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Tetachuks’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 07 May 2009

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

MapMarch 22
The flight from Amman to Istanbul was short. When we arrived in Turkey we had a few hours to spare before our connecting flight to Athens. David found a shop that sold Turkish Delights (one of his favourites) so he bought a couple of boxes. We were both suprised that the candy flavour in the center is rose...had no idea!

Neither of us could believe that the entire time we were in Turkey our passports were not checked once! The flight to Athens was also short and we had some great views of the Greek Islands and the coast when we flew in. We only wish it was warmer out!

We were very happy to find a couple maps of Athens right away at the airport - we've been dreading having to rely on public transportation the past few days. Our first experience wasn't nearly as bad as we had thought and we found our way to the hotel after using the bus, metro and a short walk. Our hotel is nice, but we did later find out that the area it's located in is known for druggies and prostitutes.

I spent most of the afternoon napping while David tried to plan our last two months in Europe which is very difficult with out a travel book. We had dinner in a nearby fast food restaurant and then it was back to bed.

March 23
We went in search of a laundromat today. It took us a while, but we did finally find it. It was advertised as self-serve, but the man who was working told us it was not so and we had to pay ten euros to have someone wash, dry and fold our laundry for us.

We spent our waiting time in on the internet again trying to find an English bookstore with travel books and to researching about the train systems in Europe. We did order our Eurail train pass which was very expensive and it means we will we spending at least a few more days in Athens while we wait for it to be delivered.

March 24
We headed to downtown Athens this morning hoping to find a bookstore with the travel book we are looking for. We were SO happy when the bookstore had a huge selection of english travel books including the one we were looking for.

When we headed back down to the street we found that a parade had began with marching bands and school kids in their uniforms marching the streets to celebrate Independence Day which is tomorrow. We watched for a few minutes, but it wasn't the most exciting parade.

We went to the Acropolis in the afternoon. We weren't entirely suprised when it was under renovation. This seems to be a common thing with many other sites we've been seeing. We also saw the Theatre of Dionysos built between 340-330 bc and which held 17,000 people. While we were at the Acropolis we met a couple who were so excited and inspired by our trip. They got our blog info and gave us a few tips on good places to visit around Europe.

All of the archeological sites in Athens close at 3pm so we spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get ourselves lost in the narrow and confusing streets. We found lots of little cafes and restaurants and came across many stray dogs and cats before we found ourselves on a tourist street with a ton of souvenier, clothing and gift shops. We browsed for a while and then sat in the square while we had a snack and people watched.

March 25
Today is Independence Day in Greece to most of the stores and tourist attractions are closed. We used the day to continue planning the last of our trip and I spent a few hours writing in my journal.

March 26
We are still waiting for our train passes to arrive so we spent the day seeing more of the sights in Athens with David as our walking tour guide! We visited Ancient Agra (an ancient marketplace), the Library of Hadrian, Roman Agora, Tower of the Winds (built in the 1st century by an astronomer), Fethiye Mosque, Church of Holy Apostles (ca 1000AD), Temple of Hephaistos, Temple of Zeus (it was closed so we took pictures from the fence), the Zappeio Gardens (with lots of orange trees and a fun playground), the Roman Stadium, the Royal Palace (got some pics with the guards), and finally the National Garden (with a small zoo that has donkeys, goats, chickens, roosters, ducks and geese).

By the time we finished all this our feet ached and we were tired and hungary. We grabbed some McDonald's for dinner and while we were eating a protest group of fireman formed outside with lots of riot police surrounding the area. Not sure what they were protesting though!

We walked bck to our hotel for some much needed rest and were happy to find our package had arrived with our train tickets. Looks like we're off to Italy tomorrow!

March 27
We read through the info included with our tickets last night which wasn't entirely clear so we headed to the train station early this morning with some questions and to make our reservation. The staff wasn't entirely helpful, but we did get our reservation for later today.

As we were leaving the station we were approached by a man asking us if we knew about the train and ferry to Italy (the same ones we were taking). It seemed a bit strange because he had been in line behind us so we were a bit suspicious of him and I was paranoid that he might show up when we come back later for our train. We were happy when there was no sign of him a few hours later!

When we returned to the station later we still weren't entirely sure how our train pass works and at the last minute we decided to try and ask again at the info desk so David ran off while I waited with our bags. Of course while he was gone the train came and I was debating whether I should get on with out him or wait in case he didn't make it back in time. Luckily, he made it back just in time, but we were the last ones on and the train was packed so we had to stand for the first half hour with our packs on - makes it a lot harder to keep our balance when the train is stopping and turning! The trip to Patras where we would be catching the ferry to Italy was very scenic. Lots of green grass on one side and blue water on the other. We were both happy to see green grass again as we haven't seen any since we were in New Zealand.

We had to change trains in a small town and had assigned seats, but apparently that doesn't mean much. Again, this train was packed and we ended up sitting on the steps near the exit for the two hour trip. As we got closer to Patras there were more and more mountains some with snow and windmills at the top. David made friends with an old man who didn't speak English, but everytime he wanted to point something out to David he would slap him on the shoulder and point!

We arrived in Patras and made our reservation for the ferry which is more like a small cruise ship with restaurants, a casino, and shops. Not a bad thing considering it's a 17 hour trip. There were cabins and dorms available, but our train ticket including the airplane style seats and it was very expensive to upgrade. Our seats weren't together and we were stuck in between a big, annoying, and loud schoolgroup. Not all the seats were full so we did manage to find some seats together and away from the group.

For the longest time there was a really awful smell that we couldn't figure out where it was coming from. We thought maybe it was stinky cheese from the restaurant next door and David went to look but no one was eating. We thought maybe it was our shoes so we smelled them, but that wasn't it. It wasn't until other people started complaining about the smell that we all figured out it was coming from a man who was sleeping on the floor in the back with his shoes off and he had VERY stinky feet....stunk up the whole room! We had to get a staff member to wake him up to put his shoes on the smell was so bad.

We were both very tired and tried to get some sleep, but the seats were uncomforable and the school group stayed up ALL night and were so noisy singing and laughing and just being annoying...we were never allowed to drink and smoke on high school field trips, but apparently that's not an issue for Italian school groups!

March 28
We arrived in Bari, Italy and together with a few other backpackers who were headed to Naples via train we made our way to the station and figured out the schedule.

We arrived in Naples in the evening and found it to be a very sketchy city. Our hostel was near the train station, but we missed our turn and ended up walking alot farther than we needed to with our heavy bags. We're still getting used to having to carry them all the time now - no more bell boys and bus drivers to put them in our private tour bus! We found the hostel in a very large, very old building with an elevator so small we couldn't both fit in with our bags!

We first headed to the supermarket to pick up some water and snacks. People weren't kidding when they said wine is cheap in Italy! The supermarket had a huge selection and you can buy a bottle for only a few euros.

We wanted to try some famous Italian pizza for dinner so we went to a local pizzaria that the hostel recommended. It was so busy inside and there was a huge lineup of locals waiting for their pizza outside. We were disappointed that there were only two kinds of pizza, Margherita (tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil) and Marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano ). We ordered to Margherita pizzas and headed back to the hostel to eat them (we had been warned by the hostel that it wasn't safe to be out late and it was already dark). I'm not going to lie - the pizza was very disappointing. The crust was like a doughy pita bread, the cheese wasn't melted and it wasn't very fulfulling. Guess we'll have to keep trying until we find one we like!