Amorgos Island, June 29 - July 2
has been our most atmospheric island yet, with exceptionally dramatic
topography and relatively few tourists. We again stayed in a small
apartment in a hotel. This one was directly on a pleasant
beach complete with a small Roman ruin (apparently extending well into
the sea, although we couldn't see much underwater),
wireless internet on the beachside patio, a short stroll to a nice
little town with lots of restaurants, and a charismatic proprietress.
Amorgos is best known for an incredible monastery on a steep cliff over the ocean (photo 3), and as the location for the movie The Big Blue. We visited several ancient ruins as well as the monastery, made sand castles, sipped iced latte/chocolate in quaint village cafes, and of course took a few hikes (with some signposts this time -- see photo 4 -- for which our knowledge of the Greek alphabet thanks to mathematics was slightly helpful). We highly recommend a stop in Amorgos for anyone visiting the Greek Islands.
Jennifer spent a great deal of time (and a little stress) onward travel planning. When we discovered some Santorini-Crete ferries already full, and Crete-Italy plane fares rising rapidly, we decided to nail down our next 2-3 stops and book everything ahead. The internet was indispensable, although we felt a pang when the hotel waitress commented "You're like in American movies -- on the computer all the time, it's not healthy!" (She later asked us to help her set up an account on the hotel computer so she could email her brother, and Tim resisted a retort that her chain-smoking might not be all that healthy either.) Eventually we set a plan based on ferry and plane availability: three nights in Santorini, five nights in Crete, then fly to Naples and start the Italy leg of our travels.
We breathed a sigh of relief with transportation and hotels finally in place, but only for a few hours. Late that evening the hotel proprietress informed us that our Santorini ferry in the morning had been canceled. (It turns out the high-speed catamarans don't travel when it's too windy, and it was quite a gale most of the day -- probably not a rare occurrence judging by the number of relic windmills on the island.) When we asked about our pre-purchased ferry tickets, the proprietress said "You go to dock and wave tickets in air for as long as you like, the ferry still no come!" We could have gotten to Santorini with a 4:30am departure and circuitous all-day route on slow ferries (in contrast to the 70-minute direct "flight" on the high-speed catamaran), but we opted for an extra day in Amorgos instead. The tickets were refunded, although doing so wasn't a trivial matter.
It appears we can't win either way -- planning in advance, or taking things as they go. We'll mix and match for a while and see how it works out.
On another topic, we're still trying to figure out a good daily pace as we travel. On our standard two-week trips the pace is clear: pack in the activities from dawn to dusk -- vacations have never been about relaxation for us. So far we've been operating in pretty much the same mode on this trip. There's so much to see and do! So many great places to go! Relaxation isn't an objective now either, but we may want to slow down a bit, particularly if the kids are to spend any amount of time on schoolwork. We also don't want to risk travel fatigue or burnout, although there haven't been any signs of that yet.
Our biggest challenge at the moment may be laundry -- an exciting topic to be sure. Hotel sink rinse-outs have sufficed so far, so we didn't spring for the 30 Euros ($40) laundry service on Amorgos, but we'll have to succumb eventually. Stay tuned.
By the way, this travelog was drafted by Jennifer on the back of a ferry ticket envelope, while sitting amongst 3000-year-old Minoan ruins with an incredible view. Alex and Tim seem to require 5-10 times as long as the females of the family to do justice exploring ancient sites. While Jennifer scribbled this travelog, Emily composed a blog entry on Alex's Blackberry. Clearly we should have thrown the laptops into our daypack.
If the ferry goes in the morning (likely, as the winds have died considerably), which also happens to be Tim's 12th birthday, we're off to Santorini -- highly touted and tourist packed, but surely worth a stop since it lies directly between Amorgos and Crete.