After a 30 hour trip via Sydney, Xian (China), Rome, Athens and finally the Greek island of Santorini (the spiritual home of Ouzo).
Between flights in Xian, I was tapped on the shoulder and interviewed for about an hour on my failure to register with the police on my previous visit about a year-and-a-half ago. Thankfully my wife did some fast talking and got me off the hook. I resorted to the ‘dumb westerner’ look that would evoke pity from the most hardened Chinese bureaucrat. Here is the ‘now necessary’ letter-of-invitation I need to get a visa into China. i.e. (from her Dad), “I’d like to invite my incredibly gifted, handsome and intelligent son-in-law, who’s a helluva nice guy and a barrel of fun (not-to-mention dynamic in-the-sack) to partake of this fine land’.
在西安转机时，我被盘问了一个小时 --- 因为我上回,在一年半以前来的时候忘了去公安局报备。谢天谢地，能言善辩的老婆大人解救了我。我赶紧摆出“愚蠢老外”的模样，试图让最铁石心肠的官员也忍不住心生怜悯。岳父大人夸张的邀请信也帮了大忙呢！
We had planned a few days in Santorini and the bulk of our time in Athens; it should have been the other way around. The beautiful whitewashed cliff-faced dwellings (some carved from the rock) and famous blue-domed churches cut anastonishing figure. We were met on a cliff-face by a man-in-white who spoke no English and seemed to think we were the people we were and picked up all of our 35kg of luggage on his shoulders and headed down the cliff with us scrambling after him (despite our protestations). Minutes later we were shown our accommodation and left to wonder if we were in the right place. Our ‘room’ had a surreal look that seemed to stop time. Sort of like the final ‘apartment scene’ from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.
我们约好在悬崖边跟一位不会说英文的白衣男子见面。他好像很肯定我们就是他要接的人，一把就把我们那个35公斤的行李箱抗在肩上向悬崖下走去，丝毫不理会我们跟在他的后面抓狂。几分钟后，到了一个公寓房间。还没反应过来是否这就是我们预定的房间，人家就已经消失了。我们的“房间”有点像Stanley Kubrick在 2001年导演的影片 A Space Odyssey里面最后的那个房间场景 -- 有着超现实主义的外观，仿佛要让时间静止。
Some of the local sights on Santorini include the ‘blackbeach’, ‘white beach’ and ‘red beach’ all somewhat spectacular in their own way. This is the small village that marks the ‘red beach’.
We walked to Thira to find the legendary ‘blue domed church’ but there were so many of them we’re not sure if we found the right one. Here is one anyway.
We topped off our Santorini visit with visits to the local monastery (with it’s all-of 8 monks), Akrotiri excavations and wineries ending with the Santorini sunset over the distant mountains.
很好吃的 Tamato ball：
A mere five hours by train from Athens, you stumble across the quaint little town of Kalabaka whose six monasteries form the entire basis to all of their tourism.
Now when I say five hours, this can be stretched out to 10 hours mentally if you happen to have a loud mouth Greek grandma with the physique of Donald Trump sitting next to you. She managed to batter her way through my noise cancelling headphones to the point of me considering puncturing my own eardrum.
Oddly enough, the couple of extra locals in our train cabin hung on her every word which dashed my hopes of some kind of collective indignation shaming her into silence. Instead her sweet delicate rasping baritone never missed a beat.
By the time we arrived it was still morning and we dumped our bags at a tiny 150 year old lodge with two suites (one of which was ours)and 6 rooms. The lodge, like Kalabaka was something out of a Greek postcard.
The six monasteries (one of which was abandoned due to lack of monks) were built into the tips (or side) of the rock pinnacles that pervade the entire landscape. We prepared for our assault on all six, five of which we completed on day 1 and the remaining so-called ‘hidden monastery’ on day 2 . The hidden abandoned monastery was the hardest to get to having to trudge through unmarked bush to get there. Not a single sign or marker. After several wrong turns I had flashbacks to New Zealand a couple of years ago when my son and I lost our way coming off a mountain hike as we considered using our mobile to call for help. We eventually found our way as I did here thanks to stumbling into a small group on their way back from the monastery.
Our trek to the Grand Meteora was spectacular complete with comprehensive Greek risk management policy. That’s me trying to get a good shot.
This is a different monastery in another direction. They were all spaced far enough away for solitude but close enough to ‘borrow the odd cup of sugar’ when needed.
We were told the largest monastery of the six, the ‘Grand Meteora’ has a less-than-grand total of eight monks. I had the irresistible pythonesque urge to loudly pound my armoured fist on the door and yell ‘In the Name of the Knights of the Round Table I demand entry to this fort’. (from which a French-accented voice emnates ‘no chance English bed-wetting types’).
Once inside their monastery, I found their stash. A collection of vintages and casks no doubt lovingly produced in the traditional way. Do these guys know how to party or what? Probably more fun than poring over Greek apostolic versus.
Then I found their other stash. I love the nice decorative touch on the topshelf. I overheard that these were themonk’s enemies; I didn’t think that monks were supposed to do that.
I’d prefer to believe that this is actually the ‘member’s room’. Far simpler than an honour board.
We said goodbye to Athens with a trip to the Acropolis. I must admit it was impressive. If this was any other native English speaking country they would not let you get even as remotely as close.
It’s hard to imagine how something this auspicious (along with allegedly creating democracy) could have been the product of the same country we were in today, many gyp artists, thieving taxi drivers and a third world economy. Especially taxi drivers who cheat their way into a 10-15 euro premium claiming they’re entitled to it despite signs at the airport saying 38 euro is the maximum fare. They hold your luggage hostage until you payup after which they attempt to short change you another 5 or 10 euros if you’re not careful. (Especially at night when it’s hard to see).
I had to get even for the rip-offs. Greece was going to pay :-) . At the Acropolis I feigned breathing difficulties, kneeled down and pocketed a piece of their beloved Acropolis. A quick back-of-the-serviette calculation shows that if several million visitors a year do the same, the whole hill should be gone in just several decades, Ichortled to myself.
我想过“报复”。 在卫城时，我假装呼吸困难，俯身捡了一块他们深爱的古石放在兜里。我很快在餐巾纸背面计算了一下，如果每年来这里的数百万游客都这样做，整个山头都会在几十年内消失--- 我想想还是算了吧。
My final revenge was to head to the Greek Parliament and watch the changing-of-the-guard which I must admit was pretty entertaining. I love men-in-tights.(Doing a bit of the ‘John Cleese department of silly walks’).
最后前往了希腊议会，观赏守卫换岗。我必须承认还是挺好玩的。我喜欢男士穿紧身裤。（然后做一些John Cleese 式的“低能走路”）。
But seriously, it’s hard to imagine how something as grandas the relics of Athens could have been constructed thousands of years ago let alone survive the onslaught of nature (and tourists like me). BTW, camera buffs, forget mobile phone cameras, pockets and regular SLR lenses if you’re interested in serious photos. If you’re going to take a photograph similar to above, you NEED a 12mm wide-angle lens. Anything over this isn’t going to cut it. Below wide images were shot with Nikon’s12-24mm SLR auto focus.
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