Europe 2016 : Crete, Mykonos and Athens

(This is entry has three days worth of photos from our Mediterranean cruise last July, so once again it’s going to be pretty long.)

This post picks up from where I left off where I talked about our adventures in Montenegro and Corfu (blog entry HERE). After Corfu we remained in Greece and explored the island of Crete.

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Based on the brochure they gave us we learned that Crete is the birthplace of Zeus and the Minotaur. Our tour that day consisted of the Knossos Palace ruins and the city of Heraklion (which translates to Hercules City)

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Just like our tour in Naples and Pompeii, our guide utilized these radios so we can hear her from afar. The Knossos Palace is very big and packed with tourists so these were once again very helpful.

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She also gave us a map of Heraklion since we would later have 2 and 1/2 hrs to explore the city on our own.

At the Knossos Palace we mostly saw ruins of the old buildings. It was very large and was estimated to have been built sometime around 1700 to 1400 BC. It was believed to be the center and heart of the Minoan culture during that period.

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Our guide told us that these pillars and fresco of a bull (or was it a minotaur?) is the most iconic symbol of the Knossos palace. I’m not entirely sure why.

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After exploring the palace grounds our guide took us to the city of Heraklion, where she gave us time to explore and shop for souvenirs.

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She showed us a huge map of the city and suggested some places we could visit

The first thing we did was look for something to cool us down. Walking around Knossos Palace was no joke – we were extremely sunburned by the end of our tour. There was no shade whatsoever in the entire place, thankfully my mom thought to bring umbrellas. You can always spot the Asians in a group of tourists – we’re the only ones using umbrellas to shield ourselves from the sun.

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Yay!

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Our guide left us in front of the Morozini Fountain and told us she would meet us back at the bus later

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We had 2 and 1/2 hours of free time and we spent about 1 hour of that sitting next to the fountain, taking advantage of the free wifi from the surrounding restaurants :p

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Back then we didn’t have internet privileges on the ship yet, so we were always very grateful to find free wifi in the cities we visited. After checking our social media accounts and emails we walked around the area to look for pasalubong

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Afterwards we headed back to the ship to grab some dinner and rest for our tour the next day.

The following morning we found ourselves in Mykonos, which turned out to be my favorite place out of all the others we visited during this whole trip. You’ll see why in a minute.

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First thing we noticed once we got off the ship was how nice and cool it was. So far all the other places we visited were extremely hot.

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To get to the town, we had to ride a water taxi (AKA the Sea Bus).

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As we approached the town, my excitement grew because I could see how beautiful everything was

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Look at all those pristine white buildings!

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Once we got off the sea bus our guide took us on a walking tour of the town. The sun was out but we didn’t feel hot at all because it was extremely windy there. Our tour guide joked that because of the wind, the tallest tree in Mykonos was a parsley. We didn’t use the radios and headsets this time because there were only a few of us in the group. Besides, our guide told us that we didn’t need them because the town was very small and the only way we could get lost is if we do it on purpose.

Unlike the other places we visited where I spent a lot of time vlogging, I barely got any footage from Mykonos because I was too busy taking photos. The entire town was so beautiful and I wanted to capture everything! The cafes, gift shops, stores, houses, streets – they were all picture perfect!

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Even the dogs were Instagram-worthy!

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This area is supposed to be the “poor” area of Mykonos since the streets are much narrower and the houses are very close to one another.

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Found my Prince Charming ❤

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Our guide told us that all the buildings that have the famous blue domes on top are churches. Apparently families can own private churches in Greece, that’s why there’s so many of them around

Our guide took us to a family-owned maritime museum:

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She also showed us the windmills and Little Venice:

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Afterwards she took us to a cafe for some snacks

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My mom ordered a Coke Zero, which is out of the ordinary because we rarely drink soda in our family

After this our guide took us back to the ship. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to this beautiful town just yet, but my mom reminded me that our cruise ship would be passing here again in about 3 days, so I’d have more chances to explore and take photos. Back on the ship we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sea breeze on deck. We brought our laptops with us so we can work. (Well, my parents worked, I edited vlogs from our US 2015 trip.)

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The wind kept blowing my mom’s hair, which annoyed her, so this was her solution:

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Very fashionable Mama XD

The following day our cruise ship took us to Athens

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(We docked in Piraeus and had to take a bus to Athens)

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I was surprised to see so many bags at the port but later that day we learned that it was because some of the passengers were leaving us that day, and new passengers would be taking their place. When we paid for this trip we figured it was one cruise, but it turned out that it was actually two back-to-back cruises. (Which explains why we visited some of the cities twice.)

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Since we would be walking around some large and crowded areas that day, our guide utilized these radios once again.

Our first stop that day was the Temple of Poseidon. On our way over there I took some photos from the bus window:

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The Stadium of Peace and Friendship

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Some fishing pens

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Not sure if you can see it clearly, but at the top of the hill sits the Temple of Poseidon, where we were headed

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Got our tickets!

After a short climb we made it

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As you can probably tell, it was EXTREMELY windy up there

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View from the temple

Next stop was the Panathenaic Stadium

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The stadium hosted the first modern Olympics way back in 1896, and the summer Olympics in 2004. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed inside so we just took photos around the area:

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Next on our itinerary was the highlight of our tour – The Acropolis

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Acropolis translates to “City on top of the Mountain”. This particular one is located about 150m above sea level. We were warned that getting up there required a bit of stamina, especially under the summer sun, but it’s something that shouldn’t be missed because it houses the Parthenon – one of the (if not “the”) most iconic and important buildings in Ancient Greek history. I don’t know much about architecture, but from what I’ve read the Parthenon is a magnificent work of art. Modern architects and scientists are still wondering how ancient Greeks were able to construct it, especially given the technology they had back in the day. And the fact that it was built on top of a hill, which meant they had to carry all the construction materials up there, is just mind blowing.

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Let the climb begin!

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It took us a while, but we eventually made it to the top:

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That’s the Parthenon to the left, and the Temple/Altar of Athena to the right

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The heat was no joke and we were extremely sunburned by this time. If you plan to visit the Acropolis in the future, I suggest you bring an umbrella (or a hat) and wear shoes with plenty of traction because the rocks up there are slippery. I must have seen at least 6 people slip and fall during the short time we were up there.

There was a deck there which gave us a beautiful view of Athens – where (according to our guide) 35% of the Greek population live

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We were also able to see the Temple of Zeus from afar:

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On our way back down we passed by Syntagma Square where we spotted a couple of Evzones:

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They’re the Greek Presidential Guards

Our guide also pointed out the Academy of Athens, which had a building with a magnificent relief sculpture in front

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The building was flanked by two Ionic columns with statues of Apollo and Athena

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Apollo, god of music and poetry

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Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare

We stopped at a hotel for lunch before heading to the Plaka – the shopping center.

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Here our guide gave us some free time to shop and explore by ourselves. We spent most of it looking for a pharmacy to buy cough medicine for my mom (they had some on the ship but it was very expensive), and taking pictures of this beautiful church we found:

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We managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping before it was time for us to return to the ship. As soon as we got back, I headed over to the Passengers Services desk because my cruise card became demagnetized the night before and I couldn’t use it to get into our room. I handed my gold card over and was surprised when they returned a ruby card to me:

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This is when we learned that this day marked a new cruise, which meant they counted it as my 4th cruise and upgraded me to Ruby status. This also meant that this was my parents’ 6th cruise and that they have finally reached Platinum status. What’s the big deal you ask? The big deal is that Platinum members get preferred boarding and, more importantly, 150 minutes of free internet for each cruise! It might not seem like a lot but to give you an idea of what that meant to us, 200 minutes of internet on board costs 99 USD. Pretty pricey, which is why we’ve been taking advantage of all the free wifi we find whenever we’re on shore excursions.

After settling things at the Passengers Services Desk we headed back to our room to shower and freshen up before dinner. Later that evening we went out to the pool deck to catch a fountain show:

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Since the weather was nice that evening, we decided to explore the ship a bit. We found a walking/running track on the 18th floor, as well as some exercise equipment. We also found a mini golf course and proceeded to play for a little while to burn off some of the calories we consumed during dinner.

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After getting a little bit of exercise we headed back to our room to rest and prepare for our tour of Santorini the following morning.

As usual I’ve edited the footage I took during these days, which you can watch below. (I combined Mykonos and Athens into one vlog because I only took about 5 minutes worth of footage in Mykonos since I was too busy taking photos):

**All my blog entries related to this trip can be found here : Europe 2016

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