Monday, 24 September 2012

Greek Myths and Turkish Delights

Ask me to navigate a foreign city in my second language, bien sur! Ask me to navigate a foreign city in a language that doesn’t even use the same alphabet?! Forget it!

I arrived in Athens for my weeklong cruise bright and early Sunday morning. After finding my way to the baggage claim and then out the door I showed my cab driver the address of my hotel and we were off!

Do you know anything about Greek drivers? If not, picture Italian drivers… but worse! I did make it to my hotel in one piece, thank God, and took my time to unload my stuff. I grabbed a map from the front lobby and circled everything I wanted to see on it. I was on the metro heading to the city centre by 11am.

It is quite a sight to be walking down the streets of a modern city and see ruins way above you from many thousands of years ago. It is a lifestyle I love ask I've been enjoying while in Europe. I explored the Plaka and a few other areas until realizing the time and making my way back to the hotel.

I met my roommate and after a bit of get-to-know-you chatter, we both realized we were travelling on our own and loved Greece already! There was about 26 of us in the group and maybe 15 people went out for the traditional dinner that night, which was delicious! The food was fantastic and there was even some traditional dancing – which I was forced to do by one of the men to join in. I can tell you now; I am no natural at the Zorbas dance!

The next morning, woken from an abrupt wake up call, Lexi - my new best friend and hotel roommate - and I wandered down to the hotel buffet for breakfast before getting on the ship.

The day was spent lounging by the pool on the cruise ship with our fellow travellers - all of whom seemed to be Australians - on our way to Mykonos. It was our first destination. Known for its windmills, Mykonos was extremely windy, and I could see why it was so famous for these! In tradition, the village was full of small winding streets with white washed buildings that all have blue accents. The idea was that you are supposed to get lost in the village - it's my kind of place! Historically it was set up this way so that if pirates arrived they would not be able to navigate the town and the people could escape. This was my favourite island of the whole cruise.

Now, it’s important to note, we were not the only Contiki group on the boat. There was another group and we spent our whole week all together. Majority Australians, these guys and girls knew how to have a good time! Given this, every night seemed to find us out at the ship club dancing the night away and enjoying the cocktails made by the ship's crew. We practiced the Zorbas dance but I am still no better on it. 

Every morning we were up early for tours. It was tough, but I was determined to not miss a thing! 

Day two we went to Turkey. We woke in Kusadasi, the port town very close to Greece and took a bus inland. On a bus with the other sleepy Contiki travellers and we headed for Saint Mary’s home and ancient Ephesus! If being surrounded by this place doesn’t wake you up, then I don’t know what will! It was magical. We walked through Saint Mary’s home and chapel, left wishes on the wishing wall, washed our hands in the fountain of health and made our way to ancient Ephesus where we walked among ruins from Cleopatra’s time! If you ask me the highlight of my trip, this was it! The rest of the afternoon was spent in Kusadasi, trying the authentic Turkish foods and back on the ship for our late afternoon in Patmos.

Lexi and I parted from the group in Patmos, to do some shopping before meeting everyone for cocktails and Greek beer at a local pub. It was the perfect end to a great day and start to a memorable night aboard ship!

The next day was spent on the island of Rhodes. A few of us took a bus to Lindos and saw the Acropolis there and explored the ancient city way above sea level before coming back to the ship. Back in Rhodes, we swam in the Aegean sea and lay on the beach. 

On day four we spent the morning on the ship followed by the afternoon and evening in Santorini. If you want to see Greece as all those pictures depict it, go to Santorini! It was beautiful. Eight years ago, they abolished the law stating all the accent colours against the white, had to be blue, so the colours on the houses are all different and range from dark pinks to bright greens. It was probably the most beautiful of all the islands we saw.

The next morning we were dropped back in Athens and the cruise was over. A group of us stayed in Athens two extra nights so I had a chance to hang out, sight see, and eat with my favourite Australians! We had fantastic meals, an unforgettable afternoon on the “happy train” - a hop on-hop off little train that chugs around Athens - and a tearful goodbye.

A few friends on this trip are visiting me in upcoming months, and I can hardly wait to see them! It’s amazing, but after just one week together, we felt like we knew each other for years. Can’t wait for our adventures to continue in Vancouver and, of course in Australia.

Let’s face it, I’ve already looked at flight prices ;)

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