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    Trip to Crete and Athens

    Well, I have returned from my 20th wedding anniversary trip with my lovely wife to Crete and Athens the last week.

    I will skip the details and list a couple of high points.

    We grabbed a flight from Munich, and took the ferry from Piraeus, which is Athen's port. While waiting for the ship to leave on Sunday, we accidentally walked into the Arab bazaar, which is basically a 15 block long mosh pit. Once you enter, you cannot exit until you get to the end, but it was a cool experience, being often literally carried by the crowd through it.

    We arrived in Iraklio, Crete after an overnight ferry ride, in which the seas were high enough to reach past our 4th deck cabin. My wife and I didn't suffer any, and actually kind of enjoyed the experience. Once we got to Crete, we depended entirely on walking or using public transportation. Which was cool, because we really got to rub elbows with Cretans, who are awesome people, imo.

    The bus drivers, apparently, are distraught about some tragedy and apparently are suicidal, but refrain from following through at the last minute. Their driving is to be experienced to be believed, especially when you are looking at a 1000 foot gorge, hairpin turns, and very narrow roads with two lane traffic.

    We somehow arrived alive at Palais Kastro on the eastern most tip of Crete. Our goal was to find the most remote place to avoid tourist traps, and we succeeded. We had a beautiful apartment (at $50 a night) overlooking gorgeous mountains and the mediterranean. As well as lots and lots of sheep. In fact, we had two baby lambs grazing on the front yard; one of which we evidently consumed during our stay. (Okay, it was both cute AND delicious).

    We also had free run of an archeological site, a Minoan village from circa 2500 - 1500 B.C.. I was amazed that the extent of access we were allowed. We found large pieces of painted pottery lying about and were amazed at the completeness of the ruins.

    The beaches local to Palais Kastro are fantastic, are 'pebble' beaches and are generally underpopulated with tourists. Because of the winds there, the site is very popular with windsurfers.

    We walked the 8 km to the palm beach at Vai, where legend says Egyptians inadvertantly planted the beach by discarding the date pits inland. Really beautiful place, and we got to see fishermen scaring fish in their net with noisemakers.

    The food was cheap, delicious and plentiful, you just have to realize that Cretans start eating about 9 pm, and take the afternoon off from business. Lots of meat, cheese and vegetable pies, roasted lamb, and desserts to die for. They don't go into Ouzo on Crete, they drink home-brewed Raki instead.

    We reluctantly rode the bus back to Iraklio after a short 4 days in Palais Kastro. Walked around Sitia during a 2 hour layover for our next bus, where we witness a fist fight between two young men in traffic. Noone got really hurt, and the police didn't see anything wrong with it. Two old men came out and broke it up, smacking the younger men in the back of their heads and cursing at them.

    In Iraklio, a young man found EUR 300 (about $500) I had dropped, and ran after me to return it. He refused the EUR 50 I attempted to give him, and an old lady yelled at me for attempting to pay a Cretan to do the right thing.

    The ship ride back was very smooth, and we arrived rested and refreshed to Piraeus, where we got ripped off by an Athens taxi driver (which we'd been warned against, but he was slick). Our hotel in Athens was right across from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where we saw the President of the Czech Republic, a riot, and a dog fight, in that order.

    We had a day in Athens, so we hit all the big attractions. We ate in the Plaka, a wonderful district for shopping, but the food was a mild disappointment after Crete. The women were incredibly beautiful and the men were very handsome (according to my wife).

    The best part of Athens was watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb. Once you get past the different-ness of the costumes, and the odd march, it was very touching. When the military escort salutes the outgoing guard detail, I must admit that I had a serious case of "allergies" acting up, combined with a lump in the throat. A side note: A greek man we talked to assured us that the quickest way in Athens to lose teeth or sustain a skull fracture, is to attempt to interfere or mess with the guards in the execution of their duty at the memorial. They have a very tough looking soldier in battle dress who watches over the ceremonial guards and ensures noone does anything improper.

    All in all, it was a wonderful week, and while Athens is not our cup of tea, we would definitely recommend Crete as a quiet get away for those who do not need a strong nightlife and are satisfied with a pastoral relaxation and uncrowded (read abandoned) beaches.

    I'll post pictures tomorrow as I find the time.


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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    I added the pictures in my albums, if anyone is interested in checking out some pictures.


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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Sounds awesome, thanks for sharing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    a riot, and a dog fight

    Man, Vick has quite the empire doesn't he, probably in his cell running the Athens underground with his blackberry.



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Thanks for the trip summary, sounds like you had a good time. How did you plan the trip? I don't know where I'd start if I thought of taking a vacation to Crete. How about language? Did people speak English, or are you fluent in Cretan?


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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    That would be absolutely amazing lucky man


    Occam's Razor means 'With all things being equal , the simplest explanation/answer is normally the right one'


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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Happy Belated 20th!!

    As a fat man I'm always interested in food. Were there any specific dishes that you enjoyed?



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Thanks for the ideas! Now I can further encourage CycloneErik that we need to go there!



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Quote Originally Posted by isugcs View Post
    Thanks for the trip summary, sounds like you had a good time. How did you plan the trip? I don't know where I'd start if I thought of taking a vacation to Crete. How about language? Did people speak English, or are you fluent in Cretan?
    We met like three people who didn't speak English. But it would be a good idea to study a little Greek before leaving because not all signs, etc. are bilingual. We went through the Rosetta Stone curriculum before we went.

    I planned the trip entirely on-line, which ended up with a couple mistakes, imo, but overall, using Google to verify locations and whatnot, we did it extremely cost-effectively.

    The secret is to know a few things up-front. First, if at all possible, plan your trip around public transportation if at all possible. To fly directly to Iraklio is crazy expensive, but we found a $31 hop from Munich to Athens, and spent $68 for a cabin in a car ferry. The car ferries are basically cruise ships, now. What's cool about them, is that they sail overnight, which eliminates the need for a hotel room.

    We took the EUR 13.50 bus ride to the eastern tip of Crete, which gives you a good tour of the island to boot, and leaves from the port, so it's convenient. We used Google Earth in conjunction with the Crete travel sites to find a cheap, yet secluded and scenic apartment while we were there, that offered breakfast (under $50 a day). While we were there, we chose to walk, which limited our "travel", but we saw a lot more than your normal tourist.

    We ate food "on the go", shopping at normal stores, and only had one restaurant meal a day. Restaurants in Palais Kastro typically charged around EUR 5 for a meal, and you can eat the whole place for EUR 20. Key tip is to not eat on the central square or on the beach, find a "taverna" on a side road for half the price.

    The buses in Athens are cheap and run 24/7 about 15 minutes apart. Taxis are a rip-off by and large. Use Google Earth again, to find a 3 star hotel if you want a bargain. We stayed between the National Park and the Acropolis in the Plaka village in Athens for $100 and we had a 5 room suite.

    There is much more. If you're really interested IM me and I can dig up e-mails and links.


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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Tried to rep you for the thread, but I have to spread it around. Thanks for sharing the Greece experience. I hope to go sometime soon myself. Ev Haristo.



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    We met like three people who didn't speak English. But it would be a good idea to study a little Greek before leaving because not all signs, etc. are bilingual. We went through the Rosetta Stone curriculum before we went.

    What is the Rosetta Stone software like? My spouse and I are looking into the pricing of it.



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Quote Originally Posted by cyrevkah View Post
    What is the Rosetta Stone software like? My spouse and I are looking into the pricing of it.
    I've used it a bit for German and Latin. It is very good, but you have to be dedicated to use it. It doesn't use English. You learn by hearing the language and seeing the words with pictures.



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Thanks! Maybe I can talk him into it. I feel kinda left out since he knows Russian, German, Greek, and Hebrew. (The last two more reading and translating though)



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Quote Originally Posted by cyrevkah View Post
    Thanks! Maybe I can talk him into it. I feel kinda left out since he knows Russian, German, Greek, and Hebrew. (The last two more reading and translating though)
    Is he a pastor or a biblical scholar? Just with that last comment it makes sense. I am a theologian myself.



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Well, orignaly he was a History major at ISU :) He did get his Masters from a seminary though. We are currently looking to see what's next. Diffenatly a theologian!



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    Re: Trip to Crete and Athens

    Well, I have the History major, but chose the military instead of the ministry. Two different sides of the same coin, in a lot of ways.

    I hope you can talk CycloneErik into taking you there. And if you do, Mrs. Phaedrus and I wouldn't mind meeting you in Munich, if schedules mesh.


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