Before you can say “expensive”, let me break it to you that if you want to fly to Europe for less than ₱20,000, it’ll take an error fare for that or a really mad seat sale. That being said, I scored my round trip tickets from Manila to Athens for only ₱22,518.66. “Only” because, c’mon, it’s the Schengen area, which means you can hop to other countries without needing additional visas. (Bloody visas!) Despite the long layovers in Singapore, it was definitely a no-brainer when I saw the deal. Besides, I got to meet and shoot with my postgraduate folks there. Social as usual, brotha!
Right after the tickets were secured, I contacted my then Estonia-based college classmate (I know, you’ll be Googling where it is so I’ll save your arse some time by telling you that it’s a country across Finland) and it was a yes for him, as if he was a judge in BGT. *inserts unamused emoji*
Day 1 – Mykonos
We may have touched down on the capital but it was not the first order of business. In my case, I had five hours and 20 minutes of layover before boarding a Ryainair aircraft. This airline (at least from what I read) is quite known for its cheap flights but also notorious for being strict on carry-on baggage. Being the paranoids that we were even if we really didn’t have that much
shit things, we opted to buy baggage allowance.
Unlike other airlines, Ryanair requires payment if you want to be seated with your companions. (Not that we’d lose it from not being seated next to each other, but what’s the point of being on the same trip, right?) In the hopes that we could bypass the fee by checking in at the counter, we knew we were screwed when the officer said, “This is a budget airline. We don’t do check-ins for free here. You have to pay €68. Each.” I asked if we could still check-in online and he said that it was already too late. Fortunately, I still tried doing it and it went through. “#n+@u61n@!!! The salvaged €68 will go to beers!!!”
The flight was only 55 minutes so you could hardly reflect about life while in transit. Paradise Beach Camping provides a free shuttle and before long, after passing by white houses by Vanessa Carlton, we were in our beautiful and surprisingly spacious accommodation. It could fit four or five, if you ask me!
Undin swimming tendencies and the place’s proximity to the beach were among the reasons why the place was chosen. For sure, it wasn’t because of Paradise Beach Club or Tropicana Club. Please, I can do better than that with a cup of coffee.
To the right, when facing the sea, are cliffs where you can reclaim the lost opportunity of reflecting about life during the flight. As much as I love being in the water, it was quite cold and we started late and we still had the town to explore
in the dark at night.
Just right outside the resort are buses which head straight to town. The sky was a lovely lavender when we arrived before it shifted to a vivid violet. The place was crawling with tourists and we finally had a taste of the country’s whitewashed architecture up close.
It would be a sin not to view the town from the oceanside.
We secured our tickets to Paros before dinner and sometime in between I received a message from a Malta-based high school batchmate who also happened to be in town! After
buying hoarding buying really good-smelling soaps (as if it was our last day already) as pasalubong, we hopped on a bus going back to the resort and upon arrival, someone from a rowdy group asked, “Is this Paradise~?!” No one seemed to have given an answer so they didn’t get off and the bus left for town again. *inserts speechless emoji*
As a social drinker, I’ve already had a few during dinner and there was no reason not to add a little more so the rest of the night was spent at Tropicana Bar. #reasons The place can get totally crowded but it wasn’t when we were there because late September is already off-peak season. Could’ve stripped off some articles and taken a dip at two in the morning but unfortunately no one counseled me into doing it. Shame.
Breakfast was a buffet and, man, they had the best of everything. Easily lost count of all the plates at my mercy. It was such a negligence on my part for not bringing any Tupperware for takeaway purposes. Lesson learned there!
The ferry was scheduled to leave in the afternoon and the initial plan was to see the town and its windmills with less tourists in the morning. However, I was torn between going and coming back for the luggage or going with our luggage and heading to the port afterwards that in the end neither materialized. Litsi. Instead, we just took photos around (nearby was an abandoned bus at everyone’s disposal) and waited out the free shuttle.
There was a delay in our departure and when it was time to board, a modern Noah’s Ark scene unfolded right before my very innocent eyes with the animals in the form of
Day 2 – Paros
In less than an hour the vessel was already docking at the port of Parikia. Add a few minutes of walking to that and we were already at Paros Backpackers, where the room was also roomy.
And oh, did I mention that the place has a pool? (Take me!)
We wandered around town, bought some magnets, and ended up on the oceanside to check bus schedules, just in time for the sunset. After which, I found myself in a position of having to choose again, this time between heading to Naousa for the night for some coffee or attending the hostel’s BBQ night. And yet again, neither happened, which really ticked me off. Big time.
Day 2.75 – Antiparos
To make up for all the blunders that have happened so far due to a void in planning, the following day had to be started early at all costs. We set off for Antiparos, a small island just across Paros (thus, the name?), while the whole island was still sleeping and only cats were awake. Travel time to Pounda port was around 30 minutes and we were the only passengers on the bus. Definitely caught the worm there.
And there we were, still on the bus, waiting for the ferry from the other side to arrive and the bus to get on it to be transported to that other side. And there it was, unloading the passengers from the other side who all headed for the bus. As it turns out, the bus driver wasn’t gonna get the bus on the ferry but was waiting for passengers to bring back to town. Holy Moly! Karma from not telling that rowdy group in Mykonos to get off! But in my defense, we were on both ends of the bus so…
Ten minutes gone and we were on another island. Antiparos was an even quieter town, or so we thought. We strutted like kings and snapped here and there with hardly a living soul in sight. It was so serene that I could’ve gotten drunk and shouted my lungs out without anyone complaining. Thankfully, I was already a #changedPerson then. *inserts emoji with a halo*
Despite my asking of an extension of the checkout time at the hostel, the visit to the island still had to be cut short. As we were leaving, the town was already starting to wake from its slumber and I could only wonder how it’s like at night.
Just look at all those whites.
And the waters… Without a doubt swimmable by one’s standards.
For having settled down already late in the afternoon the previous day, there was NCIH that no exploration of Parikia in broad daylight will be done. Just couldn’t seem to get enough of the white, after all.
Back at the hostel, I still took the liberty of taking a quick plunge before finally checking out, eating a giant plate of spaghetti Bolognese, and indulging in some bottles.
Day 3 – Santorini
Another dystopian scene, suggesting the tourism on the island, revealed itself after around three hours when we arrived in Santorini. People who were waiting to board the vessel once every living soul in our trip is out were crawling at the port. The hostel advised that we could take the public bus to the capital, Fira, but given how chaotic it was, we didn’t see the aforementioned bus at all (it might’ve left that fast, but I still think otherwise). Other options for transfer were everywhere and we ended up in a shuttle. Try to haggle for dear life for the ride to the top!
We arrived at the hostel in less than 30 minutes and this time, as anticipated, we were in a dorm. I was looking forward to the small swimming pool but with the weather getting colder by the minute, the mere thought of it froze my
balls hopes in a split second.
We rented a scooter and darkness already fell when we got off it after a special episode of Buwis-Buhay. I was wiggly for having not driven for a long time. I was even more thankful for the second life when the city lights spread out in front of me. There’s no intent to exaggerate, but I’d say I was left quite speechless and was immediately looking forward to how it’d look like when Adam Levine sings “Daylight”.
My Europe-based friends used to tell me to never trust the weather there, and perhaps there’s truth to it (or I was simply careless not to check the forecast). Unlike Elsa, the cold was definitely already bothering me. Being such a touristy place, there’s no shortage of everything — people, shops, bars, and restaurants — so there certainly were places to buy affordable stuff and eat cheap but good food. (Well, anywhere you go there will always be such places.)
Eventually I scored a hoodie for about €20 and a handful of magnets for people back home. Filipinos are suckers for souvenirs, after all. In my case, I have come to look at it as a way of sharing the experience to others, especially that not everyone is lucky enough to be given the opportunity to go to places. (Wow! Someone just became a motivational speaker there.) Missed taking a photo of that shop.
Gyros was up for dinner. It’s a Greek food that’s basically like shawarma, only with a thicker pita. (Stop right there! In my defense again, all the shawarmas that I’ve tried in this life so far all have thin pitas, so don’t me.) While I was queueing to order, a lady who was handed her gyros said that it was not what she ordered. Without blinking an eye, the guy who handed it to her took it back and dumped it in the trash bin. Conspicuously. What a sight. It would’ve been way better if he threw it in my hands though. Sana all.
While I didn’t get to meet that batchmate in Mykonos, there was no escaping it in Santorini as he was also there when we were. We wound up at Select Beer & Wine House after hunting down the cheapest donkeys. The place turned out to be such a perfect choice, as it had a terrace with a beautiful view of the night.
Day 4 – Santorini
With the Cycladic architecture built on the edge of the caldera, you can traverse the city at your own pace, savor each unique view, and easily visit Imerovigli, a neighboring village, by foot. Without further ado, I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Skaros Rock and Imerovigli from a distance.
For someone who documents by taking photos like mad, I couldn’t get enough of shooting the scenic route from time to time. But! It’s important to note that essentially everything is private property, and some don’t want people (non-guests) taking photos. For instance, moments after this post’s topmost photo was taken, someone politely shooed us. That being said, be vigilant, considerate, and quick. *inserts winking emoji*
Some properties are actually private residences, but for some reason, I feel like everything is a hotel, if not a restaurant.
As we were approaching the rock which was a fortress in the past, one thing was very evident: a man was about to propose. A round of applause erupted from those who witnessed him getting down on one knee. And if there’s one thing that I regret the most during this trip, it’s that I never thought at that moment to approach the couple and give them copies of the photos below. *bangs head on the wall* If by some twist of fate they’d come across this post, that would be very, very awesome.
Going back to the rock, you can actually walk all the way to it but as my company was already an oldie and since we still had to go to Oia, I succumbed to skipping to be on top of it. Zeus moment down the drain.
Oia, a village on the northern part of the island notorious for sunset viewing, from afar.
Chillin’ like a villain on the way back because I can, ukinnam. Signature pose #X!
And now, for the moment of truth… Why ditching the rock was forgivable was because I always had the plan of going back to Select Beer & Wine House. Just had to see it in the morning after seeing it in the evening. The same table was originally occupied but when the customers on it left, I could’ve sworn I could’ve killed if it weren’t us who replaced them. Mission accomplished!
With the scooter that we rented, I was more than willing to drive to Oia since that was really the original plan. But with my batchmate renting a car and having extra space, no additional episode of Buwis-Buhay was necessary. Yosha! A photo with it to remind me of our short-lived relationship was mandatory.
Day 4.75 – Oia
While Oia naturally has the same aura as the rest of the architecture built on the cliffs, I would agree with a remark that its appearance is rustic (in a + way, of course). Probably has something to do with some of the buildings in darker colors.
If your attention to detail doesn’t suck the way my attention span does, then you should’ve guessed by now that it’s the coveted sunset we were after. We
had ample didn’t have much time before it so we had a very good spot for viewing reserved before briskly roaming around.
It may have been a prenuptial shoot or just a photo shoot for some other purpose, but either way it was lovely to see a bride and groom in action. Sana all again.
The village doesn’t come short of panoramic views from its cliffs and equally returns the “distant” favor to Imerovigli and Fira.
(Meanwhile, #TheIrateTraveler a.k.a. @thedrunktraveler was already getting impatient with the setting sun.)
The horizon was thoroughly shrouded by clouds as eventide drew near, rendering the sun completely helpless.
Wasn’t our day. Well, at least there was another Donkay.
The weather was becoming colder and windier as we headed out and on our way to get shelter inside the car, we passed by the queue of people waiting for the public bus and it wasn’t a wonderful sight, making me even more thankful that my batchmate offered us the ~25-minute drive.
Despite a lot of cancelled voyages (wow, deep) that day because of the weather, all flights were still operational so we made it to our late-in-the-evening flight. I would never forget that funny woman at the hostel who were among those who missed their trips.
We’re Americans. We use it for everything. We could say, “What the f-word, you f-word-in-gerund-form-minus-the-G f-word?” And it’s totally valid.
Day 5 – Athens
It was almost two hours past midnight when we arrived in Athens after a 50-minute flight. Getting to Small Funny World was easy-peasy as it was only one bus ride away and we just needed to get off at the last stop. Looking for it may have been a bit of a challenge but walking to it was another story with the city looking so aged and serene.
With our first destination in the capital being the Parthenon, having an early
birdie start would’ve been the way (a no-brainer, really) but, given our late arrival in the city, we didn’t pursue it. On our way to the Acropolis we passed by the Roman Agora where I learned that you can buy bundled tickets for multiple sites. But since we were only eyeing the Acropolis, nah~ Also, tickets are cheaper in winter months.
At the foot of the Acropolis, near its entrance, is a rock called Areopagus which offers a closer look of the fortress and views of the city, Lycabettus Hill, and Philopappos Hill.
The entrance to the Acropolis almost led me to believe that there’s forever (what you get for being a sleepyhead). We opted to walk past it and headed to the other side and found another entrance there. With less people! (Yeah, yeah, I could’ve simply Googled it.)
If you’re into museums, there’s the Acropolis Museum. I don’t really fancy them that much so I instead just went to the subway and took photos of some sculptures there. Talk about being a cheapskate! Jeje!
On the way to the Parthenon you could see other structures such as the Theatre of Dionysus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Acropolis’ propylaea (if you miss this last one, then you’ve probably been blessed with the gift of flight). As soon as you survive the gateway (big word) you will be immediately greeted by the temple dedicated to Athena.
The temple is still being restored up to this day and lucky are those who’ll see it completed. As expected, there was no joking about the number of tourists. And that, my friend, is why you should be at your earliest.
You have no idea how much sacrifice I went through to eliminate the enemies. (Eliminate them!)
Also on the citadel is the Hekatompedon Temple.
There’s still a viewpoint even if essentially the entire rocky outcrop is one. It’s a vantage point for the city and you get other perspectives of Philopappos Hill, Lycabettus Hill, Acropolis Museum, Theatre of Dionysus, and Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
You get to see as well the Areopagus and, from a distance, the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
I don’t really have any point of comparison as it was my first time in Europe but I was told that Greece is relatively cheaper compared to other countries. I didn’t even know that the country had (or has?) a crisis until a former colleague asked how things were doing there. Anyhoo, another set of magnets and a souvlaki!
The wonderful thing about Athens is you can actually just walk to a lot of tourist spots. After our late lunch we headed off to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and passed by Hadrian’s Gate along the way.
The structure also has a perimeter so you can only go around it and not swagger like a god or goddess between its pillars. The site offers a nice view of the Acropolis without obstructions.
As nightfall crept we made our way to the Old Royal Palace, the building that greeted us when we arrived, and arrived just in time to witness the guards in motion. It’s a must if you must, I must say.
Across the palace is Syntagma Square, the city’s central square where there’s hustle and bustle. Past it are shops and streetcorners where there are more hullabaloos and thingamajigs. It wasn’t part of the plan but I scored an H&M shirt there. La lang~
Close to our hostel was a pasta place similar to Subway, in which you select the pasta, sauce, and toppings of your choice. It became a go-to for us because of its prices (and taste, ‘course!).
I’ve always been someone who tries to look at things day and night (literally) so the day (or night?) didn’t just end with dinner. Illuminated streets are always mine for the taking! *howls like Remus*
Seeing the Old Royal Palace up close with the lights on and the guards still in position made me realize that I didn’t notice them at all when we arrived for the second time.
Even if it was already close to midnight we were still strolling in the National Gardens. In it is Zappeion, which you could also gawk at with admiration.
Day 6 – Athens
Among my memories of our last hostel was my coughing. It actually started in Santorini that I had to buy medicines there. So there I was, in the room, coughing and waiting for my last breath, with another guest joining me and together we formed an orchestra of coughing. Then, in the midst of it all, as we were about to reach our crescendo, another guest makes a remark about our performance.
Guest: Oh, my God. This is the room of the cough.
Cougher: Out of our control. That’s a risk for staying at a hostel.
Guest: Don’t get mad~
Cougher: I know. I’m just saying.
Would’ve bought that lady all the beers that she wanted in the country. She was also so right about us covering our mouths when coughing our lungs out. No blood was shed and in the end we all still had our short lives to keep.
Not that it has feelings, but to make things fair, Zappeion was also paid a visit opposite to the lighting when it was first visited. Of course that also meant another visit to the gardens. Posting~!
Panathenaic Stadium was up next and on our way to it we came across mobile toilets that looked really winsome. Quite enticing that I would’ve probably taken a dump had I taken more time in front of it.
Rummaging through my memories and considering that an arena is different given that it’s enclosed, I don’t think I’ve actually ever been to a stadium so seeing the only one in the world built entirely of marble first was pretty ecstatic.
It’s gotta be a sin not to adore, in all angles, the venue of the first modern Olympics. Show some athleticism and gimme that damn Olympic torch!
Then tried some street food before heading to our final destination.
Conveniently located next to each other, the Athenian Trilogy is composed of the Academy of Athens, University of Athens, and National Library of Greece. Trust me when I say that I’ve never encountered a better threesome in my life.
The trip was practically over after ogling those three, but on the walk back to Plaka there was another troika. (My eyes!)
Plaka is the old historical neighborhood of the city which also houses many shops. Wrapping up the pasalubongs were more miniatures and some caramelized nuts.
Since all the sites that we visited were accessible by foot, we never really got the chance to try the subway. So just for the heck of it, we got on a train and got off just at the next station, a distance we could’ve walked in a heartbeat.
When we resurfaced there was a protest but thankfully there was no violence so all was geed.
Our flight out the following day was a tad early but that didn’t stop us from having a few cans on the topmost floor of the hostel with our Korean roommate who was traveling around Europe before his dreaded military service, the Germans who I assumed was a couple, and the Brazilian who went from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, Palawan on just a motorcycle with another tourist! Good times, good laughs. *inserts grinning emoji*
Day 7 – Departure
It was only a week but seeing the “projected ocean” at the airport again already brought a feeling of nostalgia. What’s more was that I even waited for the flight on the same table where I was waiting for the flight to Mykonos on our first day. “Well, until then, Schengen!” was what I thought.
Lastly, major shout-out to these fat-ass furbabies for bringing out my falsetto! Meowrf!
- When coming from Manila, Scoot can be your savior. Their round trip airfares to Athens via Singapore cost around ₱30,000 but sometimes go down a few thousands. And if you’re someone who doesn’t bring his/her house when traveling, that’s even additional savings from not purchasing any baggage allowance. They also have flights to Berlin.
- Public transportation on the islands is not a problem. You just have to be wary of the schedules. Prior to the trip, I got word from two different friends that they rented a car all the way. For I
could only drive someonedon’t know how to drive one, I immediately resorted to a scooter and no longer bothered digging the Internet for information. In the end I only had to rent in Santorini, which would’ve only served its purpose had it been used when we went to Oia. Within Fira alone and given the location of our hostel, it was totally not needed.
- If you have the budget or if you’re with a large group and someone knows how to drive, renting a car is definitely the way to go; the sky’s the limit on where you could go. (Or the road?)
- Always check the availability of free shuttles that come with your accommodation.
- The islands of Greece, without question, are summer destinations. For someone who’s seen a lot of beaches in the Philippines, the waters of the Aegean did not disappoint. At all. (Zakynthos, anyone?)
- The durations were short but I’d say that Mykonos is a party island, Paros a “chill” island, and Santorini a crowded island. That might not have made any sense but you get the point.
- You can actually walk all the way to Oia from Fira if you have the time and energy. By public bus, I think there’s no problem going there. However, going back could be another story. People waiting for the last bus could easily pile up that you might end up missing it. Pick your poison: miss the bus, or miss the sunset.
- If you’re going in winter, the islands can be ghost towns. Got another friend who went to Mykonos in the month of December and his time-lapse video hardly captured anything moving. Then again, if you really want to visit during that time, what’s to stop you?
- I will reiterate this: if you want photos at the Parthenon with less or no people at all, get your arse up at the earliest hour that you can. Unless you also know how to eliminate enemies.
- Check out This is My Athens Tour. I was really looking forward to it and thought that I could book a tour on the fly but apparently it has to be set days ahead. It’s a free tour provided by locals, which I think is very nice.
Excluding food, drinks, and souvenirs since those are a matter of preference, here are the figures down to the very last cent. Err… I’ll go ahead and exclude the scooter rental as well since it doesn’t really count. For simplicity’s sake, used 63.80 as the exchange rate, the rate when I bought euros. (As of writing the rate in Google is 56.32.)
You might think that it’s expensive, but if you think about it, had I decided to visit other countries (Italy, beke nemen…) instead of going to different Aegean islands, I could’ve possibly ended up with the same amount since flights within Europe can be surprisingly cheap. So… Plan want you want accordingly!