Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Backpacking Europe Part 5: Santorini and Athens

I decided to change up the picture for this post. We are continuing on with the recap of our trip, and this part of  it was so dreamy (as if the whole entire trip wasn't)! I can't believe that it's been a couple of months now back home. I still cannot get over this month abroad was life-changing, a special milestone, and it shifted me in the best way possible. I'm just really aware and grateful. Now we visit our next country...

After a quick stop in Croatia, we boarded a small prop plane bound for country #8...Greece. We had 2 stops scheduled here, the first being the island of Santorini. To get there from Split, we had about a 2-hour layover in Athens where we grabbed a quick lunch after going through a pretty slow and long customs line as we had come from a non-Schengen country (though I heard Croatia will be soon).

After the flight from Athens to Thira, we got picked up by our driver and checked in to our apartment that we had for 2 nights. How pretty it was! We were in the top right apartment that had a lovely loft and balcony. 

The next immediate thing on the agenda was ATV rentals. Each couple got a 4-wheeler and we rode around the island. I really wanted a Vespa (we should have rented one in Rome), but I am so glad we ended up with a 4-wheeler on these curvy island roads with no flow to the traffic. It was pretty chaotic, and I can't imagine being there in the high season. No thank you.

We ended up stopping at Kamari Beach. It got chilly pretty quick as it was on the opposite side of the island from the sun.

So we headed home and walked to dinner at Taso's, a family-run homestyle tavern. I'm pretty sure the waiter was the cook, and he barely spoke any English...and we of course didn't know Greek...but it made for a fun and authentic experience. Everything was delicious. We had such a good time!

Opa! ;)

The next morning, we slept in, and we still had our ATV's for a few more hours so we rode up to Oia. This is the town that I think most people think of when they think of the island of Santorini. Surprisingly though, it seems more "blue and white" in pictures than it does in person.

So dreamy!

We headed home and got ready for our special afternoon plans...we were going on a sunset cruise! Our sailing company picked us up from the apartment and we were on the way. It was a great experience...including several stops for swimming/floating/snorkeling, a great meal and appetizers included of Greek cuisine, and wonderful personal service.

These relaxing plans came at the perfect time in our itinerary after going nonstop for so many days!

Sailing on the Aegean Sea and living my best life...or something like that ;)

Sunset love.

Watch the sunset in Santorini? Check!! Another bucket list experience for our trip.

We got dropped off back at the apartment after dark, and went to bed, as the next morning we were heading back to the mainland to Athens for a day of exploring.

Our day started off not as planned. After getting to the airport and through security, we had started the boarding process, walked outside and were being led to our plane, and the whole process got held up. After standing outside for a considerable amount of time, we were corralled back inside to the gate area. It was way too small for the amount of people that hit to fit in this small space. We were separated from all other gates and amenities/services. And that's how we sat for a few hours...with nothing to do in a cramped space with no air flow or conditioner and no ETD in sight... The cause? Our plane engine had hit a bird on landing. Sigh. 

One thing you have to learn pretty quick when traveling is to go with the flow. Your plans are often at the mercy of so many variables. Things happen. Accept and roll with it. You will be better for it, and your travel mates will still like you. So thankful all of mine were easygoing!

We finally made it to Athens!! We took a taxi to our apartment, which was in a pretty local neighborhood that didn't seem too affluent, but it was nice and worked for us for just one night.

Because of the flight delay, we missed a scheduled tour we had with a private guide for the Acropolis. I had barely been able to get enough phone service on the island to e-mail the company but thankfully they were super pleasant to work with and quickly get us rescheduled for a slot that afternoon since it was our only day in the city.

We had left our apartment, went to eat lunch, and walked through this outdoor market area (I didn't catch the name of it) to meet up with our group. We had booked an English-speaking guide, but honestly his accent was difficult for me to understand. I soaked up all the information I could though!

This was one of the stops that Landon had been looking forward to the most! I love exploring different parts of this great planet together. :)

Seeing all of the Acropolis in person and how it stands above Athens really was breathtaking. The scope of its history is really hard to even comprehend. So fascinating.

In the left center of this picture is the Areopagus, which is the site where Paul spoke to the Athenians in Acts 17:16-34. How freaking cool? It's still on my bucket list to trace a journey of Paul. Just this one site was almost more than my Bible-loving heart could bear. It was more than amazing to see Scripture come to life in person...this meant so much to me.

We spent time walking around the top and of course viewing the Parthenon...really just taking all of it in. We got a good laugh out of all the Instagram models...they were everywhere. It's funny but sad.

We walked to dinner and then home to pack up and went to sleep pretty early. And that pretty much wraps up Greece! If I ever visit again, I will definitely fit in more time to soak up the history and culture. That said, I am so grateful we spent a few days here.

As we were leaving we passed an elderly man that had (just barely) made it to the top of the stairs. In the most pitiful and breathless voice (from the tripod position) he exclaimed, "the Acro-po-lis!" We all talked about how we were so proud for him that he made it up to see something that obviously meant so much to him despite the physical difficulty of it for his age (let's be real, the hike up was not easy). But then we talked about how we were so glad to be seeing and doing these kinds of things at our age while we can. I only wish I would have started seeing the world sooner than I did. Don't take the ability to travel, or even live outside of the box, for granted. Don't put it off because "someday" is not a day, and you never know when it might be too late to do all those things that you "always wanted to do." Dust off your bucket list and don't let it be stagnant! When is the last time you checked something off of it? Now is the time. These are the days. Live life instead of letting it live you.

If you missed the other parts of this trip up until now, here they are... we head to Hungary! Xo

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