Parke, Eli, Pam and Paul had been on the road for a few weeks. Starting in the UK, then over to Amsterdam. Down through Switzerland to Italy. Finally over to Greece. Ryan met up with the travelers in Greece. A six hour layerover in Athens allowed for a quick stop at the Parthenon. Athens wasn't anything too special, Just lots of sprawl, but Acropoli was really impressive. Felt like walking back in time. (Except for the thousand tourists.)
We all met up in Santorini. This is an amazing place. The island is one giant volcano. The towns sit up on the rim of the volcano, and the center is filled with the ocean. Many years ago the volcano erupted and wiped out the Minoan civilization. It is hard to comprehend the shear power such an event would entail. The towns are small and completely dominated by tourism. In the high season, as many as 100,000 people visit from cruise ships in a single day.
Since the major eruption a few thousand years ago, there has been some moderate volcanic activity. There is now a small island in the center of the caldera which is still active today. We took a boat tour there one day. This included a ride out to the island and a hike to the top. The island looked tiny from the rim, but it took about 45 minutes to reach the top. The landscape was from another world, and the plants that grew there were strange. Paul was fascinated by the flora. After the hike we took a swim in a hot spring. We had to jump from the boat into cold water and then swim about 50 meters to the warm section. The water was rusty colored. We brought along Eli's life jacket and he enjoyed the adventure out to the hot spring.
When we got back from the tour, we took the stairs back up to the city, all 588 of them. You can also take a gondola, or a donkey. Unfortunately, the donkeys share the stairs with the people, so there was loads of donkey crap. It was a hot, tiring, and stinky experience, but worth it. Pam and Paul wisely opted for the gondola.
We rented a car one day and explored the island. We went to the Black Beach and Red Beach. We tried, but never managed to find the White beach. The scenery was beautiful. The water was just warm enough for a little swimming. Even after his lips turned blue and he was shaking all over, Eli insisted he wasn't cold and could manage a few more minutes in the ocean.
After Santorini, we took a ferry to Mykonos, another Greek island. We had planned on stopping for a day or two at Naxos, but decided to skip it. It was still fairly early in the season and Naxos hadn't really gotten started. Mykonos is a popular island and has a raging night life. Alas, we are pretty boring now and didn't stay out late partying.
The main city has many winding narrow streets, lined with bright flowers. It was a joy simply walking around.
Greece is full of small one room churches. This particularly old church is actually 4 or 5 different churches all connected.
We spent one day on a trip to the island of Delos. It is just a short boat ride from Mykonos. Delos was an ancient Greek city. Some 30,000 people lived there. It was a holy site and contains fantastic ruins. Much of it is still buried, so the archeologists will be busy for many years