The Tail End of an Amazing Trip

by Sam Lacy 2. May 2011 01:57

     Following a ferry ride that seemed as if it would never end, Amy and I found ourselves back in Athens, ready to cram every last bit of sightseeing into my last two days. I have no idea when, or even if, I would ever get a chance to make it back to Greece so I wanted to utilize every last second and be able to hop on the plane back to America with no regrets. Saturday turned out to be one of my favorite days of the entire trip even though it was a day in which we saw just a couple of attractions.

     We visited the Olympic Stadium, perhaps my favorite historical venue, on Saturday afternoon. The history that I felt there was like none other I had felt. Perhaps it was because I could see myself, years and years ago, sitting in those very stands, watching all types of different sporting events. Athens was chosen to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, an incredibly historic event considering they were also chosen to host the 1896 Olympics, considered to be the very first games of the modern Olympics. It was as if the Olympics had returned to their birthplace. Considering the impact that the Olympics have on the entire world, I felt as if I was in a place of incredible history. In fact, even though the city of Athens had built a modern stadium to host many of the Olympic events in 2004, it was in this stadium that all of the archery events and the end of the marathon were held. The audio tour that we were provided was great; I learned so much history about the stadium and its history. We were able to walk into the tunnel that the Greek gladiators used to enter the stadium. The tunnel was preserved exactly as it was centuries ago and I used my imagination to picture hundreds of gladiators walking onto the field prepared to fight for their lives, or die trying, while 68,000+ watched in awe.  At the end, I had to run the obligatory lap around the track.

     Our tour of the Olympic Stadium consumed us until dinner time; we took a short break to look at some shops and then headed to dinner at Vizantino in Thissio, a district of Athens. Vizantino is a restaurant that is frequently mentioned by numerous publications as being one of the best in Athens; I had actually read about it before flying over. While Amy had eaten there a couple of times before, I had never had the pleasure. It was about as good as I could have imagined. After my very first meal in Athens I had come to love lamb and the lamb with lemon sauce at Vizantino was top-notch. We followed our meal with a carryout baklava from a small, family-owned bakery and I was more than set for the night.

     Monday was a relaxed day; I slept in for a bit and then Amy and I decided to head to the Athens Flea Market, which snakes its way all the way from Monastiraki to Thissio. Hundreds of people, young and old, peddling their wares to the masses. I saw everything from batteries, decades-old cameras, tricycles, lime green refrigerators, swords, and anything else that you can possibly imagine. Calling the flea market vibrant would be an understatement.

     As soon as I arrived, it seemed as if I must leave. I spent a full nine days in Greece and it would have required another nine more, at the very least, to fully appreciate everything that Greece has to offer. I cannot wait for my return visit; I have already made a list of the islands that I wish to visit and the sites that I intend to see. Greece is a vibrant, fully alive country, and I am counting down the days until I can spend time here again.

A view of the Olympic Stadium from high in the stands.

 

Coming out of the tunnel, entering the Olympic Stadium to meet my fate.

 

Running my lap around the track at the Olympic Stadium.  I have never felt so much a part of history.

 

A man peddling his wares at the Athens Flea Market.

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Gyros in Greece!

Cold Water and Hot Springs

by Sam Lacy 1. May 2011 01:24

     Amy and I decided to keep the ATV for another day, thinking that it would be much easier to be able to travel whenever we pleased as opposed to trying to plan our day around the limited bus schedule. We had reserved a spot on the 2:00 PM boat for the volcano and hot springs tour. We made our way down the long, winding stone path to the Old Port, which served as the only way in and out of Santorini up until just a couple of decades ago.

     A small vessel, filled with mostly tourists, took us on a half-hour trip out to a barren island that contained two volcanoes, one dormant and one still active. The barren volcano was basically right off the boat; Amy and I took a quick look at it and then continued on the long hike up to the active volcano. We were left less than an hour and a half to make our way to the other side of the island (quite a long hike) and catch a glimpse of the active volcano, then make our way all the way back to the boat. We aren’t quite sure if what we saw was actually the volcano! Amy and I were expecting a huge volcano with a visible crater at the top, and we didn’t happen to see anything that resembled that, unfortunately. The entire island seemed to be made up of red and green grasses interspersed with sections of jagged, volcanic rock. It was incredibly interesting nonetheless.

     The boat took us on another quick trip to a much smaller island. Here we were given the option of jumping into the Aegean Sea and swimming our way over to the hot springs in a small cove named Palia Kameni. Quite a large group of those on the boat decided to take the plunge, and we all begin stripping down to our bathing suits. I knew the water right off the boat would be cold, but I wasn’t quite prepared; as soon as I hit the water it took my breath away. It was a quick swim to the hot springs and, hopefully, relief from the frigid water. Relief we found, and we basked in the abnormally warm water with a view of the small church of St. Nicholas. All the swimmers around me and I were petrified of entering the cold waters of the Aegean Sea again, so we took our time until we mustered up the courage to make the sprint back to the boat.

     After a return to the Old Port and a ride up the cable car to Fira, Amy and I ended our day with a quick trip to the Koutsoyannopoulos Winery & Wine Museum, supposedly the only of its kind in all of Greece. We went through an underground museum, complete with 24 separate exhibits detailing the life of Gregory and Dimitri Koutsoyannopoulou, the original founders of the winery in 1870. The museum illustrated their lives and the techniques and machines they used to make their different wines. At the conclusion, we were able to sample four different wines and learned about the different techniques used to make each one. George Koutsoyannopoulos, the fourth generation of the Koutsoyannopoulou family, still owns and operates the winery today.

A view from the Old Port all the way up to Santorini.  Many tourists ride donkeys from the bottom to the top.

 

The Koutsoyannopoulos Winery & Wine Museum.  Excellent museum and excellent wine!

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Gyros in Greece!

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