Happy May Day! It's a national holiday here, which means no school and a four day weekend for me! weeee. It's been an incredibly boring one, but probably much needed after all the exitement of the last few weeks. Anyway, now that I've got some time I think it's about time I filled you all in.
Greece was AMAZING. I wish I could go back and do it all over again right now. It was the crazy beachy spring break I never had. I went with four other Fulbright TAs; Lindsay, Matt, Chris and Marissa, who are spread out all over Germany. We all flew into Bari, Italy where we met up and hopped on the overnight ferry to Greece. The ferry ride was pretty crazy, I think we were all a little too exited to be on vacation and ready to let loose and have fun, and an overnight ferry with a bunch of your friends is a pretty darn good place to have some fun. It was something of a miracle that we made it off the boat at our stop at 6am, and we even managed to pick up an extra friend on the way.
After one more short ferry ride we made it to the Pink Palace on Corfu at 9am or so and crashed out on the beach for the afternoon where I got a nice sun burn. The Pink Palace Hostel is like an oasis of American and Canadian college students in the middle of a Greek island. Everything is in english, the staff takes care of you, everything is pink -- including the Uzo, happy hour is from 6-11 and they throw weekly toga parties. It's probably not the kind of hostel I would have picked out on my own, but it was definitely a good time. We attended a pink toga party and got to meet lots of people. I'm glad I did it now because we were already just about the oldest guests there. Corfu itself is absolutely gorgeous and once I had recovered from the ferry ride I did lots of hiking around soaking things in. I met a very friendly donkey, found a privatle little chapel on a mountain, and picked some fresh lemons and orages off the trees. Lindsay Marissa and I even found our own little private lagoon one day and it was definitely the most beautiful place I've ever been swimming (and the only place I've ever been skinny dipping ;) )! The water was crystal clear and bright bright blue, if a tad bit on the chilly side.
We all rented four wheelers our third day there and whith the help of Matt's guide map did a big long tour of the island. We went up the Kaiser's Throne where King Wilhelm used to hang out, drove through countless quaint Greek towns, and hiked around the ruins of an old castle set up on a cliff. It was a great trip until we had a minor incident on the way back. I was right behind Marissa and I watched as she swerved out of control and off the road flipping her bike into a ditch. Chris and I both jumped off our bikes after her, but she was luckily not injured. I however, must not have thouroughly pushed down the parking break beacause as soon as we saw that Marissa was ok Chris turned around and started shouting, Anne! Stop the bike! But I was seconds too late and my four weeler had already bumped into the bumper of a Greek man who had just pulled over to help us. I grabbed the bike and apologized, but he would have none of it, "Sorry?? No Sorry! Problem! Problem!" He shouted at me pointing to the minute indent in his bumper. Oh lord. He didn't speak much english, just a little bit of German and he kept saying, "Polizei, Polizei, Zuzammen ins Buro, Zuzammen ins Buro" indicating that he wanted us to come to the police station with him. Luckily, another nicer Greek man had also pulled over to help us and the two yelled at each other for quite a while in Greek while he tried to convince him to give the poor American kids a break. Finally we gave him 50 euros cash and he left. Whew. So the five of us were left freezing cold on the side of the road, Marissa's bike suspended by vines five yards above a dirt side road. We called the hostel to come get Marissa and her bike and the four of us left so that we could make the 40 min ride home before dark.
By the end of our stay we were all a bit worse for the wear, especially Marissa, but it was well worth it. Thursday night we all got on an overnight ferry and then bus to Athens, but Marissa and I got off at Patras, which is on Mainland Greece in the Poloponese around 3am. After staying in the Pink Palace for so long it was kind of a shock to realize that we were actually in Greece and didn't know a single word of the language (Other than Cheers) and can't even read the leters. But the two of us managed to make it to a nice hostel and get lots and lots of sleep. We didn't actually have any plans for the rest of our trip except some vauge idea of maybe going to Olympia or another beach somewhere. The next day we found a very tasty greece resturant where I ate lots of hummos and cheese and then we headed out into Patras to find a tourist office. We decided we didn't really have any desire to do educational and cultural things like looking at old ruins and would rather go to another island. Unfortunatley, the only information they had on the nearby islands at the tourist information office was in French. So, between Marissa's two week course in Frence and just looking at the pretty pictures we decided on Zante island, which also happend to be the southernmost island we could get to. The woman at the office gave us a map and circled the intersection where the bus station where buses to Zante was. It wasn't far, so Marissa and I got our bags and set off. We found the intersection but there was no station or busses to be seen. We asked a series of random Greek people who told us in broken english, right here, left there, each sending us to a diferent spot around and around in circles. Over an hour later we finally found the place which turned out to be more of an office than a station with no busses in site at all and the only indication that there were busses headed to Zante was written in Greek. But, we found it, so all was well and we drank Frappe's which are delicious sugary foamy cold Greek coffe drinks.
After ferry ride #4 we arrived on Zante island Friday night. We wanted to stay in one of the small beach towns, but alas, we were two weeks to early and it was completely deserted and closed, so we ended up at a very fancy schmancy hotel in the main city of Zakynthos. The nice thing about the off season was that the hotel was quite cheap as were the resturants. Saturday we found out that no busses were running on the weekends and after an attempt to walk along the coast until we ran into a beach, we finally just got in a taxi and took it to the largest beach on the island and asked the driver to pretty please come pick us up in four hours. The beaches we went to on Zante island were amazing and almost completely deserted. I definitely want to go back there, only next time I'm bringing my boyfriend and renting a car :) Saturday night we were awoken by a small earthquake. Yes, that's right, I looked it up later and it registered at about 5.4 on the ricter scale and was actually centered right on our island which is aparently on an active fault line! So, I've now lived through two earthquakes! Sunday was Easter Sunday in the Catholic church, but Palm Sunday in the Greek Orthodox calendar and I convinced Marissa to come with me to a Greek Orthodox mass at the very pretty church at 8am. It was very cool, there were palms hung all over the church and at some point in the sermon (I don't know what point, it was in Greek obviously) everyone started jumping up and taking the palms, which I thought was a fun game because I was on average a good six inches taller than everyone in there :) The service seemed to go on forever and we finally snuck out after 2 and a half hours, but I'm glad we went. I like the Greek Orthodox chuch, it's kind of like Catholocism, but more ornate and with more kissing of things.
Sunday night we went back to Patras and Monday we had some time to walk around and see the city, which, it turned out, I really liked. The first time we were there there were massive amounts of garbage on the streets, but it had been picked up by the time we came back, so walking around was more pleastant. Patras is a very cool city, apparetntly it's a big college town and there were tons of cafes, bars, resturants, and lots of shopping. And I don't think I saw a single McDonals or Starbucks or American chain resurant of any kind -- Except for one random TGIFridays. There is also a big beautiful Cathedral with the remains of St. Andrew, and an ancient Greek theather and castle on the hill with spectacular views of the mountains. I would definitely go back to Patras. I've decided it would be a great place to start a study abroad program. It's a big, but not overwhelming city, four hours from Athens, a hop skip and a jump from loads of Greek islands, and it's a cool city in it's own right.
Monday night we had our very last ferry ride (#6 if you are keeping track), and it was the longest yet at about 10 hours. We met a few other americans and I uncharictoristically played the role of the outgoing one and got us all together for some card games. We crashed pretty early on some very uncomfortable theater style seating and woke up back in Bari, back where it all began and in plenty of time to catch our flight back to Munich!