It is unclear to me why I have always wanted to go to Greece, so I will blame literacy. At some point in time I’m certain I read something about how awesome Greece is and decided I needed to be part of that. Same thing with Easter Island. Not sure how or why, but it came to my attention that I needed to see the moai. After looking at a map, I settled for seeing one of the moai at the Smithsonian. Easter Island is really far away and officially nothing to do there but look at rocks. (In retrospect, Greece was a bit like that, too. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
Moai of Easter Island – old rocks on barren landscape
Acropolis in Greece – old rocks on barren landscape
Anyway… When Travelzoo offered up a super cheap, ten day trip to Greece, we decided to go. Before pulling the trigger, we discussed how difficult our prior trip to the Mediterranean had been on our weak bodies and how we had vowed to never return to Europe. Then, like Mama Dugger, we forgot about the labor-esque pain involved in travel and decided to have another vacation baby. And off we went to Greece. Thanks to Obama visiting the City of Brotherly Love, we were delayed on the Philly runway for over an hour while Air Force One took off, making the flights to and from Greece over ten hours long. I believe sitting contorted in the plane realizing we had not yet left America, we still had a 10+ hour flight ahead of us, and we were already miserable was when we first realized maybe Greece wasn’t our best idea.
And so began the vacation of “Greece is… fine.” We started at Kamari Beach in Santorini, which we soon learned is the Jersey Shore of the Mediterranean: so much big hair and so many mullets; such bad teeth; so much bedazzling; so many ladies over the age of 40 buying their clothes in the juniors section; so many bad tattoos. To wit: if someone tells you that your Hello Kitty tattoo looks like a spider, probably a mistake to get that tat. But the beauty of the landscape more than made up for the questionable choices of our fellow travelers. Greece really is as pretty as a picture.
Kamari Beach, Santorini
And the food. Ahh, the food. The Greek food is SO good and it is nothing like Greek food in America. If you are eating Fage and think you are eating Greek yogurt, I am here to tell you that you are wrong. Greek yogurt is entirely different—different texture, different taste, different consistency, different weight, different everything. Well, they are both white, but that’s about where the similarities end. Greek yogurt to American Greek yogurt is like HoHos (may they rest in peace) to Swiss Rolls. The Swiss Roll is a fine food, but it will never be as wonderful as a HoHo.
Greek beer is even better. The three most common Hellenic beers–Alfa, Mythos, and Fix–are all lagers, so they taste like beer should taste. They are light, refreshing, and served ice cold. None have the consistency of cough syrup, nor do they taste like raspberries or chocolate. They are the perfect drink for sitting at a taverna by the sea and watching the world go by. We took to this routine like a local. Well, except for the smoking like a chimney part that the locals like to participate in. We are far too weak to be smokers.
It is quite possible that we found ourselves spending so much time in the tavernas because we found the Greek food, drink, and people to be so delightful; or perhaps it was because our hotel room contained a trash can full of poopy toilet paper rags that could not be flushed down the crapper. Yes, you read that correctly. In Santorini, it is customary to flush only your bodily output, not the TP used to wipe your ass. Am I the only one thinking that would have been something nice for Eugene Fodor to include in the Greece travel book I depended upon to prepare me for my Greek adventure? I’m not saying this would have kept me from going to Greece, but it certainly would have saved me from the gross out factor once I arrived. FYI: I have learned (Thanks, Beth) this is also common practice in parts of Chile, so plan your vacation to Chile accordingly.
In addition to the poop rags in a bucket thing, there were no wash cloths. I was prepared for this one, however, since it seems Americans are the only people obsessive about cleaning themselves thoroughly. At least this one is. The hotel was lovely and the room was exceptionally large for Europe, but it was impossible for us to get a good night’s sleep on the hobbit cots. Two twin beds were expected; beds the size of crib mattresses and seemingly stuffed with straw, not so much.
After three days in Santorini, including one spent doing volcano sprints to Ancient Thira because I refused to be outdone by a young lady wearing a sundress and shower shoes and carrying her purse up the side of the mountain, it was off on the ferry to Mykonos. I had done my due diligence for Mykonos and highlighted all the sites I hoped to see in my sub-par Fodor’s travel book, expecting it to take at least one full day—perhaps two—to see everything. Yeah, we were done in an hour. Hora is a very small town.
We were able to kill some time looking at a map, since in Greece a map is more of a suggestion than actual directions. So we went back to doing what we do best—eating. Mykonos is where I learned what baklava is supposed to taste like, and that ordering a beer to drink with your wine is not frowned upon. By this point we had grown accustomed to the over-sized serving portions and ridiculously cheap prices, but we were taken aback when the waiter brought us shots of ouzo at the end of our meal. You know, just because we had been there twice. When was the last time that happened in America? Yeah, never.
We drank beer with wine
Our Mykonos hotel had beds that were comfortable and, even better, there was no sign over the toilet advising that my poop rags should not be flushed. Good times! Also, there were two beautiful wash cloths on the sink when we arrived. Heaven, sheer heaven! Oddly, the second day there were no wash cloths left in the room, and when I asked at the front desk if I could have some, I was told they ‘’would see if they could find some.’’ And that was the end of the wash cloths. And the hot water.
Day three in Mykonos is when the inevitable happened: we started getting a sick. We spent the day at the pool of the hotel, since we had already seen the town—twice—and were not feeling strong enough for any additional adventures. It was a lovely and relaxing area, as long as you didn’t need to breathe. The main highway was directly on the other side of the garden wall, so the aroma of diesel filled the air. But thanks to our stuffy noggins, breathing was becoming a relative term anyway. That night, our plan to get a good night’s rest before the six-hour ferry ride to Athens the next day was kiboshed by the coked-up Asian in the room beside us, who played the TV at volume 20 while yelling at the TV at volume 40 until, around 2 am, he apparently decided to start throwing his furniture against the walls.
Hotel garden – Mykonos
Because I am a chronic over-packer, I brought cold medicine on the trip; however, I did not bring enough for two people for multiple days. Once on the ferry, I discovered that Hall’s cough drops were the only option for cold relief. It’s the ‘’put some ‘tussin on it’’ (Chris Rock; Google it.) of Greece. Sadly, my goal of catching up on my rest on the ferry was foiled by 1. A father-son duo sitting beside us and failing to use their inside voices, and 2. A group of folk singers that struck up an impromptu jam session which lasted for hours. I was torn between being grateful that I was experiencing something unique and wanting to poke everyone’s eyes out with sticks. In the end, I sat and stewed in my own evil while waiting for the Hall’s mentho-lyptus to stop my coughing fit.
Here’s something: Athens has five million people. Also, there are almost 1500 Greek islands, with only about 250 inhabited. File this under ‘’learn something new every day.’’ Unsolved mystery: Why does Mykonos hate Ibiza?
When we walked into the hotel in Athens it was lovely. It’s a four-star hotel in a nice section of the city. The staff is very attentive and welcoming. (What Henry Miller wrote about the Greeks in the 1940s is still true; they are a wonderful people.) When we left the lobby area and walked into our hotel room, we were assaulted by the stench of cigarettes, urine, and vomit. Even through our clogged heads, the place reeked like a frat house after pledge week. Since the décor was from the sixties, I’m certain the stench was older than my total bad ass husband (PTST). But at this point, we were surviving only by counting the minutes until we got to go home. So we fell face first into the biohazard beds and listened to people yell in the hallways for the rest of the night.
Our one day in Athens was spent at the Acropolis with twelve billion of our fellow travelers. It would have probably been a better choice for us to just stay in the neighborhood of the hotel and relax instead of hiking another mountain to see an old pile of rocks, but I feared I would be struck dead by Zeus if I were in Athens and did not visit the Acropolis. True to what our tour guide said, it was a magical experience. But it’s a little difficult to enjoy the magic when you are constantly being shoved and elbowed by people determined to do whatever it takes to get the perfect photo with their selfie sticks. Nontheless, you will not find a Youtube video of me shoving a selfie-stick toting idiot off the side of the cliff, but it was close.
The Acropolis is currently under renovation, so we have a lot of pictures of the Parthenon covered in scaffolding. Which is fine, since you cannot get a shot of it without the rest of the people holding selfie sticks in front of it anyway. We did get to see enough of it for my total bad ass husband (PTST) to declare the Parthenon is the original Legos. He also noted that Greece, a bankrupt country, has better roads than West Virginia. I believe this was the extent of his impressions of Greece. And then, finally, it was time to return home.
The original Legos – with a few billion selfie-stick toting tourists
In the end, the only thing really wrong with Greece was the people visiting it. Well, plus the trash; there was a lot of trash. But no bums. That was a pleasant surprise–no one asking “Braidy, lady?” or “Tic Tac, ma’am?” or “Spare some change?” or looking for a random act of kindness. Although one young gal did almost lose her hand when she offered my sick husband a ‘’free’’ rose.
Having realized the “Greece is… fine” sentiment is due mostly to our miserable souls, the world’s worst travelers have committed ourselves to a future of staycations. We are confident that our free time will be better spent at home. Well, except for the part where we are going to Niagara Falls in September. There ya go; we have learned nothing. We are idiots.