My Delirium in Greece
Ever since I was little I have always dreamt of travelling to Greece. Maybe it was the mystery around it, maybe its ancient history and legends that never ceased to amaze me (and still do), maybe I felt so much overwhelmed by the great minds that lived and spread the light of knowledge or maybe it was just because it was a country that was blessed with all those blue-green seas and gorgeous bright sun that did great good to people’s spirits and mood and major harm to psychologists and anti-depressant manufacturers!
Anyway, I knew I had to make that trip no matter what, but since I come from a poor background, that seemed so distant and far-fetched. While growing up, my dream became an addiction and I made it my life’s goal. I just needed to save up money and find a way to make that trip. But….
The weird thing about this fantasy of mine was that I didn’t just want to buy a plane ticket and fly over Greece, do a couple of sightseeing, step foot in some resorts, eat in fancy restaurants and sleep in the best hotels. I wanted something more: ADVENTURE. I had a feeling of unquenchable thirst for living life in ways others usually don’t. I wanted to get on top of the traditional way of travelling and see how life is like in my dream land from the inside, the most inside I could get, meaning: hang around with locals, get to know their culture and how they spend their days, what do they eat, how they deal with life and how and where do they party! I wanted to know it all, walk in the remotest trails and be involved with the local community work. I knew WHAT I wanted; I just didn’t know WHO could give me a chance to live it all….
I have heard from many friends and colleagues at work that also enjoyed travelling, that Intrepid was a reliable and highly professional company that offered an amazing 1,000 trips almost all around the world (Could it be that Greece was listed among them?). But being professional is what you can find in several travel companies now, so I had to find more about Intrepid. After digging into deep, I realized that the best part in Intrepid’s trips was that you could get off the beaten track and get to know more than just the surface of each country. I particularly liked the small-group (just 10 of us!) idea as I knew I would enjoy getting together with other people that felt the same as me and hated to be along with so many people that we could barely walk without stumbling to each other.I also adored the idea of interfering with locals in ways not ordinary-like and make new friends while at the same time we could be serving good to the local community by helping in meal preparations for local festivities that we definitely wanted to join in at full speed. Plus I had full freedom and flexibility to do whatever would please me and create my own experience. Awesome!
So, I thought that it was a chance I wouldn’t want to miss and I decided to indulge myself to travelling with Intrepid Travel and letting life flow in my veins in majesty.At first I visited their site (awesome photos!) So well built, it impressed me (that’s good, I though). As I kept reading more about them, I got the feeling that they truly take their role as adventure and safe travelling providers very seriously. There were many destinations in Greece to choose from and I thought of trying their 9-day tour to the islands, which seemed divine to me. So, I arranged the details of my trip with the local representative (such a kind young man!) and I was off to pack my things and set out for:
DAY 1:Arrival in Athens
The trip was like a walk in the park, or that’s how long it seemed to me. When I arrived at Venizelos airport I found a really nice young lady, Stella, who was my group leader, waiting for me and she was one of the politest and most professional people I have ever met. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, were everybody else was, she warmly introduced me with my other fellow adventurers, who seemed like a heck of a company!
First stop: The Parthenon. The weather was amazingly warm, like a sweet caress all over my body that had got used to the moist and foggy climate of my hometown and was trying to get the hang of the sun beams that aimed right to my heart and kept it warm. Stella was so knowledgeable that I kept listening to and soaking all those information like a sponge. She was talking as if the things she was telling us were really happening right in front of our eyes. Fantastic. The view from the Parthenon was perfect; A vivid city running in modern life rhythms under the sleepless eyes of its ancient guardians: the Parthenon and the Acropolis, which was our next destination, alongside with the magnificent Temple of Olympian Zeus, the father of all ancient Greek gods that was believed (and still is, according to the Olympians, a religion that worships the 12 Gods of Olympus up to present) to be the father of many Greek epic heroes, like Hercules.
I felt a bit sad, though, to see the monuments being not so well-preserved and some of them had even been sprayed by graffiti as if they were posters on a wall. Anyway, it was a terrific feeling to see all those ancient monuments from so close, given their history. My dream was finally getting flesh and bones and I felt the chill all inside me.
As we were a bit hungry (Was it already lunch time? My God, time is flying when you are living in a fantasy!), Stella showed us around some great traditional restaurants in Plaka, a part of Athens that kept the old-styled buildings and was turned into a stone paved area, where you could walk all through it without getting annoyed by any car or disturbing noise. We all sat at Mparba Giannis’ «taverna» (that is how Greeks call their traditional restaurants-See? I am learning some Greek already!), and had the most delicious tas-kebap meat with yoghurt dressing. Toasted bread with a few drops of olive oil and oregano tasted so well that we ordered a second round and the Greek salad with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onions, olive oil and olives was so juicy and refreshing. I was already close to all of the other group members and I found out that me, Patricia, Robert and Kahul had so much in common and so much fun together.
After finishing our lunch, which was actually dinner to me, we drove over to Monastiraki which is a place were a lot of artisans sell their handmade products and there are also many shops that sell
antiques in really affordable prices. They were all so friendly and nice and I couldn’t make up my mind as to which wooden bracelet should I get my sister, so I asked Patricia to help me out. I was so happy to speak to local people and try to communicate with them that it actually felt like a whole day has passed within a glimpse. When we returned to the hotel we were so beaten down, but overwhelmingly satisfied with our first day in Greece.
DAYS 2-3: SYROS
The next morning found us in great spirits and we were all telling jokes and teasing each other. Robert was a bit late as he had forgotten where he had put his glasses, which were actually on top of his head all along!!!Gosh, this is so much fun! After having a rich breakfast that had practically everything, Stella told us to get ready and head for Piraeus port. The sun was again bright in the sky and I kept hearing birds singing ever since I opened my eyes. Our hotel was located in a nice and quiet area of Athens, where you had the feeling you where somewhere in the countryside and that was simply amazing. I believe it could be the perfect place for writers or artists to inspire and relax. Anyway, our voyage with the scenic ferry was greatly enjoyable. I could actually see dolphins jumping all around us, like they wanted to escort us to Syros. How cute!
After a short while (once again, time flies!) Syros appeared in front of our eyes and made our hearts stop. Amazing scenery and beautiful small villages with red rooftops right in the heart of green forests was the first we saw. Boy, we were going to spend the next 2 days in that island and we were all anxious to walk through it and discover its hidden secrets! Abandoned mills, stone-paved tracks, unknown paths through the forests that lead to fantastic places with crystal-water springs and open areas where green grass and all nature’s colors dominated, is what we kept seeing from the minute we set off for our island-exploration. I was so happy to walk in land that very few have stepped on and Kahul was so thrilled that he was like a small boy given a candy! Such a nice feeling to be in nature with people that take gratitude for all the things we were gifted by God, gods or any other supreme force each one of us believed in. All the differences in race, religion, beliefs had vanished long ago and now we were just a bunch of life-seekers and that was amazing.
We had our lunch packed from before as we knew that we would be spending almost all of our time out in the open, so around noon we sat down in a place that was created by wood (wooden chairs and big round tables) for hikers to sit and have a barbeque or a small stop. Of course there was a spring right in the middle of the area that let water run freely from the mountain tops. We had our lunch and enjoyed each other’s company even more as we were so relaxed and overwhelmed. On the way back, we rent bikes and visited some ancient ruins that seem to fit perfectly with the surrounding. Needless to say, the beaches were so inviting that a dive in them is something we wouldn’t miss for the world. Perfect sand beaches, cool waters that felt just the right temperature for our exciting bodies and spirits and the best thing: totally remote and far away from any touristic flood. It was like we had our very own private beaches and that we had a part of the magnificent blue of the Aegean right there on our reach.
A night, we sat at the family-run tavernas of the island, where a beautiful rhythm was tickling me to stand up and dance. I asked what it was and the locals told me it was the classic Rembetico tunes that Greeks made up while they were in slavery and wanted to express their anger and lust for freedom and rightfulness. We drunk retsina (a local alcoholic drink made of grapes) and by the end of the night and our delicious sea-food dinner, we were all dancing Rembetico holding hands in circles. (My God, wish this will never end).
We were greatly amazed by the hospitality and open-hearted locals that made us feel like home. We took pictures and videos to remember each other and the moments we spend in Syros and I bought some retsina to take back home! What an amazing 2-day experience! Thank God there is so much more to do and lots of days to live even more!
Tomorrow we would be heading for Aegean’s best and utmost party island, Mykonos, and from what we have been told by Stella we needed LOTS of sleep today, as tomorrow would be a day totally different from what we have experienced so far. The diversity of this trip is amazing and so challenging! I can’t wait till tomorrow…
DAYS 4-5 MYCONOS
I could never have believed that an island like Mykonos existed in places out of my fantasy! Little brightly white squat houses and windmills in an island right in the middle of a deep blue sea. It was like a poem! Our road to the hotel was amazing…flower-lined paths and all kinds of colors next to the road and all around us. It was a place that was showered by so much light that it amazed us! Later on, Stella told us that Apollo, who was believed to be the god that ruled the sun, named Mykonos in honor of his grandson and that is how locals justify (in a more fairy-tail-like way) the island’s bright colors and its glare. During the mornings we visited old-age churches that were very well preserved, the famous Mykonos’ windmills and relaxed our spirits by looking at the endless blue of the sky that seemed to line up with the sea’s bluish colors. I feel so free…the air is caressing my hair and that light breeze is enough to cool off anyone through a hot summer day like today. It is bizarre, though; it looks like everything in this island is so carefully planned: the wind, the sun, the colors…
As for food, Stella guided us to, perhaps, the most picturesque restaurants I had ever laid my eyes on that were in our reach, after some hiking in the stone paved trails of the island that lead to secluded beaches. We were all so calm, happy and relaxed that it was like we have not lived a life besides the last 4 days, it was like he had all forgotten our problems, our jobs, our stressful city rhythms and we were only enjoying the sun, the sea and the food of a hospitable island and the great company of some really fantastic fellows that did nothing but make your day even happier with jokes and good will.
So, once we reached the beaches in both the 2 days of our stay in Mykonos, we devoured as much sun as we could and splashed in crystal-clear waters, where you could see fish swimming all around you the moment you stepped foot in the sea. Robert was feeling more adventurous those days and swum up to the nearest rocks and found crabs, sea urchins (locals say that urchins live only where the waters are clean, so yuppie!!!) and oysters. We let the sun embrace our bodies and we had THE sunbathing of our lives! Once we felt hungry, we would walk a few steps and sat in the restaurants that were right next to the beach. Ouzo and tsipouro are two local alcoholic drinks that matched great with our fresh squids, octopus salad (with vinegar and olive oil), Greek salad (yes, we are huge funs now!), mussels cooked as “saganaki” meaning lightly fried at first and then dipped in tomato-parsley-garlic sauce, tzatziki salad (yoghurt, garlic, cucumber and olive oil all mixed up in a paste…yummy!) and fried fresh shrimps. The bread was grilled (always) and warm and after each meal the restaurant owners offered different kinds of cakes, sweets or ice-cream as a desert (free!).
Of course we went horse-riding with the most submissive horses ever and galloped all through the island and in the evenings we strolled in the streets of the island and got together with the locals and bought some great souvenirs for our way home. Oh, I almost forgot… (How could I?)…we visited a small island nearby, Delos, which was once Aegean’s religious and political centre, but was now a sacred area and was open as a tourist attraction. He had a beautiful pic-nic there under the shade of huge trees that were like reminders of old age life and historical incidents that changed History.
All was good, but NOTHING could ever have prepared us for what we witnessed once the sun set…the quiet and peaceful island would transform to the biggest party platform ever! Huge parties, bars, clubs people having the wildest fun and enjoying themselves, loud music and beats all over the island, people from all over the world joining together and singing, dancing on bars and drinking. The beaches had small fires that warmed and added a romantic note to the groups or couples next to them. People were still swimming as a means of doing something crazy after long hours of dancing and the atmosphere was so passionate and lively. A whole new world had just rolled in front of us and we certainly wouldn’t spend a second out of it. We partied all night and sung our hearts out, while we were dancing with the beats of the latest hits and older ones. How could I be missing that all those years???
Of course, if you wanted to have something more traditional and at ease, you had the choice of beautiful backstreet restaurants that offered their great food in a nice surrounding, far away from the panic of the rest of the islanders!
We felt a bit sad to leave Mykonos, but we all knew that it was something worth living but it would eventually end. But…spirits up…we still had one more island to visit and more to expect from our trip. So let’s hit the ferry and head for Santorin!
DAYS 6-8: SANTORIN
“Wow!”…is a word that can describe our impression once we laid eyes on Santorin. White houses with blue rooftops, a big white beacon on top of the cape, impressive white windmills and churches beautifully built with a style and architecture that borrowed many signs of orthodoxy, like white plain crosses on top of the churches and domed windows. There were all welcoming us and inviting us to explore each inch of this jewel of the Aegean. Well, we certainly would!
We admired the ruins of ancient Thira and rent rent scooters to cruise all the divine coastal roads. The waters were so green-blue and clear that you could actually see the bottom of the sea and it didn’t take us long before we jumped in the waters, leaving aside our scooters for a while! My God, such sense of freedom and relaxation is something my mind and body really desired and I am so dam happy I finally found a way to indulge myself to some nice living, the way I define “ nice-living”…the way I am getting it now…with all those great folks around me…
Stella was a part of the best vacation ever as she knew exactly what would please us and offered it generously to all of us and the black sand beaches were definitely a place we wanted to visit and lie down under the sun.
We have heard of the enchanting sunsets witnessed over the bay and after a long and exciting day first day we walked all the way up Oia’s hillside and there were picturesque little cafes that gave shelter and refreshing cups of coffees to all visitors that made all that effort to see the sunset. A nice Greek coffee was all we needed just before we felt the orange and reddish sunbeams say goodbye and slowly immerse behind the endless Aegean…Don’t know why…but it really WAS the most magnificent sunset I have lived to witness…people were taking pictures and couples were holding each other without saying a word as the sun was about to rest for that day… there was so much crowd around but there seem to be a strange silence that dominated the area and made our moment unique and heavenly. Wish there was a camera efficient enough to capture feelings and sensations alongside with images…
It was the 14th of August and the next day was a big celebration for the island, as it was day when locals celebrated Virgin Mary’s day and everybody was preparing the island for the big feast and festival, decorating the streets, cleaning the churches, putting flower-pots everywhere and making pies and all kinds of delicacies. It sure must be a big time fete and we had the chance to join in with the locals and help out with the preparations. I and Stella would help make the cheese pies as well as the sundaes and syrup sweets with pastry and walnuts. This nice old woman with the traditional clothes was so friendly and nice that we quickly jumped into the festive spirit and start opening the pastry leaves and adding the pie filling. We baked the pies and cut them in nice rectangular shapes so as to be more good-looking and appealing to all (was there a way THOSE pies wouldn’t be delicious-looking? NO-WAY). Robert and Kahul helped men plaster the walls of the churches and sidewalks while the others picked flowers and decorated the streets. All was set late in the evening, when the celebration started with a speech from the mayor and local music groups playing folk music, while the retsina and wine were pouring endlessly. Local artisans were selling their handicrafts and young ladies were offering people the goodies we had all helped with, people were dancing in the streets and children were laughing their hearts out while riding the carousels and train rides. The churches’ bells were ringing in happy rhythms and Christians were flooding them, lighting a candle and praying to Virgin Mary for whatever everyone was in need of, or were just thanking Her for all they had: health, house to live in, people to love and be loved by. Tomorrow we would be gone, but we had so much to remember and made so many new friends that we all felt over emotional all of a sudden…
Boy, what a beautiful and inspiring way to end our trip…
DAY 9: ATHENS
Early in the morning we departed from Santorin and our local friends came all the way to the port to bid farewell to us. It was so touching and sweet of them to do so! Our hearts were a big heavy but definitely full of precious moments that we would carry all the rest of our lives and once we arrived to Athens, Stella drove us to an area under the Acropolis, where small cafes were welcoming tourists and offering cool beverages and nicely made coffees of all kinds. We ordered some toasts and sandwiches and after sipping our coffees in the slowest paces we could, as if we wanted to prologue our stay a bit longer, we head for the airport, to catch our flight back home….
Now I am back home…I do know for sure that this dream of mine that came true, thanks to Intrepid, was something that made my life worth living….
An Overview of Intrepid Travel
Intrepid Travel is an adventure travel company. They do trips all over the world to every continent, including Antarctica. They do everything from trekking Inca Trail, to volcano trips to Arctic Cruising to exploring the beaches of Costa Rica. They do it all.
Very good trips and well organized company.The trips are small group, so your max size of group might be 12 people or so. This company supports the local economy. By this you often stay at local hotels/hostels etc. Most are local businesses, so no Holiday Inn’s people.
The transport is done with 3rd party companies of a local area as well. Usually really good. Your trip Leader is someone from the local area, such as if you go to Brazil, your trip leader might be from Brazil.
For meals, no dinners are included, which is good, then you can explore options and take in local place to eat. Your trip leader sometimes will take you to a place to eat that is nice and less touristy and more local food.
Overall my opinions, this was a great company to travel with. I would travel with them again. The organization was really good. I like having a small group to be with over a larger group, you move along faster.
Accomodations, vary, I have to say good locations. As I did the budget trips, so places were not of high luxury but clean and had running water. Always had good bed to sleep in.
The trips themselves were very good and awesome places to see. You also get lots of free time in each destination, so you never miss out on anything.
I would do more trips with this company. As It is now my way of travel. I hope to see the whole world with this company and I recommend everyone out there to check out Intrepid Travel.
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