Greece: Parts I and II

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Well, it certainly was an expedition, but we did finally get to Greece! We slept in the ship’s bar from Dubrovnik to Bari, Italy, and then had 12 hours there to bum around with some guys from our hostel in Dubrovnik who were doing the same journey. It’s a nice town, Bari, but is certainly built for and around the large port. Not much to report on Italy, but we did have some nice pasta!

Then it was 16 hours from Bari to Patras in Greece, but the boat was pretty well equipped with a restaurant and comfy seats and whatnot, so after some supper I did actually manage to sleep for about nine hours. When we arrived at noon the next day, we had a four-hour bus ride to Athens and then got a bit lost trying to find our hostel. Once we did, we spent the evening tootling around the area and getting our bearings, because we’ll be staying there again when we go back to the city.

We had some dinner and both bought new sunglasses, which have been our only casualties thus far in the categories of theft and breakage! Joseph’s $5 Walmart aviators were taken off the outside of his bag on one of the overnight ferries, whereas I crushed my expensive sunny Gs against my chest when I hugged our Canadian friends goodbye in Croatia. I’d say we’re doing pretty well if this is worst that’s happened so far!

Anyway, the next morning we got up super early (5:30ish) to catch our nine-hour ferry to Santorini. There was literally nowhere to sit, so I squashed myself into the luggage rack (almost literally) for a little sleep! We arrived in the mid-afternoon and a driver from our hostel (Anna’s – brilliant and SUPER cheap, only 7 Euro a night!) picked us up. We checked in and cleaned up and took a little walk around the area – Perissa beach, famous for its black sand. Afterwards we had supper (LOVING the Greek food!) and met some of the other folks at the hostel. We got together a good crew of Brits and Americans to watch USA v. England. Sorry Brits, I had to root for my adopted country because the American contingent was a bit smaller than the English one!

The next day was a full-on beach day which was lovely, but here’s a problem with a black sand beach – it SERIOUSLY burns your feet. Even with shoes on. It’s lethal, worse than the Croatian pebbles! (SUCH a tough life I lead, I know.)

The big thing to do on Santorini is rent a little ATV and tootle around, so that was our plan for Monday. First though, we grabbed some coffee from the restaurant across the road. We got chatting to the waitress, an English lady who told us that about 15 years ago she left England to travel for a month or two aaand, here she is! Joseph said I had just met my future self.

Anyway, we got ourselves an ATV and drove it to the capital city of Thira on the windy Greek roads with the lunatic Greek drivers overtaking us constantly (to the mothers reading, especially my own, I bet this sounds great to you! We did wear helmets though…sometimes). It was a lot of fun though, and we spent the afternoon strolling (a.k.a hiking up tiny little streets. We could have taken a donkey (seriously) but we’re too skint for that) through Thira, which is beautiful – all whitewash and blue buildings.

On our way back to the hostel we stopped to go wine tasting at Gavala family vineyard which was brilliant. Really amazing wine like nothing I’ve had before. Santorini is all volcanic soil so it gives the wines a really unique taste. The girl working there taught us a lot about how the wines are made and things. Probably most educational thing we did on Santorini!

The next day we took our little motor out to the red sand beach (pick your favorite color, Santorini probably has a beach for you), which isn’t really red but more a delicate shade of poo-brown. Still it’s in a beautiful setting and we literally had to hike to it. No one told us that, but loads of people were doing it, even old grannies were clambering over these crumbly, burning hot rocks in flip-flops so we figured we could handle it! We stayed there for a few hours, and in the evening took the ATV to the other side of the island to Oia to see the sunset.

It took about 45 minutes to get there with our new friend Maria from Germany and, just our luck, the sunset was rubbish compared to what it’s supposed to be like. It was really hazy so there wasn’t much to see. The town of Oia is absolutely gorgeous though, even more lovely than Thira, so it was definitely worth the trip for that. We had some supper and drove the ATV back to Perissa in the pitch black on windy cliff roads (calm down mothers). I was riding with Maria and at one point her little motor just died in the middle of the street, but we talked to it nicely and it came back to life.

Eventually we got back and got ready to go out with a group of people to a place called Beach Bar, which is basically what it sounds like! We boogied a little to the same five songs we’ve heard EVERYWHERE in Europe and called it a night sometime, well, in the morning.

Our last day we had to turn in the ATV, so spent the day again on the black sand beach. We had a pretty chill evening because we were getting up at 7am to head to the island of Ios, where I am now. It’s very beautiful, but we’re actually leaving two days early. I never thought I’d say this (well not while I’m still in my twenties), but it’s TOO much partying here! It’s basically spring break and it’s too expensive and so we’ve decided we’ve got to get out of here. We’re going to back to Athens tomorrow and possibly do some more exploring of the mainland with the time we would have stayed here pretending we’re 18. (Well, one of us is 18, but, you know.)

I mentioned earlier that our only casualties have been our sunglasses, but I thought I’d wrap this up with a note on how the traveling thing is going overall now that it’s been almost a month. Strictly speaking, we’ve had two other casualties. One was Bro’s flip flops which he packed while still wet and which subsequently made his bag and all his stuff absolutely STINK. Like, gagging stinky, so we had to bin them. The other one was a pretty bad sunburned tummy belonging to me, resulting in sunblock user error on my part. Said user should have put sunblock on more than once a day in stifling Mediterranean sun! Gave tummy a day off though, and all is now well.

Anyway, back to traveling overall. It’s definitely going well and I absolutely know it’s what I should be doing, I’ve never had doubts about that. It has been an adjustment though, leaving a fairly strict work life routine to do this, but I’m learning every day. In PR one has to be very flexible, which I was, but traveling requires an entirely different sort of flexibility. It’s a lot of fun, but can feel like real work at times, like the three-day odyssey between Dubrovnik and Santorini. It’s also certainly interesting working out the dynamic with my little bro.

He’s wonderful – funny, helpful, relaxed – but when you think about it, we haven’t lived in the same house since he was 9 and I was 17, so in lots of ways we’re getting to know each other (we have had some moments, but they’ve passed quickly!). I also have to remind myself that he’s a grown-up now (sort of…I do have to remind him to brush his teeth) but it’s hard when I so vividly remember the day he was born and carrying him around and changing his diapers!! Special note to my mummy: I KIND of understand what this actually must be like for you, having us so far away exploring the world! Thank you, again, for your unwavering support of our adventure!

Thanks again to all my loyal readers and friends, actually. I’ll raise a glass to you this evening – Yiamas!

Susie Hughes
Susie Hughes is a UK transplant to the United States, moving from London to Connecticut as a teenager. For five years she worked in technology public relations in San Francisco, quietly putting money away into "The Travel Fund". In May 2010, Susie left San Francisco to realize a lifelong dream of an extended trip around the world - seven months visiting more than 20 countries on four continents.
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