Saturday, December 1, 2012

Greece Part One!

When we got back from the U.S. we started talking about where we wanted to go on our next trip. I have been wanting to go to Greece after seeing it in movies such as Mama Mia and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  After doing some research we realized we better go soon if we were going to go. After October, the Cyclades shut down for the winter.  We wanted to go when it was still warm and so we knew we had to plan something really quickly. We had both been wanting a nice relaxing vacation since usually when you travel it is anything but relaxing. We still didn't relax as much as we would have hoped. A lot of your time is eaten up by travel and there is so much to see and explore, but it was a great of our absolute favorites so far!

 Unfortunately it takes a little work to get to the Cyclades. We had to fly from Geneva to Athens, spend the night in Athens, then fly from Athens to Mykonos, and take a ferry to bliss Santorini. We got into Athens close to midnight  and had a 30 minute cab ride to our hotel.   Since our stops in Athens and Mykonos were so short  due to the ferry and flight availability we didn't think we would get the opportunity to see any of the main tourist attractions while we were there. When we got to the hotel that night we looked up the opening time of the Acropolis just to see if by chance it would be open early. It was, and we were able to run over and see the Parthenon early in the morning. We had just enough time to see it and snap some pictures and run back to our hotel to catch a taxi to the airport.

We were also presently surprised when we  woke up in the morning and saw the Acropolis from our hotel balcony!

The Acropolis-from our hotel balcony

On the way to the Acropolis we realized we were being followed by a pack of dogs. We didn't know whose they were or why we were being followed. It didn't bother us.. we love dogs but we were super curious as to what they were all doing. It gives you one of those..."I'm in another country being followed by a pack of dogs..I'm not really sure what to think" feelings. When we got to the top of the Acropolis there were a ton more. We overheard a tour guide explaining to people that they take all the stray dogs and get them fixed and then everyone on the streets feeds them and takes care of them. So expect to see plenty of wondering dogs. It wasn't a problem. They were extremely well behaved...just wanting us to give them food.

Theatre of Herodes Atticus

The stones and the steps leading up to and in the Acropolis were super slick even though it was a gorgeous sunny day! The years of people walking on them has worn them down and made them slick. Take it from me and even if it's hot wear tennis shoes! I learned the hard way!

The back side of Propylaia (the entrance into the Acropolis)

They were doing a little restoration on the Parthenon

The view from the Acropolis
The Parthenon
The Porch of the Caryatids

We were thrilled that we were able to see the Parthenon. They started building it in 447 BC and finished it  9 years later in 438 BC. It was primarily built to house the statue of Athena but has also been used for a church, a mosque, and an arsenal. It was beautiful and so was the view. It was amazing to see something that is still standing after being built so many years ago. What a history it has!!

Our flight to Mykonos was only about 20 minutes!! It takes you up high enough to get a great view and before you know it you are back on the ground!!

Mykonos Airport!
It was super windy that day in Mykonos!

We ate lunch at a cute little restaurant right on the water. David pointed this man out to me who was sitting in the corner with his fisherman hat on and smoking a pipe. David was saying that's exactly what you would think a guy from Greece would look like. It's exactly what you see in pictures. Later we realized this was Kavos himself. The man who the restaurant was named after! Maybe he was the owner too...never did find out!

Love the windmills!!

After spending a couple of hours in Mykonos we caught the ferry to Santorini!!  It took about 3 1/2 hours to get there. We stayed in the town of Imerovigli and made it to our hotel just in time to see our first  sunset in Greece over the caldera!

Santorini used to be a circular volcanic island until it erupted in 1450 BC. When it erupted, it left a huge crater or caldera in the center. The eruption created a tidal wave that ended up devastating the nearby island of Crete.

Our hotel was in Imerovigli. We were in between Fira and Oia which worked out perfectly for us. We can't say enough great things about the hotel we stayed at. It was gorgeous and clean and private. It had an amazing view of the caldera. It also had some of the best food on the island. There were only 9 rooms total so everyone working new you by name. We researched and researched where we wanted to stay. There was  a lot to think about as far as location, services offered and I really had my heart set on a traditional Greek looking hotel.  We knew we wanted to relax by a pool and that can sometimes be a problem in Greece. We were told that large pools are hard to come by due to the fact that there is no natural source of fresh natural water. We were told that some places still have to have water brought in from another island. I'm not sure how accurate all of that is but it's hard to find a hotel with a large enough pool where there is enough room for all of the guests to be relaxing at the same time. This was a constant complaint on Travelocity.  So we finally found the perfect place and really enjoyed it!!

The next morning we were excited and ready to start the day early. We had breakfast on our patio and did a little exploring. Please excuse the no makeup and the fact that we hadn't showered or had run a brush through our hair..don't judge! We weren't planning on going so far but everything was so gorgeous. We walked and walked until we decided we should turn around and head back to the hotel to get ready. Little did we know we had already walked halfway to Fira, or Thira which is the city where we had already planned on visiting that day.  

 Our hotel

 So we went back to the hotel to get ready and headed back to Fira for the day! Fira had been devastated by an earthquake back in 1956. They have carefully rebuilt it into the volcanic cliffs.  There were tons of domed churches and barrel-roofed cave houses. The white washed buildings and cobble stoned streets make it picturesque.
It took about 30 minutes to walk from our hotel to Fira. It's a gorgeous walk along the terraces of the volcanic cliffs.

Doing a little shopping!
Having some lunch and enjoying the views!

Okay, so I got it in my head that one of the main things that we had to do in Fira was to take the traditional donkey ride down to the port and back up. I've seen this done in several movies and so I had been telling David that we absolutely had to do it.  They now have cable cars that will bring people up the hill but they keep the donkeys for the people who want to to experience how it was done years ago. At this point in the day, it was already incredibly hot. There was a huge difference between the morning temperatures which were pretty chilly and the afternoon temperatures. The sun was beating down on us and there wasn't a very strong breeze. I started questioning whether or not I wanted to do it. Probably should have gone with my gut on this one. They told us it would only take about 10 minutes to ride the donkeys down to the port. So we figured....why not?! How many times are you in Greece after all.

While it was quite the experience and i'm glad we did it and can now laugh about it,  it was pretty terrifying.  It was one of those things that sounded better in my head and was much more glamorous in the movies than when it actually happened. Not only was it incredibly hot and smelly, but the donkeys kept sliding on the steep steps. We had a guide that led us and then David's donkey was tied to his and mine was tied to David's.  I kept watching as their donkeys were slipping and sliding all over the cobblestone steps that had been worn down from their hoofs over the years. The railings on the side were low so I kept picturing our donkeys falling and throwing us over the ledge. I couldn't see David's face but I knew he was going to kill me when we got off of there for getting him into that mess!! David had the camera and since we were both holding on for dear life it was a little hard to get pictures. I think it ended up taking about 20 minutes to get to the bottom and it was probably the longest 20 minutes of our lives. Once we got to the bottom there was no way I was going to come back up the same way so we decided to take the cable car. I would have walked the entire 580 steps to get back to the top if that was the only other option. I definitely think it would have been better if we had come up the hill rather than down.  I'm still glad we did it!! We won't ever forget it. Every time I have a great idea now David loves to remind me about the time I made him ride the donkeys in Greece.

You can see how steep it was going down. I think coming back up would have been a little less terrifying!

People coming up the hill! One of the kids was screaming and crying cause he was so scared!

Looking back up at Thira once we got to the bottom!!

Have you ever heard of the Kissing Fish?  I had seen someone do it on t.v. before. You put your feet in a tank that has some type of little fish in them. The fish nibble all of the dead skin off of your feet!! We almost tried it for fun but the idea just freaked us out!!
We took pictures of these people doing it instead!

Little restaurant where we had an amazing view of the sunset and some great food!!

Sunset in Fira!

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