A Travellerspoint blog

Dublin

In the morning Antonios, the lovely guest house owner, dropped us at airport. We shared our first flight to Athens with a couple from the tour. A few hours later in the airport we we ran into Kim and Jarryd. In the afternoon we got on our second flight of the day to Budapest. By the time we left Budapest it was dark, we were exhausted and hungry (in Hungary, ding ding) and as we got on our third flight of the day we realised how bad the flight would be. There was a flock of children. A fleet of children. A phalanx of children. However you put it there were enough to justify the next baby boom. The entire three hour flight they took turns at screaming and crying. Not in the brightest of moods, we landed at almost midnight our time in Dublin. Things picked up as we went through passport control and the officer greeted us by saying ‘oh here come the champions’ when he saw our passports. He then told us how close he lived to our intended accommodations, and suggested a good pub. You know you’re in Ireland when... We were staying with Ella’s mum’s best friend Finola and her husband Jerry. We got there and were given the warmest welcome we could hope for, and even a room each. Things were looking up. Fiddle dee dee.

On our first morning in the Emerald Isle we had a late start, a real breakfast and a wander into town. We got excited in the Disney store and had a man ask us what to get for his nine year old daughter as a gift since we were so into it. For the first time in a long time, we didn’t stand out. We were treated like locals. We vaguely remembered the General Post Office from our history classes in high school, a site that was pivotal in the 1916 Easter Uprisings. But not much else about it. We walked to the port and back, and were reminded of Newcastle because of all the bridges along the Liffey. With aching feet we caught a bus home and were treated to a fantastic home meal of spaghetti bolognaise with the company of Finola and Jerry’s son Cieran. That night the news showed some of the destruction of the floods in Dublin we had missed by hours, and got an email warning us about traveling there from a booking site we use because of it. After all of that though we had enjoyed a sunny day in Dublin, it was a little chilly but at least we were still warmer than we had been on some of days in the Greek Islands.

We had another luxuriously slow start, headed into town to find our hostel in town where we would stay for a couple of nights, and dropped off our bags, planning to walk around the main sites and get some culture. As we were about to walk out the door, Ella noticed a poster advertising a free walking tour of the city starting in an hour. So we did that instead. The tour started at City Hall, where we had a brief few minutes thinking we might be getting our own private tour guide until about twenty more people turned up. Our guide showed us the Chester Beatty library that has the second largest collection of old Korans only to Istanbul due to an old book collector who donated them to the city, and an old castle that was mostly blown up by a fire that reached the gunpowder supplies. He showed us Ha’penney bridge, O’Connell bridge with the plaque to a man who never existed, and Trinity College which apparently was used without permission as the basis for the Jedi library in the Star Wars films. He told us that the Vikings gave the city it’s name which means ‘black pool’ and the story of Christchurch Cathedral and its corrupt vicar who accepted bribes (so the story goes) to allow drinking, gambling and prostitution go on in the crypt during the time when none of it was legal in Ireland. Next to the Cathedral was a blank area, but one that had been the largest Viking archaeological site outside of Scandinavia ever, but in the rush to build a city hall, the powers that be at the time poured cement over it and destroyed everything (50%) that hadn’t been excavated yet. It was a very cool three and a half hour tour, but we were exhausted by the end of it. After a rest we went out for a steak sandwich and drinks at a real Irish pub and followed that up with another drink at the famous Temple Bar and listened to some live music. Due to the posters all of the city, we knew it was election time, though as our handy dandy guide informed us, it was voting day, and it also happened to be the first time they had elected a new president in fourteen years.

Our morning was spent shopping, despite our best intentions in looking for weather sturdy shoes only. Afterwards Ella felt the need to get cultural and went to find a museum while Hayley snuggled up warm with a book in the afternoon. We went out for dinner (in our new boots!) and to find a pub with some more live Irish music and cheap drinks. We ended up finding a nice looking place for dinner, but it wasn't until we were inside that we noticed the kiwi motifs, the tomato tomato sauce bottles on the table, the L&P on the menu and the empty New Zealand wine bottles decorating the room. The live music we found was near our hostel, and played by an older Irish guy and a younger Scottish one who looked particularly bored but played Galway Girl regardless and made our night.

In the morning we headed back to the Chester Beatty library to have a proper look around inside. The large collection of ancient books from all around the world was just 5% of the total collection. Through the inside-out-umbrella-turning wind and rain we walked/ran to the Guinness gate for a quick photo and onto the old Gaol. It was a quiet afternoon after that filled with a little souvenir shopping and a bus back out to Finolas for a much needed bangers n mash dinner with Orla, another of their kids.

On our last day in Dublin we relaxed at ‘home’ and got ready for a Halloween party hosted by Cieran. Finola and Jerry have three kids and we had now met them all and they would all be at the party. As is tradition in the household, we took turns at making omelettes with whatever we could find in the kitchen. We found a couple of old costumes in the attic and Ella went as Wonderwoman and Hayley went as Wilma Flinstone. While it seemed to be popular for the males to dress in drag (and walk better in heels than we can), Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackon, Elvis, the Queen of Hearts (a la Tim Burton), a bumblebee, a ladybug (Emer, the third child) and a zombie were also in attendance. It was a great night, though we were both made to participate in the humiliation that is Singstar. Fortunately, we were both knocked out in the first round and only had to do it once. Though we were kindly reminded throughout the night just how large that winning margin had been.

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Mykonos

For the last time on the boat we woke up to the sulfury sick smells emanating from our bathrooms, packed up and said goodbye. Our new accommodation was a guest house on the island and the owner there kindly agreed to come and pick us up. He took us to a fantastically large room with a real bathroom on a sunny high spot on the island. We spent the day out walking and ran into half of the people from our tour who were also looking around before heading off. That night, the owner of the guest house came and told us that our ferry we had booked in a couple of days would not be running due to strikes. We were essentially stuck on the island and too tired to deal with it. It went on the to-do list for the morning.

We woke up late and with our minds still thinking we were on a rocking boat. It so happened to be the day of the big game back home, which we had almost zero access to. We read the commentary updates for the New Zealand vs France rugby game until half time then went out to speak to the ferry company. On the way we ran into Kim and Jarryd, one of the couples from the tour who were still on the island and looking for a ferry too. We were all ready to give the office a stir up in case of a no-refund situation but the war-preparation was unneeded and we were promised out refunds were already on the way. We headed home to find some flights instead. Flying really is preferable but as a more expensive option we were not impressed and sick of the Greece strikes, and left wondering how it can help their economy if the tourists can’t spend their money. On a positive note, we came home to the news that the All Blacks had won. After looking at some of the photos online, and with a crisis averted, we went out for cheap lunch and a bit of entertainment as we first watched a man do a three-point turn by getting out of his car and pushing it, followed by a man who got on his scooter, picked up his medium-sized dog like a baby and sped off. We walked about two minutes and found a place that hired quad bikes. The guy didn’t seem so keen on us but accepted our money, and with a 20 second lesson, a reminder to stay on the right, we were off. Slowly. We had a pretty but unintended tour of the area before finding the famous ‘Paradise Beach’. Not so paradise-y in mid-October, we sat on the beach and read for an hour in our jerseys, jeans and scarves. That’s determination. We weren’t determined enough to get our togs wet however. That night we met up with Kim and Jarryd again for dinner and drinks, where we were first given two free shots each by our waiter at the restaurant, and another one by the guy behind the bar. On the way, we didn’t think we would get the opportunity, but we ran into Petros. Petros (or Peter) is the giant resident pelican of Mykonos. He is famous. He’s on half the magnets and post cards in the souvenir stalls on the island, and there he was, in front of a group of us after multiple drinks in the middle of the street. We giggled a lot and tried to get close enough to touch him, but the beak was very scary looking and he really was huge. In all our travels thus far, the most intimidating wildlife we had encountered, just to happened to be Petros, the friendly (?) pelican.

In the morning we took our quad out to find a more sheltered beach. The bar worker the night before had told us of a particular area where both Madonna and Nicholas Cage own houses. We found it and took some photos but couldn’t see either of them. Unfortunately it was even colder than the day before so we turned around and headed back to town. The bike was good fun anyway and we somehow managed to mostly stay on the right side of the road and not cause any accidents. We had one last walk around the town and a cruisy evening getting ready for the big day to follow.

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TravelTalk Tour Istanbul - Mykonos

We finally managed an incredible sleep. At breakfast, we met and joined the group of four Kiwis, three Aussies and Barish our Turkish guide. The first stop was the Hippodrome, something we had read about but did not yet know where it was. Turns out, we’d been walking through it for days. Though it was good to finally have an explanation of the various monuments around the square. Right next door to the area is the Blue Mosque, where Barish talked us in without waiting in line. It’s not the biggest in the world but is famous for its expensive and expansive blue tiling decorating the ceiling inside. Moving quickly, the group continued on to Hagia Sopia, the museum that we had seen out our hostel window. First it was a Christian church but it had been converted into a mosque, one of the coolest parts being that the Turks had been respectful enough to leave some of the Christian mosaics, which are now some of its biggest attractions. We were given a break for lunch, where Hayley and Ella made the mistake of throwing one cat a bite of souvlaki and were quickly surrounded by them. In the afternoon we had the option to go to the Topkapi Palace, which again is really a museum. Instead Hayley and Ella decided to check out the underground Cistern, an incredibly stunning area with pillars and lights and gentle music playing as you wander around the raised walkways. With the rest of our free time we had a quick wander, a quick nap, and at night we all went out to dinner as a group nearby then to the busy Taksim Square for drinks to get better well acquainted.

The next day we were up early to be on the bus at 7.30am. It was a long day of driving punctuated by quick stops and a lunchbreak at a place that had a small zoo attached, including camels. In the afternoon, we made it to our destination. Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Chunuk Bair and Lone Pine – some of the most memorable names for Australians and New Zealanders from the Great War. Each spot was very peaceful and incredibly well cared for. Barish told us all the story of the Turkish ranger who was assigned to care for the area, and was killed in a scrub fire in 1994 saving the monuments and graves of the invaders. The saddest part on the headstones were not often the ages (the youngest recorded at sixteen), but the inscriptions from the families like; ‘too far away to see but never too far to think of thee’, ‘I loved him, I still do’ and, ‘a mothers thoughts often wander here to this sad and lonely grave’. The Turkish, Australian and New Zealand governments are getting ready for the 100 year memorial in 2015, resulting in the surrounding area having some of the best roads we drove on. Afterwards we took a ten minute ferry from Europe to Asia, still in Turkey, and found our unbelievable five star hotel that Prince Charles had once stayed in. Our room was huge, we tried the pool but it was too cold so we dressed up and headed into the dining area for a massive buffet feast.

Another early start and we were off to Troy. We had been told the city was incredibly disappointing so expected nothing, and were consequently pleasantly surprised with the small pile of ruins. We got to climb in a horse and wander around various relics touching stone walls that were 4,000 years old. We could easily see the layers of the city built on top of one another and all seven of us twenty-two to thirty year olds got excited about the red squirrels chasing each other on a fallen down tower. Soon after, we were back on the minibus for a five hour drive. Our driver was pretty good, in comparison to his Turkish counterparts. He possibly wouldn’t pass a test in New Zealand on account of overtaking on corners but we were doing OK. The roads in Turkey aren’t the smoothest, maybe far from the worst but not good for a car anywhere. While most of the van thought we had hit a patch of gravel, Hayley had the particular joy of sitting over the left rear wheel where there is no mistaking the sound of a tyre popping and shredding underneath you. Somehow the driver managed a controlled stop on the side of a road far from anywhere. When we got out there were bits of tyre adorning the roadside, and not all of them were ours. Barish called some mates who brought tools to access the spare tyre, and he took us in two dinky old cars to a restaurant for lunch and to wait for our van. That afternoon we made it to Asklepion, another archaeological site, unscathed. It was essentially a hospital, and also the birthplace of psychotherapy and herbal medicine. Patients here received water from a special fountain and music concerts as part of their treatment. It was a step up from Troy as major parts were still standing and we didn’t have to use our imaginations as much. We continued on to Selcuk where we would be spending the night in our waterfront hotel. Looking the other way from the water, it was a bit like looking at a field of sunflowers, with every single hotel and house facing the sunshine. Fair enough too with a view like that.

Another day came around and we headed to another ancient site. This one was special as it is classified as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world because of the Temple of Artemis in the old city. There once was a population of 250,000 people there, making it one of the biggest in the world at the time, and it is even rumoured that Virgin Mary spent her last years in the city. Yet still, we ended up spending some of our time watching the stray cats. Our tour guide Barish pointed out the interesting bits like the old brothel that had a secret tunnel to the library so the women didn’t suspect anything when their husbands disappeared. That afternoon we drove into Bodrum, our last stop on land where we had to say goodbye to Barish but met two new couples (more Kiwis and Aussies) who were joining the tour. For the rest of the trip, we would be sailing the Greek Islands on a boat, something we had both been looking forward to since day one of planning our travels. We got our own tiny cabin each, and went our to dinner with the group before some cheap cocktails at a local bar.

Our first day on board was very slow and quiet. We had to get passport checks as we left Turkey and entered Greece, and we sailed to Kos. We had to stay on board as they checked our passports, and so received updates about the New Zealand vs Australia game through one of the group who was getting texts from a friend back home. We had a guided walk around town, most of the group spent the afternoon napping after a late night out, and everyone went out to dinner together at one of the local restaurants.

While a tour of the Greek Islands may sound fantastic and tropical, we were quickly proven wrong. At least for a cruise in mid-October. We were stuck on Kos cause of the weather. While some of the group hired a minivan for a drive around the island, Hayley and Ella had a lazy day perusing souvenir stalls and stopping for fresh orange juices. A boat load of people went to bed that night with their fingers crossed, as a week stuck on Kos in the rain doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as the week of sunshine and blue seas we had imagined.

Finally, our captain (known only to us as Captain) decided the weather was right and we began our sail to Armagos. Everyone on board was sick. Most spent the day huddled, frozen, on deck where at least the air was fresh. Some attempted lunch, but noone really ate very much, and only partly due to the food sliding off the table. Our little boat was tossed around hour after hour and we didn’t reach our destination till early evening. We hired a minivan and toured the island, adding insult to injury with a touch of carsickness for some on the windy roads. The sunset however, was stunning. Our guide told us that only a thousand people live on the island, and we got to see a lot of their pretty white houses with blue shutters as we walked to a café for a drink before heading back to the boat for a meal and an early night.

In the morning we got up and had breakfast on deck as we sailed into Santorini. What the travel brochures don’t tell you about the place is the 360 two-metre deep steps up to the city. There are just three ways to get to the top. You can walk, for free. You can take the cable car, for a few euro. Or you can take a donkey. Of course, we voted unanimously for the donkeys. What we hadn’t anticipated was sitting on a donkey with no guide or specified path. We were sharing these hundreds of steps with hundreds of walkers and other donkeys. And as it turns out, they are not the tamest creatures. They sprint at a moments notice, run into people and push them aside, stop suddenly, walk hard against the walls so you have to get your legs out of the way, or hard against the barrier so you get a nice view straight down the cliff face. Twenty minutes and a lot of shouted apologies to pedestrians later, we were at the top with sore bums and in need of a break. We sat down for coffees on a rooftop café and finally got the chance to look at our surroundings. With clear blue skies and pure white houses we were really sitting in a postcard. The plan for the day was to hire quad bikes and have a quick tour of a beach or two and then head out the Ia, the most famous spot in the world to see one of the best sunsets in the world. What Hayley and Ella did was flag the quads and tour the main city instead, having a long rooftop lunch of tzatziki and santorinian salad. We spent some time perusing the souvenir stalls and took a bus out to Ia with the rest of the group for the sunset. We all took a ridiculous amount of photos – as anyone would – and felt very lucky to be in one of the most stunning places in the world. Afterwards, our tour guide Kiriyaki (like teriyaki but with a K) took us to a local festival celebrating a saint. There was a free meal and as much wine and ouzo as we could handle in a tiny village full of white houses with blue shutters and doors, with Greek people dancing traditional dances to live music all night. At midnight we took a minivan back to the main town Fira and had the option of heading to a night club. One of our fellow travellers, a 77 year old Turkish man known only as Mr. Duvan took up the option and spent the night dancing on the bar, before walking down the 360 stairs with his cane, climbing in the tiny dingy we took to our boat. He outdid us all by at least 40 years and still managed to outdo us all then too.

The next morning our boat started rumbling a bit after 6am and the seas once again got very choppy. Fortunately it quietened down enough for our first swimming stop at about 2pm in a bay near Paros. The wind was chilly but the water was warm and almost everyone got in and floated around for a bit. We kept going and arrived in Naxos in the early afternoon. Lunch on board the boat was followed by free time, which this wandering pair spent at a nearby beach (lying on the sand reading, far too cold for a swim). Our guide took us on a walking tour to visit an old Zeus temple, and told us that Naxos is actually the biggest island in Cyclades and was originally named Zeus. En route we stopped for photos of another pretty sunset and had a quick visit the castle where the rich used to live. The streets there are tiny and seem to be inspired by a labyrinth, and while our guide told us it was built so the locals could outsmart invading pirates, she also told us about a little old lady who once told her that the walls were so close together so as to keep you from falling down after a big night out on the ouzo.

When we woke up the boat was already on its way to Mykonos, our final stop. It was a sunny day but with a chill wind so we battled it out on deck in the sunshine, determined to make the most of it even though it required several layers of clothing. We stopped for a swimming break by some anonymous island but only a couple of people were brave enough to dive in, and were just as quick getting out again. We carried on and made it to Mykonos in the afternoon for an afternoon spent lying on deck in the sun reading, before our final dinner and drinks at a local bar, where we carried on the party long after the last of the bars on the island had closed. We were sad to say goodbye to the people we had met but not to our smelly little rocking boat and questionable showers in luke warm water. It was great to step back on solid land again, even if we weren’t sure how long it would take for the feeling of swaying to fade away.

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Istanbul

Fortunately, we had been lucky and our travel had landed on days with no strikes. We flew to Istanbul and had an amazing meal on the plane despite popular belief that plane food is awful. For once we had a pick up arranged at the airport by a couple of young Turkish guys who spoke very little English and shuttled into our new hostel. The owner himself showed us to our room and took us straight to the bar on the roof for a couple of free welcome cocktails each. We ventured out to find dinner, and it wasn’t long before a guy called out to us and innocently said “you dropped something”. It took a minute of this before he said “it was my heart…”. Turns out, Istanbul is pretty similar to Athens, though the locals wouldn’t want to hear it. Our hostel was in the old Sultanahmet part of town, with the Hagia Sophia mosque turned museum just out window. Istanbul feels like the East’s answer to Prague. Or maybe it’s the other way round. The spires here could possibly be equal those in number from the Republic. Though here, lit up at night, to the two of us, the minarets could easily be mistaken for Rapunzel’s tower. Despite the loud music from the pub on the floor above us, we decided we liked the city already.

At night we had almost wished we had booked a longer stay in Istanbul. By morning, we were glad it was only a few days. The call to prayer at 6am was most unwelcome. Even though we knew to expect this five times a day, generally they join the standard noises of the city and you barely notice them as anything more than a reminder of the culture you’re in. At 6am however, for twenty minutes by a particularly nasal caller, with a night of poor sleep and roommates getting in at 4am, it was not so appreciated. Not to be disrupted from our touristing, we spent the day at the Grand Bazaar, a place containing a huge amount of shops with a majority of carpets, scarves, jewellery, clothes and souvenirs. Mostly, we just got asked where we were from but heard from great pickup lines too. Up until then, we had been counting how many times we were asked if we were sisters, and our tally was sitting roughly on twenty for the whole trip. We must have been asked twenty times that day, so we gave up. All they’re trying to do is get you talking, and it got highly repetitive towards the end of the day so we headed home to admire our purchases and get some sleep.

The next day was game day. A local pub was playing the New Zealand vs Argentina match and we aimed to be there at 10am. Naturally, we walked in as they were kicking off at 10.30. We also happened to be soaking wet. Apparently, Turkey isn’t all sunshine and Turkish delight, but torrential rain and dodgy souvlakis. We enjoyed the game and got frustrated with the Argentinean boys for picking fights and annoyed the other punters by laughing at them. We had planned to take a boat up the river and back again but decided not to as everything was soaking. After the game, we only went out for food. At lunch on the main street one of the waiters took a particular liking to Ella – making her a poem from her name and buying her a bracelet from the souvenir stall next door. Apart from that awkward experience, it was a quiet afternoon spent reading at our hostel waiting out the rain.

Once again we awoke to the sound of rain. With only a few days left in Istanbul we decided to head out anyway. Somehow we managed not to get lost on the way to the spice market, where we splashed around a bit, bought a few things and loved the piles of spices and Turkish delight at every stall, as well as the incredible and slightly overpowering fusion of scents. We crossed the river by a bridge dotted with committed fishermen and walked uphill until we found the Galata tower, snapping one of Hayley’s trusty shoes on the way. Not to be put off, we made it and were happy to take the elevator to the top. We made one brisk turn of the viewing platform and decided that Istanbul would be quite pretty on a half decent day. That’s when we gave up and went back to hostel in afternoon to dry off hoping it would stop raining later on. It didn’t. We read some more, watched a movie, and went out for food. It was our last night in hostel, which we shared with a room full of boys who didn’t laugh nearly as much as they could have when Hayley screamed and stood up on the bunk because of a spider.

That night the pub above our room played loud heavy metal until 2.30am. Shortly after, one of our roommates came into the room and was asleep and snoring like a chainsaw within minutes. We hadn’t woken up to the call to prayer in days but this was worse, and felt infinite. In the morning we did our usual routine of getting very lost before finding our new accommodation. At least this time, we were staying in a four star hotel as part of a tour we were starting. We dropped our bags there and headed to the Bosphorus River for a three hour cruise. We decided we’d paid enough for the tickets so flagged the guide and made up the historical stories instead. When we got as far as the Black Sea, we were asked to leave the boat. For two hours. This would not only make us late for our meeting with our new tour group, but left us cold and hungry in a tiny place where if we stood in the middle of the main square we got yelled at by no less than three restaurant workers to have lunch at their restaurants. Went to get out money, and was even followed by one of them before we bluntly told him to leave. We found a food place where the owner didn’t attack us on a back road, but in return the meal we received was highly questionable. Back at the hotel and only half and hour late, there was no sign of our tour group. We went to our room to wait, and had dinner. There was still no sign of the tour group. We went to bed with a note from reception saying to meet at breakfast the next morning. It had been a major fail of a day. On the bright side though, we had a two week tour with someone organising everything for us to look forward to. And hotel slippers.

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Athens V2.0

Hayley and Ella spent the rest of the day venturing out around the area, being followed down (and subsequently crossing and walking away) roads by men trying to have a one sided conversation and deciding that Athens is something like a cross between Rome and Marseilles. Rome for the male population and Marseilles for the interesting smells and spray-painted architectural decorations. We found the flea market and bought the first of many many souvenirs.

On day two we walked down the steps in the entrance of our hostel, stood on the doorstep for half a second, and were approached by an Athenian local guy. It really is like they’ve never seen a female before. Though it is possible that pale strawberry-blondes/gingers are a rare breed in that area. We went out regardless and made out way to the very pretty national gardens just off Syntagma Square (popular on news reports recently but quiet on that particular day) and enjoyed finding the small zoo in the centre. We found the temple of Zeus, which took over 600 years to complete and has since almost entirely fallen down. As with most of Athens, you really have to use your imagination – what was once a large structure with lots of columns and a large statue of the God himself, is now a dozen single standing columns in a large roped off field. Still, was cool to see, and hard to imagine. Across the road we wandered into the Plaka area, an old part of the city dedicated to the art of souvenir hunting and purchasing, and therefore perfect for us. Unsurprisingly it became one of our favourite parts of the city. We had a quick souvlaki for lunch (when in Rome) and started back to the hostel. Craving fruit, we scrounged up a couple of Euro in coins and asked for two Euros worth of grapes at the fruit market – and ended up with a 3kg bag. Woops. We had a rest and went out for a night time stroll for a proper dinner, then considered asking some friendly policemen to escort us home down the dingy streets but flagged the idea and made it back to the hostel without even getting hassled once.

The next day we got up early (or at least, early enough) to see the changing of the guard at the palace. Since our hostel had no breakfast provided, we had to find some on the way, and in doing so found out that Greek people apparently do not eat breakfast. Everywhere we went we could only find coffee and sandwiches... After our sandwiches, we bought tickets for a two day hop-on hop-off bus tour of the Athenian sites, and used it to get to the palace as our first stop. Usually the guard changes every hour on the hour every day, but since it was midday Sunday it was the most attended and traditional ceremony of the week, where the guards wear costumes with 400 pleats in the skirts that they have to iron themselves. The guards there are chosen mostly on military service but also for their height and physical condition, for as our Lonely Planet guide book pointed out, the tights would not look nearly as good on a shorter, wider soldier. The ceremony was very formal, with a band leading the procession and the police moving the tourists out of the way. One of the best parts was when a stray dog (found everywhere you go in Athens) joined in the parade by walking alongside, and sometimes ahead, of the lead marcher. It looked like the kind of thing he did often, and since Greece allows cats and dogs free reign over the city, there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. Afterwards, we rejoined the bus to go to the Acropolis museum, and saw many of the original parts of the Acropolis along with various other finds. Next stop was the Acropolis itself, where we had a look at the theatre of Dionysus and got overheated walking back up to the Parthenon. Again, it was very hot and windy, the marble paving was still dangerously slippery, and it was now free because it was the first Sunday of October – otherwise, it hadn’t really changed much. However, this time on the way back down, we encountered a tortoise out for an afternoon stroll and stopped for a chat. We took the bus home again and got some much needed rest.

On the second day of our bus ticket, we took the alternate route to Piraeus, the port of Athens. After the muesli bars that we had brought for breakfast, we got off the bus for a scenic picnic in a surprisingly very safe feeling part of the harbour. We headed home again, stopping only for a 1.79 euro bottle of sangria, which we drank out of empty jelly cups, and rather enjoyed. It was our last night in that hostel, which we were particularly thankful for so we could get away from the constant sirens/alarms/shouts through the night, the filthy floor and no power points in the room. For $20NZ a night, you really do get what you pay for.

Our move to a new hostel was exciting, as we had decided to splash out for Ella’s birthday, which was the next day, and book a private room. There was a minor hiccough in finding it (Hayley decided a scenic detour might be nice) but found it not much later and instantly liked the general area a lot more. It was even painted white with blue shutters and doors. We went back into town, stopping only at Hayley’s old favourite kebab place as we were so close now, and found an old roman cemetery, talking our way into the gates without paying. Turns out, tortoises are fairly common on ancient sites, as we found a whole colony of them here. Back to markets that we found on day one to spend the rest of our money (again) before a quiet night reading and hunting down kebabs.

On Eleanor’s birthday (her 22nd) we got up and paid for a real life breakfast with real life toast with fried eggs, bacon and coffee, then set out to do what we do best. We found the mall for a spot of shopping without much hassle, bought a few gifts for ourselves and went back into the gorgeous Plaka area for a nice lunch and wine. We both shopped more and drank more on the way home, and were even greeted with a ‘hey baby’ by a man walking the opposite way. A man with grey hair and a walking stick – it seemed to be more of an automatic reaction to the presence of females than anything else. We raided the supermarket for a nutritious dinner of all things in the pointy bit of the food pyramid, and spent the night devouring it all and watching click flicks.

Suddenly, it was our last day in Athens. We had muesli bars in bed and left the hostel to finally try a ‘frappe’ – the cold coffee drink attached to the hands of most locals we had passed throughout our time in the city. Turns out, they were delicious. We spent the rest of the day drinking these, reading in cafes and on park benches, eating souvlakis (had to), and packing. It was a particularly enjoyable, quiet and cruisy way to end our trip to the capital.

Posted by Trailblazn 10:38 Comments (0)

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