Travelling around the Greek Islands as a backpacker
Having survived my first, entire, Scottish winter, my sister, Melanie, and close friend, Katie, and I went to Greece for Easter (and the sun) and I quickly fell in love with the place. We flew into Athens late one Saturday afternoon in April and strolled around town for the evening. Sunday morning was taken up by eating strawberries from the market and watching the changing of the guard at the Parliament Building , by the tomb of the unknown soldier
. It was the most elaborate spectacle I have ever seen, much better than Buckingham Palace . A marching band followed by soldiers (in a ridiculous uniform of tights, a pleated skirt and pom poms on their hoes) came along the road. When they were in place the crowd, including us, ran across the road to the square to be closer to the action. Another soldier had to first straighten the original guards uniform before they performed an elaborate, complicated, dance-like change. It was all pretty funny and very Greek.
We spent most of Sunday afternoon at the Acropolis in Athens and my sensitive Scottish skin got sunburnt as I was crawling amongst the ruins and enormous columns of the Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena and the Parthenon. As it was still the off-season most of Athens closed at 3pm and we just missed seeing the Temple of Zeus so we just peeked at the columns through a fence by Hadrian's Arc. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost in the National Gardens .
We'd had enough of Athens by then so took the metro to Preaus and an overnight ferry to Crete . We arrived in Iraklion at 6am , checked into a hostel and napped for a couple of hours. When we woke up we went to the market for more strawberries (it was so good to eat fresh fruit that hadn't been imported) and poked around the Venetian Fortress at the harbour. We tried to spend the afternoon at the beach but the wind turned that into a bit of a farce. Not to mention the digger machines doing god knows what construction type stuff. And it was far too cold to swim.
On Tuesday we made the trip out to Knossos . I helped a little old Greek lady on the bus and she kissed my arm in thanks (she was very short, my shoulder height). I like to think she blessed me. We spent a few hours at the ruins of the Minoan Palace at Knossos . It was huge and would have been very impressive in its day. Then we caught a bus further west to Rethymno, a beachside town in Crete . It was probably my favourite place. Katie and I went on a 7 hour walk in the mountains. Amazing views, hill top churches and we learnt a lot about flowers (if I ever see another orchid it will be too soon!). We also saw some fossils high on the hills, from when Crete was under water, though it's now 8 metres above sea level. It was really great to be out in the hills in rural, provincial areas. My favourite was when we saw a man on a donkey.
We had to get back to Iraklion to catch another ferry the next morning so we tried going to the beach again. It was a farce again. It was freezing cold that day so all we did was have a drink at a little beach side restaurant run by scary Greek Mafia style people. So we got the hell out of there and went back to town. It rained all night for the first time on our holiday so we were pretty happy to be going to Santorini. We only had a day there (ferries are very infrequent out of season) so we hired a car and drove all over the wee island.
Had lunch at the Black Beach and checked out the Red Beach (more pebbles than sand though) but couldn't find the white beach. And neither could anybody else we spoke to. We stopped at Santorini Wines for some wine tasting. It was supposed to be the best but we weren't really impressed with the Greek vino. We drove up to the most northern point, Ia, to watch the sunset. The little town was just like the postcards, with blue and white house on top of blue and white house.
There were lots of jewellery shops to distract us and we helped a funny little woman in a gallery do her window displays. We must have looked like arty chics. We got up the next morning to catch our ferry to Mykonos only to find that strong winds had cancelled it. Having seen everything of the day before we had nothing to do but relax. So we wandered around Fia for a little while then sat and read in the sun. Then a lovely Canadian couple staying in the same hotel offered to take us to the beach in their car. It was our third try for a day at the beach and it was finally a success.
Of sorts. It was too cold to swim and it was pretty windy but the sun had some heat in it so lying down out of the wind was pretty good. Jamie and Amanda also took us back up to Ia with them to watch the sunset again and it was much better than the night before. It was a Saturday night so we hit the nightclubs when we got back to Fira. It was pretty fun, we got a few free drinks and danced on the bar. We were a little hung over the next day but slept on the ferry to Mykonos (I was hoping it would be cancelled again and I would have to stay on Santorini forever and not go back to work). Because of previous cancellation though we only had about 8 hours on Mykonos .
It was a really nice day though and we'd got into the habit of relaxing so we strolled along the winding streets of Mykonos Town and sat on the pier, mesmerised by the water. I climbed up a windmill and got some great views of the island. We had an overnight ferry to get back to Athens which was pure hell as it was late and there were no seats available. We got into Athens at about 6am Monday morning. We got some more strawberries from the market and went to have a look at Olympic Stadium. It was quite impressive looking with its marble bench tiers but was closed. In fact everything was closed on a Monday. So we relaxed and napped in the gardens for a few hours before going out to the airport. We really started to get the hang of the relaxing thing. It was a long trip back to Edinburgh and so much colder than Greece that we almost jumped back on the plane. But I knew I had more holidays to look forward to.