Island Adventure

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The famous Ios hill
After a final day of what can only be referred to as slothenly delight in Tripolis, John & I departed for Athens, Pireaus, and our ferry to Ios. We went all the way to the airport to try to change his tickets (this is a big undertaking I assure you) only to discover the flights were full, or at least the woman at the Alitalia counter had 5 minutes until the end of her shift and was trying to get rid of us. So John was unable to change his flights and less than two weeks were left on the clock. We got on the overnight ferry to Ios and the adventure began.

The view from our room
We arrived before the sun in Ios, though it was close behind. I'd called ahead to Francesco's, a hostel I'd heard lots of good things about, and they were supposed to have a van waiting for us. They didn't. A guy from another hotel was there and friends with them so he took us. But we got to the hostel and the reception was closed. Since the other guy was so nice to us, and the price was about the same - 12 euro (plus we had our own room instead of a dorm and also a swimming pool). So we walked the direction we thought it was. Which led us past a woman insisting we not walk there and that it was a different direction, which then led us up to the top of the landmark hill of Ios. It was a little early for such a hike, but it gave us a great view of the town not to mention the sunrise, and also allowed us to spot the place we were looking for - Sunrise Hotel.

John & I with Julio and Pamela
We met Julio and his sister Pamela from Mexico there again, we'd met them in the van from the harbour earlier, and John & I spent some time by the pool before I took off with them to Milopotas beach on their ATV. John just wanted a day by the pool so that worked out well. The beach was quiet, but there was a cool campsite (Far Out) where I would probably stay next time with lots of activities, and anyway it was quite a nice beach. We hit the town that night after some time in the hotel bar, which was quite cheap and a good time. Ios is definitely the party island it's reputed to be. There were a couple girls that John & I had to make efforts to extricate ourselves from, not as easy as it sounds, but there were no high speed chases involved. This time.

Old windmills encountered on our Quixotical adventure
The next day I rented an ATV to explore the island and took John along for the ride. It was wholly underpowered (do NOT rent 50cc's for more than one person, ever) and took too long to get anywhere, but we made it somehow to Agios Nikolaus beach and did get to see a bit more of the island. Then we went to Harmony and had some Chimis (Clayton still makes the best ones) though we didn't really use the hammocks that make the place famous. We did, however, begin what would become a rather lively tournament of Backgammon (Tavli in Greek) that would carry through the islands and back to the mainland. I'm proud to say I won Ios. We went out again that night with a bunch of guys we met and had a great time once again.

Santorini by night
We took the afternoon ferry to Santorini, spending the time up until then at the hotel pool. Sid, a guy we'd met the night prior, was there and we met a bunch of other people, but because I didn't give them my cell number with the Greek country code in front of it (30) we didn't cross paths with them again. Getting into the harbour, we were looking for Hostel Anna but unable to find it, however, the room renters were so hungry for full rooms that we were able to bargain them down to BELOW the cost for a bed in the hostel. For 6 Euro a night we had a private room with a pool and let me say, it was pretty sweet. We rented a car for 30 Euro and pretty much covered the entire island in our 2 night-3 day stay. We drove to Oia and had dinner and were heading to Fira when I realized I had again forgotten my glasses on the restaurant table. We turned around and got them but by then we decided to go to the room - we'd done more than enough partying in Ios and could use a break.

Wine tasting in Santorini
The next day we went to the famed black beach of Perissa and then went wine tasting at Boutari in Megalohori. We drove up to Pirgos on the mountain, which was covered in cloud at the top, and then went to Fira for dinner. John also picked up a backgammon set, and had a beer in a hammock overlooking the caldera (finally I got to have beer in a hammock!). We were going to go out in Fira, but it seemed largely dead and also old, though we knew it was still early. We thought we'd head down to Perissa and maybe find a better nightlife, but there was not much to be seen there either. We sat at a place called the Beach Bar and had another beer, but left shortly after to begin the battle for Santorini. John, it turns out, is very lucky on the old dice, and managed to come out on top despite my superior tactics. So we each had an island a piece. We left for Crete the next day, but we took a cruise in the morning to the volcanic centre of Santorini and the so called hot springs there, and also stopped at the red sand beach. All very nice, I was glad we were able to squeeze that in.

Red sand beach
The hydrofoil got us to Irakleio, Crete in record time, and we took a cab to a nearby rental agency that was still open, and got a cheap car for our five days in Crete. 25 Euro, though I would at times lament its desperate lack of power. I had called my cousin Maria to see when it would be convenient for us to drop in, and she said tomorrow, so we went west first. We drove to Stalida and were unable to find a room, and doubled back to Hersonnisos still unable to find a hostel or room or place to stay. I should mention that by the time this was happening, it was around midnight, and we were tired having had a long day already. Eventually, we drove back to Irakleio and tried unsuccessfully for a LONG time to find the hostel listed - it turned out the road was under construction and was not an easy find even if it hadn't been. But, by the time we found it, reception was closed. It was 2 AM. In fact, everywhere was closed or full and both John & I were getting tired and cranky. So, we pulled the car into a place that looked decent enough to park, reclined the seats, and spent the night in our Renault. So the car, doubling as a hotel, was a great deal after all, if not the most comfortable sleep I've ever had.

After an hour in the Minoan ruins of Knossos, we spent the next day on the beach at Hersonnisos, a fun beach with lots of water sports (I tried the flying wing and it was great!) and young people. One of the better beaches we went to. Then we went up to visit Maria and Ari in Mohos and she had already included us in dinner plans. It had been about 8 years since I'd seen her, so it was good to catch up. They also insisted that we stay with them, after a terrific batch of Greek ribs, and we happily albeit reluctantly gave in. Ari, John and I went to town for a bit and sat in the caffeneio, and Maria & I watched the Ring 2 and played a little tavli, in which she taught me a few new things sure to aid me in claiming Crete for myself in our backgammon tournament. It really was a great day and I'm so happy we were able to spend some time with them.

Entering Samaria gorge
The next morning we had to get underway, and we drove down to see Stathi and Irini, who were exactly as I remember them. It's funny how you don't realize sometimes how much you missed someone until you see them again. Such warm people. Eventually, though, we had to say goodbye, and took off for Hania. Somewhere en route we stopped at a small town to check out a fountain and had some rabbit for dinner. We got a room for three nights at 10 Euros and booked a hiking excursion to Samaria gorge (the longest gorge in Europe) leaving at 6 AM the next morning. So I grabbed a glass of wine to help me fall asleep and so ended another day in Crete. I also started listening to Good To Great, an audio book Dan gave me about what separates truly iconic and excellent companies from just good ones, and I found it to be really interesting. The author, Jim Collins, makes some of the worst analogies ever, often times even admitting to the stupidity of the analogy after having spent ten minutes making it, but this serves as entertainment between points of enlightenment, and it was definitely a worthwhile listen. We also played a little backgammon, at the end of which the score was 4-2 in favour of me.

The gorge
5 AM came all to early but it always does. We got on the bus to Samaria and hiked the 13km rather quickly. We were supposed to meet at the Kri Kri cafe at the other end of the gorge at 4:30 and we were there by 12:30. Which took its toll on our knees and John's ankle, but it was beautiful and I'd do it again in a second. It begins with a rather steep descent and then a walk along the creek at the bottom of the gorge and also along a dried up riverbed that probably is just roaring in the spring. We had a nice salad and some greens, also yogurt and honey, and waited. Then we tired of waiting and went to the beach to wait. Finally, we left, ferried over to another town, and took the bus back to Hania. Our tour guide, Siba, was really cool and came back and chatted with us for a while. We found out she was going to the same beach that we were the next day, Elafonisos, and we exchanged numbers and decided to meet there.

Elafonisos beach
As always, we took the slow, scenic route to the beach but made it there eventually, met up with Siba, and hung out. The beach really is as beautiful as it is purported to be, surrounded by reefs, with lots of little ponds and narrow sand bars connecting many separate and distinct beaches and little bits of pink sand washing up in the surf. Siba's tour left at three, but we joked that she'd see a yellow blur anyway and we'd beat her back to town. We stayed until five, but sure enough, driving back the proper way (she told us the road to take) we did pass her bus. We were going to meet her that night, but she wasn't feeling great, so we decided instead to go travelling with her the next day on her day off. John & I grabbed some seafood for his (and maybe my) last night on an island, he had swordfish and I had squid. We walked around the old Venetian quarter for a while and checked a club or two but there wasn't much going on. Again, a little more backgammon in which I won two more games, bringing it up to 6-2 and then John completely came back, at one point skunking me by rolling an impossible double-five after calculating that that was the only roll that would get him to have a piece on my lonely home row piece, and wound up victorious in Crete. It was a tough loss to swallow.

Siba, my new temporary navigator
The time sure flew. Our last day on Crete we picked up Siba at her place, drove to Kourna lake, spent some time there, and then went to Rethymno where she showed us around and just hung out. We had a nice dinner, graciously bought by Johnny boy (though it wasn't really fair because I had my money out first!), strolled around the old town, and had to say goodbye to Siba who took the bus back to Hania as we drove to Irakleio to catch our ferry. She was a lot of fun and a great girl to hang around with, both John & I felt lucky to have met her.

Sunset in Rethymno
And so my travels with John ended. The ferry was nice and had enough empty seats that both John & I were able to sprawl out across four of them and sleep soundly. We did a lot of shopping the next day near Syntagma and Monastiraki, and now I have a new pair of jeans, a couple shirts, and some new cologne that I bought on the street for 5 Euro (Armani's Night). We went out the last night, after, of course, some more backgammon in which I managed to skunk him and won myself the mainland 3-2, bringing our total properties to be tied. Then he & I walked to his bus, said goodbye, and I can only assume/hope he is now on a plane headed for Canada and probably fast asleep. Tomorrow, I have a christening to attend here in Athens and I'll probably spend a little more time with the family in Tripolis, and then it's time to look for a job. Judging by my initial inquiries, it looks like it'll be quite a feat to actually find one. Wish me luck!

<Ios & Santorini Photos>
<Crete Photos>

Peloponessian Odyssey

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Our first stop on the Odyssey
With one day trip to the Diros caves out of the way and only three days left to cover the Pelops and also get up to Delphi, we had to set sail on our three day Odyssey the next morning. It was to be a long trip back to Ithac... err... Argos to return to our beloved Penelop... err... our friendly rental car guy Tasos, but we had our maps and were ready to get underway. We didn't realize that a mob of scooters (some might call them suitors) were at that very moment tearing across Argos taking advantage of our absence. In a rather stretched way, our Odyssey was not so different than another undertaken a by a much more famous Greek.

A great lunch to be had here
We took off from Tripoli after some rice pudding, a stop at the bank for supplies, and some food in our bellies. Filled with the spirit of adventure, we took off on the old highway for Olympia. The road was winding, like Poseidon himself (who has been promoted and now manages land as well as sea travel) was bent against our travel, and the 100 or so kilometres stretched hours.

Mountain village
We stopped in Orhomenos because there was a sign saying there were some ruins and drove up the mountain to find an old theatre on the mountaintop. It was nice because we could actually touch and use the ruins and had them to ourselves with nobody blowing piercing whistles at John. Plus the view from there was really nice, it was like looking down from Greece and seeing Saskatchewan, farmland spread all over the valley. Hungry, we stopped in beautiful Levini and were rewarded with some nice lamb and delicious greens. We also passed a really impressive village called Langadia clinging to the side of the mountain (which I remember from prior travels) and stopped for some photos again.

Then, we travelled through a forest before arriving in Ancient Olympia. I think it was better set up for tourists since my last visit, probably for the Olympics, and I actually am glad I saw it again. Having paid our respects to Zeus and with Athena at our back (after all, we spent a night with her when John arrived), we overcame Poseidon and made it to Pyrgos for some food and Greek pastries in the main plateia. It was actually a nice city, what we saw of it. If nothing else, some food definitely hit the spot... even if it was Goody's (the Greek McDonalds, basically).

Dinner in Pyrgos
Then, off to Patra. We got down to the port and looked for a place to stay, finally finding a Pension that my Lonely Planet mentioned. However, they were complete jerks, which John assures me is a nice word for them. After a battle with the cycloptic woman at the till, from which we emerged victorious by asking if we could see the room that we were to pay 30 Euro for in low season, being told no, we can't, and walking out, we heard a strange music in the air (Calypso?). Walking towards it, we found a street wall-to-wall with people, and a Hotel Galaxy beckoning to us. We payed 10 Euro more to stay there, but we had been seduced by its siren song and great location, so we grabbed a room and were convinced to move our car from out of a back alley. The seductress convinced us to move our car in closer and closer until finally it was shipwrecked in a spot right down the street with the ruins of several other cars to keep it company. But strangely, we felt quite safe with our choice of parking spot.

Not good news, but...
Long hours of our journey (almost 8) were spent at that hotel, until finally we were able to escape the next morning at 11:00. To discover, as we attempted to flee, driving down the street, that there was a ticket on our window and our license plate holder on the windshield. A quick pullover revealed that we had been stripped of our plates and so we went to battle with the locust-like police. First, we stopped at a travel agency/tourist info place/oracle to gather information. It turns out that:

a) The fine was going to be 65 Euro.
b) Our adversaries had divided and we must first meet them in the post office (where we would pay the hefty cost of battle) and then at the police station where we would, the oracle prophesised, emerge victorious after some great and even more painful battle and a bit of misdirection.

We discovered the truth
As always, the oracle was correct. We made it to the post office, waited in line a long time, and finally paid our 65 Euro. That, incidentally, is a HEFTY cost for a parking ticket in a place where tonnes of people were parked anyway. Determined to keep our spirits up, we attempted to joke about the ordeal and even took photos. The moral boost saved the day and we won against the post office. However, even under torture, none would or could disclose the location of the secret police base, so we had to ask at a gas station. Finding it, I was called into the office of one of the officers to go head to head. Or so I thought. A translator was called, who notified me that I would not be able to drive my car for 20 years... errr... days unless I paid THREE TIMES the amount. In total, my friends, that comes close to 200 Euro. Needless to say, I yelled at someone for the second time on my trip. Obviously this was a trap designed to snare tourists (which we were) since leaving a rented car for twenty days is not an option, and I let them know I was unimpressed with being targetted thus. But, we were trapped. Worse, we had to go back to the post office to pay the rest of the money.

Licensed to Continue
With directions to the nearest post office, we set off, moral at an all time low and our pictures seeming to mock us. The directions, in a cunning move by police, were in fact misdirections, and we were told after waiting in line again that we weren't able to pay there but had to find the main post office again. Finally, we found it, charged to the front of the line, and told the woman that obviously we needed our car today and would have to pay the rest. The terrible cost was paid, with my money laid on the counter as far as the eye could see, rivers running green with their blood, but the battle was won. A trip back to the police station and they were to devistated to fight and so gave us our plates, and we fled Patra after a LONG layover swearing never to return (unless we had to).

The bridge out of Hades (AKA Patra)
Saddened at the loss of so much money, we weren't in that great a mood even as we came up to the new Rio bridge connecting Pelops with Central Greece/Sterea Ellada, where we were carried safely over the sea to a pretty town called Nafpaktos. We ate lunch in a restaurant right beside the beach and our spirits slowly lifted. Deciding that even now we could still hear Patras' siren song, we determined to put more distance between us and not dwell there in the sun, but drove straight to Delphi.

The ruins there were very nice, as was the museum, and we checked it all out. This is where the oracle once was and three wars were fought over who controlled it before Roman times made it rather obsolete (since the oracle's control over Greek matters then moved to the Roman Senate). We continued our trek and arrived in Thebes/Thiva after dark and with one hotel full and the other too expensive. A big piece of souvlaki, some greek salad, and a phone call or two told us the trip should be three hours or so, bringing us home to Tripoli around 1 AM. However, with the new National Highway under our wheels, the music blaring from the iPod, and a lot of Coca Cola in our blood, we made the trip in under two hours getting in before midnight. We'd made it back home, but we still had one final ordeal - the scooters waiting in Argos.

Epidauros Theatre
So, we slept in Tripoli and went to tackle them the next day. We stopped for some of that world famous souvlaki in Miloi, spent an hour in Tolo on the beautiful beach there, and saw the Ancient Theatre in Epidauros (you can hear a coin dropped with perfect clarity from the very top - we tested it - that's how impressive the acoustics are at this site). Then, with a stop in the ancient capital of Nafplio, we tackled Argos. When we arrived, the scooters all were slain, or rather, parked and we were able to return our car, and, with a bus ride to Corinth and then Tripoli because there were no more busses direct to Tripoli that night, we got in, got cleaned up, and the nuptuals began with a night out at the club. It was a lot of fun at the one, and then we left to go to another one (where I'd made my zambetiko debut four years earlier) but it was so smoky that we had to leave. We sat and had, yup, more souvlaki and "megalo galaxia nero" which unforunately resulted in us getting just a little bottle of water, and came back home around 5:30.

And so ends our Odyssey. Soon, we're off to the islands and our next, but hopefully slightly more relaxed and less troubled, Odyssey.

<Pelops Photos>

John: Enter Stage Left

Thursday, September 08, 2005

John arrives in Greece, see sites
I left from Thessaloniki on Sept 3, having walked around, seen the white tower, got my cellphone's internet capabilities to work, and come up empty handed on finding Loukoumathes. Really, they're hard to find. The train ride from Thessaloniki to Athens is quite beautiful, and my new book, The Assassini, similar in style to Dan Brown's writings but written over 10 years, was constantly put on hold so I could enjoy the views. In my first act of cell phone usefulness, I managed to secure myself a spot at Athens Backpackers that night, a hostel about which I'd heard only good things, and indeed it was quite nice. It's right in Plaka, under the Acropolis, and has a rooftop bar with cheap drinks where you can sit and chat until 11 or so before going out. I met some cool people the first night and went out with them down the street.

The Acropolis
The next day, I went to the airport to get John. I had planned this not realizing that even on the metro it's about an hour to get there and also 6 Euro each way. On top of that, the plan was that if we didn't meet up at the gate, we'd meet in front of the Enterprise office in the airport. They, however, don't HAVE an Enterprise office in the airport. Luckily, even though I waited for a long time at the gate and was contemplating the dreaded airport-page and thinking I'd missed him, he did walk out. Though I almost didn't recognize him anyway, what with all that facial hair he'd taken to calling a 'beard'. I can get away with saying this because he's still asleep as I write this.

Silver Lager is enjoyed all over the world
We did some sightseeing in Athens, saw the Acropolis (again) which is ever changing, walked to the old parthenon below, the Temple of Apollo, searched (again) for Loukoumathes, and through the markets. Then we grabbed some dinner and hung out on the roof of the hostel again, where we met even more cool Aussies (there is no end to the coolness of people from this continent/country). Better still, my parents had sent John with, among other things (enough Dentyne to glue all of Manhattan to the sidewalks, some awesome but clothes from my sisters, etc), some nice Specklebelly's Pale Ale and Silver. We saved the Pale Ale for my family in Tripolis but brought out the Silver and celebrated my birthday properly. Good times! Not to mention a few promotional shots of Silver being enjoyed under the Acropolis.

Little Maria is now Less-Little Maria
The next day, we came by bus to Tripolis and Kelly and Lee met us at the bus station (brand new, by the way) where, after a taxi ride, we met up with everyone. It's so great to see them again! Maria and Kosta have really grown up, and Theodore looks like a slightly taller version of himself (same old Theodore, otherwise). Niki took about a day to get used to seeing with blond hair as well. We spent the day just chatting and catching up, and when I brought up our fruitless attempts at finding Loukoumathes, and after Diane had disappeared for a bit, Kosta came up to tell us that she'd actually gone and made up a bunch. These cousins of mine are out of control! I should mention they were delicious, made with some of George's brother's honey, and she even had cinnamon to sprinkle. This was AFTER they'd run out to get me a birthday cake and sing happy birthday, mind you, not to mention that she made cake and cookies for the next morning.

Bunnies for Mariah
We checked out the horio (village) the next day, and spent some time with Uncle Ted, Aunt Marina, Maria, and her two (!) new children. Stephania is a bus-loving crazy nut, and completely blonde for the moment, though that's sure to change. She's very tall for only being 2 and also seems quite smart. Or maybe the word is crafty. The newest arrival, as yet unnamed, is tiny, given that she's not even two weeks old yet. How things can change in only 4 years (last time I was here, Maria & Kosta had just gotten married right before I left). Uncle Ted took us up the hill to look over the village, and then on the way down past their old school, John & I stopped at the caffeneio and had some nice cacao. Even the hot chocolate man in Finland can't top this stuff, really, it's that good. I ran into a few older guys I remembered from last time, like John, and also the woman who runs the caffeneio. Also, on the bus to the horio, we sat beside another distant relative, Lygeri, who knew me but I didn't know/remember her. Oops! Oh, and as for the picture, my uncle has a LOT of bunnies and so that's just for Mariah.

Hooray for Caves!
Finally, that night we rented a car for four days, and spent the next day travelling the looong way down to Kalamata and the Caves of Diros before coming back home on the other side of the finger, stopping for a nice meal and a swim in Gythio before heading back to Tripolis. We went out with the girls for Greek night, sitting in a lounge and then taking off for one of the clubs. I think John was secretly relieved we didn't stay long enough for them to start playing Zambetiko music, but who knows.

Today, we're off for a two day trek across the Pelops, up to Sterea Ellatha to Delphi, and then back down to Nauplion, stopping at Milous for what is probably the best souvlaki in the world, and then returning our rental car and heading for the islands (with that one last night in Tripolis with the girls - there's some sort of party going on and they don't have to work on Sunday, so it should be fun). But, we should get going. John just woke up and we have a lot of driving ahead of us.

<Athens/Tripolis Photos>
<Cave Trip Photos>

Last Stop: Greece

Friday, September 02, 2005

Herculaneum and Mt Vesuvius
Wow, so long since an update, where to begin. Probably where I left off is as good a place as any. I will attempt (and doubtless fail) to be brief. When we left last time, I was heading off to Pompeii. Additionally, I climbed up Mt. Vesuvius in time to catch the worst of the midday smog over Naples (though the crater itself was quite cool) and also checked out Herculaneum. For anyone visiting, I'd say that seeing Herculaneum is a better way to go than Pompeii, unless you have a deep historical interest or just want to say you've been to Pompeii. It's more compact but has many of the same features found in Pompeii, and I think it better preserved as well. Pompeii is truly impressive in the scope of the remains, but it's also overwhelming. Perhaps if I'd not attempted all three in one day, but I think it was too much anyway. Vesuvius, for the record, was quite cool to see as far as looking into the crater and at the mountains silhoutted in cool blue fog, but earlier in the morning would probably be a better bet.

Sorbillo Pizza
I was intending to also check out Naples that evening, but a serious lack of energy and the admission from even locals that there wasn't much to see dissuaded me. Instead, I caught a much overdue shower and a little downtime. Someone ran and ordered pizza and delivered it back to the hostel, so we just sat on the patio chatting. Very nice.

The next morning, I was off to Greece via ferry from Bari to Corfu. I got up nice and early (for no real reason in retrospect) and caught the 8:35 to Casserta where I'd switch to get to Bari. I ended up waiting there for a couple hours anyway, but did finish Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. Which got me thinking about some metaphysics and writing down thoughts as though I knew what I was talking about. And it sure made me feel smart. Until, that is, I realized that my pouch where I keep my passport and backups of other documents was open and said documents were nowhere to be found. After a brief moment of panic/searching my immediate locality, I remembered I'd left them in the safe back at the hostel. Bear in mind this was all minutes before the train I was due to catch arrived. Could they courier it to Bari for me? Would I miss my boat? Could I use my existing train tickets?

The ferry to Corfu
As I pondered these, I missed my train, which I knew was probably inevitable. So, back to Naples, pick up my stuff, and then do it all over again. I made it to Bari the second time with no further complications (that I'm aware of) and despairing for something to do, started reading Seabiscuit, which turned out to become quite riveting and interesting. I'll have to watch that movie after all. After grabbing a quick gelati, which would be my second and also last in Italy, I hopped the bus, got a cheap deck class ticket, and hopped aboard the overnight to Corfu.

Sunrise over Corfu - I made it!
Sleep was not to come easily however. Largely because there was a rather creepy and disheveled-but-trying-not-to-look-it man behind me who, everytime I looked back, was looking at me. One time when he wasn't, it was because he was examining a knife. Having heard plenty of stories of backpacks being sliced and emptied of their contents as the unsuspecting backpacker sleeps, I was having none of this. I proposed to make myself the most alert and awake looking traveller on the bus, tapping my foot, bopping my head, reading my book with as much gusto as could possibly be aroused for a book reading, even as what few other deck passengers remained tucked into their sleeping bags. I'd tried earlier to join forces with a German couple to keep a watch, but the language barrier had thwarted me. He later moved, for no apparent reason, from two seats behind me to two seats behind the German couple as they tucked into their sleeping bags for the night. I then packed my stuff and left as though I actually DID have a room and snuck back to the lower deck where I was later joined with by a few other backpackers and night owls who would make up my watch.

The view from our room in Corfu
Whether it was paranoia or justified, I don't know. I never heard from or saw the Germans again. But in any case I awoke an hour early to the sunrise thinking I had until 7 before departure and forgetting entirely about the time change. So I quickly had to throw my stuff together when I discovered we were arrived in Corfu, and get off the ferry. Where I was packed on the bus for the Pink Palace, place of legend, backpackers' paradise, and so forth.

Corfu Beach
There's not much to actually say about my stay there in spite of it. We arrived tired, and I was roomed with a Canadian and Aussie I'd met on the bus, and finally managed to convince them that we had to hit the booze cruise (d'oh, didn't bring my camera), which itself is legendary outside the Palace. The cruise was a good time, though it was to be our first indication of how the numbers had dropped off at the Palace in the weaning hours of August. We jumped from a 15-20m high rock outcropping (with some trepidation, I'll admit), we did a smaller jump in the cave, swam in the cave, went to a supposed monastery, and boated to a private beach for a spell. Not to mention the somewhat crazy antics of fellow passengers. We were all tired from our ferry and big day, not to mention the sun (and a little biere), so we thought we'd get a nap before dinner. Apparently, I was awakened and had a conversation where, when asked what I was doing for the evening, I answered "the beach". In any case, all I really did was sleep until 2:30 AM, read until 4, and then sleep until 8. Much needed.

The next day was a beach day, which itself was quite deserted, and then a tasty dinner followed by going out (no naps allowed). The Palace was deserted, really. I was invited to go into town with some others, and probably should've, but didn't. So it was a fairly tame evening. I learned the next day when I left in the morning, that the current population had dwindled from 1000s to 91 people. Yikes! Then, bus to Corfu town, ferry to Igoumenitsa, and bus to Kalmbaka. I got a room at Hotel Astoria for probably too much money after another long day of travel and grabbed dinner at the local cafeneio, which had TERRIFIC souvlaki. So all was not lost. I finished Sea Biscuit that day as well, and can also recommend that book (I don't recommend Brief History of Time for the layman, though otherwise it seems I've recommended every book I've finished).

Up early again the next morning to explore Meteora. I got the wrong bus in the morning and the taxi ride cost 5 Euro instead, so no big deal, plus I had time for a much needed breakfast - spanakopita. Meteora itself was amazing, massive pillars of rock in a veritable forest of them, with little monasteries precariously holding the top of them. I walked from monastery to monastery, the one made famous by James Bond in For Your Eyes Only was sadly closed for the day, but that couldn't dampen the mood. It was really quite beautiful there. I explored the area for about four-five hours and then made for the trail back down to Kalambaka. Except I took the wrong trail and wound up basically climbing down between two massive pillars in a rather perilous route. But I made it with only a few scratches and caught the train for Thessaloniki.

Which is where I am now. The city itself is a bit of a disappointment and I'm not convinced it was worth making it here, but I guess I got to see it. In any case, I'm here today, and tomorrow I'm off to Athens to meet John, who arrives the day after in the morning. And then, 3 weeks of touring with him, which I've been quite looking forward to, even if it means I have to go to Athens (Dean no likey). Finally, I got myself a cellphone here so if anyone thinks they might have need of being able to text me or call me, send me an email first and I'll get you that number. And I almost bought a car from a guy staying at my hostel for 100 Euro or so (what do I have to lose, really). He's been travelling around but more or less done and looking to either just dump it or get a few bucks back for it. In any case, I decided against it since I wasn't sure of the legalities with insurance and everything not to mention it could be a headache as well. I probably should've just bought it, but a person has to be cautious once in a while...

I'm not sure how much these updates will come now that I'm in Greece, but I'll try to keep them flowing. Pictures to come from my most recent adventures, what little there are (I have a tonne from Meteora but like 5 from Thessaloniki, which really isn't fair, I think I'm just not in the mood for being here right now). See you soon.

<Naples Photos>
<Corfu Photos>
<Meteora Photos>