A Travellerspoint blog

Saturday 1st August

A Colossal Sight

sunny 35 °C
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I got up around 6.45am and went down for a small breakfast at 7pm. I just missed the tidal wave of Greeks coming to breakfast; apparently it was a sight to behold. Those of my party that witnessed it, resolved to have breakfast henceforth at an alternative venue. Their description of brought to mind, peak hour traffic chaos in Athens, and some of my co-travellers seemed to be traumatised by the experience.
Shortly afterwards, the ship arrived at Rhodes, and we were treated to an impressive entry as we sailed past the former site of the Colussus, with the ancient walled city in the background. From there, we took a bus to Lindos down the coast, where we climbed up to an acropolis on Mt Philerimos. It was quite hot today, so although we were given an alternative of exploring the walled city or going to the beach in the afternoon, most of us chose to return to the ship at 2pm and enjoyed a late lunch in the restaurant. The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing on the ship, followed by another restaurant meal, a "Greek Dancing" show, and then a much needed rest.

Posted by bryceb 15:10 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Friday 31st July

The Greek Isles

sunny 31 °C
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Today we arose a little later to board the cruise liner "Aquamarine" to begin our 3-day Greek Island cruise. As we boarded, they took our passports, photos, and credit card numbers, and issued us with a boarding pass card, which we used from then on. As the ship berthed at different countries, it was easier to flash our card through the scanner, than to go through the usual border checks.
I didn't think that I got off to a good start when I started feeling queasy during the lifeboat drill, when the ship was still in port and gently rocking on the slight swell. I had already taken a seasickness pill about an hour ago which seemed to have no effect. But once the ship was under way and I was able to move around I felt a little better. The ship sailed for a few hours, then berthed at Mykonos where we disembarked and spent a couple of hours ashore exploring the old city. Back on board at 7pm, we went to the restaurant for tea, then saw a show called "New York to Paris". At least I tried to, because after popping the second pill at tea-time, a great tiredness descended on me and I gave up, instead heading for my cabin and sleeping soundly as we cruised through the Isles during the night.

Posted by bryceb 22:55 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Thursday 30th July

Athens and Greece

sunny 30 °C
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We made our way down to Athens over the course of the day. I hadn't realised that Greece was so mountainous. We climbed over a few mountain ranges usually via elevated passes. The scenery was extremely impressive. We stopped off at Thermopylae, where a relatively small number of Greeks and Spartans unsuccessfully defended the pass against a much larger number of Persians. Further on we drove up to the mountain to Delphi, where we saw ancient Greek ruins which had only recently been rediscovered and reconstructed. As it was all built on the side of the mountain, it required quite a brisk climb to enjoy all of the ruins. From there, we drove to Athens, a city of 8 million people. Greece is more urbanised than Australia, and most Greeks in Greece live in Athens. Otherwise they live in Melbourne. That evening we dined in a very noisy and colourful Greek restaurant where a condition of employment is to be able to dance Zorba the Greek. We then wandered the bustling Plaka Old City area before making our way back to the Divani Caravel Hotel via the Metro.

Posted by bryceb 22:37 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Wednesday 29th July

Meteoric Rises

sunny 28 °C
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Today we crossed over the Bulgarian/Grecian border, in the northern part of Greece called Macedonia, as distinct from the country of Macedonia. Because the current day country boundaries do not always encompass the traditional regions, we often end up with these anomolies eg Kurds in Iraq/Turkey. We had passport checks and stamps by a bad-tempered Bulgarian on one side of the border, followed a few minutes later by a more easily humoured Greek on the other. We followed a river gorge through a mountain range, and glimpsed Mt Olympus through the clouds as Howard told us stories of Greek Mythology.
Later during the day we passed by Thessalonika and followed the Agean coast for a while before turning inland towards the town of Kalambaka, where we booked into the hotel. We were then taken by bus up to Meteora, which is an area of large stone pillars upon which monks over the centuries have built several monasteries, some of which could only be reached by windlass. The road was narrow and winding, raising the anxiety levels of those on the ravine side of the bus. We walked across a bridge to a monastery on one of the domes; this one was bombed during the war and had been partly rebuilt. One of the domes had also been used in a Jamed Bond movie starring Roger Moore.
After a tour through the town of Kalambaka, we returned to the motel where we had a late tea; apparently the further south we go in Greece and Italy the later the evening meal becomes. They also run on local time, which runs considerably behind the time shown on clocks, and is vaguely akin to our outback time. In short "it happens when it happens".

Posted by bryceb 22:34 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Tuesday 28th July

Sofia

sunny 25 °C

Today was spent around Sofia. The optional excursion was a trip to the Rila Monastery in the Rila Mountains about 45 mins drive from Sofia, and at a height of about 1150 metres. So we took the drive up there. The monastery was quite a surprise; it was a rather large and elaborate affair, surrounded by a high wall. With lofty snow-capped peaks in the background, it looked like something out of a postcard. In fact much better, because I couldn't find a postcard, many as there were, to capture its true beauty. We stopped at a small restaurant part-way down the mountain, and I had an entree salad, local trout for mains, and a strudel for dessert, washed down by a local beer.
On return to Sofia, I went on the hunt for a free wireless hotspot. I bought a drink at McDonalds and started my netbook, with 4 leds showing on my wireless detector. I logged on, but was unable to connect to the net, so I left feeling cheated, and headed to the nearest shopping centre, where there is usually at least one free hotspot. Sure enough I was able to log on, download my emails, and upload my latest blogs, which I had pre-prepared, as I am doing now.
As we were leaving Bulgaria the next day, I had about 25 Lev to use up. I went into a supermarket and got some nuts and fruit, and then a small bottle of aftershave to use up the remainder. At the checkout I had undercalculated, and didn't have enough money, so I had to leave the aftershave there. All this without knowing a word of Bulgarian. It is good to be able to play dumb and mean it, instead of just pretending as I usually do. It certainly gives a different perspective on things, and an appreciation for non-English speakers in Australia.
I returned to the hotel, wrote some postcards and forced down another 3-course meal at the Hilton restaurant before retiring. I am sharing a room with Sir Les Patterson's younger brother. After he has a few drinks he usually starts snoring so I keep a pillow beside my bed and hit him with it if he gets too loud. Unfortunately it seems to do little even after several strikes; I find it more effective to use it to restrict his airflow. He has little memory of it in the morning, and it makes me feel better at the time.

Posted by bryceb 23:31 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)

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