Saturday, August 8, 2009

Photos From Greece!

Near the rooftop pool in Athens.
Our campsite on Milos. Yep, we had to hike down that cliff every night. Best campsite ever! Volcanic sand to warm ones toes.
Just like Heaven.
At the church on the top summit of the capital of Milos, Plaka. Seems like every island in Greece has a capital named Plaka. The island in the distance behind me looked like it was floating on air, kind of like Miyazaki's Castle In The Sky.
Conner in Athens, rooftop pool.
Totally rad print that was in our hotel room on Agistri.
Coastal climbing on Milos

Friday, August 7, 2009

Coastal Climbing

The other day Conner and I decided to do a little coastal hiking; got some physical activity in after days of lounging. Milos has a very rocky coastline punctuated here and there by stretches of sandy beaches, but for the most part it's largely made up of big boulders that have tumbled down the cliff into the sea.

The rough volcanic boulders are actually quite easy to scale with tennis shoes despite their size. While pretending that we were doing much more strenuous mountain climbing than we actually were. I noticed that Conner and I have vastly different climbing styles. He's more like a mountain goat; jumping around on long thin legs. I however, turn straight into the Nirvana baby; my whole body splays out to the four winds. I use my hands, slide down rock faces on my bum, rotate on my stomach to reach the next foothold.

Some of us are just far more graceful in some things.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Salt of the Earth

On this trip I have been fortunate to travel with people who are way more vocal about their need for a shower than myself. After our third night of camping on Agistri, Conner insisted that we finally get a room with a comfortable bed and a cold shower. I think the final straw for him was sleeping on plastic floaties with our sunburned backs; every time you have to turn over, you have to rip your skin off the plastic-it's akin to fleshy Velcro and highly painful.

While biking it was nice to shower off all the dirt rings. In Greece it's nice to wash off a fraction of the salt encrusted onto every part of our bodies. My hair has been raked back into a bun for the greater part of 4 days and now feels exactly like the coif of an original 1950's Barbie doll-total straw.
The salt dries on my skin and renders me the ashiest white girl ever. Conner fares a bit better as the salt just adheres to his leg hair and makes him look like he's been dusted with sugar.

And making out on these idyllic beaches in the moonlight sounds so romantic-and it is-just as long as you can get over the fact that every time you each other's necks, it's exactly like liking a Pringles chip. But you do it anyway because you think, "Wow! My boyfriend finally got rid of his carpenter's tan and how he's all freckly and bronzed. Come 'ere!"

On the upside of life by the highly salty Mediterranean Sea is that no one smells bad here. We all sweat a lot, but everyone just dips in and out of the water so much and washes it all away. No need of Patchouli oil here, mild natural musk will do quite nicely.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Calamity Avoided

I must confess that I'm surprised by how smoothly our Greek vacation has been going. I'm used to Kat and I making endlessly questionable decisions. Yesterday Conner and I, on my suggestion, began hiking up the steep and winding road from the port of Adamas to the hilltop capital of Plaka. It looked like it was a super short distance on the map and I figured it would be an adventure and we could save money on the bus fare.

Now, there are now sidewalks along the roads which are barely wide enough for two cars, and they're rather slick so the car tires are always squealing around the many bends. I could see it happening that Kat and I would both stubbornly press on and two hours later, hot, exhausted, and irritable, we wouldn't be much closer to Plaka than a pin dot. But they would be some good stories after the pain had subsided.

Conner however, after 15 minutes of hugging the small space between the road and the cliff, had the good sense to insist on going back to town and taking the bus to the rugged southern beaches-took all of a 5 minutes bus ride for 2.30 euros.

Calamity avoided.


After a bit of indecision we made it to our second Greek Island, Milos. It's claim to fame is the Venus de Milo, discovered in 1820 and battled over by the French and the Prince of Moldavia. Eventually the French won out and purchased it under considerable pressure. The Greeks say that the arms were broken off in a scuffle with the French. The French claim it was already that way. Who's to say? Ah! That rhymed!

Regardless, the French have it now in the Louvre and have sent Milos a copy for their cultural memory. There are several gift shops on the island who's specialty are "re-imagining" the Venus, which usually just involves painting small figurines of the Venus with brightly colored patterns.

The English are another story. The Lord Elgin Marbles, sculptures found on the Acropolis, were sent back to London by way of a controversial permission by the Ottoman Empire who, in 1800, ruled Greece. They are all currently on display in the British Museum in London. There is a huge push by the Greeks to get the British to return the sculptures, but according to one of my couch surfing hosts, no one really expects them to be returned; because then they would have to reckon with the Persians and the Italians, and no one wants to open that can of worms.

There are 74 beaches on Milos, some of the best are on the secluded and undeveloped western end. Only problem is how to get there; all of the 5 bus routes run solely on the eastern end of the island. They have several scooter rentals in the main port, but as we were informed back on Agistri, it used to be that anyone could drive a scooter, but now that they were "European" well, now you have to have a scooter licence.

We took the bus down south to Palechori and hiked west till we found a small secluded beach that we've taken to calling "our beach" despite the other couple that ventures down every day around the same time that we decide to explore and head into town. By the time we come back to have dinner and sleep, they are on their way out. It's a nice dynamic. We haven't seen anyone else camping on any of the beaches, but with our wild Texan mentalities, we figured that we would just wing it. The first night the waves got so loud that we were both wakened with the fear that we would get submerged by the encroaching tide, but no such thing happened. Now I have to say that camping on the beach is entirely the way to go.

Vacation With A View

It takes me a while to fully relax; I'm always feeling like I should be working on one of my various projects. I suppose this was one of the reasons my solo-time in Athens was so difficult. I figured that since I just spent all my time by the pool, I might was well use my time to do research on my next project. I sought out the National Library hoping to find a couple English books on music. No such luck. All in Greek.

side note: I've begun to get a silly amount of pleasure out of the saying, "It's all Greek to me!" A silly amount.

After having been on Agistri for a couple days, I've finally relaxed. Being around Conner also helps: he's a pretty quiet guy who's perfectly happy to sleep, swim, and eat the day away. After spending several days on this very small, very chill island with him doing exactly these things, well, I've eased into them too. I feel like we spend a lot of time gazing out at the sea, with it's various shades of turquoise and the islands in the distance, and not really thinking much of anything-just enjoying the view.


The nudie beach of Agistri is in actuality, not that nudie, at least not during the week. The weekends see the population triple and many more visitors to this particular beach. The only true nudies during this time are the men, and even then it's the gay couples and the older portly Greek men. The week hosts more of the "beach bums", who would be perfect as extras if they ever remade the cheezy 1950's surf film, Gidget. They pitch tents along the pebbly shore and it seems like the nudist green light goes on with everyone smoothing extra sunscreen onto their slightly paler bits.

Note: Neither Conner nor I have frolicked about naked so there need not be any awkwardness when we all sit down for Thanksgiving in the fall. Just had to set the record straight.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ex-pat Inn

Every Greek Island must have their own version of an ex-pat run bed & breakfast; see Mamma Mia for reference.
Last night Conner and I ate dinner at Agistri's version, The Agistri Club. If I were to write a fictional short story about how the trim and handsome older proprietor arrived at his new profession, I would put him in an after hours business meeting in a Rat-Pack chic London wine and cigar bar. The latest real estate development deal looks like it's going through, and while he used to be elated when he pocketed the 1 million pound paycheck and celebrate with an oxygen facial and a glass of Johnny Walker Blue with one cube of ice, now he just feels kind of bored with the whole thing. He looks out the window onto the cold, drizzly London night, vamped-up East London girls drunkly stumbled past; he's 52, successful, handsome, and bored as hell.

So he packs up his money, ditches his black wool suits in favor of khaki shorts and white cotton button-down shirts, buys a shitty old building on the outskirts of town on the way to the island's best nudist beach, and sets to work renovating and painting all the stucco a nice Greek white.

Now he's the much loved gregarious host of the evening meals, dancing around entertaining guests and eternally waving a tall glass of gin and tonic in his hand.

We had a lovely meal and were presided over by George, who had the "good sense" to keep our icy cold beers full. Halfway through dinner the power went out over the whole island, cutting Frank Sinatra off mid-Fly Me To The Moon. Apparently it's a regular occurance because no one seemed surprised, lit the candles that were already set all about the patio, and soon brought in the British bard who played guitar and sang 1970's pop ballads.

When we tried to pay for our food we were told, "Oh my dear boy, guests don't pay! We run an all-inclusive joint here." I'd totally stay there if we were sleeping in a hotel, but as it is, we're camping on the eastern seaside cliffs in between the Agistri Club and the nudist beach (pictured above). There are lots of flat, if not slightly rocky spaces big enough for tents. When we first arrived on Saturday it was so packed that we had to hide some way in order to hunt down one of the much coveted tree-shaded spots. By Sunday evening it cleared out considerably as people left on the last ferry back to the mainland. So now we've upgraded to a nicer, closer spot and have purchased some rectangular floaties which provide cushioning from the tiny rocks that make comfortable sleep in the tent absolutely impossible. They floaties also serve their original purpose and turn the Mediterranean Sea into the greatest water bed ever. The only downside to the latter use is that yesterday Conner and I both fell asleep while floating over the waves and now sport slight sunburns. Alas.

Flying Dolphins

Conner and I finally got the hell out of Athens. We took the metro down to the port and hopped on a hydrofoil to Agistri, a small island in the Argo-Saronics, about an hour from Athens. I've never been on a hydrofoil before and frankly, had no clue what it was. It's pretty cool, engineerically speaking, and feels much like a little putter plane on water-fast but with a little turbulence.

The much slower Hellenic Sea car ferry also makes daily trips to Agistri, and costs half as much. We were operating under the sentiment, "Get me out of Athens as fast as possible!", and thus opted for the Flying Dolphin hydrofoil which gets here in under and hour for 12 euros a person.

Olympian Metros

If Athens' unique word is chaotic, then mine must be efficient-maybe that's why I love Germany so much. I came to Athens under the assumption that it would be orderly and organized like all other major cities in the European Union. I thought that the city had invested millions in new urban development for the Olympic Games of 2004, and that meant they had now joined the world of the polished European city. I was totally wrong and should have left all my assumptions at the sleek new airport.

I asked each of my Greek couch surfing hosts about the effect of the Olympics on Athenian life (not to channel my Berlin buddies). They both just shrugged and said, "Ah, not much changed at all." The only real improvement was the installation of two new metro lines which made transportation easier and more reliable, and cut back on the number of cars within the city limits. The inner city roads, like most European cities, were not built with the width of two cars side-by-side in mind. On several occasions I've had to squeeze by as two cars were locked in a battle of wills as to which one would stop honking and back up to let the other pass.

I do have to say that the new metro lines are pretty cool. They are all lined with freshly polished white marble and are actually much faster than the four previously existing lines. They also have museums in them; one is dedicated to archeology and the other to art.

Other than that, things apparently went on much the same before and after the Olympics.

When heading into the metro, there are always people hawking their wares; the Africans head towards Syntagma Square, their backs loaded down with a large white sheet that holds a bundle of fake designer purses or sunglasses. They'll lay out the sheet on the ground and then entice you into the land of faux Fendi. The Asians prefer Omonia Square with the bottom of a cut-off box that they attach a strap to and hang it from their necks, much like the Las Vegas cigar girl's mobile display box. They mainly sell small electronic toys with multi-colored lights. My favorite of these was a small silver plastic crucifix that has flashing neon blue lights on each point of the cross and was purchased by a small round Greek woman. The older Greek men and women can be found around Academia selling off complicated looking lottery tickets hanging from home made easels.