Journey to Delphi – A Travel Blog

Looking around for fab photos by Andrea, Mediterranean video clips and/or fantastically fun crazy-making commentary?

On April 28, 2008, we began an amazing 23-day adventure of a lifetime. We visited Six greek cyclades islands, Acropolis of Athens, Amsterdam and Sneek (northern Holland). This is our complete itinerary

3, 2, 1… Take Off

Milos

Sifnos

Santorini

Mykonos

Naxos

Paros

Athens

Holland

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Wednesday May 21, Amsterdam

Mynde here… just so you know. I realize after re-reading some of our own blogs that Andrea and I often switched writer mid-stream. Oh well. It got done, that’s all that matters. And now, it’s been nearly two weeks since we’ve return home and here I am finishing up this last little piece.

This piece may be last but it is not small for on this final day of our European vacation, we traipsed all over the city of Amsterdam and the blister on my foot was a happy souvenir to bring home! Our dear friend and tour guide Richard made sure we saw as much of Amsterdam as possible. I am so certain we would not have been able to see as much without Richard, so Thank you again Risi!

After the 90-minute drive from Sneek to Amsterdam, we parked Richard’s car in the Ajax Soccer Stadium arena parking lot which is adjacent to a major Train Station leading deeper into the city. Parking is very expensive in downtown Amsterdam we learned. Upwards of €40 per day! The train brought us into Central Station and we proceeded on a 20-minute walk to our room; an antique shop that was also attached to a guest house.

After leaving our bags in our room, we headed out into the city. It was so warm this day, some of the best weather we had seen in Holland. Clear blue skies. We headed over to the Ann Frank house and saw the line. Also we discovered, they were doing major renovations to the outside of the building, so there wasn’t much to see… unless we wanted to stand in line which Richard said would be there all day long. We decided to pass this time.

We walked though a monument dedicated to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered persons who served WWII and suffered any form of discrimination; those who lost their lives due to their sexuality. This monument was for them.

We headed into Dam Square and just observed the sites. Street performers. Traffic. Lots of people. Bicycles. Taxis. Trains. Dogs. Business suits and students. Horse-drawn carriages. Pigeons & other birds. Later we sat on a terrace and drank a cool beer. By now, it was easily in the high 70’s. After the beer, we found the flower market, Two Sisters Bridge, Rembrandt Square, ate a slice of New York Pizza, saw China Town and finally the Red Light District, snapping pictures along the way although the stoop whores do not appreciate the photo ops at all!

We grabbed dinner from an unmentionable restaurant with Richard and then said our goodbyes. It had been a long day and he had a a 90-minute drive ahead of him. We were all kind of tired from walking all over Amsterdam and getting so much sun.

Andrea and I returned to our room for a quick rest and freshen up before we headed out into the still-bright evening around 9pm. Eventually we did capture some pictures of Amsterdam in the late evening when it’s fully dark. I was so grateful to experience this. The city was alive with the final round of the European Cup so we wandered through a couple of bars and peeked into a coffeeshop to see what it was like. The game was the focus for most, although the locals complained it was two British teams and they weren’t really paying attention anyway.

All in all, Amsterdam is such a fabulous city. We were up by 5am to head back to Central Station to get our train to Schiphol Airport. I would have liked to stay another night here and the thought crossed my mind that I would actually like to live here one day. At least for a short time. Enjoy the pictures, there are a few 😉

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Monday/Tuesday, May 19/20, Netherlands

The Netherlands are known for a few things…besides flowers (which I am sure you got your fill of my million-flower exposition on the last post), there are of course, the windmills, wooden shoes, farms and animals. The past two days have been all about the Dutch life. From windmills in Zaanse Schans to a traditional fishing village called Volendam (Mynde opted not to dress up and take pictures with the other tourists.) The seemingly endless countryside with horses, cows, sheep and goats grazing on the lush green never got tiresome. We visited the local outdoor market in Sneek, took a trip to Snekermeer (Sneek lake), and spent a few hours driving and walking around the quaint little villages that made it seem as if we had gone back in time. All in all, the North part of Holland is quite beautiful with very few tourists, more green than will ever be seen in California and warm people who are generous with who they are rather than the “stuff” they have. It is so refreshing to be away from the materialism of the good ‘ol USA and get a taste of a much simpler life where friends sharing a drink and conversation is more important than what job you have or what car you drive.

Since it is light here for so long, at 8pm last night, we got the idea to show Richard what “Geocaching” is all about. If you have not ever participated, it is a fun “treasure-hunting” activity for all ages. Turns out it is world-wide since we even found a cache in Sneek! With a little help from a nice neighbor, we were able to find the cache and show Richard an interesting new activity.

Many, many thanks to Richard for everything… opening his home, being our tour guide, chef and chauffeur…showing us parts of Holland we would have not ever seen as “regular” tourists and translating all of the conversations…we are forever grateful!!

We have a short video and tried to show with the photos the beauty of the land and surrounding areas.

So today it is off to Amsterdam for our last night in the Netherlands. We will post that final blog when we get back home (and recover from this 23-day adventure). We hope you have enjoyed reading and looking at the pictures…we are glad we took the time to record some of the memories of this vacation and are already looking back to remember all that we have done and seen!
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Sunday, May 18, Netherlands

Do you like flowers? What about tulips… something the Dutch are now famous for? We visited Keukenhof , also known as the Garden of Europe or the world’s largest flower garden. This blog will be short and sweet because the pictures will speak for themselves. We originally took over 500 pictures of just the gardens and have narrowed it down (phew) to what we think are the most amazing. Also of note, it must have been a special day for St. Bernard owners as we encountered over a dozen in the park. These large lovable dogs captured everyone’s attention as you will see in some of our photos.

After Keukenhof, it was off to Richard’s father’s home to celebrate his 60th birthday. We spent the evening meeting more of Richard’s wonderful dutch family including his beautiful young nieces, Esmee who is 4 years old and Sophia, nearly 2 years. It turns out that the girls watch a program here in the Netherlands called Mega Mindy. I am a superhero from Belgium! We had some fun with the girls, encouraging them to sing the theme song.

After returning to Richard’s place, we had planned to go out into town with Catherina & Sikke however since it was Sunday night and not much happening in downtown Sneek we stayed at Richard’s place instead. We chatted until after midnight once again testing what it looks like for Mynde to fall asleep during a conversation, lol.
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Friday, May 16, Athens

Delphi was somewhere that Mynde had been looking forward to since we decided that Greece was our vacation destination. However, there were a few considerations that were not completely realized and/or taken into account during the vacation planning. One such consideration was the extremely quick pace of our itinerary and another was that Delphi was about 3.5 hours by bus from our hotel room–one way. That said, we opted to just relax, sleep in a little and check out some more ancient sites that were closer and that we had not seen during our first day in Athens. All that really means is that we will get to visit Delphi on our next visit to Greece.

We did, in fact, sleep in until 8:20a.m.–and had a lazy morning of breakfast and writing (the internet connection was not working so we just used word and are just now posting.) We decided to make the quick walk to the “Temple of Zeus”…which happened to be literally a 2 minute walk from our hotel! For me, these particular “rocks” were more enjoyable than the previous day but only because there were very few tourists and we wandered around exploring without stress and at our own pace. Of course, the Acropolis is so much more famous and extensive, but these were interesting and awe-inspiring in their own right. We met a friendly turtle that we fed some apple, watched an entire flock of birds flying in circular patterns around the columns and just strolled peacefully amongst the two-century old ruins–perfect!

After we had our fill of Zeus’ Temple, we walked over to the National Gardens. We stumbled upon a movie crew shooting a Greek movie and stood in the background watching for a take or two, found a pen with chickens, roosters and peacocks inside and watched them for some time, and finally joined at least 30 children to check out some snapping turtles swimming in a pond. Whew what a stroll…and what a difference, we only climbed about 22 steps in the entire distance!

With plenty of time left to explore, we found the street with the “guards.” Interestingly-dressed men standing outside the Government building and changing positions at various times. Somewhat like the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in D.C. or at Buckingham Palace but with much higher leg-kicks and tap shoes on for effect. I noticed that there were a lot of police everywhere on this street but figured it was “normal.” About that time, two men in suits in front of us motioned to two men to our right and then we were told to “cross to the other side immediately.” Ten seconds later, a motorcade of 7 black sedans rolled up and two stopped in the street, 3 turned in the driveway and 2 stopped at the other end of the street. News and photographers were feverishly snapping shots as 5 men in black “dresses” and even hats with full veils stepped out of the cars and were ushered quickly inside. We asked someone in the small crowd who it was that just arrived and she said that it was the head of the Eastern Orthodox church there to visit the Prime Minister. We have tried to google news to find out for sure, but could find nothing. Oh well, it was a little exciting for 3 minutes and then we walked on to continue our Athens experience.

It was back to the Plaka for more eating, shopping and people-watching to fill our afternoon. We were back to the hotel early and sat on the roof for a while reading…it was so pleasant up there, just close enough to the excitement but just far enough from the chaos and people who would like us to spend our money at their shop/cafe.
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Thursday, May 15, Athens

After we slept in more than we’ve slept in on any other day on this trip, we rolled out of bed at 8:15 a.m.! We enjoyed a continental breakfast and checked email, etc. and then headed out to see the Acropolis on what was turning out to be a very clear and warm day in Athens. WOW!

I think we saw more people visiting the Acropolis than we saw on all the islands combined! Yes, as Andrea likes to say, “Look, more rocks!” but these rocks have been around for over 2,000 years and are quite impressive when you are standing right before a column that’s as high as a 3 or 4 story building. Andrea took lots of pictures and we even shot a short vid for your quick viewing pleasure.

After our morning of walking around the Acropolis and working on our tans, we found an adjacent shopping village and flea market called Monastiraki. The restaurant prices in this area were a bit cheaper than in the Plaka, however we kept moving on because we seemed to “pick-up” a stranger we affectionately nicknamed “creepshow.” Andrea and I both noticed someone was following us and at a very uncomfortably close proximity. Now I don’t want to “make stuff up” yet Andrea and I did our best to get clear on this guy’s intention by walking in a circle. We would stop, he would stop. Eventually we found the entrance to Ancient Agora, which we had ticket for with the purchase of our Acropolis tickets and he could not follow us in 🙂 We walked around Ancient Agora taking pictures and appreciating more spectacular architecture of the remains of the Bouleuterion.

Eventually we wandered back to our room at Hotel Phaedra and picked up gyros for lunch on the way and then headed back into the Plaka’s flea market for some shopping. We walked around shopping, had our “regular” afternoon snack of tzatziki with a beverage and then headed to our room for an afternoon on our veranda.

In case you have not figured it out, there is not a lot to do in the Plaka area of Athens except shop, eat and drink, and look at ruins…not bad options or complaints in any way as this was THE BEST location I could possibly think to be in during the stay in Athens. My point is, when we are not looking at some amazing site (ie: The Acropolis), we are having a snack or shopping for something we cannot possibly live without. Needless to say, with the length of the trip and the value of the dollar, we will not be bringing home many treasures…so instead, we will eat Greek food, window shop our hearts out and take roughly a million pictures to serve as our memories. That said, dinner was yet ANOTHER gyro, fries and Mythos draft beer. (No, we still have not reached our gyro limit)!

(Still catching up on blogs!!)
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Wednesday, May 14, Paros/Athens

We decided to catch the early ferry to Athens since the weather seemed to be headed in a chilly direction… again. Our original plan was to catch the 7pm ferry from Naxos and arrive in Athens around 11:40pm. It was going to be a “run” to figure out where to pick up the Metro to the Plaka and the hoof it to our hotel. We were both glad we weren’t having to figure out where to go in Athens at midnight. Taking the earlier ferry was a good choice!

We arrived at the port in Athens around 3pm. Definitely different from the islands. Talk about hustle and bustle! We discovered the Metro was literally across the street by asking a friendly greek man. Then we purchased our tickets after clarifying our hotel’s stop and boarded the train. After about a 20-minute train ride, we got off at our stop and were literally thrown into the Plaka’s flea market. Where to go? We had a phone number to the hotel, which Andrea had an idea was within walking distance from the Metro, however neither of us have cell phones. We eventually found a payphone outside a public kiosk and got some help from a very nice greek young man who knew great English. We called the hotel and got some very shotty directions and then hauled our bags (uphill naturally) through the flea market for about 30-minutes to our room.

After showers, we headed down to explore the Plaka and find some dinner. We sat down and enjoyed a greek salad and Andrea ordered lamb that came smothered in yogurt served on top of a pita.

We were beat from our journey into Athens and decided to call it an early night. However, the ice cream caught my eye on the walk back to the room. It was a beautiful evening, a bit chilly and comfortable with a sweatshirt or jacket. In Athens at the flea markets, you cannot walk by without receiving an invitation to shop, “Lady! Lady! You are welcome! Let me show you my best deal!” I call it the “hustle” since this is how they make their living.

Photos in this slideshow include our view from our room in the evening and shots of the flea market.
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