Sunday, September 22, 2013

jeremy in greece!

welcome reader, to the conclusion of my five country summer tour of europe!

the parthenon atop the acropolis
i've spent the last month immersed in the rich european cultures of england, france, spain, italy and now the ancient lands of greece.  i had eight days remaining on my trip when i touched down at the athens airport.  two of them were to be spent exploring the capital city athina, while the grand finale of my adventure was five days on ios, a small island off the coast of athens, about four hours by ferry. 

sunset seen from filapappou hill, just south of the acroplis
my first hosts in this incredibly beautiful city were avi and yiorgos.  two very kind people who ensured my time in greece was not only a jaw-dropping experience, but that each and every piece of my itinerary was stress-free.  with two full days to explore before falling off the earth on ios, my list was simple;  climb the acropolis and spend some time in the athinean sands.  if this seems like a short list, not to worry, as ultimately my list grew to include far more than this;  the parliament building at syntagma, the national gardens, monastiraki, filopappou hill, the panathinaic stadium, nightlife with a wonderful girl in gazi, the sands of kavouri, and yes, the acropolis and its ancient structure, the parthenon  :)

the unmistakable skyline of the acropolis, seen here at sunset from
filapappou hill 
east face of the parthenon
cityscape seen from the east end of the acropolis, lycabettus hill peaks
in the back right
panathinaic stadium, home to the first modern olympic games in 1896

panathinaic stadium, inside the 'hall of flames' where every
torch from each olympic games rests!  1984's torch from
the los angeles games seen above
tunnel that led athletes out into the stadium, a very moving experience
unforgettable memories in greece can all be credited to the hospitality of new friends and hosts who call athina their home...

(from left to right)  stathis, alexia, me, avi, yiorgos!

when my two days in athens had come to a close, the time had finally come to fall off the earth...i was on my way to the remoteness of greece's hidden gem of the aegean sea, ios (eee-ohs)...

standing atop the cliffs of agia theodoti, a beach on the east side of the island

since childhood i've envisioned the tranquility of a personal beach on a remote island far from the commonalities of modern civilization...somehow i knew that ios would offer me this experience.  i had been staring at the island on a map for months and the sight of the white cliffs, deep blue/green waters and the white, blue capped buildings was the ferry pulled into the tiny port, i prepared myself for the final adventure to be had. 

agia theodoti

the island is about 15 miles long by 6 miles wide, and somewhere along the rocky, cliffed coastline, was my beach, 'germy's beach' if you will, and i was determined to find it...

my room as i prep for another adventurous day on ios!

the tomb of the famed greek poet, homer.  author of works such as; the illiad
and the odyssey

hundreds of these stacked rock formations dotted the site of the tomb.
i decided to pay my own tribute as well!

my first sunset seen on ios.  i was about 30 minutes from my hotel on the
scoot back from manganari beach...i rode about 20 minutes in the dark...
totally worth it  :)

me and my airplane!

my trusty scooter was more like an airplane, as all the roads connecting the island soar high above sea-level with stunning views of the edges where water and land meet. 

after exploring the island in every direction, i hadn't found my beach...i found alot of great beaches, beaches with girls, beaches with food, beer, snorkeling ..but i hadn't found the one... i decided it was time to ask a local where i might have some luck finding a beach all for myself.  i kept hearing the same name;  "tris klisies", "tris klisies", "oh, yea, you should go to tris klisies for that!  on your way to manganari,  you'll see a cove, just over the hill on your left.  the area will be deserted, and you'll see one or two cars parked there for seemingly no reason...thats when you know you're at tris klisies!"

i followed my instructions and one daft punk, random access memories album later, i arrived at the top of the hill, just left of manganari beach...

tris klisies...surreal
this is the sight i was met with after peaking over the hidden side of the road.  it took twenty minutes to get down the face of the hill, and another thirty minutes of walking clockwise around the cove, until i found...

a lifetime hunt for my own personal beach ends in beauty
hidden away by rocks on either side, i had found my beach, and my tranquility.  it was one of the most beautiful places i had ever seen, the rocks glimmered in crystal clear waters, the air was clean, and the sky...the lifelong anticipation of one day sitting at this place froze me for an instant in time...I wondered if my feeling of accomplishment and completeness was something everyone gets to feel...

my final night on ios was spent on it's most popular beach, mylopotas

coming to terms with the mild depression associated with the final hours of exploring a new country doesn't ever seem to get any easier...the bags are packed, the itinerary, the local maps, metro passes and souvenirs are tucked away in zipped up pouches and pockets.  with the next destination on the horizon, emotions are teetering between sadness and excitement.  sadness that i don't know if i'll ever return to this place that i've just fallen in love with, and excitement for the adventures i'm destined to have in the next city...

well now the next city is home...los angeles, california, usa.  what will have changed since i've been away?  anything?  will it be as if i never left, will i see the world differently?

i wrote 56 pages in my journal over 26 days...the same amount of content recently took me 8 whole months to scribble down back home in los angeles...

i saw unbelievable sights and tacked endless miles onto my pf flyers.  i met people with enough hospitality and genuine kindness to humble me everyday for the rest of my life...and while ive just begun to uncover the many wonders of the earth and the cultures of civilization, i feel tremendously enlightened,  with a deeper sense of connection to all that surrounds me...

thank you to everyone who helped in making this adventure so fulfilling.  to new friends ive made along the way, to old friends who helped me plan my sightseeing in each city!  to the guests i've hosted who gave me the courage to travel alone, and to my hosts, kamila, christophe, dan, steve, avi, yiorgos and stathis;  the memories i've made will last me a lifetime, and they will always be times i can look back at with a smile...thank you for these gifts!

as summer comes to a close, im happy to say it has been the best of my life so far!  so until my next tour of who-knows-where (costa rica?)  i say to you, goodbye for now.  may these documentaries offer you inspiration to embark on your own adventure as well...

thanks for reading!

- j

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

jeremy in rome!

ciao from roma, italia!  Greetings from the fourth stop of my tour through europe.  I am approaching the fifth and, I must say, most anticipated stop of my adventure, greece and the island of ios.  but not before wandering the streets of one of civilizations most expansive and powerful empires, the ancient capital city, rome.

this is a view from vittoriale in the city center.  looking northwest over the
city, you can see the tips of some vatican buildings in the very back

catching another early flight out of barcelona,  I arrived in italy at 9:00am giving myself a full first day to explore this unique and wonderfully historic city. I arrived at my hostel just a few blocks from the main train station, and thank god for this!  after ten days of two different language emersions, french and spanish catalan, my brain was fried and I had no motivation to attempt yet another crash course with italian.  I dropped my bag and headed out the door. remembering the recent mistake of not having a map in barcelona, I made this my first priority when arriving in rome.  similar to paris, but even more so, rome is certainly walkable and it was the first city where I felt no need to purchase a prepaid metro pass.

also a view from vittoriale, this time looking southeast.  you can see the
colosseum in the back right while the roman forum fills the foreground

once again chasing down the sight of one of histories most famous landmarks, I walked in the straightest line possible to, where else...the colosseum

my heart raced at the sight!

I caught a glimpse of it, peeking through a side street, but instead of turning towards it, I continued down the main road...I wanted to walk into this view head on and experience the magnificance of antiquities most fascinating structure in its full glory...

soon the roman forum, a place now visible thanks to massive excavations, was staring me in the face!  I said, 'woaaaah now, wait your turn you beautiful piece of history, you, you birthplace of rome!  im on my way to the colosseum, didnt you know?!'  I looked to my left, and there she was...

I walked in disbelief, struggling to comprehend that I was actually here...the battles, the crowds, the emperors...they too had once been in this very place, roaring and cheering to the glory of rome.  I circled the structure, and despite the boiling heat, despite the exhaustion I felt from fifteen days of continuous adventure and exploration, I took solace in once again realizing that I was ready.  I was ready to start anew in another city.  I was ready for more language emersion, I was ready to tack on another twenty or so miles on my pf flyers, and I was ready to make new friends.  in short, I was ready to dive head first into roma, knowing I would come out on the other side having fallen inlove with yet another piece of europe...

ruins excavated from the roman forum, the birthplace of roma

the pantheon seen here was originally a temple dedicated to all gods,
and was later converted into a christian church.  the dome on top
(see video below)
is the worlds largest piece of un-reinforced concrete, showing no signs of
weakness after 2,000+ years

trevi fountain, completed in 1762 and designed by italian architect, nicola salvi.
this is a a famous fountain to toss coins in and it's said that those who do,
will one day return to rome...

the spanish steps

I had walked close to eight miles that first day.  in addition to waking up at 3:00am in barcelona to catch my flight for rome, I was in need of some sleep.  as I passed the reception desk of the hostel, I decided to book the first paid tour of my trip...a journey inside the belly of the colosseum...

My plan for the following day was all based around this tour inside the colosseum, which started at 3:00pm.  my goal was to first walk about 4 miles to vatican city, see the main plaza and st. peters basilica then make my way back to the colosseum for the guided tour within.  I made it about halfway to vatican city and stopped to rest and write a few post cards back home... I wrote I sort of lost track of time...long story short, I walked the four miles and made it all the way to the great giant walls of vatican city.  right there, just past these enormous piles of brick was the home of christianity, the pope, and some seriously beautiful pieces of history and architecture,  including the sistine chapel...I looked down at my watch...2:00pm...I looked up at the brick walls of the vatican once more and was slowly hit with the reality that I would not have time to make it inside.  my heart was four miles across town and after waiting a lifetime to enter the grounds of the colosseum, the decision had already been made...with one final look at the vatican walls, I brushed them gently with my hands, turned, and began my trek back to the colosseum.

the roman 'colesseo'

The Capitoline Wolf (LatinLupa Capitolina) is a bronze 
sculpture of a she-wolf suckling twin infants, inspired by the 
legend of the founding of Rome. According to the legend, when 
Numitor, grandfather of the twins Romulus and Remus, was 
overthrown by his brother Amulius, the usurper ordered the 
twins to be cast into the Tiber River. They were rescued by a she-wolf who 
cared for them until a herdsman, Faustulus, found and raised them
best tour group in rome!

the tour was unbelivably moving, and the experience was magnified when I was befriended by a very sweet french girl.  we were the only two on the tour solo, and we made a quick bond like peas and carrots!  when we had finished the three hour tour, our thirst to explore more of roma remained heavy.  me and my new companion decided on dinner, so yes, check off having dinner in roma, italia with a beautiful french girl from the list.  our night had brought good conversation, delicious food, and tasty wine, but there was more to come... we both wanted to see the colosseum and trevi fountain lit up at we made our way down the quiet roman streets, enjoying the pleasure of good company and the beauty of rome by night...

the colosseum light up at night.  there was also a full moon filling the sky,
seen here in the top center

lucky us, we arrived just as some city workers came to clean the streets
surrounding the fountain...they shuffled all the tourists out, and we had
the best seats in the house to view the fountain unobstructed by people

----------------------------- day trip -----------------------------

my day trip in rome was lido di ostia, a small coastal town just west of the city. it was €3 on the metro roundtrip and was by far my cheapest day trip yet!  the beach was nothing special, but it doesnt take much to satisfy me when it comes to the mediterranean.   I was happy to again be near the sea, and to have time to relax and reflect on my trip thus far...also a fantastic spot for people watching! italians are known to speak a few decibels louder than others, and also to make good use of the hands while conversing.  these two things make for damn fine people watching episodes.

my time and experiences in roma were nothing short of spectacular.  I remember the worry I had upon leaving barcelona that perhaps I had made a mistake...perhaps I had put too many cities on my itinerary...perhaps I wouldnt have the energy to explore this next city...but once again, the mind and body pulled a few tricks from within!  the drive to explore, and the passion for adventure have led the way each and every day of my trip.

on my final night in rome there was a pub crawl thrown by the hostel I stayed in. it was the perfect way to say goodbye to this enchanting city, and to the many new friends I had made there.  the vatican slipped through my fingers, but it makes for a good excuse to one day return to this wonderful city, the shinning light of the ancient world, rome...

join me as I make way across the mediterranean once more, due east to the home of democracy, greece!  I will spend two full days in athens, and from there take a ferry to the final destination of my tour, the island of ios...

so until I see you again, arrivederci roma!  geia sou athena!

thanks for reading!

- j