The moment I found out that I would have a two-week spring break, my heart was set on Greece. Blessed beyond measure, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend 10 days in Greece. It was a fabulous vacation, and what made it even better was that my mom met me there!!
We arrived in Athens, Greece on Saturday afternoon and had to spend the night in a hotel before taking the early morning flight to Santorini the next day. It's actually really ironic because I was suppose to be in Athens, Georgia for the engagement party of one of my very best friends. I have the honor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding in August, so I was missing her that night.
The next morning, we got on the plane to Santorini! I was so excited! When we got to Santorini, we headed straight to our hotel which ended up being a cave hotel! Each room was on the side of the mountain in a cave! It was so great. Our balcony overlooked Santorini's volcanic island. Over the course of our time on Santorini, we did a lot of exploring of the villages of Fira and Oia. They are simply breath-taking. We also made a lot of new Greek friends, such as a shop owner who gave us names of clubs to go to ("if it is okay with your mom"...haha) and our very own Santorini key chains.
One day we had a tour guide named Vicki, and she took us all around the island in her stylish black BMW. She was hilarious and so much fun. Being from Santorini, she had so much knowledge and took us to the most spectacular places in all of Santorini. We went to the places where the professional photographers take the famous pictures of the island, and she showed us where scenes from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Tomb Raider were filmed. After several hours of touring, Vicki took us to a local Greek restaurant on the bayside of the island. It was delicious! We had tzatziki, tomato croquettes, fried zucchini and eggplant, and Greek salad. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again... By the end of the tour, we were so sad to say good bye to Vicki--we had a wonderful day with her.
After a few days in Santorini, it was time to take the ferry to the island of Naxos! Whereas Santorini's economy is completely dependent on tourism, Naxos is much more agricultural. It is very much representative of true Greek island life. When we arrived in Naxos, Mom rented a car and we drove to the villa that church friends of ours so generously let us stay in. It was wonderful! The view from the villa was of mountains, farmlands, and beaches. Pretty unbelieveable to say the least.
We were in Naxos for five days and spent our days exploring all the little Naxian villages. We loved seeing the uniqueness of each town and seeing the people live their daily lives. It was such a neat experience. When we passed through the village of Filotti, we decided to stop and walk around because of the beautiful wisteria everywhere. As we were exploring, we were greeted by a Greek man named John who tried his very best to speak to us in his broken English. He also introduced us to his cousin, also named John. They showed us the old cinema, the Venetian tower, the church, and even their house to pick oranges and lemons from their trees for us. Just when we were leaving, our new friends John and John invited us back on Sunday for their family's Easter celebration. Of course we said we would be there!
It was so amazing to get to experience Easter in an European country. We were very excited to participate in all the Easter festivities. On Friday night, we went into Chora (the largest city on Naxos) and ate dinner at a fabulous restaurant where we could watch the Easter processionals of the local churches. We watched as lots and lots of people marched through the street chanting things in Greek and carrying icons of symbolizing Easter. It was really something to see all those people participating in such a tradition. On Saturday night, we went to midnight mass at a Greek Orthodox church in town. Around 11:40 p.m., we went inside with our candles and waited for the service to start. People would come in and kiss the various icons in the church and then socialize with their friends until the service started. Throughout the service, there was lots of chanting in Greek and the priest spoke occasionally. Then, the congregation lit candles and headed outside (which made me nervous because there were so many people and lots of flames to worry about). Outside of the church, the priests chanted in Greek while tons of loud firecrackers were let off. I'm not going to lie...it was pretty scary! We were glad when we got to our car without our hair catching on fire or ear drums severely damaged. haha.
We woke up on Easter Sunday to a glorious morning and we watched as a shepherd guided his lambs across the land below the villa. What a sweet reminder of the One we were celebrating! Around noon, we head over to Filotti to visit our new friends John and John. When we got there, we were introduced to the family and were given seats around the table in the courtyard. Once we were seated, food after food was set before us -- lamb, tzatziki, bread, salad, goat cheese from the goat that morning, and the list goes on. They kept refilling our glasses with Coke, which was a life-saver for me when eating the lamb! We ate and ate and ate. Throughout lunch, we talked with one of the grandsons named Johnny who spoke English pretty well. We learned he loved to folk dance and wanted to be a pharmacist. He was very sweet. I would have to say that my most favorite part of the whole day was getting to do traditional Greek dancing with the family! It was like something from a movie. I loved it! When we couldn't eat anymore and all of the family were cleaning up the first round of food, we thanked the Johns and the relatives for a wonderful Easter. It was the most unique experience!
The next day, we left Naxos and headed back to Santorini. We had a great last night in Santorini, eating delicious food and doing some last minute shopping. Marianna and I even tried some fig gelato! We were really sad to leave the beautiful Greek islands but were excited to see Athens!
We had a really early flight to Athens the next morning, so we had the whole day to sight-see! Our first stop was the Acropolis, of course! It was really neat to see the Parthenon and all those ancient buildings that I had learned about since the third grade. We also got to go to the Archeology Museum, see the Olympic stadium of the first olympic games in 1898, and watch the changing of the guards at Parliament.
After all that touring around, we were exhausted so we spent the rest of time in Athens taking it easy and exploring a little bit. We went to the Acropolis Museum and did some shopping! Although Athens may not have been as picturesque as the islands, it was really remarkable to see a city with so much history.
Greece was so much fun! I loved everything about it and am grateful for such an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Opa!