A Travellerspoint blog

Deutschland!

A whole different kind of traveling

semi-overcast 60 °F

Greetings from outside Bonn, Germany! The beginning of the trip didn’t exactly get off on the right foot. I got in around 6am and Bernd was scheduled to pick me up at 7am (Its almost 2 hours to Frankfurt from Bonn, so he had to get up before 5am). My flight was a bit early, so I sat inside for a while reading to pass the time then went out to the pickup location around 6:30am to wait for Bernd. As I scanned the drivers that passed by, Bernd had actually got a parking spot and was looking for me inside the airport. I went inside two separate times to try to reach him by payphone, but to no avail. He apparently had me paged several times, but there are evidently no outdoor speakers and I never happened to be inside on the phone when he paged me. Around 8:30, an internet café in the airport had finally opened up and I sat down to try to reach Bernd by email. Bernd had given up looking for me and was about to leave and have me take the train back to Bonn when I finally reached him. As he was walking back to his car, he saw me in the internet café halfway through my email to him…disaster avoided.

Once we were finally on the road, I got the overview of the roads since I’ll have access to their spare car while I’m here…a 1989 BMW convertible. Apparently, when a car is 25 years old, it gets a special registration and the taxes are considerably lower, so they have been hanging on to it for a while. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch some nice weather and hit the autobahn with the top down. Speaking of the autobahn, while there is technically no speed limit, in practice, 160kph (100mph) is the max in most cases. It’s also pretty nice that there are standard speed limits of 50kph inside towns and 100kph outside towns. This makes it much easier than jumping from 25 to 40 to 35 to 55 on the country roads of Upstate NY. Also of note is that right on red is the exception rather than the rule (there has to be a sign that OKs it). At least they drive on the right side of the road and the driver is on the left, so hopefully confusion will be kept to a minimum.

I had forgotten that Bernd attended Michigan as a Fulbright Scholar. From his visit to Rochester around 10 years ago, I did remember that the university system in Germany is free (ahem – included in the roughly 45% taxes that they pay). It was funny to hear him talk about how Germans had found it hard to grasp when we were debating over universal health care in the States since it seems like a given to Germans. He also told me of an adventure he had before returning home from school in Michigan…Alaska down to San Franscisco and down to Costa Rica, with more stops in between than I could possibly remember…over 7 weeks!

We arrived at Bernd and Elke’s house (Elke is away at a training until tomorrow night) after going through “downtown,” which Bernd described as “a church, a pharmacy, a grocery and 2 restaurants.” After about a block, the downtown trip was over. They’re just a few minutes outside of Bonn itself (according to Google Maps, its in Windhagen, but I’ll have to double check that) and enjoy being on the countryside. After dropping off some things and unpacking in my comfy little downstairs room, we had a traditional German breakfast: coffee with rolls and cheese…and I even tried some liverwurst! Then we headed out to run a few errands. Bernd had to drop off a few things at the office, so I had a chance to meet a few of the Konzepte folks and see the incredible office space they have. While we’re building new office parks back at home, they convert centuries old mansions into offices around here. Bernd had to pick up a new pair of glasses in Bad Honnef.
Bad Honnef...Health Spa?

Bad Honnef...Health Spa?

Apparently any place that starts with Bad is an official recognition by the government that it is some sort of health spa. I enjoyed walking through the town and as we waited for the glasses, I got a quick lesson on pronunciations.

Danke schön but the schon is pronounced more like shen
Guten tag is more like guten tak
Tschüss! is goodbye and is more or less choice with the t almost silent
Hallo is easy enough but some young people will say hi (though its American)

The optometrist was somewhat surprised and amused when I said tschuss as we left. We then went to the grocery store. Bernd said it was brand new and quite a large store for the countryside compared to their options before it was built. He tried to recall being inside Wegmans and asked how the store compared to Wegmans in size. It would probably be the size of a perishable department in one of the smaller stores. Nevertheless, they had an extensive selection of meats, cheeses and homemade breads. We grabbed a few things then had a quick lunch with a hearty loaf of bread, some ham, and a fantastic cheese we had picked up. Bernd had some work to take care of, so I went for a walk into town to check out some of the interesting architecture and character of the small town.
IMG_0653.jpg
The Church

The Church

It was garbage day and I was a bit embarrassed by how small German garbage cans were in comparison to American ones until I realized that they had four separate cans: paper, plastic, bio and trash…happy sorting!
4 Garbage Cans?

4 Garbage Cans?

I also came across an outdoor cigarette machine. At first I assumed that it was outside of a bar, but it was just a normal house. I later inquired and Bernd wasn’t sure whether the homeowner was compensated for the machine in some way.
House with a cigarette machine

House with a cigarette machine

Cigarette Machine

Cigarette Machine

When I returned from my walk, Bernd had dusted off the old BMW and had me give it a whirl while showing me how to get to the highway.

When we got back, we headed up some chili and I got to mix in a healthy spoonful of German hot sauce…delicious.
German Hot Sauce!

German Hot Sauce!

Can’t wait for my hot sauce of the month club to finally kick in from Kristine. The semi-finals of champions league (quite a big deal on this side of the Atlantic) was on at 8:30pm and Bernd had ordered the game pay per view and bought a few Bitburger beers.
Bitburger!

Bitburger!

It was a lot of fun to watch the top German team, Bayern München (Bayern=Bavaria and München=Munich) hand the top Spanish team, Barcelona their worst loss EVER 4-0. Though the tournament is for all the top two club teams from each country’s league, the other semifinal is also a German/Spanish clash, of each country’s #2 team, Borussia Dortmund of Germany and Real Madrid of Spain. They’ll play tomorrow, then there will be rematches of both games next week, this time on Spanish soil. Most total goals move on, so Munich will almost definitely be in the finals at Wembly stadium in England. During the post game show, there were attractive girls in red dresses pouring wine for the commentators and they all had little appetizer plates. They had a toast for the team and the studio audience cheeredI almost lost it thinking about something like that happening on ESPN.
Post-game show

Post-game show

After the game Bernd caught up on an email he had sent to his colleagues about my visit and one had offered to take me to a match next week in Cologne! Tomorrow I’ll be driving down the Rhine River, perhaps stopping at a winery and a few small towns along the way. Thinking of driving tomorrow without a GPS (and with signs in German) is a scary proposition, but I’ll be happy to get lost somewhere along the rolling hills as long as I find my way home eventually. If I can stay within sight of the river, I should be safe. Westen=West, Ostlich=East, Nordlich=North and Suden=South. Here goes nothing!
Which way home?

Which way home?

Posted by atbrady 04:17 Archived in Germany Tagged day first getting german bonn settled Comments (2)

Last Day in Santorini

Sunrise to Sunset

sunny 83 °F

90_S3SteenyDusk.jpg90_S3FiraDusk.jpg90_S3Guys.jpgThe past few days I have been getting up around 7:30 and noticing that the sun has just risen, so last night I checked the sunrise time (7:11) and set an alarm for 6:30 so that I could get the most out of the motorbike before I had to return it at noon and drive around the island to watch the sunrise and explore a bit before Kristine woke up. After a quick yogurt and a peach to tide me over until breakfast with Kristine, I hit the road, but not before noticing how beautiful the view was from our balcony at dawn.
S3BalconyDawn.jpg
We have been so lucky to have such great views at our hotels throughout this trip. I’m not sure whether it’s because we’re traveling during the slower season or if we’re just plain lucky, but it has been amazing.

By the time the sun came up, I had just got out of town enough to get a good view.
S3Sunrise.jpg
I then stopped at a vineyard as the sun was coming up.
S3VineyardSunrise.jpg
S3MotorbikeSunrise.jpg
As I continued exploring, I was actually amazed at how easy it was to navigate Santorini. There are very few roads and each time a road forks, there is a sign telling you which towns are in each direction. I’m terrible with directions and yet didn’t have trouble finding my way around whatsoever. At one point, I came upon a sign that pointed to Ancient Thira. It was still too early for it to be open, but I decided to drive by anyways. Along the way, I snapped this picture
S3WindingHill.jpg
and little did I know that the signs were going to direct me all the way up the winding road in that picture. The turns were sharp and the roads were cobblestone, but I made it to the top!
S3MotorbikeTop.jpg
Once I was safely back to sea level, I wanted to check out Perissa, which our hotel owner had recommended as a place to visit. Once I got there, I realized why…this was where the Black Sand Beach was!
S3BlackSand.jpg

After looking around the beach town, I figured that it Kristine would probably be up soon, so I headed for home. On the way, I saw this cool fruit stand. This was clearly a place where locals shop and the produce was both cheaper and fresher than anything else I had seen on the island. We were going to be on a tour boat for 3 hours later in the day, so I picked up some fruit for snacks.
S3Market.jpg

When I got home, Kristine was just starting to stir, so I made breakfast before we headed out to return the motorbike and book our day trip. We’ll be going to the hot springs and exploring the volcano, which should be pretty fun. We had two hours to kill before departure, so we wandered the shops along the caldera looking for gifts to bring home. I really wanted to buy one of these funny little guys to add to our trinket collection of everywhere that we’ve been, but the shop had run out of them and these ones were glued down (although it looks like that didn’t stop one person).
S3Guys.jpg

The boat leaves from the “Old Port” of Fira, and there are a few options for getting down. First is to walk the path that zigzags down the cliff. Second is to ride a donkey down that path. Third is to take down a cable car. Kristine opted for a cable car,
S3CableCar.jpg
but she has been eyeing a donkey stuffed animal ever since we got here and I told her that if she wants to get it, she has to actually ride one.

We boarded our boat, the Calypso, and headed for a swim in the hot springs on the smaller volcano island, Palea Kameni.
S3TripLeaving.jpg
Here’s a cool view of Fira from the water:
S3FirafromWater.jpg
The Calypso is a glass-bottom boat and on the way we got to see a shipwreck, which was pretty cool. The hot spring was a little cove in one of the volcano-islands of Santorini and was probably 15 degrees warmer than the rest of the water. Jumping off the boat to swim over to the hot spring was a little chilly, but luckily the water got warmer with each stroke.
90_S3HotSpring.jpg

Next stop was the larger volcano island, Nea Kameni, which they neglected to tell us was an additional 2 euros each for admission. Walking around the volcano involved a lot of hiking,
S3Volcano.jpg
but provided pretty spectacular views.
90_S3ShadowViewtoIsland.jpg
I really appreciated that Kristine told me how absurd my hair looked after we got out of the hot springs.
S3VolcanoRidicHair.jpg

On the way back, we cruised while Kristine mentally prepared to ride a donkey up a steep zigzagging slope.
S3Cruisin.jpg

The donkey owners were some pretty authentic Greeks.
S3DonkeyMen.jpg

She did it! And seemed to enjoy it too!
S3SteenRiding.jpg
The donkeys were remarkably well trained. I expected there to be handlers holding a few donkeys each or for all of the donkeys to be tied together and walking in line, but they had simply been trained to follow their herding dog.
S3GuideDog.jpg
Occasionally they would decide to stop and hang out, but for the most part they matched the pace of the dog. The only part that was a bit nerve-wracking was that when they stopped, getting started up again would be pretty jerky and test your balance. Kristine’s donkey lead the way the whole time, and for a while she was so far ahead that I couldn’t get any pictures of her. My donkey started off slow but ended up catching up and finishing in third (of the 20 or so people that went up in our group).
We made it safely to the top. We both agreed that it was the best 5 euros we have spent this entire trip.
S3Top_.jpg
Here’s the view down below of the steps (as well as a view of what a pergola is actually for!)
S3Steps.jpg

We didn’t feel like spending a lot of money on dinner, so we decided to grab food on the street. Kristine went back to McGregors for another gyro, but I steered clear of their kebabs and went to another place down the street for a couple kebabs, which were extremely good this time.
S3Gyro.jpg
The place that I got my kebabs was one of many places where the advertised serving grilled fish that was literally just a grilled fish on a plate. I guess you have to skin it yourself? (See top right)
90_S3Fish.jpg
Across the street was another kind of fish, which we had heard about but never seen. It was a spa where you put your hands or feet in a bowl of water and little fishes nibble at the dead skin.
S3DrFish.jpg

Since it was our last night in Greece and we still had not eaten moussaka, we went back to Fanari for a moussaka and a good excuse to get front row seats for another beautiful Santorini sunset.
S3Sunset.jpg
Moussaka is essentially like Greek lasagna with minced meat and cheeses, but instead of layers of pasta, they use eggplant.
90_S3Mousakka.jpg
It was pretty good, but extremely dense. I’m glad that we shared it.
S3MousakaEaten.jpg
After I asked for the check, I remembered the Vinsanto that we had been served with our check our last time at Fanari and got a bit nervous. To my surprise, this time our free gift was honeydew!! I always say that 11 months out of the year at home, honeydew is awful, but during that one month it’s delicious.
90_S3Honeydew.jpg
Well this honeydew was some of the juiciest, most flavorful honeydew I have ever had.

After dinner, I took as many pictures as I could manage before Kristine got impatient ☺. Here is Fira at dusk,
S3FiraDusk.jpg
and a cool one of Kristine walking through Fira on our way home.
S3SteenyDusk.jpg
Once we got home, we made up some tea and played more 500 Rummy. As we sat down, I remembered that Dickey was pitching tonight. Then I looked at the clock…8pm, which is 1pm at home. It was a Saturday, so there was a chance that the Mets were playing a 1pm day game. Kristine was on the computer at the time and I mentioned it to her. She excitedly checked and sure enough, the game was just starting. The timing could not have been more perfect. At first we were following along online, and then I tried to find a live stream of the game. Often times, these are hard to find in the US, but I was able to find one in Greece no problem. While we played cards, we watched Dickey go eight scoreless innings, then almost blow the lead when he let 2 runners on and the relief pitcher gave up a 3-run homerun to the next batter he faced. The Mets somehow hung on, and Dickey earned his 19th win, with two starts left to try to get to 20 wins and a Cy Young! As we were watching the live stream of the game, one of the ads that popped up said:
S3Mets.png
which we both got a kick out of. I got back in the win column in 500 Rummy, then we packed up in preparation for our long day of travel tomorrow. I actually somehow managed to pack more efficiently than my original packing job, fitting everything into my backpack including the few things we have picked up. We’ll be up at 5am tomorrow to catch our 7am ferry. While Kristine was showering, I started to plan out a reasonable walking path for our first day in Istanbul. For day two, we may end up buying a ticket for a Hop-On/Hop-Off bus so that we can make sure we see everything we want to see in our short stay. While I showered, Kristine wrote down directions from the airport to our hotel.

Next stop, Istanbul!I'm not sure whether how we'll adjust back to the hustle and bustle of sightseeing and city life after all this time relaxing on Santorini, but we'll soon find out!

Posted by atbrady 09:20 Archived in Greece Tagged mets greece volcano ride santorini donkey fira caldera gyro moussaka nea kameni Comments (2)

We Rented a Motorbike!

Day 2 in Santorini!

sunny 80 °F

This morning I woke up early to figure out where in the world we are going to go after Santorini. Since it is so last minute, most flights are astronomically expensive, so I essentially looked at what place would be the cheapest to visit on our way to Amsterdam. After looking at a mind-numbing number of combinations of flights from Santorini or Athens (we would have to take another ferry back if we were leaving from Athens) to probably a dozen European cities and then flights from those cities to Amsterdam, on a variety of different days, Istanbul emerged as the clear favorite. With direct flights from Athens to Istanbul and Istanbul to Amsterdam, it would save hundreds of dollars over the next cheapest cities. Also, when we had mentioned Istanbul as a possible destination in between Greece and Egypt in our original itinerary, we had rave reviews from everyone we spoke with. Also, the cheapest days to make the trip ended up being Sunday (Athens to Istanbul) and Wednesday (Istanbul to Amsterdam), which gave us an extra day in Santorini!

When Kristine woke up, I showed her the options and she agreed that Istanbul was best. I started cooking breakfast and she went down to pay for an extra night in Santorini. We even booked a hostel (private room but shared bath) in Istanbul, so we actually know where we’ll be sleeping the next four nights which qualifies us as planners compared to how we usually travel.
90_S2Breakfast.jpg
Once we had breakfast, I was beyond excited to go rent our motorbike for the day. After paying just 12 euros and passing a quick drivers test (“You have license? You can drive? OK), we more than half-filled the gas tank (5 euros!!!) and hit the open road!
S2MotorbikeRiding.jpg
It blew my mind that for the equivalent of 20 bucks, we were set on transportation for the next 24 hours. No wonder so many people drive these things around Europe!

The free map from the hotel wasn’t especially detailed, so we stopped to buy a map and found that it had little additional information from our hotel map. Essentially, there just aren’t that many roads on Santorini! Despite the fact that she hates motorcycles because they are too dangerous, Kristine has always wanted a Vespa. We were essentially riding a Vespa, but she didn’t feel too comfortable or safe, so at one point we were going to head home so that she could catch the bus to the wineries we wanted to go to and I would follow in the motorbike. However, on the way home, we passed the winery that our hotel owner had highly recommended, Santo Wines. The view was pretty spectacular. Kristine was wearing her pretty new dress!
S2SantoView.jpg
The had tours every hour and we had just missed it, so we instead sat down for a wine tasting and cheese platter.
S2WineTasting.jpg
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to pick our wines, so we ended up with a few sweet ones and the final wine was Vinsanto, which Santorini is famous for and was the mystery drink we had been served at dinner last night. It was nice to have a chance to taste with cheeses and olives and there was even some tomato paste, which was an interesting flavor to mix with our wine and snacks.

When it hit 2pm, it was time for our tour. Santo Winery was constructed in levels to match the slope of the hill/cliff that it was built on and also to take advantage of gravity in the winemaking process. On the first level, we saw where the grapes were brought in and the machine that de-stems them. Next was a line of machines where the grapes were crushed. Essentially a giant balloon inside the machine expands to crush the grapes and extract the juice, without crushing the seeds, which would make the wine bitter. On the 3rd level were storage tanks where the wine sits long enough to let the heavy sediments sink to the bottom.
S2WineTour.jpg
All along the way, they are able to use gravity to move along in the process to avoid using pumps and agitating the wine. On the 4th level was the fermentation room followed by the storage room and finally the barrel storage for the wines that will be stored in oak barrels. Here’s our tour guide in the oak barrel storage room.
S2TourGuide.jpg
She explained that Greece cannot grow oak trees, so they must import them from France or Canada. Nothing is wasted at the winery…the stems, seeds and sediments that are extracted to make the wine end up being used in fertilizers and sometimes liquors. Even the roof gets used both to sun dry grapes for sweet wines like vinsanto and also to collect rainwater (since it’s freshest water source on the island-maybe that’s why their tap water tastes awful??). Also, the baskets/wreaths you can see in this picture
S2StorageRoom.jpg
are from actual vines. You will not see any traditional vines being held up on Santorini because the wind is so strong that it would damage the vines and blow sand particles hard enough to puncture the skin of the grapes. Instead, grape growers on the island long ago figured out that they must weave the vines into these basket shapes by hand as they grow, so that the vines and leaves protect the grapes and keep them low to the ground.

After our tour, Kristine was feeling brave (this may or may not have been wine induced) and decided that she would ride with me to Akrotiri, an ancient town that was discovered on Santorini, which had been highly recommended to us. On the way, we stopped at several unbelievable vistas for pictures.
S2SteenRiding.jpg
We named our motorbike Pyrgos (the name of a town on Santorini), because Kristine had way too much fun saying it in an accent.
S2MotorbikeArtsy.jpg

The excavated ruins of Akrotiri have actually been built into a giant building that surrounds and protects them. The town was destroyed by earthquake and rebuilt twice before being destroyed a third time. During the third rebuilding, the volcano erupted, freezing the town in time. It is incredible to walk along the streets of this ancient town that has been so well preserved.
S2Acrotiri.jpg
Unfortunately, as is the theme with much of Greece, there wasn’t much signage to explain what we were looking at. Some of this is due to the fact that it is still being excavated and explored, but some additional information would have been quite interesting.

The volcanic beginnings of Santorini have blessed it with both black and red sand beaches, which we had heard about ever since we arrived on the island. When we pulled in to Akrotiri, we noticed that the Red Sand Beach was just down the street, so that was our next stop. Our tiny motorbike provided us the opportunity for a great parking spot, then there was a short hike to get to the beach. Kristine probably wasn’t happy with the additional hiking, but you couldn’t complain about the view along the way.
S2RedSandView.jpg
The sand was a deep red color, and close inspection showed that about half of the sand particles were red and the other half were black.
S2RedSand.jpg
There were a handful of doors built into the walls of the cliff that were presumably for changing, but we weren’t too sure about them, so I instead changed into my bathing suit behind some kind of makeshift barrier of fabric. Kristine didn’t feel like swimming and went to sit down on one of the hundred or so lounge chairs lined up on the beach. Almost immediately, a man came over and asked for 7 euros each. Needless to say, we got out of those chairs pretty quickly. It was pretty strange however, because the beach looked to be a public beach, and yet almost every inch of it was covered by this random Greek’s beach chairs. It was all a bit odd. Since Kristine had to stand, I just took a quick dip. The water had to be the saltiest I had ever been in. I could immediately feel it drying out my lips. Nonetheless it was warm and enjoyable.

After drying off, we headed for home. On the way, we saw another vineyard and decided to stop. We were able to do another tasting, and Kristine wanted to try some tomato balls, but the chef had just left for the day. The owner felt bad and gave us a free cheese plate with (more olives and tomato paste). We essentially subsisted on a diet of wine and cheese for lunch throughout the day.
S2Boutari.jpg
Also, both wineries served bread that looked great but was hard as a rock.
90_S2CrapBread.jpg

We then had an hour or so to kill before sunset, so we went back home to get changed and play a few hands of 500 Rummy. Kristine had been wearing her new dress all day, so she put on her new necklace to match and I finally got some use out of the button down I packed and we headed out to catch the sunset and grab dinner. As we walked the two blocks to the caldera, there seemed to be a lot of people walking in the opposite direction and I got the sinking feeling that we had missed the sunset-sacrilege on Santorini. Sure enough, we must have missed it by less than 2 minutes. Dusk was still pretty remarkable though…
S2Dusk.jpg
Although we had set out for a fancy dinner to match our fancy outfits, Kristine was intent on a gyro and all of the menus of the fancy restaurants that we passed did not serve them. So, we ended up going to McDaniels (Irish Pub in Greece?), where Kristine grabbed a gyro and I had souvlaki kebabs.
90_S2McDaniels.jpg
Although she’s not usually a fan of french fries, gyros here have a few french fries in them and she loves that them because taste “more potatoey” than at home. My kebabs on the other hand looked to have been sitting around all day before being slathered in oil and reheated on the grill for me. Nonetheless, it was cheap eats after a string of expensive restaurants over the past few days. We were also out late enough to admire Fira by night.
S2FiraNight.jpg

On the way home, we needed a few groceries for our extra day in Santorini and we had a few bizarre experiences trying to buy shop. We needed a piece of fruit and some eggs and figured that we would stop at the market we pass on our way home. In walking by over the past few days, I had noticed that their produce didn’t look especially fresh so I picked up and put back down a few peaches that had been strategically placed to conceal the rotting on their underside. On probably the fourth peach I picked up, I found a fresh one and it was a good thing because the instant I picked it up, the shopkeeper grabbed it from my hand, weighed it and told me the price. Clearly he didn’t like me inspecting his produce. Also, he didn’t have any eggs so we had to go up the street to another market. It was a small store, so I made a walk through and didn’t see eggs. On the way out, I asked the owner/cashier if he had any eggs and he yelled something to his friend, who went to find them. I’ve only seen eggs in half dozen packs here and this was no different, except for the fact that there was only five eggs inside. When the friend gave the owner the eggs, the owner casually told me that there was only five eggs and then proceeded to ring up the sale. Being the demanding customer that I am, I insisted on six eggs, so he yelled something to his friend who went in the back and came out with one egg to add to my pack. It was all very strange.

At long last, we headed home. I was still hungry after just a few kebabs, so I made us a tomato and cucumber salad with feta that we munched on while finishing up our game of 500 Rummy. My winning streak continued and this time I won in gin as well. Obviously, she insisted on another game and this time she crushed me in Rummy but I won gin. We finished the night by looking up the top things to do in Istanbul. I’m doubtful that we’ll be able to find Arthur’s book on Istanbul in the airport or around the city, and Istanbul isn’t in Europe so it’s not in our original Arthur book, so this will be the first city we do without a guidebook. It should be interesting. We definitely want to go to the Grand Bazaar, take a ride on the Bosphorus ferry, walk along the walls of Constantinople and get a view from Galata Tower. Kristine is also excited to see a few palaces, especially the Dolmabance Palace and it’s crystal staircase. The hard part is that we don’t have any daily itineraries from Arthur so it’s going to take some planning to group together attractions that are close together to make the most of our two full days there.

Posted by atbrady 09:03 Archived in Greece Tagged greece sand red santorini tour wine winery santo fira thira boutari pyrgos vinsanto Comments (1)

First Day in Santorini!

Finally made it to the Islands!

sunny 87 °F

I woke up early this morning to get groceries for breakfast and a few lunches over the next few days. After having a kitchenette in Tolo, I was a strong proponent for finding another hotel with a kitchenette. Not only does it save us a lot of time and money in the morning, but we’re also actually able to start the day on a full stomach. I’m all for getting in to the culture and trying their food, but “toast” and tea was not going to cut it. After getting groceries and going for a walk around the town, I headed back around 10am and Kristine was just waking up, so I made us omelets. Here’s our hotel in the daylight:
90_S1Studios.jpg
As we were eating on our front porch, the owner told us that our new room was ready whenever we were, so we finished up and moved our things. It turns out that the move was more than worth it. Our new kitchenette has a cute little table
S1NewRoomKitchen.jpg
and we now have our own balcony!
90_S1NewRoomBalcony.jpg
The “stoves” that we have are minimalistic, but they get the job done:
S1Kitchenette.jpg
There is one burner for cooking and another for heating up a mini teapot that is the perfect size for two cups of tea! What more could you ask for?

The islands of Santorini were once a volcano that has since collapsed in on itself. Santorini (traditionally called Thira) now makes up an arc that was once the rim of the volcano, while Thirasa on the opposite side also remains from the rim. In between the two are a few small islands that are the only remaining parts of the volcano’s center, which remain above water. The rim of Santorini is known as the Caldera, and I had learned from Arthur that there was a 6 ¼ mile path along the Caldera from Fira (roughly in the center of the arc of Santorini) to Oia at the northern tip. Santorini is more of a vacation island, with fewer museums and cultural sites, and instead picturesque views all around. So, I figured what better way to spend our first day that to see all that there is to see on the Caldera Path? We embarked on our journey in Fira, passing shops and restaurants along the way.
S1WalkBeg.jpg
Far in the distance you can see Oia, our intended destination:
S1WalkDestination.jpg
For the next few hours, we just kept walking. There isn’t much to say that can’t be better described in pictures of the amazing views…
S1Walk.jpg
S1Kriswalking.jpg
…and buildings full of character at every turn…
S1WalkCharacter.jpg
S1WalkFlowers.jpg

Eventually, we reached the outskirts of town and an already hilly hike became more like climbing a desolate mountain.
S1Desolate.jpg
At this point, we thought about turning back, but Kristine knew how much I wanted to make it to Oia and was a trooper. We essentially climbed up and down 3 barren mountains in the range on the way to Oia. The path was far more than 6 ¼ miles. We later learned that the bay was 6 ¼ miles, and therefore the winding trails up and down mountains totaled far more distance. Finally, we reached the peak of the final mountain and could see civilization again!
S1WalkCivilization.jpg
It’s all downhill to Oia from here!
S1AllDownhill.jpg
Oia is noted as THE destination to watch the sunset, but it was only about 3 o’clock so we took a bus back to Fira.

We walked around the many shops on the Caldera in Fira and Kristine ended up buying a few bracelets and a beautiful scarf/necklace that will go well with the dress I bought her in Olympia. We then set out to find a restaurant to sit and watch the sunset (there were far too many amazing choices). Eventually we settled on Finari, where we started off with a Greek Salad and a Tomato and Cucumber salad, then Kristine had chicken pasta with some kind of Pepper Feta sauce (I was very proud of her for trying new things) which she loved! We were far too early for sunset, and instead decided to do as the Greeks do and relax at our table for an hour or two. The sunset did not disappoint.
S1Sunset.jpg

After sunset, we finally requested our check and our waiter brought along 2 small shots with the bill. We weren’t exactly sure what he called it, but it was some kind of dessert wine and neither of us were huge fans.
90_S1Shots.jpg
Kristine ended up downing hers then most of mine because she felt guilty not finishing our gift. We then went home for tea and cards, where again I won 500 Rummy and Kristine again won a best of 3 of gin. We took showers and assessed the damage from our hours in the sun. Since we had not expected the walk to take so long, we had not bought sunscreen and we’re nervous to see if we’ll look like lobsters tomorrow. We have some pretty interesting tan lines:
S2Tanline.jpg
I also have a pretty nasty tan line from my sunglasses and Kristine has one across her chest from her purse strap. Further complicating the situation is that we were walking north all day long, so the left sides of our bodies are noticeably darker than the left. During the walk, my Sperrys continued to fall apart. The front half of the sole is now separated from the shoe, which effectively worked as a shovel during our entire walk, scooping up rocks into my shoe with every step.
S2Shoes.jpg
Sadly, after four years and two Eurotrips, I’m going to have to retire them once we get home. Tomorrow, were renting a motorbike!!! There are no words to describe how excited I am!

Posted by atbrady 08:59 Archived in Greece Tagged walk santorini oia fira thira caldera Comments (1)

Getting to Studios Markakis on Santorini!

An adventure in the dark!

sunny 75 °F

On the ferry, I continued my 500 Rummy winning streak, though Kristine won a best of 3 games of Gin. We ate better on the ferry than anywhere else during the trip. While relatively expensive according to normal standards, the food on the ferry was dirt cheap compared to where we had been eating and I was more full than I have been since we left home.
SDinnerOnBoard.jpg
When we got off the ferry, there were several people waiting to give taxi rides or book you in their hotel. We asked one of the hotel salesman how to get to Fira, he said to take the local bus, and Kristine confidently got onto a bus (more coach bus than public transportation bus) and sat down. There was only 2 other people on the bus and we started moving almost immediately after we had sat down, before having paid a cent or confirming that this bus was in fact going to Fira. After zig-zagging up the steepest of slopes and driving through the darkness, the bus eventually stopped and we got off. Luckily, it ended up being less than two euros each. As we paid, we asked where Fira was and got a hastily pointed finger down the road. This was looking like bad news.

After we wandered in the general direction the bus driver had pointed, we stopped at a shop to ask for directions. The shopkeeper didn’t know anything about Hotel Markakis, but directed us to a travel agency a few doors down. The travel agent ended up being quite nice and told us fairly solid directions up until the point where she said to turn down the alley toward the hotel after a small market. Not feeling too confident, we headed off down the hill, took a left and looked for a small market. To our relief, we found the market and a sign for the hotel without much trouble. That was wayyy too easy. The owner/receptionist at the hotel is incredibly nice and showed us to our room. He was embarrassed to admit that he had made an error in the reservation and apologized repeatedly that we would have to switch rooms tomorrow morning. It wasn’t all that big of a deal, because we jumped in bed and crashed, keeping as much as possible in our backpacks to make for an easy move tomorrow.

Posted by atbrady 08:57 Archived in Greece Tagged greece athens santorini ferry piraeus Comments (1)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 65) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 .. »