Mykonos was an unexpected treat on our itinerary.
Originally we planned to spend this time in Athens, but due
to the finals of the Premier Champions League (the largest
and most followed football league in Europe) taking place in
Athens on May 23rd, the city was in a hotel sell-out
situation. Everything was packed for miles around. So, we
decided to catch a ferry to Mykonos for two nights before
meeting our friends in Santorini, and come through Athens at
the end of our time in Greece instead.

   We went out on a limb and booked a two night stay in a
bungalow on the beach. The term “bungalow” is a tad
misleading in this case. It was more of a permanent tent…a
piece of canvas stretched across steel arcs with a cot inside.
But, it was right on Paraga Beach, and because we were
there in May, we had the grounds to ourselves.
Our luxurious bungalow on Mykonos Island
    Hora, which is the capital and port of Mykonos, is a fun place to spend a
day. The maze of whitewashed buildings are adorned with lush bougainvillea,
and you can find every shop, from Timberland to Dolce and Gabbana, here.
Thankfully there are enough local artisan shops not to make this too
obnoxious. The other thing you can find in abundance in Hora are cruise
ships. As Jarrod and I enjoyed our first authentic Greek lunch we noticed that
most everyone else coming into the restaurant had a small, round sticker on
their shirt with a number on it. They came in different sizes and colors (the
stickers, not the people. But come to think of it, the people too). We quickly
realized this was to help them remember which water taxi to take back to
their ship, so that they wouldn’t end up on the wrong cruise ship. After (and
due to) finishing our second bottle of wine, Jarrod and I put together a
scheme to switch everyone’s stickers when they weren’t paying attention.
Lucky for the cruise-goers there was a gelato stand nearby and I was
distracted before putting this plan into action.

   Besides walking the streets of Hora, we spent our time at Paraga Beach
enjoying the sunsets and even smoking a couple of Cuban cigars.  The
mosquitoes buzzing around our heads and the tiny crab that crawled out of
the ocean onto the sand were our only company.
Bougainvillea adorning the buildings of

  We took the ferry from Mykonos to Santorini the
next day. Arriving by boat to Santorini is the only way
to do it. The magnificence of the island from the ocean
is breathtaking. Much of the island is built on the
caldera of a now submerged volcano. A caldera is the
hole in the middle of a volcano. Therefore, what you
see emerging from the water are the steep, sheer,
precipitous walls of the caldera. At the very top of
these cliffs sit the towns of Santorini. The sparkling
white of the buildings is a brilliant contrast to the dark
caldera. It looks like God delicately poured the town
onto the very top of these cliffs from a pitcher, and
they spread perfectly to the very edge.

  We stayed in Oia at a lovely place called “Oia
Sunset Apartments”, owned by the ever-charming
The town of Oia on Santorini Island
Panos. For those of you who know Mike Stanga, we think we have
found his Greek sidekick. Panos is a master storyteller and joker,
whether talking about the little old men from his hometown who
ride donkeys while talking on a cell phone, or poking fun at
Americans who call to inquire if his rooms are spacious enough for
them to do yoga.

   It was a treat to be joined in Santorini by four of our friends from
back home. Goodbye to making nutella and jelly sandwiches for
lunch, hello to freshly grilled seafood at a seaside restaurant! We
treated our time in Santorini and Crete more as a vacation than
part of our extended budget travel, and it was a welcome change.
Despite the rain, Greg Hollie, Matt, Kelly, Jarrod and I had a great
time in Santorini. Oia is famous for its beautiful sunsets, and people
come for miles around to see it. We made good use of Greg and
Hollie’s hotel balcony, as it afforded a spectacular view of the
setting sun. We also trucked it down the 300 steps to Ammoudi, a
tiny port dotted with brightly colored fishing boats and lined with
tavernas. Each taverna had a large charcoal grill along the water.
Under the grill were buckets of fresh seafood, from lobster to
grouper, just waiting to be grilled to order.

   One thing to know if you ever go to Oia…there are a lot of dogs.
And where there are dogs, there is dog poop. Unfortunately it is
everywhere on the charming streets of Oia. By the end of our first
full day, Matt implemented an auditory warning sound, which was
mandatory for the lead person of our group to use. The sound was
a loud “Woop!”, followed by pointing to the location of the offending
pile. The tactic was so successful, and hilarious, that we are sure
some of the locals are carrying on the tradition. It may even be
included in the next edition of Lonely Planet: Greece.
Windmills dot the horizon of Oia in Santorini
One of the many, many dogs in Oia, Santorini

   Crete is one of the largest Greek islands, and certainly has one of the most interesting histories. The city we
visited, Hania, was originally inhabited by the ancient Minoans. Then, it came under Venetian control in the 13th
century. This influence is particularly evident in the cobblestone alleys that permeate Hania from its large harbor.
Jarrod and I commented often how Hania reminded us of certain places we visited in Italy, such as Venice or the
villages of Cinque Terre. Then, in 1645 the Turks overtook the Venetians and ruled Crete. Still today, as a Greek
island, there are two separate areas of Hania-a Venetian neighborhood and a Turkish neighborhood.
    The island is beautiful and diverse. The interior
boasts staggering mountains bisected by gorges. We
tried to hike the Samaria Gorge, but once again the
threat of rain altered our plans. Instead we rented a
van and spent the morning at the beach and the
afternoon at a tiny village located on one of the interior
mountains. Most of our time in Hania was spent
wandering around the charming shops and eating and
drinking at the local restaurants. We spent an entire
afternoon searching for the most delicious and
authentic gyro in town. We asked a few locals, who
pointed us to the touristy places mentioned in our
guidebook. This was not what we were after. We
continued to search. As we grew hungrier and hungrier,
we broke into a rendition of the song “I Need a Hero”.
You know the one. Get it? Hero…Gyro? Anyway, we
finally spoke to someone who let us in on where the
locals go. Soon afterwards the six of us sat around a
small table at a place called “Time Out” eating the most
The waterfront of Hania on Crete Island
delicious pork gyro, oozing with tomatoes, onions, French fries and sauce. You can be assured they were good
because it was the only time our entire group was quiet, as we were too intent on savoring the gyro to speak.
return to greece overview           next greece journal >
Island Life
Oia, Santorini