Greece – Crete, 21 June 2009

We didn’t have a plan, we didn’t have a guide. But we did have a full day before our overnight ship leaves at 10ish.

After poring over the maps we filched along the way, and for convenience’s sake, we ended up at Amoudara beach. Well, there was a bus right in front of our hotel that went straight to Amoudara. Kinda hard to argue with that! It was a nice scenic bus ride, and we basically did the thing whereby we got off the bus when everyone else did, and just kinda followed them, and found the beach. Heh!

The beach was long, there were plenty of sunbathers, and there was a cafe strategically located. It was actually really warm out there. I tried to go barefoot on the beach, and almost burnt my feet. Had to run back to get my flip flops. Waters were definitely warm enough for a real comfortable swim.

After our little beach outing, we basically just sat around at our hotel lobby, waiting for the time to board our ship. The ship was definitely well worth our 60 EUR. It wasn’t fancy, but hey, you can’t argue with a bed and a bathroom, versus sitting out on the boat for the whole night (like we did when we went from Athens to Tinos).

Amoudara Beach, Crete

Amoudara Beach


Greece – Crete, 20 June 2009

Grand plan for today was to go to Knossos, the remains of the Minotoan civilization. We walked to the town center of Heraklion, Crete, and we took bus A to Knossos. Small tip: try to buy a return ticket, as it is cheaper.

The remains in Knossos has a museum, which is pretty nice. Also, it’s a nice respite from  the crazy heat. Personally, we perhaps should have gotten a guided tour, which might have added value to the experience. I don’t know anything about the Minotoan civilization, and I still don’t, to this day. I thought the ruins seemed a little strange, as the restoration made it look a little weird. This was a good half-day trip. But I guess if you had more interest in ancient cultures, you would find this trip more enjoyable.

Around mid-day, we took a bus back to Heraklion for some lunch, and a short walk through the market. After some rest, we decided to walk out to the Venetian fort. It was pretty darn windy, but that did not daunt young Greeks from practicing their sailing. We had a little drink at one of the cafes overlooking the waterfront, and waited for evening to come.

Anyway, we finally broke. After many, many days of eating variations of gyros pita, we could no longer deal with it. Guess where we ended up? McDonald’s. Not particularly proud of it, but it was a change.

Knossos, Crete

Minotoan Ruins at Knossos

Knossos, Crete

Murals at some of the ruins

Venetian Fort, Crete

Looking out from the Venetian Fort

Wall Painting, Crete

Graffiti at the Venetian Fort

Greece – Crete, 19 June 2009

When I first planned this part of our journey, I was trying to get us back to Athens by 22 June, so our trip through the islands was kinda rushed. We also settled our boat tickets from Crete to Athens at Santorini for fear they might be out of space (we got a double room on a ship for 60 EUR each, for an overnight trip from Crete to Athens). Anyway, I kinda did end up boo boo-ing. I somehow miscalculated the dates, so we ended up having an extra day in Crete.

Long story short. Suddenly, there was no rush for us to do anything as we had extra time. So … we woke up at the early hour of 12 noon. Heh. Sauntered down the street, and on the way to town, we saw a little restaurant, and ended up eating – you guessed it – another gyros pita. This one was stuffed with a massive amount of fries. After our very slow lunch, we went into the center of Heraklion. It was kinda fort-y. I actually like that Heraklion is city-like. So we could go into shops and stuff, and not feel like outlandish tourists over here.

Getting around was kinda fun. Stuff was in the Greek alphabet, so was our map. After spending more than a week in Greece, we still sucked. So trying to figure out the street names was kinda fun for us. In any case, we did manage to wander into a few churches, and one which was turned into an art gallery.

The heat in Greece is pretty serious, so in the late afternoon, we ended up going to the History Museum, for some education, and eh, for some respite from the heat. It was a pretty neat two story exhibition, which covered the history of Crete from its ancient civilization to the present. My favourite is probably their special exhibition on literature from Crete. Apparently, Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of Zorba the Greek, is actually from Heraklion!

St. Catherine of the Sinaites Church, Heraklion


St. Catherine of the Sinaites Church

St. Mark's Basilica, Heraklion


St. Mark’s Basilica

Nikos Kazantzakhs Bust, Crete


Bust of Nikos Kazantzakis

Greece – Santorini to Heraklion (Crete), 18 June 2009

Our boat from Santorini to Crete leaves in the late afternoon, so we had the whole morning to do some exploration. We took our little quad bike, and made our way in the opposite direction – North to the town of Oia. It was a scenic trip. After we got up to the town of Oia, we were able to look back on Santorini, and take in the beauty of the whole island.

We returned to our hotel after lunch in Fira, and decided to just hang by the pool, while waiting for our coach to the port of Santorini. When departing from Santorini by boat, do give it some time, as the transfer from your hotel to the port will often take some time. We arrived in the port of Santorini in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, our ferry did not do the same. It was late by over an hour, and H and I had several moments, whereby we started wondering if we actually missed our ferry somehow.

Thankfully, arrive it did, eventually. But by the time we got to Heraklion, it was dark. I really took free-and-easy approach to this trip – no plans, just hope for the best. So far, things have worked out for us, as there were always enthusiastic hotel/guesthouse owners, advertising their holdings to us. Things were, however, very different in Heraklion. There was NOBODY at the port when we arrived, so we were kinda screwed. Didn’t help that Crete is a pretty darn large island. Thankfully, we saw a lady moving towards the taxi stand, and she moved like a woman with a plan. We told her about our situation, and she said we could share a cab with her, and go to the hotel she plans to room at. Good decision that was. She picked Athinaikon Hotel, which was really not far from the Heraklion Harbor, and a short walking distance from the main town of Heraklion. With some luck, she is also an excellent bargainer, so she actually got us very good room rates, below the rack rate. (I think we paid about 40 EUR or something, which was about 10-20 EUR less than rack rate)

Heraklion is definitely a very different town from the towns in the islands we’ve been on the past couple of days. It is a good-sized town, and whereby tourism didn’t seem to be the main driving force. Ok, I just got distracted by the bowling alley and the McDonald’s, which always makes me jump to conclusions.

Oia, Santorini


Oia, Santorini

When the Detour is the Highlight: UAE, Iran, Greece, 04 – 24 June 2009

So, Emirates Airlines was having a super sale, whereby tickets to Europe were going for as low as 800 SGD. This was gonna be my last chance for a long holiday before I am done with my MA programme, and hit the real world. So, what the heck. E and I agreed on Greece. But I had some other crazy plan involved – a detour to Iran! I always wanted to go there after reading The Complete Persepolis. Since I found a cheap flight on Air Arabia from Sharjah, and managed to rope in some partners-in-crime (oh, my powers of persuasion), I was all set. Here goes!

04 June: Dubai, UAE

05 June: Sharjah, UAE

06-07 June: Tehran, Iran

08-10 June: Esfahan, Iran

11 June: Dubai, UAE

12 June: Athens, Greece

13 June: Athens, Greece

14 June: Hydra, Greece

15 June: Tinos, Greece

16 June: Mykonos, Santorini, Greece

17 June: Santorini, Greece

18 June: Santorini, Grecce

19 June: Crete, Greece

20 June: Crete, Greece

21 June: Crete, Greece

22 June: Kalambaka/Meteora, Greece

23 June: Kalambaka/Meteora, Greece

24 June: Athens, Greece