Monday, May 9, 2011

Our trip to Greece

We spent a week in Greece for Easter with M’s friend Cherie. We visited Athens, took a road trip through the Greek mountains, saw Meteora and the sanctuary of Delphi, met Poseidon at Cape Sounion, and spent Easter on the volcanic island of Santorini. 

In Athens we saw the acropolis, the agora, and we visited the Archaeology Museum. We enjoyed some excellent Greek hospitality at a little restaurant in the tourist district (Plaka) called EYXAPIE (or something Greek…), made friends with the coolest stray dogs and acknowledged that Athens’ heyday was certainly around 600 BCE (it’s not the prettiest city in Europe). 

The Parthenon, Athens

View from the Acropolis over Athens

Amphitheatre at the acropolis, Athens
M and Cherie
The Erechtehion temple
J being a tourist
M and Cherie in the stoa of Attalus II at the agora, Athens
Temple in the agora, Athens
Karyatid column figures at the Erechtehion on the acropolis, Athens
The Archaeology Museum, Athens
M at the Archaeology Museum, Athens
The acropolis at night, Athens
Dinner at our favourite restaurant in Athens
M skeptical about the local cuisine (chunk of rustic roasted lamb)
Much happier with this selection of meat
Ouzo and desert, on the house!
 We rented a car and drove through the central Greek mountains for three days. Day one was an entirely nail-biting, hyperventilating freak-out experience for me (and I’m sure pure agony for M the patient driver and Cherie the consoling passenger). Greek mountain roads are “exciting”, with lots of blind turns on the edge of cliffs, few guardrails, rock slides and “broken” roads. The fact that we were only going 30-40 km/h wasn’t comforting me much. We drove from sea level where it was twenty degrees Celsius to above 2000 meters, and the tree line, where it was below zero degrees Celsius and there was still snow on the mountains. We drove around mountains, over mountains, and through mountains. Thankfully we didn’t drive off a mountain.

Olive trees
Mountains near the Peloponnese peninsula
The bridge from the Peloponnese peninsula to central Greece
The Gulf of Corinth from the other side of the bridge

Driving through a mountain

A dam somewhere in the Greek mountains

On top of the dam

A broken road...the result of mountain earthquakes. In a word, scary.
Our destination!
Happy to have arrived alive
At the end of day one we arrived at our destination, Meteora. It was worth every minute of anxiety during the previous day of driving. It was my favourite place in all of Greece. Think Avatar, but with more laws of gravity. Meteora means “suspended rocks” or “suspended in the heavens” in Greek. It is a group of strange rock pinnacles in the middle of a broad valley surrounded by mountains. It is the setting for the largest complex of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, begun in the 9th century CE. Today there are modern roads to drive through the Meteora peaks, but originally the monasteries were reached by rope ladders. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why. We ended the day by visiting the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, just outside of Athens.

View from our hotel at Meteora
View of Meteora from our hotel

Monastery on top of one of the peaks

M scaling the peaks

The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion

On day three we drove through a valley of three million olive trees to the sanctuary of Delphi. In ancient Greece Delphi was the home of the famous Delphic oracle and a major place of worship to the god Apollo. Today it is a well preserved archaeology site. 

Valley of olive trees

Sanctuary of Delphi
Amphitheatre at the sanctuary of Delphi

We took a 9 hour long (rough and rocky) overnight ferry to Santorini. Santorini is a beautiful island in the middle of the Aegean. It is essentially what remains from a massive volcanic explosion which destroyed the earliest settlements on the island. The middle of the island literally fell into the sea and today Santorini’s picturesque white houses cling to the sides of the “caldera” formed by the volcanic eruption. Some believe this sinking of the towns on Santorini in 1600 BCE gave rise to the myth of Atlantis. The last eruption was in 1956. On Santorini we visited black sand volcanic beaches, took a boat tour to the mouth of the volcano and its hot springs, and watched the famous Santorini sunsets from the caldera. 

On the ferry
Our hotel
The Caldera in the town of Oia
Black beach in Santorini

Studying on the caldera
The caldera in the town of Fira

M taking a plunge in the hot springs
Hot springs

Mouth of the volcano

Sunset over the caldera in Oia

We had a good time in Greece and really enjoyed having a third travel companion with us. Cherie was a delight to travel with and her laid back attitude helped us relax when things didn’t go our way, as they sometimes do not when travelling. Unfortunately, the weather in Greece was unseasonably cold during our stay. Ironically, it was unseasonably hot during that same week in London, which we went to after Santorini. No big deal. We consoled ourselves with souvlaki and kebab pitas. The Greeks know how to eat meat.

1 comment :

  1. oh my gosh sooo beautiful! i may be heading to greece this summer and after seeing these...i have to make it happen!

    ps: found you on expat-blog :-)


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