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Greece

One day Cruise of Greek Islands

Hydra, Poros and Aegina Islands

overcast 58 °F

Curt overheard a guy talking about a cruise to a few islands while at the Acropolis so we checked it out at our hotel and signed up for a one day cruise to the islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina for 95 euro each. The bus picked us up at our hotel and 20 minutes later deposited us at the Pireaus Port where the boat was waiting. Of course today was cloudy and looked quite ominous. We were sports though and chose seats outside at the front of the boat. Our first island was over 2 hours away so Curt got a couple beers with peanuts and we settled in to chat and check out the scenery. The sun did eventually come out a bit on the route and we were able to shed some of our jackets.
Greek_Islands_083.jpgThe first stop was Hydra which also ended being our favorite. The timeline was 50 minutes on the island to check out the shops or do whatever. Catherine and I got suckered in by the donkeys that were waiting in the port to take tourists on a 15 minute ride thru the town. There were only two available so Curt let Catherine and I go and walked alongside taking photos. It was the most touristy but best thing we did all day. The poor donkeys plod thru the town with white buildings, blue windows and beautiful flowers. Otherwise the port is a sleepy little town which would be great for hiding away and relaxing. In the past, the crescent shape was used by the pirates as protection from the elements. I got a watercolor painting from a man who is a big player in Grecian art as a souveneir. Greek_Islands_048.jpgGreek_Islands_075__2_.jpgGreek_Islands_087.jpg
After boarding the boat it was lunchtime. Once it was clear where the seating was, we ended up with a guy and his parents who also happened to be celebrating his return from Iraq. He was also stationed in Germany and had just done the marathon. All drinks were extra and we had a hard time getting a carafe of free water. Lunch was some sort of pasta square for appetizer and the meatballs with vegetables for the main course. Desert was a small cup of cake covered with whipped cream. It was rather like a cafeteria lunch. Curt and I then made the mistake of ordering the coffee and tea thinking surely that came with the meal – not so much – later we got charged 4 euro and the waiter reminded us nothing in this life is free!
After an hour or so the ship stopped at Poros which was a 30 minute stop. Curt got a sweater in one of the shops and Catherine and I hiked up to a church tower but there was a fence around it which kind of ruined the photo op. There was a dog on top that Cat tried to give some granola bar but of course he didn’t want it. We raced back down the stairs and on to the boat. Greek_Islands_108.jpg
The next stop was another hour or so away and was the largest – Aegina. There were optional tours for 22 and 24 extra euros but we chose to just stroll and shop. The pistaccio is famous on this island and very fresh. Curt got some and I got a coconut stick with pistachio that tasted like an almond joy. Both were delicious. I think we were pretty much shopped out on the same souveneirs so after a walk down the main street – most of which was closed – we ended in a coffee shop. The place was one of those with large pillows and couch chairs. I got tea and donuts with honey, curt got Greek coffee and Catherine got hot chocolate. Unfortunately by the time it arrived it was nearly time to get on our boat. Curt managed to get to-go cups so we could finish on the boat.
The ride back was long since it was dark and not much to look at. There was a show downstairs but no seats were left. At the port we got back on a bus and were dropped off at our hotel. After a quick bathroom stop we headed to the Plaka again for dinner at the Hermian.
This ended up being our favorite dinner. The waiter was fantastic and set us up outside next to a warmer. We shared a carafe of white wine and grilled feta along with bread. I got good old spaghetti Bolognese and Curt had Kabap and his new favorite Mousaka. There ended up being two long tables full of Egyptian men next to us which had a singer with a guitar playing for them. It was odd to see such a huge group of only men together – not to mention the make up wearing guitar player. He did sing a song from Elvis which was great. By the end the men were out of their seats dancing together – WOAH! Weird but interesting how different the world is. We walked back to our hotel happy with our final meal and another great trip!

Posted by ErinDriver 00:11 Archived in Greece Tagged cruises Comments (1)

Marathon to Athens, Greece

2008 Athens Marathon

overcast 60 °F

Race Day!! Today comes the end of our three marathons in 6 weeks-marathon! Wake up was early at 0500 in order to have the continental breakfast and get to the buses. Apostolos tours coordinated so we could have breakfast at the hotel early and then walk the couple blocks to the Olympic stadium where the buses picked us up to take us to Marathon and the start of the race. The buses went from 0600 to 0700 and we hit one at about 0615. The ride was 45 minutes and made us all sleepy. It was chilly and windy so we walked around the start area with trash bags on. It suprising the difference they make. The race didn’t start until 0900 so there was a lot of time for stretching, petting stray dogs and talking. There was a flame there like at the Olympics and a small rock that was along the route of the very first marathon.
The start was at a dinky stadium that was where the very first Olympics were held in 1896 which did not include a marathon.
Near the start we chatted with a woman from boston but lives in Athens. She had done the race before and told us that it was slight inclines a lot but you didn’t realize you were going up hill. She also stated that after 30K it was all down hill. If we would have seen her after the race we would have choked her out!
The race had about 5000 runners so we made it to the start line in 3 minutes after the gun. The videos of the start are awesome because they show a dog starting with the runners!
The first 5K were nice and flat and we ran around the tomb of the fallen Athenians. I’m not sure what it was though because there seemed to be just a mound of earth in the center that was overgrown with weeds. The announcer said we would run thru 17 small towns but regardless there did not seem to be a lot to look at. This race didn’t have all the bands or crowds cheering so my ipod came out early. After the 5K the inclines started and didn’t stop until somewhere around 32K. And then it was flat with an occasional uphill. They were in fact slight inclines but I was still knowledgable that I was going uphill.
There were the dressed up runners as well – one guy running in armor like a greek warrior. It was not plastic and he looked like he was struggling. Then there was the girl wearing a long white Grecian dress that passed me at the end! There was one water stop that had coke which gets extra points but other than that the race was very difficult with lots of uphill. Athens_013.jpg
Eventually I finished around 4:38 in the original Olympic stadium. Catherine said there was a dog that also finished a couple of times. There wasn’t much time spent in the stadium though – you got your medal, a blanket, water and were shuffled out. I met up with Curt by the “weepy tree” (he finished in 4:35) and we rested for a minute before getting our photo taken with the Acropolis behind us.
There wasn’t much of a party at the end so shortly after we headed back to the room to rest and shower. Catherine was headed after a wool sweater with a fleece lining which sounded warm for german weather so we dragged our tired bodies thru the plaka to the store but didn’t find one to suit us.
After another rest we went to a so-so dinner at the Plaka. I had chicken souvlaki and sprite to try and rest my irritated stomach. Curt got mousaka and some greek meatballs that were tasty. This was about all we could handle for today so we headed home to try and rest our legs.

Posted by ErinDriver 23:47 Archived in Greece Tagged events Comments (0)

Athens, Greece

Day 2 - The Acropolis

semi-overcast 60 °F

Morning came a bit later today but really for us it was on time since Greece is an hour ahead of Germany. Breakfast came with the tour and was a decent spread of eggs, omelets, Greek cakes, the traditional European bread, cheese and meat as well as cereal and fruit. I was able to take in enough calories to last me into the late afternoon :)

A tour started at 1030 and nothing much happened before that time. Our guide took us to the Olympic stadium where the buses will pick us up the next day to take us to the start of the marathon. The next stop was Syntagma square, which is the main square in Athens, then back past the Placa to the entrance of the Acropolis. Entry was not included so that was another 12 euro each. A good 2 hours were spent walking around the ruins and taking every variety of photo possible. Unfortunately most of the Parthenon was covered in scaffolding so all those great photos you see won’t be possible today. Luckily the rain that was promised did not come. Athens_105.jpg

Directly outside the Acropolis is the Plaka where the rest of the day was spent shopping. The Plaka is a neighborhood filled with shops and tavernas. One of the first stores Curt and I got a vase that is an exact replica of a vase made in 500 BC. I also got a sugar bowl for my tea, a tile for our kitchen collection, a couple of Greek key bracelets and that stand for eternity, a ring for Curt and an Acropolis charm for my marathon bracelet. By 1400 we hit the gyro stand and I got chicken while Curt had pork. They really were really tasty and cheap!

Catherine and I love all the animals in Athens but it is a rather sad story. People get these animals then realize they can’t keep them and just “release” them into the city. There are tons of stray dogs and cats everywhere – the good news is they are all a big chunky! :)Athens_074.jpgAthens_111.jpg

Curt got a frappe drink which is like a cold coffee and I got tea but ended up drinking it in the room. Apparently cafes charge a sort of “rental fee” for a chair in their seating area so separate prices and menus apply for take away versus a sit down cup.

Dinner was a pasta dinner at the hotel so we could get info for the race and our packets. The pasta was salad with spaghetti noodles and either marinara, Bolognese or carbonara sauce. Our goodie bags were given out with a great assortment of magazines, a towel, a mouse pad and pen with the Athens logo. It was one of the best we have seen in our previous four. Organizing all our running gear took the rest of the night.Athens_005.jpgAthens_072.jpgDSC04470.jpgDSC04476.jpg

Posted by ErinDriver 23:24 Archived in Greece Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Athens, Greece

Day 1

sunny 65 °F

The running team (Catherine, Curt and I) got off to a bit of a rocky start with our drive to the nurnberg airport. The easy regular route was blocked off by a road sign so the drive around town took slightly longer than expected. There was still enough time to grab and pretzel with cheese and what seemed like tuna baked in. A short hop found us in Zurich for an hour and then on to Athens via Swiss International. I received the best plane food ever in a little pita pocket with Italian chicken…and of course the Swiss chocolate.
The plane set down around 1700 and there was really no lines or waiting at the airport. Immediately thru the gates we were picked up by the Apostolos Greek Tours and escorted to our hotel in a taxi. The hotel is gorgeous and rightly so as a five star – The Royal Olympic. One of the Apostolos workers recommended a dinner at the plaka and watching the changing of the guard at the Syntagma Station.
Our route to the Plaka led us past the marathon expo so we did a quick detour. There was nothing much of mention there.
The Plaka is basically an area filled with shops and restaurants where we located a place for dinner. Trepina had some nice outdoor seating with a heating lamp and gardens. I had mousaka and Curt had chicken slovaki with rice. Catherine ordered us some ouzo which tastes like black licorice. For some reason ours was very cloudy white – not sure why all the others you see looks clear???
After dinner we strolled back to Parliament to watch the changing of the guards. It appears like there are two guards at their tomb of the unknown soldier. The soldiers are chosen because they are the same height/weight and are willing to wear the pom-pom shoes :)DSC04329.jpgDSC04325.jpg

Posted by ErinDriver 22:44 Archived in Greece Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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