Athens and Santorini, Greece

Athens

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After landing in Athens and finding our hostel which was located in the middle of the heart of Plaka, right below the Acropolis, we went to get dinner! I think that traditional Greek food is amazing. It’s so incredibly fresh. I ordered a Greek salad without oil and the chef actually came out to our table and lectured me about how “olive oil is good for me and will make me live longer…” I certainly learned my lesson…

With or without oil, the tomatoes are perfectly ripe and the feta cheese is amazingly fresh and the pita bread is warmed to perfection. I loved walking down the streets in the main square. They were gorgeous, like something out of a film. 

The next morning we woke up and took a walking tour of Athens which included historical information on modern and ancient Greece. It was fascinating. Athens was named after the goddess of Athena as protector of the city (there was a whole competition with Poseidon and Athena won #girlpower you can read more about it here!) and has been through a lot 5000+ years of history.

It has stood the test of time against many rulers of many different dynasties and is known for “inventing democracy.” I could spend hours of time writing about the lengthy and interesting complete history of Athens but instead I’ll just link to it, here 😉

We spent the day walking all around the city exploring all of the ruins and the active excavations including the Acropolis, Zeus’ Temple, the Temple of Hephaestus, and so many more amazing sights. It’s a very walkable city, the only challenge is that it was 100 degrees out, so be warned if you’re planning on visiting Athens in the Summer that it will be HOT! Drink lots of water and make sure to take some rest time in between sightseeing.

For sunset we headed to Mt Lycabettus which had a 360 degree view of the city. The colors of the sky were bright pinks and reds and the mediterranean sea was so blue.

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After returning to the city center, we finished off the long day of exploring with a nightcap drink and dessert of traditional baklava below the acropolis on a rooftop open air bar.

Other fun discoveries: It’s no secret I like coffee. I tried Greek coffee and I wasn’t a huge fan… but the tour guide suggested I try a cappuccino freddo and it was really refreshing and STRONG!

Santorini

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Next up on our trip was the island of Santorini. It’s a beautiful island, and was both bigger and smaller than I expected… let me explain! It’s a big island in the way that you need a bus, car, or ATV to go from one city to another. But it’s small in the way that it’s still pretty undeveloped with a lot of open space and all of the locals know each other.

Our first day in Santorini we enjoyed spending time in the area we were staying: the black sand beach of Perissa. It was an amazing way to relax after all of the chaos of our two weeks of constant travel. Perissa felt like a laid back beach town and a great escape from the bustle of a big city… like the main city of Santorini, and the island’s capital, Fira!

You can take a bus to the capital city Fira from Perissa for 2.40 euros. The busses run consistently until midnight but Greece’s public transportation system was not exactly as reliable as Switzerland or Germany’s… we spent a lot of time running around between busses yelling and asking what city they were headed for. But we always made it to the right place eventually.

The second night in Santorini we took a bus from Perissa to Fira and had a connection to another bus to the other major island on the city: Oia. This is the place you always see on the postcards with the beautiful white churches and blue roofs. The sunset over the caldera at Oia, which is the enormous crater left behind after Santorini’s volcanic eruption, is one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was very crowded though, pro tip: wait until after the sun sets to see the best colors because that’s when everyone leaves and you get the real best view.

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On our second full day on the island we did a cruise. It was a great day for sailing and they made us a yummy dinner of traditional greek food including greek salad, tzaki, and much more. It was a feast. We rode the boat back to shore in Perissa as the sun was setting.

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The third day we explored the cities of Fira and Oia during the day and saw the famous three bells of Fira and all of the other beautiful churches on the island. It was HOT! There were so many beautiful and historic buildings throughout the two villages… everywhere you walked looked like a post card. 

That night for dinner we went to Santo Wines which was one of the top ten best restaurant experiences I have ever had. We started off ordering sparking rosé and ordered dinner with a flight of 10 wines to share. Out below us was what Santo Wines proclaims (and I agree with) is the best view of the caldera sunset. It was amazing. Just make sure you make a reservation if you’d like to go at sunset, because they remembered me from our email correspondence and put us at one of the best tables with a prime view next to the wall. It was incredible!

On our final day in Santorini we took a boat to the volcanic hot springs and swam in the waters before docking at the volcano and hiking into its crater. You can physically feel the heat rising from the ground on the volcanic soil, it’s so hot. Our boat arrived back in the port of Fira which is at the bottom of a brutally steep hill underneath the city, so we rode donkeys back up to the top! It costed the same amount to ride the doneys up the hill as it did to take the funicular, and we thought it would be a fun experience. The donkeys seemed rogue and generally did what they felt like they wanted to do, so it was a mildly terrifying but still a fun experience…

We finished off our last day hiking to Skaros Rock which is just up the hill from Fira in Imerovigli and is also a part of the trail to hike from Fira to Oia. The entire way you have views of the deepest blue ocean I’ve ever seen. It was a great hike, and I was starving by the end so we ate moussaka (one of my favorite exotic dishes of the whole trip!), a greek dish which looks like lasagna and is made with potatoes, lamb and veggies at a cliffside restaurant as the sun went down over the ocean.

*record playing tropical vacation music screeches to a halt* Then we went to the Santorini airport and sat there for 7 hours since our flight wasn’t until 4am but the last bus for the airport left at 10pm from Fira and they didn’t let us into the airport until 2 hours before our flight which was at 2am. 

The lesson there is that travel isn’t all fun all the time… paying money to leave your bags in a luggage hold downtown, and taking 10pm busses to the airport for 4am flights isn’t what people tell their friends about when they show photos of their trip. But it’s all a part of the journey and it’s all well worth it in the end!

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The view from our balcony in Perissa

Thank you for the memories, Greece. You’re very culturally different than any other country we visited to on this trip but that just made our adventures more exciting (if not more chaotic as well 😉 ) The beauty of the Greek islands is something that even as a writer I cannot put words to. It’s immaculate. I hope to return someday and see some of the other Greek islands. 

Now onto our last but still not final stop: Norway.

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