Greece

Athens September 15 – 23, 2016

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Imagine our surprise when our taxi driver dropped us off on this street at 8.30 in the evening!

He said the car was too wide to go up the narrow lane so he left his car blocking the entrance and helped us take our suitcases about 100yrds (90 meters) to our apartment building.  Such a colourful start to our stay in Athens!  Later we saw cars going up and down this lane, so I don’t know what his issue was!

img_1354The following morning we opened our curtains to see this lovely 500 yr old Orthodox church opposite our little balcony.

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Our Airbnb was located in the Monastiraki area of the city, with lots of little shops, bars & restaurants – with great views of the Acropolis from several different spots.

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That first morning we had tickets for a guided tour of the Acropolis, so off we went to climb the hill!

dsc_7686What beautifully preserved seats in the Theater of Dionysos

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Here, we are looking down into the Amphitheater, where concerts are still held (one can rent cushions – I certainly would indulge myself!).

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Athens lay sprawled all around us.  The law states that nothing can be built taller than the Amphitheater, so one does not see really tall buildings

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The midday sun was hot, so our guide did his best to stop under the shade of trees as he explained the rich history we were looking at (sometimes too much information for this brain!)

dsc_7695The Propylaea 437-432 BC

This gives you an idea of the crowds we had to deal with in certain areas!

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But I still thought it was a special place to celebrate my birthday!

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The Caryatid Porch of the  Erechtheum  429-407 BC

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Incredible detail around a doorway on the north wall of the Erechtheum.

dsc_7719Parthenon 447-432 BC

I remember seeing a photo of my Dad (probably taken in the 1960s) standing inside the Parthenon, which is now blocked to the public.  There were lots of cranes and scaffolding up around it when we were there…..

dsc_7704…..of course I was also glad to see that this treasure was being was being maintained for future generations. ( I will add that I think it is time for the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles.  Just my opinion! )

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One of the big thrills for me was to see Mars Hill, where the apostle Paul had preached to the Athenians.

We completed the special day with a nice meal at one of the nearby restaurants.

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 We had heard chants emanating from inside the Orthodox church opposite us, so the following day….

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…..I took the opportunity to pop in and look around.

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It was a beautiful, intimate and sacred space among the chaos of the city.

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Syntagma Square – The Changing of the Guard in front of the Hellenic Parliament.

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We made sure that we went to see the Sunday ceremony which is larger and much more involved. Quite impressive.

Having heard about Greece’s financial situation, I didn’t really know what to expect,  but we both agreed that it looked depressed; the streets were in poor condition and graffiti covered so many of the buildings. Trash/rubbish was often pilled up in the streets.   We could also feel that we were on the doorstep of the Middle East and the aromas and customs reminded us of Asia.

Just before we left England, we heard from our friends in North Carolina, Linda and Gary. They would would be joining us in Greece!  We were SO excited to see them.

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After the hugs we left them to freshen up and take a nap.  During this time, I worked on making plans for our Sydney and Eastern Australian visit.

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Over the next couple days, we wandered around the markets…

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showed them some of the sights,

and visited the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation.

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and enjoyed some of the local food.

……..

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To visit the coastal towns south of Athens, we took a Hop-on-Hop-off bus.

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From the bus we could see over to some of the islands – in a couple of days we would be going to stay on one of them.

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The bus terminated at this lovely beach.

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Exploring the area a little, we found some thermal springs and decided to return the next day.  After supper on the bay, we returned to Athens.

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The following day we returned, armed with our bathing suits.

Vouliagmeni Lake is formed by natural springs, which are high in salts & minerals. It is also home to the Garra Rufa fish, which like to feed on the dead skin cells of your feet. 😳

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I had been looking forward to getting a pedicure from these critters, but quickly found out that I couldn’t tolerate their feeding.  Drove me nuts!  But Jouko didn’t mind them & they liked him!

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I had to plunge into the cool water (this girl has become acclimatized to Texas temperatures) quickly to get past the fish wanting to feed.  Linda was the real water nymph, staying in the longest.  But dark clouds were moving in…….

Linda and Gary had got a great deal on a fancy hotel, so we took advantage of the rooftop setting to view the sunset over the Acropolis.

Version 2

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We didn’t eat in the restaurant – too expensive, but it provided a good photo opportunity.

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……

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 September 23-27, 2016    The island of HYDRA 

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I had booked 4 nights on the island of Hydra, recommended by a Finnish friend.  The main way of getting there would have been by boat from the Athens port of Piraeus, but as luck would have it, the port workers decided to go on strike the day that we were due to leave.  I contacted my Airbnb host and informed him of the situation and told him that we would be arriving a day later unless he could find an alternative route for us – without it costing us a fortune.  He organized a taxi (Mercedes) to pick us up from our residences and drive us 3 hrs to a small port, where a water taxi would pick us up and take us the last 20 mins to the island.

It was a beautiful drive north, by-passing Corinth , we then turned south along the coast.

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Our driver didn’t speak any English and he almost dropped us off at the wrong place, but we eventually made it to the correct spot.  Jouko called the water taxi and after about 20 mins he arrived (this is not the water taxi – way too modern).

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It was a rather rough ride, but such fun! Just the 4 of us and the captain.

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The housekeeper and her husband met us and they took care of our heavier luggage as it was quite a steep climb up to our house.

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The accommodation was satisfactory and we had plenty of space.

Linda quickly made herself at home, with quite a nice view between the rooftops.

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We enjoyed the typical architecture.

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This was their  bedroom, but we had the same thing downstairs, with our own bathroom.

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The main village, also called Hydra, was a 15 min walk from Kamini along the sea front.

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One of the main attractions about Hydra is the fact that there are no cars.  Donkeys, walking and water taxis are the only means of getting around.

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Here they are helping tourists with their luggage.

One could see them early in the morning at the port when they would be loaded with produce and fresh supplies that come in each morning from the mainland.  And, cats are protected on the island as they keep the rodent population under control.

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Over the next few days we explored our nearby surroundings.

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This is the little port of Kamini where we were staying.

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Oh, and we found authentic Greek yogurt in terracotta pots – so yummy and creamy.

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Linda met this older guy the first day we were there; an American, Michael Lawrence had lived on the island for more than 20 yrs.  He told us that he was an artist and author.  That he had known Leonard Cohen ( this is not only a link about Leonard Cohen, but also gives interesting insights into Hydra).  He had also written a book, “Tripping with Jim Morrison” (available on Amazon 😜 ).  We looked him up and it was all true!  We bumped into him several more times, we visited his studio and went out to eat with him one evening.  I would have liked to have bought a small postcard sized painting, but it was way over my budget!

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He added some color to our stay, to say the least!

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These stairs led from our house down to the nearest beach we learned to love.

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All the beaches were pebble beaches, which meant that one really needed footwear when entering the water, but the water was so clear and beautiful….

Ah – wonderful memories!

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And the sunsets were magnificent.

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We were frequently reminded that this used to be an old hippy, rock musician and artist community.

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And while Linda and I looked around at the little stores, Jouko and Gary blended into the local scenery.

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We enjoyed the local fresh sea bass several times.

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This charming chapel was dressed for a wedding to take place later in the day.

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Our stay in this corner of paradise was fast coming to an end.

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The next day we were up early and took the water taxi from Kamini to the main port….

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…Jouko had become quite adept at helping with the transport!

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Then we boarded the hydrofoil to return to Athens. Fortunately the strike was over.

We went with Gary and Linda to their hotel where we reorganized our suitcases and got ready for a long flight; Athens to Doha and Doha to Perth.  They were going to stay on for a couple of days, so we said a fond farewell…..

-♦-♦-♦-

Next :  Western Australia

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