After our trip to Ireland and Scottland, Lucas and I had a one day passover in Deggendorf and then we flew with Ryan Air to Volos, Greece. From the sky, this city and airport on the Mediterranean Oceanside looked beautiful. But from the ground one could see it was a total mess. We wandered all through the city to find the train station to discover it was impossible to take a train to Athens, so then set our in search for the bus station. Finally we got everything figured out and boarded a bus to Athens. We arrived in Athens in the middle of the night in a sketchy part of town. At this point we first witnessed how so many young Greek people were not willing to help us in English (or German, French, or Portuguese in that fact). It was a fiasco to figure out the city bus system, where the little kiosks are located to buy tickets and what stops to take, but eventually it all worked out and we found our hostel.
Now I’m typically not a negative person but our first day in Greece delivered some negative perceptions. After staying in some of the best hostels we’d ever seen in Ireland and Scotland, we found that this hostel in Athens was certainly the one of the worst. However, surprisingly enough, in our room was a guy from Grass Valley, California. He was a quiet and shy fellow but I was amazed to meet someone so far away from home that is practically from home.
The next morning, Lucas and I woke up early as it was our only day to see Athens. We walked by some archeological sites and made our way to the Acropolis. In fact, we waited as the place opened and were some of the first ones in. The Acropolis itself was under construction unfortunately, but we enjoyed the beautiful views from atop Athens and the historic importance of the place. On the way home we discovered the best thing about Athens, the pastries and baklava. This constituted for our breakfast as we sat on the side of the street enjoying our pastries and watching the Greeks pass by. We went back to the hostel, gathered our bags and started out to the port to board a ferry.
Finding the port was another fiasco. We went to the kiosk to buy bus tickets, but they were sold out, second kiosk, same story. So we ride without a ticket, take our chances. Now, normally we ask young people for help because we assume they would speak English, however, more than 5 people turned their heads and walked away when we asked for help getting to the metro. Until, an older couple sitting at the bus stop heard us asking in English, came up and willingly helped us. They were so kind and even embarked on sharing their life stories with us and the opportunities they had to visit the US when they were younger. They took the bus with us and showed us which stop to disembark and gave a huge smile and a friendly wave as we left. Such great people. Now, we just needed to find the metro from the bus stop. Unable to spot it right away, David went up to a lady at the bus stop and simply asked “Metro?” and pointed left and right. The metro entrance was literally 100 feet away to the left hidden behind a kiosk but she shook her head at David and looked away. A young boy a few seats over saw our predicament and jumped in to help, explaining it was just down to the left. I thanked him very very much and gave the lady a look with the facial expression like “what the fuck?”.
We found the metro and were amazed that signs were actually in English too! If you don’t know, Greek is composed in a completely different alphabet making it incredibly hard to navigate alone when you can not even start to pronounce some words.
At the port we boarded a ferry to Mykonos. In fact, the actually embarking was kind of funny. We got off port transport bus at the wrong ferry. Continued to take photos in-front of the ferry and attempted to board. One foot in the door, they threw us out and showed us that we were on the completely wrong side of the port! We found the correct ferry and were on our way.
We spent the whole 2 hour ferry ride on the deck, taking our first sun. We arrived in Mykonos and were picked up by the Hotel van (yes, our first hotel in the summer of traveling). Where we stayed was called the Argo Hotel. It was most likely the nicest 3-star hotel I’d ever seen (not that I’ve seen or stayed in many hotels), but it was extremely cheap and cost only 50% more than a hostel would usually cost per person. I found this place along with all the other activities for these past two weeks off Tripadvisor.com. I highly recommend this website.
Now, after we arrived in Mykonos, we discovered something quite funny. We never were aware of this before, but Mykonos is particularly a gay island. This was evident by rows of guys laying out on the beach in the afternoons and the one beach part we discovered. By the end of our time on the island this fact became quite comical for us. The one night we ate out, the restaurant host gently thanked David for coming there and pet his shoulder as David took his teach. Our 3 days and 2 nights in Mykonos were spent on the beach, in the water, exploring the coastline of the island and one night out in Mykonos Town. The video embedded here captures some of our jokes about this “schwul” island.
One day we hiked to the top of Mykonos Town and took photos from above. Weeks later back in Germany we were watching a music video for the song “Stereo Love” by Edward May and saw that it was filmed in the exact same spot where we were taking photos overlooking the city. You can imagine the reaction of jubilation jumping out of the chair screaming “AH WE WERE THERE!”
We then boarded another ferry back to Athens. We stayed in a hostel near the main train station (low quality again, no shower door/curtain, floods, not impressed). We had a cheeseburger in a local bar where 3 guys were watching football and ordered our food in German. The next morning we boarded a train to Patras, a port city in the west of Greece. We arrived in Patras and had some time to kill before our 22 hour ferry ride to Ancona, Italy. Our rail passes paid for our tickets and all we had to do was pay taxes (16 euros) for the ferry, what a deal. The ferry was quite impressive. It was truly amazing how many semi-trucks, RVs, and cars could be fit in this thing. The ferry was like a small cruise ship with bars, pools, entertainment, etc., however, with our discounted fares we had no cabin, but we were not alone. It was evident that there were some regulars on here who had already packed up their meals for the journey and brought blow up mattresses to sleep on the decks. Lucas and I found a nice place on the back of the ferry deck to spend the night however the air was warm and the sky was filled with stars and a beautiful full moon.
In the morning we arrived in Ancona. In Italy we traveled everywhere by train. Cities I visited in Italy were Pisa, Rome, Verona and Venice. In Pisa, the stop was literally only for 2 hours. Long enough to make it to the Leaning Tower, take silly photos, and get back to the train station. Verona, the city where Romeo and Juliet was based was a nice medium sized city in Northern Italy. North of Verona is what I believe is the most beautiful part of Italy. This mountainous region is filled with valleys of vineyards to make for such a beautiful scenery. Venice is fairly small, but entertaining navigating through the small alleyways. One can truly see the whole city in a day and one night.
In Rome, Lucas and I spent his birthday there. The city of Rome and the Vatican City were very beautiful, offered cheap local transport, and great historical sites. The coliseum seemed most impressive from the outside, but it amazed me how you can just walk down the street and then see ancient ruins. It was great to see sites that I’d forever learned about in school about or seen in books, but to be there in person truly presents a different experience and education.
Now, after a complete summer of traveling throughout Europe, on the last night of the adventure we experienced our first bout of bad luck. It was Lucas’ birthday and the next day we were returning home to start the second semester of our studies in Deggendorf. We went out to several bars and clubs to celebrate Lucas’ birthday and were making our way home around 3 in the morning. At this time, the metro was already closed so we had to go by foot. While navigating our way home, we were jumped in the streets. The guy delivered two punches to the face, a sly snag for David’s gold graduation chain, and was off.
While the situation was unfortunate and presented many mixed emotions, we were truly lucky that nothing worse occurred. We made it home and caught our train in the morning, swollen lips and all. Of course no one wants such things to happen in life, but sometimes they do. It’s another one of life’s experiences and I’m more than happy that I had my best friend there for support. We made it home fine to Deggendorf and the next morning started our first day of the second semester!
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