#1 Greek Islands, Sept. 9, 2012

Dear Everybody,

After three flights and a bus ride, I arrived at Rafina, a small laid-back town on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, about 30 km east of Athens.  The ferries were in the harbor (my reason for starting here) and every now and then I’d hear a blast as one took off. 

I spent my first post-travel day exploring the nearby area of Marathon.  I asked about a taxi to take me there and to a couple of other interesting antiquities from Rafina, but the tab was 100 euro (about $127)—too much of a shock for me since I just came back from India and that same kind of taxi excursion there cost $12!  So I took two buses (long waits!) and walked a km to see the site of the battle of Marathon.

In 490 BCE about 10,000 Athenians and allies defended against the 25,000-man ‘invincible’ Persian army and won the battle!  A runner was dispatched to Athens with the news.  He ran all the way, and upon arrival shouted, “We won!” and fell dead.  This is the origin of today’s marathon races, (which Congressman Ryan and I both ran in record times—well, maybe not!).  6000 Persians were killed but only 192 Greeks died.  These 192 were especially honored—cremated and buried in a tumulus, (tomb) which I visited.

There was also a museum (that required another bus and a 3 km walk), which had many local finds in addition to the Marathon tumulus treasures.  At the time (490 BCE) they put up a column commemorating the event of which only a few stones remain—awfully old stones, though!

Near the museum was an early (3200-2100 BCE) Helladic cemetery that was being excavated.  Pottery from this site was also in the museum.

I was really too hot and tired to walk the three km back to the highway, but I started out.  Very soon, I came upon a local family and asked them if they were going back to the highway, which they were.  How nice—they offered me a ride—or maybe I asked for one!  The woman was the president of the Friends of the Archeological Museum Society so was very pleased when I had seen and liked the museum.  I asked them how Greece was doing and they said, “BAD,” and complained that Germany ‘wanted everything’ and that Greece was not getting any benefits from being part of the Eurozone.  They felt that the financial troubles had not impacted Greek tourism.  They did make positive comments about President Obama and hoped he would be reelected.  They dropped me at a bus stop where I got one bus and then another to get back to Rafina. 

I had my first Greek meal, which was Greek salad—with a big hunk of feta cheese, bread with olive oil and wine.  Yes, I expect to be well fed and wined here!  After lunch I bought my first ferry ticket to the island of Mykonos.

The next morning I yelled, “HELP ME, HELP ME!” and pounded on the door as my key wouldn’t unlock my hotel room and I had an 8:15 AM ferry to Mykonos to catch.  One never counts on these little happenings.  I had paid my bill the night before as I have found in times past that this can be impossible in the early morning, even IF you can wake up the desk clerk!

I got help, and made it to the ferry in time.  The day was beautiful, the boat huge, and the crowd very thick.  It took 4 ½ hours, stopping at two other islands first.  I was apprehensive about getting a room as the cheapest ones listed in the budget listing of the Lonely Planet were 75 euro—waaay out of my price range, planning as I was, to stay eight weeks in the islands.

When I disembarked, I found many people holding signs denoting rooms in various parts of the islands—different beaches, etc.

A young lady had one with ‘Rooms in Center,’ which was my preference, and I quickly ascertained a very central location and the price—35 euro!  Ah, much better!  Her father drove me to the six rooms on a pretty little pedestrian street (very narrow) and in a minute I was ensconced in a lovely room with wifi, refrig, TV, AC—all the comforts of home!

I spent the afternoon exploring the area, having ‘linner’(lunch/dinner) at Sakis, a casual place where I had a good gyro with lovely Crete wine, and perusing the ‘rabbit warren’ of streets in the area.  Luckily all of these streets (narrow as they are) are pedestrian only (with a few motorbikes).

I found the windmills of Mykonos—I can see why they built them here.  I was almost blown into the sea with the strong winds!

The next day I visited the Archeological Museum, which was great!  It was full of grave goods from the island of Delos, which I had planned to visit today but couldn’t as the ferries were all cancelled because of the strong wind.  Anyway, in about the 4th C. BCE, they cleared out all the graves on Delos and put the grave goods and bones on the island of Renia, where these items were found.  There was a marvelous huge amphora dating from the 7th C. BCE with scenes from the battle of Troy, showing the horse with the warriors inside it, and also showing Helen being rescued.

And I see where the TV series about extra-terrestrials having visited ancient Greece find purchase—many of the ‘human’ figures and horses had wings in this pottery.

I stopped in to see the Maritime Museum, which had many models of ships from throughout the ages.  One I photoed was from Alexander the Great’s time—4th C. BCE.  It was a model of an actual 47-foot-long sunken ship, which is now in a museum on Cyprus.

There was also an 1883 lighthouse on display that was used on Northern Mykonos.

That afternoon I took a bus into the interior of the island to a town called Ano Mera.  My landlady told me that she grew up in that village.  It had a beautiful town square with several ‘tavernas’ on the sides, where I ate lunch, which was steamed mussels, bread and olive oil, and some good local wine.

I had timed my visit so that after lunch I would visit a local monastery but unfortunately the church wasn’t open at 2:00 as the guide book promised, so I had to be content with viewing the buildings, which were interesting, too.

I had my return ticket on the bus but apparently was standing at the wrong bus stop (how many could there be in a tiny village??) and missed the bus.  The next one wasn’t going to come for 1½ hours, so I put out my thumb and began hitching, but nobody would stop.  Finally two young Albanian men offered me a ride (bless their hearts) back into Mykonos town.  I was so frustrated that I had a frozen yoghurt sundae when I got back!  Some days are like that!  Still, the ride was pleasant as the scenery is quite beautiful, the lunch was fine and the Albanians spoke a little English, telling me that they worked here on the island.

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2 Responses to #1 Greek Islands, Sept. 9, 2012

  1. Wow Carol you really are an inspirational person. I made my first overseas trip earlier this year and had 10 days in the Greek Islands with my daughter. You put us to shame in just one day with your sightseeing commitment. Looking forward to following your travels.

  2. carolkiecker says:

    Thanks. I’m sure you saw things that I didn’t!

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