- Entries : Category [ travel ]
- The bug travelling around in Greece (and maybe even further sometimes?)
12 July 2005
Report from Karpenisi HelMUG Excursion
Leave the city behind... and the Macs
A weekend spent with some 20 people from the Greek Mac User Group
HelMUG, in a mountain city in central Greece. I had expected a lot of
computer talk and a beautifull mountain landscape. I got the beautyfull
landscape alright, but we concentrated more on good food and company
than on the computer stuff. Read on for my report and some pictures...
The program was defined loosely, with lots of options, of which we
would choose according to time and spirit. What really happened... me
and Mary were contacted by libero (Panagiotis Liberopoulos) and offered
a ride in his car. We arranged to meet Saturday morning at 7:30. Traffic
was low, the ride was fine, and while we listened to music from the
radio and my iPod we were the first to arrive in Karpenisi around 11. We
phoned Giorgos "technovision" Tasios, our host and HelMUG's "man on the
mountain". We met him at the central square, where one after the other
the HelMUG people arrived. Everybody had their coffee.
Then technovision drove us to our hotel, where we checked in and
relaxed. The view from the hotel is nice. I left again with technovision
and with the rest of the HelMUG Gang we went to a place outside of town
("sto pato tis polys") to eat unter big shady trees. As is the habit
with those kind of events in Greece, the meal took a long time.
I was properly filled up by food and drink, so I enjoyed the rest we
all got. Now everybody was being diverted to their respective hotels and
we had a good rest. In the evening we drove to a cafeteria out of town
which has a western style of setup: Pony riding, a mini train, a
climbing tower, ... As it was evening, the attractions were closed
though. Mary and me went to investigate them nonetheless in the dark.
The others had coffee again and enjoyed the view of the fireflies.
Stefbystef gave a presentation to show the new design for the HelMUG
site. One of the few occasions where we talked business. In the evening
we went to eat again all together.
The next morning we slept a bit longer. In Athens it is currently a
bit warm, at night the temperature rarely goes below 28 degrees Celsius.
So sleeping in the cool and fresh mountain night was something for a
change. Libero and "yorix" Giorgos Manganaris even camped out, a bit
farther up in the mountains. For us, breakfast was provided at the
hotel. I had a short talk with "melis" Stelios Melissakis about the
HelMUG server which will be moved to Athens soonish. After breakfast the
gang moved to visit a monastery with a good mountain view. We saw some
handwritings from as far back as the 9th and 11th century. Also they
have the weapons of Greek revolution hero Karaiskakis on display.
After the visit to the monastery, we went to a place in the mountains
were a gorge was turned into a fortified hiding place during the time
the turks were ruling Greece. We had to climb up a beautyfull mountain
path. I am a bit afraid of heights, but after just a few minutes I
adapted and enjoyed every minute of it. The place is very beautyfull.
Reminded me a lot of Switzerland, so sometimes I asked myself why I came
here at all. For me, this was the best part of the weekend.
While we were up the mountain path, libero had to go back to Athens,
since he was invited to a marriage (not his own). We arranged for
further transport with "liquidus" Manos Halikis. The crowd of the HelMUG
people then moved on to a place called "palaio mikro horio" - old
small village. This village was almost completely destroyed in a stone
avalange in 1968. Also, like many places up there, it had a lot of
historical events in World War II and the Greek civil war after that.
We had our last, merry lunch for the HelMUG weekend here. Everybody ate
and drank again, technovision told lots of stories about the place and
the area. I had a short chat with stefbystef about some things he needs
for the HelMUG site team. That was about all I had talked about user group
business all weekend. Even the computer chatter was pretty low all weekend.
We all enjoyed the company though the weekend. After the lunch everybody
said goodbye and went on the road.
We arrived with liquidus in Kifisia in northern Athens quite late.
Sunday evening all of Athens citizens are returning to the city at once.
All roads are filled up much over the maximum. Liquidus knew many small
roads that speeded us up andkept us out of the big traffic blocks. But
still, while the road up to the mountains had taken us 3.5 hours, we
went back in about 5 hours. From Kifisia we took the subway to the city.
Back in the heat of Athens, tired but happy and filled up with new
Special thanks go to libero and liquidus for driving us along, to
technovision for hosting us all, and to MacYannis Yannis Angelidis, for
organizing the event. Sadly Yannis had a family emergency and could not
come along... we missed you!
08 October 2005
Flying on the Dolphin to Hydra
Right now I'm sitting in the flying dolphin from Pireus to Hydra. Hydra is a small island on the southern side of the eastern tip of Peloponissos. My first trip in a boat like this, and the sucker is shaking like crazy. A plane in heavy turbulences is nothing compared to this. Seems to be absolutely normal to the other passengers. Haven't seen anyone running to the toilets either.
It's a bit of a pity that one can't go outside to smell and see the sea, feel the sun and wind. But it sure gets us there fast. The tripp is an idea on short notice, a moment out of the big city. Tomorrow we'll be back.
09 October 2005
Quiet Evening on Carfree Hydra
Give me no car any day
For the last lap after stopping in Poros, I was able to snatch a window seat. I had a first class view on the spray of the sea and on approaching Hydra. We arrived well shaken but in one piece. Hydra is a car free island, which is very impressive. Such quiet, such fresh air, what a change from Athens.
We went up the small paths into the back of town, where we by chance asked a lady for a hotel. She knew one and it turned out to be quite pleasant, with a view. We left our bags behind and were free for nore strolling around. Hydra has no modern buildings, all houses are traditional. There is a lot of tourism (compared to Limnos), but it's acceptable (and less than e.g. Corfu, but prices are higher on Hydra).
We chance upon a play of greek shadow theatre (Καραγκιόζης), something I had been looking out for a long time. Sadly the show was not quite up to it, they lost their audience of island children fast. We left to eat fish, drink Ouzo. After that we did some more walking around, in that wonderfull atmosphere without cars. And then we went to sleep, deepest sleeps since months.
First Moment Back From Hydra
So I'm back from Hydra, half a Saturday and half a Sunday without cars in a beautyfull town. We've eaten well for lunch, we bought almond sweets, we saw a lot of nice things. I took some pictures and will write a bigger roundup of impressions. What already came up for me is the shock of coming back to Pireus and Athens. After the quiet and fresh air being back here is hard. I'm complaining all the time whenever I hear someone honking his horn, whenever cars block my way. What a lamer I've become :-)
15 October 2005
Thoughts on Hydra
When normal becomes special
The trip to Hydra left a deep impression on me. I visited an island
devoid of cars and motorcycles. I filled up on oxygen and clean air. I
let my ears rest in the quiet and the few excellent sounds. Like when
walking through the streets discovering a restaurant by hearing the
chatter and clinging of glasses and plates. Like hearing the footsteps
of other pedestrians on the next street. Read on for more thoughts and
People talk softer on Hydra. We did not see overweight people and
the islanders take big steps like you get from walking a lot. Because
there is less noise, there is no urge to overpower other sounds with
loud music. There are lots of cats in town, stray cats and house cats.
Even the cats are more friendly than their cousins in Athens. Could be
because they likely have not seen a car in their life.
Different ways to get things going
When you want to transport something, you have to use your muscles and a handcarriage, or you might use the power of a donkey. One encounters the smell of donkey poo quite frequently in the streets. This might sound absurd to you, for in your life you enjoy the convenience of your car or you might need it because of having to cover big distances. But I have learned in those few hours, that it is possible. We are humans, we conquered this planet not because we were the laziest species, but because we are the most adaptable.
We went to Hydra with a big gaz guzzling "Flying Dolphin" (1.5 hours from Pireus, about 19 Euro one way, the picture shows one arriving). Another option would have been a "regular" ship, which takes 3.5 hours and the ticket costs about half the price.
The hotel Dina
We chose not to stay in a hotel near the port, but to try our luck in the small backstreets. We walked a bit and with the help of a friendly lady found the hotel "Dina" on a hill. Very pleasant and recommended. It did not have that "hotelly" athmosphere. Our room went right out to the terrasse (where we had breakfast from the bakery next morning, the picture shows the view). We noticed more of these small hotels throughout town, plenty of places to stay. We did not see any trace of luxury htoels or big concrete tourist traps. Maybe they are in other parts of the island. At least the more luxurious hotels must be somewhere around, for Hydra was a fashionable resort for Athenians from the 1960 on.
The weather was a bit colder than usual for early October, but κυρία Ντίνα (Mrs. Dina) had provided plenty of warm blankets. I slept deep and untroubled and with many interesting dreams. There are many small churches around. On sunday morning they all sounded their bells in turn, but I slept through all but the last one.
Going to the theatre
But before that, the same evening we found the hotel, we had been going out. First we went to the Greek shadow theatre "Καραγκιόζης" (Karagiosis), that we had discovered on a small handmade poster. The themes and figures and stories are known to all Greek children. The figure of "Καραγκιόζης" is a symbol throughout Greece. So I was looking forwart to seeing Karagiosis played in a real theatre. The stage was set up on a sideroad of the "περιβολάκια" (perivolakia) square. The small backlighted stage, a bit of cardboard and some bottle cages to sit on the cobblestones, plus the tables of a restaurant next door for more audience. The setup looked suitable enough (Picture).
Sadly, the performance wasn't up to it. The show host turned it into a school session. The story would have involved a donkey, but after a long time of quasi-school and introducing characters, we still had not seen the donkey. It was not only us, but the children got bored too, leaving one by one and in small groups. They were openly talking about what games they could go and play. At some moment we had enough and left.
By that time we had grown hungry, so we went looking for a restaurant. It was not hard to find them, the town is quite small and you can hear them from afar. We were looking for one where we could sit inside, because we were also getting cold. After looking at a few we made our choice. There we had fresh seafood. We loaded our table with salad, potatoes, octopus, pies, and one "portion" of kalamari, which turned out to be one huge kalamari. Kalamari are quite often deep frozen in Greece, but the deep frozen ones are all the same size. Our oversized one was proof of being fresh in itself. We went home warmed up by food and Ouzo to the deep sleep I have already described.
06 November 2005
HelMUG Server Upgrade
In Thessaloniki on the road
Yesterday morning I went to Thessaloniki by train, along with libero and meLiS from HelMUG. Over here we are rebuilding HelMUGs server. Which is down since yesterday afternoon. Right now we are hard at work in the internet cafe "Blue Screens".
07 November 2005
A Short Trip to Thessaloniki
Rumours and facts about Greece's northern metropolis
As stated in the previous post, I spent this weekend on a short trip to
Thessaloniki, hopping on a train Saturday morning and coming back Sunday
at noon. Actually not long enough (by a huge margin) to really get an
idea about this city. Greeks have a few cliches about Thessaloniki and
its people: The city is described as being much nicer and friendlier
than Athens. Let's examine those rumours to their fact value, using
strictly scientific criteria...
First of all, Thessaliniki is said to be easier to navigate: Most big
roads going in parallel to the sea line and if you are lost you can
always go downhill until you reach the shore. On the other side the only
thing sure in Athens is that there will be streets and houses around you
in every direction for as far as you can imagine, no matter where you
The people in Thessaloniki are said to say "Συγνώμη" (Signomi, "sorry")
when they for example accidentally bump into you in the street. They
will happily drive their cars over you when you cross the street
without watching (they are Greek, after all), but supposedly they will
apologize and explain to you that you were wrong. Athenians say that
Thessalonikiotes are better dressed and especially the Greek boys insist
that the girls are very beautyfull (I won't comment on the second point,
but I felt a bit shabby in my "wozzitmatter" travel clothes).
People from Thessaloniki boast about the places to go out and their
night life. These are said to be heavily improved due to things being
so close together, while in Athens you need a car to go to the next
bar. Even the food is said to be better in northern Greece. Wow.
From my short stay there, I can only say that I now assume all
these rumours to be true. I liked the place a lot, even though I
have seen only so little of it. There are actually places where the
taxis stop in a line to pick up passengers. And from a completely
representative sample of Taxidrivers, 2 out of 2 were not only friendly,
but in fact funny, cracking jokes, telling stories and spreading good
vibes. These thing are unbeknownst to Athenians.
My impression might be distorted to the positive by the friendly
reception and hospitality of the HelMUG members up there. Thanks a lot
you guys! (Special thanks to Dimitri for offering us lowly Athenians a
couch for the night. Interesting place you have there and I enjoyed
looking at all the books.)
04 March 2006
On The Way To Patras Carnival
Come and see the betabug sing and dance
Right now I'm sitting in an overland bus to Patras, where this weekend the carnival is at full speed. I'll stay with my ex-flatmate there and yes, I'll take part in a group. We will dress up as cream cakes and take part in the parade. Not that I'm a fan of this kind of activity, but I'll try it out and have fun at the party.
The bus terminal to Patras is crowded these days, with busses departing every 5 minutes or so. Every bus has a few unbooked seats, so there is a run on them. But the situation is well organized. Let's see if I can attach a picture.
So this is how we are dressed up, sweet cakes! The picture is taken right before the parade. I jumped and danced all through the parade.
Looks like I als appeared on TV, a team asked me a few questions about our costumes. Now our group went to a cafeteria where the party continues. But right now I need a break, I'm... cake.
05 March 2006
Party after the party
Parade again, then for coffee at the lighthouse
Today we had another parade, even longer than yesterdays. Again our costumes were a great success. I got asked to pose with others many times. No TV interviews for me today though. OTOH my gf saw me on TV.
After this second parade I was even more tired than yesterday. We then went to see the rest of the parade from a balkony. After that we went to this beautyfull cafe in a lighthouse.
The pic shows one ex-flatmate posing with one still-flatmate in our cool costumes.
01 April 2006
On the Way to Hydra Again
Hello island here we come
Last year's trip to Υδρα (Hydra) was so wonderful, we wanted to go back. So now I'm sitting in a Catamaran, watching the waves and the coast line outside. There are much more tourists now than last fall. But even if the island is more crowded, I can't wait to walk the carfree streets.
Being able to go to places like this is just one of the things that make me want to live here. A couple of hours and I am on an island. Tomorrow we will also meet with Pat from Switzerland who came over for a visit and I told him to come see Hydra too.
I'm still dog tired from the last days. Thankfully Mary organized all, and even woke me up when I overslept this morning.
Posted by betabug
02 April 2006
Back From Hydra, Sun Hit Me
Came back from Hydra in the afternoon. Needed some sleep and a lot of water to drink. Looks like I managed to get too much sun already. I'm still sorting through my first impressions. Being on Hydra for almost two days again was wonderful. I took a lot of pictures, here are one of my "assembled" montages of the harbour and one picture of me and a certain blonde...
We were impressed with the clear blue water just outside the harbour. A little bit to the left of this picture is one place where people go to swim. Hydra is a rocky island, so no sand beach, just rocks and a couple of ladders to get into the blue. As usual, click on the image for a bigger view.
We took mostly walks, and that is how I got too much sun. We looked around town, but also went up to the monastery of "Profiti Ilias", one of the highest places on the island. I'll promise to post some more pictures from that hike soon.
One picture I can post right now is of me with this nice blonde. We met outside the monastery and got to be friends. I've always great respect for horses, I'm not used to them and once I tried to pet that one horse out of 10 who had the habit to bite people (don't worry, I was lucky and got away unharmed). So I'm careful, but this one insisted on being friendly. The walk up there was very tiresome, so I wish we could have asked our new friend for a ride back down.
04 April 2006
More Pictures From Hydra
And some thoughts too
Some more impressions and pictures of last weekends tripp to the island
of Hydra. I have some more photos from our hike up to Προφήτη Ηλίας
(Profiti Ilias) monastery and from the town. They come together with the
usual lame comments...
The most noteable and obvious fact about the island of Hydra is that
there ar no cars or bikes. Some of the townspeople complained to us
about that, but we enjoyed the side effects of it very much. Appart from
everything being quieter, everything is also more relaxed. You get
a different rhythm when you don't hop in and out of a car all the time
(or try to avoid being run over by cars). As seen in the picture, the
streets of Hydra are made to the measure of man and donkey. Cars
couldn't go over those steps.
This street had wonderful blue flowerpots and assorted other decorative
objects. You just don't get streets like these when there are cars
parked everywhere. Not far from this place (nothing is really far from
this place, it's a small town) is the restaurant ÎºÏÏ
ÏÏ Î»Î·Î¼Î¬Î½Î¹ (kryfo
limani, hidden harbour) where we came back to eat, since we liked it so
much in our first visit. I can especially recommend the "black eyed bean
Lot's of the "roads" are just small access ways to houses more up the
hill. They are obviously sized to exactly allow a packed donkey to pass.
And another street, this one is one of the bigger "main streets". It's
pretty empty at the time of day. We trotted down this one a lot, since
it leads to the Hotel Dina, where we lodged.
On saturday we took a looong hike up to the monastery of Profiti Ilias.
Some web sites mention this as a 45 minutes walk. But it's more like 1.5
hours and if you are not used to rough stairs and the heat, it's more
like 2+ hours. Bring enough water too! This is a view from about half up
over the town and the harbour.
This picture on the right is already from the way down, it shows
something of the atmosphere and the vegetation.
When we finally reached the monastery, we found it to be closed. But the
monks had left a door to an anteroom open and offered water and
loukoumia to the thirsty and hungry travelers. The view from up there is
On the way back we enjoyed the great view again.
And then, back in the harbour of Hydra, we discovered these cats. There
was a shop that was being redecorated, a lot of material was "parked"
overnight in the street. These cats found the metal racks to be a decent
08 April 2006
Got My Ticket
Greek Easter on Limnos
It took a while to get my ticket for the ferryboat to Limnos. Problem number one was that SAOS lines did not have the timetable online untill a few days ago. Finally they arrived in the Openseas online booking system. Then we had to find a travel agency and buy our tickets. Not so easy, because few travel agencies issue ferry tickets and of those few only a select handful work with SAOS lines. There is a listing of such travel agents in the greater Athens area on the SAOS website. We got our tickets at ARMA travel (Karageorgi Servias 10, near Syntagma square). A friendly place, I can recommend them.
So in less than two weeks I will be travelling again. I'm already excited, looks like I have the travel bug real bad.
20 April 2006
Passing Ai Strati
A morning at sea
Again on my way to Limnos, I woke up after the best sleep I ever had on a ferryboat. Seems I get used to sleeping above deck and maybe I had some nice things to think about while dozing off.
Soon after waking up and a nice sunrise, we arrived at Agios Efstratios. I watched the landing procedure next to the bridge.
Now it takes another hour or so and we will arrive at Myrina on Limnos. I've slept in my clothes, unwashed, but for a change I will arrive with some more sleep behind me. At noon I will be in the village and start to settle in the little house again. For a few days.
24 June 2006
Get Out of Town... to Kea
More island hopping
This very moment I'm on board the ship to the island of Kea. Athens is hot and unpleasant right now, so we took the bus to Lavrio (about 1.5h) and hopped aboard the next ship to Kea.
I'm not really well prepared. All I know about Kea is that it's a beautyful island, a bit rocky, and close to the Attika peninsula. But I'm sure to get to know her well.
Looking forward to a fast trip (only one hour on this ship), going swimming, enjoying a weekend out.