We flew from Istanbul, thru Athens, to Santorini. We chose to fly on Aegean Airlines, which turned out to be a great little airline. We were thoroughly impressed. We were served sandwiches on the first leg of our flight, chocolate chip cookies on the second leg of the flight, and the planes were fairly new and very clean.
We landed on the island late in the evening. We took a taxi from the airport to the post office in Oia, per the directions of the place we were staying. The cab ride apparently was an adventure in itself…however I missed it because I was asleep in the back seat the entire time. Scott said the cab driver was speeding down the winding highway that runs from Fira to Oia along the coast. He said the cab driver was passing cars on curves, barely making it around before another car came from the other direction. Either way, I was oblivious to it, and I woke up in paradise.
Now when I say that Greece was a little slice of paradise, let me clarify that not all of Greece was paradise. Santorini was definitely the slice that I speak of, and Athens on the other hand was as far from paradise as you can get…I'll get to that later.
The taxi let us off near the post office, where we had a short walk to the restaurant Lotza, where we got checked in to our villa. Walking up from the post office to the restaurant, was like stepping into another world. As we lugged our packs up through the archway that leads to the main pedestrian walkway of Oia we were passed by a string of donkeys carrying people down the hill. The street was crowded in a pleasant, festive way with both locals and other tourists browsing the shops and enjoying dinner at the street side tavernas.
When we got to Lotza a kind young man who spoke little English walked us from the restaurant down the street to our little villa. Once we entered the gate and walked down the stairs to our villa all the noise of the bustling town disappeared and the only thing that remained was a beautiful view of the still water and the caldera. It was definitely paradise.
Our room was a little cavelike, but simple and clean. We had great air conditioning, which was a Godsend, a little kitchenette, and a decent bathroom (minus the fact that you can't flush the toilet paper).
We spent the next couple days discovering the little island, and most importantly enjoying the delicious cuisine.
One day we took the bus from Oia to Fira and spent a few hours wandering around that little town, enjoyed a delicious lunch and then headed back to our little house with a view. It was very relaxing and we could have stayed forever.
After three days of relaxing in Santorini we decided to fly to Athens where we would have a day and a half to see some of the historic ruins.
We landed in Athens in the middle of the afternoon and rode the metro into the city, which popped us out right near our hotel, and the Monastiraki square. Athens was definitely not the same paradise as Santorini. The streets were filthy and the walls covered in graffiti. Everywhere you turned there was a homeless person or someone trying to sell you something or begging for money. Athens was definitely not a place that felt safe to walk around at night.
We stayed at a hotel called A for Athens, which was actually really nice once you got inside. The room was huge and clean, and very comfortable. The hotel also had a rooftop terrace where we had drinks our first night.
We walked all the way up to the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon and other ruins. We also walked all the way to the first Olympic stadium, Hadrian's Arch, and the Temple of Zeus.
The day we walked to all of the sights, we were on our way to Hadrian's Arch, and witnessed the most horrific thing yet on our entire trip. We passed a family walking the opposite direction, the parents with two young boys. Just after we passed them, a man on a motorbike came zipping past us. Then we heard the loud screech of his brakes. We both turned back when we heard him lock up his brakes, just in time to see the motorbike slam directly into the back of one of the little boys we had just walked by. A crowd started to gather around the boy and the frantic parents, while one man called for the police. We stayed around for a few minutes, but with the already growing crowd of onlookers, we weren't going to be any help, so we headed on our way. The image of the boy getting hit stayed with me the rest of the day. I couldn't help but hope that he was okay and that he only had minor injuries, but we will never know.
From a historical standpoint Athens was very interesting. The food in Athens was also great, but from every other aspect, Athens was not a great place to be. Every restaurant we passed someone was trying to lure us in, but what we found out, was if you sit down in a restaurant as opposed to buying the same food take-away, the price quadruples. We found that we could order to gyros and two bottles of water for 6 Euros for take-away, but if you ordered just one gyro and sat in the restaurant it was 8 Euros for just the one.
We would definitely return to the Greek islands in the future, however visiting Athens once was definitely enough.