A Travellerspoint blog


Patra, Greece to Bari, Italy

Sleeping in a 'deck seat'

sunny 90 °F

We thought we’d try to get on board our 16 hour ferry to Bari, Italy a bit early to score a good spot to sleep since our last boat seemed to have a mad dash of pushing and shoving. After a long walk with our backpacks on through what seemed like an endless line of semi trucks spewing out 100 degree heat onto the blacktop and dodging the stowaways trying to hitch a free ride into Italy we found ourselves on the other side of admissions without a soul in sight.

We said our sad goodbyes to Greece, which we had really enjoyed. We loved the feta cheese and olives sold at the delis in supermarkets, the ‘clear skin’ wine sold in plastic bottles, and of course – the frappes! Greece is a beautiful country with very friendly people and crystal clear water for swimming. We went cheap on the boat and paid for deck seats, apparently, no one else does for a 16 hour boat ride because we had the whole deck to ourselves!

Just kidding! Actually, deck seats just meant ‘open seating’ in certain sections of the boat including the floors and other nooks and crannies that people have already been laying down sleeping their bags in. After already taking two ferries, we felt as though we were old pros and ignored the rush to get some good couch seats and instead found a spot in a stairwell that we though was pretty secluded and scored some nice floor space to sleep. On our way back from watching the Italy soccer team beat England with some very excited Italians, we were stopped in aww of our new neighbors who totally out did us with their sleeping bags, pillows and air mattresses.
Our spot:
Their spot:

We became a bit envious and snuck down to some couches near the reception area and pretended to watch a movie (but really just tried to sleep). Just as soon as the shoes came off the conductors asked us to move but politely offered us the use of the air seats room (imagine airline seats). When boarding this was the only place on the ship that we were specifically told we couldn’t go into without upgrading our tickets so we hesitantly accepted the gesture but then ended up with most of the room to ourselves (since nobody seems to pay more for slightly relining airline seats).

Having a deck seat kinda feels like it would if you were in an open recess area at a prison (or maybe a kindergarden playground)… everyone is jockeying for position and you aren’t sure what the rules really are. With all the scheming we did to get a good sleep spot it really didn’t turn out at all like we planned but it in the end it all worked out. We have had a lot of different adventures trying to find a place to lay our heads at night and this one wasn’t too bad. Morning came, and we used our little pot to make some coffee and had a nice breakfast out on the deck, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:54 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Kaminia, Greece

Life on the Mediterranean… literally!

sunny 90 °F

Thank the Greek gods, Dionysis and his wife Georgia hosted us in their small village (Kaminia) near the port of Patra because Patra was basically a rundown ghost town. Maybe it was because of the time of year we were there, but basically nothing was going on in the town and although there were a few nice walking streets we were much happier at their place playing basketball with the kids. It helped that their place was literally right on the water, and every morning was started the day with a swim, and every evening we finished the day with another swim, beers and the neighbor’s olives against the sunset.

Dionysis had a Frappe maker, and upon arrival his sister whipped one up for us as a ‘welcome to our home’ gesture. We definitely had fun with this little machine and probably had way too much coffee while we were visiting. For those interested, we made a short instructional video.

We ventured out to Diakofto one day to see the famous Odotonos mining Railway that goes through the Kalvarita Gorge. The train ride is famed for the scenery and the sheer cliff drops on both sides of the train. The gorge is off the beaten track so most people who do this trip are traveling from Athens to Patra via car. So getting to Diakofto, taking the train one way and leaving from Kalvarita was a complete adventure requiring 5 bus trips in one day. Once we got to the base train station we decided to take the train up halfway, and then walk the last 9 km on the train tracks alongside the river. Neither of us had actually followed a train track for that long before, so it was quite surreal especially after just reading Water for Elephants (a book set on and around trains).

During our stay in Kaminia, the Greek soccer team played Germany in the Euro Cup. We went with Dionysis to watch the game in a nearby village where every square, street, ally, restaurant, bar, and café had a TV screen outside for people to watch. It was very exciting when Greece scored their two goals and fireworks were set off and we felt fortunate to be able to participate in a small town gone largely patriotic.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 01:20 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Olympia, Greece

Zeus and his Games

sunny 90 °F

Since we are heading to the Olympics in August, we thought we would get a little refresher on the history of the games prior to our arrival in London. The ancient ruins in Olympia are mostly destroyed, and leave a lot to the imagination. However, the stadium where the athletic events were held is still in good shape (probably because it only consists of grassy slopes and a track). We walked around the site humming “chariots of fire” and challenging tourists to race across the first ever Olympic games track.

We saw loads of tourists taking pictures with this gravestone looking thing so we decided we should get a pic with it, however we kinda forgot to ask someone what it was so if you have any ideas, please let us know!

The city is small and seems to exists solely to cater to the tourists so there are lots of museums including one of ancient Olympia, the museum of the Olympics, an exhibit on ancient Greek mathematical tools, and a museum on the archeology finds and digs around the area. One of the most interesting museum pieces was an ancient tiled floor from the baths that was still intact that they covered by glass so you could walk over them… it depicted the different types of events that were held in the ancient games, including the pankration (a wrestling & boxing combo) and the hoplitodromos (running with armour).

After all the tour groups had left for the day the city became a ghost town once. We sat down for a beer, frappe, in an alley for a game of backgammon. Turns out that Greeks love to play and it’s all over the streets and bars... we were amazed at how fast people could play the game (we are still workign on the strategy part - but fun none the less).

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 15:02 Archived in Greece Comments (2)

Nafplio, Greece

A cute little port town

sunny 90 °F

Nafplio is just two hours south west from Athens, and is a place where the Athenians go for a weekend getaway. It is filled with bits of history since it was the capital of Greece at one point. We met up with Athina who took us on a historic walk through the cobble stone streets with ancient buildings and one spectacular new building which included an elevator ride up the middle of a small rock mountain to a very nice hotel.

The historic downtown of Nafplio has a Venetian feel to it, since it was originally ruled by the Romans. The streets were narrow with flowers which made for beautiful walking paths and places to stop for a coffee and a little wifi.

Nafplio is surrounded by crystal clear blue water with lots of options for swimming. We borrowed some bikes from the town hall and cruised the city and the surrounding beaches. One beach looked really close on the map but ended up being up a monster hill climb, even so it was worth it because we found a beautiful short cut on the way home that went around the mountain and along the water.

The skyline of Nafplio is dominated by a fort that was built in the 18th century to protect the town. In order to reach the fort, legend has it that you must climb 999 stairs (by our count it was actually 912). We took this challenge with our new friend Havier and hiked to the top twice! The views from above were amazing, as well as the maze of walls, prisons, reservoirs, and secret staircases inside the fort.

We left Nafplio with a new legend; it can now claim that it was the town where Kevin turned 35!!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 01:02 Archived in Greece Comments (2)

Athens, Greece

A history lesson from the night owls

sunny 90 °F

We arrived in Athens via ferry, which is a pretty cool way to enter a city as large as Athens. We watched the city sprawl of the foothills get thicker as we approached the city center and noticed how the buildings didn’t even make it half way up the hills. We later found out that it has been tradition (or law) to not build anything higher than the mighty Acropolis.

We got off the ferry and headed to the electric train (aka metro) towards Gregory’s house in the Exarhia district. We arrived at Omonia station and barely had any room to get off the escalator as it tossed us into the middle of a massive political rally for the upcoming election. There were only three days left to go before Election Day and rallies were pushing into the night.

We managed to squeeze our way through the rally with our packs on and found our way to Gregory’s. This neighborhood of Athens has basically been taken over by social hipsters filled with gorilla vegetable gardens and political graffiti. The police wouldn’t enter the neighborhood at night, but they patrolled the entrance ways with full riot gear… apparently it’s like this most of the time, but they had more patrols setup to help out with any demonstrations that may happen regarding the election.

At 11pm, we went out for some drinks with Gregory and some friends. At 3am, we had souvlaki gyros for dinner. This was our introduction to the Greek lifestyle that seemed to not include sleeping. Apparently anything eaten before noon is still considered breakfast and dinner is never eaten before 9pm. Luckily for us Vasillas (one of Gregory’s friends) was giving a private tour of the Acropolis museum for a few friends the following day, and we were invited to join in. Vasillas turned out to be one of the most knowledgeable history buffs we have ever met! We started with a few ancient Greek stories over frappes in the museum café and then headed in! The museum itself is built on an archeological site and some of the floors of the building are made of glass so that you can see what is underneath. It is a fantastic museum, and was way more interesting than visiting the Acropolis itself (unless you really like being pushed around by oblivious cruise ship tour groups)!

Walking through the ancient sites of Athens we felt our minds wander with imagination and the contrasting thoughts of new and old ages. There were open archeological digs in the middle of town and ancient pillars lining new subways stations. In our minds we witnessed generations of guards changing at the Parliament buildings, sons of sons of fishermen at the Ancient Agora (market area) and felt the roar of the crowds at the Panathenaic stadium. From the amazing 360 view on Lycabettus hill we could see the area that was once included in the walled city and imagined what it would be like to see an approaching army.

We saw a different kind of army in person by heading to the polls with the masses; we tagged along with Gregory and went to watch him cast his vote. The Greek ballot system is slightly different than ours… in that each party has a full page of paper listing names of nominees, and you have to mark a plus next to the candidate that you want from each party. If you choose to only vote for one person, there are lots of extra papers...

For a country under such economic stress and questioning its continued involvement with the EU, the energy in Athens was amazing. Every night there were people out and about enjoying food and drinks on patio seating, roof top decks or just chilling in the park or in the public squares. If you do make it to Greece, make sure to have a cold FIX Hellas beer, its hella good!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 14:32 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Samos and Syros, Greece

Cruising the Greek Islands

We didn’t actually book a cruise ship, but we rode a couple ferries between the Greek islands! Fun travel through the Greek islands via ferry boat requires that you pay close attention to the schedule because there aren’t boats every day to each island, and sometimes you arrive at 2am in the morning! We first took a short ferry from Kusadassi, Turkey to a small Greek Island just offshore of the Turkish coast called Samos. After went through passport control we spent most of the day relaxing on the beach and hanging out at a café eating gyros and taziki.

At 18:00 we set sail aboard our ferry boat to Syros, which is just about as close to a cruise ship as ever... We entered on board through the back of the boat and were ushered to an escalator, inside the boat! When we handed our tickets, we were told we could sit anywhere, but a small lounge of airline type seats. So we walked around through the lounge, the bar, café, disco, and the deck areas looking for a place to settle in. Greece was playing Czech Republic in the Eurocup that night so we decided to post up in a café with a TV.

We were on an overnight ferry to Athens that stopped at 2am at our destination of Syros. People came prepared with blow up mattresses and blankets to create places to sleep aboard, under the staircases, and in the hallways. We prearranged our rental apartment owner to pick us up from the dock, and after a brief scare, we eventually found him. Our place on Syros was 100 meters from the beach and had everything that we wanted, including a kitchen, a balcony with a dinner table, a place to hang our laundry, and of course the classic white and blue Greek paint job and architecture.

Our apartment was located about 10 kilometers west of the main city in a quiet place called Megalos Gialos Varis, so we rented a scooter to explore the rest of the island. There were fun winding roads up hill tops for spectacular views and roads that dead ended at pretty beaches. The port town is pretty built up, but had a ton of cute alley streets that were fun to explore.

When we stopped to pick up picnic supplies at the grocery store, we were shocked, and happy, to find 1.5 liters of wine in a plastic bottle for less than 2 euros! We only had a few days for the islands and were really happy with how they turned out.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 02:26 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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