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>


Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAN! (yes we're shouting)

Hope you made it a good one!

Btw and once more, congrats for your masterful pics :-o)

Dean said...

Thanks Yann! I thought I heard something coming from the northwest! :)