Archive for September, 2007

Sep 10 2007

Getting settled in Hania

Published by under Crete,Greece

Dear Hania: I don’t know much, but I know I love you. We chose Hania as our Greek destination based on its description in several travel books as “the most beautiful city on Crete.” This statement does not do Hania justice – this is the sort of place you could come to visit, and never leave. In fact, this seems to be the story behind our landlord’s girlfriend, a displaced Scot named Natalie. We’re thankful to have her English-speaking advice on the city, as well as her assistance in translating between ourselves and our landlord, Tiki. Pictures to come soon, as well as more on the new friends we’re making among the locals. In the meantime…

Yoghurt with honeyToday we paid visits to the local markets – that is, the traditional marketplace and the modern supermarket. The traditional market yielded a plethora of delights. We enjoyed a breakfast of yoghurt with honey, and frappé to drink. Frappé is a foamy iced coffee made with Nescafé, and every young person around here seems to drink them non-stop. Greek yoghurt, as it turns out, is very much like cream cheese, and a plate of cream cheese with honey is not something we were very excited to eat with a spoon. Our server rolled his eyes when we asked for bread to spread it on.

Gross rabbitThe best part about the market (or the worst part, if you hear Brittany tell it) was the meat market. Here we saw the decapitated heads of several animals I was unable to identify. I guess I’m used to seeing them attached to their bodies, and wearing skin. My personal favorite was the naked rabbits. For some reason, their furry feet always remain – perhaps for the shopper to use as a talisman*?

We inspired further eye-rolling at our next stop, the supermarket. Apparently, the shopper is expected to weigh their own produce, and print a special sticker with the weight and price to stick on the bag. We were blissfully unaware of this fact until we got to the register, and its grumpy cashier. I can’t really blame her for her mood, since our mistake held up a line that was already very long. All were forced to wait while a second cashier ran our cucumbers back to the produce section, to do the proper weighing and labeling that we had neglected. Also, I don’t think I helped the situation when I tried to say, “I’m sorry” in Greek but in fact said “You’re welcome.” Opa!

The supermarket was not a total loss, however. Kroger, I beseech you, why do you not carry Nestle Crunch cereal? On that same note, Kroger, I thank you for not carrying hot dog-flavor Cheetos.

Brittany would not let my buy either one (she has confiscated most of my Euros) but I will be sure to let you know about oregano potato chips and Mythos, “the Hellenic lager.” For now, adhio!

*See Brittany’s 9/9 entry for more on the regional marketability of talismans.

10 responses so far

Sep 09 2007

I hate the boat

Published by under Crete,Greece

Jetlagged, exhausted, and dreading a nine-hour boat ride, Ben and I navigated our way through the metro from Athens to Pireas port yesterday evening for the final leg of our journey to Crete. We’d lost all concept of time and place. Were we in London yesterday? No, this morning? Two days ago? Did we sleep last night? Why are we doing this? Even as I write this I’m pretty sure I haven’t slept in at least 36 hours.

Ben and I purchased “deck-class” ferry tickets from the mainland to Crete. This means, instead of having a nice room to sleep in, we had to make camp somewhere on the deck of the boat for the night. It also means that we weren’t going to be allowed to board the lifeboats until all the people that shelled out for the cabins were saved. James Cameron taught me that.

I was obviously not expecting much from the Greek Island ferries. The word “ferry” to me implies a small-ish tour boat that floats down the river at Busch Gardens. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was confronted with this:

Giant, nearly-cruise-sized ships. I was even more delighted when I saw this:

There’s a disco on board! And drinking! Hope shined through the gray fog of our jetlag.

The final surprise was when we were told that we wouldn’t actually have to be on the deck of the boat; there was a room with airplane-style seating where we could set up camp. We excitedly chose a row of seats, stacked our luggage on either side of us so as not to be disturbed, pulled out our eye masks and fleece blanket, and prepared to sleep for the first time in what felt like a very long time.

Once the boat had left dock and the hustle and bustle of boarding had quieted, I noticed the TVs. Two televisions sat at the front of the room, volume set inexplicably loud for such a small space and each TV playing a different channel. I peaked out from under my eye mask to see that on one TV was some sort of Greek soap opera involving a woman dressed like a chicken, flanked by two women in silver unitards, all dancing and singing together. I tuned this one out, only to hear the other TV blaring an infomercial for a cure-all talisman. “Want to change everything you don’t like about your life? Your career? Your girlfriend? Buy this talisman! It’s based in science!” the announcer yelled. Just to drive the point home, he added: “Julius Caesar wore a talisman!”

Our fellow boat-riders were not at all bothered by the noise. They were obviously seasoned ferriers. That, or very drunk. Nothing woke them. One particular chubby, mustachioed Greek a few rows in front of us hadn’t stirred since I boarded. At one point I was kind of concerned he was dead, but I was too tired to do anything about it. Around midnight, when I was grumpily still awake, I found out the man was not, in fact, dead. He was very much alive. It happened all of a sudden, and sounded as if the dull hum of the engine had suddenly gotten deafeningly loud. Or the boat had crashed. He was snoring. And he did not stop. I’ve never heard anything like it.

As the room filled throughout the night, the smell in the room became…a little stale. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I showered, so I didn’t complain when the small, unventilated room in the innards of the ferry became a little spicy-smelling. You got used to it. Around 3 am, though, the smell became unbearable. It was putrid. Like rotten body odor and sewage. “Ben, what in the world is that smell?” I said, sitting straight up.

“I have no idea!” he gasped, covering his nose with his hand and looking around desperately for an exit. It was then that we noticed the man in the row behind us had stuck his feet so that they were poking out from beneath our seats. We were horrified when the source of the smell dawned on us.

Now that my ears and nose were under attack, I ran out onto the deck in a final attempt to get some sleep. I lay on the bare floor, feeling rotten and sorry for myself, and cursing the day I decided to leave my cozy home in Virginia. However, from that vantage, the rock of the boat in the choppy waters of the Mediterranean was vomit-inducing. I stormed back to our seats. “I HATE the boat!” I yelled.

“Really??” said Ben, sarcastically. “‘Cause I LOVE the boat!” We resigned ourselves to our sleepless fates and attempted to muster all remaining energy for the impending room-hunt in Hania, Crete.

The only highlight of our ferry journey came at the end, when we were able to try “Greek coffee.” Kafe ellinikos is a thick, foamy sludge served in a small cup. Apparently how to leave the grounds in the cup, and not drink them, is a learned skill and one I hope to pick up soon.

Moral of the story: I consider myself a trooper. I’ll pretty much do anything to save a buck. This experience, however, gets filed under “not worth it.” When taking the Greek ferries, spring for the high speed catamarans. It’s twice the price but gets you there in half the time.

I feel like I have so much more to tell, and I really want to get into how I’ve found heaven and how I’m never leaving (sorry Mom!), but that’s for another blog entry. Get thee to Hania ASAP. Just take a different boat.


Our first foray into vlogging. Please excuse the poor audio quality at the beginning and shaky camera work. It’s hard to walk on a rocking ferry!

6 responses so far

Sep 08 2007

Hello from Athens!

Published by under Athens,Greece,London

Hello from Athens! We are currently sitting in an internet cafe, which is of course located between some sort of meat market and a purveyor of sidewalk handbags. But first, a recap of our short time in London…

We had a 9-hour layover in Heathrow, so we decided to go through security and see a bit of the city. One 45-minute metro ride later, we were at Green Park, right outside of Buckingham Palace. Green Park contains something called the “Canadian Memorial Fountain,” which struck me as odd, since Canada was still very much in existence when we left the States on Wednesday. Tall gilded gates separate the park from Buckingham Palace. The traditional guards that we associate with the Palace were all there, toting rifles and stomping on cue. Unfortunately, they are largely obscured behind all the Kevlar vests and sub-machine guns that adorn the “less traditional” guards. Still, we managed to take some pictures through the perimeter fence.

I would also like to point out that when I was almost flattened by a double-decker bus, it was only because I was chasing after Brittany, who had run into the street. She did look before crossing, but instinctually looked to her left, rather than to her right. “Look both ways” is our new trip mantra. The fact that our first official brush with death on this trip came within the intitial few hours does not bode well. Of course, neither does the fact that no one in London seemed able to understand us. And this is the only country we’ll visit where we allegedly speak the same language? Hm…

We returned to Heathrow in time to catch our 4-hour flight to Athens, which put us here at 4:00am. It turns out that our hotel is in what one might call a seedier side of Athens, so I began to feel uneasy dragging our luggage through the streets at this hour. The lowlight was when a beady-eyed rodent-like man leered at me flirtatiously and cooed, “bon voyage.”

We collapsed in our hotel room, and slept all day on Friday. We woke up very hungry around 7:00pm, which worked out better than I would have expected. Greeks tend to eat dinner between 9 and 11pm, so by the time we changed into our “non-American” clothes and checked our guidebook for food recommendations, we managed to show up at a taverna about the same time as the locals. The taverna was called Sholarhio, and the best part about the experience in Brittany’s eyes was that the owner initially took us for French. Given Brittany’s careful research into how NOT to look like an American tourist, this was the first small victory of the trip.

Sholarhio is off the beaten tourist-path, and this is reflected in its lower prices and more authentic fare. We chose to eat in traditional Greek style, by selecting several mezedhes to share, which are smaller portioned offerings (think tapas). 24 Euros bought us 5 mezedhes: pork with red sauce, fried eggplant slices, sausages, tzatziki, and something that the waiter insisted was not french fries but is in fact french fries. Also included in the price: a large bottle of mineral water, a basket of bread, a half liter of red wine (tastes like Franzia!) and some kind of dessert that you can imagine for yourself by combining the look of lemon squares with the exact taste of Frosted Mini Wheats. We finished in much less time than the locals, and we realized that this is a reflection of our American culture. The Greeks make an event out of dinner, and often take 2 hours or more to eat, regardless of the quantity of food. Apparently this extra time is subtracted from breakfast, because the only thing the locals seem to have that resembles breakfast is a pastry in hand on their way to work. Of course, this was fine by us, because it meant chocolate for breakfast today!

We are on our way to the Athens Archaeological Museum this afternoon, before catching a 9-hour ferry ride for Crete tonight. We will write again from there, and begin uploading the pictures we’ve taken. Hope everyone is well back home, and talk to you soon.

6 responses so far

Sep 06 2007

Quick note from London

Published by under London

We are sitting in Heathrow, having just paid more than $10 for an hour of wifi. Lesson one: London is expensive. Actually, lesson one was don’t cross the street outside of a crosswalk. This was learned when Ben was nearly pancaked by a double-decker bus.

We had a nine-hour layover in London, so we decided to leave the airport to explore a little, without any particular destination. If today is any indication, this trip will be a challenge for us novice explorers. We mostly wandered around looking confused. Also, I had to ask, “Uh, how does this work?” an embarrassing number of times. Who knows how we’ll fare where they don’t speak English.

Will post more details (and pictures!) when we arrive at our final destination.

6 responses so far

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