May 4, 2007.
Finally, I set off to Athens for a 23 day trip, alone.
Quite often, I had friends asking me the similar questions, "Backpacking? Greece? Turkey? Why?" And quite often, I felt hesitant to answer. "The freedom ... May be ... oh, the Aegean Sea, the blue sky, the beaches, and ... the ruins!"
I felt hesitant because I had never shown any interest in history, and I did not enjoy the sun and beaches that much. Honestly, I had no answer myself.
After hundreds of hours of reseach and planning, there were many question marks noted on my itinerary, even more unanticipated unknowns to be taken care of. Did I really care? No, not really. This was part of the game, and part of the fun. May be this was what I like, the adventure.
Here I go, on my way... Everything will be okay! Sing...
Thanks to my office's lovely Greek secretary Tina for some head-up info. Without her, I might have spent another hundred hours doing my research.
May 5, 2007.
After 13 hours of sitting motionless in a tiny, uncomfortable and restless seat, I arrived Athens at 8:00 am.
Lesson learned: window seat is not always the best seat, especially for long haul flight with a discounted airline. Always check the aircraft confirguration first and choose the aisle seat.
After stretching a bit, I jumped on the bus to the city and went straight to Acropolis to start my first day in Athens.
When I arrived at Acropolis, the site was already packed with people. I managed to squeeze in and take some nice pictures.
After spending more than 3 hours on the site, I had a quick lunch at a traverna called "Smile", found my hostel "Athens Backpacker's" and dropped off my backpack, then I headed for my second stop, the Temple of Zeus. Although the site was located in downtown area beside a busy main street, it still looked solemn.
I believed I walked 10 hours straight on this day with only a few stops for rest. I did walk to the Panathenaic Stadium, the Presidential Residence, the Byzantine Museum, the War Museum, Syntagma Square, the Parliament Building, the National Garden and the Zappion Gardens on foot, in 5 hours. My legs were cracked.
Back to Athens Backpacker's by 6:30 pm. The dinner was B.B.Q ribs with garlic potatos for just 5 euros. Woo... It was the best garlic potatos I ever had.
The first night in Greece was a nightmare. I barely got 2 hours of sleep because I was constantly woke up by the party animals starting at 2:00 am. Ear plugs had no use, not with the noise level like that. I ended up getting out of bed at 4:30 am and prepared myself to leave for the trip to Delphi.
May 6, 2007.
Woke up early this morning to catch the first bus to Delphi. The 3 hour bus ride was easy enough, cause I slept at least 2 and a half hours.
The archaeological site of Delphi was much bigger and widespread than I thought. I was lucky that the staff at the museum helped me to store my 20 lb backpack at the museum, which made the hiking to the stadium on the top of the sanctuary more comfortable.
Honestly, I did ask Zeus, Apollo, and Athena how can I get rich, but I got no answer. May be I did not pray (or pay? It was the first Sunday of the month, free entrance!) well enough, they would not speak to me.
The walking was not so painful like yesterday. It was relatively easy. However, 4 hours of non-stop walking did mean something to my legs.
At 3:15 pm, I was on my way to Meteora.
Note to others: the 3:15 pm bus from Delphi to Meteora only happens on Friday and Sunday, 10:30 on other days. Be warned!
I thought I had all the information from the internet, and everything should be under control. However, if you didn't speak the language, everything could go wrong.
We (I, Shinya and Itsuka, the young couple I met in Delphi) were supposed to take the bus to Lamia, and switch buses to Trikala, and finally to Kalambaka, a small quiet town just beneath Meteora. I was advised not to go to Larissa to avoid 2 - 3 hours more on the road, making a bigger circle. Sounded easy enough. However, we still got the ticket to Larissa, and almost missed the stop, but eventully got off the bus mid-way at Lamia, lost 10 euro because the ticket woman insisted that I gave her 10 but I swore I gave her 20...
We arrived at Kalambaka slightly after 9:00 pm. Oh, did I ever mention that I did not have a room yet?
Had dinner with the young couple (and the street dog named Lucky). It was a nice evening.
May 7, 2007.
There were 2 ways to go to the monasteries, bus/taxi or by foot.
I hiked 45 minutes to the mountain top, like the monks in the past, to one monastery and then walked one and a half hours on a upward slope to the other two. Why? I was told by two pairs of older couples that very morning, that the hiking was not difficult and the view was breathtaking.
The hiking would not be difficult if I did it in two hours. When I did it in just 45 minutes, it was really "breath-taking"! It took my breath away!!! I was dying!!!
The view was absolutely gorgeous. Although it was not the best that I had seen, it still worth the hiking and walking. However, I would do the other way around next time, ride up, hike down!
When I was ready to leave the monasteries and go back to town, I met the young couple again in the afternoon waiting for the bus. We felt like long lost friends.
Back to Kalambaka around 1:30 pm. After a tasty lunch, we (with the young couple) walked aimlessly on the main street until 3:00 pm, I took the train to Thessaloniki and the couple went back to Athens by bus.
The unexpected 3:30 pm train to Thessaloniki was a good surprise to me. When I was working on my itinerary, I had to spare one day in Thessaloniki just for transfer, simply because there was no connecting train for me to catch the overnight train to Istanbul at 8:00 pm. This train saved me a day.
Arrived Thessaloniki at 6:30 pm. I was pleased to see the departure time for Istanbul had changed to 8:30 pm. I had two full hours before my train departure, good enough to visit the famous White Tower.
I got there in 40 minutes (could be 20, but again, language issue). I did not see anything special about the tower itself other than the historical measures. However, I did find the shore walk more interesting.
May 7, 2007.
May be I got off the bus too soon, about 1 or 2 stops earlier, I had to walk about 10 minutes to the White Tower by the shore. There were at least 30 pubs, all well decorated, along the sea shore, packed with people slightly after 7:00 pm.
Finished the White Tower in a mere 15 minutes, then I was captured by the beautiful scene featuring the sunset and the harmonic atmosphere surrounding me.
I sat down by the sea shore like all other locals, enjoying the graceful sunset view of Thessaloniki.
I did not see the sun went all the way down below the horizon in just 10 minutes. May be I should stay a night in Thessaloniki on my next visit.
I took a few pictures before I headed back to train station. It was definately an ever lasting moment of Thessaloniki in my memory.
May 8 - 10, 2007.
After one good night on the train (it was comfortable!), I arrived in Istanbul with shock. 'Chaos' was the first word that came to my mind. Crowds of people rushing by, traffic jams and vehicle horns here and there ...
The official tourist organization was not doing a good job here. There was no tourist information center in an international train station! I could not get a map, could not find any one to answer my questions. Seeking help from the locals was tough, and trying to understand them was a mission impossible.
I went on my way to the Blue Mosque anyway, hopefully everything will be sorted out before dark.
“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~Lewis Carroll~
Hopped on a tram after breakfast and I was standing in front of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in just 15 minutes.
Wait, I saw a tourist information center right at the park beside Hagia Sophia! Ha! I got a map, some hostel information and a hostel owner, aka scammer. He offered me a cheap hostel room and talked me into stay in his hostel, saying it was high season and all hostels were full. I followed him because his hostel was right next to the hostel I wanted. He first brought me to a travel agency, offered me apple tea and started selling me some over-priced tour package. I left within seconds.
The hostel was just 5 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque. After dropping off my backpack, it was already 12:30 pm.
I was standing on the street between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Geee, how could these two giant things be so close but yet not over-powering the other? I was impressed!
The Blue Mosque was solemn and absolutely stunning. Hagia Sophia was as well astonishing. Too bad the dorm was under repair and almost half of the Hagia Sophia was covered by construction materials.
I was soaking wet simply walking between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It was hot! The 'Sunken Palace' Yerebatan Sarayi did cool me off a bit. The largest underground cistern and pulsing lights effect made this place a good visit for the tourists in summer. However, my camera ran out of battery when I was ready to see the two Medusa heads supporting columns, arghhhh!
Okay, I was not going to any more tourist attraction sites for the rest of the day because my camera was dead. What could I do around 5:00 pm without my camera? But wait, I did not need a camera in hamam!
The turkish bath was disappointing and the massage was simply a joke. The prices for tourists were three or four times the local price, but they did not even perform the same services on tourists. I was surprised they had the nerve to ask for tip.
I treated myself to a nice lamb chop at night in a restaurant.
Next morning, I rushed to the Topkapi Palace before 9:00 am to avoid crowds. The palace was immense. The sea shore views were marvelous and the treasures in the museum were breathtaking. I was speechless.
The rest of the palace was also magnificent. However, about one quarter of the areas within the palace were closed for renovation during my visit, I wanted my money back.
Even more ridiculous was, Harem, being part of the palace, they charge another 10 Lira on top of the palace ticket. It was a robbery! I did not pay.
The archaeological museum beside the Topkapi Palace was more like an art museum to me. Majority of the collections were well known and stunning scriptures. 5 Lira well spent!
Suddenly I realized it was 2:00 pm when I walked out from the museum. I was starving.
I went to the Grand Bazaar after lunch. It had lots of shops!!! I did not spend too much time there since I was not going to buy anything. I quickly walked past all shops to avoid those persisting 'come-to-my-shop-salesmen'.
Note to self: start next trip from Istanbul and bring no clothes, buy all clothes there for the entire trip!
I did a couple more mosques in the afternoon and I refused to visit more because they were the same anyway. After visiting the Spice Market, I called it a day.
The last day in Istanbul did not give me any surprise, but a regret.
I rushed to the Dolmabahce Sarayi Palace early in the morning only to find that it was closed on Thursday! Aaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I forgot to check the tour guide book for closure. I hated myself for making such a big stupid mistake!
I spent the rest of the day in the new town. Nusretiye Camii, Calata Tower, Istiklal Cad., and Rumeli Fortress.
< --- Here I stood on the fortress, looking at the Asian side of the city, while I was standing in the European side.
Returned to hostel by 6:00 pm, had a quick dinner, showered, and packed up to leave for the overnight bus to Selcuk.
May 11, 2007
Arrived Selcuk around 7:00 am, found a hostel for only 10 Lira a night, what a deal!
Although I felt really tired after taking the overnight bus from Istanbul, I went ahead to Ephesus.
Ephesus was less than 3 kilometer from Selcuk, and I thought it would only take me 30 minutes to walk. Big mistake! I walked over an hour and it was burning hot. I was soaked with sweat by the time I arrived at the archaeological site.
I arrived at Ephesus before 9:00 am and there were plenty of people. I started from the north gate while all the tourist groups started from the south gate. I knew I would meet the crowds somewhere in the middle, so I rushed to take all the photos first. I managed to take some pictures without the crowds.
Quickly walked to the south gate in less than 2 hours. I had a lot of pictures taken, but I was too rushed, many of them turned out poor.
Walking back to the north gate in a relatively slow pace, still fast, with crowds of people pushing me at the back. I realized how much I missed the first time through.
It took another 2 hours walking back, and I must admit that Ephesus was the best archaeological site I had ever seen.
< -- See the tourist crowds!!!
Finished the site around 1:00 pm, exhausted. It was burning hot. I tried to find transportation back to Selcuk, nothing, except taxi. I freaked out if I had to walk back to town. I ended up taking the taxi, 10 lira down the drain.
Back at the hostel, I noticed I was de-hydrated and showed mild signs of sunstroke. I drank a lot of water, took a good bath, then went out for lunch.
I visited the museum after lunch, good one. It was still very hot when I came out. I bought a bottle of ice cold water and started walking again.
Finished the Temple of Artemis, Isa Bey Mosque, and Basilica of Saint John in 3 hours, dying burned. I had to return to hostel before I dropped real dead.
May 12, 2007.
Took the 9:30 am bus to Pamukkale. After a 3 hour bus ride, I realized I made a mistake on my itinerary. I should have taken the overnight bus from Istanbul to Pamukkale instead of Selcuk! This could have saved me the 3 hours on the bus, 15 Lira more in my pocket, and more time in Pamukkale.
I blamed the internet for giving me incorrect and incomplete information! There were buses going to Pamukkale directly from Istanbul, arriving in the morning! And there were buses going directly to Selcuk from Pamukkale every day in the afternoon, without changing buses in Denzli!
Arrived at Pamukkale at 12:30 pm and was immediately told by the bus company staff that my ticket was sold to another bus company because I was the only passenger on the return trip. The original departure time was 5:00 pm, became 4:00 pm after the trade, without my consent. My consumer right was requested but denied.
So, I only had 3 and a half hours in Pamukkale including time for lunch. I quickly grabbed a cake and a bottle of water from a local store and moved forward.
Walking up the hill was a painful experience. In order to protect the area from erosion, everyone had to walk bare feet... No shoes! The calcuim deposits were not at all painful as they were mostly smooth, but the rocky spots in between kinda sucked.
On top of the hill was another archaeological site called Hierapolis. Although it was far smaller than Ephesus, it still dropped some jaws.
Exposed directly under the sun for a few days, I sure got some tan.
< --- I was toasted, medium brown!
Returned to Selcuk just after 8:30 pm. Yes, four and a half hour bus ride instead of three, because the bus went all the way to Kusadasi, then to Soke, and finally to Selcuk, drawing a big circle on the map.
May 13, 2007.
Priene & Didim & Bodrum, Turkey.
Left Selcuk at 8:00 am on a bus to Soke. I thought I should have no problem going to Priene, Miletus and Didim by the minibuses, if there were any.
The way to Priene was surprisingly easy. I arrived in Priene before 10:00 am and ready to leave at 11:45 am. Then I was told that the minibus from Priene to Miletus simply did not exist. My only hope was to go back to Soke hoping to find a minibus to Miletus.
I never had luck. The minibus route was only in operation during the summer. May was not summer. I did not have any choice but skipping Miletus. This was my second regret.
I then jumped on the bus to Didim. I knew I had to get off somewhere on the route, but did not know where. I almost missed it and went all the way to the Golden Beach.
Didim was a very small site, but it was great. After spending an hour there, I started my journey to Bodrum.
Going to Bodrum from Didim was another mission impossible if I did not go to the convenience store and asked the store owner for help.
Bodrum was less than 4 hours by minibus. First I took the bus to Dalyan, then switched buses to Milas and finally switched another bus for Bodrum. Sounded very easy, right? If somebody dropped you off somewhere in the middle of nowhere, with no bus stop, had to hitch an un-marked minibus ... I was worried.
Arrived at Bodrum late at 7:15 pm. Checked in the hotel, got a map, went to the windmills and there I waited. I knew I would take some good sunset pictures.
May 14, 2007.
Kos Island, Greece
Kos was never meant to be a destination on my itinerary. It was supposed to be a stop over on my way to Rhodes. I was there because I was one day ahead of my schedule, and I loved to make this a vacation within my vacation.
Over the past 10 days I had been walking at least 30 kilometers a day as if somebody was chasing me. My legs were screaming out loud for rest. I think this was a wonderful place to relax.
I had no plan for Kos. I had no tourist attraction to visit, and I had no timetable to follow. I simply put away the map and started enjoying my day, walking slowly, very slowly.
I enjoyed having my sandwich beside the harbour and the beach. I also enjoyed shopping on the street. I also enjoyed riding the city tour train sight-seeing. This was what a real vacation should be.
Who the fool was gonna rush here?!
About a year ago, I read about the story of Chase Korte, who walked a thousand miles through Scotland and England. Although it started as a filmed documentary journey, but ended up walking every step of real life adventure.
I read on, the idea was originally inspired by Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked for peace for 28 years. I did not know why, and did not know how. To achieve peace by walking, I had doubt.
I walked on the main streets today, very slowly, with absolutedly nothing in my mind. Suddenly, I realized peace myself. It was a very special feeling I had never experienced.
The clamor of the traffic was not annoying me because I did not hear them. The tourist crowds were not bothering me because they promptly moved out of my way. It was peace.
I found peace. I had no doubt. Just by walking.
Dedicate this to all Peace Pilgrims who are walking toward the sacred Strength, Unity and Peaceful Change of our collective future.
To Chase Korte, RIP.
May 15, 2007.
Rhodes Island, Greece.
Left Kos at 8:30 am and arrived in Rhodes just before noon.
I got a free map of Rhodes on the ferry. After studying for a while, I knew the town was small with only a few attractions. I liked the sense of freedom yesterday, so again, I decided to put away the map and let my senses guide me through.
As usual, I looked for the "I-have-cheap-pension-to-let-owner" at the habour. There was only one I could find. He carried no pictures of the pension, but the price was good, 10 euros a night.
Remember, good thing would not come cheap!
When I arrived at the pension, I noticed a bad smell, but the good thing was that smell did not come from the room. However, I saw bugs in the room! More scary was the dollar coin sized spider on the bed! Oh, my god!
After dropping off my backpack, I went out to walk for peace again.
The entire Rhodes Town was surrounded by moat and fortified walls, so my first impression was, a flooding ancient medieval atmosphere! The Knights' Castle, the massive walls, the giant gates, the forts, the cannon balls and the medieval streets, all that reminded me it was built in 408 BC and was a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Although the city was old, it was being well kept. The street of the Knights was perfectly preserved and it was the nicest medieval street in the city, one of the most famous street in Europe.
There were several museums in the city, but I did not visit any. Mainly because I had seen too many for the past few days, they all looked the same. Another reason was that they all closed at 1:30 pm, it was too late.
Walked out of the old town into the new town. It was another atmosphere, totally different feeling. I felt more relaxed in the new town.
Opposite the New Market was the Mandraki Harbour. At the entrance were two monuments that marked the supposed position of the legs of the Colossus Of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
One question, did any one think the two deer look more interesting than a rebuilt Colossus?
I spent the rest of the evening at the stadium on top of the hill where the temple of Apollo remained.
The 'ruin' looked pretty new, may be it was a rebuilt or something, looked odd to me.
Took some pictures of myself in the stadium using the self timer function while some locals were jogging. They friendly offered to take the pictures for me because I was blocking them. I guessed they wanted to kick me out as soon as they could.
Back to the pension by 9:00 pm. The spider image had stuck in my head all day. I checked my bed for bugs and sprayed with insect repellent before I slept on it. I did not get a good sleep.
The next morning I took a short trip to Lindos, the acropolis.
Again, after hundreds steps of stair, I was sweaty and exhausted.
Up on the top, the landscapes and views were spectacular. The dramatic cliffs by the temple of Athena were simply stunning, really great ones.
Returned to the pension early because of the early ferry departure time next morning. I sat in the small front yard of the pension entrance having gyros. There came my neighbours.
First came the drifter Herbert, then the around-the-world-cyclist couple Beverly and Scott, and finally the strange Korean girl. We had a very nice evening talking outside of our rooms. These nice people made the unfavourable room likeable.
May 17, 2007.
Aegean Sea, Greece.
This was the day I did not want to see. I spent 18 hours on the sea! Even more brutal was that the ship departed at 4:00 am and arrived at Santorini at 11:45 pm!
Since this was not the high season, the ferry services between islands were very limited. If I were to go to the Cyclades islands from Rhodes, chances were I had to go to Piraeus first and then take another ferry from Piraeus to the island I wanted, which turned out to be 20+ hours and even more expensive for cost of tickets.
The ferry I took did stop over in Santorini for a cheaper price and shorter time, however, the ferry departed at 4:00 in the morning. This meant I had to stay in Rhodes for another night ($$$ for room) and I lost one full day.
The journey was not as bad as I originally thought. Since it was not in high season, I was able to occupy a couch by myself and had a nice dream.
P.S. It was the most beautiful sun set I had ever seen in my life. Just glorious!
May 18 - 20, 2007.
Arrived Santorini after midnight.
Checked in to the youth hostel in Pirassa, which was almost half an hour drive from Fira. I thought it was the youth hostel in Fira, because 6 euros a night caught my attention. It was too late to find out I was going to Pirassa instead of Fira.
The next two and a half days in Santorini was raining cats and dogs. Just sad! I was very disappointed not seeing the famous Oia sunset, the third regret of my trip.
The first morning was dark and cloudy, did not look good. I knew it was going to rain. My plan for the day was spending a morning in Fira and the afternoon in Oia. It started to rain soon after I arrived Fira, big one, then turned to showers, on and off.
I walked around wet, did not feel like in the mood for pictures. I hated it. Because of the rain, Santorini did not look appealing like everyone said.
If the weather was good, I believed these pictures would make some good posters in my apartment.
I walked on, did not even think about going to Oia in the afternoon since the weather was not promising. I was worried about the volcano boat trip featuring the Oia sun set the next day.
Started walking Fira from south to north, took some pictures as I moved along, were not that great. I still wanted to take some pictures of the blue dome roof.
I kept walking wet, to the north end of Fira where the blue domes were. I walked past all of the blue dome churches I could find on the postcards, except one, could not get one good satisfying picture. I was out of luck, I guessed.
I reached the north end of Fira in a mere 3 hours, around 1:00 pm, which meant I had finished my day already.
I took a hike off track to the rock on a peninsula. Normally, I would not do anything like this especially when I was wet, but my sense told me to go for it.
I walked underneath the rock, then went behind it, and traced the hidden path further down the hill.
The last blue dome roof church!
Although the weather was not nice, and I should have taken more beautiful pictures, I was happy. It made my day!
I went back to central Fira and did some shopping. It started pouring again, but everything looked much better than before.
The next day I had the volcano boat trip. There were a few showers in the morning, very windy, did not look good at all.
The shuttle bus picked me up at the hostel around 10:30 am. Arrived at the port and saw a few dark clouds, I prayed.
First stop was the volcano island. It was an active volcano and I could see steam coming up. As we were hiking to the top, it started getting very windy and very cold. I had my wind breaker on but I was shaking. Oh, it started to rain again. I swear I saw snow at one point!
We did not even enjoy the hot spring and the small fisherman town on the another island. It rained pretty hard.
The clouds masked the sky dark, the wind roared loud. The sea was rough and the boat swung along with it. Everyone stayed inside the cabin, making it felt like a sauna room. We had no choice but agreed to cancel the Oia part. Sunset in Oia, it was not gonna happen! I returned to the hostel much earlier than expected.
The last day in Santorini was much better, at least I saw the sun. There were some showers but it stopped around 9:00 am.
Took the bus to Oia early, it sure was gorgeous. I was loving it!
Returned to Fira at noon, had something to eat, briefly walked around Fira one more time, then headed to the port for Naxos at 3:30 pm.
Santorini, I would definitely come back!
April 12, 2009
I was back!
After 2 years, I was back to Santorini, making it one of the stops in my round-the-world trip.
The weather was so nice and the scenic views were awesome!
I could not stop taking pictures of the blue dome roof church on the cliff!
Here are the links to my photos:
Photo Album 1
Photo Album 2
May 20 - 21, 2007.
Naxos Island, Greece.
Arrived Naxos shortly after 6:00 pm. Thanked God for the nice weather.
Although Naxos was the biggest among Cyclades islands, the city of Naxos was indeed very small, I could easily walk around the city in 2 hours.
Walked to the shore after 7:00 pm, there were not so many tourists in Naxos, the atmosphere was relax and calm. The blue color was different, and so attractive.
I walked to the Temple of Apollo before sunset. The view was gorgeous.
Naxos was not a major tourist attraction island, it allowed me to enjoy a good moment of calm and silence by the temple.
After sun down, I had my dinner by the shore overlooking the Temple of Apollo. I ordered the famous octopus as the main course, recommended by many tour guide books. The portion was small, and it tasted so salty, did not really like it.
Since I did not plan to take the tour to visit other towns on the island, I stayed in bed very late until 10:00 am.
I packed up, checked out, left my backpack at the pension, then went to visit the castle. I spent 15 minutes walking around the castle to find the entrance because I did not have a map, it was difficult to look for the entrance without signs.
There were houses within the castle and people were actually living in it. It looked more like a town within a town than a castle to me.
The museum was not at all surprising, and the views were so-so, not that great, I did not take many pictures.
There was a church in the castle, the only thing that caught my attention. However, due to the narrow spaces between the church and the surrounding houses, I could not take any good pictures with my stupid camera.
Left the castle by 12:30 pm, ate my breakfast/lunch by the shore, enjoying an ice cold frappe in a quiet, hot and sweaty Monday afternoon until 2:00 pm.
I sat on the bench by the shore, looking at the sailboat, I wished I were the one who owned and sailing on it.
Walked to the St. George beach area, it was very quiet, no one was swimming, actually it was difficult to find anyone over there.
Bought an ice cream on the way back to the main street, it was the best ice cream I had.
Finished everything on the island by 3:30 pm. Just waited for the time for my ferry to Paros.
May 21 - 22, 2007.
Paros Island, Greece.
Arrived Paros after 7:00 pm.
I took some time at the harbour trying to bargain a better price for a room. The price was more expensive than I expected, 25 euros a night for a room with a shared balcony, satellite TV included, very cozy.
I rushed to the shore to take some sunset pictures after I settled down in the hotel. I walked along the sea shore from north to south, taking as many pictures as I could. It was romantically beautiful. I always believed that each sunset made a place unique everyday.
I walked on the beach back to hotel. The sand was so fine and I took my sandal off. I tried to soak my feet in the water but it was too cold. I stood on the pier enjoying the last minute of the dusk. The water was crystal clear, I could see some shells in the water.
Back to the hotel after 9:00 pm. I met my Australian neigbour Henry on the balcony. We exchanged some travelling tips and experiences. It was a knowledgeable evening.
I had a romantic dream at night. (Sorry, no details!)
In morning Paros was lovely and very peaceful. With the calm sea wind, it was not at all hot and sweaty, so comfortable.
Visited the "Church with a Hundred Doors" in the morning. It was the only attraction on the island, a great one.
Walked around the town, did some window shopping, same stuff as I saw on other islands, everywhere, but more expensive.
Leaving Paros at 1:30 pm, on a flying cat. I was not able to take my last glance of the island. I knew I was going to miss Paros. I just fell in love with Paros and its romantic sunset.
May 22 - 23, 2007.
Arrived Mykonos before 3:00 pm, with a sense of loss from Paros.
When I was working on my travel plans, I always found someone mentioned that whatever I found in Mykonos, Paros had it, for a lower price, and better.
I loved Paros, but that did not justify the statement. I always believed that each place had its own unique characteristics, featuring incomparable 'personality'.
I loved Mykonos, for the distinctive atmosphere, the sunset by the Venice, the night view by the windmill at the hill top, and the pelicans.
Walked around the town, it was impossible to miss the pelican by the harbour, so cute and adorable. I guessed this pelican did not like me, it never faced me directly for a front-view, or it actually preferred a 3/4 face portrait, I did not know.
Further down the road was the famous white giant church. It was four churches merged into one big white 'thing'. I was not an artistic person, and I could not criticize its beauty using any aesthetic measures, but I would say it was damn ugly, period.
There was no main street in Mykonos town. I walked into the backstreet the first time, almost lost.
The Venice and the windmills were some standard tourist attractions. I did not see anything special about the Venice other than the amazing sunset view, in fact, I hated the crowds there. The windmills were just fine, I would not even say it was specticular. I rated 7 out of 10, the most. Anyway, I snapped some shots for hand-in assignments to my friends, the standard practice.
As usual, I tried to find a perfect spot to see the supposedly beautiful sunset. There were lots of places in Mykonos pretty good for taking sunset pictures. However, I guessed I was out of luck again. It became hazy as the sun sank. All of the pictures I took looked very smoky.
I started to walk back to the pension after the last glow. I could barely remember the route and I was afraid I would get lost without a map in the dark. I did!
I had 3 photos of the pension and surroundings, and I could remember the convenient store and the jewellery shop on the second street, which I later found out I had walked pass the street 4 times without looking inside. I slapped myself twice for a little punishment.
I saved myself another slap because I had some stunning night view pictures by the windmill on the hill top.
This is my favourite one ---->
I finally found my pension, it was almost two hours after dark, roughly 9:30 pm. I had been walking since 8:30 am this morning, but I was not at all exhausted. I still had a plan for the night.
The famous 4S of Mykonos - Sun, Sea, Sand, and Sex! I had seen the first 3 during the day, it was time to see the last one at night!
I bought gyros, juices, water and some biscuits back to my room for dinner. While I was eating, my neighbours came back to their room. I could clearly hear their conversation, talking about putting their money in the closet, finding the right clothes to dress, which pub to go, who could have the room for sex and the other was not allowed to come back before 3:00 am, etc. The sound proof in the pension was simply a joke. I was about to laugh I shut my mouth using half of the gyros. Thank God I did not choke.
After the gyros dinner and a hot shower, I went out to feel the night life in Mykonos. It really surprised me. It was quiet, and the streets were almost empty. I could barely hear the music as I walked past the pubs and discos. I wished my neighbour good luck finding sex.
I started walking back to the pension slightly after 12:00 am and found the pelican still sitting around. I walked close to it, gave it a gentle pat and asked the old couple near to take a photo for me with the pelican.
The picture did not turn out well. It was bluurrrrry.
I patted the pelican again, promising I would come back with a better camera to take another photo with it. I kept my promise.
P.S. I did not get a good sleep at night. My neighbour did find someone for sex.
May 23, 2007.
Woke up at 8:00 am and checked out of the pension at 8:30 am for the ferry ride to Delos at 9:30 am.
The pension owner did not want to keep my backpack for a day, so, I was rushing to find someone who would accept my backpack. Otherwise, I had to carry this 30+ lb backpack for the rest of the day.
I knocked on the doors of the travel agencies by the harbour. They told me they would accept my backpack for free if only for a couple of hours. When I told them I was leaving at midnight, they all said 'no', even if I was willing to pay.
Finally, I found an agency by the old port that would accept my backpack for 4 euros, and it closed at 10:00 pm. I dropped my pack with a breath of relief.
Took the 9:30 ferry with only 15 minutes to spare. I grabbed the biscuits from last night and sucked them into my mouth quickly before I boarded the boat.
Arrived at Delos at 10:00 am. I took the route opposite to the crowds, going up hill. I was one of the first few people climbed to the top of Mt. Kythnos.
It was hot and humid all morning, but by the time I reached the top, it became a different story. The calm sea wind was gentle enough to blow the hot and humid air away, leaving a cool sense of fresh smell of the wonderful nature behind.
The view from the mountain top was stunning, especially without the crowds. Too bad I did not have a telescope with me. I needed to really consider investing for real equipment for my next trip. At least a better camera with wide angle and ultra zoom lens.
I built myself a stone temple beside Athena and Zeus, like everyone else, on the mountain top. Then I listened quietly, for any oracle I asked in Delphi.
The Gods said no, final answer!
I sighed and left.
I thought about living in poverty for the rest of my life, I sighed again.
I spent the rest of the morning walking around the island. Great ones. It was a "must-do" in Greece. However, I still thought Ephesus had the greatest ruins of all.
May 23, 2007.
Paradise Beach, Mykonos, Greece.
Back to Mykonos at 2:00 pm.
I quickly walked to the bus station and bought the bus ticket to Paradise Beach, which departed at 3:00 pm.
I sat by the side walk having gyros and a bottle of water I bought for lunch. I started to hate gyros. I had been eating a lot of gyros for the past 10 days, cause I was running out of money. I could not even afford a can of Coke for 2 euro!
I counted every penny in my pocket, it was 28.65 euro and a ferry ticket to Piraeus, lower-class!
I tried not to go over my already tight budget but I guessed it was not going to happen. Unless I got free accomodations in Athens for 2 nights and no souvenirs, otherwise, I had to get my ass to the ATM and withdraw some bloody hard earned money.
If I could kick myself on the butt, I would.
I got on the bus and arrived to the Paradise Beach in no time. It was very disappointing! I had never seen any beach this size and with no sand! Yes, it was small and there was no sand on the beach, all I saw were small stone chips! I did not even bother to take off my shoes and walk bare foot.
Before I arrived, I sure had some excitement about watching some naked people on the beach, hugging, kissing or may be making love. Hoping to take some pictures of these brave people, however, there were not any.
I was told this place was once a real paradise, but those good old days had been long gone. Paradise Beach was only an ordinary beach, nothing else.
I wanted to go to the Super Paradise Beach. As indicated in my tour guide book, there was supposed to be a connecting boat, only to find that there was no transportation between Paradise Beach and Super Paradise Beach. I immediately ripped my tour guide book apart.
I stayed in Paradise Beach a little longer, since I had nothing to do anyway. I sat under the shade, enjoying the nice weather. I thanked God for each day of nice weather since my experience in Santorini.
Returned to Mykonos Town after 6:00pm. I had no choice, but withdrew some money from the ATM. I hated myself, but I immediately treated myself to a dinner in a nice restaurant in the Venice overlooking the windmills and the beautiful sunset.
Paid the bill after the sun went completely below the horizon. The seafood spaghetti with tomato sauce, an ice cold frappe, and the front row ocean view table definitely worth the price of 22 euro.
Picked up the backpack at 9:30 pm, wandered the town for the next 2 hours before boarding the ferry back to Athens.
May 24, 2007.
Staying in the seat cabin all night was not a good start for a day. My back hurt!
The overnight ferry was not as comfortable as I had expected from my previous experience. The ship was half-packed with people. All of the sofas, couches were occupied. I did not want to sleep on the floor without a sleeping bag or sheet cover, I stayed in the seat all night.
Although I had entire row (4 seats) for myself, the arm rests were not retractable, there was no way I could lie down. I went out to the deck checking if I could stay outside; No, it was too cold. 38 euro for a sleeper cabin and 24 euro for a seat cabin, obviously, I made the wrong choice.
I woke up at 6:30 am, it was raining. Oh, my God!
Disembarked in Piraeus at 7:00 am. Since it was the first time I was in Piraeus, I was lost. It took me an hour to find the transportation going to Athens. I was tired, cold, wet and hungry.
Arrived at Athens Backpacker's hostel around 8:30 am. Athens was packed with soccer fans last night (UEFA Champions League Final, AC Milan vs Liverpool, 3:2). Even the sofas were occupied. I had to wait for a bed. I waited for a couple minutes before somebody took off, I had a couch to sleep on.
I merely slept for 2 hours, still no bed available, but no rain. I went out at 11:30 am. Walking to the Ancient Agora in 20 minutes. The air was nice and fresh after the rain.
I probably should not have said anything good about the rain. It started pouring again shortly after.
I stayed in the museum for the next 30 minutes, it was still raining when I came out, only a little less rain.
I did not think the rain would stop, and I could not stay in the museum for the rest of the day. I took off, running towards the Temple of Apollo.
I walked around the Temple of Apollo twice, taking as many pictures as I could. Although I knew these pictures would not turn out good, just testing my luck for some exceptions.
I did not want to get sick, and I did not want to lose my camera in the rain. I stopped and headed back to the hostel. I was dripping wet, from head to toes.
I had not even finished half of the Ancient Agora!
Walked to Monastiraki Square, I bought some Greek goddess statues for souvenirs. I regretted this immediately because they weighed like one pound each. The one foot tall Nike statue I bought for myself, it weighed approximately 4 lbs. How could I carry a 40+ lb backpack around with 1/4 of full space taken by the Nike spreading wings?
Checked in at the hostel at 2:00 pm, took a shower, checked the email, still raining, sighed.
Thinking about going to Cape Sounio to see the so-called "One of the most romantic spots in Greece, featuring a spectacular views of the Aegean Sea and a picture of perfect sunset", with the weather conditions like this, it was not gonna happen. Arrgggghhhhh! My fourth regret of this trip.
At 3:30 pm, the rain was a lot better, but did not stop. I took the bus to the National Museum. I feared not the rain under shelter!
It was a National Museum, I could not expect anything more, it was just great.
After spending 3 hours in the museum, hunger and tiredness overcame me. I forgot I skipped lunch!
It was easy, a hot dog and a coke would do the trick, only if I was willing to spend 3.50 euro.
Visited the Central Market, it was empty, then walked to the College of Art, University, and the National Library. At 8:00 pm, I called it another day.
I had dinner at a traverna near the hostel at night. It was a well decorated and romantic restaurant serving good food, and the price was reasonable too. However, I had never experienced going to a restaurant without the server even speaking to me, not even an 'Efharisto'.
If he was a disabled person, fine, but he was not. I would be surprised if the restaurant hire a speechless waiter. Service was non-existent. The businessman sitting next to me was mad. We deliberately finished our food and left a empty tray on the table, no tip, no sorry!
Woke up late in the morning after 10:00 am, very dark and cloudly, raining, mostly showers, non stop, sighed again.
I only had a few things left on my to-do list. Shopping in Plaka (today), Lykavittos Hill (today), Metropolis Greek Orthodox Cathedral (optional), Roman Agora (optional), Eleusis (today) and Cape Sounio (yesterday).
I did not want to waste the last day of my trip in the hostel. I just had to choose a destination, then go.
Wandering Athens without soul all day, feeling sad about skipping Cape Sounio. The rain finally stopped late in the afternoon. I thought about going to Cape Sounio, but it was very late and the weather was not promising.
Aimlessly walked around, visited some tour attraction sites, bought something small for myself. My pack was full and heavy, I did not buy too many, only a handful.
Returned to the hostel by 6:30 pm. I thought they were still serving dinner for 5 euro. I missed the baked garlic potatoes on the first day. I found nobody was serving dinner so I asked, the staff answered, "The chief is now locked behind bars!"
Was it a joke?
I ended up having my dinner in the same traverna called SMILE, the first restaurant I visited on the first day. I told the owner I had my first and last meal here, she was not offering me any discount.
Started packing up after dinner, it was quite a challenge stuffing everything into my small backpack.
Had a small talk with other roommates while packing, who just arrived in Athens. I showed them some pictures of mine and gave them some advice. They admired me like a hero.
At night, I took a walk to the Acropolis and Ancient Agora for some night view pictures. None of the pictures turned out nice, I blamed my stupid camera again.
I rewinded my memory back to day 1, played back, enjoyed every moment of my trip while I slowly walked back to the hostel. The sky was clear, the wind was calm, the temperature was comfortable. It was a happy and beautiful ending.
May 26, 2007.Toronto, Canada.
I woke up at 5:15 am, had 2 cups of coffee just to open my eyes. Left Athens Backpackers at 6:00 am, saying good bye to Athens for a 13 hours home-bound flight.
Returned home totally exhausted, toasted and lightened. I lost 8 pounds of weight in 23 days!
After shower, I lied down for rest. The feeling, the smell, that I realized, it was the place I called home.
Over the last two months, I tried to spare couple hours every week out of my busy life gathering pieces of my memories to write this journal. I found this work a great pleasure, that reminded me of all the good times and happiness I had.
I had been to many countries in the past 10 years, mostly guided tours and business trips, some were on my backpack, none of them felt exhilarating like this one.
There were a few comments that I would like to make about my trip.
1. It was an adventurous, exciting, and joyful trip.
Although I tried to plan as much as I could before my trip, there were just too many variables and too few information available on the internet. I had to admit that I was worried about the transportation, the accommodation and the language issues that I might encounter throughout the journey. Transportation was a very big concern for me since I had to follow a very tight schedule. One transportation breakage would spell disaster to my entire trip. Accommodation also took a good part. Since I did not book any pension or hostel ahead, finding one was a fascinated game everytime. As I said before, these were part of the game, and part of the fun.
2. The trip was too short. It should have been a 40 days trip instead of 23.
It was a crazy thing to do visiting 16 cities in 23 days (21 days actually). Although I was able to finish most of the attraction sites, I was terribly pushing myself to move forward, skipping a lot of interesting places. Also, I did not leave any room for rainy days, that in turn compensated by leaving me at least 2 regrets in my life.
3. An itinerary that worked.
Despite the fact that the trip was too short, the itinerary worked out very well. Of course, some minor changes could make it perfect, but overall, it was well planned. The first half was tough and painful (with blisters!), then became more relaxed with amazing scenic views. Well, of course, not the rain part!
4. I should have been better equiped.
Carrying a stupid camera was not a good idea. What I had with me was a 4-mega pixels CASIO Exilim EX-Z4, a 5 years old camera. I had less than 2 GB of memory, no tripod stand and no extra battery. With the limited memory I had, I was getting around 1000 photos under the 'Normal' setting, which meant I had to look for places to transfer my photos into a DVD every 4-5 days. It was just a pain in the neck! On the other hand, there were several times I ran out of battery before I called it a day. Even I charged the battery every night and I kept the use to a mininium, I got low battery warning every day. Using flash was a no-no. Holding still for longer exposure was tough without a tripod.
5. What a miser.
Walk around the city on foot was not a bad idea. However, walking 30 kilometers a day like me should be avoided. The attraction sites often located very close by and I tried to save the transport fares by walking. I got 8 blisters on my feet in just 5 days! Also, I did not want to be a miser and treated myself gyros every day. I was just financially not prepared. Spending CAD $500 on food in 21 days was something I could not afford in my normal every day life. May be I should allocate more budget on food next time.
Overall, this was an excellent trip. I would recommand to any friend who asked me. Of course, this trip would be tough for some people, but the fulfillment overwhelmed anything.
I would definitely do it again!
23 Days Total Spending:
Flight Ticket: CAD$ 941.00
Accommodation: CAD$ 520.00
Admissions/Entrance Fees: CAD$ 200.00
Food & Drinks: CAD$ 500.00
3500 photos, 1 life time lasting memory, and a dream came true: Priceless!