Greek Island-Hopping

Summer 2009 was the summer of spontaneity and smoked meat. Remember Chris, the guy I met in Madrid two summers ago and who eventually visited me in Berlin while I was there researching the Holocaust? Well, we decided that we worked so well in travel mode that we were going to travel together for an entire month this summer. Somehow our schedules lined up for the month of July and we decided to start in Athens.

I had spent the two weeks before visiting friends in Boston and NYC, and after a delayed flight in JFK (eleven hours of epic boredom and anxiety), I was in a cab passing by the acropolis. Athens was unbelievably hot; while climbing up the side of the mountain that the acropolis sits on, I had a borderline asthma attack. Good fun. After three days in the scorching Athenian heat we were ready to move on and start island-hopping.

Ruins in the heart of Athens

Chris and I managed to visit three Greek islands: Crete, Santorini, and Corfu. Each one was amazingly beautiful and unique. We hiked the Gorge of Samaria in Crete and I somehow pushed through without any incidents of asphyxiation. The old town of Chania was our starting point on this island; when I first arrived I had to convince myself that it was not a movie set. The small winding pathways, the picturesque lighthouse, the Cretan ruins, begged to differ. And the food! We ate dinner in an ancient bathhouse that had been converted into a Cretan home-cooking restaurant. Think Cracker Barrel in a teepee, but so much cooler. Of course we visited the Palace of Knossos near Heraklion. I had this vision in my mind of a single building, but in reality the ruins are a huge complex on the palace grounds.

Lighthouse and bay in Chania, Crete

Santorini was beautiful for very different reasons. It wasn’t lush with wildlife like Crete, in fact, since it is actually a volcano it appeared barren and dry. The black sand beaches, vineyards, and architecture made up for this though. Chris and I visited Perissa Beach, and took a boat tour around the volcano, eventually ending up in the town of Oia to watch the sunset. Little did I know, I would be returning to Oia in a few weeks with my mom and her close friend to stay in a cave villa in the Caldera. The round, white villas don’t seem real; I felt like I was in a theme park and had to continually remind myself that this place was legitimately beautiful.

Swimming near the hot springs in Santorini

Villas built into the cliffs on top of Santorini

The next island we visited was Corfu, and this was the hardest to leave. Our initial impression was not positive. When we got off the ship at the port in Corfu, we couldn’t find a cab and stood in the heat for what felt like forever. When we finally found a cab, Chris and I realized that neither of us knew the address of our hostel. Luckily, the name “Sunrock” rang a bell for our cab driver. As we pulled up into the driveway, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was paradise. The hostel was an old villa sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking Pelekas Beach, with a huge patio to sit on and watch the sunset. Every night the family who owned the hostel cooked a feast and everyone sat together and ate dinner. Afterwards, no one wanted to leave the hostel and go out, so we sat together at the hostel’s bar, drank, and swam at the beach. Chris and I tried to rent motorbikes, failed, and rented a four wheeler that couldn’t carry our weight up the side of the mountain, so we eventually settled on seeing the coast by renting kayaks and paddling everywhere.

Beach at Corfu
After Corfu, we were off to the Balkans. More about that later!

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