dinner started with a spicy feta appetizer followed by some juicy lamb chops. The food was spectacular; enough to where we stopped in the next day to grab a gyro before heading to Kalampaka.

As for today, well let’s just say it was truly epic. The morning started with gloomy weather, but we were determined to catch the bus and visited Sounion, a cape overlooking the Aegean Sea.

With buses leaving once every hour and taking the better part of two hours to reach the cape, we grabbed some toast and left for the bus stop. On our way, we noticed the bus start to drive by, and yet again, we found ourselves chasing another form of transportation. About six blocks later, it stops again and we manage to board while having a good laugh. Once outside Athens, mesmerizing coastal views began to emerge, which only seemed to grow in beauty as we traveled further from the city.

Aegean Sea

Ancient temple of Poseidon

Awesomeness

Beach view

The ancient Greek temple of Poseidon is the main attraction in the cape. Of course, it could be argued that the coastal views alone, coupled with multi-million euro homes sparsely populated throughout were also worth seeing.

We arrived just about ten minutes before an enormous group of high school kids destroyed the quiet ambiance. After viewing the ruins, we hiked down to the sea. After taking in some gorgeous views, we caught the next bus back and headed to the train station for Kalampaka, about 5 hours north of Athens.

While waiting on the train, Calvin, a fellow traveller from the hostel joins us. Once on board, Calvin manages to convince Scott and I to have a beer with him at the bar. Let it be known, do not remove your glass from the napkin; huge party foul in Greek Train culture. The remaining four hours were spent talking with some awesome Greek men (one of whom may or may not have been a mobster).

Train ride

Once in Kalampaka, we checked into our hotel and immediately met two Swedish girls who wanted to grab dinner with us. The five of us wandered into a small family restaurant and spent then next five hours talking and having a great time. My new favorite Greek dish is moussaka. Layered with sautéed eggplant, ground lamb and something like mashed potatoes, the dish is truly amazing.

Dinner!!!

Dinner Crew

Tomorrow we hike up to the floating monasteries; should be insane!





Acropolis Now

4 05 2011

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain and my minute-less phone ringing for the last time ever (goodbye Czech SIM card!). I had an interview at 7AM local time with a company in Indonesia. Supposedly it was 6AM; or so I thought. The phone that I purchased in Prague doesn’t actually switch time zones; it needs to be done manually. And so, instead of turning off the alarm, I hung up on my interviewer. Good start to the day!

Immediately I jumped out of bed, grabbed my computer and ran downstairs to the lobby of the hostel while trying to boot up my computer and open Skype. Fortunate for me the woman was on Skype and able to talk. The second interview went well and I should hear back within a day or so.

A group of about eight people met up to go see the Parthenon. On the way, a few of us split off and visited to the Acropolis Museum. We spent the better part of three hours absorbing as much information as possible before heading to the site. It is truly incredible when you realize how long these artifacts and structures have been maintained.

Incredible

What's up with the cranes? The price of restoration...

Afterwards, we ventured to the top of the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. Sam seal of approval – go see it. Once back, we checked into our new room at the hostel and took a little break before meeting up with everyone again.

Chilling at the Theatre of Dionysus

Found an awesome pastry here. The Special - filled with ham and feta cheese

Scott and I then visited the Greek Olympic stadium and headed back to the hostel to change. On the way back, a crafty Greek man convinced us to eat at his restaurant by offering us free drinks. It seemed too good to be true, but it worked out and we got a cheap good meal.

Greece is amazing! We will be in Athens for another day or so then off to explore more of the mainland before venturing onto the islands.





Athens bound!

3 05 2011

Five hours and three trains later we arrive in Ancona, Italy. Thankfully we downsized yet again and only have backpacks when we started the short walk to the port. After some initial confusion and refusing to believe the cab driver who told us the free bus wasn’t running because May 1stis, “ like a holiday,” we got our tickets and boarded the Hellenic Spirit – a ferry for Anek Lines.

While on board I met my heroes. Sarah and Brian are a couple cycling from Portugal to somewhere in southeast Asia unsupported. They were awesome and I wish them the best on their journey. After 19 hours and an awesome corner off to the side to sleep in, we arrived in Patras, Greece.

Greece!!!

Two epic days of traveling finally came to an end after a three-hour bus ride to Athens, Greece. Or so we thought. We received a hand written ticket for the both Scott and myself in Greek with not a lot of description about our journey. Luckily, an amazing gentleman was able to tell us the transfer points after the bus randomly stopped about an hour an a half from Athens. We had to ride two other trains before arriving into Athens proper, but it was well worth it.

The trip was absolutely gorgeous. Views of the Mediterranean, along with beautiful mountainous terrain helped make the train ride a quick one.

Upon arriving at the hostel we met up with the other guests on top of the roof. Turns out the hostel has an epic view of the Acropolis; it’s basically in their backyard. Mad props to Athens Backpackers on a great view. The evening ended a quiet one and can’t wait to explore Athens tomorrow.

Great view from the roof of our hostel.