07 April 2009

The Beautiful Disaster

7 April 2009

Greece. Dogs, food, gorgeous Santorini, friendly people. Definitely one of my favorite countries.

So to start our trip, we almost missed our renfe train at Pg. de Gracia. We literally got there just in time, it was insane! Megan brought homemade snacks for us on the renfe, so we had a little picnic on the train, haha! There were a lot of people with accordions on the train for some reason. So we got to the airport on time and headed over to the Vueling terminal which is in a separate building form the rest of it. I seriously love Terminal C…San Miguel and KitKats are a great way to prepare for a night flight! When we got to the gate, they were already boarding and we re-realized that Spaniards do not understand the concept of a line. They just like to make a big blob and run at the goal at the same time. There was this crazy Greek woman boarding the plane and yelling at the ticket taker. She was so hilarious…she kept trying to rip her passport out of their hands and was going off about how she hated Spain, ahaha! Then when she was about to board the plane, the flight attendants jokingly told her this plane was actually going to Madrid instead of Athens and she totally flipped shit! Our flight was quite rowdy. There were people screaming during takeoff, people clapping after we were safely in the air or on the ground, people congregating and walking around the isles, someone walking around taking photos, and one sneaky farter. Amy got the privilege of sitting next to the insane Greek woman...crazy town was totally drunk!

Once in Athens, we had to catch a bus to the city center where we met Charlene. She’s from Michigan but currently studying in Bilbao and was also heading to Piraeus to catch a ferry to one of the islands. So we get to the port around 4:30 am and see all these HUGE ferries! No joke, they were like cruise ships!! So crazy! This woman came up to us and said that there were no ferries that day due to the strike. We didn’t know what to think since Carolyn’s had been canceled due to the strike, but she received and e-mail saying her ferry was being rearranged, but we hadn't. We decided to wait around and see what was up since there were people cleaning the ship and it was on. Since we had some time to kill, we decided to look for food. We obviously checked out the McDonald’s first, but they were closed even though all the lights were on and there was someone in there? Bizarre. So we wandered near the port and finally found a little place that was open! The guy was sooo nice! He asked where we were from and where we were going. Then he told us that if we didn’t have exactly what it cost, that was fine, haha! We all ordered some spanakopita which is a pastry thing with cheese and spinach in it. It totally hit the spot. We went back to the port to eat them to wait til the office opened at 6 to see what was really going on. While by the port, we encountered Scooter, Jezebel, and their motley crew! They are all dogs. No joke, Greece has the most stray dogs I have ever seen in my entire life. They wander in packs and when one barks out, you can hear them responding from far away just like in 101 Dalmatians! So when Scooter barked, a group of about 5 more showed up. Scooter was like our guard dog/pimp because he sat in front of his group of American harem and chased down all the cars that went by. I was legit worried he was going to get run over almost every time. Damn dog. When the office opened, the woman said our tickets were canceled even though our cards had been charged. She said she had never heard of the company we booked through, so I was freaking out thinking it was all a scam and that they just took our money. She told us of an internet café down by the port so we could get some phone numbers to call the company, but when we got there, the computers were all down and the place was filled with smelly homeless people…sick. So we wandered town asking if people knew of another one, and they said no. So we decided to go into a random hotel and ask if we could use their internet if we paid them. Initially they said come back in an hour, but as we were leaving, they told us we could just use it anyways and told us where to find it. They were also incredibly friendly! We asked how to say hello in Greek and they said it was something like “yasu,” but then he said not to say that to an older guy because it’s a flirty way to say hello, haha! He was a goofy little man! Such a funny hotel--half way up a staircase was a mini door that led to a laundry room. We found the internet and while they were trying to figure out how to get their e-mail to work, I called the Jude to see if I had gotten credit back for the canceled ferry. I think I confused her because I gave her my usual very brief “hey.” when she answered and she was all “who is this!?” When I told her it was me, I think it rocked her world a bit, haha! She very kindly investigated for me and we found out that it was still charged, boo. Sorry for making that such a brief call mom—calls to the US are money suckers! Another guy came and helped us with the internet and we eventually got the number for the place even though they don’t open til 9:00am. So we asked if we could get a room in their hotel and they let 6 of us cram in a room for a total of 70 euros. So we all took a nap, called and got the tickets sorted out, got gyros for lunch and then wandered down by the port. We ended up hanging out down there for a couple of hours before heading back. We got some beers at the internet café from the night before—much better during the daylight—and then headed back to meet Carolyn at the hotel and to get the ferry tickets that the woman personally delivered. She was a nice lady. We went and got some dinner, I had musaka or something like that, and then headed off to our ferry at around midnight! We grabbed some water from the guy who sold us the Spanakopita from earlier in the day and he gave us a discount, haha! He also let me push the button on the wall that made the awning go up, haha! We were on a different ferry than Charlene, so we said goodbye and headed on our way. That ship was so pimp! There was a cinema in there, restaurants, lounges, etc. We sat in the front of the boat in a café/lounge area where we could look out the windows. As promised, I found safety instructions and the lifeboats, haha! I watched Twilight to kill some time, but had to have it plugged in the whole time because my iPod is stupid and died on a full battery the second I started the movie. Sheesh. After that, I just laid on the floor and tried to sleep, haha!

We got into the port of Santorini at about 5:30 am and found the hostel bus. Just to make things more complicated, our tire blew out on the way up the zig-zag mountain. Another van came from the hostel, our driver got in, AND THEY LEFT US! Some Chileans wanted to get the part started, jumped into the front seat, and turned the radio up all the way so we had some music to listen to as the sun rose over the Aegean Sea. A new van, possibly more rickety than the first, came and we finally got to our hostel which is about 20 feet from Perissa Beach which has black sand! Our room wasn’t ready, so me, Ames, and C-Mase had to split into 2 rooms for a bit. The hostel was like a mini resort! It had little kitchens, mini patios colored in blue and white, a swimming pool, and this really cool thing where if you requested a movie, they would play it and you could get it in all of the rooms! We all took showers and then headed out to find the bakery where I had the most delicious banana-chocolate croissant and strawberry juice! While wandering around by the hostel in search of the hostel, we met Punky Brewster, a little black dog (only later did we realize he was just a boy dog that peed like a girl and we had to change his name to Pepito). He followed us back to the beach where Ames and I walked in the Aegean! We found a cute little bar right on the beach and stopped for a beer. They had just opened a few days ago, and were still short on some supplies, haha! They gave us some free olives and told us we could use their beach lounge chairs whenever we wanted. They were so nice! Everyone kept coming up and talking to us and asking us how we liked Greece so far. It was really weird, we kept hearing the same Pink Floyd remake CD throughout Greece. It was a girl singing and it was super mellow. The originals are definitely better, but it was interesting to hear nonetheless! So at about 9:00 am, we headed back to the hostel to arrange our tour for the next day and decided to rent ATV’s for the current day so we could ride around and see the whole island! It was only about 7,50 each, so why not!? So this little Greek woman picked up to take us to the rental place where her husband showed us how to work them all. They were so cute and excited, haha! We rode all over Santorini that day—it was amazing. First stop was the Red Beach which was really cool looking. Then we went to the way southern tip of the island to check out the old lighthouse, Faros. The coast was so pretty! Granted it was a little scary riding so close to the cliff ledge, but the view was amazing. After the lighthouse, we tried to find a way up the big mountain to see the church, but we couldn’t figure it out! Instead, we stopped for a bathroom break on our way to Fira, the main town. We stopped for lunch in Fira and the waiter was in love with Sam, haha! It was so funny! When she walked it and said she was cold, he immediately offered up some free ouzo. The food was fabulous, I got something that was similar to a kebab, called souvlaki, which was delicious. Greece seriously has the best food—filled with cheese, meat, and potatoes! When we were paying he brought us all a free shot of ouzo and grenadine which was absolutely disgusting since I can’t stand the taste of black licorice. He gave Sam some free calendars on the way out and then gave us passes to bars and clubs, it was so hilarious! We shopped for some souvenirs, got some gelato, and then continued on our way to Oia at the northern tip of the island for “the world’s best sunset.” When we got there, mine and Carolyn’s ATV was extremely low on gas and we couldn’t find a gas station and were beginning to freak out a bit since we were in the middle of nowhere in the Santorini countryside. We decided to take the ATV’s down the path instead of walking down the 400 steps or however many. The town was so cute! Totally picturesque! We wandered around for a bit since were early, took a very very short nap by the sea and then looked for a better view. Unfortunately right as the pink/purple magic was about to happen, the sun dropped behind a wall of clouds. It’s okay though! We still got to see half of it! Panicking about gas, Carolyn and I bolted out of there in search of a station since we didn’t think it could hold out for the hour it takes to get back to the other side of the island. We finally found one, but it was closed. So I drove as fast as I could until we finally found one in Fira. Thank God! That thing had been blinking on empty for quite some time! They pumped our gas for us and we met up with the others and set off into the night! It was actually kind of scary driving when it was that dark! We did get to see some pretty sweet stars, but it was freezing and there were so many curves in the roads and it was hard to see. When we got back, we got our new room which was huge and actually had a loft with 2 more beds on it! We went for dinner at the Bar by the Sea where we found Pepito again! Apparently he hangs out there a lot, and Dmitri told us that he was only 3 months old. So precious! So he sat with us and we had a sex on the beach and gyros! Dmitri gave us all a free drink before we left which was quite yummy! When we returned, I had my first night’s sleep in many nights…it was awesome.

By 9:30 am, we were on our way again for our tour! The hostel dropped us off in Fira where we bought some breakfast at a supermarket and then headed down the winding path down the mountain. We soon realized that this was the path the donkeys took, and tried very hard not to slip and fall on the poo-filled stairs! Our tour boat was like a pirate ship! Our first destination was the volcano! We were able to walk around it and found the spot where the sulfur smelling steam was rising from the rocks! Let me tell you though, the walk up the volcano was barbaric! The sun beating down on you, no shade, hot black rocks…it was torturous. After exploring, we headed back to the boat so we could go to the hot springs on the next island over! I had imagined that hot springs meant docking, walking through the island a bit until we reached the hot springs where there would be bathrooms to change in. Wrong. They dropped anchor like over 100+ feet away from the hot springs and were like “jump now if you want to go to the hot springs!” So me, Ames, C-Mas, and Kel swam over. The water was so cold where they had dropped the anchor! So we swam as fast as we could and were so relieved and surprised to feel the water get gradually warmer as we got closer to the little inlet! It got pretty shallow and the bottom was covered with squishy, yellow seaweed. I usually don’t mind seaweed, but this stuff was particularly slimy! The water was so nice and warm over there and we met a Canadian and some Virginians from our boat. There were two guys who lived near the 2 girls from Virginia, but they had also happened to live in the Chicago suburbs a couple of years ago—it’s such a small world! We heard a horn blow, and decided to head back to the boat so they didn’t leave without us! I hated the swim back. Going back into the freezing cold area was not easy! Once we docked back at Santorini, we changed into real clothes and did a little more shopping! Amy and Carolyn bought me a really cute bag for my birthday and I bought a cool headband! The man with the donkeys kept following us since we kept dilly dallying, haha! We finally made it over to the donkeys and I was the first one up! I hopped on and with a yell, we were off. Good God, I felt so bad for this donkey. Within the first 5 minutes I wanted to get off of him and walk up. That poor guy, carting people up a mountain all day! Sometimes he would slow down almost to a stop and I kept worrying that he would just turn around and go back, but I think he was just waiting for the rest. I got ran into some bushes and into Megan’s ass’s ass…it was funny. They walked so close to the edge, it was such a crazy experience! I was glad when we reached the top for their sake, haha! We did a little more shopping and I got a really cute bracelet! We went up to this restaurant that looked out on the sea, sat down, opened the menu and then decided to leave. Too pricey! I guess it was all for the view! Oh well, we found a different restaurant in the same area we had lunch the day before. We all wished we still had our ATV’s. The people said you could have them for 3 days for the price of 1, which didn’t make sense to me and when I was about to say yes to that offer, someone had already said no. Stupid. During lunch, I realized that I was horribly burned. Crap. I always manage to do that! So I was all hot n’ cold for the rest of the trip…oh the joys of sunburn! While looking for bus stops, we stopped at a supermarket to get snacks for the boat ride the next day. The buses in Santorini are coach buses, which was kind of funny. I had seen them all over the city and wondered how there were so many tour buses already. Amy, Carolyn and I went to the bakery to get some snacks for the night and took a nap while watching The Wrestler. After an hour or so we got back up to go to dinner. The other 3 were somewhere unknown even though they said they would meet us there after they dropped stuff off. We had a table for 6 and when we told Dmitri we didn’t know where they were, he freaked out minorly because he thought we said “don’t know WHAT they are” and assumed we were talking about ghosts or monsters, haha! Silly guy. We played Circle of Death but with dice after the others showed up which was sooo fun! We changed the dumb ones to include dancing and sentence constructions..it was ridiculous! Pepito was there again and since I wanted so desperately to bring him home with me, I kept him on my lap for a while. That night we just passed out.

7 am ferry in the rain…great. We took the rickety van down the mountain again and I was legit worried we were going to die. The roads were wet, there were no windshield wipers, he was going fast, and we were in the dark. That driver sure knows how to make tourists nervous! This ship was different from the first and they actually checked our tickets…boo!! This means that I was sitting a table similar to those in McDonald’s for 8 hours. Perfect. I had a bad headache and couldn’t sleep for the life of me. When we got into Piraeus, we found out that the metro stop to our hostel was inaccessible, so we had to do a metro+bus combo to get to our hostel. When we booked our hostel, we had originally booked in two groups in two different 4-person mixed dorms, but when we got there, they put us in our own 6-person dorm in the basement next to the non-functioning bar. We asked the guy at the front desk for a good restaurant and he pointed us in the right direction. Good advice. We went to Flocafé afterward and hung out for a bit. I went to use the bathroom and totally panicked since I thought I was locked in. I was seriously contemplating either yelling, waiting for someone to discover me, or trying to shimmy under the low door. Turns out I’m just half retarded and had to flip the lock to a certain position and then press a button! Sheesh! Since we were all dead tired, we came home, took showers, and went to bed!

The next day we went on a walking tour of Athens with Walter, a southern gentleman from South Carolina. He’s been living in Athens for 2 years after his wife said she would marry him if he promised they would live there. He looked kind of like Ugly Betty’s boyfriend Henry, haha! He said something about our hostels being in a shady area and related it to Amsterdam’s Red Light District! WHAT?! Great. Now that red light outside the door to our room makes sense, haha! Walter took us all around town. We got to see some of the oldest churches in the city, the old library, Roman quarters, the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora which holds the best preserved ancient Greek temple, Syntagma Square where we got to see the Parliament building and the guards, Panathianiko Stadium where the first modern day Olympics were held in 1896, and much more! During the tour, a snail was kicked, a thread makers protest was seen, and umbrellas were turned inside out! After the tour, Walter took us to his favorite restaurant where we ate some really good lamb. After some gelato, we did some shopping and I bought 2 scarves. The guy at the scarf place was so nice. He asked where I was from and when I said Chicago, he starting going on about how I must like the cold, haha! I told him that it just snowed there and he was so shocked! Such a funny old man. When I was on my way out, he told me to keep my purse in front of my when walking in crowds and told me to be safe and have a nice day! What a nice guy. We hung out at the Palmie to kill some time and Sam and Megan drank a half a glass of ouzo each—gross! I had a sangria with apples in it which was really tasty! Sam really wanted some Spanakopita after that, so we set out in search of her perfect snack! We found it after about ½ hour’s wandering and then headed back to the hostel where we played Asshole, Bullshit, and Egyptian Rat Screw until we had to go. There was this legit crazy man on the bus 1 row up and across the aisle from me. I was so terrified. Carolyn and I thought he had ODC coupled with other mental problems. I was so glad when we got to the airport and I got to get out of there!! The flight was delayed, but I was lucky enough to have a row all to myself. I tried to sleep over 2 seats and half succeeded. There was a lightning storm in Barca when we were arriving which was so cool to see! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen lightning and was so excited to see it forking across the sky! Amy and I took the airport bus home and got home about an hour before everyone else. I stayed up for about an hour before taking a 3 hour nap. Now it’s time to repack and get ready for Seville and Granada in about 12 hours!!


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