Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Greece et al.

Up with the sun and slid the key under the camp office door. Got the 7:22am train to Napoli and then a 6 hour train to Bari, Italy which is the ferry port. Along the way I lucked out and had the train compartment to myself 90 percent of the way so I was able to stretch out, but could only take a short nap. Upon arrival in Bari I partnered up with Henatta (Portugal) and we walked together to the port about 2 miles away. She had a Eurail pass and got a ticket for 6 euros. I didn't and paid 65 euros. Had some time to kill so I went into town and saw Henatta having a beer so I joined her and to get some food for the trip we waited till perhaps the smallest market in the world opened up. The both of us could barely fit inside, maybe 100 sq. feet!Once on the boat I invited a girl who I suspected was American by her dress to join me for a drink. Danielle, studying Greek in Greece. But apparently not very well. Talked some of the night away and though we were do to arrive in Igoumenitsa Port at 7:30am pulled into Corfu at that time. I didn't even realize we were pulling into Corfu! Once we got there Danielle(she luckily knew where the bus station was) and I walked about 3 miles to get bus tickets. The bus was packed, but I finally made it to Athens. Then it really hit home what it's like to be illiterate! Different language, different alphabet! IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME!!!!:)No internet around so I headed to Onomia Sq. since I read that there were hostels in that area. While waiting for the bus I met a Portaguese guy who said he had found a good cheap place to stay in Onomia Sq. so I said I'd check it out. It was decent enough so I paid for the night and we went out for a beer. My spidy sense was tingling though. We were chillin and he told me his brother had a place in Frankfurt I could crash at when I get there. Tingle. He had two cell phones and offered me one. Tingle, Tingle! He puts some money on the table to cover the beer and goes to an ATM for more cash. Then comes back and tells me his card got eaten by the machine. TINGLE, RED FLAGS, BELLS, WHISTLES!!! We headed back to the hotel I went straight to the internet and booked a hostel elsewhere. I don't trust this guy as far as I could throw him! After watching the young local kids playing soccer in the square at nearly midnight?? I went back and fell asleep.Next morning I up and bailing for Zorbas Hotel up the street a bit. Later in the afternoon I went for a stroll down to the Acropolis area to see what there is to see. Took pics of the Acropolis, Panthenon, some Ruins, the Ancient Agora, Socrates' Jail, a monument of the hill and some great views of the city from Mars Hill. Wow, I just saw most of what I wanted to see in a few hours!! I have to say it was a thrill to walk along the same trails that Plato and Socrates had tread 2500 years ago. Strolled a little ways and took some pics of Zeus' Temple and then it happened. Local guys greets me, "Have a beer with me. Ok, one." Get to a bar, order a beer and a hot girl sits down next to me and starts chatting. There goes my Spidy Sense again. "Would you like to buy me a drink?" NO. "But they're only 10 euros!!! F**king theives!! I put up a wall, finished my drink and left. Oh well, it's a 10 Euro lesson in international finance:) I happy to work off some negative Karma, but it's sort of sad to see a group of others accrue so much of it. Each his own path. I then went back to the hotel and warned my roomates (Patrick&Mark bros from Oklahoma/Rob from down under) of the scam. Rob shows me his travel book warning of the scenario verbatim. Too late!The next morning I climbed up Leviticus Hill to check out what I thought was an ancient amphitheatre, but turned out to be made of fiberglass seating. Not very Ancient. But there was a nice whitewashed church and a great view of Athens. Higher than the Acropolis and 360 degrees. Hiked down a took some pics of Parliament and outside is the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. Two soldiers posted who occasionally do this funny high step kick march. Checked out a park and bought a pair of liteweight zipoff pant/shorts as well a pair of hair clippers because I'm getting a little shaggy. Capped of the night with some nice Santorini wine.Next day I got a few emails from fellow travelers. Ineke says she wants to kill me for suggesting the tough route in Cinque Terre (Actually she liked it very much). Amy&Kate jumped from a plane in Switzerland. I think they had parachutes though:) I'm taking the 10pm ferry to Ios island and have a bunch of time to kill so walked from Athens to the Piraeus Port (8 miles), I eat, walk, chill in a park, read, walk some more, ate again, and walked even more. All in all I think I did at least 10 miles(all with the pack)! I'm beat. 10:30 I'm on the ferry and I'm sure I'll be asleep before long.
Unbelievably I couldn't sleep on the ferry. Maybe I got an hours sleep. I arrived on Ios at 6 am and Matthew was there with a ride for me to Francesco's Hostel. No beds available untill 10:30 so I dropped the pack off and tried to figure out how to kill 4 hours. I Went walking around and before found some entertainment. A group of people still partying from the night before. Marion&Caroline(Ireland), Christopher&Alex(England) and Jin(???). Their drunkness help pass the time. Jin is a character out of some novel. A silly Jesus looking guy who was born in France, lived in 15 countries and speaks at least 8 languages. He got sentanced to 15 yrs in France for cultivating 265 cocoa plants. Six days in he nearly killed six inmates due at least partially to an extreme coke withdrawl (let that be a lesson kids). Got 45 days in solitaire for that. Wound up doing a year and got out. He's also a chemistry student so he cooked up his own batch of LSD. 150 hits worth of liquid. Downed like a shot!! Woke up (amazingly) ten days later in a Bulgarian forest. Remembers nothing. I'm suprised he's alive and functional. Marion is a cutie who thinks she knows me from some where. Maybe a past life? Around 9:30am they call it a night?? I head back to Francesco's and they're cleaning the rooms. Maria (Ms. Francesco) offers me a cup of coffee. I accepted a few minutes later after an older Canadian couple and Megan(San Fran) join me on the terrace. Crashed for a couple of hours and then walked 4 km down to the Mylantopus Beach (1km long)**Side note** Folks back home: don't forget to appreciate LBI. Seriously, I haven't yet come across a beach a nice as ours. Stop for a minute and think about the fact that you have 18 miles of pure white sand and a great ocean which graciously provides countless hours of fun!!! Nothing yet even compares seashore wise!!! We are blessed!OK so I spot Megan and Robin (Canada) on some beach chairs along with another dormmate, Dean(Sydney). I pull up a chair and sit in the sun. Chat it up with some cuties whom I quickly learn are "Floor Whores". Girls whose work for the clubs and basically their job is to look hot, friendly, and attract people into their respective clubs. Oh well, I'm too old for them anyway. At 5:30 there is an Ios Pool tournament @ Farout beachclub. 2 euro entry and everyone gets 3 lives. You shoot, if you miss you lose a life. Sinking the eightball gets you another life as does bearing your breasts (not fair!). Last one in gets the kitty. Back at the hostel I chilled for awhile and later on did a free welcome shot with three girls (Long Island, Chicago, L.A.). People start filling in and the American girls decide to school some Auzzies in Flip Cup. Poor Auzzies (never played), they got absolutely crushed. Lost every game!! At 11:30 they closed the bar and we all went to BlueNote. Dancing and a free shot with every drink. On the way out began talking to Chris (Chef from L.A.) and Mark (Philly). I quickly realize that Mark at only 25 is an old soul. We got philosophical at the bar, I just wish I could hear more of the conversation over the music. I decide to give him Angels & Demons (Highly recommend for you all) since it's a great blend of science, religion and spirit. I know he'll like it (confirmed by a later email). Megan loves to dance and is putting on quite the show (sober too). I, however, am not feeling the groove so I head back to the hostel. Megan comes back a few minutes later and opens up to me regarding her alcoholism and I'm happy for her that she's been sober for 3 years and doing well. We call it a night around 2am.Had a good veggie omlette w/toast at breakfast with Dean, Robin, Megan, Hope (England), & Alex(Canada). Now there really are only 2 things to do on Ios. Go to the beach during the day and party at night. So it's down to the beach for some sun and swimming and then back to the crib. The crew all debates about going to Alibabas for dinner and a movie, but in the end we decide to go to Fiesta's for great cheap food. Fed Francesco's dog "Rosie" on the way to the restaurant. I wasn't hungry, but got a delicious eggplant dip. Showered up and went to "Fun Pub", but it wasn't very fun so went mossied back up the hill and Megan scored us a free tequilla shot at Voodoo. There we say Hope and Alex who had drunk enough shots to earn a free t-shirt. It's a pretty dead night. Apparently there is a ferry strike so alot of people bailed from the island so as to not get stuck there. Cruised over to Satisfaction, but the music wasn't very satisfying. Then to Red Bull. Better crowd and better music. I was about to bust some moves, but we lost Robin&Megan and I didn't want to dance without them so I bailed around 3am and went to bed.Next day it's back to the beach. Later my mouth started watering for a pizza at Fiesta's, but everyone decided instead to go to Alibaba's for dinner and "Team America" on the big screen. Funny movie. Afterwards we hit up BlueNote and I got to break a sweat before hitting Red Bull for some more moves. Enjoyed a delicious crepe with chocolate and nuts and called it a night. Next morning we all did the usual slow wake up on the terrace, but before going to the beach Dean and I decided to check out the windmills and amphitheater. Grabbed another delicious crepe (veggie this time) and walked a steep hill to the amphitheater which must be an awesome place to see a show. (see photo). Left Dean up there and went to change for the beach. After talking to Robin, Trent, Kurt, & Ian(Oz) for awhile I hit the beach. Came back for sunset and found everyone just as I left them. They hadn't moved in like 5 hours. Lazy days in the Greek islands. Showered and finally got to appease my pizza craving. Went to catch "Chopper" (an Aussie cult classic, Roadwarriors kind of flick) at Alibaba's, but when we got there the owner Cookie says no movie due to the fact that he has some couples eating who wouldn't appreciate the Auzzie violence. But since all the Auzzies are leaving the next day he tells us to come back @ 9:30 and he'll put it on. The group splits up; we go to shower, they go to the Fun Pub. Went back for the movie, but the other half of the group never showed. So we had a beer, talked with Cookie, compared scars and were left wondering where the rest of the group were? Two hours later we meet back at the hostel. They had gone to Orange for some harder music. Bas*a*ds!! We chilled on the terrace and watched kids play drinking games. One guy obviously hadn't faired too well and tossed his cookies. Judy the bartender wasn't very happy. The following morning almost everyone except Dean is bailing. Trent&Ian for Athens, Kurt& I for Mykonos. We're on the high speed ferry but it arrives a half hour late. Pulls in only 15 minutes late and we boarded a packed bus to Paradise Beach. It's really windy here. Steady 20mph with 35mph gusts. Luckily it's an offshore wind so the beach is actually the best place to be. Seems like a cool place, but still early in the season so it's kind of slow. Later on Kurt and I are trying to get some shelter from the wind by hanging out between some bungalows. Freezing our butts off and wind up layering up, even donning my wool cap. The temperature isn't bad, but the wind is relentless. A couple of Auzzie girls join us a share their music. Emma & Beck introduce Christie and we head for the beach. Pick a table and shortly thereafter some more Auzzies join us. Then others. Texas, Boston 2 guys from NJ and others. We start putting tables together till there is about 20 of us. Chatted and turned in relatively early.
Up for the free breakfast. OJ, Coffee, croissant, 2 pcs of bread and jam. Kurt decided to check out town, but I decide there is time for that tomorrow and instead opt to hang out with the naked people on the beach (not sharing those pics :) Later on the way to the market I ran into Marion & Caroline from the first night in Ios. That night Kurt and I were hanging out when some Auzzie chick showed up. Sara, Lee and Kara. We all headed to the beach and then the drama started. First the girls brought their own booze to the beach and the bartender had apparently told them earlier they couldn't do that. They didn't take heed. The bartender spotted them pouring drinks, hopped over the bar, grabbed the bottles and poured them out right there on the beach. Pretty rude, but I guess they were warned. (apparently Kara had already been banned from the bar twice!) So we moved down the beach and Alice (Czech) and her boyfriend (Brazil) come along. Also a greek guy who Sara is throwing herself at since she just broke up with her boyfriend. We were having a good time when the drama continued. Sara's ex got piss drunk and wants to go to bed, but Sara won't give him the key. Her friend Lee gets caught in the middle and goes to talk to the Ex. Sara starts making out with the Greek. The Ex comes back 2-3 more times, poor guy. In the end, everyone's had enough and her friends turn on her and tell her to give up the key. We leave them fighting over her purse for the key. (yeah, you guessed it: the next morning they were back together, a happy lovin' couple. Go figure!!??)
Next morning Kurt and I went into town. Took some pics of the windmills and Little Venice, but other than shopping there isn't too much to see. We went back and decided to check out what Super Paradise was like. Supposedly Super Gay, but apparently they really have a good time and aren't predatory. Really windy. Got to the other side of the Cape, but no roads so no way to get down there. Anyway it looked pretty much the same as our beach. Spent the night listening to tunes on Kurt's IPod (I do regret not bringing tunes). He introduced me to some Aussie music and I made him listen to some bands he had accidently downloaded (Soundgarden, Janes, Pearl Jam, etc).
Well, the weather hasn't been so hot so it's time to move on. On the bus to the ferry the happy lovin' couple was present and they showed us pics of Sara's Atv accident. A perfectly straight road, but somehow she still managed to flip the ATV into a drainage ditch. Luckily the only damage was a broken mirror and a bruised ego. It's funny how many people you see walking around bandaged up. You can spot the scooter renters a mile a way. Kurt is heading to Athens and I'm off to Paros so we give each other Bon Voyages and board our respective ferries.
On entering the port I can see the campsites I'm planning on staying at, but a Renter won't take no for an answer. OK, I'll take a look. A short scooter ride later he's showing me a private with it's own Bathroom, a decent view and even a kitchen sink, stove and fridge. SOLD! Hit the beach 300 yards away for awhile. Went for a jog and later went out to check the nightlife, but it's still early in the season here also so it's pretty quiet. Morning: cooked up a killer veggie/cheese omelette and went out looking for some sites. The lame tourist map I got was useless so I couldn't find the sites I was looking for, but stumbled on others. Took a two hour walk up the mountain for the view and got some more beach time afterwards.
Next morning made another great breakfast (it's so nice when you get to cook up some good food) and prepped for the ferry back to Piraeus (Athens). The ferry was two hours late. Got to Athens around 10:15pm. I figure there is a slim to none chance of catching a late bus to Corfu, but I went for it anyway. Took the metro and then a 20 minute to the bus station. The first bus to Corfu is at 7:30am so I hunker down to squat for the night in the bus station. The guy in the store behind me is watching Fear Factor. Greece has me feeling a little guilty. Feels too much like a vacation. Haven't accomplished much besides a tan!
On the bus I was able to crash out hard after a sleepless night. That is until the first stop and hour into the trip when the bus driver chided me for taking up too many seats. So I scrunched up into two seats and continued to doze in and out. Got to Igoumenistu and I thought it a bit strange to take the bus onto the ferry for a 1.5 hour cruise just so it could take us 1 km to the Corfu bus station. I got on to the internet and found absolutely no availability for beds. Winging it is bound to bite you in the butt eventually. So I changed my ferry ticket to leave the next day which wss free except for a 15 euro tax charge?? Then began searching for a place to call home for the night. This proved difficult as Corfu is very developed and much of the area is gated off archelogical sites. Tried finding a beach, but the only one I found was about the size of a large sand box. Probably would have drowned in my sleep if the tide came in! Right after sunset I spotted a hill with some trees. Walked up the hill and found a lot which had recently been cleared and walked towards the trees. Damn! It's fenced off. But wait, a small section is knocked over and I can make out a trail in the fading light. Got out my mini flashlight and followed the trail. Spotted some cardboard which had obviously been someones bed and continued on a little further till I came to a clearing big enough for my tent. Managed to get the tent set up in the pitch black and gave thanks for a decent place to crash for the night. Slept like a rock! Woke up a 8am with the company of at least 20 mosquitoes. But not one bite. My theory is that eggs had been layed in Genoa and they were new borns that had just hatched due to the oxygen supplied after unpacking the tent. But then my mosquito biology is very rusty and I could be completely wrong. Had all day to kill so I went back to sleep for 2 hours. Then broke camp and spent the day people watching in the various parks and taking pics of the sites. Later catch the ferry to back to Bari to head back to Rome.....

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sorrento, Italy

Another beautiful train ride thru Italy. Lush rolling hills with olive and grape trees set off by huge ancient Roman aqueducts. Arrived in Napoli and walked around for a bit, but it seemed every bit the dump that people told me it was. So back on the train and an hour later I'm in Sorrento on the bay of Napoli. So I'm waiting on the bus to camp and start talking to three older couples from North Jersey. The bus doesn't seem to be coming so we all decide to take the alternate bus from Tasso Square a couple of blocks away. Checked into the Campground and got a 1970's caravan all to myself since it's still preseason here. Free breakfast of 2 rolls, jam/butter and coffee is included with the caravan so I woke up at 9am, ate and went back to bed before eventually making it down to the private beach. Actually it's not a beach, but cliff and rock. I laid out in the sun for a few hours and after seeing some people go for a swim I decided I would like to also. Only problem was that I wore my walking shorts instead of my baggies for some reason. Well, I was too lazy to walk all the way up the hill to change so I figured I go in the skinny. I wasn't concerned about the couples or the young ladies on the beach, but a boat with kids just anchored 20 meters away. So I waited it out till they drifted down a bit because I didn't want to bare mi kibels and bits in front of the kids! It was worth the wait. The water was perfect! Although very salty. After a refreshing dip I went for a stroll down into town. Great views here. Really spectacular!! On the way back I ran into the folks from N.Jersey again. The next morning I decided I'd check out Mt. Vesuvius and maybe Pompei. Caught the 10:30 train, but it was slow and I missed the 11:30 bus to the volcanoe. Elaine (England) and I decide to check for a local bus instead, but we are told there are no busses due to a strike. So I didn't miss the bus afterall! So a bunch of us packed into a mini-taxi (actually a mini-van) and twenty minutes later we are paying our entrance fee. All in all, I wouldn't recommend the excursion. It was rather boring, dusty and way too many insects buzzing around. The hike to the top takes about 20 minutes and when you get there, all is still. The only action is the tiniest bit of steam in one little area which you can barely make out in the pictures. Decided I was too tired to do Pompei and blew it off. Went back to camp and cooked up a huge plate of pasta in the communal kitchen and met Mark (Alabama) who was kind enough to lend me his Lonely Planet so I could research my near future (Sicily, Malta, Greece). In the end I'm very keen on Greece, less keen on Sicily: and Malta, although I'm sure is beautiful, seems too conservative and not at all cheap. So I decide I'm going straight to Greece, but since I freed up some time I think I'll stay an extra day here.Today I wake up to what will be a glorious day because I get to go to the Postale Ufficio and mail 7 lbs. of cold weather clothing back home. Ahhh! the pack feels so much better now. After some more beach time I went into town to get some travel information. Ouch!! The train leaves at 9am from Napoli which means I have to be up and out by 6am for the 7am to Napoli. Then a 6 hour train ride to Bari, Italy. Then a 12.5 hour ferry ride to Iqoumenitsa, Greece. Then another 8 hour bus ride to Athens. Oh well, gotta do what ya gotta do!Later that night after cooking up a huge plate of pasta in the communal kitchen I was sitting around digesting when it hit me that I have to pay up tonight because the office won't be open so early in the morning. Only I don't have enough cash on me so it's time for more exercise. A 3 mile roundtrip back into town. On the way down I ran AGAIN into the folks from N. Jersey! They were returning from Capri where they took an open air/single seated sky tram ride to the top and ate at a mountain top restaurant. They said they absolutely loved it. On the way back up, outside a bar watching a football game I just happened to bump into Mark (Alabama) who is my camp caravan neighbor. Sat around for a while waiting for my camera batteries to get a fresh charge and hit the hay around 2 am. Just four hours of sleep is gonna make for a hellaluva long day!

Rome- just passing thru

Made it to the campsite with just enough time to check in and make it across the road the supermercato for food. It's still early in the season and it's pretty quiet. But that's OK, I'm only here for two days to figure out were my next stop will be. I'm coming back to do Rome properly in a few weeks. The only people I met were Chelsea & Nicole (Philly) who are studying in Paris, but getting set to go back home. Another tough day at the pool working on the base tan. Find Chelsea & Nicole later that night, so we talk the night away. Apparently the wolves were circling them all night, so they were very glad for my presence. Cause I'm one big bad as* wolf. Well, at least I kept them at bay!! :) The girls warn me that Napoli (Naples) is a ghetto so I decide to skip it and head another hour south to Sorrento which is on the Bay of Napoli. On the way out I was all to happy to mail some things home that had been weighing me down via Rome's Postale Ufficio. A few pounds lighter and I'm on my way to Sorrento......