Tag Archives: Backpacking

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone But Not Forgotten – Holiday Sandals and a Final Quiz

Gladiator Sandals Naxos Greece

I had what I called my gladiator sandals since 1999 when I went to Rhodes and they  accompanied me abroad on every single subsequent holiday. By 2006 they were showing signs of wear and were not expected to see through a Greek island hopping adventure. I  made it my mission to see how long I could keep make them last.

The Gladiators made it through the island travels and surprisingly lasted another two years when an important part of the shoe infrastructure failed (one of the straps snapped).

After Rhodes, they had been to the Greek islands of Skiathos, Cephalonia (twice), Santorini (twice), Crete, Thassos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Ios (twice), Sikinos, Amorgos, Milos and Sifnos.  I finally had to accept that they were irreparable whilst on the island of Folegandros so I thought that this was a suitable place to say goodbye and I  left them there to become part of the Greek earth in whatever landfill site they ended up in.

I really loved those sandals!

Quiz Time:

Identify these Greek holiday islands…

Greek Islands

Aegean Odyssey

Click to preview book

http://www.blurb.com/books/2677451

Greece 2011, Koufonisia and Beaches and Silent Relationships

Koufonisia Greece Cyclades

Each time we travel to Greece for the island hopping holiday we have to make room in the itinerary for a day or two of beaches and by the second day in Koufonisia it was clear that this year this was it.

Read the full story

Greece 2011, Katapola and the Chora (Amorgos)

Amorgos Windmills Chora Greece

Katapola was tranquil, peaceful and perfect and at this precise time might possibly have been the most wonderful place on earth and we looked forward to our three days of perfection because apart from concrete, mobile phones and air conditioning this place probably hasn’t changed a great deal in a thousand years.

Read the full story…

Greece 2011, Piraeus – Planes, Buses, Taxis and Ferries

In the weeks and days before flying to Athens to start a holiday in the Cyclades I began to wonder if it really was a clever idea to fly into a city in the grip of economic crisis and social disorder with regular demonstrations and disruptive strikes by the transport sector which we would be completely reliant upon to get from the Greek capital to the islands.  But we put on our holiday blinkers and ignored the concerns and reluctant to spend more money on an alternative flight to Santorini went through with the original plan.

On a previous arrival at Athens airport I was metaphorically mugged by a taxi driver and paid a fortune to get to the city and the last time we left Athens Kim was literally robbed on the metro so we didn’t want to chance either of those options this time and took the only alternative form of transport available, the X96 express bus to Piraeus.

The man in the ticket booth was rather terse and didn’t have his ‘welcome to Athens, nice to see you’ head on this lunch time but I suppose anyone would be grumpy if it is their job to sit in a stuffy wooden box all day answering the same dumb question over and again.  The cost was €5 which was an eye watering 56% more expensive than two years previously and I hoped this wasn’t indicative of an average inflation rate over this time or else this would put the holiday budget under extreme pressure.

Island Hopping Greece

A bus ride in Athens is a unique experience, it has to be said.  The roads were busy but the driver of the Solaris flexibus seemed totally oblivious to other vehicles as he charged along at high speed, switching lanes, clattering over tram lines and tossing the passengers about like the Saturday night lottery balls on hard unyielding plastic seats.  It was like being in a car chase at the movies, anyone in the way had better watch out and at one stage I had to take a look to see if Sandra Bullock was driving.  Corners didn’t slow the bus down and the only respite from the madness was a few infrequent stops on the way to the port, which we reached after about fifty minutes.

The metro would have been preferable but you get mugged on the metro and as this was our first time back in Athens since the robbery we were understandably on edge.  We had taken improved precautions to protect our possessions but we still felt nervous and slightly anxious.  We continually scanned the bus for potential robbers and pickpockets and held on tight to our wallets, cameras and bags and after every stop we suspiciously scrutinised every new passenger that joined us.

Gyros Pavement Restaurant Piraeus

In our experience dining options around the port are seriously limited and after we arrived in Piraeus there was about four hours before the ferry to Paros so we had made plans to visit a taverna/bar that we knew and to have a long lunch to fill the time.

This involved a walk along the busy harbour front and this was not as easy as it sounds because Piraeus simply has to be one of the most traffic crazy places in Europe that makes an Italian city look like Emmerdale on a late Sunday afternoon and there was a mad confusion of snarling traffic that almost defies description. Cars, buses and lorries were all growling aggressively through the streets with absolutely no regard for traffic lights, lanes, rights of way or pedestrians (especially pedestrians).

Swarms of yellow and black cabs drove around with complete disregard for anything else and for anyone foolish enough to irritate them it was like poking a stick into an angry wasp’s nest.  The madness was being ineffectively choreographed every now and again by traffic police blowing madly on whistles and waving arms in a totally manic way that quite frankly was completely unintelligible to absolutely everyone whether in a car or on the pavement and all in all didn’t seem to be helping a great deal.

Leaving Piraeus

It is easy to imagine that Piraeus is simply a suburb of Athens but it is in fact a completely separate city, the third largest in Greece, with an interesting history all of its  own.  Most of this we fail to appreciate because we just hurry through on the way to somewhere else.  In 493 BC, taking advantage of the natural harbour and strategic geographical position, the Athenian politician and soldier Themistocles initiated the construction of fortification works in Piraeus to protect  Athens, ten years later the Athenian fleet was transferred there and it was then permanently used as the naval base for the powerful fleet of the ancient city.

Themistocles fortified the three harbours of Piraeus with the Themistoclean Walls turning Piraeus into a great military and commercial harbour. The fortification was farther reinforced later by the construction of the Long Walls under Cimon and Pericles, with which Piraeus was safely connected to Athens.

Piraeus was rebuilt to the famous grid plan of the architect Hippodamus of Miletus to a pattern that has been replicated in many cities in the USA and in Milton Keynes in England.  The walls were destroyed after the defeat by Athens to the Spartans in the Peloponnesian war and the port of Rhodes assumed predominance in the Aegean.  Later the walls were rebuilt but destroyed again by both the Romans and the Goths and during the Byzantine period the port completely lost its trading status.

Today, Piraeus has regained its importance and is a mad world of taxis, trams, back-packers and local people all competing for the same piece of tarmac.  This should not have been surprising because it is the largest passenger port in Europe and the third largest worldwide in terms of passenger transportation where nearly twenty million people pass through every year.

There were certainly a lot of people about this afternoon and there was a long queue to get on board the Blue Star Paros and in the usual way foot passengers were competing for space with cars and commercial vehicles.  We didn’t want to sit inside so we made our way to the top deck and found a seat outside at the back of the boat to catch the sun and we made ourselves comfortable in preparation for the four and a half hour passage to the island of Paros, one hundred and eighty-five kilometres to the south east.

Island Hopping 2006, Blue Star Ferry to Piraeus

I woke especially early today and I sat with my tea on the balcony to watch the building pantomime. The men arrived early and had their thirty minutes together organising the day’s chaos. Surely it would have made sense to begin work straight away because this was the coolest part of the day but instead they sat around under a tree, a thoroughly disorganised debating society that became steadily louder as more turned up and joined in. One man had most to say so I guessed that he had some sort of seniority but despite expansive arm waving and shoulder heaving the others didn’t appear to acknowledge his authority.

Read the full story…

 

Island Hopping 2006, Paros, Naoussa

Antiparos Cyclades Greece

I had a restless night full of wild and vivid dreams and I woke early.  I like to start the day with tea so I made some and went onto the balcony overlooking the hotel garden building site.  At about eight o’clock the builders started to arrive and were clearly perplexed about where they should move the rocks to today.  Without any sign of a supervisor to give sensible instructions this required thirty minutes or so of volatile chatter which became increasingly louder and excitable as the debate continued.

I was so pleased that we had a car and we had planned a trip to Naoussa on the other side of the island. I think the construction workers (and I use this description in the loosest sense) were somewhat surprised to see a room in occupation and I was convinced that this was the reason for the frequent outbursts of mocking laughter.

Read the full story…

Island Hopping 2006, Paros

Paros Greek Islands

We had a really early start, it was still dark when we got up and packed for the trip to the harbour. Then I had a panic attic when the transport didn’t arrive at the arranged time but the girls displayed admirable calm. My low patience threshold was tested and after phoning the apartment owner (waking him up!) and just about to drive to the port myself in his car the driver turned up twenty minutes late and reeking of last night’s alcohol excess in Thira.

I spent the short journey constantly checking my watch and we arrived at the ferry with just about ten minutes to spare and that was close because these boats, believe me, don’t wait.  Back to Blue Star today so a big boat to take us to Paros.

Read the full story…

Island Hopping 2006, Santorini – The Island of Atlantis

Santorini

We had a quiet day today.

Woke to more blue sky. This was becoming so predictable that I was in danger of my first job of the day becoming unnecessary. I worried that I might get a letter of redundancy.  I had a cup of tea and enjoyed an amusing incident when a Greek family set up for breakfast around the pool and the eldest son, of about ten, pushed the younger one, of about eight, in the water.  Did he howl!  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and his mother thought that it was really funny as well.

Read the full story…

Island Hopping 2006, Santorini, Oia and Thira

Oia Santorini Greece

I had a great nights sleep and woke early as usual. I carried out the early morning weather check and satisfied that the sun was shining already I made everyone a cup of tea and I then went to the village to buy some fruit for breakfast.

There was a mini-market with a good selection of  curiously shaped fruits. Although ugly they looked interesting and I bought plums, peaches, grapes and oranges none of which would have made it through fruit police quality control at Tesco. Having selected my breakfast purchases I encountered a problem. It is difficult to buy €5 euros worth of groceries with a €50 note so early in the morning. The till was already almost empty and after scratching around for my change it looking as though Dick Turpin had paid a visit and left his calling card!

Read the full story…