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Andy's Travel Updates "The real thing is not reaching, the real thing is the journey, the very travelling. If you are too bothered about the goal you will miss the journey, and the journey is life - the goal can only be death."

Greece

GREECE | Wednesday, 22 October 2008 | Views [376]

From Zagreb (which I know is not in Greece) I caught a train to Vienna for a 3 day stay with Lisa - who used to live in Australia. Her parents live to the North of Vienna in a traditional wine region where they bought a wine cellar for the reason of having parties. So you can imagine she had a cool party. When Lisa's brother picked up the drinks it was in his 50 year old restored tractor and 100 year old trailer. I got to go along for the ride - the best thing was her brother's infectious laughter as we drove down the main street, engine roaring in top gear at about 10 km/hr. Also, sturm was in season: a drink between grape juice and wine, popular during October in Austria. So I got to try that too.

Next, in Greece, I had an unplanned holiday from my holiday in Nafplio - a beach town outside of Athens. Mainly I just slept and went to the beach. I had heard Greek hospitality was good, but was not expecting the pension keeper to appoint herself my Greek Mother to look after me while I was in Greece. Without seeming fake either.

I had a great time in Athens, staying there longer that planned (six days!). My highlight would be either the first approach to the Pantheon (walking up the slope towards it) or sitting on Areopagus Hill overlooking the Acropolis. In both places you can't help but feel the history of the place and feel the same sense of awe that people must have felt seeing it or being there over the centuries. The coffee scene in Athens was a surprise - you can sit for 2 or 3 hours before the idea of leaving enters your mind and we noticed most people stayed at least that long, often over just one frappe. I had a couple of tacky but fun nights out with Canadian backpackers and 18 year old Americans and a couple of more sophisticated (but fun) nights trying quince and Greek desserts or sitting on Areopagus Hill sharing a bottle of wine.

Brendan was there for 3 days, one of which we went to Dephi - the centre of the world according to ancient Greeks. Some impressive buildings are there and a surprisingly good museum. The museum back in Athens also surprised me, it had some things of a quality and age I did not realise existed. Normally I wouldn't bother with museum photos, but I put a couple of facebook. Part of me was sad to leave Athens but I was also ready to see new things after so long in one place.

Santorini is an amazing island. An earthquake in about 1650BC destroyed the island leaving a ring of smaller islands. The clifftops of these islands are now lined with buildings (destroyed by the odd volcano, tsunami or earthquake) to catch the spectacular views and sunsets. Two days there. Next, I had heard Crete's biggest city Iraklio wasn't great and my first impression was a gang of youths asking me for money in a slightly intimidating but more amusing way, while I was looking for my hotel. At the hotel the receptionist guessed the 2 places I was going the next day (Minoan palace at Knossos and the museum) because they are the only reasons people go to Iraklio.

I had an interesting Saturday night in Iraklio. I befriended some Canadians, one of whom was sooo much like Ferris Bueller I thought they would be a good fun especially for breaking the ice with some Cretans (thanks Glen for that word). Sadly he didn't use his gift of the gab for the side of goodness. We were unwelcome at the first bar when he told the bar staff he had paid for his beer, which he hadn't (but he got away with it ("you touch me I yell rat!" Just kidding, he didn't say that (it's from the movie)). In the second bar he had wandered away from our group when we heard a very loud shout from the bar. Not just a shout but bellowing from the bartender who was furious like I have never seen fury before. About 100 people looked on in silence. Ferris had said something that offended a girl at the bar and the bartender who was her brother. The bartender was quickly over the bar and hit Ferris in the face shouting "YOU LEAVE NOW". Another punch and a slap. "THIS IS GREECE. YOU LEAVE NOW". And we left. I wonder if it is why Americans get such a bad name, from Canadians who know they will be mistaken for them. Appropriately, since it was his mouth that offended, Ferris came away with a nasty (tooth shaped) split through his tongue. I quickly disowned this group and headed home. Deciding I didn't want to end my night that way I stopped at a cafe/bar for a quiet beer. I was quickly adopted by a nearby table - proper Greeks with bad English and names like Dimitrios and Nicholas. They generously paid for my beer and for Ouzo for the rest of the night (which ended up at about 6 am in a bar/club they proudly told me only played Greek music).

Last stop was Henia on Crete, a nice relaxed town. Yesterday I day-tripped to Southern Crete for a hike down the gorge and saw some great scenery where the mountains meet the Southern coast. Also, a quick mention of the food in Greece which has consistently been delicious, healthy and cheap.

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