So for my 10 day getaway, my roommate Jack I decided to head eastwards for Greece! We thought a vaguely exotic (but not that exotic because it’s still Western Europe) destination would be a nice change of pace for our break. After the hell that was midterms and celebrating Italy’s 150th Anniversary, we packed up our bags for our Mediterranean adventure.
Because our EasyJet flight left from Milan, we took an early train up to the city to spend the day there. Milan doesn’t necessarily have the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, but it was oddly refreshing to be back in what felt like a “big city”. We wandered the streets of Milan, visited the Duomo with spectacular views of the city, and even took a look at the world’s first shopping mall. In the middle of the mall, there’s a tile bull located near the center of the complex. According to legend, you’re supposed to turn on its balls (yes, balls) for good luck. So… we did that too. Success? I think so. But, perhaps my favorite part of Milan were the fantastic sandwiches we got from Luini’s. Famous amongst backpackers and the Milanese alike, this will best 2.50 Euro fried dough/cheese/ham creation you will ever feast upon. After my life changing experience at Luini’s, we took a nap in Milan’s version of central park and later took a shuttle to our hostel located near the airport.
We passed out by 9PM and woke up the next morning for our flight to Athens! After spending the entire flight listening to a girl complain about her iPad [white girl] problems, we were eager to get the hell off the plane. We took a 45 minute subway ride right into city center where our hostel was located, Monastiraki Square. We got settled into our hostel and lucked out with a view of the Acropolis. Not too shabby right? While Jack and I were getting settled into our room, we met a guy from Italy by the name of Orlando. Turned out he was on vacation doing some exploring in Greece and he ended up joining us for a majority of our time in Athens. We began with what we thought would be an easy hike up to Mt. Lycabettus, which ended up lasting much longer than originally anticipated, along with copious amounts of perspiration. But we were rewarded with a sunset over the city; simply incredible.
The next two days consisted of sight-seeing mania. The culprits? The Grecian Parliament (home to anti-government since 300 BC!), the Acropolis, the Pantheon, the Greek theater (where Antigone was originally performed), the Athens flea market, the Temple of Zeus, the 2000 Olympic Stadium, the National Archaeological Museum, and a day-trip to the Temple of Poseidon. Needless to say, my feet fucking hurt by the end of it all. But never has my inner 7th grader social studies student been so fulfilled. It was incredibly rewarding to see the birthplace of Western civilization in person and to say I geeked out might be understatement. Naturally, no trip with me could be perfectly smooth. Along the way we were assaulted by aggressive merchants (no goddamnit, I don’t want to eat at your dining establishment), ate plenty of 2 euro gyros, yelled at repeatedly for arriving too early/too late/arriving in general at various tourist attractions, followed by Somali pirates who wanted us to buy drugs from them, and were forced into a delicious Greek feast by a large, scary Greek man who knew close to no English. Never has 14 euro taken by force from me been so good.
Before we knew it, our time in Athens was over. Well, so we thought. Come Tuesday morning, we woke up at 6AM to catch a 7:30AM ferry to Santorini. We took a 30 minute subway ride to the ferry, only to find out that it had been delayed until 10 due to wind. 10AM: we’re informed that it may depart at 11 or 12 but there’s no way to be sure. 12PM: Told that the ferry would not be departing until 7 but that it might depart at 4, so we should be there just in case. We take the metro back to our hostel and being the homeless men we were, passed out on the lobby’s couches. 4PM: metro it back to the port. We’re informed that it’ll be leaving at 7 sharp but we have to buy our tickets and wait until then. 7PM: a shuttle bus takes us to the ferry but we’re told it won’t leave until 8PM. 8PM: We’re told that the ferry will leave at 9. 9PM: ferry delayed until midnight, putting the grand total of hours on our immobile boat at five. Needless to say, we were cranky. Crammed between fellow backpackers and snoring Greek grandmas, we still had 8 hours to go after our boat took off. And T-Payne made this nautical shit sound fun.
When our little boating adventure was complete, we were fortunate enough to have the owner of our hostel pick us up from the port and take us back into town. We were staying in Fira, the “biggest” of the many small towns on the island. Because we had arrived so early, we couldn’t check in until 10:30. But sweet Jesus, when we at last made it to our room, we passed out immediately. Eventually, we woke up and in our half-asleep stupor, walked along the caldera with fantastic views of the ocean and the picturesque white homes located on the island. We arrived back in our room and slept more in preparation for the rest of our week. Side note: for anyone thinking of visiting Santorini you HAVE to stay in San Giorgio Villas. More like a luxury hotel than a hostel (only 14 Euro a night for the two of us!), its owner is quite possibly the nicest man ever. George will pick you up from the ferry, set you up with tours of the island, and even bring you free potato chips and wine each night! Such a refreshing change from 8 person dorm rooms.
The next day we made the best possible decision I think we ever could: ATV riding throughout the island! From what we’d heard, the best way to see the island was by ATV. I had never ridden one before coming to the island and to be honest, I have no idea what the hell these people were thinking to allow someone as uncoordinated as me ride one. But I had an incredible time nonetheless. We drove through the country side, along black and red sand beaches, on the cliffs of island, and everywhere else in between in what could possibly be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The second day we were fortunate enough to meet up with our friends Taylor and Gorgi from Chapman and they hopped on the back of our ATVs for another excellent day of exploring including reaching the highest point on the entire island. We ended the day in the town of Oia, just in time for the sunset. Not before of course having a seafood dinner, where I paid 14 euro for an octopus leg the size of my left hand, despite having clarified that this would be enough food to satisfy me. When I inquired our waiter, he could only respond: “I told you it was one leg!” Asshole.
The four of us came back to our room at George’s place to relax before going out for the night, as well as eat some questionable baklava. Last time I checked it’s not supposed to have a “hairy” consistency right? After a quick group power nap, we rallied our energy for a night out on the town. For whatever reason, none of the locals seemed to be dancing at the bars we visited but it didn’t stop us from showing Europe how we get down in California.
The next morning, after being forced into buying delicious pastries by an old Greek woman, we decided to ride donkeys along the cliff side! Now, from what we were told, donkeys have been known to collapse into the ocean when going down the mountain, so we thought it would be smart to hike to bottom and ride back up. But when we began our descent, the donkey man who patrolled the donkey depot wouldn’t less us pass and in broken English told us we had to take them down. Although death may have been imminent, I wasn’t going to give up my damn donkey ride. And at 5 euro round trip, what was there to lose? Well, besides my life. For a terrifying 30 minutes, we rode the little beasts all the way down with beautiful views and an uncertainty whether we’d live to tell the tale. When we made it to the bottom, we asked about the ride back up. However, things took a turn for the worse when our donkey man told us we’d have to pay another 5 euro to ride them back up. We went back and forth for about 15 minutes, but it looked like this lying son of a gun wasn’t going to give in. We hopped off the smelly animals and as a matter of principle, hiked our way back up the mountain through piles of donkey shit. But at least we saw the scenic route?
After the Great Donkey Debacle of 2011, it was time to say bye to Taylor and Gorgi. We said our good byes, parted ways, and began the trek back home to Florence. Luckily, there were no transportation fails this time around. Our ferry was much more pleasant this time. We ended our time in the islands with beautiful views of Santorini and quite possibly the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen. We got back into Athens around midnight, got to our hostel, passed out, and took an early plane back to Italy the next morning. I had such a memorable spring break with friends old and new alike, I really couldn’t have asked for anything else. And despite all of the transportation mishaps that occurred, I don’t think I would have changed a single thing. Greece, you’re crazy, beautiful, and little bit unstable. But thanks for a great time.
But don’t think I’ve let the donkey man off the hook. I’ll seek my revenge one day.