After an hour car ride to the Agen station, a 2 hour train ride to Toulouse, a nearly missed hour shuttle bus to the airport, a 3 hour flight to Turkey, a 12 hour overnight layover, a 2 hour flight to Athens, a 1 hour shuttle bus to Athen’s bus station, a 3 hour terrifying bus ride to Petra, a 3 hour delayed ferry ride to Ithaki, a ½ hour taxi on the edge of cliffs, we arrived in Ithaki Greece. And we thought opting for a flight would make things easy. Nevertheless we groggily awoke to a beautiful view overlooking the island Kioni, unable to distinguish the dream like haze from the incredible scenery, or our two day travel hangover.
We spent the days snorkeling in the incredibly warm Aegean Sea. As the tropical world under the sea was still relatively new to me, I was blown away by starfish, an octopus, and the many parrot fish (as colourful as the name suggests). Brett’s uncle Neville and aunt Anna rented a car and we tested the terrifying narrow roads to reach different beaches along Ithaki Island. Despite the winding roads virtually wrapping around the edges of cliffs, the width basically fit one car. Dodging the monstrous coach buses that made the daily trip to the ferry ports just made these trips all the more ‘exhilarating’.
We went out for dinner and splurged on sampling some authentic Greek cuisine. Among these was “saganaki” (fried cheese- tastes delicious not nutritious), moussaka, and my personal favourite the mydia (mussels) cooked in tomato, garlic and herbs.
We only planned for one night in Athens before heading out to another island, and despite its famous Acropolis, one night was enough. Perhaps we were not used to the chaos and pollution having spent a week in a tropical oasis, or perhaps we succumbed to the 40-degree heat, which put a cherry on top of our melted Sunday. After a 10 hour ferry ride, we arrived in Amorgos. Our first impression was that the island was somewhat barren, but this didn’t phase me, as traveling has emphasized the overused and underrated saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”.
Amorgos, although beginning its climb towards another Greek island tourist hotspot, was still untouched by the mobs. The winding maze-like village was so distinct from the other islands, immaculately decorated in wild flowers, and overgrown vines of grapes canopying over cozy pillowed patios. We snorkeled at the rocky “Anna’s Beach”, which had a full view of a beautiful monastery nestled high up between its colossal cliffs.
Eager to see this monastery up close, we climbed up its steep stone staircase the following day. Anna’s father Nick, at the ripe age of 94 even made the slow and steady climb, which was enough to bring one local to tears, to then shake Nick’s hand in pride, and rightfully so. Neville jokes that Nick is like a celebrity when returning to his hometown, particularly popular as he is one of the only local’s alive in his generation who speaks English as well as Greek.
When we reached the entrance of the monastery, we noticed many people coming out wearing ridiculously colourful and oversized clothing. We couldn’t help but laugh at the outcome of a dress code instructing long skirts and covered arms for females, and long pants for men. It was like a game of dress-up, as people tried on (and tied on) the pile of ragged clothes, attempting to keep their
composure as they toppled up the steep stairs tripping over their sarongs or XXL pants. Brett who came in shorts, attempted the skirt option but apparently only the male priests could get away with that one. All laughs aside the monastery was absolutely stunning, and I cannot imagine a more peaceful place on earth.
The next week we spent on the islands of Oia and Santorini. Naturally, we booked the cheapest ferry to Oia, which meant our ride looked like a toy fishing boat next to the super tanks we were used to coasting on. That morning, Anna mentioned over frappes that she was hoping the weather would be calm out there, and I naively assumed it would. Smooth sailing at first quickly changed into a terrifying boat ride. As the boat violently rocked from side to side, people were getting absolutely drenched, clutching to the benches to stay upright, and even other strangers when necessary. I was logically telling myself (as I do when it’s a bumpy plane ride) that the odds of getting into a car crash is higher then a boat capsize, although my paranoia gave me doubts on this Greek island ferry. I can now laugh at the memory of us soaked tourists flailing around as the boats’ deck dipped back and forth on 90-degree angles, but isn’t it funny how radically memories can change in retrospect.
I knew Santorini was the most visited Greek island, but I had my doubts of it being “The Most Beautiful”. I can’t help but think of euro signs when a destination is sold to me (I mean told to me) using such a description. As the ferry drifted closer to its mighty cliffs with those characteristic white and blue buildings peering out overtop, Santorini whispered, “I told you so”. We stayed in a lovely family-run hostel with the owner “Ambros” and his two daughters. It still surprises me, especially when meeting families, that ten hours away from land, there are bustling communities nestled on what feels like the edge of the world. Not only that but
civilization thrived over 3.5 thousand years ago, which we were fortunate enough to see for our own eyes at the island’s Akrotiti ruin village. It had been preserved from the Thera volcanic eruption, one of the largest recorded in Earth’s history. We stood beneath what would have been once 7 meters of volcanic debris, which miraculously froze this village in time. Some of the large earthen jars were even found to have traces of olive oil, onion and fish.
Imentioned in my first blog that nothing feels more like time travel then flying, but that was before I could gaze into this 1500 BC ruin village, magically preserved by nature itself.