Operation Extract Covid Boy is GO!

So, as per the aforementioned Plan, we start getting everything in place and I can’t wait to put fucking Russian-bogan Gold Coast in the rear view mirror! We check out from the hotel and are waiting in the reception area (yay, belatedly back on the functioning internet), for our driver. I get a message in garbled English and immediately think, ‘Oh fuck, please don’t ditch the job!’ Hmmm… my lack of faith in passenger transport companies is showing. Angus and I are carefully inspecting everyone who pulls up outside or walks into the hotel reception. Angus is like ‘Is that him?’, ‘What about that guy?’ But my finely tuned sense of ‘what drivers look like’ goes, nope, nope, nope…and finally ‘Yep! That’s him. He’s got the finely tuned bod of someone who spends their life on their arse in a car eating whatever crap they can pick up on the way – never mind, we are just thankful he’s turns up.

Traffic promises to be a right pain in the arse, but at this point, I don’t care – if the driver had failed to turn up all the rest of the plan falls on its arse and I’d be trying to cadge an Taxi for a 71km trip, in a country that doesn’t have Uber. Part way through our transit, just as we are leaving Montenegro and entering Croatia, Angus gets an email from the Montenegrin Health Advisory letting him know his PCR test is definitely positive and could he please let the know what his symptoms are. I’m not paying much attention to this (and I’m not sure he responded?), but the boys message us on WhatsApp and tell us they got the same email. Oh well, onwards to Croatia we go.

We get to the apartment that we booked near the Dubrovnik Airport around 2pm and Angus immediately crashes in the lounge – He’s happy because the internet is about 20Mb and I’m happy, because I finally get a room to myself with an independent air con system, so we are finally able to take our masks off for a few hours. The view from the balcony was particularly lovely, and while it might be a nice spot to spend a weekend if you were totally self contained, there are zero restaurants or groceries anywhere nearby and once more we are on the second floor so I’m being maddened by flights of steps yet again. Angus finally gets hungry enough to go off in search of someone to order a pizza for him… and our B&B host happily assists him. The pizza was pretty good actually – though I am sick of eating bread (I rarely eat bread or bread products at home and it’s making me feel just ick). At some point in the evening we realise the A/C is pretty shit and it’s actually now cooler outside (wasn’t when we arrived, it was 39C), so we throw open all the windows and try to get a cross breeze going.Next morning, being Sunday, now that Montenegro is in the past and we are in the far more civilised country of Croatia, we call an Uber and make our way to the airport. Out AirBnB host assured us it was a tiny airport and there was no reason why we needed to be there two hours early as the lines are always short. She was wrong and we are glad we ignored her. Angus stood in line with all the mouth breathers in his mask and I waited on the sidelines for us to get to the top of the queue to get some boarding passes for our extremely expensive flights. There was barely a mask to be seen in here which is kinda infuriating… but we kept ours on. Waiting at the gate was an experience I really hope never to replicate. I had the misfortune to sit myself down beside a young Australian guy – roughly about Angus’ age, and I couldn’t help but hear his conversations – firstly on the phone with his girlfriend, and then with his mate. I was disgusted to hear how they were talking. The guy was on his phone speaking with a woman who was obviously his girlfriend, and he was all, “I miss you and I love you so much, I’m being so good while I’m away babe… Brendon, though, Brendon is being a total man-whore, but not me!” He was cloyingly saccharine and sounded completely insincere from where I was sitting, (though that may have been coloured by my inherent dislike of people who speak at annoying loud volume in public spaces). Anyway, he gets off the phone with the GF and starts talking to his mate, who I am going to presume is Brendon. Brendon proceeds to show him a picture on his phone of a table full of good hearty Mediterranean food and was saying, “Man that was an awesome meal, so fucking tasty even though I threw it all up later. Haha!” Urgh… I’m surprised they couldn’t feel the disdain oozing from my pores, but I guess that would mean they’d have to pull their own heads out of their arses long enough to notice there are ‘other people’ nearby. Next thing Brendon is pointing across the gate and saying, “Oh fuck, don’t look, don’t wave, it’s Emily and them, I don’t want them coming over here. Look at them – fucking nerds in masks and shit.” … breathe Robyn, breathe… they’re not my responsibility. Then Brendon with the Food Photo says to BoFriend of the Year, “I can’t believe she’s wearing a mask when she was happy rawdogging you all last week! Hahahaha!” BFotY then jabs Brendon in the guts and says, “Don’t you ever tell anyone about that, ya cunt.” And they carry on a bit more like that as we are boarding the aircraft and they decide not to get up and wait in line like ‘fuckwits’, but to cut in when the girls they are trying to avoid make it towards them. Ugh. Two more gross young humans I could never imagine… I bet their parents are so proud. ūüėź

Anyway, I digress, we wait at the airport and eventually get onto our Aegean flights and thankfully it looks like our luggage is coming with us.

It’s probably quite a nice view if the windows were cleaned, like ever. Aegean isn’t the worst airline I’ve flown, but it’s definitely not my first choice – our other option though was to fly Turkish Airlines and go Dubrovnik > Istanbul > Istanbul > Athens, so here we are. Athens Airport – greeting us with a n information point that was a decidedly unhelpful Google search page. We didn’t have too much trouble getting through customs though we were vaguely wondering whether Angus’ Covid positive status was attached to his passport at all given he’d had to provide it as ID when he went for the PRC test. At some point while we were in the air, the Boys back in Budva and Angus all receive an email telling them they need to isolate for seven days?! WTF Montenegro??? You can’t PCR test someone on a Friday and then tell them on a Sunday they can’t go anywhere… that advice probably should have been given at the time the test was administered! Now the Boys in Budva were starting to make noises of serious buyer’s remorse – they were possibly going to be stuck there for an entire week, and were wishing they’d bailed with us!Customs was okay, I managed to limp through to baggage claim and thankfully our bags had made it with us (yeah, the faith is really gone on that one, thanks Lufthansa!). We then find ourselves ordering an Uber – I still feel dirty every time I do it, but here it turns out most of the Uber drivers here are in branded taxis anyway – so I guess it’s at least one way of knowing exactly how much your trip is going to cost you before you get in the car. We give him the name of the hotel in Athens, it’s about a 35-40 min trip and I sit back thinking I can relax for a bit… we’re nearly there… we’re nearly there Until we hit the highway and I think, shit ‘we’re going pretty fast’ and look over and see the driver is doing well over 140kmph in a 100 zone! I double check my seatbelt and make sure Angus has his on before grabbing my camera to take a snap. I manage to just grab a pic just as HE’S SLOWING DOWN TO 130KMPH TAKE AN OFF RAMP. Fark.. no wonder you only had a 4.87 rating, Besian! Somehow, perhaps by magic or the gods finally taking pity on us, we make it to our hotel without incident and check in. And immediately I feel half my stress melt away – this is immediately followed by a conviction that this is now when I’ll get sick for sure. Running on cortisol and adrenalin for the last couple of days has not been fun; now I’m stopping, that’s when it’ll take me down.

We get into the room and immediately make ourselves at home by moving all the furniture around so that my bed is as far away from Angus’ as possible and our heads about 4m apart when sleeping. We send Mr K a proof of life pic and then back on with the masks and a well deserved nap. In the interim at some point, Mr K has googled up the hotel and found out it has views to the Acropolis, and sent me a message asking if we can see it: Like, literally my head is beneath the window in question, but I had zero energies to get up and check.
We spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights in the Athens Hotel. Angus was feeling quite a bit better and hadn’t had any fever since a slight temp Sunday morning… while I was going slowly mad wondering when I was going to come down with it.

The hotel was good, we had breakfast included in our rack rate but I’m not a big breakie eater so I had my cup of tea and some fruit for breakfast, and I pulled out the old backpacker habits and managed to squirrel away bread, butter, ham, cheese, boiled eggs and feta each morning so we didn’t have to worry about lunch. Also got to know Wolk really well (Greek MenuLog) and had some nice souvlaki and grilled skewered things ordered in at dinner times.

So here we are staying until Wednesday when the transfer hell will start all over again.

Postcards from Greece… Santorini

Got up early this morning and head over to Santorini – there was lots to do and lots to see, but honestly, the pictures of this place almost speak for themselves…!

Finally a picture where we are able to get far enough back from the Royal Princess to fit the ship into the shot! ¬†This is one huge ship, and this is what it looks like form 700+ feet up.Santorini 1 Three options to get to the town of Fira – 1) by cable car, 2) walk up the windy path to the top, and 3) take a dodgy donkey ride. ¬†Most of our group opted for donkey, and lots of fun was had. ¬†We were considering walking down, but the smell of donkey shit in the heat is not for the faint hearted!Santorini 4 And then when you get to the top – it’s all just so picturesque.Santorini 5 Santorini 6 Santorini 7 Santorini 8 Santorini 9 Santorini 10 Santorini 12 This is not painted on – all appearances to the contrary!Santorini 13 Santorini 14 Santorini 15 Santorini 16 Santorini 17 Santorini 18 Santorini 19 Santorini 20 Santorini 21 Tomorrow – a much needed sea day…

Athens – where all the cool gods come from

Woke up this morning feeling tired and exhausted (a combination of too many port days in a row and sleeping on NotMyBed), and with an 8 hour organised tour ahead of us that was meeting at 7:30am  :/  I am so not a morning person anymore.  The weather looked beautiful, if a bit hot Р34C and 35% humidity Рand I was looking forward to seeing how much had changed since I was last here in 1995.

We debarked the ship around 8am and hit the road from the port in Piraeus, heading straight for the Acropolis – in the vague hope of beating both the crowds and the heat.¬† We managed to beat the crowds pretty effectively – but the heat? ¬†Well, that just proved inescapable today. ¬†The Acropolis and the Parthenon are one of the most spectacular monuments of ancient civilisation, so of course I¬†came here on my last visit to Greece, and I remember very strongly what struck me most about the city on that trip… it wasn’t the ancient monuments, it wasn’t the incredibly detailed and interesting history, it wasn’t the famous hospitality of Greeks – it was the god damn smog! ¬†Athens was so horridly polluted back then, that the entire city looked like it was covered in a greasy brown unpleasantness, that came with an equally queasy awareness that you were breathing that shit in!

Today however… gorgeous!

The amphitheatre – designed to hold approximately 45,000 people, the Acropolis amphitheatre is very impressive and with it’s restored and reconstructed seating, it is a popular place for modern concerts still. Look at that view – no smog at all… clear all the way to the port and the mountains in the other direction. ¬†I was seriously impressed at what a pretty city Athens is now. ¬†And all the buildings so low – no high rises. ¬†I think part of me expected it would have gone the way of many other large cities and be dotted with ridiculous 50 storey buildings, but the average building height is 4 to 6 storeys only.

After climbing 80 steep and slippery marble steps, you reach the main west entrance gates, called the Propylaea, to the right of that is the Temple of Nike Рgoddess of Victory.

Of course, we climb to the top and find the west face of the Parthenon under scaffolding, and it is the nature of touring these ancient sites that the restoration process is never ending, so while it is always disappointing to see the scaffolds, it is good to know that they are preserving these monuments for future generations.But were very pleased to see that conservationists are obviously doing things one end at a time and the east face looks splendid.
If you look carefully under the edge – you can see what looks like Lego brick markings…? ¬†What’s that about? Porch of the Caryatids. Beautiful work on the capitals. Always impressive.
After we left the Acropolis, we did a drive by stop at the original Olympic Stadium that was built to host the competitive sports of 1896, and is where the Olympic torch passes for every modern Olympics. It was quite a beautiful stadium, but we were unable to go in, so from there we went to the Temple of Zeus which we had seen from the Acropolis. ¬†The Temple of Zeus originally had 100 of these enormous columns holding up an gigantic roof, but now only about 17 remain. ¬†It is not hard to imagine how impressive this building would have been with it’s large number of columns (even taller than those of the Parthenon) and large indoor space. The kids were getting a bit restless with all this stuffy old history – so I asked them do build us a cheerleading pyramid. ¬†ūüôā ¬†On short notice, I think they did great! One of the columns was on the ground in broken form, which was in itself very interesting to see. ¬†From photos you can’t always tell how the columns are constructed, and as one of the kids pointed out, they had always thought the columns were in one big piece of stone, but here you can see how they are carved to fit together and taper correctly for stability. ¬†It was interesting to see this deconstructed column laying down, looking very much as if it were left where it had fallen.¬† After this a quick drive around Constitution Avenue to see the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – complete with funny be-pom-pom’d tap shoes. ¬†We were on the half hour, so saw them perform their little routine. ¬†It is a cross between the US Marines doing a change of the guard at Arlington Cemetery and Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. ¬†Seriously. ¬†Google up a Youtube video – you’re sure to find one, they look very odd. From there we went to the Agora – which represents the old Greek marketplace (late used as a Roman forum) where trade and commerce would be executed in the city centre. ¬†There is spaces for worship, spaces for commerce, spaces for retail and trade. ¬†There were also places of regulation here – someone to regulate coinage and stop counterfeiting, someone to regulate weights and measures, someone to regulate even the size of tiles made for construction. ¬†Obviously since time immemorial, retailers and merchants have been trying fun and interesting things to rip off their customers, and vice versa!

After all our traipsing about, we found ourselves having a leisurely lunch of way too much good Greek food – salads, mixed grilled meats, various tasty entrees, and we were served up so much food, we literally had an entire plate of meats left over that were probably going to end up being fed to local dogs. ¬†Seriously – I thought American portion sizes were huge, they seem to have copied their ideas of ‘reasonable’ serving sizes from the Greeks!

Lunch all tidily squared away we head off to the Plaka Markets for the afternoon. ¬†My memory of the Plaka Markets was a vibrant quarter of the town on the south side of the Acropolis with loads and loads of souvenir shops, clothing stores, jewellery stores and all sorts of exotic delights. ¬†We got there this afternoon though, and things seem to have altered dramatically. ¬†Gone were all the stalls and over-friendly shop keepers chasing after you insisting you have broken their heart by walking on past their shop… and in their places seems to be cafe after cafe after cafe and a few spares shops thrown in. ¬†And mostly tacky shopping at that. ¬†This once living shopping district now seems to feel the best way to extract $$$ from tourists is through their stomachs. ¬†So sad really.

I also noticed that Athens has changed in other ways too. ¬†While the city seems cleaner in the air, and on the ground (didn’t see a single mattress or toilet cistern on the side of the roads!), high youth unemployment has yielded an inordinate amount of graffiti on nearly every building. ¬†There is so much graffiti, that it would appear the authorities have given up on attempting to remove it. ¬†It is seriously sad to see beautiful old buildings covered in painted tags.

All up we had a marvellous day out in Athens, though we are all foot sore, hot and tired at the end of it. ¬†Tomorrow – hopefully we can set a slightly slower pace. ¬†ūüôā

Beautiful Mykonos

“Set within the lapis blue Aegean Sea, the Greek Island of Mykonos is a dazzling gem of a destination. ¬†Dating back to antiquity, sophisticated Mykonos maintains its old-world charm, welcoming visitors with blue- domed churches, whitewashed houses and golden sandy beaches.” ¬†And that ladies and gentleman is Mykonos in a nutshell.

We arrived in Mykonos this morning – sun is shining, sky is blue, sea is sparkling, breeze is lovely. ¬†It’s perfect. ¬†The ship organised a shuttle into town (a shuttle which btw actually drops you about 1.5kms from town, but so be it), and there we find a winding maze of cobbled stone streets that make up the village of Mykonos. ¬†Apparently the original design of the town’s layout was to confuse pirates – but for tourist the winding little narrow corridors that pass for streets in Mykonos provide a beautiful backdrop of white and blue to the cute little town. ¬†We got to town quite early – seemingly before the patrons of the Rhapsody of the Sea that was also in town for today (they were tendering, we had the only cruise ship dock) and managed to have a goo look around before the place got too busy.

Mykonos has only one major historical/archeological point of interest and it is the ruins at Delos on another nearby island which date back to 3000BC.  You can get to Delos by ferry but we were warned that weather could make returning a bit unpredictable given the strong afternoon winds the island gets.  Mykonos is simply beautiful, though, as you would expect, way too touristy.  With streets lined with jewellery stores and items for sale that cost almost as much as my house Рyou can tell this island, (along with Corfu, Crete and Santorini), is one of those playgrounds for the truly rich and famous.   One of the first things we saw on entering the harbour was a long row of beautifully appointed luxury yachts, which makes you wonder about the people able to enjoy that lifestyle.

Familia restaurant… Flowers, white wash, blue paint, lovely lovely lovely! ¬†Must be in Greece! I think I saw this in a coffee table book somewhere…

Rhodes of gold

Day three in Greece, still haven‚Äôt mastered how to say ‚Äėhello‚Äô or ‚Äėthank you‚Äô!¬† I vaguely remember being this incompetent with Greek 20 years ago too‚Ķ I saw a t-shirt in Rhodes that said ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know, it‚Äôs all Greek to me‚ÄĚ.¬† Totally should have bought that.

Yesterday we were in Rhodes, the city, on Rhodes, the island, today, which is another beautiful island in the Aegean, and is only 15kms off the Turkish coast.¬† The city of Rhodes was founded in what could be considered ‚Äėprehistoric‚Äô times by the Cretans.¬† In the 15th century BC it was inhabited by Achean colonists who established the island and was more officially settled by the Dorians around the 12th century BC.¬† Strangely, Rhodes today is most well known for something that no longer exists!¬† Having been inhabited since the Stone Age, Rhodes has a long history, with a significant period of development around 400BC, and it was during this time that a famous sculptor Hares created what was known as the Colossus of Rhodes – an enormous bronze statue of the Greek God Helios which loomed over the water at the entrance to the harbour and was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.¬† The state was on a 50‚Äô pedestal and was 110 feet tall.¬† According to legend (i.e.: sketchy written accounts and verbal histories) the Colossus was demolished when an earthquake hit in 226BC, barely 65 years after it was completed.¬† Today, where the feet of Helios were planted are two bronze deer – a male and a female, which are the modern (and far more modest!) symbols of Rhodes.

Rhodes 5Rhodes’ most striking features now are the thick medieval fortress walls of the Old Town which is like a huge living museum.  Build by the Knights of St John in 1309, the Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is THE oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe (or so they say).  The centre of the city is the cobblestoned Street of the Knights, lined with the former homes of the knights of the Order of the Knights of St John.  It is one of the most impressively preserved medieval streets in Europe and leads up to the dramatic Palace of the Grand Masters Рthe headquarters of the leaders of the Knights. Rhodes 7
Rhodes 9 Rhodes 10 Rhodes 11 Rhodes 15 Rhodes 14 Rhodes 13 Rhodes 12 Street of the KnightsRhodes 16 Rhodes 17 Medieval windmills – used for grinding grain etc.Rhodes 19 Lunch at the Socratus Garden…¬†

Rhodes 18

It is a truly imposing and magnificent 14th century fortress which over looks the entire city and creates a fabulous ambience for the winding old streets lined with quaint and quirky little shops.¬† I spent a good portion of the day wandering the shops, looking at jewellery, colourful ceramics, lovely leather goods, and lots and lots of knock off shite and souvenirs.¬† ūüôā ¬†But so much jewellery! ¬†Every second store was dripping with gold in the windows… and much of it in really unusual designs unique to the region. ¬†Beautiful Byzantine styled pieces that looked like replicas from museum pieces. ¬†So much gold everywhere you looked.

The menfolk were drooling over watches, and half the ladies in our group came back to the ship with new jewellery.  I bought a couple of little bowls which I am now going to have to carry all the way home in my hand luggage, and we are having serious remorse over not having purchased a fabulous Greek Key/Meandros designed necklace that sparkled with 15ct of sapphires.  So many beautiful pieces!

Anyway, lots of shopping, lovely Greek lunches and free wifi.  Rhodes: two thumbs up.  10/10 would come back again.