18 April 2010

The greasy details of: Greece!!

I am home!

First thing I do when I walk through my door, ditch the bags on the floor and head straight for my hairbrush (I travel light and havent brushed my hair in 3 weeks!) Then turn my heat up because brrrr!! Its a lot colder here than 8898 kilometers away (5585 miles).

So everyone now asks me: "What was the best part about your trip?"

And I have to say- the food. The Mediterranean food is phenomenal. Nothing is processed, nothing has added chemicals and preservatives (well some of the packaged foods do but they are not pushed as a part of a normal diet as in the way of the United States), no added hormones in the milk, yogurt and cheeses, the grocery stores dont have to label anything "organic" because most of it IS organic! They produce their own wines, traditional greek ouzo, bread, various vegetables and yummy fresh fruit, honey, and of course the olives! Olives fresh, olive tapenade(a topping for bread), olives on pizza, olives with wine, olives to accompany everything and anything and especially the much anticipated olive oil, as fresh as you can get it.

There is a special way of life here- a way of life I could definatly get used to!! Instead the presence of the place most on my mind continues to be Alaska. Where we ship all our produce and goods in, makes me question myself to why I DO love it so much here. (Especially while visiting a pretty much self sufficient country.)

Greeks dont know entirely what Diabetes is. Not so strange if you think about it, they eat enough non processed foods(see above paragraphs) so explaining this auto immune disease to them was a little bit like just rambling on about green eggs and ham. They nod their heads and say they understand.....but I just dont think they see the same types of health related problems there. Which made me a bit worried about my bloodsugars (especially the first week I was there, terrible jetlag) adjusting to the time change (example when it was day time in Greece, it was night time in Alaska) so getting onto an eating, exercise pattern was a bit difficult for me and I could feel it in the rollercoastering sugar levels for sure.

I wore a medic alert but was even more worried that if I was found unconscious, how would a situation like that be handled? Luckily nothing serious happened. Its a risk I choose to take to be able to travel. I am a prepared traveler. And I would not have it any other way.

The constant sunshine aided my hair into turning 2 shades lighter! Plus I got a fantastic head start on my summer tan. I think I forgot what rain was, it rained ONLY once for about 20 minutes while I was there, and it soaked up so fast into the thirsty ground that it seemed like it never even happened.

Each individual island has its very own pace, beauty, and charm. I only got to visit 5, but once I got going on the proverbial "island hopping" experience I knew I could easily adapt to more of this lifestyle. I saw 5 out of 227 inhabited islands, it just wasnt enough!! Plus the other 1,400 or so uninhabited ones are still out there waiting patiently.....

One thing that really surprised me about this country that thrives near its radiant ocean; is the litter. There is too much litter here. And not enough effort going into stopping the litter from collecting in the cities or on (and IN) the beautiful beaches.

The ferry tickets were by far the most expensive part of my entire trip. Okay not including my international plane ticket. But thanks to couchsurfing.org and the option of cheaper backpacking hostels and decently priced fresh local food, I am so thrilled to report that I spent less than $2,000.00 on my entire trip. Thats right my ENTIRE trip. And that IS including airfare there! You can be a budget conscious traveler too if you want to!

Not only was this was my first time to Europe, but also my first time traveling alone. I met so many wonderful people throughout this trip, made new friends and represented Alaska, oh yeah! I was thinking it was going to be a challenge for me. But it was a challenge I fully embraced and can positively say I WOULD do it over again!

I will never be able to say the quote "its all greek to me" in the same way ever again, because woot woot Ive been there!! Its a completely alternate way of life, to the diet they live on, the crazy driving skills it takes to survive on the roads, the architecture and expressive art that has survived hundreds of years, their proud culture, and the attitudes that are essentially: greek.


To see ALL the photos from this trip go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/sitkakoala/Greece201002#

15 April 2010

Athens 4/7/2010

Getting back to the city center was a chore, the metro is under construction at points so the service gets interrupted, you take a bus, then get back on the metro to reach the port/or city. The way to the port was no problem (we just followed the crowds and ran into a fantastic random person who kindly showed us the way) Getting back I couldnt find where or which bus I had to take I had to rely on a strangers help.

A stranger that spoke very very very little English!! But he took me from the metro to the bus stop and on to the next metro, then proceeded to tell me where to get off on my stop. By this point I knew where I was but didnt want to make him feel like he wasnt doing a great deed (because he really was!!)

I found myself back at Athens backpackers, hoping there was a bed available. There was. I didnt make many reservations the entire trip. I tried doing a day trip down to gorgeous cape Sounion, and the locations of Poseidons Temple, but the bus was so tricky to figure out (no obvious signs) that once I found out where it stopped (from a wonderful kiosk agent) I waited about 2 minutes and watched it go whizzing by.....I may not have explained earlier- as its a skill I am learning still, but you MUST flag down buses if you want to board. I just ironically watched this one go whirring by. The next one didnt come for another hour. Ohwell. Maybe I will come back.

Instead I go walking about 4 miles to ALL the big museums, I head back and just as I am thinking to myself on how comfortable with the city and my directions I suddenly realize: Im lost. In the flea markets nontheless. Yep, there I go feeling all overly confident. Luckily the greatest thing about this place, is that if you can find the Acropolis high up on its hill overlooking the city, you can easily find yourself again.

Next I visit the National Botanical gardens. So refreshing compared to the constant energy of the city rumble. Except, a guy sits down and asks me where Im from. I am not in a mood today for this. I tell him I am not interested (plus he barely speaks my language) finally he gets my drift and leaves. I pack up my book and decide to head back to the backpackers. Here approaches this other guy. He asks my name. I tell him it doesnt matter. He asks me if I like fish. Really? Fish?! I say no and I have to go. He follows me. He follows me all the way to the exit of the park, asking my name the entire time. Are guys really this desperate here? I later find out the worst place to go in the city alone: the botanical gardens. Why dont the guide books have this type of crucial information!!!!!!!!!!!

The bars are not so appealing this evening, so a couple I had as roommates and I went on a quest for beers and headed back to our room, on the way the guy at the desk was soooo nice to give us the key to the rooftop bar (which was not yet open for the year) so we went up, took some pictures of the Acropolis at night and had a grand ol time!

Tomorrow is my flight towards home! Im just getting used to the flow of things and the culture and already Im heading home?!

Yes, home to my beautiful Sitka. Soon I will be on my way!!

12 April 2010

Mykonos 4/6/2010

Hello Mykonos, I had heard this was one of the top ten places to visit while in Greece; except, through opinions of travelers that had been there first hand- I got quite a different idea of what to expect. The island of Mykonos in the summer is wonderful, exotic, and yes very romantic.

However- it happens to be spring while I am here, and as I had heard, Mykonos is not hopping, friendly or overly exciting at this time. Thats okay, I still plan on seeing it, I just now know what to expect and only have 2 nights planned here.

This entry is posted so late for a reason. The reason being I met a man in Mykonos. Not the kind of man you would think I should meet on a romantic island while in Greece. This man was a tad crazy. So I post late so my friends and family know although I may have been in potential danger (although I dont think he was entirely dangerous, maybe just a bit lonely in Mykonos) that I didnt want them to worry about the remainder of my trip.

I went to the beach with a group of people and about 20 minutes into plopping myself down into the warm golden granules of sand with my book, 2 men approached the group, we will call them man A and man B, who told everybody there was dancing and music going on at one of the bars in town later that evening (about 13 kilometers away) the only problem with this was the buses were not on an evening schedule yet- so there was no cheap way (unless a group took a taxi) to get to and from the bar.

The group was not overly excited about going dancing, I had a spark of interest but also didnt want to go alone, so figured I would just stay near the beach and backpacker place I was staying at and recuperate from my last island shenanigans. But gave my temporary Greek number to man A in case I changed my mind. Slowly the group dwindled down until I realized, hey, Im sitting all alone on this parcel of beach with man A.

Where did man B go? Ah who knows. I chatted with man A for a while, he didnt know a ton of English but we were communicating alright. Then all of the sudden he covered my feet up with sand! Strange I thought, I wouldnt go to a beach and cover some strangers feet with sand.

Then I came to my next realization: man A probably thinks I am interested because I gave him my number!

So I decide to make it clear to him: "hey man A, you are really nice but Im just not interested" (or something along the lines of that) which brought us into some unusual discussions about dating, where I lived, where he lived, somehow to the topic that if we got married we could have a house in Mykonos AND in Alaska! Whoa- hang on a second here man A- IM NOT THINKING ANYTHING ALONG THE LINES OF MARRIAGE!!!!!!

But why not? He says directly. I tell him that I need to know someone before trusting them and making a decision like that and it just was not logical. He then became very very very (very) interested in visiting Alaska. Um...... what have I gotten myself into here!

At this point in this current story as I am telling it, I usually get interrupted by my listeners- "Was he at least good looking?" He was good looking, but that is SO not the point! The point is, I think I need to get off this beach- ASAP! Then he takes my hand and tells me I have the most beautiful eyes he has ever seen. To which I giggle because this seriously was not just said to me- right?! It was wrong to giggle, because he took it as a positive move and so he leans down to kiss the top of my hand, then sprawls himself across my lap and looks up at me.

Ok, I am totally weirded out now, does he think he is a puppy dog? "Um I have a problem with this, you cannot lay on my lap." Oh, sorry, he gets up but inches closer to my right side and covers my feet up with sand again. I make a move to stand up, its time to leave. His reaction was to grab my legs so I couldnt get up. I sit back on the sand to get my grounding and decide once and for all I have had enough of this. He doesnt realize how strong I am until I push him back until he falls over and I tell him that was completely unacceptable and I have to go NOW!

He stands and gives me a hug and holds my hand and asks about the dancing again. At this point I know if I tell him no or maybe, he may not let me off this beach! I say he can call me and he says "little goodbye, not big goodbye, just little goodbye right?!" I say yes, little goodbye and saunter off down the beach as calmly as I can, thinking, even if I saw you again, theres going to be no mixed signals about what in the h e double l just happened, I need to go analyze this thoroughly!

I fall asleep back at my room and my phone ringing about 4 times wakes me up so I decide I am staying in for the night and I turn it off. The next morning I find I cant turn phone on without a code from Vodaphone (which is somewhere in bag, but I was in no hurry to find it) so go to breakfast and finally turn phone on and go into town. He calls 28 times in 8 hours. I turn phone off again for the rest of the night. The next morning I am waiting for the ferry. He calls another 20 something times through out the day. And a scattering of times over the next few days. Really, Im sorry for standing you up, I just really did not feel the same about someone I just met and hardly know.

I now just hope he wasnt so desperate to show up in Alaska (luckily I did NOT give him my town name) Im still not so sure if I should be more worried than I am! But like I said earlier, I dont think he was entirely dangerous, maybe just a bit lonely. We all have bouts of that right?!

Lesson learned from this: Unless you are prepared for intense interest, dont be TOO friendly (or friendly at all) with Greek men!!

Goodbye Mykonos!
Time to head back to Athens!

05 April 2010

Naxos, Greece 4/4/2010

Christos Anesti!

This is what they yell and welcome you with right after the church service on the night before Easter. Then the fireworks go off- directly overhead!

I am couchsurfing with a guy here in Naxos. And 2 of his friends from near Athens. Boys. Greek boys. Greeks are actually very respectful. But, they also make it very clear about what they want and are thinking. Especially if they feel comfortable around you... the next couple of days are going to be some trouble, I can already tell! More later on that.

2 of the guys know very basic English (and I know NO Greek!!) So misunderstandings are prevailant. Okay, sorry, basic English, I promise.... me cavewoman..... seriously, am I asking for trouble?!!!!

Sunday is Easter, and everyone has no work. Its a family oriented holiday with barbeques, wine, visitors from Alaska, okay so thats not so normal, but Im just trying to fit in!!! And I am sooooo full!!!! They keep feeding me and feeding me and I feel I am bursting!

And the food is so wonderful! Lamb on the barbeque, homemade wines, slightly grilled pita bread, greek salad which is: fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onions, with olive oil and feta cheese, (and yes, I am eating and actually enjoying the tomatoes! For those of you that know me to avoid tomatoes at any cost) Sliced oven baked potatoes(kind of like fries) red dyed eggs, a kind of egg salad with yogurt, tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, and garlic dip) and way too many sweet things to name.

Sunshine, good food, happy people (I just wish I spoke the same language) Sigh, but honestly I am almost ready for home- I seriously need some regular sleep!!

Im sure I am forgetting to tell you lots but my time on the internet is almost over!

03 April 2010

Ios, Greece 4/1/2010

Oh Joy, it feels like I am back in highschool.....this flashback is being spurred on by the zaniness of what exactly is Ios, Greece. No other island attracts more under 25 year olds. Um....oops. No wonder I dont exactly feel like I belong. I get along with mostly everyone, exept a few of the 20 something girls that have a problem with me being here, maybe its because I am getting along so well with the dudes?

Ugh, I dont miss high school one bit.

My brother would love it here, in fact if he were to experience the great atmosphere and meet the awesome people who call this island home, I could see him getting a job bartending we would lose him here forever.

Phillip, the friend I met in Santorini, is here. Too funny, and fun to hang out with. I swear he never sleeps, I cannot say the same. I have not been getting enough sleep but I am getting by.....at a snails pace some days. (or more like a slug lol)

The ferry schedules here are erratic- dictionary definition of that: a big hassel when they get canceled. Which is often. And because it is almost the Easter holiday, they are packed to the gills. Blah, next step, locate a beach where there is no one nearby, this shouldnt be too difficult a task. Then maybe read some of my book that I brought and at this point is just dead weight being carried around......

Stay tuned!