Thursday, May 31, 2007

A little more of Italy and then GREECE has been a long time since we updated this so settle in for a recap of the last 20 days!

So Rome was...well, Rome in all its scaffolded, spray painted glory, we left Rome and headed to Sorrento after deciding that we needed a break and a slower pace after the craziness that is Rome so we skipped Naples and headed for the Amalfi coast straight away. Very beautiful, very small towns, we found a restaurant with very cheap but very good food and spent the day on rented beach chairs on what were suppose to be on a beach but was actually on a cement pier but it was perfect none the less. We went to Pompeii and while it was fascinating that such a large, developed city (including brothels, with picture menus) existed over 2000 years ago it was very big and tiring, after walking around Pompeii for four hours we were exhausted and headed back for relaxing beach time. After the most expensive train ride, even though we have a rail pass we had to pay for a reservation fee, was over an hour late we took a taxi that most contestants on the Amazing Race would be glad to have but we were a bit scared by, to the ferry just in time to catch the overnight ferry to Greece. We landed in Igoumensita and after forgetting or never realising that there is a time change between Italy and Greece missed our bus that we waited for three hours for and had to wait another three hours for, changed buses and then finally got to Kalambaka, found a funny old man to let us a room (Totty) and settled in for a couple of days to explore the monasteries in the skies. Meteora is beautiful, we took the bus up in the morning to the largest monastery and luckily they had skirts and pants on loan for the foreigners who didn't know the no shorts and only skirts for girls rules. There are six monasteries we went too, although only the first provided the necessary clothing we were missing so we just gazed at them from afar which is fine as they are very beautiful from farther away and a lot less stairs to climb this way. Had lunch after a hike on one of the rocks that touch the sky - the rocks are so cool, you are driving through the Greece country side thinking there is no way that this is the place from the photos and then you turn the corner and see these large rocks jutting up from the earth just like God put them there, which is why they think they are so special, although the technical reason is that the area used to be a river basin and eventually drained and left these rocks there. A monk came here to escape some persecution and out of devotion, or more likely, boredom hauled rocks up onto the rocks and built a monastery, the others followed.

After Meteora we had a travel day literally - we spent the WHOLE day on the train trying to get to Monemvasia but finally got off in Olympia after we realized the ridiculous way that the people at the train station had sent us and at the pace of Greek trains we never would have made it to Monemvasia that day. Olympia was nice, found a really cheap and very uncomfortable hostel, it rained the next day when we went to see the Museum and Ancient Olympia where the first Olympics were held. But it was International Museum day so we got in free! And managed to see everything before the rain really started to come down. Then we caught another bus and continued our quest to find Monemvasia. We finally arrived there after three bus changes and in the rain at 10pm, but luck was with us and as per Denis's de ja vue we found a nice place without getting wet right next to where the bus dropped us! The next day the rain finally stopped and the little town of Monemvasia is amazingly beautiful and has a charming old feeling. You have to walk through a little tunnel to get in, no cars, no scooters, no buses, just tourists and souvenir shops but the ruins were spectacular and the view was even better. After storming the castle for a few hours we ate a well over priced lunch and headed off for Nafplio. Unfortunately the Greece bus system does not plan farther ahead than one stop so we got from Monemvasia to Tripolia thinking that there would be a connecting bus to Nafplio but there wasn't so we found another bus station and went to Athens, reluctantly deciding to skip Nafplio.

We arrived in Athens and again it was raining, we found the subway and sought out the hotels in the LP, as we had not known we were coming we hadn't made any reservation, and as every hotel we went to explained to us the Champions soccer final was in Athens in a couple of days and the city was filled with Brits and Italians who came to see the soccer game...asa result all the hotels were full too, after two hours we had a bit of luck and stole someones room and at an outrageous price had a well deserved rest. The next day we had to find a new hotel, and went to see the Acropolis and all associated sites, Roman Forum, Ancient Agora (very cool, and very old, looked very authentic), and walked and walked and walked. The next day was MY BIRTHDAY (yes almost all of you missed it!) and Denis took me for a shopping day and we bought a new bathing suit for me, a sarong for the beach and a new pair of sunglasses for the pair Denis had left on some Greek public transportation, and again we were off on the overnight ferry to the island of Santorini.

Santorini was nice, but after sleeping in a chair on the ferry and missing the only bus to the city and sleeping a little more in the departures lounge before finally breaking down and taking a taxi to the town so we could take the bus to our hostel. We found a very cheap hostel that a guy Denis bunked with in the dorm in Olympia told us about, Youth Hostel Anna, 6 euros for a dorm bed or 8 for a bed in a smaller room away from the action of the partiers...still very cheap by European standards. We rented a quad and cruised around the island stopping at all the beaches and stopping to watch the sunset with a bottle of wine! We also took a tour which took us to the volcano, apparently Santorini is the rim of a large underwater volcano which had erupted three times and created an island in the middle which we hiked to the top of for good views, we then stopped at a bay where there are suppose to be hot springs in the ocean, I suppose as a result of the volcano, but as we jumped off the boat and swam to the hot spring it never got hot, barely warm, like a bunch of people all peed in the water cause they were all freezing in water they expected to be "quite shockingly hot" as our guide explained it would be. THEN we rode DONKEYS up a hill...highlight of the trip to a sleepy little town before going to Oia to watch the sunset that never actualized behind a veil of clouds. After a 22 hour ferry ride we arrived in Rhodes which is breath taking on arrival, very medieval, as the old town starts right from the port and you walk off the boat into a walled castle. We stayed at a hotel with a swimming pool, but spent all the time at the beach. Rented a car and went to see the castle in Rhodes town and all the other castles around the island and then went back to the beach and we got eaten by mosquitoes. We have arrived in Symi for two nights and after our first successful hotel bargaining found a hotel and boat taxied to the beach for a whole day in a little bay. Tomorrow we are off to Kos to catch the ferry to Turkey!

Well that's everything in a nutshell, hope you are all doing well, send us a note to tell us whats new with you! Can't wait to hear from you!

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