Salgo Valpo, hello Santiago. Plus, the weirdest hot dogs ever and funicular fun.

We had a great last night in Valparaiso. Our restaurant overlooked the harbor, and we ate really amazing food for way less than it would have cost at home. I really loved it there.  But all three nights we were there, we went to a different restaurant nearby with the most amazing owner. We didn’t eat there all three nights, but we went back to visit. Fernando, the owner, was a merchant marine and spoke perfect English. He was also a never-ending source of fascinating stories. And, because my stomach was aching, he gave me some herbal tea to soothe it. What a guy.

We managed to get on a 11:15 bus to Santiago. It only took us two hours. It’s nice to see a new region of Chile. Gone is the endless desert scenery! Hello greenery!  As soon as we arrived in Santiago, I knew we were going to have a good time.  We did, unfortunately, encounter another cab driver that overcharged us, but there was nothing we could do.  We had to get to our hotel.   Our hotel was in Barrio Brasil, a really funky area that had a Bohemian vibe to it.  It was full of cafes, graffiti, and the iconic image of Che Guevara.

On the first day, we walked around for hours and hours. Santiago is how you would picture a well-developed South American city to be. It’s hot, there are palm trees, street vendors, and the architecture is a interesting blend of the old and new. After searching for some food, we found ourselves at a Schopdog–it’s a Chilean chain restaurant. Basically, it’s beer and hot dogs. Oh man, Chile loves a good hot dog. When I say good, I mean absolutely bizarre. Ketchup and mustard are not sufficient. The most common hot dog is called a ‘completo’– a hot dog, mayo, and guacamole. Yeah, I know. Just don’t think about it. My hot dog had mayo on it, but no guac. Fortunately, I could mask the mayo with copious amounts of ketchup. Weird hot dogs aside, one thing I love about Chile is that you can get fresh juice everywhere. So I washed down my mayo-tainted hot dog with some fresh raspberry juice. Jason and I both ate for under 5 bucks. The rest of our day was spent walking around even more, going out to a nice dinner, and then passing out watching American movies on TV.

On day two, we decided to go to the museums and do a self guided walking tour. The Museo Historico Nacional was full of interesting artifacts and, when I spent the time to translate, full of information on Chile’s history. We started the walking tour with the Cerro Santa Lucia. Stairs. Thousands and thousands of friggin’ stairs. But when you get to the top and see the whole city, it’s so worth it. I bought myself an ice cream to take away the sting of all the stairs. It helped.  It really was magnificent though.  Later, we visited the Museo de Bellas Artes.  I love art museums, no matter where they are.  There were some fabulous black and white pictures of Chileans in the 1920s that I just loved.   The rest of the day was all about public squares, beautiful buildings and noteworthy places. Such is the walking tour. That night, we managed to drag ourselves out and went to the Providencia section of the city for some live music.  Santiago at night is just as fun. With all the palm trees and Christmas lights, it kind of reminded me of  Florida.  Haha.

Monday, our third day in Santiago, was a national holiday celebrating the Immaculate Conception.  Of course, every store was closed.  Well, except for some food places.  But it didn’t matter.  We had a plan that worked out better than we could have imagined.  We were worried that the Parque Metropolitano, which has gorgeous swimming pools, a funicular and botanical gardens, would be closed because of the holiday.  Just the opposite.  Parque Metropolitano is around mini-mountain San Cristobal.  And guess what’s at the top of San Cristobal?  A HUGE statue of Mary.  Yes, we found the place in Santiago where everyone was making their pilgrimage to.  And I loved it.  It was like a carnival.  Cheap food, tons of people, fun atmosphere.  We had to hike up to top to get to the pools (which sucked in flip flops) but it was worth it.  The pools were clean and beautiful.  And then we rode the funicular and saw the city from a different view.  It really could not have gone better.  That, as you can imagine, took a full day.  But we topped the night off by going to the movies again and maybe sneaking some more fries from McDonald’s.  Weak, I know.  Don’t judge me.  We saw Body of Lies, which stressed me out for a solid three hours afterwards.   But that’s how I get with war movies.  Somehow, I managed to calm down and go out for a little bit before bed.  We left Santiago the next morning.

Living the life of luxury, Bond, James Bond and the three week mark.

Our bus ride from San Pedro to Atacama to La Serena was twenty hours long. But it was the BEST BUS RIDE EVER. We spent the extra money and upgraded to premium. Essentially, it was like sitting in an extremely comfortable chair with a TV and someone to serve you snacks. YES. Speaking of snacks, they served us some soda that has the most unfortunate name ever. Mini Pap. Um, when I drink soda, I don’t want to think about women’s health. Maybe that’s just me. I didn’t drink the soda.

We arrived in La Serena in the morning. La Serena is a lovely resort town, with a cute downtown shopping area and a nice beach. Our plan was to spend the day lounging on the beach, but the weather was overcast. Fate was not on our side. Instead, we walked along the beach, stuck our toes in the water and ruffled the feathers of a few sea gulls by charging at them.

We stopped at a restaurant on the beach for lunch. In my four years of Spanish classes,  I managed to learn and promptly forget many vocabulary words.  I remember the word for seafood, which is great.  I do not, however, remember learning the words for the different types of seafood.  Being that we were at a beach front seafood restaurant, it was an issue.  Even with an english menu, we still had a miscommunication.  And instead of getting the crab, like we had wanted, we got the seafood chowder.  So I guess it didn’t really matter that I didn’t know specifics.

La Serena is the first place in South America that we’ve been to that has money.  Chile is the richest country in South America and is close to leaving its third world status behind.  La Serena has a huge mall, a movie theater, and the ultimate status symbol– a McDonald’s.  Because we didn’t have anything to do, we decided to check out the mall.  It was Christmas come early…literally.  It felt like being at home.  All of the Christmas decorations were up.  There was even a mall Santa!

We found ourselves at the movie theater and on a whim decided to see the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, in English with Spanish subtitles.  Side note: what does Quantum of Solace even mean?  It makes no sense.  We got popcorn and drinks.  Now at home, when you order a medium soda, you get two liters.  Here, you get a very small cup.  The movie was good, but for me the most interesting part was seeing the scenery.  It takes place in Bolivia, but was apparently filmed in Chile.  Regardless, what you see in the movie is really what it looks like in Peru, Bolivia, and Northern Chile.  Being that it was the three week mark of our trip, it was nice to have some familiar experiences.  Going to the movies, etc.  And the next day before our bus to Valparaiso, we may or may not have stopped at McDonald’s for some REAL french fries.  I don’t know, I can’t remember.

I love Valparaiso, called Valpo.  The multicolored houses spill out of the hills and look like they’re built on top of eachother.  It’s right on the water and has some beautiful beaches and spectacular views.  Because there are so many stairs, the city has a number of  ‘ascensions’– or rather, rickety old lifts that put your life on the line for thirty seconds but give you a great view of the city when they do.

Yesterday, we spent the day at the beach with a couple of American kids staying at our hostel.  We had a great time, and, like always, I got an awkward looking sun burn to go along with my farmer’s tan.  Score one for me!  Our wonderful day yesterday came at the price of my stomach.  And today, I have ‘stomach issues’.  Don’t worry, Mom.  I’m fine.

Tomorrow we take the two hour bus ride to Santiago.  Santiago is our last stop in Chile.  I honestly have no idea what to expect.  I keep hearing mixed things.  I’ll let you know.

Only two more weeks left on the trip!  I don’t know how we’re going to fit everything in.

My Thanksgiving sans turkey, but with flamingos and a lot of salt. No, I didn’t eat flamingo.

If I’m going to be away from home on Thanksgiving, there better be a good reason.  Two years ago, I was in Rome.  That’s legit.  This year, I had a ridiculous 4-day adventure in Bolivia.  I think it passes the test.

On Thanksgiving morning, we woke up early and got on the bus that was going to take us over the border.  A chirpy old Chilean woman (who I assume worked for the tour agency) hopped on with all the tourists. She yapped about this and that, and I don’t think ANYONE understood what she was saying, but she was absolutely hilarious.  And perhaps a tad bit mentally unstable.  About 30 minutes into the bus ride, she was talking at the indifferent bus driver at a rapid fire pace, and then randomly just burst in to tears.  She sobbed and spoke without slowing down or taking a breath for 15 minutes.  And then she was fine.  hmm.

When we pulled up to Bolivan customs, I had to look twice just to make sure that I really was there.  It was only a mudbrick shack the size of my freshman dorm room that said “Migracion Bolivia” on it and a Bolivian flag to make it official.  Americans need visas to get into Bolivia.  Not only visas, but visas that cost $135.  Naturally, Jason and I didn’t have them, but the guy at the tour place said it was no big deal and we could purchase them on the third day in the town of Uyuni.  No big deal to him might meant something else to us.

The border control guard confiscated our passports, wrote down our names and passport numbers and then proceeded to wrap them up in a brown paper bag.  I’m having heart palpitations, and every word of Spanish I have ever learned is failing me.  I tried to ask him what he was doing, but I’m pretty sure I was speaking jibberish or asked him something completely bizarre, like “how is the purple toothbrush in the swimming pool feeling today?”  because we obviously did not understand eachother.  He stapled the paper bag shut (oh, that’s secure) and then wrote a name on it and handed it to our driver.  WHAT?  It took about ten minutes, but I found out that we were not allowed to hold on to our passports until we had visas.  Well, alright.

The tour we chose was a four wheel drive jeep tour.  Our driver, Lucio, was very shy and quiet.  Our jeep mates were an older French couple.  After our backpacks were tied to the top of the jeep, we were off. 

(I can’t upload my own pictures, so I’m going to use some I found from Google Image search, because I don’t trust my own descriptions to do what I saw justice.)

Lago Blanco

Lago Blanco

 Our first stop was Lago Blanco, an impressive scene with flamingos scattered around.  In case you didn’t know, I LOVE flamingos.  They are the absolute coolest.  Perhaps I can relate to their general awkwardness and goofiness, having once been compared to one.  We ate breakfast here and had our first experience with the group of Koreans that would be with us the entire time. 

One of the things I love about being on the road is seeing the other travelers.  There are a couple of types that I find to be absolutely hysterical.  The older Americans and Brits who wear all khaki.  I’m talking khaki pants, khaki vests with more pockets than they could possibly ever have a use for, and khaki hats.  Where exactly do they think they are?  They aren’t roughing it, that’s for sure.   The bus picks them up and drops them off exactly where they need to be.  You are completely taken care of, and the people here bend over backwards to make sure everything is as good as it can possibly be.  So dressing like you’re on a safari is kind of ironic.  One of the other types is the asian tour groups.  I saw Japanese girls in fancy dresses and high heels hike up Machu Picchu.  Why, why, why?  And, of course, the epic and inevitable peace sign in every picture.

This particular group of Koreans all wore masks.  Full face masks.  Hilariously gender appropriate, they were either pink or blue.  They also wore gloves.  It’s 80 degrees out and sunny, and nobody else is wearing masks or gloves.  There is no explanation.  One thing that we also noticed is that they all carried thermoses, and each time we were served tea, they would take all the hot water.  A definite quirk.

Our next stop was the Lago Verde.  I chose to wear a turquoise shirt that day and managed to match the lake almost perfectly.  Here it is:

Lago Verde

Lago Verde

Stunning, right?

Lago Colorado

Lago Colorado

After a brief trip to the geysers and a a quick dip in the thermal waters, we went to the most impressive lake of them all, Lago Colorado.  I’ve never seen a red lake before.  This is also where most of the flamingos hang out, and, as I was later informed, it’s mating season…so there were THOUSANDS.  This area of Bolivia is obviously very rich in minerals.  So it was a sea of pink and green and red.  It was a nice place to sit and have lunch out of the trunk of the jeeps. And guess what guys?  I ate tuna fish from a can, as much as I hate it!  I managed not to vomit at the smell or judge those around me.  It was actually pretty satisfying.  I took a million pictures of my own, and got some good shots of the flamingos in flight.  When they fly, they are like pink flashes  and their reflection can be seen in the water below them.  You have to see it.  It’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen so far.

We drove for hours to get to our “hotel” for the night.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, every time I would get bored, I would just remind myself that I was sitting in a jeep, touring a national park of Bolivia, and seeing the world. I also found the spirit of Thanksgiving in music.  Lucio had one casette tape with him.  This tape had six songs, which played over and over and over again.  Four days later, I still can’t get the songs out of my head.  I am thankful for American music and my iPod.

Jason and I made friends with the British kids on our tour.  Rob, Rhiann and Kate graduated from college (“uni”) in May, and are on a nine month trip around the world.  Awesome.  They were in the states just before the election, so we had a great conversation about politics and I absolutely loved their observations.  Also, they asked me if high school in America was really as fun as it seemed and told me that the thing they were most jealous of with American school kids was lockers.

Thanksgiving dinner consisted of soup with some veggies in it, spaghetti with strange sauce and a cup of tea.  Not my usual Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ll take it.  We also discovered one of the reasons the Koreans were hot water stealers—they like to make instant rice pudding on their travels.  Not kidding.

The next day was fairly uneventful.  Mostly driving and seeing more scenery.  Some of it was exactly how I pictured South America.  Mountains in the background, rolling hills with some greenery and rivers, and llamas.  Llamas EVERYWHERE.  We ate lunch in one of the most depressing places I have ever been.  In the desert, and all of the buildings were the color of sand.  There was no color, only monotony.  It was practically a ghost town.  The only sounds came from the school yard, where 15 children were having recess.  Oh and here is something interesting.  The top layer of brick on the walls had pieces of broken glassed pressed into it, with the sharp edges sticking up.  Well, that’s one way to keep the kids in. Oh, South America.
Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni

 Day three of the trip had what we were really waiting for–the salt flats.  Remarkable.   It looked and kind of felt like crunchy snow and ice under my feet.  You could see nothing but miles of white all around.  It was eerily beautiful.  Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world.   One of the fun things about the salt flat is that there is no depth perception in pictures.  So, like the tourists we are, we took a bunch of goofy photos.  Even though I was fifty feet away, I look like a miniature person sitting in Jason’s hand.  We drove around and ended up at a salt hotel.  The hotel, most things in it, were made completely out of hardened salt.  Tables (table salt, haha), chairs, statues, everything.  It was incredibly bizarre.  Thank god we didn’t stay there.  Salt hotels are very bad for the environment, because all the waste and trash that visitors produce ends up getting dumped on the salt flats.  Here is another picture, which shows the mounds of salt.  (Mallory, you would LOVE this place).
Salt mounds

Salt mounds

We continued to drive on our way to Uyuni, where Jason and I were getting our visas.  But along the way we had some more weird stops.  We stopped at a train graveyard.  I’m not kidding.  A bunch of old, rusty trains in the middle of a desert.  This is apparently interesting to tourists.  I sat in the jeep, reading my book.

The city of Uyuni is a dump.  Really, nothing interesting about it.  But somehow, we managed to have an interesting experience.  At customs, after talking to the guys and telling them that a total of four days were going to be spent in Bolivia with absolutely NO plans to return, they decided that we didn’t have to buy the visa.  Instead, they would give us a day pass.  So they stamped our passports twice.  Once for entering, and once for leaving.  And they changed the date to the following date, so when we actually did leave it would be correct.  This only costed us $50.  Now you’re probably thinking it’s a little weird, and you’re right.  It would never happen in the United States.  In fact, it’s probably really illegal.  But whatev. 

We were told we had about three hours in Uyuni.  With absolutely no use for the currency, Bolivianos, Jason and I spent about $30 on candy bars, postcards, and other worthless things that were just to get rid of the extra.  So we show up with no money left at the time our jeep is supposed to leave for the overnight trip back to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.  Oh, change of plans, there was no jeep for us to leave in and we had an extra THREE HOURS in Uyuni.  Now, with no money, what were we supposed to do?  Typical.  We did a lot of walking that day.

Our new jeep driver wasn’t nearly as friendly as Lucio.  And he was a bit of a speed demon.  The French woman and I would look at eachother and hold our breath as we whipped around the curves.  The dirt roads were only about a lane and half wide.  After we got a flat tire (thank god we had a spare), our driver decided to take it easy.  The rest of the ride was lovely– a perfect sky with lightening behind the clouds in the distance.  Because of all our delays, we ate dinner around 11 pm and had to wake up at 4 am and continue.  But I didn’t mind, because I got to see the sunrise.  It was glorious.  Plus, I got to see all the lakes again, but this time in the early morning. Flamingos, flamingos, flamingos!

Of course, we had problems at the Bolivian customs shack.  Apparently we didn’t have exit visas.  Well, we did.  They were just in Uyuni, where we had been stamped.  Oh well.  I managed to not stroke out the way I did last time.  After all, I’m a South American visa issues pro now.  Basically, you just roll with it.  We managed to get back to Chile.

It really was an awesome adventure.  Exactly what I wanted.  And exactly what I needed.  And most of the things that made it so wonderful seem trivial.  Being stranded on the side of the road while we had a flat tire wasn’t great at the time, but it really added to the experience.  Now, I’m back in San Pedro de Atacama.  Jason and I are taking a twenty hour (yes, TWENTY hour) bus to La Serena, where we will recharge our batteries by spending a few days lying motionless on the beach.  Wooooooohoooooooo!  This was a really long post, sorry.

Border crossings, I hate taxi cab drivers and dropping twenty thousand on dinner.

I don´t actually hate taxi cab drivers.  Just one.  Hold on, I´ll get there.

We woke up early in the morning to catch our bus to Tacna, which offers nothing other than a really easy crossing point into Chile.  The bus ride was long, but we got to watch half of Bad Boys II (before the DVD quit).  We passed through miles and miles of desert, and the monotony helped me fall asleep.  I was awakened when the attendant started passing around BINGO cards.  Yes, BINGO.  Forty-five minutes of listening to BINGO numbers being called in Spanish when you´re trying to sleep is a nightmare.  A very, very, very awake nightmare.  Haha.

The trick to getting from Peru to Chile is to take a cab across the border.  It´s easy and costs about five bucks.  As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were bombarded by cab drivers.  Long story short, we chose a guy who actually had an office.  It didn´t make any difference, we still were squished into a Buick with the driver and three other passengers.  Jason and I couldn´t do anything but look at eachother and laugh.  It definitely felt like we were being smuggled across the border.  A packed Buick, racing along with nothing but desert on the horizon.  But don´t worry, Mom.  It was legit.  The customs process was easy, and we were in Arica, Chile in about an hour.

As soon as I went to the ATM I realized that my mathematically challenged self would struggle with the currency.  In Peru, it was three sols to a dollar.  Easy enough. Here, it´s 671.75 pesos to a dollar.  Uh oh.  This issue became very apparent when I paid our cab driver from the Arica bus station to the hostel three minutes away 30 bucks.  And the jerk had the audacity to give me 50 cents change.  Haha.  And they call themselves a Christian nation!?!?  HA!  Lesson learned.  I was more frustrated with my own mistake than losing the 30 bucks.  But still. If I ever see him again… Grrrrr…

To calm down, and to enjoy the moment, we walked along the beach.  Arica has HUGE waves, and is a fun spot for surfers.  Around 7:45, we decided it was time for dinner.  Well, restaurants don´t even open until AT LEAST 8 in Chile.  Even though it was 8:30 when we chose a place, we were some of the only people there.  And yes, we spent 20,000 pesos on dinner.  Living the high life.  It sounds way more expensive than it is.

Because it´s on the water, Arica is known for having good sea food.  I can testify that it does indeed.  And Chilean wine is alright too.  I guess. I mean, I don´t really know… Ha!  (Okay, I do know.  It´s fabulous.)

Another thing that helped erase the resentment left by the cab driver was the wonderful couple that runs the hostel we stayed at.  She is French and he is Chilean–and they both are incredibly sweet.  She even made me a complimentary breakfast an hour past the time the complimentary breakfast ended.  Awww.

Today, we´re just hanging out, walking around.  We´ll probably go to the beach, but the water is a little too CHILE chilly.  I´m hilaaaaaaaaaaaarious.

Next up is San Pedro de Atacama.  I´m seriously pumped.

Hope you all have a good Thanksgiving!

Flamingos, Richmond Spiders, the lake with the inappropriate name and a game of dress up.

Okay folks, this is going to be a long one.

Our bus ride a few days ago from Cuzco was actually the bus ride from hell.  Cuzco to Puno should take about six or seven hours.  For us, it took ten.  This is because we were apparently on a tour bus that stopped to show us more ruins every so often.  At that point, I was a little Inca´d out and not really feeling it.  The plus side was that I got to see more of Peru.  I saw even more rainbows than I did before in Cuzco.  Rainbows with the Andean mountains in the background is quite a sight.  And, the highlight of the bus entire trip for me,  was seeing flocks of flamingos hanging out in one of the lakes.  I never really pictured flamingos with snowcapped mountains as the backdrop, but I´ll take it.  More flamingos to come!

Puno is the main launch point to explore Lake Titicaca (teehee).  Affectionately called Lake Boobypoopy.  Yes, we´re mature.  There´s a main street with tons of neon lights, a reggae bar, and hundreds of women asking you if you want a massage.  Err, no thanks.  We were told not to eat meat because Puno is even higher than Cuzco (we´re now at 12,500 ft.) and meat is harder to digest.  So we played it safe and got pizza.  Excellent pizza, actually.  Being that we were completely lame and totally tired, we went back to the hotel room and watched some TV.  America´s Next Top Model was on. TyraBanks is just as crazy below the equator as above.

In the morning, we caught our bus to the docks.  Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world.  It´s not what I pictured at all.  In my mind, I pictured more of an oasis.  Don´t get me wrong, it´s stunning to be on a lake surrounding by mountains, with blue skies and the clouds are closer than they have ever been, but it just wasn´t what I was expecting.  Our boat looked like vomit central.  Tiny, and shaky.  Our guide was a really nice Peruvian woman that said everything in Spanish, and then English.  She also wore a tshirt that said “Blondes `R`More Fun”.  Given that she had black hair, I´m going to go with she didn´t understand what she was wearing. 

The first islands we went to were the floating islands.  Yes, floating islands.  The people, the Uro, rely on a plant called totora for EVERYTHING.  They make the islands with the roots and then hundreds of layers of reeds laid on top, they use it to make their boats, their homes, and they even eat it.  It tastes like celery.  Don´t worry Mom, I had the Benedryl with me…just in case.  One of the islanders took us to his home and showed us his kitchen, which was outside.  They live in one room huts.  The family all sleeps in the same bed and there is a small TV above the bed.  Each house uses a solar panel to get their energy.  How progressive!  They live in huts and use technology that we are still struggling to make common practice.  I almost stole one of the little children running around, but I figured he´d be difficult to get through customs.  Oh well.  These islands essentially cater to tourists.  As we got on the traditional boat to go to another floating island, they sang a song to us.  It ended with ¨hasta la vista, baby!¨.  Which is obviously hilarious, but somewhat sad at the same time.

While I was on the boat made of totora, I noticed that this one girl was staring at me.  My first instinct was that something was on my face, but after a bit of small talk she asked me where I went to school.  She said she recognized me and graduated with me from Richmond.  In fact, she lived on the first floor of my freshman dorm.  Wow.  Small world.  I´m on a little boat on Lake Titicaca in Peru, and I´m sitting next to a fellow Spider.  How bizarre.

We went to the island of Amantani, where we were spending the night with a host family.  As the boat arrived, we saw all the host moms lined up on the dock in traditional clothes. They all looked so tiny.  Most of them, in fact, are barely 5 feet tall.  They wore white tunics with floral embroidery, bright colored skirts, thick multicolored  belts and black scarves on their heads.  We followed our host mom up the hill in silence.  She climbed the hill in sandals without stopping, as Jason and I huffed and puffed.  I´ve never felt so inadequate.  She led us to our room and then scurried away.  The top of the doorway hit my chin.  I felt like a monster.  Haha.

After she made us lunch, we walked up to meet our tour to hike to the top of the island.  While we waited, there was a friendly pickup game of soccer between the locals and the tourists.  I have no idea who won.  I HATE soccer. 

We ate dinner with our host parents in their dimly lit kitchen.  I somehow managed to hold a conversation in Spanish, but all of my previous Spanish teachers would have wept openly if they had been there.  Despite my language deficiency, we talked about Barack Obama (who they referred to as “elnegro”),  the price of college, and our families.  Then, my host mother dressed me in clothing similar to what she wore earlier and gave Jason a traditional poncho.  I had always assumed that the women were short and kind of rotund, but in reality, it is the skirts that make them appear so large.  I bet they´re all very skinny.  Dressed up and looking kind of silly, we joined all the other silly looking tourists in a rec hall and had a fiesta.  The best part was that in between dances, our host mom and the other host moms would gather in the corner and sneak beers.  Haha.

The next day we said goodbye and visited the island of Taquile.  Much of the same, but still very pretty.  It took us three hours on the boat to get back to Puno.  Honestly, I could have swam faster than the boat.   That was our last planned tour.  We felt so free!  I´m thrilled that the adventure of figuring things out for ourselves is now present.

I´m currently in Arequipa, Peru´s second largest city.  Nothing too unusual about it–snowcapped mountains in the background, the whole deal.  Tomorrow, we go to Chile.  The plan is to spend a few days on a beach.  I am very excited.  Traveling for such a long time without a home base can get tiring.  But for me, the hardest part about this trip is suppressing my inner political wonk.  I want to know what´s happening, all the time.  But I´m loving this trip.  And I can read a few days worth of news at a time when I get to a computer.

Once again, please excuse all grammatical and spelling errors.

BIG ISLAND TRIP aka WE ARE CRAZY (part one)

Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away…

Steph, Laura and I came up with a crazy idea. An extended island trip– skipping a week of class (which is only two days). After class on Thursday, the three of us walked into a travel agency and left with Friday morning tickets to go to Rhodes. Rhodes, which is part of the Dodecanese islands, is in the farthest island cluster from the mainland.

We woke up early Friday morning, but left a litttle late. We walked out the door at 7:20 for our 9 am plane. We decided to take the express bus. Now I usually run late for everything EXCEPT class and travel, so when we arrived at the airport at 8:20 I was nearly having heart palpitations. We stood in line to get our boarding passes and then ran like hell. By the time we went through security, it was 8:45. I ran up to the counter only to find the bus to the plane hadn’t even started boarding yet. oh, Europe. At 9:05 the bus pulled up. The plane didn’t even take off for another forty minutes.

As we took off, I saw Athens from the air and remembered how I felt as I was landing in Athens just over a month ago. It’s still amazing to me. As we were flying over the islands, I looked like a 5-year-old with my face pressed up against the window. In my mind i could picture the map of the islands, and there they were right before me in 3-D. I’m still floored by Greece’s geography. There are hills, mountains and cliffs everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it. The islands looked like a school project with paper mache molds outlined with a coat of turquoise and then surrounded with a coat of the brightest blue paint Crayola offers.

RHODES

Stepping off the plane, I looked like a rockstar. And by rockstar, what I really mean is exhausted student/budget traveler. But it felt good to know that we were really doing this trip and there was no going back. We took a bus from the airport to Rhodes Town.

The Old Town is surrounded by the walls of the Palace of the Grand Master. The medieval palace was built by the Knights of St. John in 1309. It’s huge. Inside the castle walls, the buildings have been converted into museums , adn the streets have turned into a tour group’s paradise. Shop after shop selling everything yu could possibly want and never want. Knock-off Gucci bags and Yankees hats with fake curly blond locks attached, handmade leather belts and Turkish rugs. I bought a few postcards. The better part of our first few hours on the island were spent in search of our youth hostel. We found it on a little side street. The courtyard was colorful and picturesque, the room reeked of budget travel. Just how I like it. The owner gave us a “special” price and even threw sheets on the beds for free. What a doll.

After we settled in, we went out and got some lunch. We walked around in the castle’s moat for a bit and then walked the coastline. We bought our ferry tickets to Kos for Saturday morning and I splashed around in the warm water for a few minutes. Rhodes is truly gorgeous. It’s called the “Island of the Sun” because in mythology, Helios (who is god of the sun) fell madly in love with the Nymph Rodos. His love for her warmed the entire island. The sun was shining, the water was sparkling–I felt the love.

We went back to the hostel to nap for a few hours before dinner, but clearly I got antsy and set out on my own for a few hours. I walked around the palace’s park and then found myself outside of the castle walls. I stumbled upon the fortress and lighthouse of St. Nikolaos. As I was sitting at the foot of the fortress, I noticed a pillar with a statue on it about 200 feet away. I immediately remembered what Let’s Go had said and got very excited. Rhodes is known to be the place where the giant statue of Colossus once stood. As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it stood at 33 meters and was made of bronze. Around 226 BC it was taken down by an earthquake. The remains were taken by Arab pirates 800 years later, so there are no remains on site. Now two statues, one on each side of the harbor entrance, mark where it is believed the statue was. The statue on the lighthouse side is a doe, the statue on the other side is a buck. I walked to the doe statue and just admired the view. An old Greek man was there and began talking to me about how Rhodes is the most beautiful place on earth adn then invited me to sit and chat with him. He promptly asked me if I was married, which caught me off guard for a few reasons. 1) That means I looked old enough to be married. 2) He probably wanted to introduce me to one of his sons. Like a smart girl I quickly answered yes. For the next five minutes he jokingly tried to convince me that cheating on my husband with a nice Greek boy in Rhodes is okay. Haha. We laughed a lot, but he could tell that I took my “till death do us part” vows seriously. Errr…see ya later, Mister. Good talk. I left and walked ten minutes to the other statue. Just as I got there, the fortress and lighthouse lit up. It was beautiful. Two hours had passed so I met up with the girls for dinner. We had a great night and our waiter loved us. When we got back to the hstel, some other backpackers invited us to party with them in the courtyard. We were too tired, but I love that about youth hostels. You have something in common with everyone else there. You just want to see the world and not go broke doing it. It’s a strong bond.

In the morning we walked back to the statues so that the girls could see it too, then got on our ferry to Kos.

KOS

As we were pulling up to the shore, we opened THE BIBLE (remember– that’s my Let’s Go book) and found the number for the Pension Alexis. We could tell right away Sonia, the owner, was a sweetheart, because she offered to drive to the port to pick us up. Since it was only a ten minute walk, we decided to do it ourselves and set out. As we were walkng past the docks, we saw tons of signs advertising day trips to Bodrum, Turkey. We each got round-trip tickets for around 12 USD for Sunday morning. We made to our pension where we were greeted with kisses and lemonade. Sonia was nothing less than amazing. She gave us maps, told us where to eat and gave us a pristine trip with a shower and hot water. We threw down our bags and Sonia drove us to the train that would take us to the Asclepion. The Asclepion is where Hippocrates lived and set up the first medical school in the 5th century B.C. Oh, and when they said train, what they meant was a kiddie amusement park like train that drives on the road. I felt nervous at times–the driving in Greece is so BAD, especially with all the mopeds and motorcycles.

The Asclepion is one of the coolest ruins site I have been to. While we were there, we hung out wth these two Dutch women, and alternated taking group shots. From the top of the Asclepion we could see the coast of Turkey, which made us even more excited for the next day’s journey. We ended up having to wait about 45 minutes for the “train” back to Kos Town. During that time we made friends with Ana, a 5-year-old Dutch girl and her 2-year-old brother Rolfe. Ana would run up to us and use English phrases her parents were teaching her on the spot. Since we were within earshot, we could hear what she was going to ask us next and her parents could hear our responses and translate them for her. Then Laura got her i-pod out and played some Disney songs for Ana. She recognized all of them, but hadn’t heard them in English. After our Asclepion trip, we went in search of ferry tickets to Mykonos. We learned that ferries were no longer running to Mykonos from Kos. Instead, we would have to ferry to Syros and then to Mykonos. We left to eat dinner and think about it. After dinner, we bought our tickets, and I even managed to get us the EU student discount. We go to school in the EU, but we don’t usually qualify as EU students because it’s an American campus. Just a funny note, people usually think we’re from England or Australia. A lot of the ime we don’t correct them. We were surprised at first that they couldn’t tell the difference between ur accents, but we realized that in the same position we probably wouldn’t be able to as well.

BODRUM, TURKEY

Sonia drove us to the port at 8:30 for our 9:30 boat. We had to wait in line to pay the port taxes and get our day passes. They don’t require visas for one day trips. I was bummed because I wanted my passport stamped. The pages are so naked right now. The boat ride was only 45 minutes long. With everything so close, it’s no surprise that Turkey and Greece have had issues and some bad feelings. This should change if Turkey makes it into the EU.

I could feel that I wasn’t in Greece anymore when we stepped off the boat. Yes, it looked similar, but it had a different feel to it and a different flag flying from the castel that stands next to the coastline. The Knights of St. John also built this castle, and it was fairly similar to the one on Rhodes. We tried to get into the castle, but didn’t have any Turkish currency. So we walked into the market. Hundreds of stores with thousands of knock-offs.

We walked around in search of a currency converter, but because it was Sunday, nothing was open. We eventually found an ATM and took out 30 Lira, which I’m guessing is around 20 USD. If it weren’t for the admission to the castle, we wouldn’t have needed to change currency. Everyone accepted the Euro anyway. Our boat was leaving at 4:30, and we got to the Bodrum Castle around 3:30. The view from the top was spectacular. The peacocks wandering around the courtyard gave it a more exotic feel. Bodrum is in Asia minor, so not only did I visit two countries in one day, I made it to two continents. As we got ready to pull away from the dock, we could hear the Islam call to prayer. I cannot wait to get to Istanbul.

Sonia let us leave our bags at the pension and picked us up from the port again. We kissed her goodbye and spent our last few hours in Kos just relaxing by the water.

SYROS…Seriously?

The thing about having to go to Syros first instead of directly to Mykonos is that we had a little bit of a layover. Meaning we left Kos at 9:15 pm and got to Syros at 4 am, and then left for Mykonos at 10 am. As we were on the ferry to Syros, we just kept shaking our heads and laughing. What were we supposed to do at 4 am? The write-up for Syros in THE BIBLE listed a bar that was open until 5, and then a church with nice artwork opened at 7…oh dear.

The ferry ride was alright. The guy behind me had some of the worst B.O. I have EVER encountered. Greece is funny like that. They either asphyxiate you with cologne or body odor. There is no inbetween. Let me just say that metro rides can be hell. Even with three feet between me and Stinky, I felt the urge to vomit. I slept for a few hours too, which helped.

Things in Greece tend to run late. Well, on the one day we really could’ve used some lateness, we arrived 15 minutes EARLY. We got off the boat at 3:45 laughing hysterically because there really wasn’t anything else to do. We followed the water because we saw a lit up hotel that would mostly likely host a bar, but fortunately we stumbled across a late-night sandwich place first. We tripped in and ordered three cheese pies and three cappucinos. That killed 45 minutes. Only five hours and 15 minutes to go! We sat down on a bench next to the water in a well-lit area and pulled out our books. We read for a few hours and snuggled on the bench for warmth. A stray dog decided he liked us and hung around. I sort of liked having him there. We had one hysterical moment where the boat docked in front of us emptied its sewage. It was before 6 am, it smelled like human waste, we looked like hobos on a bench with our stray dog at our feet AND we still had four more hours before we could leave. We were shrieking we were laughing so hard. Really, the adventures that come with budget travel are priceless. I don’t think I’ll ever take a cruise or planned tour.

Around 6:45, we got up and found an open cafe. Three more cappucinos. It was finally 7 am, so we went to the Church of the Assumption to see the painting done by Domenikos Theotokopoulos, also known as “El Greco“. When we walked in, we were blinded by stunning gold plated painting and crystal chandeliers. We walked into the chapel area, and a Greek Orthodox priest was there reading from the real Bible and saying prayers. It was very calming. The beauty in the room was overwhelming. We saw the painting too, which was pretty cool.

We watched the sunrise from the harbor, which was practically a religious experience. The colors were so vivid it hurt my eyes at times. The rest of the morning was spent reading my embarrassingly bad thriller. But hey, it was one of the only books in our apartment that was readable.

At 10 am, we got on the boat to Mykonos. Six hours went by surprisingly fast, and we were in really good moods. I thought the layover would be miserable, but really it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip so far.

*Right now I’m in an internet cafe in Mykonos so I didn’t get to check this for typos. Oops. It’s beautiful here but not what I was expecting. I’ll post as soon as possible. Pictures will be uploaded most likely in the next week or so.

Climb on the Magic School Bus.

This past weekend was the program’s first mandatory excursion. I was nervous and relieved. Nervous because I wasn’t sure I’d like being led around—relieved because I was glad that someone else was planning the trip.

Friday morning we were all on the bus before 8 am. We were all settling in, plugging in our i-pods, and adjusting our pillows to get ready for a nice nap on the bus. Then she spoke. Sophia, our tour guide for the weekend, has the most annoying voice I’ve ever heard. Her voice is nasal, and the pitch and tone wax and wane with every syllable. She talked non-stop about anything and everything—the highway that we weren’t even taking, the statue that we couldn’t see—everything. We all turned up the volume on i-pods and took a nice long nap.

We visited the ruins of Ancient Corinth. I’m worried I’m becoming desensitized to ruins, because I wasn’t really impressed. I love the history, of course, but the ruins are a bunch of rocks. Sophia led us around, her voice booming and echoing off the ruins. During our 30 minutes of free time, we just hung out at the park next to the ruins.

We went on the bus again for another two hours, and my i-pod was dying. Sophia kept talking, but Laura, in the heroic move of the day, stealthily managed to turn down the volume on her microphone. Haha. We got to our hotel in Olympia in the early evening. We didn’t have anything to do all night, so we went into town for a bit. It was touristy, but nice.

We visited the site of ancient Olympia in the morning. This is ruins as well, but I loved it. Maybe I’m not as desensitized as I thought. Olympia, of course, is where the first Olympics were held. The first recorded Olympics were in 776 B.C., but games were held before then. Much of Olympia still stands. There are columns everywhere, and it’s easy to picture what it did look like. I was glad to have Sophia along at that point, because she really knows her stuff. We all even bonded a little with her. The best part about Olympia was running the first track. Steph and I started off saying we were just going to jog it, but as soon as we were given the count, things got competitive. She won, but only by a little bit. AND she was wearing shoes and I was wearing flip flops. Psssh. I would’ve won. The museum at Olympia had amazing statues. There was one of Zeus that was especially awe-inspiring.

We hopped back on the bus and drove to Tolo, a beach resort. Our hotel was right on the water. That night was the most fun of all. We were disrespectfully loud, caused trouble and had a blast. The next morning we were all feeling a bit sluggish, so getting back on the bus was nice. We stopped at Epidauros, a famous theater with the best acoustics. We didn’t actually get to see the theater because it was the weekend of the Greece’s elections, and most of the sites were closed on Sunday. Greece conducts elections two weekends in a row. I was actually a little sad that I wasn’t in Athens for the weekend, because Syntagma Square has been crazy for the past couple of weeks. I’ll talk more about that in my next post.

We moved on to Mycenae, which was also closed—so we just got out of the bus and looked at as much as we could. Our final stop on the trip was to Nafplion, which at one point was Greece’s capital. Now it’s another adorable port town that lives for tourism. We spent an hour just walking around and eating lunch.

It was a nice trip, but like always, I was glad to get back to my home base. Sophia announced that she would be our guide for the next excursion as well, which brought laughter and groans.

Next Weekend: I HAVE NO IDEA.

My restlessness always gets the best of me.


I tried to take the weekend off. I did, I swear. Friday morning and afternoon I went shopping (But didn’t buy anything. I just don’t really like the euro-style. Plus, I’d rather spend money on trips). By Friday night, I was restless. As I sat in my bed, the wheels began to turn. My roommate walked in and all of my thoughts managed to make their way from my head to my mouth. “Do you want to go to Thessaloniki tomorrow?” I blurted out. “I’m just so antsy!”

Thessaloniki is Greece’s 2nd largest city, and according to everyone, is stunning. It’s in Northern Greece, and is about 6 hours away by train. She laughed. And then we started plotting. Although Greece is dependent on tourism, they still haven’t figured out that posting train schedules in English online would help tourists out. So Laura and I traveled 20 minutes on the metro to get to the big train station. We found a train for Thessaloniki that left at 7:50 the next morning. But that’s about all we knew about it, because nobody at the train station spoke English or wanted to waste 15 minutes communicating with two silly American girls.

I woke up at 5:40 am. At 6:10, Laura, our roommate Amanda, and I marched out the door. We got to the train station around 6:45. We waited in line, and when it was finally our turn, the man told us it would be about 45 euro per person for one way. That was definitely too much for my weekend budget, and luckily the other girls felt the same way. So it was before 7 am, and we had full backpacks and no place to go and an overwhelming determination that we were going to go somewhere this weekend. We sat down with THE BIBLE (my Let’s Go Greece guidebook) and found a place to go. We chose the island of Evia, which is Greece’s 2nd largest island. It’s only an hour away, and since it comes close enough to the mainland for a bridge, can be reached by bus.

Before 9 am, it’s hard to find people that speak English in Athens. We were especially out of luck because we weren’t in the touristy section. Getting to the bus station was adventure in itself. We took the metro to the Attiki stop, and then tried to get on a bus but couldn’t figure things out. So we metro-ed back to our familiar Syntagma Square so that we could talk to someone who spoke English and get bus tickets. The woman we spoke to told us to go to back Attiki. Once we got to Attiki, we got on the bus going in the wrong direction, so we had to ride the entire bus route to get to the actual bus station. It was frustrating/funny, but I was not going to give up and hang around for the weekend.

We finally made it to Halkida, Evia’s capital. The bus station was disgusting. Turns out Halkida wasn’t much better. I read that there was a nicer section, but our hour-and-a-half search for it was in vain. Nobody spoke English. We took a taxi back to the bus station and whipped out THE BIBLE again.

Thirty minutes later we were in Eretria, a tiny town that boasts ruins of an ancient palace, an ancient theater, and an archaeological museum. Wow, that’s unusual. Eretria is a pleasant place to be, and we had reached that point where we were tired, cranky, and just wanted to land. We found a small pension, threw down our backpacks, and went for a walk. The waterfront in Eretria is exactly how I picture Cuba. It looked tropical and beautiful, yet poor. The weather was slightly overcast, the water was wavy, and the palm trees were blowing in the wind. We sat on a dock for an hour, just looking at the ocean town across from us with the foggy mountains looming above it. It was awesome.

We ate dinner at a cute place called Romeos. The owner was convinced that I was Greek, and spoke Greek to me even after I told him IN GREEK that I didn’t understand him. He would switch back and forth between Greek and English, but always spoke directly to me in Greek. I tried my best, and used the phrases I’ve picked up. After awhile it all became a big joke, and he ended up throwing in some free ouzo and fruit for us. Ouzo, Greece’s alcohol of choice, tastes like melted black jelly beans—except more bitter and it burns the back of your throat. We didn’t want to be rude, but we only took a few sips.

We went to bed early that night, and fell asleep watching Greek music videos. The music videos are hysterical. Each one is like a bad mini-soap opera, complete with ghastly over-acting and plenty of passion. The singers are trying so hard that you just have to appreciate the effort.

In the morning we ate crepes on the beach. Fantastic. Unlike the day before, the sun was out and the weather was lovely. We went to the archaeological museum, the “palace” (more ruins) and the ancient theater (even more ruins). All three of these things took a total of an hour. Satisfied with our trip, we went back to Athens.

The truth is I’m happiest when I’m traveling. Buying a ticket to go somewhere gives me a natural high that I don’t know how to match. I guess I’ll just have to keep traveling. 🙂

A link for pictures will be posted soon, I promise.

Next weekend: Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Nafplion and Olympia!

THIS POST IS LONG OVERDUE AND I KNOW IT.


The Crete trip started off as a trip for a few people and quickly grew into an excursion for ten people. The more, the merrier. After a mandatory luncheon with the school’s chancellor and a painfully long coffee hour Friday afternoon, we were finally released. Our ferry from Piraeus to Crete didn’t leave until 9 pm, but we had to leave our apartment around 7:15. Ten backpacks managed to make it onto the boat.

Crete is divided into four prefectures. Going east to west, they are Lasithi, Iraklion, Rethymno, and Hania. We skipped Lasithi, and decided to come into Iraklion. It’s a nine hour boat ride to Iraklion, and because it’s an overnight boat, most people sleep—oops.

When we were walking around the boat, we noticed the majority of the passengers were bikers, decked out in the Harley Davidson Hellas (Greece) attire. It made me think of New Hampshire during bike week. Our big group had split into two groups to eat and then hang out. We did everything there is to do on a big ship. We walked against the wind, told life stories, re-enacted the famous scene from Titanic. I was with Laura, Steph and Chris, and once 1:30/2 am hit, we decided it was time to pass out. As we walked by the boat’s lounge, we heard screams of laughter that sounded familiar. We walked in and saw the rest of our group partying with the dignified members of Harley Davidson Hellas. Clearly, we had to join. We were the stars of the show. We took pictures, told stories, and refused a lot of sketchy alcohol. I had a blast. They wanted us to ditch our plans and ride on the backs of their bikes with them to the bike show in the morning. As tempting as that was, we politely declined. After we left the guys, we goofed around on the boat some more, and managed to get about 1-2 hours of sleep.

We got off the boat at 6 am. We stumbled around until we caught a 7:30 bus to Knossos, the site of an ancient Minoan palace. We were standing at the gates when they opened at 8. The ruins of the palace are cool, but the truth is that it’s just ruins. What made it worthwhile was the chance to see it in the early morning light and the friendly stray kittens that were hanging around.

After that, we took a bus back into the city of Iraklion and decided to just walk around. We found ourselves at the Koules Fortress, which sits right next to water. At one point, Iraklion was owned by the Venetians. This fortress is one of the reminders. Exhausted from all the walking and unfortunate lack of sleep, we wandered down the road looking for a café, where we could imbibe copious amounts of caffeine (yes, I used two SAT words in the same sentence). We found the Café Del Mar, perched right on the cliff overlooking the ocean. There was a long white couch that fit 10 weary students perfectly. We all ordered frappes, which are similar to Dunkin Donuts’ Coffee Coolatta but thicker and stronger. I fell asleep waiting for my frappe. We took advantage of that couch for nearly an hour and a half.

After that, we did some more walking and got a sense of Iraklion. It was nice, but the nice sections were all for tourists. The non-touristy sections were plagued by dilapidated buildings and unhealthy stray dogs. Our next stop was the Archaeological Museum. We got in for free because we qualified as EU students. I got a kick out of that. The museum had a bunch of Minoan era artifacts, especially pottery and frescos. There was a marble statue room which I liked the best.

The next goal was to make it to Rethymno. We missed our first bus, and there wasn’t any room on the second. The third bus bus worked out, but we didn’t get to Rethymno until early evening.

We stayed at the Rethymno Youth Hostel, a really cool place owned by a guy named Ivan. The showers are all solar powered, and the atmosphere reeks of granola-loving backpackers. After gyros and gelato, we hug out and played cards with some fellow travelers at the hostel.

Steph, Emily and I woke up at 6 am and were on a 7 am bus to Omalos, the starting point to hike the Samaria Gorge. Samaria Gorge is Europe’s largest gorge and is about 16 km long (that’s around 11 miles). Even though the bus ride was so early, the ride alone was worth it. I got to watch the sun rise over the mountains, and see it touch each individual peak. It was strange, but the air was so clear that it seemed like I could point to each tree on the mountain tops.

We finally got to the gorge around 10:30 am, ready to go. I was pumped. The hardest part of the hike was the descent into the gorge. Rocky and steep, we had a few close calls and a lot of laughs. Once in the actual gorge, we were completely dwarfed by the magnificence of the peaks. Trees and flowers have adapted to the environment and grow out of rocks, sticking out of the strangest places and lending their color to the monotony of the terrain. A stream with mossy rocks followed the path. At times it looked a lot like New England, except the gorge was deeper and the mountains were higher. Wild goats, called agrimi, were also around.

My ‘Let’s Go Greece’ book, which we affectionately call THE BIBLE, said that the gorge takes between 5 and 6 hours to hike, but being the superstars that we are, it only took us four hours. We bought ourselves ice cream and took a series of victory pictures at the end. It was another 30 minute walk to the water-front town of Agia Roumeli that seemed like the longest part of our journey. From Agia Roumeli, we took a ferry to Hora Sfakion and then from there the 5:30 bus back to Hania. Step and Emily decided to go back to REthymno for the night, so I met up with Luara in Hania.

Hania is a charming town, which is also on the water. We went out to dinner, hit up an internet café, and then passed out. In the morning, we had breakfast a café and walked around for a few hours. To put it mildly, I was a little sore from hiking the gorge the day before, but took on the “walk it off” mentality. I did my best not to make noises of anguish every time I walked down stairs, stood up, sat down, well…really when I did anything. I managed to shuffle along and see the seaside shops, lighthouse, and gorgeous scenery Hania offers.

Laura and I met up with the rest of the gang who had stayed behind in Rethymno to hang out at the hostel and shop. And guess what we did? WALKED. Though I think all this walking might be working off all the food I’m eating, so I shouldn’t complain. We got on a 9 pm ferry back to Piraeus, and took the metro back to Athens. We got home at 7:15 am. We went to Greek class at 10:30 am. I did not nap inbetween. This is the most in-shape my body will ever be. Might as well take advantage of it.

Crete is yet another amazing island. My favorite parts were the gorge, Hania, and the villages we passed through by bus. Parts of the island look like the prettiest of postcards, and other parts just look like mediocre cities ravaged by travelers. The contrast between the regions is so drastic, you feel like you’re in another country.

I think we’re taking next weekend off to just hang around Athens. We’ll see.
I’ll put up pictures from the trip as soon as I can get to an internet café. It’ll be a big file, and my lousy internet at the apartment can’t handle it.