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+layout: post
+title: "The Greek Islands and Athens"
+date: 2014-02-06 14:13
+tags: Greece, Samos, Ikaria, Syros, Mykonos, Athens
+published: false
+dont_cache_images: true
+priority: 0.5
+Leaving Turkey I took a ferry from Selçuk to Samos, the main gateway into the
+Greek Islands from Turkey. I'd planned on heading straight from there to Ikaria
+but the ferry to Ikaria didn't run the same day so I stopped on Samos for a day
+and had a look around. I found a cafe with wifi and looked up some cheap hotels,
+then made the long walk to one of the nicer looking ones which turned out was
+even cheaper than the prices I'd seen online because it was low season.
+My room with a beautiful view looking out over Samos beach and into the
+Mediterranean. I was quite literally the only person in the whole hotel. They
+asked me what time I wanted to have breakfast the next day, so I made myself get
+up the next day at that time even though I didn't feel like it, and found they'd
+laid out a small buffet for me, it was very sweet of them. The staff there were
+lovely and seemed really grateful to have me staying with them.
+The whole town of Samos felt eerily quiet. There was pretty much no one on
+streets and pretty much all the shops but restaurants were empty. It made a nice
+change, feels like lazy Sunday every day, with nobody fighting to get my
+attention. At this point in the trip I'm very happy that things are quiet; I
+think that peak season in the islands would be horrible
+<!-- more -->
+While in Greece I ate a lot of Mediterranean salads, which consist of a huge
+proportion of raw tomatoes, which in the past I have never really liked. Any
+other form of tomato I'm fine with, but I've never been able to get past the
+texture and flavour of raw ones. I decided to try and push through that dislike
+and eat a salad every day until I either liked them or hated myself for doing
+it. It actually didn't take all that long to get to the point where I almost
+enjoy them, I think the olive oil and lots of great feta and the freshness of
+the tomatoes definitely helped. I've continued trying to eat any tomato that has
+ended up on my plate even after leaving Greece (I was wondering if it was just
+the Greek tomatoes I was liking) and it seems to have worked somewhat. I still
+wouldn't seek out raw tomatoes just yet, but I no longer feel like I need to eat
+around them which is great. I don't think there are any foods I don't eat
+because of the taste/texture anymore!
+Out the window of my hotel I could see an abandoned old building over the other
+side of the bay so I ventured over and explored it a bit. Most of the walls
+(glass?) had been removed, and the place was mostly stripped out, but it didn't
+look like demolition was in any way in progress and it had a bit of an eery
+feeling to it. The rooftop would have made an awesome site for spinning some
+fire at night!
+The domestic ferries between the Greek Islands are gigantic! They're how I'd
+imagine a cruise ship would be like: multiple bars and snack cafes, seemingly
+endless corridors, etc. I wandered around for a while and find the first class
+area, which they let me into even though I only have a tight-arse ticket simply
+because the boat is so empty. Win! The ferry is so large and stable that I don't
+need seasickness tablets for once, and can get some blogging work done. This
+shit takes up way more time and effort than I ever thought it would, but it'll
+pay off when I'm done and have a detailed record to look back at when I'm old
+and my memory is failing, and I like to think at least my mum enjoys reading
+My next island is Ikaria, an island I'd heard about from another traveller who
+told me how they had some of [the longest lifespans in the
+world]( because
+everyone was super laid back (I was told that shops would "close" but leave the
+doors open and unattended, so you could leave the money for your purchase on the
+counter if you needed something).
+They're also famed for having naturally radioactive radon hot springs around the
+island. I went for a walk to Therma, a little town over the hill from where I
+was staying to have a look where they have some springs diverted into buildings
+for a more western spring experience, but I decide it's not for me. The walk up
+over the hill is very scenic, passing a lot of beautiful cliffy terrain.
+I ate dinner most nights at a nice little restaurant that was on the flat level
+between two of the many staircases that weave up the hills of the town.
+Everything I ate was amazingly delicious, very tender meats and great salads.
+There were also lots of very curious stray cats and kittens investigating
+around, one little kitten even tried to jump up on my table but slipped right
+back off again.
+I ended up going to one of the more traditional radioactive hot springs where
+the water comes out of the ground right near the ocean at about 50-60ºC (ie. way
+too hot to be comfortable) but it quickly mixes with the sea water giving you a
+lovely gradient of temperatures to bath in.
+The rocks are all stained a rusty brown colour form the radon near the hottest
+parts, and then out further as the water cools enough for things to grow the
+rocks are covered in green moss or algae. I lazed about in them for about half
+an hour, figuring with the life expectancy statistics for the island the
+radiation can't be _that_ bad for you
+The next island I headed to was Syros, the island that the ferries to
+practically everywhere seem to pass through. My evening ferry was quite a bit
+slower than I expected and didn't arrive until 3am, and of course I had no
+accommodation sorted out in advance :O
+It all worked out perfectly though, there were some guys at the ferry terminal
+asking if I needed a room, I asked them what their prices were and went with the
+cheapest one and ended up in a nice little place where I had the rooftop
+apartment with a kitchen and its own little private courtyard and beautiful
+views looking out ~270º around the island; up the hill to the cathedrals and
+out to the bay and the Mediterranean. There was even a little shady park across
+the road to hang out in and read or spin poi!
+I really liked Syros, it felt a lot more like an island that people live on year
+round. There still weren't many tourists but the place didn't feel completely
+deserted. Food prices were a little more expensive, but the food itself was of
+very good quality.
+I didn't actually do much touristy stuff to write about on Syros, I mostly just
+spent my time relaxing, reading and spinning poi and it was a great place for
+Next I got a fast ferry from Syros to Mykonos, an island that I had high hopes for from
+others high recommendations. That fast ferry lived up to its name, pulling into
+the port and turning around it came in with such speed it looked like it was
+going to do a big fishtale or something.
+I wandered around the ferry a bit, this one being the most crowded one I'd been
+on yet, exploring outside a bit and then found door leading into what turned out
+to be some sort of evacuation stairs. There were some staff in their on a break
+but they didn't seem to care that I was there. I found a fire door from that
+stairway to inside and then found myself in the much more spacious Business
+class section that you needed to present your ticket to get into if you came via
+the normal entrance. I kept a low profile and relaxed in spacious glory, not
+like those schmucks in economy :P Intentionally getting lost for the win!
+Mykonos was actually a bit of a disappointment. The restaurants are all really
+overpriced, the end of shoulder season meant that there weren't many tourists
+around (which after a few weeks of not really meeting _anyone_ it gets pretty
+lonely and I'd decided maybe having _some_ tourists would be a good thing), and
+there didn't seem to be anywhere you could go and just hang out. There seemed to be
+no public spaces, parks or even benches, all the beaches are lined by restaurant
+that want to sell you overpriced drinks or are covered in sun lounges that you
+have to pay for the privilege of sitting on. It seems like somewhere you
+come to in the high season with a bunch of rich friends to get drunk and party
+every night, and then sloth around on overpriced sun lounges to nurse your
+I actually ended up living off food from little Gyros shops while I was here because I
+could get a gyros, a Greek salad and a drink there for less than just the salad at
+a real restaurant.
+Towards the end of my time there even the weather turned ugly, most days not
+reaching 16ºC and being extremely windy; I liked to think of it as helpfully
+getting me prepared for England :P
+I made a trip to Paradise Beach, a huge resort area which was almost completely
+devoid of human life and didn't really live up to its name at all. Back home it
+would just be called "generic dull beach without any surf and lots of ugly
+sun lounges"
+Final stop in Greece was in the capital, Athens. I had low expectations for
+Athens because I'd had a few friends talk the place right down, but I actually
+really enjoyed it.
+I stayed in a nice sociable hotel and went on a free walking tour on my first
+day and met a number of really nice people and saw many of the sights around
+Athens. We had a very charismatic guide, George, who claimed to be an
+archaeologist and taught us how to identify different column types and where
+fires had occurred. It was all good stuff and we covered a good number of the
+ruins around the city.
+I met up again later with a pretty girl from the tour for some drinks and
+trivia, which we were appalling at. In trivia I generally rely on the other
+people in the team because I just don't seem to retain the sort of information
+that they ask questions about, but she was very much in the same boat so we
+ended up just making stuff up for a bunch of the questions. Good fun!
+I went and explored the Acropolis and the Parthenon up on the hill, overlooking
+everything. The Parthenon was a bit of a zoo, with throngs of people, long slow
+queues to actually get in, and large tour groups everywhere; but the rest of the
+Acropolis was actually relatively uncrowded and very pleasant to just stop and
+appreciate it all.
+I visited the Agora which has a very well preserved temple that is almost
+entirely still standing,
+And a reconstruction of one of the long market buildings (using a lot of new
+materials) which was *huge*. 50 Columns, 4M tall give a very imposing effect.
+Very impressive to think these structures were there so far back in the past.
+All up I quite enjoyed my time in Greece, especially Athens, but I cant help but
+wonder what the islands would have been like maybe just a few weeks earlier, and
+travelling with some friends. The islands don't really seem solo backpacker
+friendly, there's a distinct lack of hostels on them.

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