Giant waves made for an adventurous sail to Amorgos (ah-MORE-goss). You’d think that sitting on a sailboat for ten days is a great opportunity to catch up on blogging and photos, but not so much. When we’re in motion, the sun and spray on deck make it impossible to do anything, and seasickness sets in quickly down below. The key to avoiding seasickness is to keep the laptop closed, stay above deck, and focus on the horizon around you. Or lay down with your eyes closed and let the rolling boat rock you to sleep. Try to do anything with your eyes open below deck, and you’re asking for trouble.
Koufonisia was a good stop, with a good mix of beaching, drinking, and eating. The Greeks are not stingy with the food portions or alcohol content. Dishes are massive, drinks are strong. But I must admit that I’m starting to get a bit tired of Greek salads, gyros, and souvlaki.
We arrived at Santorini’s tiny port of Vlychada to meet our group for the sailing trip. Aside from me and Conrad, the group is entirely Australian. Four women in their 50’s traveling together and a couple in their 20’s. Our captain is Daisy, who is English and on her first sailing adventure with the company.
There are 2 cabins on board. The couple is taking one, Conrad and I have the other. Sleeping quarters are cramped, with Conrad and I sharing a thin mattress about the size of a double bed. The moment I first saw it reminded me of this scene from Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Conrad and I will sleeping head to toe, back to back to reduce the odds.
The flight over to Santorini offered views of several cute little rocky islands. Santorini is much bigger than the others. Coming in from the east offered a close-up view of the massive peak of Profitis Ilias. Had no idea there were mountains this big out here.
Just outside of the airport was a shuttle bus waiting to take me to Fira (FEE-dah), where my hotel is. They dropped me at the bus station, and after a short walk, I was at Thalia’s Apartments. Thalia herself appeared to greet me and give me the lowdown on her place and the island. She’s very sweet and couldn’t believe I was in my late 30’s. I’m loving it.
In late afternoon, I made my way to the famous Santorini view across the water. Crossing the main street is an adventure, with cars and buses and scooters zipping both ways unpredictably. My walk continued past the souvenir shops and and up the hill and to the edge of the cliff overlooking the water. And then it opens up. The view is immense and breathtaking. No photos can prepare you for that. Cruise ships on the water below are the only thing that give a sense of scale, and they look like toys.
We took a quick flight to Athens and then made our way to our hostel in the middle of the city. Mandy took us out for a walking tour around the city center.
The stomach bug or whatever that swept through the group has mostly passed, and we’re all starting to feel a bit better. I’ve never seen a stomach bug sweep trough a group so quickly.
The ferry to Corfu was nice and relaxing. The taxi that picked us up at ferry terminal was not, driving like bat out of hell through the narrow and twisty streets of Corfu with a remix of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” blasting on the radio.
Done with Kotor, we headed southward to Albania and to its capital, Tirana (TEE-raw-nah). Sitting in a minivan for a few hours, conversations turned more crude as we all got to know each other a little better. Matthew taught us the terms “instavomit” and “invagination”, which we have used to humorous effect.
We stopped for lunch at a sketchy restaurant on a river just across the Albanian border. I was craving chicken, but the only chicken item on the menu was chicken penne. I took a chance, and it was completely awful. I half-joked that it was not chicken but one of the many stray cats that wandered around the restaurant as we ate.
On our way down to Montenegro, I think things are slowly starting to look more Greek. Greenery turned more scrubby, limestone block construction gave way to flat white stucco, and arches began to appear over doorways and windows.
We pulled off the road to take a quick stop at Our Lady of the Rocks Church. A little boat took us over for a quick look-around before getting back in the bus and continuing southward. Compared to Croatia, traffic around these parts seems a little pushy and undisciplined, with cars making their own lanes and their own rules.
It was obvious as soon as we arrived that Dubrovnik is the most heavily touristed city in Croatia. Hordes of poorly dressed, camera-toting sightseers fill the old city, which has become even more popular in recent years as the setting for the popular TV show “Game of Thrones”.
A short ferry ride took us to Hvar, a long, skinny island just off the coast from Split. As we took a quick walk around the marina and tiny old town, sun beamed off the polished white limestone covering the ground. This is a place for sunglasses.