Monday, September 5, 2011

White Buildings and Blue Doors

I am back from Greece and I have a lot of pictures.  In an effort to maintain that on-vacation glow, I thought I'd share a few and give you an overview of my trip!  I traveled with my boyfriend's family and we spent sixteen days total on the road/plane/ferry.

First stop: Athens

After a ten hour flight from Philadelphia, we arrived in Athens, a massive city that houses 1/3 of the entire population of Greece.  We checked into our hostel, Athens Backpackers.  (In addition to normal dorms, they also rent out small studio apartments, which frankly had better kitchens than my house in Ann Arbor.)  We hit the major spots around the city - the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, the Plaka, and that really good gyro stand in the Plaka.  I ate some good baklava and delicious souvlaki.  I hadn't tried Greek food very often before a couple years ago, and I'd been missing out.  It's really good and more diverse than I had thought.

Ruins of an ancient market

The coolest part of the Acropolis Museum is the actual excavation going on underneath it.

The Parthenon - at night!
Next stop: Chania on Crete

After a short flight and a long bus ride, we ended up in Chania, a city on the north coast of Crete.  It had been a Minoan civilization, later taken over by the Venetians, then later by the Turks, then I think maybe the Venetians again, and eventually it became a part of Greece.  Because it's so close to North Africa and was an important port city, it was hit hard by bombing during World War II.  Many of the buildings have not been rebuilt, so as you wander through the old city, you find a lot of outdoor restaurants or gardens that were made out of ruins.  There was one particular local garden in a bombed out building that was beautiful.  

(Side note: when I visited London with my mom, I took roughly a bajillion pictures of St. Dunstan church, which had been mostly destroyed in WWII and then turned into a garden.  She still makes fun of me for taking so many pictures and is thankful that by that point we had a digital camera and she didn't have to pay to get three rolls of film developed.  I think she'll appreciate that I only took about a half bajillion pictures of the garden in Crete.)  

Chania also has a gorgeous harbor that reminded me of Marseilles and was ringed with outdoor restaurants and cafes.  As an old port town, it had many narrow, twisty streets that would help residents flee from attacks (including pirate attacks, I've heard!).  It was gorgeous and I would recommend Chania to anyone who feels like traveling around the Mediterranean.  

 The harbor was beautiful at sunset!

Something I love about Europe - even if you only order drinks, often they'll bring you a little snack.  
At this place, it was fresh tomatoes, cucumber, olives and cheese!

 Local garden in a bombed out building - one picture of many.

These pink flowers are everywhere around Greece - I loved how bright they were!

Next Stop: Naxos

As I mentioned in my previous post, Naxos is one of my favorite islands.  I loved going back to it, because there were a few things I remembered from my trip last year, like a bakery on the waterfront that sells great sandwiches and pastries.  I ended up eating there almost every day for lunch.  After seeing a lot in Athens and Chania, we ended up taking it pretty easy in Naxos - sleeping late, walking on the beach, wandering around the even narrower and twistier pirate-proof streets, and eating a lot of fish.  There is a lot to do on the island - it's really big and has a lot of cool ruins and last year I rented an ATV and got to see more of it - but for this trip, Naxos was our spot to relax and really get into vacation mode.  

 It is really easy to get lost down the alleyways.
Since Naxos has yet to become a big destination for tourists, they haven't bothered to put up many signs. 
A sweet cheese pastry from that bakery - delicious!

 I took a lot of pictures of sunsets.  Oh man.

We had dinner on a beach!

Next Stop: Santorini

We spent a night on Santorini before splitting the kids from the parents for a couple days.  We stayed in Oia, that town that makes up about 90% of all Greek islands calendars (like the one I got for Christmas - thank you Mom and Dad!).  On first glance, Oia is beautiful, but is all hotels, restaurants, and expensive jewelry stores.  However, if you dig a little deeper and explore more of the town and the island, there's a lot to see.  With only one night, I didn't get to see as much, but Eric's parents found quite a bit to do.  It's a really beautiful place. 
 I still can't understand how they built these houses into the cliffs.

I made a new friend!

Next Stop: Ios

Ios is a party.  That's about the easiest way to describe it.  The main town where I've stayed has a ton of restaurants and bars.  It's beautiful, with the white buildings, more gorgeous sunsets, and nice beaches, but around midnight it starts to get a little wild, and travelers from all over (but mostly Australia, for some reason) head out for a good time.  We spent a few days on Ios and celebrated Eric's birthday (woohoo!) while also relaxing during the day and eating some non-Greek food.  Because many people return to Ios frequently - we met a group of people who had been going back at the end of the summer for over twenty years - they actually have incentive to have great restaurants.  After about twelve days of traditional Greek food, I was super excited to get some Thai noodles. 

 More beautiful views...

... more beautiful sunsets.

Last Stop: Athens

After Ios, we hopped on a ferry back to Athens for a night, then took a flight back to the United States.  It's good to be home, but after looking forward to this trip all summer I know I'll start daydreaming about going back soon!

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