Saturday, May 10, 2014

Greece Part I: An Unexpected Surprise

Tuesday 8 April
We were up early today…I had my Mediterranean breakfast and we walked over to the busy tourist office to collect our ferry tickets. I was SUPER excited to go to Greece. Greece has been HIGH on my list of travel destinations for as long as I've been traveling. I've just been waiting for the right time and right person with whom to explore this magical place!! 

Sad Facin Turkey
Our ferry ride to Samos was comfortable and only an hour long.

We arrived in Samos and went to another tourist office to get the remaining tickets for our Greek journey. To make it easier, we booked all the tickets at once. Our main destinations were those typical of tourists in Greece: Mykonos and Santorini.

Since we were in Greece during the ‘shoulder’ season (meaning on one side of the high season) there was no direct ferry to Mykonos. The best way that we could reach where we wanted to be was to travel from Samos-Syros-Mykonos-Santorini-Athens. Unfortunately, this journey included an overnight ferry. We were in for an adventure :P

The woman from whom we got the tickets in Turkey was unable to print all our tickets…so we went to pick them up in Samos. Unfortunately, the Samos location was having the same problems, so we left our bags to wander the town. We had about 6 hours to kill, so we took off down the road into the sun drenched town. The sidewalk was completely torn up.

The town was relatively small and there wasn’t a ton to see, so we ordered coffees and spent a few hours reading in the sun at a café. Everything is so slowed down here that it’s perfectly normal to sit for a few hours in the same coffee shop…sipping the same coffee.

We walked a bit through the narrow streets. It’s charming and everything you’d imagine Greece to be.

We returned to the square and had lunch (unremarkable sandwiches) at another café. We sat here for a few hours, as well.

Finally, we returned to the tourist office and learned that we had to go to another port at the far side of the harbor to board our night ferry.

We walked a long way to get a taxi and arrived at the port on the other side of the harbor-away from the town. It was quite dead, but the views were lovely.

The ferry arrived and we boarded with little direction. I was actually astounded at how disorganized the whole system was. The ferry pulls in and it’s just sort of chaos. Cars are pulling up…cars are pulling out…people are milling about everywhere. There’s no distinct line or area to board. There are lots of whistles. Trucks are loading and unloading. We boarded the ferry in a mass group…dragging our bags up the narrow stairways. There was no instruction on where to put our bags or where to sit.

We found seats that were comparable to those on an airplane. They were by a window and reclined a bit. The room had a snack bar and a tv playing at a loud volume. We had to put our bags on some of the seats, since there was no designated area for them.

The ferry was, in a word, awful :P

Our trip was meant to last for about 11 hours, but ended up taking 13. We stopped A LOT and more and more people would get on. It was stuffy and crowded. The area in which we were sitting was SO hot-and came to smell like B.O. and feet. People were sleeping on the floor and in the aisles. Between loud conversations in other languages, crinkling chip bags, water bottles, and soda cans, people on their cell phones, people watching movies at high volume on their laptops, the constant announcements, the tv, the people kicking or pulling on the back of my seat when they stood up, the random cat meowing, the bright florescent lights, the smell of diesel fuel, the rumble of the engines and the consistent stopping…sleep was nearly impossible.

Preston spent a lot of time reading in the hall, since he could charge his ipad there and it was cooler. The trade off was that it was even more noisy and the smell of diesel fuel was nearly suffocating.

I sat in those seats for nearly 13 hours. I took little walks around—stepping over the people sleeping in the halls. Many people had made little camps in the corridors with sleeping bags. It was pretty miserable.

We dozed a bit. We woke up at 3:45am…ready to disembark at 4am, as scheduled. When by 4:30am…we still hadn’t stopped…I guess we dozed again and woke up at 6am…terrified we had missed our port!!

Luckily, we hadn’t and the boat was just delayed. We arrived on the little island of Syros at dawn. We were picked up by Dimitrius-who owned the hotel (Sarris Planet) where we were staying.

Dimitrius had already been so kind as to allow us to check in at 4am without paying for an additional night. I felt terrible that we were 2 hours late with no way to contact him, but he was friendly and cheerful…even at the early hour.

With a beautiful view of the harbor in the soft light just before dawn, we drove up the hill and around to our studio room.

Good riddance ferry!!
Dimitrius quickly got us checked in and fed the dozens of cats on the property as we settled into our room. The place is WONDERFUL. We were SO grateful for a bed and slept a few hours until late morning.

Sunrise from our porch

Our cute little studio

Wednesday 9 April
Understandably, we slept until 10 or so. I got up and made coffee-drip coffee!! From a drip coffee maker!!IT WASN'T INSTANT!! AMAZING!! Our room came with the most wonderful welcome basket: water, fruit juice, tea, coffee, sugar, milk, bread, toast, cookies (homemade), butter, three kinds of jam (homemade), honey, ham, cheese and Turkish delight. It. Was. Incredible.

Unbelievable hospitality
Our room is a little studio with a kitchen. I feasted on butter toast with honey. It was amazing and SO fresh tasting. I could have eaten the honey with a spoon!! I gave the cats on the porch some milk and sipped my coffee enjoying the view.

There are dozens of cats and many of them seem sick with congestion and goopy eyes. However, they all seemed well fed. One was missing his eye all together. Since we were in Greece…he reminded me of the movie “300” and I kept saying, “it's just an eye. The gods saw fit to grace me with a spare.” Hehe.


We spent all day reading in the sun on the porch overlooking the glittering Mediterranean Sea. It was spectacular.  

Around four, Dimitrius drove us on a little tour of the island. He is SUCH an amazing and positive person. He laughs all the time. His entire cadence is one of someone on the verge of laughter. He’s living his dream running this hotel on the hill (that he built with his own hands) and he’s not taking for granted a single moment of it.

We were dropped off in the adorable town and walked around taking in all the little shops, corners, marble walkways, alleyways leading up staircases, churches, a beautiful theater, flowering vines, and cats. Like Samos, it was what I imagined Greece to be.

Sidenote: The world can be hard to find things from home. But Oreos? You can find Oreos ANYWHERE. There is not one single country that we have visited that did not have Oreos. Sometimes they are filled with purple cream (?!), but they are there...without fail at every store, square, and airport. Weird!!

We had a drink in the sun by the water. I had a martini unlike any I’ve ever had before. It was lemon-y with a floral aftertaste…watered down, but still good.

I couldn’t get over how CLEAR the water was. I’d estimate you could see the pebbles 20ft down. I wanted so badly to just JUMP IN, but the cool air (and my clothes) prevented me.

Want to be IN there

We strolled a bit and had dinner at a little café. Lots of lamb and veal were on the menu. I don’t usually eat these things…but when in Syros, I guess. Preston had some lamb and I had a veal/eggplant pot. It was quite tasty and HUGE. We fed some cats the leftovers and they ate right off of forks!! It was hilarious.

We walked back up the hill to our studio. The views overlooked the water and the town. The air was cool, but not cold. The walk was breathtaking. We passed many friendly people that smiled or said hello. The sun set as we made our way.

SO clear

It got chilly as the sun set and we hung out in the room before bed.

Syros was an entirely unplanned stop and only happened because we couldn’t get directly to Mykonos. However, we really wished we could have stayed longer. Dimitrius was an inspiration. It was an unexpected surprise. If you ever find yourself island hopping in Greece…make sure you add Syros and Sarris Planet to your itinerary. 

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