Cruisin in the Aegean Part 3

The next day we woke up in Heraklion (Crete). I was so excited because Crete had so much history, until I remembered that cities with a lot of history tend to be industrialized….so we literally walked up the Main Street by the port. Nothing else happened. There are a total of three pictures.

Santorini

Santorini

Later that day we ended up in Santorini! I was super excited to be in Santorini because it is the what people think of when they think of Greece. It was supposed to be the complete opposite of Athens. Which it was, because everything was clean and every store was closed and we were facing dangerous winds. We tried to make the best of Santorini but it was very difficult. We were supposed to stop by and take photos of the island but it was too foggy…we were supposed to stop by the town of Thera but the wind was so dangerous we ended up going back to the boat as soon as it got dark. Santorini was really disappointing but what can you do?

We went back to the boat and once again we were approached by the cruise director to nominate a gentleman for the Ms. Orient Queen Peagant. Gavin sat down pleased that he had humiliated himself the night before so Adam from South Africa got nominated. He refused to dance like Gavin the night before but he was told that there would be no dancing, which I hope was comforting.

When time came for the Ms. Orient pageant, it turned out that Adam had tricked the cruise director into nominating his older brother Alex into the pageant. Adam and the rest of the Contiki tour sat back and watched Alex, a man from Colombia, a man from Argentina and our +1 try to win the title of Ms. Orient Queen.

The first part required the men to show off their muscles. Alex was embarrassed, our +1 of course took it too far and made things awkward…especially when they had to show their abs. The second part required the contestants to run across the lounge and kiss as many women on the cheek in the audience as possible in 30 seconds. When it was Alex’s turn the cruise director encouraged the Contiki girls to help him out so the 9 of us lined up so that Alex could kiss the 9 of us on the cheek. Alex won the kissing competition!

The next competition required the contestants to grab a woman from the audience and then run to her cabin and get dressed in her clothes. When the men came back they were given make up and were told to walk the runway. After a gorgeous strut Alex walked away with the crown and a bottle of champagne. We went to the Disco Disco bar to celebrate his win. We all sat down and after ordering glasses we were joined by our +1 who brought a bottle of his own champagne to share with us. Everyone felt obliged to return his kindness and we all sat quietly sipping champagne with him while the boat tipped back and forth. Our + 1 as expected kept making awkward comments the point where most of the girls slowly left the bar. The boys on the other hand thought he was hilarious and stuck around to see what other strange things he would do. This was when he ordered a special margarita that had the words, “I Love You” for Courtney, our tour manager. Courtney kindly accepted the lovely drink, which was followed by our +1 telling her he loved her, making the situation once again very awkward for everyone.

After the exciting afternoon everyone went to go pack our bags because we docked in Athens the next morning. Later we decided to spend one last night together at the Disco Disco bar, it was pretty uneventful until our +1 declared his intentions to marry our tour manager with a 3,000 year old ring, despite their “recent rough patch”  a patch that Courtney did not know exist.

The next morning the entire Contiki group had breakfast together before we went our separate ways. After the cruise ship docked we got on our coach and Courtney passed on last remarks and played “Summer of 69” one last time. Most of us got out at Syntagma square and hugged eachother good bye. Gavin and I grabbed our bags and headed to our hostel to spend another two days in Athens….AUGH!

Gavin and I reached our new destination, a hostel that had a 96% score on hostelworld.com. When we arrived with our heavy bags in tow we were shocked to learn that our booking for a 3 bed hostel for €23 each had been moved to another hostel that was “around the corner”. More like, around the corner up, the street, to the left, and down a block… When we arrived at the new hostel we got rebooked into a 4 bed hostel for the same price. Gavin and I were dumbfounded, we had booked a completely different hostel online with a smaller room and then they decided to change our booking to a different place and charge us the same for a room with more people in it!? We were frustrated and asked for the room that we had booked, a 3 bed hostel. Unfortunately the only room with three beds was a private room for €34 a night each…we were paying €30 each a private hotel room a week previously and they wanted us to pay more to stay in a hostel!? Gavin talked the hotel manager into giving us the 3 bed hostel room for €23 each, the bonus was that we didn’t have to pay for the third bed which was nice.

Gavin and I settled into our hostel room. Gavin took a shower and noticed a dirty towel had been left in the room. When we were about to sleep I noticed a small bed bug crawling on my pillow. We jumped out of bed and looked for more bugs. We didn’t see any but we did however notice that the sheets on the mattress were filthy. Gavin and I went to the Hotel manager and demanded cleaner sheets and placed the cleaner sheets on the plastic wrapped mattress. We then pulled out our private sheets from home and placed them on top of the bed and slept in them. The next morning we woke up to eat the “free” breakfast that we got from the hostel.

At the President Hotel we got hot eggs and sausage and cakes and spinach pies and Milk pies and salad and fruit and so much amazing stuff. At the hostel we got a roll and a boiled egg. Everything else we had to pay for. At this point we just did not care anymore and desperately wanted to get out of Athens, but we had to wait until the next day for any such luck.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

We decided we would spend our last day checking out the Olympic Stadium. Every surface was covered in Graffiti, glass walkways were destroyed and had cones directing people away. An artificial pond was brown and filled with Garbage. When we reached the train station we were informed that the Greek Train workers were on strike, and refused to drive the trains to the airport on the day we had to leave. Gavin and I sighed with frustration, It was just another day in Athens.

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Island Hopping in the Aegean Part 2

When I posted my last blog article I neglected to mention that we were in Patmos that afternoon after leaving Kusadasi. I also for lack of remembering names did not list any of the people on our Contiki tour:

Left to right: Lollie, me, Essy, Aliesha, Gavin, Elysia, Adam, Alex, Lauren, Sean, Victoria, Alyssa

Left to right: Lollie, me, Essy, Aliesha, Gavin, Elysia, Adam, Alex, Lauren, Sean, Victoria, Alyssa

 

Courtney, our Contiki tour manager from Australia (not pictured)
Adam & Alex, Brothers from South Africa
Sean, from London
Alyssa, from Toronto
Victoria from Calgary
Alicia from Terrace
Elysia and Lauren, cousins from Tasmania Australia
Lollie and Essy, friends from South Africa

 

 

 

Patmos was regrettably not as exciting as our previous islands so we decided to not do an excursion. Patmos held a religious importance to many in Greece. It is said that Patmos was where Saint John was sent into exile in a grotto. While he was there he wrote the Book of Revelation. At the highest point on the island is Saint John’s Monastery. We took a bus to the top of the mountain to see The Monastery then took a 40 minute hike down the mountain, past Saint John’s Grotto and back down to the Town.

Back on the boat we had a toga Karaoke party. Things got a little awkward when a guy ( who shall hence forth be referred to as our “+1″ ) sang a song dedicated to us Canadians, ” All by myself”  by Celine Dion. For some back reference, our +1 had been around since day one but his presence in the blog up until this point was unnecessary. +1 was really just a weird guy who tried to tag onto our Contiki group and eaves drop on any information our tour manager gave us. It was awkward because clearly all the members of our group didn’t appreciate him taking advantage of the tour insights we all paid for, never mind he always made sure to make every moment he spent with us awkward and uncomfortable. Not to mention he spoke in the most monotonous serial killer voice this side of Hannibal Lector!

Anyways, I guess he was feeling neglected and decided to send us some passive aggressive message about how abandoned he felt by us….which you know was weird because we did not know this person and he was not a part of our Contiki group. Everyone always tried to be nice but then he would ALWAYS make things awkward…

Toga Party

Toga Party

Despite the awkward moment, our toga party went on without skipping a beat. The group divided into two groups and we had a karaoke battle! The other group sang Blink 182s ” all the small things” and we killed it with “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Then the entire group sang the theme song for our trip, “Summer of 69”, which we all got the magical score of 69 on! Later Gavin got roped into a traditional Greek dance and I sat back and laughed.

The next day we woke up in Rhodes. Gavin and I decided to not do the Rhodes Acropolis excursion because we had seen quite a bit of ruins at this point and preferred to sleep past the 6am departure time. Rhodes is considered a world heritage site, it has classic Hellenic ruins, medieval castles and a mosque. This was the only island where we spent the entire day at the dock.

Gavin and I wandered the town and found ourselves at a medieval castle. We hadn’t seen any castles on our trip yet so we decided we would check it out. Since it was early tourist season in Rhodes. The entire castle was empty so Gavin and I ran around having photo shoots and enjoying the freedom of wandering an entire castle on our own.

After touring the castle we walked from the old city to the new city, went to the part of the island where people could jump into the water and swim and saw a lone diving board about 300 meters into the ocean.

Later we saw the place where the “Colossus of Rhodes” once stood. The colossus was a giant statue that stood at the opening of the Rhodes bay. It is no longer there but ancient texts around the world talk about how massive this statue once was.

Later that night on the boat we had a fancy meet and greet with the captain of the cruise. We had to dress very well, I unfortunately had nothing nice to wear and neither did Gavin. We took a photo with the captain (which cost €10 so we did not buy it). Afterwards we sat for dinner and were approached By the cruise director. She needed a couple to take part in a ” rock and roll couples contest” Gavin and I were the only couple in the group so we were voluntold to do this mysterious contest after dinner at 9pm.

It turns out it was a Grease (yes the movie not the country) themed contest. Gavin and I were forced to dress up with two other couples! I was put into a crepe paper poodle skirt with pigtails and rouge, Gavin wore an Afro wig with drawn on moustache and side burns and a soul patch. We had to do the choreography to the song, “You’re The One That I Want”, Some crazy jumping dance moves with the help of the staff and do a huge random dance number where we ran across the lounge. It was embarrassing and exhausting to say the least…We did not win but we won a shot glass and a crappy hat.

Island Hopping in the Aegean!

Our time in Athens had been plagued with longing to escape. We were only in Athens for our Contiki cruise and if the cruise was no good it would have made our stay in Athens fruitless. Luckily the Contiki tour so far is amazing.

Our first night we all went out to this local restaurant to bond. The price of the restaurant made us cringe a bit at €35 each, which roughly translates to $50 dollars canadian each. The restaurant was in a cozy corner up a long flight of stairs that Gavin and I had missed. The area was so pretty with steep steps lined with chairs tables and lights. We walked into the restaurant and sat down.

Our restaurant featured live music and live greek dancing. Our table was filled with so many different greek appetizers from fried zucchini to pita to greek olives. We were served chicken and pork souvlaki. After our amazing night we went back to the hotel.

A couple of the people from our Contiki tour stayed up and hung out in the lounge while everyone else wanted to get an early night for our super early morning.

The next day we got onto our cruise. The cruise was nicer than what I expected and not as extravagant as what Gavin was expecting. The cruise departed and we were on our way to Mykonos. When we arrived to Mykonos unfortunately it was raining and grey. We walked around the island and had some local crepes.

Today we had a 6am wake up call to go on a walking tour of the Ephesus ruins in Turkey. The ruins were astounding and way more intricate than the ruins of the acropolis. We were impressed by how large the city was. We visited the terrace houses, which were the ones of the wealthy in the town. The Terrace houses were recently discovered.

We then went to a Turkish rug store where they showed us how they made Turkish rugs and how I almost got trapped into buying a five thousand dollar diamond ring that was forced onto my finger by the sales person, and would not come off of my finger for a few minutes….

We bought some authentic Turkish delights which are fantastic!

Tonight we look forward to a toga party with our Contiki tour and Rhodes tomorrow.

Athens < Great

Two days ago we ate a wonderful buffet provided to us by our hotel. The free buffet almost made up for the fact that our hotel charges for wifi…almost. After hitting up the local Starbucks we headed back to Syntagma Square where we hoped to wander by the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. We decided to travel off the beaten path and ended up in a terrifying and sketchy area. The sketchy thing about the area wasn’t the people it was the buildings, everything was decrepit suddenly the sidewalks were motorcycle lanes and everything smelt bad. Buildings were abandoned and covered in graffiti with stray cats and dogs everywhere. We hurried towards Monastiraki Square, (where we were yesterday) and decided to take the train to the Parthenon instead. In the midst of this decision we got approached by a beggar woman with flowers. She gave me a rose and told me I looked like Angelina Jolie (of all famous people in existence she is someone I do not look like) and told gavin he looked like George Clooney (when oddly Gavin looks more like Brad Pitt). The woman told me my rose was free then gave Gavin a rose to give to me. She then said that Gavin’s rose was not free to which we tried to give the roses back to her and she’s says, “I have a baby to feed, I have a baby to feed” we tried to give the roses back and she refuses to take them insisting that Gavin give her money to pay her. Gavin relented and gave her two euros. To which she says one more. So Gavin pulls out a handful of change and he tries to hand her one euro she then digs through the change in his hand and takes at least four more Euros…. Gavin and I were dumbstruck. We got swindled for at least 5 euros from a beggar…. This moment pretty much changed our outlook for the day. We almost ran back to our hotel with embarrassment over what had happened but changed our minds at went to the Acropolis anyway.

The Acropolis is famous ruins on the top of a hill. Unsure of how to even get to the ruins and also not particularily interested in the trek to the top of the hill We went to the Acropolis Museum instead. The Acropolis museum is the nicest place in Athens. There is no graffiti everything is modern, it appeared as if the government poured all of the money they had into this one building. The museum was a detailed look at what the Parthenon used to look like as well as how it was changed into a church and mosque over its 2,500 year history. While we enjoyed the museum we did not enjoy being kicked out at 4:45 because they planned to close at 5:00.

After the museum we tried to see how we would even get to Parthenon and saw a gate to the entrance. What is particular to this gate was that there was well over two dozen feral cats hanging around, I have never seen so many feral cats before in my entire life.

We went to dinner at a local restaurant then headed straight back to our hotel.

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The Parthenon

Yesterday we went back to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. We were cocky and decided we didn’t need our jackets because the weather had been so nice. As we traveled we noticed everyone wearing down coats and giving us strange looks for wearing t shirts in 16 degree weather. Unfortunately for us as we climbed the Acropolis we got rained on. After the bit of rain we saw the Parthenon and got to see other sites on the hill too. Gavin tried some Greek coffee. It came in a small espresso cup and packed a punch, though was unfiltered so half the cup was just coffee grounds.

We are not pleased to be here another few days before our Contiki tour. This city really has nothing to offer other than the ruins and food and decently warm weather. Unless you are VERY interested in the ruins we suggest you don’t waste your time or money on coming to Athens (especially money it’s more expensive here than in Germany!). I can’t wait to leave Athens And see the Greek Islands. Santorini is supposed to be beautiful, and the others should be interesting. But Athens….not my cup of tea.

After three days in Athens our visit can best be described by the tourist information lady we spoke with: “You only need to spend two days in Athens, one for the Acropolis, one for the park. If you are here longer It’s good to take a bus and see else where.”

Munich and Athens (so far)

Our backpacking trip started only three days ago and so far it’s been pretty exciting. Our first stop was Munich. We took a train to Munich from my cousins home with relative ease. Our train traveled at 200 km per hour. Just when we thought we had the train system figured, the conductor told us we apparently took a slow train and that we should have taken a faster train! We didn’t mind the slow train, we enjoyed the scenic route between Ansbach and Munich. When we arrived in Munich we ate at this lovely little Italian place on the corner of our hostel. I had the most amazing ravioli! We tried checking into the Wombats Hostel (which was next door to the Jäger Hostel that I stayed in years ago and nowhere near the Cocoon Hotel we stayed in last time we visited Munich). Wombats said they were undergoing renovations so we could not immediately go to our rooms so we hung around the hostel and watched Argo until check in time. Check in involved getting a key card that let us get into our rooms and lockers, a free beer pass, and grabbing fresh clean sheets for our beds. We went up and made our beds like good little hostel dwellers then went downstairs and waited at the bar for anyone to talk to us. A few Canadians were at the bar but we found our home with a group who had met earlier in the day (some even met at different cities previously). Understanding that we all would only know each other for the one night we all identified with each other through the names of where we were from. There was Texas, Argentina, Estonia, and three Australians: Sydndey, Melbourne and Adelaide. All of us enjoyed Happy Hour at the hostel before wandering the streets of Munich to the Hofbrauhaus. The beer hall was less busy this time and we all had a great time absorbing the German tourist trap. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and I went straight to sleep.

IMG_1401The next day Gavin and I decided we would go on the four hour OZ free Tour of Munich, and boy did we make Fantastic choice. Our tour guide Ozzy was the most charismatic and interesting person. Our tour was not just looking at sites with his commentary it was learning about local culture And customs while relating the history of Munich to everything around us. Ozzy was hilarious, insightful, and informative. After the tour he took us all out for a beer at a local beer hall. We laughed at jokes and got to know other people on our tour. After the beer hall we went to another beer hall where we met some of Ozzys friends. Before long a tour that had started at 11am turned into a hang out that lasted until 7pm. After hanging out with Ozzy we went to the hostel grabbed our things and journeyed to the airport where we would grab a shuttle to our airport hotel.

The next morning we woke up at 4am to catch a shuttle to the airport for our Air China flight to Athens, Greece. We expected the flight to be terrible, after all we got the tickets for $123cdn and all the reviews online were unfavourable. Shockingly enough the flight was great! It was two hours, they served us a delicious hot meal, I could watch a tv show, it was good. WAY Better than any American flight I have ever taken and better than some Canadian airlines *cough* Air Canada *cough* .

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We landed in Greece and were immediately given tourist cards that gave us a 50to 20 percent discount in Athens, which despite the economic crisis is expensive. It was strange going from the country with the top GDP in Europe to the one with the lowest. As we were driving into Athens from the airport we noticed every large billboard was in disrepair and that there was graffiti tags and litter everywhere. We arrived at our hotel (which had a nice lobby) and found ourselves a little disappointed after leaving Munich on such a high. We looked out of our hotel window and saw tons of smog, the mountain view was not even enough to bring our spirits up.

After a quick nap we wandered hoping to find a cheap food stand because we could see Athens getting expensive fast. Taking public transit was easy enough, given that the Greek alphabet is shapes and letters that we could neither say or read without confusion. We ended up at the public shopping centre where our spirits started to glow a bit. We saw so many mini markets and exciting food vendors and stores that sold local goods. The shop keepers we spoke to were all so kind taking the time to speak English to us and explain things to us. We ended up at a restaurant where the owner showed us photos of each dish and made suggestions. I ordered Calimari which came back crispy and flavourful whilst lightly battered and free of oil. Gavin got Lamb souvlaki which was juicy and flavourful. We even got a free desert, Semolina. After we went to a fruit stand and bought the juiciest strawberries we ever tasted, juicy tangerines, kiwis and bananas all for 5 euros. We walked around Athens with well treated taste buds and finished our evening with coconut candy. We went back to our hotel wondering what we would do next….