Friday, 30 September 2011

Santorini Icon

Photo: The blue roof of the Greek Orthodox churches, set against the white of almot everything else make for some great photos - but it's difficult to get a good angle. Lots of power lines everywhere!

Day 42: Santorini

The day started with a relaxed breakfast on our terrace overlooking the caldera. Pretty hard to take, but somebody’s got to try to help the Greek economy. We’re doing our bit to help. After breakfast we walked to Imerovigli, the next village to the north. We caught the bus back to Fira (the biggest village and the one south of us) and caught the cable car to the Old Port. We had a huge lunch of fresh calamari then headed up the hill again. The kids rode a mule, while Carol and I walked up – a vertical climb of about 250m. The idea was to get the kids on the mule, then get ahead of them to get a photo. Hmmm. As soon as they were on the mule it was off up the hill. There was no way we were going to get ahead of them. So much for a photo opportunity.
When we got back we cooled off in the tiny pool before catching the local bus to Ia, the town at the northwestern tip of the island, to watch the sunset. The sunset wasn’t spectacular (not enough cloud) but the soft light on the buildings made for some nice photos (I hope – haven’t checked them yet).
Finally back to Firaotephani (our village) for pizza and bed.

Thursday, 29 September 2011


Photo: Santorini

Day 41: Athens to Santorini

Today was an early start to catch the ‘ferry’ to Santorini. We were informed yesterday that our fast cat ferry  wasn’t running, so we were put on the slower boat. Turns out the slow boat was a ship similar in size to the one we caught from Italy to Greece. After a 7 hour trip we were on Santorini heading for our accommodation. What a spectacular place. The side of the island facing the caldera is exactly as you see it in the travel brochures. I’m sure the camera will be working overtime for the next few days. We had a quick swim in the smallest pool I’ve seen, then a wander to the main town on the island, Fira. Dinner was at a tiny restaurant next door to the hotel. One of the best meals we’ve had. Tomorrow will be a bit of exploring and maybe a donkey ride!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Pompom Guards

Photo: Changing of the guard at parliament house.

Day 40: Athens

It turned out being a quiet night in Athens – at least in our neighbourhood. The street below our window was the site of an arrest or two, but nothing serious from what we could see from our room.
We had a bit of a sleep in today, then a walk to the Acropolis. It was really busy, but fascinating to see. In some areas there was maintenance and repairs happening and in other areas there was active archeology digs. I was going to make a joke about it still being a worksite after 4000 years, but then we were talking to a shop keeper who told us that some people have actually asked her when it was going to be finished – and they were serious.
After the Acropolis we had a coffee break at the best bakery ever, then down to Monastiraki Square to check out the shops. We then went up to parliament house just in time to catch the changing of the pompom toed guards. Strange! After that we headed round the corner of parliament house to where a line of riot police were protecting a side entrance. As we stood there, the police all put helmets on and were looking like something serious was about to happen. A few seconds later hundreds of motorbikes passed the end of the street, making lots of noise, lots of flag waving, horn beeping and gesturing at the police. Luckily, the bikes continued without turning into the street where the police (and us) were.
We just happened to walk past the oldest public school in Athens. To our surprise, the kids school (Cambewarra Public, established 1860 ) is older than the oldest public school in Athens (1875)!
In the afternoon we rearranged bags so that we don’t need to take all our bags to Santorini. Tomorrow we have an early start for the long boat trip.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Photo: Trinity Monastery, Meteora

Day 39: Meteora

What an amazing place. 16th Century monasteries sitting atop rocky outcrops hundred of metres above the village below. The chapels in the monasteries were quite stunning with their Byzantine art, but the location was the attraction. We visited two of the 6 surviving monasteries, St Stephen’s and St Barbara’s. Early in the 20th century there were 24 monasteries, but most were abandoned during the 2nd world war.
After leaving the Meteora area it was time to head back to Athens. On the way back we heard there was to be a general strike tomorrow – no buses, tube or taxis. It won’t affect us; we’re planning a quiet day and a walk to the acropolis. Outside the hotel, near Syntagma Square, there are lots of police, including riot squads and it’s quite noisy on the street. Again, we don’t feel any danger, but if anything happens we’ll be right here to see it. As I type (10:40pm) noises from the street gets loud for a few minutes, then becomes quiet for a few. It could be an interesting night.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Charioteer, Delphi

Photo: The charioteer, Delphi. This is a bronze statue from 474BC. The amazing part is that it has ceramic eyes and eyelashes. He seems to look at you.

Day 38: Delphi to Meteora

The day started with a short drive to the Delphi Museum. The museum houses the many artifacts found during the excavation of the Delphi site, and includes many impressive pieces, mostly from 600 - 400BC. The archeological site itself was again very interesting, but again, without a guide would have just been a pile of rocks. The location of the site in the mountains amazed me. Why here in such an unforgiving environment? The effort that these ancient people went to in the name of politics and religion is incredible.
Also in Delphi was an olive tree believed to be between 600 and 1000 years old – and still bearing fruit. Apparently olive trees can live indefinitely as long as they’re not burnt, and continue bearing fruit for their whole life. It took a chain of 7 people with outstretched arms to encircle the tree.
After we left Delphi we had a longish drive to Meteora, with a few stops, including a stop at a site commemorating the Trojan wars which just happened to have a geocache hidden.  The roads through the mountains in Greece are spectacular. Greece is a much more mountainous country than I was expecting with many hillside villages. As we approached Meteora we crossed a wide plain – the flattest area we’ve seen so far, then the rocks of Meteora rose in front of us. I can’t wait to get amongst it tomorrow when we visit the monasteries.

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Photo: Hermes

Day 37: Olympia to Delphi

The day started with a tour of the Olympia Museum and the Olympia Archaeological site. This is definitely a place where a guide makes all the difference. Working out your Zeus from your Apollo, Nike from Athena would be tricky if not for an explanation of what you’re looking at.
At the archaeological site our guide, Meletsa, organized an official Olympic race in the original stadium. Lachlan won the race and was awarded the wreath of olive leaves in an ancient ceremony as his reward. We also managed to find a geocache nearby – our first in Greece.
After we left Olympia we headed north, back through Patra (where the ferry came in a few days ago), over the iconic Rio bridge, and on toward Delphi. The road follows the north side of the Bay of Corinth, and then rises sharply as you approach Delphi. The scenery in this area is spectacular – both along the bay and as you climb. Delphi is only a small town, perched on the edge of a mountain with a ski field just above and the bay just below, with huge areas of olive grove in between. I didn’t realize there were ski fields in Greece (just like many of the people we have spoken to didn’t know there were ski fields in Australia).