Athens Loop, Greece

It was a long ferry ride to get to Athens from Santorini. The competition for obtaining a couch to lie down on during the journey is quite ferocious requiring an almost chessboard focus with the other passengers. Eight hours is a long time on a boat. Sleeping I find passes the time quite nicely. I arrived after midnight in Athens and ended up taking a taxi to my hostel feeling unsafe to walk that late at night.

The next morning I started with the hostel’s walking tour lead by a rather funny Australian. He took us to see things like the Temple of Zeus, a marble stadium and the Presidential guards with their funny pom-pom shoes.


One of the many many temples

It was getting rather hot and sweaty by the time the tour finished high up on the Acropolis. I had to go hide in my air-conditioned hostel room to recover for a while.


The famous Parthenon on top of the Acropolis in the centre of the city

I emerged later that evening once the air cooled down to go watch an outdoor movie by the Acropolis with some lovely Irish folks I met during the tour, and went to bed happy late that night.

The next morning I decided to go walk to another landmark easily seen from anywhere within the city – Mount Lycabettus. The highest point within Athens city at 277 metres above sea level, I thought it would be a good challenge.


As seen from the Parthenon later that day

To get to Mount Lycabettus, I took the scenic route through the National Garden. It is worth noting that as big and intimidating as it looks, it is definitely climable even for beginners. As long as you don’t mind a bit of sweat. You can take the metro most to the bottom rather than walking the whole way like I did. The hard part was choosing to tackle the challenge.

A tortoise posing for me in a pond


An unusual but pretty flower


It was a long sweaty climb but eventually I made it to the top! A church and over-priced restaurant are located at the top. And a sense of satisfaction.


See the dog in the first photo?


The view. It’s hard to see but the Parthenon is there in the distance. It is the second highest point in the city

After the appropriate air-conditioned rest and shower back in my hostel, I again emerged to this time go visit the Acropolis Museum. This museum was AMAZING. It is an archaeological museum all about the history of the Parthenon. I would highly recommend it. It’s one of those rare museums that are very modern and well designed. The displays set out in an interesting and engaging manner. My favourite kind of museum. I went to the Parthenon right after finishing the museum feeling well informed, and found the actual Parthenon site less exciting than the museum. Huh.


Image from moreaedesign.wordpress.com


The only photo I remembered to take of the museum. I was too busy being fascinated to remember my camera. It is built over top of some ruins in a way that shelters and preserves them.


The Parthenon itself. Covered in scaffolding as usual due to the city of Athens slowly rebuilding it


There were almost no signs about the history or anything around the site. Just the temple to Athena itself


It gets very crowded with tourists being the most visited attraction in Athens

Other things I achieved that day included wandering about the flea market area of Athens called Monastiraki and viewing a couple of other temples. And eating some Greek yoghurt.


Fresko, my new favourite yoghurt bar near Plaka

The next couple of days I actually spent in North Central Greece. But then I looped back to Athens for the final part of my Greece trip and continued the sight-seeing.

In Athen’s first cemetery are some very beautiful and elaborately craved graves

Interestingly I learned that you can only be buried in this graveyard for three years. The remains are then moved to an ossuary so the next person can have a turn. Unless you have a mausoleum. Then I guess you get to stay forever. It is considered one of the most beautiful graveyards in Europe. And yes I know it’s strange to hang out with dead people!

For the afternoon and evening, I did a wee trip out to the most southern point of Attica to watch the sunset at Poseiden’s temple with the Singaporean friend I originally met in Santorini. The bus leaves every hour to get out to Sounion for about €6 each way. It’s quite isolated on the point but does have a restaurant and some beaches to help occupy time until the sunset.


The water was so warm


The Temple of Poseidon


Stunning views. This was my last Greece sunset.

I met up with an old kiwi workmate the next morning. It’s always so great to see a familiar face and hear that kiwi twang. Made me feel a little homesick. But all too quickly our coffee date was up and it was time for me to race to the airport.


Where I stayed (first time): Athens Backpackers / Studio
Price: €22 per night in a 6 bed dorm
Overall
: Great hostel. Very new, modern and clean with an amazing location right next to the Acropolis. It’s run by Australians with a rooftop (with cheap cocktails) and sports bar. The hostel cafe had cheap delicious food and was rated as a top place to eat in Athens by TripAdvisor.  I really liked this hostel. The only reason I didn’t stay for the second part of my visit was the price. It went up to €26 per night for my return dates which was sadly just too far out of my budget when there were much cheaper hostels available.

Where I stayed (second time): Cosmopolit Hotel
Price: 
€16 per night in a four bed dorm
Overall: Definitely a step down from the first hostel. It was located much further away from the centre, and right next to a strip club. Hm charming! But it was clean and comfortable. A place to sleep.

Sunsets in Santorini, Part 2

…Continued on from Part 1

After that delicious lunch with the amazing view in Thirasia, we headed back on the boats to the main part of the island to the village of Oia. This was the famous village with the steep three hundred step access. Hm that’s a lot of steps. We decided to ride donkeys up.

However neat and romantic the photos look, it wasn’t actually a nice experience riding the donkeys. The reality is that the Greek men treat their donkeys horribly. The animals are denied water, rest and shade for hours at a time with poor maintenance and care taken of their saddles and gear. There are no restrictions on overweight passengers. On the way up the stairs, the Greek donkey man walked next to my donkey and was constantly screaming (and red-faced with the effort) abuse at the poor donkeys and hitting quite hard with a bamboo stick. He was even jabbing the donkey in front of me around the anal area with his stick which was unnecessarily cruel. He wouldn’t respond to my questions giving the impression he did not care. Or perhaps he was pretending to not understand.

Once at the top, each passenger was roughly pulled from the saddle so that he could head back down asap to collect the next lot of paying tourists. I really wished I hadn’t completed the experience as the more tourists that continue to pay to ride donkeys up, the more it encourages the animal cruelty and poor treatment of the donkeys. But there are petitions online and you yourself can help by choosing not to ride a donkey when you visit Santorini one day.

Moving on though from that rather unpleasant experience, I explored Oia village and waited for sunset with my new Singaporean friend.

 


Me and Joy

 


Beautiful. It was crowded though with being the most popular sunset spot on the island

The next day, I decided to hire a bike to do some exploring of my own around the island. Santorini does have its’ own public transport bus system which is pretty good. Each bus ride cost €2.30. But hiring a bike is just pure fun. Prices for quad bike hire ranged from €15-20 for 24 hours of fun.


My trusty steed

And it gave me access to places that the bus just simply didn’t go. Along with a sense of freedom and wind.


Red Beach. Accessed only by cliff path or boat


Boatload of people arriving at Red Beach


This one was known as White Beach

The sun was starting to get a bit low in the sky so I decided I had probably seen enough beaches for the day (I visited four in total). I drove on to the southern tip of Santorini to where a lighthouse was located to watch my final sunset.


Looking back at the rest of Santorini. This photo really does not do the view justice

The lighthouse

Getting into position


Enjoying a good book while I waited for the sun to touch the horizon

For my last day in Santorini, I still had my quad bike until after lunchtime so thought I would head back to Oia and explore it a little more. My ferry was at 3.30pm that afternoon which was a little bit sad. But overall I was still only halfway through my total time in Greece.

I learnt a little life lesson with my quad bike that afternoon. The bike itself did not actually have a fuel gauge on it. I also wasn’t actually required to return the bike with a full tank to the hire place. In fact the guy’s parting words to me as I vroomed away on my new bike were ‘You should go to the petrol station first! She’s almost empty.’ This lead to that dangerous combination of trying to cheap out with not putting in too much petrol, and balancing the lack of a fuel gauge. As with being a budget backpacker I didn’t want to overspend on fuel.

I’m sure you can guess what happened. Of course I ran out of fuel. Right in the middle of a busy uphill intersection with only thirty minutes until my hire bike was due back on the other side of the island with no petrol station in sight.

I didn’t actually click at first. I noticed my bike suddenly switched off. But being blonde couldn’t work out why it wasn’t simply switching back on. A man got out of the car behind me, peeped into my fuel tank pronouncing it empty. Then pushed my bike to the side a little so he could keep driving. I had no idea what to do. Which sounds silly as obviously I needed more fuel. But not having had this happen to me before I was unsure of the proper protocol. Do I walk to the nearest petrol station and then trudge back triumphantly with a small container of fuel? Or am I supposed to push my bike to the station? Where was the nearest station anyway? Crap I’m probably going to miss my ferry because of this. Oh man it’s hot today. Shit buggers. A million thoughts ran through my mind.

After talking to some kind bystanders I managed to deduce the nearest station was about two kilometres away. But luck was in my favour as it was downhill from my current location. Quad bikes are actually quite heavy. There’s no way I could have pushed it uphill for long and not in the heat. But downhill I could definitely manage. Decision made I started pushing my bike around in a circle to turn it the other direction, holding up traffic and feeling super embarrassed the whole time. Rolling downhill, my bike managed to gain enough momentum and speed that I could hop on, going only a little bit slower than the rest of the traffic.

Eventually I saw the petrol station. Pumping my fist for victory, I indicated turning with my arm and rolled laughing into the petrol station. Looking reasonably crazy I’m sure. Still once my bike had a whole TWO litres of fuel added, and successfully switched on, I felt so relieved. I even gave the petrol station man a hug out of gratitude. He was quite good looking though and only laughed a little at my story.

I vroomed back to Perissa Beach and returned my bike with seconds to spare. My hostel was only a few metres down the road so I quickly walked back, grabbed my bag, and jumped in the hostel van for a ride down to the port. Phew! Made it.

By 3.30pm I was on a large Bluestar ferry and settled with my faithful kindle and a cold drink. Only eight hours away from Athens.


Where I stayed: Youth Hostel Anna, Perissa Beach
Price: €8 per night in a 10 bed dorm
Overall: Below average hostel. It was pretty basic and the showers were grungy. The wifi only worked part of the time. But with the cheap price.. well it wasn’t unexpected. It definitely served its’ purpose as a cheap air conditioned place to sleep at night. There was a cheaper dorm available for only €5 a night but no air conditioning. The hostel did provide a free pickup service from the port on arrival. And for €3 would also return you to the port on check out. I would stay here again as the price is unbeatable compared to the main parts of Santorini which definitely cost more than €5-8 a night, the location was near the best beach, and the bus links made accessing the main parts of the island easy.