As an amateur philosopher, I looked forward to Athens as a place where great men had once had enlightening realizations about life, which are more valuable today than ever before in some respects. It’s difficult for me to fully comprehend how long ago 2,000 – 3,000 years ago actually is, and humans themselves have barely changed, if not for our beliefs and knowledge about the universe. However, these were some of the first people to ask the bigger questions about life and record their thoughts on the matters. I was intrigued to see the environment which provoked such introspection and exploration.
Upon arriving, I wondered how the ancient Athenians could have any complex thoughts besides “It’s really freakin’ hot and humid here.” Luckily I’ve learned that once you accept that you’re going to be sweaty and stinky, you’re free to stop worrying about it and enjoy yourself. Athens is all about the ruins, most importantly, the Acropolis. The gigantic pillars and enormous structures certainly leave an astonishment of what civilization was able to accomplish at a time when there were only 100 million people in the entire world. After seeing multiple sites of ruins, they began to become a bit repetitive. Even while learning the history of a place, I’ve still found it difficult to truly fathom that this person did this historic thing right here X thousand years ago. Although I appreciate the history of places I’ve seen, I’ve learned that I’m much more taken by the natural beauty of a place. For that, Athens had the perfect spot to watch the sunset up on Lykavitos, a hill in the northeast part of the city overlooking the entire city, mountains, and sea.
I knew little to nothing about Santorini before arriving, other than it had the cheapest hostel I could find on the Greek Islands a month earlier. First impressions are rarely 100% accurate, and that definitely held true with this volcanic island. When the ferry arrived in the bay / crater of the island, the visible landscape was mostly brown and barren, with cliffs in lieu of any beach – more reminiscent of a desert than my idea of a typical island.
After a bus ride to the other side of the island, I found my paradise of black sand, beach bars, and Mediterranean Sea at Perissa Beach. The 3km stretch of beach is lined by a small road of restaurants and bars, which stay open until 7-8am in the morning. I thought this was crazy, until I experienced how long it takes a Greek waiter to bring a check. A few new Canadian friends and I managed to make it to sunrise sitting outside a Beach Bar creatively titled “Beach Bar,” and the night seemed to disappear without effort. The best advantage to being on any island is the starscape at night, and as we waited for the sun to rise, we were treated to an unbelievable view of the Milky Way.
Santorini’s main activity among tourists is renting ATV’s to ride around the island, and my new found(land) friends and I spent a day doing just that. It must be frustrating to be a local on the island, because these 4-wheelers are everywhere, slowing crawling up the many hills (and backing up traffic) and flying around cliff-side turns. Fira and Oia are the largest towns on the island, notable for their stark white buildings contrasting to the brown of the island and the blue of the sea. Just off the coast of Oia sits a large rock formation where my buddy Mike and I (something about that name just makes it easy to get along) decided to follow the crowd and give cliff-jumping a try; something that seems like a good idea at all times except the second after you’ve leapt.