It seems like quite some time since we've done a bit of exploring new places around the world. After the extended sabbatical in America last year and the less-than-stellar launch of the new business, we've been focused on other areas. But that all changed with this fall's trip to Greece. Still an "easy" destination, it was a great way to ease back into a bit of adventure travel. Once away from the coastal resorts, it was a raw and authentic travel experience. Now I can truly say with authority that "It's Greek to me!" when I don't understand something. :-) Here are some pictures from the adventure.
First stop was this mountaintop wine dispensary. Even though the sign was in Greek and English, I'm guessing this place is frequented much more by the local population.
Of course Greece is known for it's beaches and crystal clear water, and we certainly spent plenty of time in that water. The snorkeling was awesome! It wasn't loaded with life like Belize or Hawaii (there were still plenty of fish), but the clarity of the water and the geology you could explore made it my favorite snorkeling so far. It was incredible to see the underwater cliffs and caves...this one was my favorite. We also saw some ancient pillars of a long crumbled Roman villa. Just amazing.
We did tend to stay away from the resorts and sandy beaches. This little harbor town was reached via a narrow, winding gravel road. It was 4 miles of "nothing" before pulling into the town where there were two little competing fish restaurants. After having a swim, we saddled up to a waterfront table and had the best squid and fried eggplant ever served!
But for us, the mountains are always a draw (why are we living in Holland!?!?) and we spent just as much time "running the ridges" of the interior.
The little rented Fiat Panda got us everywhere we needed to go...and some places we definitely should not have been. Not sure that road service would have helped us out had we gotten into trouble on this track.
And of course there were also the ancient sites. A history geek like me can't turn down an opportunity to go for a hike and see some old stacked rocks...and I certainly wasn't disappointed. You couldn't swing a cat by it's tail without hitting something ancient. Here, a 14th century BC gate from Mycenaean times...that's over 3300 years old!
A massive Greek amphitheater.
And Ancient Olympia....
...where the games began.
There were also more recent historical sites, like these "tower villages" in Inner Mani (15th century). These towns were run by individual clans and they would frequently start blood feuds where they would catapult rocks at each other's villages from these towers until one village was "pulverized into submission" (direct quote from the guidebook). Great stuff!
We stayed at some pretty remote and unique places, like this yurt. It was 100% off grid and owned by a British woman of 68 years old. Her husband died 4 years ago and she is holding on as best she can. She shared some great stories sitting around at night...they got better as the wine flowed.
Then there was this treehouse in the far western Peloponnese. The region is known as the Philosopher hills and is certainly off the beaten tourist track. The hosts, a woman from New Zealand and her Greek husband are going to build 4 more of these on their property. This is where we really got to understand that it's all about "who you know" to get things done in Greece. The property has been in his family since the Ottoman empire fell. His cousin is mayor of the town. His brother is the building inspector. His uncle runs the sanitation department. You get the idea. And I thought small town America was nepotistic!
Inside the treehouse.
But there was also plenty of luxury to be found...like this boutique hotel outside Nafplio. Stunning!
My only complaint is that they wouldn't let me ride these electric motor carts through the square.
Why do kids get to have all the fun?
Of course any of these southern cultures have their dark side, which is the way that animals are viewed and treated. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised - it wasn't nearly as bad as we've seen in some other cultures, but there were still a fair share of stray dogs and cats. The cats seemed to do pretty well and none of the dogs were starving...could be an bonus of so many tourists....we saw many others feeding them. The Greeks themselves seemed to also take somewhat decent care of the strays. But, we still had to load up on food....
...and make lots of new friends. The real skinny one is the mother and she was still nursing her much bigger puppies.