Crete-cation

Destination number two completed – we have conquered Crete! (More like half of Crete, but I like the alliteration).

Our visit to Crete consisted of three spots – Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, and Heraklion. We decided to stick to one section of the island because of limited time, and sadly didn’t see any of the western side – another trip, perhaps. My overall impressions of Crete are positive, but in a strange way I think I was slightly disappointed by the amount of tourism here. In both Agios Nikolaos and Ierapetra, it’s obvious that the entire town caters to the tourists, which leaves you feeling like you experienced zero of the actual local culture. Heraklion is also pretty touristy, but there’s more to do, so I didn’t feel that quite as much. The island itself is pretty cool, though – quite arid, very hot and dry with mountains, but with beautiful crystal clear aqua water that makes you want to fling yourself into it at every moment.

Starting with Agios Nikolaos – we spent an afternoon here, and that’s pretty much all that was needed. There’s a beautiful harbour and bay, and that’s about it in terms of interesting sights.

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We actually had a much better time in Elounda, which is a 30-minute bus ride from Agios Nikolaos. Elounda is this sleepy little fishing village, and it was much quieter – perfect for a stroll by the ocean, a drink, and some down time for us.

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Our next stop was Ierapetra, which is on the southern side of the island. Ierapetra, like Agios Nikolaos, was very touristy – though we did discover a fortress! Our main activity here was swimming to prevent overheating. We also had a gorgeous hotel here, El Greco, where we had a free bottle of delicious Cretan wine. Does life get better?

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The next day we did a day trip to Chrissi (Chryssi?), an island about 45-60 minutes away from the mainland. Chrissi is this entirely deserted island that makes you think of the kind of island people get stranded on – there’s nothing but trees, sand, and breathtakingly beautiful water. We had an awesome day swimming and lounging. Nothing quite like the feeling of being caked in salt for five hours.

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Our final destination on Crete was Heraklion, the capital city. Heraklion is definitely much bigger than the other places, and there’s a bit more to do. We saw the Natural History Museum – notable only for its ferocious fruit-consuming tortoise – and the Palace of Knossos, which was very cool. The boyfriend and I couldn’t stop mocking a review we saw on trip advisor, which said “there was nothing to see – just rocks”. Just rocks that are thousands of years old. No big deal.

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Palace of Knossos:

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Overall, I liked Crete, but I think it’s time to move on to Santorini. Also, I can’t forget my food shots. Food here has been average, with the exception of two meals – veal/baklava in Elounda that was to die for, and a pork knuckle in Heraklion that was delicious.

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One week down, and we still want to be together. Yay! Two more weeks to go! :)

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A Greek (and Turkish!) graduation

Well, I’m back on the road, trusty humongous turtle bag in tow. It was a tough end of the semester, but I am finally done my undergraduate career! What do you do when you are finished the endless amounts of homework? You take your boyfriend and go to Europe, of course. In my case, Greece and Turkey.

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The first stop on our trip was Athens. I had mixed feelings about the city, where the sights are amazing but the city itself feels a bit grungy. Our priorities, of course, were the old stuff. We saw the historical sites, and they were amazing – the Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Ancient Agora – as well as the National Archeological Museum and the Acropolis museum (which, by the way, is one of the most beautiful museums I’ve ever seen – it’s brand new and flawless).

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As well, we wandered through the National Gardens – hoping for a bit of shade, as it’s averaging around 35 degrees Celsius a day, which for a poor little Vancouverite like me is blistering hot – the Olympic stadium, Parliament and Syntygma Square. On our wanders, we saw the Changing of the Guard, which has to be the silliest solemn ceremony I’ve ever seen. The guards, who wear giant pom-poms on their feet, perform a rigid set of movements which involves kicking the ground a lot and touching their toes to each other.

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Of course, who can forget one of the best parts of the trip – the food! Greek food is delicious.

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So far, my favourite food in Athens was moussaka and roast lamb. It was droolworthy. Since then, though, we’ve moved to Crete, where our dinner earlier tonight blew everything out of the water. We just finished day one in Crete – it’s looking promising, as long as we don’t melt from the heat! Also, Greece has an amazing amount of stray cats. They are everywhere. It’s a bit disconcerting to see them attempting to eat food from underneath someone’s table.