Ahhh. A little slice of heaven, mark my words I will be back.
After being questioned throughly, and having to show both of my passports, I was through Israeli security. Our flight was short and easy. When we landed in Athens, we took a train into the city and when we got off the train it felt like we were in another world... or maybe NYC? There were people everywhere, and then we remembered it was Saturday night. Shabbat is deceiving. We walked through the crowded streets of young people and finally found our hole in the wall hostel. It was fine, I got a few hours of sleep (mind you we didn't get there until about 1230) despite the 90s music from a club next door. The next morning we were back on the train, and then to a ferry (which is actually super nice) with a final destination of Santorini. The ferry is 8 hours or so, so while russ took a Dramamine and slept, I played cards and listened to podcasts to pass the time. If anyone has podcast recomendations please let me know! When we arrived, we got a ride up to meet our air bnb host and got let into our home for the next few days. It was adorable. All white with a few pops of blue, high ceilings and an amazing shower. By the time we were all settled in, and I had a snack (because I was getting hangry) it was getting surprisingly late. We walked to one grocery store, which was closed, then to another on a little bit further away. Things were mostly closed because it was Sunday... seems to be the day of rest where ever we land!
After buying groceries and spending way to much time in a grocery store, we walked home and cooked dinner. We played cards, watched some local music videos and booked a hotel for Athens, then crashed. The next morning, we lounged, explored our part of town and a black sand beach then headed home. I took care of some business stuff and russ shopped, then I went out while he cooked. I walked into the bigger town of Fira alone and while I did get cat called a few times I still felt totally safe walking solo. I wandered the empty streets and realized just how off things are when it's not tourist season. One in every 10 to 12 shops was open. I saw a few other tourists walking around and found a nice spot to watch the sunset. Eventually it was getting dark and I headed home. When I got home dinner was in the works and more cards were played until everything was ready. Russ can cook. Holy cow. Date night success, the way to this girls heart is food. The next day was a walking day. We "hiked" from Fira to Oia, which although it took us a little while to find the right direction, was worth it. The trail takes you through a small town then basically along the ridge of the island with 360 degree views the whole time. We had one little hiccup because we got stuck behind construction donkeys in a narrow alley, but other than that it was a lovely stroll in the sun. We arrived in Oia as the sun was setting and got some appetizers at a restaurant with a nice balcony. After some food, and some more strolling, we took the bus home and had a relaxing night.
The next morning Russ went out on a mission. Wheels. We were hoping to rent a scooter, but because of licensing stuff ended up with an ATV. Still pretty fun. We strapped helmets on, and were only about ten minutes down the road when it started raining, then pouring. I put on a rain jacket but my pants and pretty much everything else got soaked. Fortunately on an island that small, you can see the rain coming, and going for that matter. We drove through and out of the storm, and ended up taking a wrong turn to the top of the highest hill on the island. Not a bad place to be. We could see everything which was cool, and at the top we took a minute to try and dry the phone off so we could use it for maps again. Back down the giant hill we went and after seeing a massive rainbow we were on the right track. We cruised through little towns and after a little while we were at the red beach, sun shining and all. We strolled on the beach and beached hopped all day with brief drives in between. For lunch, we stopped at one of the few open restaurants and had fish. The place was small and family owned, and I tried octopus for the first time. Not the biggest fan of it but it was okay. After lunch, we cruised to one last beach and strolled around before heading home in the early evening (since our phone maps were dead and we didn't want to scoot too much in the dark).
The next morning we returned the scooter in town, wandered then stocked up on snacks before getting on the ferry - which is an 8 hour journey. Fortunately, we got really good seats and the boat felt empty. We snacked, watched some local Greek folk watch their soaps, and watched the sun set off the back dock of the boat... then russ slept and I played solitaire and listened to pod casts, my favorite form of time wasting. From the ferry, we took the subway to our hotel but it was past midnight so we crashed upon arrival.
Day one in Athens started off with a walk to a bakery where I started my love for bougatsa. Then, we wandered the grounds of the acropolis for a few hours. I was dehydrated so we stopped at a grocery store then lunch ended up being some strange wrap because we were desperately hungry. After lunch, we went to a park and scouted out the climbing options for tomorrow and it was actually pretty easy to find! Everything in Greece was so easy - especially relative to the Middle East. Being in westernized place again just makes life easy. In the evening we walked through plaka - considered to be the old part of town, filled with tourist souveniers floor to ceiling. The streets are narrow and we're bustling just enough to be nice, not too much to feel crowded. Luckily our hotel wasn't far from anything so we went home and re grouped before heading out for dinner. I had moussaka, which I'm actually a very big fan of. Greek food is so tasty, also pretty greasy (pun master right here). Russ had some kinda meat pita thing and we strolled the markets at night before heading home. Day two we slept in then spent the whole day climbing. It took a while to get set up but for me "setting up" meant laying in the sun with an amazing view while Russ did all the work and I occasionally told him where a number was. All the routes were numbered at the bottom. Once we were set up I got a beginners lesson on how to set up, tie in and belay. I've climbed a handful of times but not nearly enough to say I know what to do at all. After a quick class Russ went for it. The route wasn't particularly easy but we had a good time playing around with it. It had a few options so it was cool to try different things. We met two local guys who were bouldering nearby who were very nice, and told me I had a good teacher! I went up a few times and by the end of it all my muscles were beat. My fingers were all pretty rough. The sun was going down and the rock was getting pretty cold so after finally making it to my goal we called it a day. As Russ called it, I was "sufficiently trashed". We walked home and got gyros on the way. After a shower and quick nap we went out in search of a desert bar we had seen the night before. We took a slightly round about path to get there but when we arrived we accidentally skipped the line and swooped a table up. We attempted to order and the server told us no. They were out of most things, so we eventually found two things to get and went for it. The portions were huge, and the ice cream was strangely gummy. We couldn't finish either plate but man we put up a good fight!
After feeling like we were both going to die, we waddled home and watched a movie at the hotel, then crashed. Sunday morning we got up, walked to the national gardens, then saw the changing of the guards. I've seen this in a few countries now and it's always so strange. In Greece the outfits were unlike anything I've ever seen. Flowing white dresses, white tights, shoes with huge Pom Poms on the ends and tassels around their knees. As they marched, the stomped their feet in a weird almost bird like step. The crowd of people watching was huge... yay for other people being around! Anyways, after seeing all the fuss, we headed to the national archeological museum. On the way, we grabbed a weird bagel ring thing that they sell on the street and it was exactly as dry and blah as we had expected. Next, we stopped for some amazing spanakopita which made up for the last one, it was amazing. Upon arrival at the museum we found lots of old carved rocks. I don't need to bore you with it all, I just want to say that it felt like they were pumping some weird air in there, because my legs felt like lead all of the sudden. It also felt like I was back ing art history for some reason, I felt like I was looking at slides on a screen. I was getting dehydrated so we got some water at the cafe then finished the rest of the galleries. After reading and looking at history all morning, we grabbed a gyro on the way back to the hotel. I wondered if Greeks have cholesterol issues because mann the food is salty and I love it!
Back at the hotel we relaxed, did some sink laundry, packed and showered before heading back towards the more alive part of town for food. We ended up stopping at a place that was super crowded but the line moved quick. It was a noodle shop and seemed to be the hoppin spot, so we tried it. It was good and we got some baclava for desert. Again the portion was huge. We ate about all the sugar our bodies could handle and after nearly finishing the whole piece we called it quits. We walked back to the hotel and despite all the sugar, were cozy in bed pretty quickly.
The next morning we got up early, and were train bound. We grabbed some bread and pastries for the road then headed to the airport. On the train there were two American boys in high school near us. All they talked about was violence and guns, in a very loud fashion. Nbo wonder foreigners view us the way they do.
After the classic el al interrogation, we got through security and relaxed at the gate. The flight was short and sweet, and leaving the airport in Tel Aviv was pretty painless.