How the whole trip happened:


A) the Cyclades including Naxos and Santorini with short visits to Delos and Mykonos.

B) the Dodecanese including Rhodes and Symi.

C) the Peloponnese including Nafplio, Mystras/Sparta (+Mycenae and Epidavros), and Ancient Olympia.

D) the Ionian Islands PLUS Lefkada, then Corfu and a day trip to Albania, a day trip to Paxos, and then the amazing Meteora.

E) Delphi-Athens and a day trip to Corinth.


May 19-20

Me and my row-mate, luxuriating in the empty center seat, the only empty seat on the plane it seemed, for the LA-Montreal leg of the journey. Oh lucky lucky us.


I was only slightly less lucky with the Montreal-Athens flight because both I and the guy in the center kept our arms basically off the armrest resulting in no territory creep at all. So A-OK on the flight, very soon forgotten.

I stepped outside the terminal door, looked up the road and there it was, the bus that would take me to Piraeus for a crazy reasonable 5 Euro.

A sweet old guy on the bus was helping all the tourists find their stop, and then a lady in one of the shops by my stop graciously called the hotel who had a driver at the ready to come pick me up. And what a lovely welcome at the Phidias Hotel.

It all went so smoothly, I'm very happy.


This is a wiki picture of the port of Piraeus.

Wiki Fun Facts: the area has been inhabited since the 26th century BC (James Michener should have started here). Piraeus is now the largest passenger port in Europe and the third largest in the world.

(wiki photo)


Walking to the pier to buy ferry tickets for tomorrow, I passed by the Agia Triada, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

Construction began in 1939 so this church is not that old but there was still time to get destroyed in 1944 from Allied bombing, with new building begun in 1954, completed in 1979 making this iteration of the church positively new.

I saw the spires of a few other churches in the distance but I was wearing down and didn't go for a look.


A leisure marina two blocks from my hotel.


My hotel is in there among the green trees, between the pastry shops, shoe stores, cafes, boutiques, etc.. I had never thought that Piraeus could be so pleasant.

Fingers crossed I can stay asleep until 4am at least!


May 21

Phidias Hotel sent their van down to the port with several guests for the morning ferries. My ferry was going from Paros-Naxos-Santorini so it was well subscribed.

Nice seat! You can buy 3 kinds of tickets - deck, reserved, and premium. I don't know how good premium is but reserved gets you a place in a block of airline seats (yikes, not that!).

The inside deck arrangements are fabulous (comfy chairs, little tables, padded benches), no reason to pay for anything else maybe unless it's crowded. It seemed the ferry was half full. Twice as many people would be a Lot of people jockeying around for those lovely seats inside.

The outside decks are the domain of the smokers and are well enveloped by a hazy blue cloud, to be 'enjoyed' only to grab a quick photo. No smoking inside though so that's a trade I'll make.


I was on the Blue Star, the only ferry going to Naxos this time of year. That's one of the sister ships. It was lovely.


Yes, I WAS welcome!


Arriving in Paros to drop off and pick up. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to pop over there or not.


The Studios Stratos husband was right there at the port to meet me for the drive up. The wife then led me to a perfectly nice room with a decent sized window but it looked out across a short alley to a blank wall.

I asked 'might you have a room that looks over the street, I won't mind the noise'.

She took my head in both her hands and kissed me on both my cheeks and said 'come, you will be happy' and led me to a similar room (two twin beds, night stands and reading lights, cupboard, small table and two chairs, mini-kitchen, an ok/not great bathroom) but with this fabulous balcony. Oh goodie!

Twenty-five euros folks.


Looks nice I think.


During my stroll through the streets I came across this alley where I saw what looks like the office of the communist party steps from the Laura Ashley store and that gave me chuckle.


My first Greek meal in Greece at Meze-2 and if the rest of what I eat nears this standard I will be eating like a QUEEN.

I've been going on about this exact meal for a month - whole grilled little fishies with a big squeeze of lemon and an icy-cold ouzo. The potato and carrot salad on the plate was perfect. The feta cheese and crusty amazing bread...resistance was futile.

I also had a 1/4 serving of retsina and with plenty of ice it was delicious and THEN they brought an unexpected closer of plain thick rich Greek yogurt with honey and carrots. OMG. That's all I can say.


"You call me, and yet I see no food. Go away. Go away or I shall taunt you a second time."


Sorry for the distort-o. I followed the map to the Catholic Cathedral and found myself here. It's very plain inside too. I got to say 2 of my 4 Greek words! I saw the priest walk by and I said 'parakalo!' (please) and simultaneously made the turning-the-key gesture then I said 'efkharisto efkharisto' (thank you thank you), and he opened the door!

No photos allowed though.


From a tour of the Venetian House which really wasn't much except for this nice big mirror.


The Orthodox Cathedral, built around 1787 in dedication to Zoodochos Pigi. I couldn't get in but I read that there were some interesting murals in there.


Wiki says: "Naxos’ economy in ancient times was based on emery mining and the marble quarries. The town of Naxos is built on layers of history, and there are some ruins just below street level near the Greek Orthodox Cathedral."

I'll have to look for those.


May 22

I did some work this morning setting myself up for the rest of my time in Naxos since not everything is available every day (Sat:a bus tour inland and Sun: a daytrip by ferry for short visits to Delos and Mykonos) probably heading out to Santorini on Monday.

Then I decided to walk somewhere. I've become quite attached to the woman at the rent-a-car place at the end of my street because she is so welcoming and helpful. She said 'oh why don't you walk to Agidia?'. So I said 'sure, I'll walk to Agidia'.


Maybe what she meant for me to see was this place along the way, the Basilica of Saint Stefanos and the Ancient Aqueduct.

I walked up that road a short way before coming upon a locked gate and behind a fence all I could see was...


...this.


Spring is springing - I think there are six different wildflowers in that little patch.


I continued on walking to Agidia, it's that town in the distance. I couldn't find a restaurant or a shop in Agidia and I was so imaginging a nice rest on a cool patio with a glass of cold water and a refreshing ouzo. But no, not for me.


A scene along the way.


I haven't figured out this church yet.

Here's a cut and paste wiki chronology of Naxos:

Cycladic civilization The Zas Cave was inhabited during the Neolithic era, contained objects of stone from Melos and copper objects including a dagger and gold sheet. Classical era and Greco-Persian Wars During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Naxos dominated commerce in the Cyclades. Herodotus describes Naxos circa 500 BC as the most prosperous Greek island. Byzantine era Under the Byzantine Empire, Naxos was part of the thema of the Aegean Sea, which was established in the mid-9th century. Duchy of Naxos The Duchy of Naxos and other Frankish states, carved from the Byzantine Empire, as they were in 1265. In the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade ... the Venetian Marco Sanudo conquered the island and soon captured the rest of the islands of the Cyclades. Ottoman control (1564–1821) The Ottoman administration remained essentially in the hands of the Venetians; the Porte's concern was satisfied by the returns of taxes. Very few Turks ever settled on Naxos, and Turkish influence on the island is slight.


The map calls this the Temple of Apollo, which it seems from the internet is not certainly what it was.

This place used to be a hill connected to the mainland but with rising seas you now reach it by a causeway, the island named Palatia and the monument called Portara.

"The Portara is the entrance to an unfinished temple that faces directly toward Delos, Apollo's birthplace. For this reason most scholars believe it was dedicated to Apollo, but some think it was built in honor of Dionysus, who was worshipped on Naxos Island."


Begun in 530 BC, by 506 BC the ruler Lygdamis who ordered the construction was overthrown and the temple was never finished.

What we see now has mostly been rebuilt, maybe even from some of the original stones.


More.


Looking back to town.

LP: "Though there's not much to see other than two columns with a crowning lintel, people gather at sunset for views back to the whitewashed houses of Naxos Town scrambling up to the 13th-century kastro on the hilltop."


May 23

My ladies! Efkharisto...Parakalo...

The book says parakalo means 'please' and efkharisto means 'thank you'. Parakalo also means 'you're welcome'. You say efkharisto and you get a parakalo back, like magic. And every time I've heard someone answer the phone they say parakalo. Parakalo also works for excuse me to get someone's attention and it works for offering something, like the Japanese dozo.

I wonder if I'm going to learn any more Greek words? Yes! Now I am going to practice delicious. If the last few days are any example it's a word I'll be sure to be using.


From another angle, Naxos City. There's a very old town in there with narrow steep winding streets very much gentrified with shops, cafes, and tourist accommodation.


I'm walking a short distance on a cool flagstone path from the bay that has the port to the bay that has the resorts.

Here we are at Saint George Beach, so quiet and family friendly but no paddle boards. I'm very surprised because this beach was made for paddle boards. Maybe later when the real season starts in July someone will have them for rent.


Yesterday I ate a moussaka at the little fishies place from the night before which wasn't particularly special but what I ate today was AWEsome - a crazy delicious garlic salad, fried eggplant like I never had before, olives, and the bread here which cannot be denied.

I'm trying to eat just once around 3-4 since I know me and I'm going to eat it until it's gone, once is enough. We'll see how long this lasts.


May 24

I enjoyed an all day bus tour today into the interior of the island. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades and I won't see nearly all of it, but here's a taste of the countryside.

This is a nice summary photo: mountain peaks, white washed buildings, a massive number of olive trees, spring blooms, and stone work.


Our first stop was the village of Damalas, touristified in many ways but still interesting to see, and people live there, and the buildings are 'real'.

They had restored a traditional olive press and the guide went on at great length telling about the history of olives in this area.


More.


There was a potter who demonstrated the traditional methods and why yes you could even buy one if you wanted.


Next stop Halki, once the capital of Naxos during the Italian administration, and the trade and cultural heart of the island during that time.

Notice all the buildings are still in the Italian style, an interesting contrast to the first village.


We had a short show-and-tell from a maker of the local drink, Kitro, made from the leaves of the citron tree. They also make ouzo and a very tasty raki flavored with honey and cinnamon. Samples were available and bottles for sale.


On to the byzantine church of Panagia Drosiani (Dewy Virgin), from the early Christian period and the oldest on Naxos.

"The church was restored in 1964. Cleaning of the wall paintings and removal of the most recent layers has been carried out over the years 1964 - 1971."


The guide had to tell every story in both English and German which could become a little tiresome for the tourists and I would imagine especially tiresome for her but she kept up good spirits and enthusiasm throughout. Nicely done.


A view from the back.


We were not allowed to take pictures inside but someone else managed to grab a shot of one of the many frescos that adorn the walls and ceilings. It's very small and dark inside and the frescos are the dominant feature.

(internet pic)


Lunch! It was past one and the crowd was getting restless for food. We stopped in Apiranthos, a larger village built down the side of a mountain.

This is the Church of Panagia Apeirathitissa said to have some noteworthy icons. So many of the churches have been closed, this one no exception.


The village is not motorized and all the winding start-and-stop pathways are made of marble.

As the guide warned, should you wander into the maze you are guaranteed to become disoriented...


...as I did. It was fun though and the Greek salad I ate for lunch was splendid. They grow vegetables here and I'm sure everything was fresh and warm from the garden...which means their tomatoes must be ready.


My Greek salad had a huge and amazingly delicious slab of feta cheese on top, like the cheese from the first night with the little fishies.

And speaking of which, we were on a short photo-op stop and out of seemingly nowhere come hundreds Hundreds of goats each one clanging the bell around his neck. The sound was amazing.


The man in charge of all those goats and...


...his awesome dog.


The view we had stopped to enjoy when the entire busload of tourists couldn't get enough of the goats.

So there I was one in the horde pouring out of a giant tour bus, and glad to have done it. The roads are particularly narrow, steep, and full of very sharp switchbacks. No getting distracted by the squirrels...


We stopped a time or two to look at the marble quarries that made this island rich, and lastly we heard all about this kouros from the 7th century BC made from marble and abandoned here due to some flaw in its construction and rediscovered centuries later by a guy building himself a patio.

It was good, put on by Naxos Tours.


May 25

I took the opportunity to visit Delos and Mykonos on a ferry tour for my last day in Naxos. The ferry runs this exact route only three times a week until July so I was glad to have had the right day to do it.

Leaving Naxos, we're passing the Temple of Apollo as you might remember from earlier days.


The ferry took a quick stop in Paros to drop-off and pick-up.


An internet picture. I'm trying to give an overview of the Delos cityscape but this is not 1/4 of it all.

The entire island of Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is unoccupied and no one is allowed to spend the night. It's one giant archeological site with more ruins constantly being uncovered.

(internet pic)


"By the time of the Odyssey the island was already famous as the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis" and sacred for worshipers of other gods as well with temples aplenty.


"In the 5th century BC .. the entire island was purged of all dead bodies. It was then ordered that no one should be allowed to either die or give birth on the island due to its sacred importance and to preserve its neutrality in commerce."

The result of this was the expelling of all the native people who were originally Carians from Crete.


Dead end!


"Strabo states that in 166 BC the Romans converted Delos into a free port, which was partially motivated by seeking to damage the trade of Rhodes, at the time the target of Roman hostility."

The free port and central location led to Delos becoming a great commercial center for transporting goods and a rich city developed.


"The Terrace of the Lions dedicated to Apollo by the people of Naxos shortly before 600 BC, had originally nine to twelve squatting, snarling marble guardian lions along the Sacred Way."

I thought I read the originals are the museum on site and that these were replicas but I can't find the source again and I don't remember seeing them in the museum.


There is zero shade and walking around here it gets plenty hot even though the temperature didn't reach 80. I didn't climb up there. Yikes it must be really tough in the tourist season of July and August.


This guy was at least 10 inches long.


Some examples of carvings and inscriptions.

I'm so glad to have made it out here, I feel impressed.


And the archeologists are sure there are many more discoveries yet to come.

Here we are sailing away from Delos and very soon...


...we've arrived in Mykonos.


Here's a little church...


...and here's a big church.


On this map of the small city center I count 20 churches. I will spare you pictures of any more churches.


When I hear 'Mykonos' I think 'kids getting drunk'. I can see this, but there are also cruise ship types stopping in for a daytrip and that's who's out and about now.

It seemed quite lively both here and in Naxos with all the shops open, restaurants busy, tours full. I was wondering what it would be like considering what I was hearing of the economy here but so far so good.


Guys cleaning fish and the sea gulls who love them.


One of the landmarks of the Mykonos skyline. There are many of these windmills around, kept for their historic/touristic value probably because none of them actually have blades.


The Little Venice side. On the other side of Little Venice is the bay for the old and new ports and most of Old Town. Here we find winding narrow street jam-packed with shops, cafes, bars, and accommodations.


The moon and the sun. All the menus had similar items and they all looked expensive by Naxos standards so I decided to just pick the most comfortable chair and not look at the menu.

So yeah, it was expensive.

An overpriced but nonetheless delicious meal of water, a local beer, some bread, an appetizer of YUMMY dolmas, grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat with a rich and scrumptious lemon and egg yolk sauce…40 euro (!), plus the ferry food and I was looking at more than twice my room bill.


Dolphins! And the crowd went WILD!!


Back home in Naxos for my last night, and then I'll be on to Santorini.


May 26

Today I did the transfer between Naxos and Santorini.

What I ate: more ferry food because it’s not bad and it’s there and a very excellent dinner in Santorini of water (I say water because you always have to pay for the water, from 1-4 euro depending), very good local wine, crusty good bread, an appetizer of fava bean salad with a soaking in tasty olive oil, fresh onions, fat tasty capers, and Greek olives, an appetizer portion of fried calamari (YUM), AND a giant mouthwatering portion of baklava…25 euro. And not to forget the ferry food.

I never eat out like this on the road. I usually go to the market and stock up on fruit and yogurt, milk and cereal, pre-made tuna salad etc.. But it looks very much like that isn’t going to be happening here in Greece.


May 27

NOTE! I have been saying Santorini to mean the island and also to mean the main town of Fira. I'm not the only one though...

The internet connection in my hotel here in Santorini, the New Haroula, makes me want to weep. But then I have a lovely room WITH a view for 40 euro. It’s making me crazy though.

Part of why Santorini is everyone's favorite.



More.

This is one of the dozens of churches and a wider part in the town's walkways. Mostly the walk- and road-ways are packed with cars and tourists and narrow too.


Another look down. I see now that the steps there are kind of quiet. I should go walk on them!


And now a look from a walk up up and far away.


A close-up of the town from the above location.

It's so crowded and there is so much commotion in there I'm really surprised. Shopping shopping shopping. And terraces where tourists enjoy expensive drinks and wait for the sunset.


Or you can stand basically anywhere along the caldera and it turns out to be true, sunset in Santorini is very cool.


Mighty nice even without clouds to add some interest.


Like a huge shiny glistening egg yolk as it drops behind what I think is still part of the caldera.

I'm going to HAVE to call a halt to these crazy meals or come home the Goodyear Blimp.

Around 11:30 I was overcome by the smell of a wood fire heating up a well used grill and I had to go in there. I had to get the whole grilled fish with very tasty flavored rice and a perfect cabbage salad. I had to.

Then around 6:30 I had to find some faster and more reliable Wi-Fi just to get caught up and to start looking into my next stop (it's going to be Rhodes) so I had to order something to eat. I got a very delicious tuna sandwich. The roll was perfect, the spread was perfect, the bits of cucumber and tomato were perfect. And it came with chips, which I had to eat all of...because why...


May 28

It's tour day! I got picked up at the bus station at 10am by a big tour bus that took all of us down to the old pier where many of these style boats were waiting.

I and 100 others went with the Odysseas. It was plenty comfortable - ours even had a shade deck which I enjoyed.

They look like sailing ships but only one or two even pretended to have sails wrapped around the cross-beams and I'm quite sure they just motor around this volcanic lake visiting the islands created by the various eruptions.


The cliffs of Santorini.


Our first stop was Nea Kameni Island, evidence of the most recent of the eruptions. At this point our boat was on the far right and we walked across the decks of all the others to get off.


Oh look, here come three more. During our one hour stay the boats would shuffle themselves around so that by the time we left our boat was second from the left.


The Hike.


After 20 minutes I was here, obviously not going to get all the way up and back in the allotted one hour!


Next stop, Palea Kameni Island and the volcanic hot springs. Again there was a clutch of boats with swimmers diving in for the swim to...


...the Hot Springs. I didn't do it. What I read was that it was stinky, it stained your clothes, and it wasn't even hot.

Add to that no where to rinse off and you can see it was not for me much as I would have enjoyed a dip in the sea.


Time for a late lunch and we motored on to Thirasia Island. Like everywhere around Santorini you have to go UP and here there was no option but to climb, so I didn't...


...I ate a long slow lunch and visited with a sweet young couple from Xi'an. I also enjoyed the company of a group of Aussie women celebrating one of their 40th birthdays. I have no acceptable pictures though.

You can see the windmill in the above picture and that's where the restaurant was. This one actually turns!


For the last stop the boat dropped everyone here, below the town of Oia which some say has the most fantastic sunset views of all.

Yikes, I just don't want to walk up there! It isn't hot-hot but it is still hot and the sun is bright and beating down upon my old grey head. Here there is one alternative though...


...donkeys. There are donkeys that will take you up to Santorini too but in Santorini you also have the alternative of the tram or a bus. Here it's just the donkeys.

The donkey rides are pretty controversial in the travel forums but I will note that the donkeys seemed in very good condition and decent spirits too if one can divine a donkey's spirit...and my healthy well spirited donkey carried me up that hill!


Known as 'the church with six bells', I haven't found its name yet on the internet. That's weird!

There was a service going on inside thick with incense and chanting, like a movie.


Oia is a more colorful town than Santorini I think, and more serene too, not as frantic as Santorini, until around an hour or two before sunset. Then hold on to your hat.


A guy taking a shower and his...


...dog. No I didn't let that dog lick my face but I did let her lick my hand despite knowing well enough that she could have decided to Have my hand.


If I remember rightly the guide said there were 80 churchs in Oia.


A light dinner. I got to practice all my words, and they are piling up. He acted like he understood anyway, and made only appropriate replies. Cool.


It looked like we weren't going to get that eggy sun. I've got the camera over my head standing on the balcony of a shop. I'm glad to have come here to have a look but I think the sunset in Santorini is much easier to enjoy.


At the very end he showed himself peeking above the horizon. Now back to the bus for the return to Santorini. It's very late for me!


May 29

This morning I went over to a nice hotel on the main drag, to relax in peace, sit in nice clear No Smoking air, have a coffee, and figure out what my last day would look like.

Little Did I Know! From out of NOWHERE came a wind storm the like of which no one could remember. And then it poured rain. I just stayed here!


Here’s a map of the Santorini island group so you can get a feel for the volcano/s and where I went on the boat tour.

Recommended sites to see and things to do that I didn’t: ruins of Ancient Thira (I did pop into the museum though), wine tasting, go to the white/red/black sand beaches, there are a few churches I missed, and too many recommended restaurants/bars/clubs to name.

I'm leaving on the ferry tonight at 1am in a comfy cabin to arrive in Rhodes around 9:30am. Big cheers for the Blue Star Ferry.


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