Greece 2019

   June 2019

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Ancient Greece

Saturday June 1st 2019

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I went to Greece for a conference in Crete. Wanting to make a bit of a journey of it, I flew to Athens, where I had a day to look around before getting an overnight boat to Chania.

Athens was one of the few remaining European capitals I hadn't visited. In fact, now that I've been there, it's only Andorra la Vella that I need to check out. I didn't have a lot of time to see Athens though, needing to get to Piraeus before nightfall to catch my boat. So I wandered randomly and saw some ancient ruins, before heading down to the coast.

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Night boat to Crete

Sunday June 2nd 2019

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I love long boat journeys. I think there is no more awesome way to arrive in a new place than by boat, and if the boat arrives on a stunning placid dawn morning when the air is fresh before a hot summer's day, then so much the better. I was in an excellent mood when I arrived on Crete, shortly before 6am.

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Alien invasion

Friday June 7th 2019

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Conferences are a double-edged sword. They are often held in very nice places which I'm glad to have the chance to visit. But then you spend most of the week indoors and see little other than astronomers and presentations. It was getting towards the end of the week before I managed to get down to the beach, a short walk from where the conference was being held.

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Nightfall

Friday June 7th 2019

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On the final evening of the conference, our work for the week done, we headed to a beach bar and relaxed. These are always great occasions - the end of a week of hard work and you finally get to appreciate the place you're in, with all the pressure now off.

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Oia sunset

Saturday June 8th 2019

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I got a boat to Santorini, somewhere I'd wanted to visit for years and years. And it was awesome, everything I hoped it would be.

I'd got up at 3am to leave Platanias to get a bus to Chania. That hadn't turned up so I'd got a taxi, and only just made it in time for another bus to Rethymno, which also only just got me there in time for the boat to Santorini. So when I arrived I was extremely tired. But the main thing I wanted to do was hike along the rim of the caldera from Fira to Oia, so in the afternoon of my first day there, I set off. It was a fantastic walk, and it happened that I arrived in Oia not long before sunset.

That was the only point at which I didn't much like Santorini. For whatever reason, watching the sunset from Oia has become the thing to do here, so I found dense crowds when I arrived and it was hard to move around. The sunset was nice, no doubt about it, but the crowds were horrible.

I waited for a bus back from Oia to Fira. But before it turned up, a local driving a minbus stopped and offered me and the few other people waiting a lift. In such a touristy place, I didn't quite trust this; surely it's only in seldom-visited places where hospitality like this is still offered. But no, it still exists even in a place like this. We had a great drive back to Fira.

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Caldera

Sunday June 9th 2019

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On my hike from Fira to Oia, I hadn't really been trying to go quickly. But I time everything I do on strava so I never go slowly. And I found that I'd set the seventh fastest time from one short segment near the Rock of Skaros. My time was less than a minute slower than the fastest, so I thought if I tried again I'd have a chance of getting the record.

I'd gone down to the old port during the afternoon, from where I was supposed to get a boat to Nea Kameni, the volcanic island at the centre of the caldera. But I'd been sold a ticket for a non-existent boat, so after an iced coffee by the harbour, I hiked back up to Fira. A little bit angry about missing Nea Kameni, I decided to head along to Imerovigli and see if I could set a record.

Thinking about the boat trip, I was more and more irritated. Anger is a good spur when exercising, and soon I was speeding along the caldera edge. I reached the end of the segment, and hoped I'd at least got close to the course record. In the end I must have been angrier than I realised because I'd broken the record by a full minute. I soon forgot about the boat trip.

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Santorini Twilight

Sunday June 9th 2019

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I walked more slowly back to Karterados where I was staying. Night was falling and I thought that Santorini really was a stunning place. Excessively touristy it may be, but even for a miserable backpacker like me, accustomed to roughing it in places that other people shun, it was great. The beautiful whitewashed buildings of the villages along the caldera walls looked incredible as night fell.

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Boat back to Athens

Monday June 10th 2019

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The boat from Santorini back to Athens was an early morning departure, so I had to get up well before dawn to walk from Karterados to Fira and then get the bus to the port. The sun was just rising as we set off. We sped out of the caldera past Oia, then called in at Ios, Paros and Naxos before a four-hour stretch back to Athens. I dozed on the deck in the sunshine.

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Aegean

Monday June 10th 2019

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Sailing across a foreign sea, with nothing to do but watch the world go by, with easy access to espresso as necessary, really is heaven.

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Over the Balkans

Monday June 10th 2019

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A dawn departure for a boat across the Aegean is awesome. An evening train to Athens airport for a flight home is not so awesome, but I got a window seat, and as we flew over the Balkans, there were some epic thunderclouds brewing up.

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