A Travellerspoint blog

Prague

World Hockey Championship!

Prague was the first little blip on our “plan as we go and don't bother double-checking” way of traveling! We got off the train, got on to the metro and then thought “hmm, did we book our hostel for tonight or tomorrow?” We forgot that we had allotted a day in between Budapest and Prague as a flex day just in case we wanted to stay in Budapest another night. Luckily, the hostel in Prague wasn't fully booked and they squeezed us in for the Monday night. We got unpacked and out the door just in time to go to a bar and watch Canada beat the home team Czechs at the world hockey championships.

The next day we wandered around and explored in the morning. We saw this weird clock go off, as it does on the hour, which drew a big crowd but was somewhat unexciting. After lunch we went on a brewery tour, which took us to various beer landmarks and told us all about Czech beer. Only one of the 3 places was actually a brewery, and it probably cost more than it was worth, but the beer tasted good and that's all that matters. We spent the night getting our signs ready for the Canada-Sweden hockey game we were going to the next day.

On Wednesday morning, we went on a free walking tour around the city. Our tour guide was awesome, really enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He took us to some important spots around the city and taught us about Prague’s run through the wars and communism. The most interesting fact that I can remember is that Hitler wanted to keep Prague intact to be his eventual summer home. He didn't burn down any of the synagogues as he was preserving them to be museums of the lost Jewish race! That night we headed across the city to the hockey arena. We met a few Canadians along the way so we went with them to a gigantic outdoor beer garden outside the stadium that was full of fans from every country. They unfortunately confiscated our 3 part CA-NA-DA sign as we went into the building, as it was apparently the cardboard was too hard and it could injure someone. Luckily we still managed to get on tv a few times! The game was a fantastic experience. We were surrounded by Swedes, which created an great competitive environment. We were a little choked when Canada went down 3-0, but the boys came back to win 6-4. Singing our national anthem at the end was absolutely awesome.

Our last day was devoted to walking up to the castle and palace that tower over Prague. The view was absolutely amazing, and the castle and palace were both beautiful. It was too expensive to go inside, so instead we bought a beer and ice cream and enjoyed the view. That night we went on a pub crawl with some Irish girls from our hostel. I tried Absinthe for the first (and last) time, only because it was free. The pub crawl took us to a couple of really cool pubs. One of them was 5 stories high and had a different theme for each floor. We spent most of our time on the top floor where they were playing some good old time rock and roll.

We flew the next morning to Croatia where we'd catch our 1 week cruise along the Adriatic coast!

Posted by geoffboulton 12:16 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Mykonos and Athens

Goodbye Greece - and Greek food!

Mykonos

We arrived in Mykonos by ferry on Monday afternoon only to find another of our friends from Santorini. We just couldn't get away from each other! This girl was actually another Vancouverite, and it was great because not only did we have someone to hang out with, we got to dump some unwanted items from our packs that she took home for us, since she was at the end of her trip. We stayed at a place called Paradise Beach in little bungalows about 100m from the water. The beach itself was really nice and it had a very cool vibe as there were a lot of young people and some good upbeat music playing. The sand was a nice tan colour, the water was a beautiful teal, and bright coloured chairs lined the beach. After chilling there on our first day, we headed into town the next day to shop and explore. It was a cool little town, with cobble stone streets and lots of small boutique shops. After grabbing lunch and walking around, we decided to head back to our beach and relax before going back to the town again later on to check out the nightlife. The nightlife was pretty good in Mykonos but we decided we were only keen to walk around and look in as opposed actually going in to the clubs. We ended up getting a midnight snack and then heading back, so we could get up in good time for our ferry.

Athens

The ferry to Athens was a good 6.5 hours, so we got there pretty late on Wednesday night. We decided to just grab some food, walk around a bit, and do most of the exploring the next day. We had an awful sleep due to a noisy hostel, and I was feeling a little ill (just kinda of groggy), so we got a bit of a late start on Thursday. We hadn't originally planned to do all the major tourist attractions in Athens, but we had the time and it had been a while since either of us had been there, so we did anyway. We first headed up to the Acropolis, which has always fascinated me. The Parthenon was in the middle of some major cosmetic surgery so it wasn't as cool as it could have been, but it was built up a lot more than it had been when I was in Athens with the rest of the Boulton clan 12 years ago. I'm torn whether I'd have preferred them to leave it untouched as opposed to restoring it. It kind of loses its ancient mystique a bit. The view from the Acropolis is pretty amazing. If Athens wasn't as ugly of a city as it is, it might have even been breathtaking! After the Acropolis we headed down to see the ancient theatre that is built into the hill, and then grabbed a bite to eat.

We then headed to the Olympic stadium that was rebuilt to its ancient form in 1896, on the site of the first stadium built 2500 years ago. It's quite a sight to see, even though we had been there before. They had a free audio guide so I know lots of facts about it now! For example, a Greek won the marathon in the first modern Olympics, which was held here in 1896 and apparently it was the best thing that has ever happened to the country! The new Olympic stadium is named after him. Even in their economic meltdown, the government managed to scrounge up $800,000 (with the help of a foundation) to buy the 6 inch cup the runner won. That's some good fiscal responsibility!

Our next stop was the changing of the guard at the parliament building and we were told it was like no other changing of the guard that we’d ever seen before, and that was very true. The Greek changing of the guard sequence looked like a gay line dance combined with the Nazi march, but in slow motion (no offence to anyone gay or German, that's just what it looked like!). The guards wore fluffy pompom like things on their shoes, white tights, and tassels hanging off their knees and their hats. Before they actually did the changing, a couple of other soldiers in more casual clothing came out and made sure they looked okay and fixed all of their imperfections. It was pretty funny.

Our last stop was the Acropolis museum, which we wish we hadn't left for last. It’s very new, and had a lot of extremely interesting artifacts pulled from the Acropolis, but we were pretty “historied” out by that point. It had been a long day so we kind of breezed through it, but what we saw was pretty amazing. On our way back we found a bar called Beer Time, which is exactly what we were thinking - and it actually had good beer! An IPA has never tasted so good after all the Mythos and Alpha lagers we’d had in Greece. We ended up sharing a pita platter with 4 different dips, dolmathes (stuffed vine leaves), olives and hot peppers. By the time we ordered another round of pita bread (okay, and maybe another beer), that snack became dinner. We spent the night playing board games in the hostel.

Before flying out on Friday, we walked around the market, did a little shopping and had one last gyro and some crappy Greek beer before leaving the country. I may have bought some people things from the market (but don't get your hopes up). As I write this, I am on a very budget friendly flight to Budapest. I'm sad to leave Greece, but I'm also happy, as I plan on never eating Greek food again!

Til next time!

Posted by geoffboulton 02:31 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

More Greek islands

Naxos and Ios

Naxos

We caught our ferry at 2 from Santorini and arrived at the island of Naxos in the late afternoon. We walked around the town, got some gelato on freshly made waffle cones (we actually watched our waffle cones being made), and grabbed a nice fresh calamari dinner. The calamari was amazing, although the rest of the meal was just meh. You knew the calamari was fresh as they had the entire squid sitting on ice as you walk into the restaurant. After dinner we headed up to this huge door monument that looked over the town. It is called the Portara and dates from around 500 BC when the then ruler of Naxos decided he wanted to build the grandest building in all of Greece. He built it on a hill with the door facing Delos, the birthplace of Apollo. A war soon broke out and the temple was never finished. It was torn down to use the marble elsewhere but the door frame was 100 feet high and too big to demolish, so it still stands today 2500 years later!
The next day we had planned to have a beach day and do more sight seeing, but there really wasn't much else to do or any other travellers around to hang out with, so on an hours’ notice we decided to get a 1pm ferry to the island of Ios. We were quite impressed with ourselves for managing to make it on time to catch the ferry!

Ios

We decided to go to IOS, because we had some time to kill and we were told it was a cool little island. Our hotel was at the top of the island where the little town was, and it was a reasonably cheap taxi down to the beach. On our first night there, we headed to the only bar open at the beach, where we ran into some friends we had met a few days before in Santorini. They ended up coming back up the hill with us to grab dinner with us and go out afterwards. Ios is famous for its nightlife, but in April… not so much. We went to a bar where if you did a certain amount of shots, they gave you a singlet (or what we call a beater, a sleeveless t-shirt). We negotiated the guy down so that we would split the shots, between me, Colby, and our Aussie friend, and each get a shirt. (We did not want to drink the number of shots required to get the shirt, only a third of that number!) The bar owner liked us so much that he hung out with us and gave us free drinks for the rest of the night. It turned out he had a Thai wife and they owned a Thai restaurant just down the road, so we went there for dinner the next day for extremely delicious food, at a nicely discounted price. It worked out to be the best kind of change up from Greek food, very tasty and flavourful. The next day, we said goodbye to our Santorini friends, but we met a girl from Maryland on the beach. Colby and I have been getting along very well on this trip, but we have had a lot of alone time together, so it is nice to continually be meeting fellow travellers! We had an early night as we had a ferry to catch to Mykonos first thing the next morning.

Posted by geoffboulton 09:46 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Santorini

Best island yet!

sunny 23 °C

We got to Santorini on Monday night at around 1am after a long 7 hour ferry ride. We went to bed right away and made sure we got up in good time the next day to get some activities in. It turns out they had free laundry, which is pretty much the best thing ever as a backpacker. So, instead of doing stuff around the Island, we spent the morning and early afternoon doing laundry and playing cribbage. We took off at around 3 for a hike from the town of Fira, where we were staying, to a town on the point of the island called Oia, where the sun sets are notoriously beatiful. It was a 3 hour hike over about 10k, and the sights were absolutely stunning. About half way through the hike, we came across a dog who decided to join us and followed us the rest of the way to Oia. We got to Oia at about 6, so we had to wait a couple hours for the sunset, which was hindered by clouds unfortunately. But the hike was well worth it, and the cloud covered sunset was still kind of cool. We got back to the hostel to actually find other people staying there! We hadn't come across many other fellow travelers since Istanbul, so this was a pleasant surprise. It was one girl's birthday so we played some drinking games and got to know everyone and then we all went out.

We designated Wednesday as a beach day. We joined a couple of other travelers we'd met the night before and took a bus to Black Beach, which is a beach with black rocky sand. We spent the day there, grabbed dinner, and then had a repeat of the night before. On Thursday, about half of our hostel friends booked a boat tour with us. It took us to the active ( well, the Greeks say it is active, but it is still dormant) volcano just off the island. It was pretty uneventful as all you could see was some sulfuric smoke coming out of the side of the mountain. It then took us to a spot just off of another island where you could jump off the boat and swim to some natural hot springs. We werent listening to the announcement so we just jumped off the top deck of the boat, and we got a good lecture from the tour guide lady (felt a lot like home LOL). Our last stop was a beach where we just sat, made some sandwiches, and had a beer. The boat dropped us off in Oia again where we actually saw a sunset! It was very beautiful. On this boat trip, we met a couple from Vancouver. It was the guy's 30th birthday, so we had to take him out for a night on the town. We pretty much repeated our routine from our first two nights, with the games and bars.

As you could tell, we had a ton of fun in Santorini. It was the highlight of our trip so far!

Posted by geoffboulton 04:18 Archived in Greece Tagged beach volcano fun santorini ferry oia fira Comments (0)

Kos and Rhodes

Our first two Greek islands.

sunny 23 °C

Kos

We got to the Greek island of Kos in the morning of April 16th and it was sure nice to get out of Turkey! We got a gyro right away and it just melted in our mouths compared to Turkish food. We actually ended up getting gyros from the same guy so many times that he started giving us free beers and shots.

Kos still had a bit of a Turkish influence, but it essentially was just a nice little beach island. On the first day, we just took some beer (and maybe some gin and Fanta!) to the beach where we read and went for a swim. It was nice and relaxing. Our second day, we rented bikes and rode down to another couple of beaches. It wasn't overly exciting, but we had seen snow just a couple days earlier, so we were not complaining. On our last day on Kos we rented an ATV and drove up into the mountains to see an ancient Byzantine castle and an even more ancient ruin called the Asklepion that is supposed to be one of the world's first known hospitals, possibly dating back to 9th century BC. We headed out that afternoon.

Rhodes

The arrival by ferry on the island of Rhodes was pretty cool because the old town and port are still protected by castle walls and an (empty) moat. Our time in Rhodes was mostly spent walking around the old town and castle, as well as attending an archaeology museum that had statues and dishes from back as far back as 5th century BC. We decided that we had had enough beach days when we were on Kos so we headed to Santorini after 2 nights.

Posted by geoffboulton 13:20 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 23) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 »