Mama Mia

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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Sunday, May 20, 2012

At Split we boarded a car ferry to Ancona, Italy, and another from Ancona to Greece.

We met a Greek man on the Ferry. He was pleased that a parliament was being sworn in. His view of the situation was that the Greeks had been given easy credit and with it went on a spending spree. The parents bought their kids anything they wanted, houses, cars, phones - whatever. The young had no need to work, so sat in cafes, lent back and drank chai latte. Illegal immigrants arrived and were prepared to work for next to nothing. So for those that did want to work there were no jobs. The Germans then loaned out more Euro, supposedly to help, only they demanded 6% interest, even though the Central Bank charged 1%. The Greeks don’t see why they should pay at such an inflated rate. So that was the Greeks side of the German mans story on the matter. Germany is jamming the Greeks!
Patras, the main port of Greece, to its Capital, Athens, reminded us of Asia. The roads were poor, in need of repair and full of pot holes. We saw litter everywhere, overhead power lines, TV antennas and the housing was grubby concrete. There were many abandoned, high rise buildings, bridges, housing, apartments and even suburbs. Advertising billboards were large and dirty, they had been scrapped of promotions and lay bare.  

The main road into Athens was the industrial area. It was lined with wrecking yards, second hand heavy machinery yards and dilapidated empty shops. Closer in, we expected to see a modern City - it wasn’t any better. Clearly, it is not illegal to ride a mo-ped or motorbike without a helmet nor to talk on a mobile phone whilst doing so. Traffic lights appeared to be working, yet police gave traffic directions as if the traffic lights were not visible. We even saw a tractor drive through the centre of the City.
Our van park was one hour to the north at Kafissia, the more pleasant of Athen’s suburbs. It even had trees (for Bill to pee on as soon as it got dark). We camped next to Pireckles-Roberto, an unassuming, yet incredibly knowledgeable gentleman. His father was Italian and his mother Greek. He had studied agriculture science and didn’t complete his studies until the age of 28. He was then in the army for 2 1/2 years and following that the special forces. He finally commenced work at the age of 32 for Coke-a-Cola, so all that agricultural study was for naught. Some years later he started his own business supplying goods for the gas industry. At this, he was extremely successful and was able to retire in his late 40’s. He had travelled all over the world. His knowledge of history, in particular, that of Greek and Greek mythology didn’t cease to amaze us. He could speak six languages fluently, as well as Latin. P-R became our personal travel agent, advising us what to see and where to go, and then would provide the corresponding history lessons. As well, he cooked us a meal, gave us Lemnos wine, made from grapes that can only be grown at Lemnos, prepared for us a strawberry dish and gave us Italian ice-cream. In return he drank copious amounts of our Ouzo and Cabarnet Sauvignon - he really was a very smart man.

The Athen’s Archeological Museum, Acropolis Museum, as well as the sites at Acropolis were all free the day we visited due to it being some sort of public holiday (it’s always good to save a few bucks.) We learned that the Acropolis is the central rock that Athena’s Temple, the Parthenon, resides on. We also learned that Greek mythology is quite bazaar. For example, Athens was named after Athena - not so bazaar. But the start to her life was. Her father, Zeus, swallowed Metis, one of his wives. Some dude took an axe and split open Zeus’s head and out sprang, Athena, fully clothed in armour and ready for battle (even though she’s meant to be the peaceful one - hmmm??!!).

Poseidon, god of the sea, and Athena, goddess of peace and wisdom, disputed over whose name would be given to the newly built city, in the land of Attica. To end the dispute, it was decided that the city would be named after the one who offered the most precious gift to the citizens. Poseidon struck his trident on a rock and salt water began to flow, which was pretty dumb, cause what was he expecting them to do with that. Athena struck her spear on the ground and it turned into an olive tree. Yum, yum, the Greeks relish olives, especially in their Greek salads, hence the new city was named Athens in honor of Athena.

There are 12 main Greek gods, P-R of course knew all 12. There’s 100’s of myths and many are pretty weird. The Greeks spent loads of money on temples for their gods so someone was a convincing and gifted story teller. Perhaps their Ouzo was a lot stronger back then - Ahh ha ha!!

Famous architecture, sculpters, painters, poets, writers and novelists, famous philosophers - Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, but the modern Greek plumbing system has gone to shit - huh huh huh. The Greek method is to do ones business in the toilet, but to put the paper in the bin located nearby. Anything larger than a postage stamp would cause a blockage. As many a persons poop is much larger than a postage stamp, we saw a great variety:- fat ones, skinny ones, brown ones, long ones, corny ones, pebbley ones, lumpy ones and Oh my goodness gracious that wouldn't flush anywhere ones. The plumbing system didn't really cater for poo, much less toilet paper.

Everything we dreamed a Greek Island to be we discovered on the Isle of Santorini. Rugged outcrops of rock and lava-layered cliffs in the azure Aegean Sea, speckled with white cubist buildings and blue-domed churches. From a distance the cliff top towns looked like a dusting of icing sugar.

Around 1650 BC a massive volcanic explosion - speculated to be the biggest such explosion in recorded history - caused the centre of Santorini to sink, producing a caldera the sea quickly filled in. The explosion generated a huge tsunami that is widely believed to have caused the demise of Crete’s powerful Minoan culture.

Our apartment was at Litsa’s, on the road to the light house, toward the peaceful southern end of the Island. Our evening meals were exquisite, as we watched the sun setting over the ocean. There were numerous entries in the guest book from travelers who had been to Santorini many times that claimed it to be the best restaurant on the Island. Some went as far as to say it was the best in the world. Our favourite entry was from a couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary. They had met at Litsa's chatting to each other from separate tables for about an hour, when Litsa suggested they sit together. They got married 19 days later. There was an entry from the couple again on their 2nd anniversary.

Alo drove the hire car one afternoon. Whilst Bill was ‘map boy’. She was doing pretty well considering driving on the opposite side of the road as well as left hand drive (that was in Alo's eyes, but Bill and the girls had quite a different take on the story). 'Map boy’ sent her to drive through a traditional Santorini one way street. It was at that point it we realised the streets were made for donkey’s not cars. ‘Map boy’ decided it was best to give directions by climbing out of the window and sitting on top of the car. Alo’s skillful driving meant no scratches or dings to the vehicle. However, her nerves had become completely frazzled and ‘map boy’ had been drinking so poor Alo had to find her way back to Litsa’s without assistance. Each time she put the blinkers on to turn corners the windscreen wipers were switched on by mistake.  Ariel and Brandi-Chanel were in fits of hysterics. ‘Map boy’ simply lay down on the back seat with his legs out the window, stating his demands - "speed up you're going to slow", "slow down you're going to fast", "turn the radio up I can't hear it", "I'm hungry", "are we there yet ..." (getting a bit of his own back, welcome to Bill's world, he claimed).

Our ferry to Milos Island had been cancelled due to the bad weather. The conditions were not going to improve over the next few days, so we decided to brave it and return to Athens. No point in visiting more Islands if the weather was crap.  

Walking to board the ferry, a local said, “are you disappoint the ferry’s been delayed?” Alo replied, “no I’m scared.”  The local said, “you should be!”  Great, what were we in for? To start with, the crew would grab the arm of a passenger and pull/push them up the gang plank as quickly as possible as the swells smashed the gang plank up and down on the wharf. At one point a 4 inch thick rope holding the boat to the wharf snapped because of the turbulence. All this and we were still in the calm of the port.  

Once on board, we were instructed to find any seat and sit down as quickly as possible. We were one of the first on board so got seats as close to the centre of the boat as possible. An Asian girl was eating a sandwich and a Santorini man said she deserved a bravery award to be eating prior to the impending trip - eeeek!!  

Ten minuets in, it was like being in a lift that dropped 10 feet and then slowly rose and dropped again. Alo started to feel hot, took off her jacket, skirt, scarf and shoes, to cool down, all to no avail. In shorts, singlet and bare feet she staggered to the rear of the boat and proceeded to be violently ill. Bill brought her spew bag after spew bag till there was nothing left to spew. She then sat crouched on the floor, staring intently at one spot not daring to move, while Bill stood legs apart and hands holding firm staring out at the ocean and the horizon.  

Thankfully the girls were OK laying down on the seats. During the 5 hour journey back to Athens we heard deathly silence, interspersed with the sounds of vomiting. The crew came around with spray to drown out the stench. The spew bags were so numerous, bins were filled and bags were left willy nilly on the floor. Some had fallen over and spew was flowing all over the place. Some had missed their bag altogether and vomited into their hands, over themselves or on the passenger beside them. Some people had fallen over onto the floor.  Many just sat or laid where they'd fellen.  

The Santorini man had said he had made the same trip every week for the past 7 years and this was by far the worst he had ever experienced. We didn’t envy the cleaners job, nor the Aussies who had a plane flight back to Australia 4 hours later.

Appreciating being back on solid ground, we headed north, to Meteora, to view the monasteries. How they were capable of building them back in the 14th century is utterly astonishing. The worker bees would need to have had good balance, one slip and they would have been goneskis. There were once 24 monasteries, one perched dramatically atop each enormous rocky pinnacle and 6 are still occupied. If there was an 8th wonder of the world - we reckon these would be it.

Greece's most beautiful beach is believed to be at Parga. As it was Bill and Alo's 15th wedding anniversary and Alo's birthday we decided to be luciously lazy and sit on a deck chair in the sun for a whole week. Aaaah, It was delicious to do absolutely nothing, but work diligently on our suntans - mmmmm - yum!

"It was a fabulously, memorable, happy, 15th anniversary to the gorgeous, sexy, hairy, beasty one of us (and Bill enjoyed it too). The night we'd fist met, Alo had been taken home on the back of Bill's bike - that was to be a small taste of the ride of our lives. We are each other's favourite people in all the world. We loved each other then, we love each other now, we'll love each other forever!!"

Adio and Efkharisto (goodbye and thank you) Greece, Buongiorno (hello) Italy. 



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