Sunday, October 28, 2012

Santorini ~ Pension George ~ Greece

Pension George in Karterados on the island of Santorini welcomes us.

The entrance is covered with bright pink bougainvillea plants
Pension George in Karterados, Santorini, Greece
Our stay in Santorini was to be over a week and we were looking for a nice hotel to be comfortable in.  Our friends suggested a place they’d stayed at during their visit fifteen years ago.  We found the webpage and Pension George was still in business so we began the booking process.  It was easy, so reasonably priced and their response to our email was immediate. 
This is a streetlevel walkway that  leads to the upper level of Pension George
Entrance to the top level of Pension George
Pension George is in Karterados, which is a good 15 minute walk from Fira, the main town in Santorini. There is bus service on the main road, a ten minute walk away, which we used if we were going a farther distance than Fira but we did get plenty of daily exercise.  There are lots of quads and scooters for rent which are a popular mode of transportation on the island. 
The pool and lounge chairs await the guests
Pension George pool in Karterados
There was a sparkling blue pool right outside our door that was cleaned every morning although we didn’t see a lot of swimmers in there. Our room was right in the corner behind the fragrant bushes and offered us privacy plus a view of the pool and flowers right outside our patio. 
Photo is taken through a portal beside the pool area at Pension George
View of the quiet pool
We did see some visitors laying on the lounge chairs doing some afternoon reading in the sun at times.  A great place to have some relaxation on this sunny island in Greece.
Clothes lines are filled with drying laundry every day
Laundry dries outdoors at Pension George
Speaking of clean, this is a rare sight anywhere these days, let alone at a hotel.  The crisp white towels and bedding are hung outside to dry.  
The decorated bed and the door leading to the patio looking at the pool
Room with a view at Pension George
George, the owner met us at the airport and delivered us and our bags to our room after a short drive.  They had a welcome basket for us and a comfortable room to stay in that even had some flowers and towel sculptures decorating our bed when we arrived.  
Private patio with a pool view
Poolside patio in Pension George
We had our own private patio with lots of privacy from the pool, where we would sit at the end of our day and talk about the great places we had visited. We even had a friendly local cat have a few visits with us curled up on my lap, which I enjoyed but it did make me miss our pets Tango and Maggie back home.
The entrance is lit at night with a welcoming setting.
Outdoor dining lounge at Pension George
We found a few small eating places right in Karterado where we enjoyed having our dinners at.  They were all within a few minutes walk from Pension George and served delicious food that was also very reasonably priced. This photo is the entrance patio at Pension George after dark which is also used for breakfast sittings and welcomed us when we arrived after dinner.

Sometimes a webpage can be deceiving when one is online shopping but that wasn’t the case for Pension George, (click here for their webpage).  This is an immaculate small hotel, called a pension in Greece that offers breakfast and with added peace and quiet at its best.  I would highly recommend a visit to see George and his wife Helen, they are wonderful hosts for your visit to Santorini, Greece.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Santorini ~ Fira ~ Greece

Greece has always been a place we wanted to see but that was as far as it went until summer of 2011.  We’d not had any other place in mind other than Athens until the planning stages had begun, we had friends visit and enjoy Santorini so decided we would add that to the visit.  In October we arrived in Santorini and loved every moment we were there.

We fly into Santorini from Athens and see the blue sky meets the blue water and islands dot the sea
Islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean  Sea
The island of Santorini, known officially as Thira is one of hundreds of islands that make up the country of Greece in the Aegean Sea and is also the southern most island of the Cyclades.  It is a major tourist destination and is easily accessible by most modes of travel.  We flew in on a lovely warm and sunny day and were greeted by the host of our hotel, making our arrival to this wonderful place so easy.
We can see the epicentre of the dormant volcano from Fira
View of the Caldera from Fira
Santorini, with a population of about 13,000, is home to what was said to be the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.  The west coast overlooks the caldera, the epicenter of that eruption and offers some great views to enjoy. 
An old rowboat sits atop the roof overlooking the water
Santorini Caldera with  view of Thirasia in distance
The island had once been more of a circle shape but with the damage done by the eruptions, there is now a bay of water with the center of the dormant volcano sitting in the middle, a tourist attraction that I will share later.
All sizes of ship sit in the harbour below Fira in Santorini
Cruise ships fill the Santorini Bay
The cruise ships often fill the caldera, bringing thousands of people to visit for the day, but we always found a seat in our favorite restaurant to eat our lunch and enjoy the view. This is a busy location for visiting cruise ships but we did not find it to be a problem; this little town is very prepared to welcome all their visitors with ease.
We can see most of the caldera from our restaurant location
View of the caldera from the restaurant
There was a tram used for the ride to and from the port, unless one preferred to walk or take a donkey ride up.  The cables are for the tram, a very steep ride that was not the least bit tempting for me to use but the donkey ride looks like an experience one should try while in Greece!
A view of Fira, a town on Santorini island
Fira on island of Santorini
Fira is the main town in Santorini and is where we spent much of our time for our daily walks and just enjoying the sights of this little town. It sits on the steep lava cliffs and has more steps and stairs than we could count.  Once we are in the heart of the town, there are no cars or vehicles, only foot and donkey traffic.
We look up at the buildings that are built on the steep incline
Cliffside dwellings in Fira, Santorini
The slope of the cliffs is almost straight up and down in places but that did not prevent construction and this photo shows how steep the grade is but offers great views for everyone.  Many buildings are built into the rock so are a narrow width but deep in length.
Shops line the steps of Fira
Shops in Fira, Santorini
The many souvenier shops have much to offer for the visitors but they’re not out there trying to call you inside to do some shopping.  The restaurants seem to do a bit of this but for the most part it is done nicely and meant to welcome us in, which it does and the service is great. Most locals spoke English so we had no problems with the language.
The steps that lead up through Fira are numbered, showing #574 plus.
The steps of Fira, Santorini
This photo will give you an idea that there were hundreds of steps just on this one ascent/descent, but there were stairs all over the town.  It would be enough daily exercise just to go out and do one’s shopping business for the day with all those stairs to climb. 
different kinds of doors in Fira, Santorini
Doors of Santorini
There are homes and businesses lining the walks that we used.  The doorways that lead to the homes are made to offer privacy and is used rather than a gate to enter a courtyard. The threshold with a door leading to a business is usually open but it just seems strange to go through a door into open air rather than be inside a building.
The band leads the crowd down the street
Bagpipes and drummers lead the crowd
We heard the music before we saw there were men with a bagpipe and drums that were passing nearby.  The crowds were following them and it made it impossible to get a great picture but at least I was able to get the bagpipe, tucked under his arm.  As it turns out the bagpipe was first invented by the Greeks, not the Scots who have the ones we are more familiar with.
The donkeys are waiting till their turn to carry tourists up the steps
Donkeys line the steps in Fira, Santorini
It seems that it is only right to take a donkey ride while in Greece.  This is a popular event, if the number of donkeys seen is any indication.  They were everywhere there may be some tourists but seemed to be well cared for and even though the donkeys used the same walks through town that we used, there was rarely any mess seen. 
Blue gate and pots at the entrance of the cafe
Cafe entrance overlooking the caldera in Santorini
This tranquil sight is just one of so many in this town on Santorini.  We felt we’d gone back in time to a simple life, an era that was different before all the hustle and bustle that we know today.  The comforts were here but time seemed to have stood still in Santorini.  We were taking the time to enjoy the views, what a wonderful life we have! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Athens ~ Theatre of Dionysos ~ Plaka ~ Roman Agora ~ Greece

Athens, the city of Athena that makes me feel as though we are walking through an old history book as we stand among the ruins of history.  The dates that we are reading on the information boards speak about thousands of years ago, so hard to comprehend that the ruins we are looking at have been here all this time.  Back home, at best, we see things that might be a couple of hundred years old…. but I digress.  We are in Athens!
we walk down through the rows of seats leading to the stage
Acropolis ~ Theatre of Dionysos
The Acropolis has several buildings atop the hill but there are ruins on the hillside that we wander through as we make our way back down.  The path we follow, parts of which were more like a goat path, leads us down to the Theater of Dionysos, the most important building on the southern slope.
One of the very elaborate seats that was used by the priest and prominent people of Athens
The chair for the priest of Dionysos in the theatre
There were rows of seating built for the crowds but special chairs lined up on the lower level that were elaborate with the middle one reserved for the priest of Dionysos, the god to whom the theater was dedicated.  It is weather-worn but still a sight to see.
young man plays an accordian with hat on sidewalk to collect coins
Young musician at the Acropolis
We stopped for lunch after leaving the ruins, with a view of the Acropolis right above us.  As we made our way to the shopping area, we saw several gypsy families with young children who were performing.  This young boy was pretty good considering his age and was earning himself and his family some money.
Several pics of the streets we walked along while visiting the Plaka
The narrow streets of the Plaka in Athens
We walked to the nearby Plaka, a tourist oriented part of Athens which is also known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods” due to the closeness to the Acropolis.  The streets do not allow cars so it is mainly foot traffic, other than delivery vans and motor scooters and is lined with shops and eateries with lots of people.  The Plaka is a maze of narrow streets that we just followed without purpose until we found more ruins. 
Some of the ruins within the Roman Agora community
Roman Agora in Athens
The Roman Agora was a community of houses, workshops and churches and was still being used until the nineteenth century when a fire in 1884 destroyed most of it.  The fire offered the opportunity to excavate in the Roman Market and Hadrian’s Library and the excavation has been continuous ever since.
The remaining columns from the courtyard in the Roman Agora
The columns within the Roman Agora in Greece
The rectangular building was 111x98m (364x321 ft) in size opening to a courtyard surrounded by an ionic (style of architectural design) portico (porch) which had two propyla (gateways). One of the propylon known as the Gate of Athena Archegetis, was donated by Julius Caesar and Augusta and dedicated in 11/10 BC. Both propylon were made of marble from quarries near Athens, known for their beauty and quality, many marble columns are still standing today.
There are 3 photos of different ruins of the Roman Agora
Architectural examples within the ruins of the Roman Agora
Several different architectural pieces are still here and can be walked among and admired.  It is protected from intruders by high fences but open for the public’s enjoyment when you purchase a ticket at the gate.  It is amazing to still see their drainage system from that time and it doesn’t look too different from many we have these days.

The view of the Acropolis from the ruins of the Roman Agora
Looking up at the Acropolis in Athens
We are standing among the ruins of the Roman Agora, which covers about a square city block, looking up to the Acropolis which sits above the city with modern homes and buildings filling the space between us.  I wonder what locals think when they look out their kitchen window every day to see these ruins.
We are looking at the ruins that sit below the museum
Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece
The large entrance to the museum has several areas of glass flooring so one can see below where the conservation and restoration is being done to some of the ruins at the base of the Acropolis. This area shown in the photo is open and has been walled with glass that allows us a view of what will one day be available for us to walk among and learn more of how they once lived in this neighborhood.

Our time in Athens was brief but we had seen what we had come to see. For more of our time in Athens, click here and here.

We were now ready to move onto the island of Santorini to spend some time being part of the local scene there and relaxing. Stay tuned and I will soon share some Santorini sights, too. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Acropolis ~ Parthenon ~ Athens ~ Greece

There is so much ancient history within the many ruins of this city of Athens and it is hard to get our head wrapped around how far it goes back in time.  The Acropolis was considered a powerful city by 1400 BC, that is thousands of years ago and we are about to walk among those very ruins.
The first sight we have when arriving at the Acropolis
The Parthenon in Greece
We walked up the steep hill that would take us to the top of the Acropolis.  We’d passed other ruins and climbed more steps and passed through what I believe to be the restored ancient entrance, the Propylaia and there it was, it was amazing to see the Parthenon in real life!  So many things do not live up to our expectations when we actually see them, but this was not the case for me.
The view looking back to the Parthenon from another vantage point
Standing atop the Acropolis in Athens
We were here to enjoy the sights of the Acropolis and the Parthenon and that we did, marveling at the skills that had to be used to build these incredible structures.  The Parthenon was dedicated to Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom and completed in 438 BC and the tools and equipment of those days makes it hard to imagine these results.

work done on the Parthenon is to make sure the structure is secure
Restoration done to Parthenon at the Acropolis
 There is much reconstruction and restoration being done by the Greek Ministry of Culture, although we saw no one actually working while we were there.  The scaffolding shows where some of the work is being done.  When we look closely we can see new pieces that have been added to ensure stability to these massive structures.
Details of the 'maidens' is seen
The Erechtheion at the Acropolis
The ancient Greek temple of Erechtheion sits near the Parthenon and was constructed between 421 and 406 BC.  Six maiden figures supported the southern portico called the Porch of the Maidens.  The sixth maiden was removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 and used to decorate his Scottish mansion then later sold to the British Museum along with other pieces from the Parthenon.  The originals are now in the Acropolis Museum and these maidens at the Acropolis are exact replicas done in plaster cast, still beautiful in spite of their age.
The ruins of the odeon is backdrop to the current theatre
Ruins of the Herod Attica Odeon
The Herod Atticus was the third Odeon built in Athens and was erected by Herodes in memory of his wife Regilla who died in160 AD. The original was destroyed during an invasion of the Herulae in 267 AD who destroyed most of the city’s monuments. 
Semi circular seating for the Odeon
Seating for the Herod Atticus Odeon
This grand looking theater seats 5000 and is now used during the annual Hellenic Festival, the most important cultural event that runs mid June until late in September featuring international music, dance and theater.  We’ve just missed these events but that would have been something special to see in this open air theatre with spotlights shining up onto the Acropolis. 
several pictures show the pieces of the historic monuments lying on the ground
Rocks and remains on the Acropolis
One might just see a lot of old rocks and ruins but there is so much more to it when you are standing on this citadel. Scattered over the grounds are blocks and pieces that have been recovered in the digs here, some of which might be used to rebuild.  

The rock and blocks support the walls of the Acropolis
The fortress walls on the Acropolis
The Acropolis, where the Parthenon is located, was formerly proclaimed as a "preeminent monument on the European Heritage Cultural list of monuments". It has a very special value to the history of this country and is of interest to many of us who studied about it during our early school years.  
rock walls below ground level
More ruins on the Acropolis
We walked amid the ruins, seeing pieces that had been worn and broken over centuries but still recognizable by those that do these archealogical digs.  There are drawings of the original sites shown among the ruins for us to see what they had looked like at one time and it is amazing how they’re often able to figure that out just by what seems to be rubble to most of us. 
sleeping dogs on sidewalks and anywhere they lie down
Sleeping dogs at the Acropolis
Not only will you see ancient rocks lying about but we were amazed by the number of dogs sleeping all over the grounds during our visit to the Acropolis. They were all oblivious to any of us walking around them, so watch your step, they aren’t moving out of your way. We did watch to make sure they were breathing when we first saw one but they all looked healthy so there must be someone looking after them.

Tall pillars of remaining ruins are seen
Ruins seen amid the city from the Acopolis in Athens, Greece
The Acropolis is a fairly large area and sits high above the city that is fairly flat, so the view from up here is unobstructed and we can see other ruins from this vantage point, too. We later walked among other ruins in the city of Athens when we walked through the Plaka, I will post more on this later.

The Acropolis is a visit that I will never forget and I now have photos to remind me should that ever happen! The restoration of these projects have been going on for many years and there is no doubt it will carry on for many years to come.  It appears to be a daunting task but amazing to see and great to know that these ruins will be saved for us to enjoy forever. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Athens ~ Greece

Greece, the country we had planned on seeing “one day” and that day had finally arrived!  I think it was somewhere back in Grade 8 Social Studies that my interest in Greece began.  That was so long ago, I cannot remember or explain why but Greece and its history was intriguing.

The sunrise is seen out the airplane window as we fly over Italy
Sunrise over Italy
We left Rome before sunset after a very early rise and trip by taxi to the airport and were excited about our days ahead. We were the first flight out of there with a great aerial view of the sunrise travelling over Italy and the Adriatic Sea. We would spend a couple of days in Athens before flying onto Santorini, one of the many islands of Greece. 

The rugged countryside of Greece can be seen out the airplane window.
Rugged country of Greece
We flew across to Greece with Easy Jet in 1 hr 45 min. This is a British airlines and I would recommend it for reasonably priced travels in Europe if you wish to fly.  The rates are so low that one can fly almost anywhere for next to nothing, although some destinations are more. 
Pigeon covered square surrounded by busy streets and high buildings.
Omonia Square in Athens, Greece
We had the address and instructions to find our hotel which included taking the metro but decided we would be smarter to take a cab ride into the city with a population near 5 million people.  There are flat rates from the airport to the city center inner ring or back and our hotel was within that area so we stood in line and we got such a great cab driver that we booked him for our return to the airport.  This Omonia Square is not far from our hotel and the metro station is adjacent, very convenient for our future travels in Athens.

Two policemen walk across Omonia Square while a tourbus stops nearby.
Police patrol Omonia Square
The police are very visible in our neighborhood and seem to keep the numbers of gatherings down at the Omonia Square.  Our cab driver’s English was good and he gave us some helpful information on our neighborhood.  He also explained that a lot had been done to the airport and the city’s metro line as well as other improvements for the Olympics held in Athens in 2004 but also talked a lot about the problems they were having in Greece.
The clean metro station at quiet times and the art showcase there.
Omonia Station in Athens, Greece
We found the Omonia Station for the metro to be clean and very impressive. This was one of the projects improved for the Olympics and we were happy with that, it was an improvement over some we’d seen on our travels. The station included art to enjoy on our walk through to the lower level to catch the train. We had no difficulty getting to our destinations, the routes are color coded and locations are marked well.
The National Library and surrounding buildings.
National Library in Athens, Greece
Once we’d checked into our hotel we walked across the street to a small square and found a nice place to eat lunch.  The place was quiet and the service was great.  We later walked up to the University that our cab driver had pointed out as we had passed on our way in, we were only a few blocks away.  The first building that is part of the campus we see is the National Library. 
A fountain sits in front of the University of Athens Main Building
University of Athens ~ Main Building
We are looking at the Main Building but there are many others that are part of the University of Athens.  There are 80,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students that attend classes in this university and another 3300 academic, administrative and staff so we weren’t about to see the whole campus.  It is the oldest institution of higher learning in Greece and has a very long history dating back centuries.
The steps lead to the Academy of Athens, building dated 1926
Academy of Athens in Greece
Next door was the last building we could see from this street that was part of the university.  The Academy of Athens was established in 1926 and is the highest research establishment in the country.  This building is one of the major landmarks of Athens and often seen in photos and a commemorative coin was issued for the 2004 Olympics with this Academy of Athens on the coin.
We saw many students marching in protest in front of the university.
Protestors march past the University of Athens
We’d heard before our arrival of the students marches and demonstrations over costs for them but were surprised at our timing that we’d see one as they marched past the university early on a Friday evening. The signs were all in Greek so I am assuming it was about the costs and books but it was a very quiet and peaceful march.

This was our first day in Greece and although it wasn’t quite what I had expected to see, our big exploration day will happen the next day when we go to visit the Acropolis. That was something to see and might be getting closer to the reason we wanted to visit Greece.


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