Our week in Vamos was very laid back and relaxing. We had homework and class a few times but most of our time we were free to do whatever, especially the weekend. Easter weekend I went on a 2 and a half hour hike through the country and towns around Vamos, it was a beautiful day. That night it got really windy, so windy that our giant potted plants on our balcony blew over and all of our laundry on the rack was thrown all over the balcony and down the stairs…and one pair landed down in the neighbor’s yard! Oops. I never did get that back. We went to a music performance on Friday night at the art café, all we knew about them was that they were British. They were retired Brits who relocated to the simple, relaxing Cretan countryside life of Vamos. The two men were very good, and probably in their 50’s playing familiar 60’s European and American music. They didn’t play any Beatles though, sadly. We jammed out with them and their friends joined them later, some of the ex-hippies got up and danced and we joined them making the entire bar a dance party! Our professors were dancing like hippies too and it was super fun! We met some Albanian men who live in Vamos to work; they bring them in to build with rocks because apparently they do it best.
Sunday was Easter…but not in Greece. The Orthodox Easter is not until the Sunday after we leave Europe, in late April. So we held our own Good Friday service outside on our rooftop balcony and the same went for the Easter service…with our undergarments still strewn down the stairs. We wanted a sunrise service so people showed up as I was getting out of bed and the only way to the balcony was through our bedroom! There was no time to pick up my panties! The service was good, but it was super windy out that day, and very cold…for Greece. That day was amazing though. A bunch of us girls cuddled on our couches with some chocolate and watched Pride and Prejudice and Garden State, two feel good movies. It was my favorite day in Vamos. Supper in Vamos was really good. We all sat around two large tables and were served a bunch of appetizers and then large plates of the main entrée, I was always uncomfortably full after those meals! Our last night they arranged for us some more traditional Greek musicians. One was playing the Lyre, an ancient mini-guitar like instrument, this one had 17 strings! The guy playing it was around our age and absolutely fabulous! Here they take pride in their old culture and learn the lyre when they are really young, and it pays off, they are usually booked up every weekend night! Our guide’s name was Georgios and he is part of a program in Vamos to encourage visitors (his word for tourists) to come to Vamos. He married a gorgeous German and we met his adorable son, Nikos, a little blondie.
Monday was the Greek Orthodox Enunciation Sunday, marking the day Gabriel came to Mary and told her she was to bear Jesus, March 25. This day is also marked by the beginning of the Cretan resistance against the Turks in more recent history. They take much pride in this day and there was a parade of all the school children through the street, wearing matching white and marching to the same beat. The day was windy again and Georgios told us that the wind comes from the South as far a Africa and brings with it sand from the Sahara desert! So cool! He told us it was nowhere near fun and quite a nuisance…he was right. But it is a cool story. Some of us decided that counts as visiting Africa as well. It was so sandy one day that we could not see the mountains off in the distance, they would be clear one minute and completely gone the next.
We left at night for the overnight ferry to Pireas, by Athens, and then right away the next morning we walked right over to our other ferry and got on for another 5 hours to the island of Tinos. The first ferry was weird, but not nearly as bad smelling as the first one. There were a lot of people laying out blankets and sleeping all over the ship because they didn’t have cabins like us to sleep in. We arrived in Tinos in the afternoon on Friday. Not many tourists come to Tinos, it is known as the most religious island of Greece and thousands of people come here during religious holidays of the year to attend services at the most famous church of the Enunciation. They have a street leading from the coast up to the church that has pieces of black carpet leading all the way up to the church because the more devout Orthodox Greeks crawl to the church on their hands and knees. Our hotel was right across the street from the water but it was really cold and windy on Tinos, it is also known as the windy island. Most people who’s families were coming to visit met up on the ferry from Pireas to Tinos. We now have about double the number of people in our group.
Saturday was a gruesomely long bus tour day. We toured the whole island of Tinos, which is about 75 square miles altogether. It was windy and cold and our guide was a very annoying little man with the mixture of Irish and Greek in his voice. I thought it was cool at first, but seven hours later I wanted to throw my shoe at him because he never shut up for more than 2 minutes…this is NOT an exaggeration. The reason he annoyed us so much is because he told us everything, whether it was obvious or not, and lots of things he said were either unnecessary or redundant. We felt like your average tourist, and if we didn’t already know at least half of the seven hours of lecture he gave us, it would not have been so bad. The parents and teachers loved him though, and he spoke very good English. I have some videos of him talking in the background…actually all my videos have him talking in the background. We were very grateful to get off that bus around 4 pm that day. On our way home we picked up a random old Greek man who was hitch hiking to Tinos, that is legal in Greece. He didn’t speak much English though.
Our ferry from Tinos to Mykonos was super windy and we had fun trying to stand outside on the deck! It was super wavy and made us all really dizzy, but it was only a half hour long. Our hotel on Mykonos was super awesome. It was like a complex of little buildings made of pure white cement with blue doors and blue railings, the classic Greek Island look. There was also a pool outside, but it was very cold still. We did a lot of shopping in Mykonos, the town was like a maze of tiny little streets sandwiched between white and blue buildings. There were many jewelry shops but not even half of the stores were open yet because the season doesn’t officially start for another 2 weeks. We did meet this amazing jewelry store owner named Suzie. She grew up in South Africa, a British descendent, and came to Mykonos when she was 20 on vacation. She met her husband, a Greek man, the third night she was there and eventually moved there to have her own jewelry store and family. Her kids were very cute and her jewelry was amazing! She made some of her own beads. She also made earrings for at least 5 of us right there while we watched! She told us all sorts of stories. Mykonos is supposed to be the island of parties and homosexuals, but we didn’t really see that because it was the off season. We did see a few gay clubs but nothing too exciting… A cruise boat full of Americans docked for a few hours one night and infested the town. We realized how annoying they are and were also annoyed that we were lumped in with them and we could tell the shop owners detest them. We grew tired of explaining that we are not like them, because we aren’t. We have been here for 2 and a half months and refer to ourselves strictly as students. The Greeks like that we are learning about them and tend to treat us nicer.
Mykonos came and went, now we are on one of two ferries to our last Greek destination besides our last couple nights in Athens. Santorini is the one island we are all excited for. It is the one in all the pretty pictures of white and blue and also the one filmed in one of my favorite movies, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The weather is really crappy today, but there is hope for tomorrow! Yesterday turned out beautiful, and if there is just one day like that in Santorini we will be happy. Supposedly you can see both the sunrise and sunset from our hotel, that is right on the edge of a cliff over the water! I can’t wait!