A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jonaway

Ios to Santorini to Athens to Home

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Well, it has been a trip. The group has been able to see close up some of what goes into the job of a Contiki trip manager. We have has some challenges for sure. As I write we are now on a chartered Aegean Airlines flight from Santorini to Athens. We are sharing the flight with another Contiki group and a Trafalgar group. So let's back up and see how this happened.

Our last post was some photos from Ios, which was a nice little island, quiet and with wonderful sandy beaches, a stunning hotel (with great food), and an authentic Greek town. The free day on Ios found the students on a pirate ship for a day on the water, exploring coves and deserted beaches. In spite of safe sunscreen application many returned 'kissed by the sun'. The Mini Market did a great business is Solarcane and Aloe.

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That evening saw us heading to the town to dine in an old restored villa at Sally's. Delicious food and live Greek entertainment made for an enjoyable night.

What was supposed to be an early departure for the Ios to Santorini ferry suddenly became a 'hang around the pool day because we don't know when we are leaving day'. It seems the port strike in Pireaus (Athens) has caused all sorts of chaos. No worries, in true Greek fashion we arrived in the picturesque island of Santorini made for Saint Ireni. The Greeks love their Gods and their Saints.
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Off to the northern tip of Santorini, we headed to Oia to see the world famous sunset. Alas, Helios, the god of the sun, was not smiling down on us and we had a blustery visit. Thankfully one of the students had been there four years before and still had the photo so, in true SAIT style, we improvised and created our own sunset!

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More great Greek food and we were finally at our hotel.
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Our trip manager had told us that we were close to the airport. He wasn't kidding! When the first plane went overhead it was a bit of a shock. We were able to watch the planes overhead, somewhat like landing in St. Marten in the Caribbean.

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Our final full day in Santorini included a visit to the Bronze Age excavations of Akrotiri. This 4000 year old excavation iis an excellent example of this long lost age.

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We travelled on some perilous roads to get to the highest point of the island which affored lots of selfie opportunities as well as scenic views of the other islands that make up Santorini.

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After a bit of time to freshen up at the hotel we were off to the main town of Fira for the evening. The sunset was stunning, the cruise ships were in port and we made sure that we got our last shopping and eating done before our early morning departure.

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Now, on to our chartered flight! The previous port strike in Pireaus had grown to a general strike, something that happens frequently in Greece. Contiki and Trafalgar groups were scattered around the islands so the easiest solution was to charter an airlplne. No Big Deal! Hats off to the companies for getting us on the plane and back to Athens. The check in at the very small airport was interesting - it took almost as long to check in three groups took as long as the ferry would have taken. the views of the Greek islands from the air were a bonus!
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The early departure gave us some free time in Athens for last minute souvenirs and then we were off for our final folklore dinner in the suburbs of the city. Thanks to the SAIT 100 Club the students were treated to 'The Zafiro Experience" an amazing night; olive oil production, cooking lessons, delicious food, traditional dance lessons, platebreaking and lots of 'Opa'. Thank you SAIT 100 Club! for a night we will always remember.

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Our trip has come to an end. A number of our students are off for extended trips in Europe, some will complete their internships and some of us headed back to Canada. The trip has been an eye opening experience and the students have a new appreciation for the job of a trip manager. Our thanks go out to Tom Colwell, of Contiki, who worked so very hard to ensure that our trip went as promised. We look forward to some karaoke in Calgary when Tom comes back to Banff to work for the winter. Have a great summer in Greeece Tom! We hope your trips are uneventful!

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Mary Anne Radmacher says, “I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” I am sure many of our students feel the same after this study tour to Greece. Thanks for reading about our adventure.

Posted by jonaway 05:05 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Mykonos and Ios

sunny 28 °C

The most frustrating part of typing Ios is that it tries to autocorrect to IOS.....just a little rant about something quite trivial.

Well, after an exciting evening in Mykonos we had a full day to explore the island and town on our own. Some chose the sun and sand at the hotel while others opted for the public bus ride into town. The town itself looks different during the day. Most of the buildings and even the sidewalks have all been repainted that Cycladic white in preparation for the busy tourist season.

While we were walking we came upon one of the 800 churches or chapels on the island. Yes, 800, most of which are family run and maintained, and quite small. There was to be a Greek Orthodox baptism in the chapel and the event planner set up the party favours and treats in the quake. So very authentic!
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Not much else to report so I will leave you with some visuals of the time spent on the island.

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We took the ferry from Mykonos travelling by Fast Ferry with short stops in Naxos and Parios. A late afternoon transfer and we were at a lovely property on a beautiful beach.

Time for a beach barbecue by the pool. Some of our students looked fabulous in thheir new Greek outfits. The evening was capped off with a beautiful sunset. We hope you enjoy.

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Posted by jonaway 01:44 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

MY-KON-OS

sunny 22 °C

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Ah! We have finally arrived in the iconic Greek Island of Mykonos. Known for the crazy winds here we were treated with hazy skies and no wind. Go figure! After a smooth ferry ride with pit stops in Syros and Tinos we arrived in Paradise -Paradise Beach to be exact.

There has been a shift in the mood, from historical immersion to sun and sand. The students are excited and ready. After a few hours of chilling of the beach we headed back into the town for a walking tour that included a stop at the iconic windmills. It was early evening as we wound our way through the labyrinth of streets, alleys and shops. Houses are decorated in the Cyclades white, most freshly painted for the season. The town Evan has an already called Little Venice where all the shops are built in the water. Rather than bore you with details, enjoy our photos. We are headed back to town today so we will post more later. enjoy!

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Posted by jonaway 00:31 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Divine Delphi

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Our main stop today was at sacred site of Delphi, considered to be one of the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World. Located high in the mountains we all felt like it 'home' as some of the mountains are still snow capped. The temperature outside was cooler, the view of the surrounding mountains were spectacular and some of us needed to use the big, thick blanket in the hotel room. The early morning was cool but, unlike Calgary, heated up quickly.
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The site in Delphi, often referred to as the centre or navel of the universe is where then'oracle' delivered their messages. the 'oracle' was the messenger between the gods and the people who came from far and wide. These people, be that a king or a commoner, had the messages delivered in the Temple of Apollo. Some of the original stones have been excavated and others have been partially recreated at the site.
Imagine the marvel of this construction started around 600 BC. Have a look at the design of the Treasury. It might look familiar to many banks in North America in the early 1900s.

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This whole site was dedicated to Apollo, the god of sun and music. The most important building was the Sanctuary. While the Temple was the 'centre of the action', there are many other sites to see. Some of these include the theatre and the gymnasium. the views from the top of the Theater are spectacular.

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Also, housed in the Delphi Museum, are many ancient artifacts, including a bronze charioteer and portions of the actual chariot. Our guide, Yiannis also gave us a lesson in the Delphic Commandments. The third commandment, is this....."sureityy is the road to ruin". Wise words from a few thousand years ago!
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Our next big stop is back in Athens at the Acropolis Museum.
WOW! The Acropolis Museum has been voted the best museum in the world. I can concur that it is truly spectacular. Built prior to the Athens Olympics it is a magnificent building with stunning views of the Acropolis. the fore entering the building visitors can look down several meters below, through the heavy glass floors. Ancient Athens is at your feet. The excavations have been restored and uncovered to give everyone a sense of life in Ancient Athens.

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This museum is dedicated entirely to the Acropolis and contains a large, but not complete, collection of the statues and artwork. Unfortunately, a significant amount of the parts from the Acropolis are not located in Greece. Like many other ancient areas, archaeologists have "exported, plundered, liberated or outright stole items" which are now housed in museums such as the Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum and the British Museum.

Some of you may have heard about the "Elgin Marbles" and may not know exactly what they are. They are NOT playing marbles! Lord Elgin of Britain brought a large part of the Acropolis sculptures and facades from the buildings in the early 1800's. These items were purchased by the British government in the 1860's. This vast amount of artwork has been prominently displayed in the British Museum since then. The contraversary rages on as to whether these Greek treasures should be returned to Greece to be redisplayed in the Acropolis Museum.
This museum is the exact size of the Parthenon.

On the top floor of the museum, steel columns are placed to replicate the Parthenon. The pieces that are in Greece have been placed as they would have been on the Parthenon. They are not shy about filling in missing pieces of the marble and showing the huge amount of missing pieces that are in great museums of the world. The British Museum has the LARGEST collection, by far. perhaps one day they will return to their rightful place in Athens and in history.
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The classical part of our tour has concluded and we are off to the Cyclade Islands. We had an early night with a 5 AM wake up call for our ferry departure to Mykonos. Thanks for reading our blog. As I post this, I am sitting on the beach in Mykonos. yes, with WIFI at my fingertips. It is sunny and so I apologize in advance for any photo miscues and spelling mistakes! It is a bit hard to see in the sunshine.

Posted by jonaway 00:21 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

The First Olympic Games

Think of what tourism would be now if no form of entertainment exisited?

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A study tour is meant to expose students to different experiences and put their classroom learning into the real world. At breakfast this morning a student commented, that while at the Acropolis, she paused to think about how her visited impacted this ancient site. "Should we be visiting, thereby impacting the archaeological site? What is the economic impact on the site if we don't visit? And where is the balance between these two questions?"

Today we visited Olympia, home to one of the most ancient sites in Greece, and the world, dating back to 8th Century BC. While en route to the site we got a lesson in one of the first form of entertainment, the ancient Olympic Games. What if these games had never happened? What would tourism look like if this entertainment hadn't started when it did?"

Here are a few, fast facts about the Olympic Games. I took notes and hope I have most of it correct.
- Olympia was sanctuary to Gaia or Mother Earth.
- the first recorded sport was bull jumping. This involved acrobatics (remember Greek 'acro' meaning on top of) over the bull and in no way was the bull harmed!
- bull jumping was replaced by chariot racing, often done by the rich and sons of kings and aristocrats. Some things never change?
- the first 'official' Olympics happened in 760 BC. In 560 BC it was reorganized into a five day event, taking place on the 2nd full moon after the summer solstice. Remember when the games are held now.
- a flame travelled to city states to announce the games.
- events included soldiers racing in full gear, chariot racing, pentathlon, foot races and contact sports (think modern Mixed Martial Arts). The only rule in ancient contact sports - no biting, and, oh yeah, they were naked and covered in olive oil. I'll let you think about that one!
- the olive wreath was awarded to the winner.
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The last Olympics was held in 396 AD and it wasn't until the 1860's until the ancient city was partially unearthed. Further excavations will occur in the future but at a pace so that there is always going to something for the next generation to unearth and learn about.

The students were excited and stoked for today. This was evident when they were given the chance to run on the original track to declare the winner. Only one winner, nothing for second, third or last. The winner, Drew, with the long legs and his Nike runners was awarded the wreath and has bragging rights until the next race or four years from now, whichever comes first!

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From there we traveled to Magna Grecia, a local olive agroturismo, owned by a lovely Italian lady and her family. A welcome drink of local wine or Ouzo and we were treated to a quick lesson in olive production followed by a traditional lunch, with tastings of infused olive oils.
Lunch consisted of bruschetta (the owner is Italian), olives and feta. Lunch of lamb, chicken or vegetarian options followed. The potatoes in Greece are different, creamy and delicious, and usually cooked in Lemon and olive oil, of course.. Baklava, fresh strawberries and grappa followed. But wait! There is more. The hosts performed some traditional dances and before you know it, everyone was Greek and could dance. dont be surprised if some of you receive hand made olive oil soap and olive oil as gifts.
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It was magic and a day that won't be forgotten! How fortunate are we to be able to bring our students on a journey that opens their hearts and minds to travel, the world around them and the possibilities that lie ahead for them? I have goosebumps!

We are in the coach, headed to Delphi. See that town in the mountains, that is tomorrow's destination. Coach time allows for catch up of the blog. We hope you enjoying following our journey!
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Posted by jonaway 12:04 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

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