Monday, June 29, 2009

Greek Rednecks

On the road to Apollonas I saw the obvious indicator that there are rednecks in Greece that have no clue about responsible gun ownership, just like their Southern US counterparts.

I thought it was only the US Southern redneck (Hillbillius Crackerii) that had the need to blow holes in roadside traffic control devices with blatant disregard to established safe gun handling procedures...

I guess it only shows to go ya... there are idiots everywhere.

But where the hell are they getting their guns?


Naxos, Day 3

Our 3rd day on Naxos...

We decided to get an early start because we were going to explore the interior of the island today. We were going to visit a bunch of old churches, some natural features of the island, make our way over the the east coast for some lunch before heading back to the Chora.

Once again- Pictures & Words

We struck out across the island, passing through Chalki and then Filoti heading to Mount Zeus, the highest point on the island.

Thus began the day we referred to a the Naxos X-Games Day...
The first event- Off-road Scooter Enduro.
Along the way we saw a sign indicating Apano Castle (Kastro) up on a small hardpack road and thought we'd take a look...
Hardpack turned to a rutted dirt road, which after a couple kilometers became a dirt path, then a series of indistinct goat paths up the side of the mountain...
The scooters handled it well; The Woman had no problems zipping along...
Yours Truly's scooter, however, had some issues handling both a marginal surface (dirt/rocky stone paths on a 40 degree angle) and the fact it was valiantly trying to push my not-inconsiderate mass up the side of the mountain.

The path got higher, steeper, and more indistinct and we finally abandon the effort at reaching the summit. The Woman and her mount, "The Flash" zipped down to our origin point where we left the road in record time. Yours Truly and "Old Reliable" took a little longer, even with the gravity assist...

See the castle, waaaaay up there?
And can you see the sign?

Here it is, clearly marking the goat path to the summit...

We passed through several tiny Naxoan villages- this is Ano Potamia.

Count the churches in this picture... there are eleven of them.

We took another detour after seeing a sign for a 8th-century cemetery...

Nice sign...

We parked our scooters and hiked up the indicated path.
And walked, and walked...and walked some more.

It might be up there somewhere... but I doubt it.
We never did find it...

It seems like the Tourism Department has some funny ideas about signage.
They will put up a roadside sign for an attraction, but leave out details like how far away it is.
Another problem is that they will put up a sign indicating a site, but then will not put a sign at the actual location. More on this in a bit.

Some interesting attractions they fail to label at all...
For instance-

Here is the fabled Graveyard of the Dead Volkswagens.

Funny thing about dead cars on Naxos, when they die (or commit suicide) people just leave them where they drop...

This is one that slipped off the road near the "parking area" for the trail to Zeus' Cave.

"Oh well.. Guess we'll have to walk back to town."

There was another one we saw later on the road to Moutsouna...

This one took a beating after it fell off the road.
Hope the driver was wearing his/her seat belt...the ride down must have been like riding in a Cuisinart.

The second X-Games event was the Broken Ground Speed Hike to Zeus' Cave...

Again, the trail started out pretty easy, and was well maintained.

Later- not so much.

Well-maintained trail became dirt path, then smooth, slippery inclined marble, and then a field of boulders with no discernible path at all.
(We figured "up" was a reasonable direction...)

Higher up the mountain there we some bizarre flora growing...
I thought it might be a bizarre corn-triffid-bodysnatcher-pod hybrid. I thought it best to steer clear of these little mutants...

Beware the Triffids.

The Woman, being it much better shape than Yours Truly reached the cave far ahead of me...

Notice the well-marked trail?

Yours Truly inside the cave...

The Woman, Underground.

We made it back to our trusty steeds without incident...
One thing about the flora in Naxos-
Everything has spines or thorns.
If you try to go off-piste, you will wind up bleeding.

Thorns and spines...

Spines and thorns...

Moral of that story: Stay on the path.

For the Naxos X-Games Broken Ground Speed Hike to Zeus' Cave- The Woman beat me up to the cave, but I made it back down faster. (That whole gravity assist thing...)

We also visited several churches along the road...

Scouting out the churches.

A rustic Byzantine church, Panagia Drossiani.

A monastery near Filoti.

A tiny church/shrine atop a tall hill...Αγίος Ιωάυυης

You pretty much can't swing a rat on a string anywhere in Greece without hitting a church...

I got a kick out of this one...

Look closely... Do you see it?

Yep. A satellite dish.

Here's another one...

Oh, they are just full up with religiousity here...

We headed off to Moutsouna for lunch...
The trip was, for lack of a better word, and adventure.
This road was only a lane and a half wide in most places, and most of the road had no guardrail.

See the road waaay over on the left side, snaking down the mountain ridge?

This road had more twists and turns than a James Patterson novel...

15 Kilometers of bad road... That sucking noise that you were hearing was me pulling the seat cushion up my ass as I was trying to keep my scooter from heading down the side off the cliff.

We finally made it out to Moutsouna, a tiny little fishing village on the east coast.
Lunch was had at a little place called Το δίχτυ, "The Net", a beachfront restaurant.

The Woman enjoying the View from our table.

Lunch! Tzatziki with fried zucchini, Dakos (bread with tomatoes, soft feta, and olives) and pickled grilled octopus. Tasty tasty...

We toyed with trying to find the "Prehistoric Acropolae" that we had seen a sign for back in Aperathos as we hit the road to Moutsouna... It indicated it should be somewhere along the way, assuming there is any accuracy in this particular sign.

Alas, it was not to be.
After examining a map, our guidebook and rolling the bones it seems like the sign was 35 kilometers from the site of the ruins, 20 more km down the coast from Moutsouna near a town called Panermos. We bailed on the attempt.

We headed back to Naxos Chora...

Once again, the afternoon's X-Games competition, the 50km Endurance Road Rally was a push...
Whatever time I could make up in the S-curves on the road, The Woman would regain when the roads flattened out... Oh well...

We dined at a restaurant called The Flamingo...
The Woman had a Souvlaki pork, chicken and lamb combination, while I had Moussaka/Lamb/dolmas mixed grill dish.
Live Greek music, dancing waiters...

Woo hoo.

Next up: Day 4- Beach Day, wherein we meet the Mayor of Ambram Beach.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stats for Pre-Flight ATH - EWR

Delays - 90 minutes late in departing. (So far.)

Shoulder Whacks - 31. (Yes, I kept count.)

Finally on the way home...

11 Hours to Noooowark. Oh boy.



Humor on several levels at the McCafe in the Athens Airport...
I guess everything in Greece is historic or mythic... And bacon makes anything extra mythic.
And the 420 reference is special too...
After all, what stoner wouldn't be craving a Chicken Mythic Bacon...
(And for six bucks, it *better* be extra McSpecial.)

And lastly, who could pass up "Big Tasty Bacon"?


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Storm Front Rolling In

The beach at Ambram as a storm rolls in from offshore.

Snorkeling report: 60' visibility.
Bottom: Sand and marble stones.
Marine life: Several species of ornamentals, sea urchins.
Oddity: No shells. No snail shells or clam shells on the beach or in the water.


Naxos - On the Road

7 Euro
Coffee or tea, toasts, yogurt with fruit, orange juice.

Considering that most Greeks think that "breakfast" is a cup of coffee and a cigarette, it was a pretty good start.
Our breakfast place is called "Heavens" Cafe - Bar - Internet.
Address: Next to the police station.


Here's their card.

Note to self... Don't bring jumper cables here.



We walked up the road a bit where Maria (our hostess) had told us "If you want to rent the scooter come and see Nikos. He will give you the good price."
It was a quick and painless exchange - He had 60 Euros of my folding money, and we had two of his scooters for a few days. And based on my last visit to the Hellas, I got full coverage for the machines... Damage by theft, auto accident, carelessness, acts of war or nature- we're covered. Pretty much anything short of dousing myself in gasoline and running the machine into a crowded restaurant is covered under this policy.
It's a good investment; These bikes are going to take a beating...

We head back to Studio Maria and get ready for today's jaunt.
I grab my camera and we're off...

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words, so rather than bore you with a dull travelogue, let's let the pictures (and my captions) tell the tale.

We got on the road north, heading to Apollonas...
One thing about Naxos is that is has quite a bit of livestock.
Prior to this trip I would have sworn the only 4-footed barnyard animals in Greece were goats. In Naxos, goats, we have them, but other animal friends as well.

First- The Cow.

Close encounter of the beef kind.

Don't get me wrong... the goats were out en masse...

We had the free goats on the hill...

And we have a dog watching his goats.

We even have a goat directing traffic and giving roadside advice:

Hey Dude... Don't order the lamb!
Have the Chicken! Trust me.

On the way to Apollonas there is an old quarry where an old-time Naxoan sculptor was carving a statue of Dionysus out of the very living rock when his chisel slipped and the statue broke.
He threw down his tools and left the unfinished figure in the old quarry at Kouros.

The Rock Giant

The Woman Knows her Greek pantheon (she went to school in Athens, eh?).
Dionysus was the god of good times and heavy drinking.
(Obviously a UGA grad.)

Something to put the scale in order...
"Hell, he's bigger than I am..."

We made it to Apollonas...
It's a little town on the north coast of Naxos.

The view as we approached was spectacular...

A light lunch was in order.
Feta cheese, bread, olives, Tatziki...
(Sorry, no food pics.)

We had help ordering from one of the locals.

Fish. You gets the fish for me.
I lets you keep the feta.

We got back on the road stopping a several places along the way to look at the beaches and potential snorkeling spots.

I don't know how I'm getting down there, but I'm diving this spot.

This beach, Ambram, is a bit easier to get to...

Definitely coming back here too.

We also got a chance to look around Naxos Chora- the main town of Naxos.
The city was built up around an old Venetian fort.

The main tower of the Kastro.

The area near the fort and the towers are a maze of tiny alleys, tunnels & arched passages.

Very easy to get lost here...

The signature structure on the island was the gate of the temple of Apollo,
situated on an island near the ferry landing and the main waterfront.

You can see the waterfront of Naxos-Chora in the background.

And for our Art Lovers out there:
Another statue near the waterfront...

Hey sculptor guy...
It's not all about tits and ass...
She needs some arms, and uh, how about a face?

The Naxos-Chora Waterfront.

Bars and restaurants and tavernas, oh my!

Stay tuned for Day Three...
Naxos X-Games
Stupid Scooter Tricks



Greece - Getting Here

I knew it was going to be a long day, but man...
I thought after my many trips to ShangHai, Hong Kong and Beijing that this little jaunt to Greece would be a walk in the park. 10 hours! Pah!

Not so much, actually.

We had decided to do a few days in the Islands, then come back to Athens and have a day or two there to see the Major Attractions... I didn't want to split the "getting there" up too much...we only budgeted 8 days, and one full day of that would be spent traveling to Greece.
(And when I say full, Jocko, I mean FULL.)
So... On the big metal bird at 11am to Nooowark, on another (much bigger) one at 5, arriving in Athens at 10:30 in the A of the M, and thence onward to the next leg of the journey.

Fortunately, with all my recent health issues and subsequent trips to the local Jax Beach nostrum purveyor, I was able to get a refill on my Ambien CR...woo hoo. I took one of those little knock-out numbers and the trip from EWR to ATH was a breeze. And, apparently, no episodes of sleep-walking this time.The Woman Who Knows Most Things had turned me down when I offered her an Ambien, so her 10 hours was somewhat less restful.

So I was rested for the next segment of "Planes Buses Ferries and Station Wagons". We had reservations on the ferry to Naxos at 1630. We gathered our meager belongings and headed out to ground transport after skipping baggage claim and breezing Customs and Immigration. (I'm liking this 'carry-on only' thing.)

I snagged two tickets on the x96 bus to took a long but relatively quick outside-the-city route from ATH to the Port. We needed to pick up our tickets, so we went in search of the offices for Hellenic Seaways.

Oddly, this wasn't their offices.

We finally found the ticket office, then had another couple hours to kill...
I went on walkabout to find a US to Euro power adapter whilst TWWKMT found a shady spot to to sit and read as she waited with our stuff.

Killing time

The Ferry showed up about 1500 and we loaded up not too long after that.
Our seating area was quite comfortable and TWWKMT took advantage of the soft seats and the quiet environment and caught a few winks. Like 3 hours worth...

Don't bug me, I'm sleeping.

We departed Piraeus on time, and we made our way to the first stop, Pharos. It was a drop-and-dash, because I don't think we were at the dock more than 5 minutes when the engines revved and we were back on our way to Naxos.

We pulled into the quay in Naxos just as the sun was setting, around 2015 or so.
We had not made reservations for accommodations, having heard that the smaller (less expensive) hotels and pensions have shills at the port and there are "good deals to be had if you are willing to take the risk".
Hey, we were willing... this is supposed to be an adventure, right?

We made our way over to the line of locals holding up signs with the name of the hotel and the general location... (i.e. "Irene I & II, Naxos" "Diamas, St. Georges" etc)
The shills would work out a deal with you, then load you into their van or station wagon, and go back for more victims, until they filled their vehicle or their room quota.

I started to talk to one guy who looked a bit shady, but he got distracted when one of his already-loaded-in-the-van "clients" started to get out of the vehicle...
While he went to deal with the defector, another lady started talking to us about her accommodations.
Mr. ShadyMan and the woman got into a shouting match about who was going to separate us from our money... Shadyman made a valiant effort, but it was to no avail... He'd obviously never heard of TBG's Rule No. 4, "Never argue with a woman."

So we were loaded into a small car and taken on a short but wild ride into Naxos proper to Studios Maria... "30 Euros, both!"
A quiet, clean little room in a 3 floor walk-up.

We wandered the narrow streets a bit to see what kind of restaurants and stores were in the neighborhood, had a bit of dinner (Greek salad, stuffed eggplant, other mezes) then headed home to crash...

Tomorrow will bring scooter rentals and other touristy stuff...

Film at 11.