Ouzeri Stavros

Since Myste got into generalities about Greek food, I would like to go into specifics. 
Our island "excursion" (as it is now being called) was a series of unfamiliar leaps across puddles to various rocks in a big puddle called the Aegean. I had not been in this puddle before, and the Ferrie Algorithm became a very reliable method of gauging the potential quality of cuisine. 
There are times, however, when one needs to be less systematic in choosing a meal. Numbers and floor patterns can often muddle the more intuitive sense of a good meal in waiting. 
In a city that has steadily shrunk since September 2, I am only mildly hesitant in saying that the best food in Athens is made by a man named Stavros who has gray hair and likes to bet.
His taverna nests on a V-intersection just two blocks from the Panathanaiko Stadium, one of the premier tourist attractions in Athens, and the topic of my first post. The street is lit the color of rotten peach and peppered with fish-eager cats. Ouzeri Stavros is initially very disconcerting, especially for an herbivore. The only edibles visible upon entrance are deceased marine life: kalamari, salmon, et. al. Ask about vegetables (hortas) and an offer persists for "beefsteak." A menu exists, but I don't think most people use it; they have been there before, know what can be had, what they are getting. There must be one copy for the entire restaurant. Sit down with a table of six, and you will leisurely pass around one two-page laminated menu which must be mulled over, eagerly, in shifts. 
Bread is an assumption, and it damn well better be. We want it. Don't dare suppose otherwise. Smother it with oil and burn it on the edges. 
Every night we get something special on the house, either as a thanks, or standard hospitality. The first night: watermelon and wine, then chocolate cake that competes with your finest dreams. 
Upon every arrival, usually with a new segment of our group, we greet Stavros with a grin and a some broken Greek. He sets our table, and watches the futbol game as Dora takes our orders for bread, wine, and fried vegetables. A night at Stavros is never an early one. They are not in a hurry. If you are, why have you come?
The regulars at Stavros' are always willing to talk, because, despite their proximity to snapshot-town, we are some of the only foreigners who come. Nobody told Fodor's about Stavros. I hope they don't. 


(me and my new best friend)
I woke up at 9:00 am on September 25th in a beautiful hotel in Santorini. I put on my bathing suit, my sundress, and my floppy hat and was out the door. We took a short walk through little side streets to get to the cable cars that take you down to the port. The streets are everything I ever pictured Greece to be. Everywhere you look there are tiny shops and tavernas. The buildings are all white with bright blue roofs. Even on these side streets you can feel the scorching hot sun and the temperature has reached approximately 90 degrees. We arrive at the cable cars and take the short journey down the side of the mountain to the port. From the car we have a beautiful view of the caldera in the distance and boat making their way into the port. We arrive at the port and hop on a ferry that takes a 10 minute ride to the caldera. A caldera is a hole that a volcano explosion leaves after it erupts.
We dock and begin the long trek to the top of the caldera. When we reach the peak we can see steam and smoke coming from craters that are still active. From the top the view is even more beautiful than it was from the cable cars. We spend some time looking around and I slip a few lava rocks in my purse for secret souvenirs. We take the long trek back down the volcano and get back onto the ferry. The ferry then takes us on a 5 minute ride to a specific spot in the Aegean Sea. We all strip down into our bathing suits and my whole group jumps from the side of the boat into the water (of course I am wearing my lime green goggles for exploring). We swim and swim until we can feel the temperature of the water rising. We reach the little cove where the hot spring is and we can't see the bottom of the sea floor because it is covered with warm sulfur. As we look up the mountain we can see herds of mountain goats gracefully leaping down the side of the mountain. There is also a small abandoned church that has retained all of its beauty. We hear our boat sound a horn and we know its time for us to swim back. Regretfully we start to swim back. Finally, we reach the boat but are hesitant to get out of the water. Like little kids we make our way up the ladder and leap back in the water. We do this some three times until it is really time to go. Our boat makes it’s way back to the port with a wonderful day behind us.
Now, is where our journey takes an unpleasant twist. To get back up to the town from the port, there are three main forms of transportation. You can take a cable car, walk, or ride a donkey up. Why couldn’t I have stuck with the cable car? I don’t know why I torture myself. For some strange reason, I thought it was the best idea in the world to take a donkey up. Boy, was that a BIG MISTAKE. There are a little less than 600 steps from the bottom of the port to the top of the island but it felt more like a million. I have a strange fear of falling off mountains and this definitely put my fears to the test. The first five minutes were great fun but then my donkey off galloping. We got stuck in a donkey traffic jam, he rammed me into a wall and kept marching right up along the edge of the short wall between us and falling to our death. I screamed and bawled my eyes out the whole way. I have love almost everything I’ve encountered in Greece besides feta and donkeys. At least that is an experience I can say I’ve had. I don’t want to scare anyone into not riding donkeys but don’t look for me to recommend it either. The rest of the day was spent wandering through town buying beautiful handmade jewelry and cheap, cheap beer. Sadly our trip came to an end but I was extremely glad to make it back to my home in Athens.

Islands Galore!

Unsure of what I was about to see on the 10 day excursion to the islands on Friday September 19, 2008, I quickly packed and headed for the metro station. Foolishly I had packed an extremely large suitcase with my roommate Lauren, where we figured we would share and save on bringing more luggage. Needless to say the entire time we regretted packing that way and dreaded any time we would have to travel anywhere because neither one of us wanted to lug the suitcase around.

First Stop: Paros
Paros was absolutely beautiful in every way possible. It was a lot less touristy than most islands which made the experience that much more relaxing. Thanks to Shane we stayed at a great hotel that his family friends had owned which was right across the street from the Aegean Sea. Each day I had jumped into the water and just enjoyed floating around in the crystal clear water. For those of you (myself included) who do not enjoy swimming in water that you can't see what is swimming around you, this water was the place to be! The restaurants on the beach across the street from us were traditional Greek restaurants where they played loud music and people in the restaurant would sing along to the songs. I strongly suggest getting the Mousaka at these restaurants accompanied by the house wine. (red or white)

Second Stop: Delos and Mykonos
Delos is the most different island I have ever been to due to the fact that it is uninhabbitted with humans but filled with ancient Greek ruins. Everywhere you turn their is something to see whether it was the sacred lake (which to our disappointment was dried out), stone lions guarding the area, the museam of artifacts of ancient statues, pottery and mosaics, or the highest point of Delos in which you can climb. The climb up to the highest point on Delos is not a stroll in the park by any means. Constantly you have to look down to watch where you are stepping so you do not lose your balance on a loose stone on the steep incline to the top. After the struggle to the top you can see every island that surrounds Delos perfectly and all of the ruins that stretch out across the entire island.

Mykonos is not an island you would go to for any type of historical reference but more of a place to go, eat, and shop around. The stores on Mykonos are incredible except for the fact that the prices are much higher than most other places I have been to. The food is probably the best part of Mykonos but still the prices are a bit high.

Third Stop: Santorini
Santorini was by far my favorite place to go and at this point I feel as thought it will be extremely hard to beat the memories that have been created for me on that island. We hopped on lifts that took us all the way down the side of the cliff to the port where we approached our pirate-like type ship to get to the volcano. After about a 15-20 minute boat ride we reached the Volcano and hiked to the top. This was not as difficult as the hike to the highest point in Delos by any means. Once we got to the top we were able to see smoke coming from the side of the volcano and put our hands on little wholes we found in the ground letting out the heat from below. We then hiked down the volcano, got back on our boat and went off to the hot springs.

Once the boats were docked everyone stripped down to their bathing suits, stood on the side of the boat and jumped into the water. As I swam towards the hot springs I saw the yellow water getting closer and soon the temperature turned from cold to warm almost immediately. We all floated around in the water for a bit and then swam back to our boat.
Once our boat docked we had a few options on how to get to the top of the cliff where the towns in Santorini were. 1. Walk up the steep cliff. 2. Get a taxi. 3. Take the lifts again. or 4. Ride a donkey up the cliff. I obviously opted for the donkey, not knowing what I was getting into. The people that you get the donkey from give you absolutely no instructions on how to control the donkey. They grab your arm bring you to the donkey, make you hop on, and then off you go. I was given the wonderful donkey that enjoyed stopping for long periods of time while the rest of the group was half way up the cliff. Then in order to catch up with the group the donkey would start running up the steep cobblestone path without a care in the world of people nearby or how close he was to the side of the cliff. Then the donkey stopped to pee which was quite the experience as well. The worst part of the ride up to the top of the cliff was when my donkey slipped and almost fell on the cobble stone. Although I was nervous the entire ride up, I was so glad I did it and when I wasn't occupied with worrying about what the donkey was doing, the view was incredible to see.

The next day we all spent the day at the black sanded beaches which was incredible. Eagerly I waited for the perfect wave to swim with and bring me all the way to shore for the entire time I was at that beach.

Last Stop: Crete
When we arrived at Crete the first place on our list was the Minoan Archaeological site which so far was my favorite place to go because you were alowed to touch the buildings or walk inside of them as well. The best part of this site was the throne room which was richly painted in a deep red with a single throne in the middle of the room. After the archaeological site we went to the museum in which we were able to see all of the artifacts that went along with the Minoan civilization which made the "Minoan experience" all that more rich.

Overall the entire trip was a success and absolutely amazing and each island is memorable in their own different ways!! If you have the chance to go to any of the islands, the place I feel is most important to see is Santorini!

I'd Like to Be..in the Aegean Sea..in the Sun..

On Friday, September 19th, I embarked upon a journey to five of the Cyclade Islands. It would have been impossible to predict the knowledge gained and beauty I witnessed during my travels.

First stop: Paros. This ended up being my most valuable experience on the islands. We stayed at Carmel Resort, which is owned by Shane’s family friends. Rather than being in the middle of a bustling city, we were in an area called Lagaros, a more remote, less-touristy part of the island. It was refreshing and cleansing to be removed from the chaos, soaking up the sun on the beach located directly across the resort and enjoying the views from our gorgeous balconies. Here, I learned a lot about myself and had a lot of time to think, read, and draw. It was a valuable experience for me. Additionally, we spent a lot of time in the nearby taverns, making friends with the owners and waiters. We dined on delicious, authentic, and cheap Greek food, surrounded by traditional live music and free liters of wine. No complaints here; I was very pleased that this was the longest stay of our journey.

^View from Carmel Resort^

On Tuesday of our stay on Paros, we took an adventure to Delos and Mykonos. Upon arriving in Delos, I was very surprised. There were no tourist shops surrounding the port. . . or anywhere in site! Unfortunately, the island was still full of tourists. This trip, too, was eye-opening, even breath-taking. I soon discovered that it’s one of the most significant mythological and historical islands of the Cyclades. My only regret is that we did not have enough time here; to soak in all of Delos, I feel as if you need at least half a day.

This island is an ancient site, uninhibited except for a handful of archeologists living on site. As its lands are sacred, no one is be born or die here. Beginning in 6th century BC, all graves located on the island were dug up and moved to nearby islands. Probably most sacred about this site is the fact that it is birthplace to Apollo and Artemis. However, the entire island is packed with magnificent temples dedicated to many of the gods. Although I sensed its reverence, I was irked by the amount of tourists tramping on its sacred grounds, seemingly unaware of its importance to so many people before them.

When we arrived, we immediately climbed Mount Kythnos, which is the highest point on the island, topped with a sanctuary to Dionysus. From the top, we could see the island in its entirety. It was amazing to see how well-planned and complicated the layout of the site was. Here, we also built small tributes to Apollo, which is customary, by constructing small columns of rocks.

^Views from Mount Kythnos^

After this, we explored on our own. Walking around, I felt as if I had stepped back in time, and felt a sort of centrality in my soul to be stepping on such sacred lands, where much hard work, disciple, and worship has taken place for thousands of years. Then, my last stop was the museum, which was the only modern building. Here, I was impressed by all the original stones, sculptures, and works of art found on Delos. However, I was a little disappointed that the island was filled primarily with replicas. . .

Next stop: Mykonos. I’m not going to waste much time talking about Mykonos. It was similar to Paros in its beauty and landscape, but it was very high-class, touristy, and busy. Rumor has it that Mykonos is a popular vacation spot for celebrities, such as Angelina Joli and Jay-Z. The worst part was when a huge, beautiful pelican landed on the beach. She was the most gorgeous bird I had ever seen. I then watched tourists crowd her, snapping photographs and poking at her soft feathers.

^Mykonos Port^

^Poor Pelican^

One thing I enjoyed about Mykonos was the Church of One Hundred Doors. In exquisite, awe-inspiring church, we had perfect timing and we able to witness a baptism going on.

We were back in Paros at around 7pm, and I immediately caught a bite at another tavern and then hit the sack. I was pretty wiped out from the long day, but my mind was certainly filled with new thoughts and perspectives. I was itching to draw. We left bright and early the next morning. I was beginning to hate ferries.

Santorini! We arrived here on Wednesday, early afternoon. What an island! From the ferry, the island was magnificent: huge, jagged cliffs, topped with a plethora of sugar-cube houses. The port was chaos. I almost got hit by several trucks and busses and I can’t tell you how many times the group was split apart. I was seriously frightened for my life. But that’s nothing compared to the donkey ride, which you will hear about soon.

This island was also very touristy, but I can see why. It wasn’t just filled with shops and restaurants. We got to experience several life-changing adventures during our short 2 days here. First, we took a pirate ship to a volcano and hiked to the top, where steam and heat rushed to the surface and sulfur crystals glistened in the sunlight. Wow! Then, the ship took us for another exciting trip to the next island. Here, by the coast, we jumped off the edge of the boat and swam over to hot springs. The water was serene, refreshing, and the most beautiful blue I have ever seen. The hot springs, however, were a bit disappointing. They were actually not much warmer than the ocean water, but it was interesting to see the distinct line between the blue, salty water and the orange, sulfur hot springs.

Now the donkey adventure. Some of us had the brilliant idea of riding donkeys up the cliffs. We thought it would be fun. Maybe it was for some of the explorers, but my donkey hated me. He kept charging up the paths, and then ramming me into the short walls, as if he was trying to throw me off the edge—the very high, steep edge. I’m not going to lie, I almost cried and was certain death was near. I made it to the top, however, but I don’t plan on riding a donkey in a long time.

Another great aspect of Santorini was the night life.
Best clubs I’ve ever been to! If you like clubbing, this is where it’s at. And no cover fee! They start partying around midnight there, and stay out all night long. We were all very tired in the morning.

On the last day, we spent the morning on the Black Beach, which is filled with black sand. We played and laughed in the enormous waves for hours, as the salt-water cleansed our skin.

The final island we explored (kind of) was Crete. I wish we had more time here as well. We did see the Knossos Palace, which was the ceremonial and political center for the brilliant Minoan civilization. A people thriving in 9th century BC, I was amazed by their technologies, such as clay plumbing. Their developments in the arts were impressive as well. After exploring the palace, we also checked out the archeological museum. I enjoyed this very much too, but was again disappointed to see the original works of art, confirming that what I saw at the palace were all replicas.

My favorite part of Crete was our last night, when we stayed in a hostel. This was my first hostel experienced and I loved the scene. We bonded with the other travelers and backpackers here, who were all of our age, and then they took a few of us out to a Reggae festival!!!!! I had the time of my life! We danced the night away, listening to one of my favorite genres of music, making new friends with people of many different nationalities.

By the end of the trip, I was ready to go home. Home? I mean Athens. It’s strange, but I feel as if Athens really is my home. When I walked into our room, I felt the sense of relief and joy one feels when coming home to rest after a long journey. This is my room, and my bed, and the apartment is filled with my sisters. It has only been one month and it blows my mind that I already have that sense of belonging in this city. I do miss my real home once in a while, but I think of it fondly, knowing that I will be returning there before I know it, leaving behind all that I’ve explored and discovered about my surroundings here. I know, however, that I will be taking back with me all I have learned and seen, about this country and myself. I dreamt in Greek for the first time last night, and when I close my eyes to drift away, I always see the breath-taking waves of the Aegean Sea, a site I will never forget, which fills my soul with peace and sweet dreams.

Things to Know

Because of our time in the Islands, I was unable to blog. Sense yesterday I just caught up, I was at a loss at what my topic this week should be. I decided that I will discuss some of the things that I have learned about Athens/Greek culture. Some of these things maybe will help others prepare for their journeys here themselves!

In the food department,

*I would like to announce to those peanut butter lovers, that it is rather expensive, and rather rare to find. Nutella seems to be the preferred sandwich material.

*Most food usually consists of olives and feta cheese, this is a common conception of Greek food, and it stands true. Many things I have also found to be completely drowned in olive oil (delicious).

*The people of Greece seem to love pork, and they throw it in everything, including pastries, etc. Watch out you vegetarians!

*But, a lovely vegetarian delight is the spinach pies, found at bakeries everywhere. Mmm mmmm good.

*For ketchup, I have only seen it a couple of times, and it tastes like BBQ sauce?

*In the drink department, wine, beer, and ouzo are the cheapest ways to go. Hard liquors are available, but they are extremely expensive. If you go out to eat, try getting a 1/2 liter or a liter of house wine. They are good, and range in price from 4-8 Euros, wonderful!

*At almost every restaurant they usually give you bread and bottled water. These are added to the bill, while they are not expensive, they should be taken into account when splitting up checks.

*Speaking of checks, most places tips are not necessary. If you have a waiter that is exceptional, it is nice to leave a tip, otherwise, save your money. If you are in a hurry, ask for your check as soon as possible. The culture in Greece is very slow. Sometimes you sit at the table for long periods of time, just waiting to pay them!

In other random departments,

*W.C. = the bathroom (this is common in other European places).

*If you can at least attempt to speak in Greek, they automatically appreciate you (they don’t think of you as much as a stupid American).

*The first floor doesn’t count, you walk up one flight of stairs and that is floor 1

*Watch out for motorcycles

*Just because the light says walk, doesn’t mean the cars are going to stop for you

*They really don’t know how to dance; when they do it can be described as a “drunken swagger”

*If you see something you like, keep looking around, it’s probably cheaper elsewhere

*There are no sheets with the rubber bands to fit around the mattress, as far as I have seen!

*Sunglasses are very important

*Converters are hard to find, buy them at home, there is no Wal-Mart here

*No open hand waves for Taxi drivers; that is an insult I learned. Hold your hand out flat with the palm down.

*The streets get REALLY slippery.

*Books are VERY expensive

*Buy your products at home, here you can buy them at the Hondo Centers, but they are very expensive.

*Finally, they don’t use tampons with applicators, beware!

I hope that this information helps everyone out in some way. These are just things that I have noticed, and may not be completely factual, I am sure others may have contradictions!


Home at last

We are finally back from our ten day excursion around the Cycladic islands! during my last blog I briefly wrote about the island of Paros and some of the things we saw there, while we were in Paros we took day trips to the island of Delos, which is a completely uninhabited sacred island filled with ancient ruins and temples to the gods as well as home to the Delian games. The most significant thing about the islands is that it is the birth place of Artemis and Apollo We climbed to the top of Mount Kynthos where we were able to see the entire island as well as Mykonos which was our next stop on our adventure.

Mykonos was very nice but very expensive, and even though it is more of a hot spot for the rich and famous I didn’t see any Beyonce’s or Jay-Z’s while we were there. I’m sure you’d be very disappointed too. After Mykonos we visited Santorini (or Thira in Greek) which was by far my favorite island. Why might it be my favorite island? Well lets just say its not everyday that you get the chance to climb and active volcano, jump off a pirate ship and swim to hot springs in the middle of the Aegean sea, then ride a donkey up a cliff side, ALL IN ONE DAY. (Remember how I said Greece keeps getting better and better? This is what I meant.)

(Ry and Ron on top of the volcano)

We “roughed” it in a hostel on Crete after Santorini, and no matter what anyone says it is not like the movie. In fact all of us were able to talk to the other people staying there and compare stories of our Euro-trips, plus in the morning the Rethymno Youth Hostel made me the best French toast I have had in a very long time before heading home.

Calling Athens home is another thing that just popped into my mind, if you asked me a month ago if I would ever feel like I do now about my roommates and Greece I don’t know if I would be able to have the same answer. I am in love with Greece more than words can express and it really feels like this is the way things have always been. We have always lived together, we’ve always traveled around the world, and we have always gone to Gloria’s for our morning coffee. When I left for Greece I was afraid of leaving home and my family, now even though we have a few months left I get the feeling that I’ll be leaving this home and family as well. But until that day comes I’m going to keep acting like that day isn’t going to come.

Thera and Crete


Thera to Crete

The last time I blogged I was still on Paros. Since then I have been to both Thera and Crete. Thera is also more popularly known as Santorini, but Santorini is the name that the Phoenicians gave to the island and the locals there prefer to call it Thera. Thera is a neat place for its physical attributes. It once was a whole island but the volcano that once was connected to Thera is now an island and a lot of the land from that island to main land Thera sunk under water during what was thought to have been the largest volcanic eruption that the earth has seen. It is also thought by some people that this was the site of Atlantis, which I thought was pretty cool. We visited the volcano which is still active and it was the first volcano I have ever been to. I was expecting some lava but all I saw was smoke and sulfur, which is still cool but just not what I was expecting. We also went to the hot springs which is made from the volcanic activity. The last day on Thera we went to the black sand beach. This beach was beautiful and had waves which was a change from the quite waters that we have been swimming in up to this point on the trip. The weather has been getting cooler but it is still nice enough to go swimming!

After Thera we took a ferry to Crete. That ride was a trip let me tell you. We were on the top deck, enclosed, and either the ship tipped far enough to the right to hit the water where we were sitting or a huge wave came up to our deck. Some of us just looked at each other with faces that said “was that supposed to happen?!” Anyway, the next morning on Crete we went to Knossos which was the site of a Minoan palace. This was the best thing I have seen in my life never even mind the trip (I feel like I have said this a lot on this trip). The Minoan civilization has been one of my favorites since I was a younger, so seeing this was amazing. The next day before we left on a plane to get back to Athens myself and a few others went on a hunt for The Amber House which is a place where the owners make all the jewelry (mostly from amber). But that was not what I was most interested in finding at that store. I was looking for these things called worry beads, which is a cultural thing here that most of the guys have and play around with everywhere. It has been one of the best purchases that I have made since being here.

Island Adventures

I will never forget my trip to a few of the Greek Islands. The only way that it could have possibly been any better would mean that the weather would have cooperated with our plans. But, because that isn’t possible, I had an amazing time anyway.

We were extremely pleased with our wonderful five day stay on the beautiful island of Paros. Thanks to Shane and his family friends we were able to stay at the most beautiful villas right across the street from the ocean. We were able to make friends with the workers of some of the restaurants and taverns, and even got some great deals. This was my favorite island; I think someday I will retire here!

From there we went and stayed in Santorini for three days. It was amazing to see how these people built their homes on such large cliffs. Here we go to take a cable car down the cliffs, then road a boat to a volcano, which we got to climb! Beautiful. After that we boated to some “hot springs”. This meant we got to jump off the boat and swim into a shallow area by an island which is warmed by a volcano. Sweet! Instead of taking the cable car back, some of us rode donkeys. Really fun, depending on the personality of your chosen donkey. I liked mine, others weren’t so nice. We also went to an amazing black sanded beach with awesome waves. And as a side note, the clubs in Santorini are GREAT.

We took a day trip to the uninhabited island of Delos. Noone is allowed to be born or die on this sacred land, and it has very cool structures. Its beauty was lost to me because of its mass of tourists. For future people traveling here, where sneakers, and bring water and food. The snack bar is expensive and limited. The other half of this day trip we went to Mikanos for a few hours of shopping and eating. It is very pretty.

We then went to Crete for three days. We saw an ancient castle/museum. We also go to spend the last night in a hostel. This was an awesome experience. Cheep stay, cheep wine, and cheep food. Also, we met a load of great people. A couple of us went with a massive group of people to a Reggae concert at the university. It was a great last night to a great trip.

It couldn’t have been any better, and believe me, I got some well needed rest when I finally returned home to Sina Street.

Grecian Cuisine; A College Student's Guide

When traveling in Greece, or simply in Europe, one can expect to be assaulted with streets upon streets boasting tavernas, restaurants, bars, and even kiosks that hawk everything from wine in plastic bottles to an impressive array or photography. It is difficult, however, to be in this situation when one has a salary built on a summer of pushing slushies to small children at a convenience store at the beach, and enough student loans to sink a Navy Regulated Battleship. The following is meant to be an elementary guide to feeding one's self under these condictions while still enjoying what delightful tastes the Grecians have to offer the pallet.
Greek food is centered around one vital component. Olive Oil. A meal of bread and a 1 euro bag of pasta is suddenly transformed into a culinary revolution worthy of that high strung guy on Iron Chef America. So remember, when dining in, or out for that matter, olive oil is an essential that can make or break any meal.
Since traveling the Greek islands for the past ten days, I have had a plethora of experience in dining out on a budget. With the picturesque scenery, stunning beaches, and shopping to put any Wal-Mart (yes even the Rindge) to shame, it's no wonder that the Greek Isles are an incredibly popular destination for tourism. That being said, restaurants take all sorts of pleasure in jacking up the prices witht he clear and full knowledge that we Americans enjoy our food. Luckily for all my fellow European travelers, I, with the help of some of my peers on the trip, have developed a few sure fire methods for the appraisal of price at a Grecian Restaurant.
First, shy away from the "touristy" areas whenever possible. Although it may boast a sunset view and be conveniently located, said restaurant will also ask for a down payment of organs and precious stones before bringing out the first bottle of outrageously overpriced tap water. Stray away from the predictable and take a left at the first sketchy alley way you stumble upon. When a restaurant emerges from the collection of dumpsters and stray cats there are a few things to take into consideration. Can you hear the dulcet tones of the English language? If so, you may want to move on and find somewhere a little more authentic where a UN translator is necessary to find out if that is chicken or fish you're eating.
Next, check the menu to see if a second mortgage is necessary on the house before you commit to that big fish. Take a peek at the price of a Greek Salad. With a quick glance, you'll be able to gauge the entire price range of the menu by only one item. Personally, I like my Greek salad to be no more than 5 euro and have enjoyed some of the tastiest for 3. If the salad is around 8 you better believe you'll be leaving there with your change purse feeling rather lighter.
Another good indicator of general price is how expensive a liter of house wine is. Anywhere around 6 euro is perfect and becomes even more fiscally responsible when you share. 1/2 liter for 3 euro is a great deal and won't leave you praying for a quick death in the morning.
A final word concerning dining out in Greece. A fancy floor, and swanky music usually mean Big Money.
Hopefully this little blurb will help you save your euro for more important things whilst traveling in Greece, like a bar tab. And if worse comes to worse I know a good place to get a cheap gyro and a kiosk open late that sells beer for one euro. We are college students after all.


Island Hopping

It has been a crazy week! I feel like I have been all around the world because we have gone to so many places. We started out on the island of Paros which was nice. The Carmel studios where we stayed were breath taking. Shane's family's friends were extremely nice and very helpful. Swimming in the sea on Paros was fun because it seemed that no matter how far away from the shore you swam the bottom was always visible. It was disorentating to see the bottom of the sea but not touch it. While on Paros we went to this church that is called the church of 100 doors even though there are only 99. It was a beautiful church and there was a baptism that was going on and the ceremony was very elaborate and pretty. After that we went to an archeological museum that was cool but it had nothing of the island of Delos.
Deos is supposedly the island where the sun god Apollo was born and because of this the island was purified which means that no one can be born on or die on the island. The island is full of ruins and lizards. The ruins were amazing beyond words. Unlike the other ruins that we went to there were still stautes and things to look at inside the buildings. We climbed up the mountain where Apollo was said to be born and the veiw was amazing. That is the common theme in the islands. When you look out to sea every thing is picturesque and perfect.
After Delos we went to Mykonos. Mykonos was not that much fun because it is the place for people with lots of money to throw away. The best part of Mykonos was the big pelicans.
Right now we are on Santorini. Santorini is really pretty. The cliffs are scary though because to get anyhere you have to find some way to get up or down them. Driving up them with the vans from the port was terrifing because the roads are narrow and there were a lot of vehilces trying to get up and down the cliff. The cable cars are just plain scary and some people were brave enough to take donkeys up the stairs. The best part of being here was the trip to the volcanic island in the middle of the caldera. After the volcano climb we went to swim in a natural hot spring which was very refreshing. There were pumice stones that were floating in the water and three mountian goats that were watching us as all the people were swimming in the hot springs. Next we go to Crete and I am really excited to see what will be there.


The past few days

The Past Few Days: Aegina to Paros
Last weekend the group stayed at the island of Aegina. While we were there we saw the temple of Aphaia which is very well preserved and one of the coolest things I have seen since being here. What made it even more interesting is that Aegina is the only place where Aphaia was worshiped. The beaches there were nice and the hotel we stayed at had a salt-water pool which was also nice. Something of interest to me is the fact that there was no running fresh water on the island. This included showers and tap water. I unfortunately learned this very late in the night when everything around was closed and had no bottled water. So, I had to call people who were still in town to bring me back fresh water. I guess we live and learn, so if you are traveling to most islands in the sea in general then I suggest stocking up on some water for the night. It was nice to get out of Athens for a while and be on an island.
Classes were getting a little tiresome without any books back in Athens but they arrived on Tuesday and everyone was happy. Being in Athens for that week in classes was building up a lot of anticipation because everyone was excited about going island hoping starting on that Friday. Going to Paros, Santorini, and Crete was the only thing people cause talk about.
We took a larger ferry to get to Paros on Friday than we did when we went to Aegina. It was nice to move around on the ferry because the ride was about five hours long. We arrived to the island late at night and got to our hotel, Carmel, then proceeded to walk five meters to the sea and at dinner on the side, listening to the waves crash. I had eggplant salad and stuffed vine leaves which were delicious, food here is so good. We got back later and just relaxed. I passed out very soon after we got back from exhaustion.
On Saturday we explored the town a little bit and went food shopping. The people here observe siesta almost religiously, which is nice because you can just relax for two hours in the middle of the day. However, this does affect you walking around trying to get into stores during siesta. I suggest just relaxing or going to the beach during this time.
Today we went to a church called The Church of One Hundred Doors. It dated back to the Byzantine Empire. While we were there, there was a baptism going on and it was very interesting observing the ceremony. After the church we went to the Paros Archaeological Museum. It was awesome to see the artifacts and read about them. The only issue I had with the museum was that the description of the some of the objects had two paragraphs in Greek but only like a couple of sentences in English.

A Fascinating Man and his Magical Village

I should begin by saying that we have begun our excursions to the Greek Islands, and so far these have been the most beautiful lands we have visited.  We are currently on Paros, which is an island of the Cyclades.  From Paros we plan to see Mykanos, Delos, Santorini, and Crete.

Today after a day trip to the port and capitol city, Parakia, we went on a little stroll with Vassillios and Janet, our hosts, to the village where Vassillios grew up.  He said that this village was very similar now to how it was when he grew up (not very much had been added or built up).  This village was one of the most unique and fascinating communities I have ever seen. 

To get to the village we had to turn off of the paved, automobile friendly road and onto cobblestone paths that were lined with what seemed like a maze of white, sugar cubed houses with blue doors and shutters.  These paths were narrow hilly causing impossibility for automobile travel.  As we entered the village we got a friendly reminder from Janet to keep our voices down because it was siesta time, and people on Paros take their siesta time very seriously. 

We continued forward through the village and it was nothing less than magical to hear Vassillios with shiny eyes and a permanent grin reminisce and tell us stories of the village and his childhood.  He talked about his experiences when the Germans inhabited part of the village as well as some more obsolete tales of his childhood in the village.  He explained to us that the windmills in the village that are now unable to function were once very important to the people on the island and in the village.  He explained that in his times there was no electricity so he did his studies through an oil lamp.  We learned about the shop of his father, who was a merchant in the village.  The entire experience was so interesting because we didn’t know what story was going to come next from Vassillios. 

As we continued along we passed by the church where Vassillios and Janet were married.  By chance, a woman was unlocking it to do her daily maintenance.  Vasillios asked her to let us in, and upon entry we were all speechless.  In this tiny village was one of the most beautiful churches that I have ever seen.  Vassillios did not have much to say to us inside the church, but he sang us a church song for all of us, which was absolutely breathtaking.  Hearing this magical, Greek man sing in his church with his deep, passion-filled voice overwhelmed me with an indescribable feeling.  After a few seconds of silence, as the echo of Vassillios’s voice faded from the church, we thanked him and walked back outside.

The church ended up being a sort of conclusion to our “tour,” and what a conclusion it was!  We walked back to our rooms and got ready for diner with a gained knowledge and experience that will stick permanently.    



Island of Paros

It feels so surreal being on the island of Paros; Our apartments look right over the beach and we are surrounded by picturesque buildings with white walls and deep blue shutters and doors. Although our first day on the island was met with a drizzling rain that turned into a downpour by late evening, we were all so content to be here that even the chilly weather didn’t stop people from swimming in the clear water.

One of the best parts about staying on Paros is that the apartment owners are a very gracious and hospitable couple that are helping to make our time on the island a great experience. We have been offered delicious treats such as freshly cleaned pomegranate seeds and dried figs, and we are told of the best places to swim or get a bite to eat. Vasilios, who grew up on this island, took a small group of us on a short walk through his childhood village. As soon as you turn off the dirt road to enter the village you step onto a narrow grey and white cobblestone road and into another world. White, blue, and pink are the dominating colors that come from all of the houses and flowers that creep up the walls and over terraces. Many little churches were scattered throughout the village and we went into one that was especially beautiful. Every inch of the walls were covered in bright frescoes and gold chandeliers hung down from the ceilings. Vasilios shared with us a Greek hymn and we were all moved as the sounds echoed and filled the church. It was great having him as a tour guide because he was able to share with us stories and bits of history that made the whole experience more meaningful.

Even though there is so much more to the island that I will not be able to explore, I am very happy to be sitting here listening to the waves crash into the rocks, while a tiny kitten is asleep in my lap. This really must be one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to.


More Island Adventures

One of the most perplexing questions that I keep asking myself is "can this get any better" and every time I am met with an answer of "YES". It has been a week since we were on the island of Aegina, where I thought I had seen some of the most beautiful beaches and villages that I have ever come across, that is until I arrived here on the island of Paros. we have only been here two days but as I sit here writing all I can think about is how I get to wake up to the sun shining and the sound of the ocean waves outside my room, I am growing quite content with island life even if it has been a little chilly.

We arrived Friday night around 10pm after a 4 hour ferry ride from the port of Piraeus and were met by the owners of the Carmel Studio Apartments. Following a short 40 minute bus ride we found ourselves at Logaros beach and entering our hotel rooms complete with all the comforts of home. Around 11pm we took a stroll down the beach and stumbled across some restaurants where I decided to gorge myself with grilled eggplant that seemed to be stuffed with every kind of vegetable known to man…it was delicious. Sunday was met with a midmorning swim in the sea and I had planned on staying there all day until it started raining. It defiantly put a damper on the rest of the day.

However, Today seemed to be the complete opposite of yesterday when I woke up there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining brighter than ever. We started off the day with a bus ride filled with amazing views towards the town of Paroikia where we went to see the church of 100 gates (or doors) then looked at the archeological museum. once we were back at the hotel all exhausted and ready for a nap, the owner of the hotel offered to take us the village that her husband grew up in, seeing that most of us were worn out only a small group of us decided to go and even though I was a bit reluctant because I was so tired, I knew I would have regretted not going.

The village looked like something out of a fairy tale all the houses were painted white with blue shutters and had an amazing view of the ocean. Pink and purple flowers grew on all the walls and there was a church at every corner. The one church that we were able to go inside of nearly took my breath away. The walls and ceilings were covered in murals and I was so overcome by how beautiful it was that I could barley think of anything to say while we were inside of it.

afterwards our lovely tour guide told us about the history of his town and what it was like for him to grow up during the Nazi occupation (one particular story that involved him taunting a German soldier when he was just four years old was especially entertaining). It was late by then but they had one more thing to show us, the oldest church on the island just around the corner from our hotel which was met with a beautiful sun set between two mountains. All in all the first full day of exploring feels like this cant get any better, but who knows every time I say that things always do.


Aegina Island

(Me in front of the Temple of Apheia)

Hello readers! Last weekend our entire group went to Aegina Island for a weekend get-away trip and it was absolutely breath taking there. When we first arrived on the Flying Dolphin (the ferry that took us over) I immediately snapped pictures of the beautiful marina surrounding us. Although it was a bit of a task to figure out where it was we needed to go to get to our hotel since none of us had ever been there before, we were able to figure it out and everything went smoothly from then on. We arrived at our destination, Moondy Bay Resort, and I was filled with excitement. Our rooms, although a bit on the smaller side, were the right size for a weekend trip with three people to a room. Immediately Misty, Lauren, and I put on our bathing suits and headed down to the salt water pool that over looked the beach. We spent just about the entire day at the beach just relaxing and taking it all in.

Later around 9 or 10pm the group as a whole decided that we all had wanted to go out to eat. Instead of taking a taxi we had walked all the way to the other side of the island it felt like, but in reality it was only about a 2 mile walk. At the time I was not in the mood to take such a long walk, but once we were doing it I was so happy to be able to see the whole coast to my right. The feel of the scenery was much different when walking past it slowly rather than flying by at about 80 mph. (That's about how fast people go on that island!) Once we arrived at the town, we split up into smaller groups and picked a restaurant that we had wanted to go to. Lauren, Misty, Jessi, and I ate at this cute little restaurant in which the view from our table outside was the water. A little hesitant, I had ordered the Mousaka, and let me just say that was the most amazing meal I have ever had in my life. At about 5.50E you cannot go wrong. There was eggplant, zuccini, mashed potatoes, and ground beef in what is now my favorite dish. Not all of us enjoyed our meals, Misty was a little put off by the mashed potatoes that she had ordered. The Greeks do not use butter in anything, but use oil instead. I believe the waitor told us that "We don't use butter, you see, butter, no good, butter makes people fat!" We then trecked our way back to our hotel after staying out a little bit longer after we had finnished dinner, and just crashed.

The next morning we had gotten up at about 9:45am and waited for a bus to take us to the temple of Apheia. Anxious for what I was waiting to do, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see. When we finally arrived to the temple after an extremely nerve racking ride up of a huge bus flying around narrow corners that were on the side of a cliff at about 80mph, I saw the temple standing overlooking the entire island. The view alone is enough reason to go up there, but there the Temple of Apheia stood in the most beautiful but somewhat intimidating way. I have never been up close to something so spectacular as well as ancient. It still boggles my mind that these great temples are still intact today. I went into the museum part of the temple and was able to see the pieces that came from the temple such as a statue of a man standing sternly as if he were the protector of the temple. Another man crouched down on one knee pointing his bow and arrow, ready for anything. I will forever have those memories embedded into my brain. Pictures will never do it justice for the feeling that you get when you are staring up at these beautiful structures.

As we were waiting to return to Athens, I went to a Kiosk to get some water and I saw some ice cream there as well. I impulsively picked it up to purchase it because it was so hot out, but then realized I had eaten way too much junk food already and that eating ice cream in the scorching heat is always too difficult because it melts before you are done. So I quickly put back the ice cream, and the woman running the Kiosk starting yelling at me in Greek. I did not understand what she was saying so I just raised the bottle of water and told her I only wanted the water. She yelled again and told me to come and pay. As I waited in line for the person in front of me to finnish their transaction I looked at the woman again and noticed that she was staring me down as if she loathed me. It was quite the interesting experience and a little scary.

Today we are going to go on a trip to Paros, Santorini, and Crete for ten days. I am unsure of what to expect but again the butterflies are stirring because of the unknown. Each time we go somewhere it has been better than the last and I have heard nothing but great things about all three of those islands. I think the best part of this entire trip is that we are learning about everything we are seeing, but how many people can say that they went there and saw it with their own eyes? It makes the learning experience so much more meaningful.


Soakin Up the Aeginan Sun!

Aegina Island was the first Greek island I have traveled to. As I stepped off the ferry, the first thing I noticed was the clear, blue water. The port was filled with ships of all sizes, and children ran around with fishing nets, scrambling after the plethora of species. I couldn’t wait to explore what appeared to be a quaint yet bustling village.

First, we took a bus to our hotel. The bus was similar to busses in the U.S. cities I’ve spent time in, such as New York, and Boston; people were packed in, mostly standing, except for those lucky enough to grab a piece of the limited seating. It was the hottest bus I’ve ever been on. Once we were moving, I realized it was very different from my past experiences on busses. The driver seemed to drive much too fast for the rickety vehicle and took corners carelessly and rapidly. On several occasions I was certain we were to go plummeting over a cliff. This is when I realized that the driving on the islands is the only thing consistent with Athens. I paid attention to the scenery as we flew to our destination, taking my mind off of my worries.

The island’s landscape was extremely hilly as we ventured out of the village, and was filled with lemon trees, pistachio trees, and little other greenery. Most buildings were of similar construction; boxy, white, and topped with red roofs. The roads were narrow and winded up and down hills, through small residential areas as well as vast fields, which appeared to be filled with crops of various nuts and fruits. Before I knew it, we arrived at our resort.

After a bit of effort and wandering, we found Moondy Resort. The rooms were clean and comfortable and larger than expected: one double bed, one single, a shower room, a toilet room, an enormous closet and a nice balcony overlooking the pool and beach. I didn’t waste any more sweaty time—I immediately stripped down to my bathing suit and headed to the pool.

The pool was just as clear and blue as the sea. When I jumped in, I realized why: it was seawater, which I might add, is very salty in the Sardonic Gulf. I spent the beginning of the afternoon sitting at the edge of the resort, sketching another island in the distance. Then, I took advantage of the cheap drinks at the bar until dinner time, when we walked 10 minutes out of the resort to a tavern. Moondy Bay was filled with good food, drink, people, and created an overall relaxing and laid-back atmosphere.

When we arrived at the tavern, we sat right next to the sea, where I enjoyed the best shrimp meal I’ve tasted. I also discovered that “garlic souse” is mashed potatoes, mixed with olive oil and garlic. That was also very tasty!

At this tavern, I discovered true Greek dining. The service was slow. When we asked for wine, we received it 20 minutes later, while we watched all the waiters smoke cigarettes and chat. We experienced this problem throughout dinner, and made it back to the hotel hours later. I have realized since that this is part of authentic Greek dining. The Greeks seem to take their time with everything, which is not always a bad thing.

I spent the rest of the night reading in the bar, which was small and next to the sea and had no English-speaking waiters. I don’t think this is usual here, because everyone looked at Dom and I as if we were crazy. I suppose reading in a bar isn’t typical anywhere though. . .

Anyways, we called it an early night and spent the next day checking out the Temple of Aphaia, wondering about town, and swimming in the sea again. I don’t think words can express how refreshing and clean it feels to swim in the water on the islands. I could feel the salt cleansing my body and mind. The temple was breath-taking, but we had no water and they only sold sodas across the street. I was very surprised at how many columns remained intact since the construction of the temple. I also discovered that if you’re in Greece and don’t make a purchase, don’t bother trying to take a seat anywhere near the shop, because you will be rudely and promptly asked to leave. We experienced this when Dom and I bought a soda and Lauren tried to sit with us in the shady area outside the shop. The woman did not speak English, but she made it very clear that Lauren better get out of her sight!

When exploring the town, it was apparent that most of the shops on the main strip were extremely touristy. The best part was surely the fresh pistachios sold everywhere. We eventually walked to the close beach and spent the rest of the day enjoying the water.

Clearly, we had a full weekend of traveling and exploring Aegina. I was pleased by the efforts Greeks make to communicate, despite the language barrier. Here, many less people spoke Greek than they do in Athens, but it wasn’t as much as a problem as it was exciting. Although the majority of the busy areas in the village were touristy, it was not hard to wander off and find authentic dining and markets. My best recommendation is to stay away from main streets and seek out back roads; it has become apparent that happening areas aren’t where you want to be if you want to emerge yourself in their true culture. Speak to Greeks, try to learn Greek. Like I said, even those who don’t speak much English take great efforts to teach and explain new words to you. It can be a challenge, but it’s worth it, and the best way to learn. Also, food and trinkets are much cheaper and unique off the beaten track, so it’s important to stay away from the comfort zone of the tourists and try your best to blend in with the locals.

Around Aegina Island

This past weekend the group went to the Island of Aegina. It was amazing beyond words. We arrived on a small boat called The Flying Dolphin so the first sight of the island was the buildings around the pier and the water. The water was so clear I could see fish swimming around.
The best part of being on the island was visiting the ancient ruins. The entire group went to see the Temple of Aphaia. Aphaia was a goddess that was similar to Artemis and she was only worshiped on the island of Aegina. This was the first temple that I have visited since I have been in Greece and I was impressed by it. The temple was on top of a mountain and the drive up was terrifying because the driver liked to go around the narrow hairpin turns as fast as he could, but once we were at the top and off the bus the view was breathtaking. The temple over looks the island on one side and looked out to sea on the other. The only thing that was disappointing about the Temple of Aphaia was that you could not get very close to it. This was not the same with the Agora of Aegina.
The Agora of Aegina and the archaeological museum that was next to it was just as amazing, if not better than the Temple of Aphaia. While the Temple of Aphaia was a clearly defined structure that is still standing, the Agora of Aegina was more like a maze of buildings that used to be there but now are stone walls and stairs. Every so often there would be something that looked like old windows or doors. The best part of the Agora was being able to walk up to the only remaining pillar of the Temple of Apollo and being able to touch it and look at what is left of the carvings (and some of the ones that people have added over time) was really impressive. Seeing the single pillar and how old it is and thinking about all the history it has survived is beyond comprehension. I can not wait for this up coming week when we go visit other islands and see the ruins and other sites that await us there.


A sprained toe won't ruin my trip!

(Caitie and I at the Temple of Apheia. Behind us you can see most of Aegina.)

Before our journey oversees, I had a distinct picture in my mind of what Greece would be like. I thought I would leave the airport and come face to face with little Greek yayas living in quaint houses on a backdrop of clear blue water, sand for miles, and a never ending sky. When I found out Athens was a giant metropolis filled with angry drivers, English speaking adolescents, smog filled skies, slippery streets and many other pieces of the modern world I was a little surprised. Although I love my new home in Athens, it was nice to visit the small island of Aegina to match my preconceived notions with reality.

On Saturday morning, our journey to Aegina began. I was fully equipped with only a backpack of necessities and my sunglasses on my face. Being someone who has been known to overpack, this made me a little anxious. We rode on the metro until we arrived at the port of Piraeus, which was only about a 20 minute ride. Aegina was only a short 40 minutes away on the "Flying Dolphin". I enjoyed the ride which is not something i can say for some of my other companions. Poor Myste! Arriving at Aegina, we were met with a beautiful sight. The port was filled with boats and the streets were filled with pistachio vendors, which, by the way, is Aegina's main export. This first glance only made us more excited to see what the rest of the weekend would bring.

One thing that seems to be a constant in my life in Greece is crazy driving. Whether I'm scared for my life because I am a vulnerable pedestrian or because I am a passenger in one of these accidents waiting to happen, I am always terrified. I am trying to become accustomed to this situation, but for now I am having no such luck. We took a frightenging but short bus ride to our beautiful hotel, Moondy Bay Resort. Located right on the Saronic Gulf, these accomodations are more than I had anticipated. We spent the day lounging by the ocean and soaking up the warm sun. Surrounded by good people, good food and good drinks, this was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. However, there was one incident that occured that I am less than happy about. While trying to get into the water, I found someone sititng on the ladder putting on snorkel gear. Being the water lover that I am, I could not wait and decided to climb down the rocks. Bad Idea. I slipped and fell and sprained my little pinky toe. Lesson learned: If there are stairs, wait your turn and take them.

On Saturday night, we decided to venture into town. At just about 2 miles, it sounds longer than it really is. With the beautiful view that you are faced with the whole way, the time goes by quickly. Once in town, we had a variety of restaurants to choose from. Some of the others in our group went to one restaurant where they had feasted on delicous fresh fish. I should know because I had to snag a bite! Caitie, Jess, Misty and myself decided to try another restaurant on the strip. We indulged in fried zuchini, mousaka, and souvlaki. All of these proved to be good choices. We enjoyed our surroundings into the wee hours and slept well in our beautiful suites.

The next day we awoke early and took another frightening bus ride on the long winding road leading to the Temple of Aphaia. On the way, we passed the second largest Greek Orthodox in the world. It was a stunning sight. This could not compare, however, to the Temple. I was surprised at how much was left of the ruins. The beautiful limestone which had been painted with beautiful colors before was now a sandy white. Despite the loss of color, much of this temple has held strong. We took a glance at some of the pieces that have fallen apart in the temple's nearby museum which was truly fascinating. Afterwards we had an opportunity to take some pictures with a spectacular view of the island in our backdrop. This was definitely a worth whiel excursion.

Afterwards, some of the others in our group took in opportunity to visit another museum on the island. However with the condition of my foot, I did not feel up to it. So i rested under a tree and took in the local beauty of Aegina. At the end of the day, we traveled the short journey back to Sina street. Although our trip was short, it was a good opportunity to get out of Athens and experience another side of Greece. I look forward to seeing all that Greece has to offer. This upcoming week, we will venture to Paros, Santorini, Crete and some other Greek islands. I'm anxious and excited for what will surely prove to be another adventure.