Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 130 & 131 - Purchasing my ticket to Latvia, Athens

Alright, I've decided to buy my plane ticket to Latvia. It's going to be through Czech Airlines. It wasn't going to happen today though, as I only found out where the ticketing office is, and I got there too late; when it was closed. Thanks to daylight savings confusing me. I was angry. I was convinced that I knew the time, and that they were wrong.

The next day, I got up early, and headed straight to the ticketing office. I tried to get a one way cheapie, but it was more expensive than the return ticket, which was ridiculous. I was forced to buy a return ticket. It costed me €347. A lot of money, but I wasn't going to let anything stop me. I had it all going in motion. I was definitely going, and it's hard to believe that it's finally happening. I'm enthralled. I'm leaving on the 3rd of April, which is in three days.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 129 - Meeting Iro, Kato Poroia

After a couple of hours, I headed to the internet cafe again, and slept in the chair. It was still cold in here, but not as cold as outside. My hands were freezing all the time. There were other young boys sleeping here too. I didn't get much sleep.

I headed out when the sun rose. I was looking forward to getting warmed up. I walked back over to Kato Poroia. I would be able to see Iro by 4pm. She was coming from Kilkis, a nearby town. She had some kind of dancing lessons.

In the time I waited for her, I had something to eat, then explored the village. I didn't do much other than sit around at places I discovered. It was a long wait. I'm getting used to long waits, I think.

By 4pm, Iro had returned to the village, and I saw her passing by in her car. She smiled at me, and sent me a text message, telling me that she saw me. It was then, I would wait for her to come down from her house and see me.

So, we exchanged greetings. This is the 5th TRF member I have met, and it was a great pleasure. We had a talk as we walked down to her school, which she showed me around. We talked about travelling and Greece, as I showed her the photos of my travels so far. We sat down out the front of her school and just chatted away. I found out that she was Pontian, like me!

It was not too long after, that it was time for her to head back home. It wasn't the longest meeting, but it was still great nonetheless. I wished her farewell. Until next time, hopefully we will meet again in the distant future.

I headed back to Rodopoli and shared the news. I also discussed meeting Agnes. It was by this time, that I was completely serious about going. I had made up my mind, and I was going to go to Latvia, without telling anyone. It's risky, but I'm going to make it happen. Now is the time. It has been almost a year, and I haven't met her yet.

I looked for plane tickets online. I wouldn't be able to book, as I didn't have a proper credit card, so I would have to go to a ticketing agency. When I get back to Athens, I am going to book myself a ticket. That is it.

I had one last meal at the taverna here in Rodopoli, and had a chat with the owner, who asked me where I was from. Then I waited for the train back to Athens. There was no ticket office, so I would have to buy it off the train. Once I boarded though, I fell asleep, and didn't get approached by any of the train officers.

I woke up once I arrived at Thessaloniki. I didn't know if I should get off the train to purchase a ticket to Athens. I thought I would just stay on, and buy it on board. I got yelled at by the ticket inspector though, but I didn't get into any trouble, given the circumstance. There were other passengers on board buying their tickets that way, so I didn't even know for sure if I had done the wrong thing. To be perfectly honest, I didn't actually know what the ticket inspector said to me. Nonetheless, I got my ticket to Athens, and I would arrive in one piece.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 128 - Serres, Rodopoli and Kato Poroia

I woke up early and explored the rest of Thessaloniki that I missed yesterday. I checked out the main ancient site, the Roman Agora, situated in the centre of the city. The site was closed, but I had good views from the outside.

I then headed to the train station and caught the Intercity train to Rodopoli, the station I'd be getting off at to see Iro. Unfortunately, this "Intercity" train was delayed, and as a result, I would arrive too late to be able to see Iro. Well, I wasn't waiting until the next day. I went anyway. I'll find somewhere to sleep over there for the night.

It was a good train journey along the way. There was lots of green; the most green I've ever seen in Greece, and it was beautiful. I passed by the border of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well, being able to see the country. I got a text message from my phone service provider saying 'Welcome to Macedonia', even though I wasn't in the actual country. It must have picked up a signal.

I arrived at Rodopoli station and checked out the town. It was pleasant, and quiet place, in the far reaches of Northern Greece, near the Bulgarian border. There was a beautiful mountain which was what separated the two countries. There was not much to do in this town, however. I asked around for an internet cafe.

I chilled around on the internet, and occasionally I had random people asking me if I was an army soldier. The locals have never seen me around here before.

I then went to check out Iro's village, Kato Poroia. It wasn't a very far walk away. It was a nice place. I was somewhat tired though, and I didn't want to pay for a hotel. There was only one in the area, called Epavlis, which Iro recommended to me. I decided to sleep in the train station, on the bench. It wasn't the best place to sleep, as it was quite painfully cold.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 127 - Thessaloniki, Greece

I didn't get much sleep on the train. By early morning, I had reached Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. It was about 6am. I found myself a bus to the city centre.

I first came to Lefkos Pyrgos, which was the White Tower, the main landmark of Thessaloniki. I took my photos around here, and had a walk around.

I then waited for the Archaeological Museum to open, as it was still early morning. When it opened, I headed in, and had a look around. It contained a fantastic display of Vergina treasures, from times of Alexander the Great. He was from this region. The museum was very impressive. Lots of gold!

After my visit here, I made my way to Thessaloniki's train station in order to find a ticket to Serres, where Iro lives. It's not very far from here. It would be too late to book a ticket now, as Iro would need to be home after school by a certain time. I would be better off getting a head start tomorrow.

So, I took the time to explore Thessaloniki a little more, and then I found myself a cheap hotel. It was only €20. It wasn't the best quality hotel, consequently. I fell asleep pretty early. I had Agnes to talk to via text messaging, and we discussed our possible meeting.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 126 - Resolving complications, then heading to Thessaloniki, Greece

Today started with an argument with Despo. I had to set her straight, and that I have every right to do what I want with my life. She didn't seem to understand. Although my trip to Evia didn't go so well, the public transportation system is much easier in other major cities such as Thessaloniki, which was where I wanted to go. Above all, I'm really not too young to travel on my own. Age is not a barrier to those who can surpass it.

I spoke with my mother over the phone about this matter, telling her that I wanted to go to Latvia as well. It's caused a little bit of upset. I decided to head to the internet café in Pagrati to pursue the case further. I managed to get good valid points across to my dad over MSN, which was pretty much my best way of arguing. It's not that easy over the phone, as I get nervous with what I say.

My dad suggested that she should come to Greece. There wasn't enough time to arrange for something like this now, it is time for me to go and see her. I want to be there for our anniversary. My dad doesn't want to let me go, but quite frankly, I have had enough of this debacle and I am going to go whether my dad likes it or not. I am 18 years old now, and I'm going to have to take responsibility to make my own decisions soon enough. I spoke to my online friends and they supported me in my decision. The matter is settled then. I'm going to find a time in which I can go.

But first off, I'm going to pay a visit to my good friend, Iro, up north, near Thessaloniki. She lives in a village in the far northern reaches of Greece, near the town of Serres. I will go to Thessaloniki first, to check out the city, and then arrange a meeting with Iro.

I went to Larissis train station in Athens and bought myself a ticket to Thessaloniki, departing at 10:55pm. I then went back home, grabbed my stuff and notified Despo of my destination. I was going. She couldn't stop me, so she just told me to be careful.

So, I headed back to the station, waited for my train, boarded, and slept. It was a sleeper. Not a very comfortable one at that. First class would have been much more comfortable. I was there to begin with, as I didn't know exactly where to go, but later I was directed to my correct cabin. It was a bunk-bed sleeper shared with three other people.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 125 - Marmari, Evia

And then it got even worse. I woke up and checked out of the hotel at 6am, as planned, and headed over to the ferry office to collect my "6:30" ticket back to Rafina. Guess what. The ferry was delayed. It was not known when it would depart. So, first off, I got up early for nothing, and secondly, it was freezing cold. I could have stayed warm in my hotel room until later. Not to mention I didn't carry a jumper with me either. I was there, out in the cold, with nothing more than a shirt on. It was horrid. It seems that I just couldn't get anything right. This is what happens when you don't have a well organised trip. Then again, the only source for information I had was from my Lonely Planet guidebook. It's not easy to organise something through this book, as not everything is up to date.

I had to find some shelter for myself and keep warm for the next two hours. It wasn't a pleasant experience at all. I had to cover myself with a spare pair of pants to use as a blanket. I layed down some cardboard that I found, and used it as a bed. I was disgusted that I had to resort to this. I would just have to sit here and wait.

The sun came up later, and it was warm enough to leave the shelter. It was uphill from here; I went on a photoshoot. The island was beautiful and I took plenty of pictures. This place was going to be left behind as a memory. There were nice cycladic-type houses lined up along the streets, painted in blue and while, and there were windmills situated on the hills above. This was the good part of my trip.

After all this drama, I hopped on the ferry to Rafina, which left at 9:40am. Day saved. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Arriving home, Despo complained about me not having a jacket with me. Well, it was in the wash here. Then I told her that I wanted to go to Thessaloniki. She wouldn't allow me. Ok, this is getting ridiculous. I'm not going to let this pass by that easily. I am allowed to do what I want. She cannot interfere with my rights to what I want out of life. I love travelling. Despite my horrible experience today, I still love it, with a passion.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 124 - Marmari and Karystos, Evia

Today, I had a plan. I woke up at 11:30am and was contemplating going to the island of Evia and the other Sporades islands. The fact that I woke up late was what made it debatable.

I decided to go. I called the ticket office on Evia, asking when the last ferry crosses over to the island of Skyros, which was 6pm. I figured that would be plenty of time to make it to that port.

I caught the bus to Rafina port and purchased my ticket to Marmari, Evia. By this time, I doubted I was going to get to the port to Skyros on time, so I decided I'd check out Marmari and Karystos, enough for a day.

I boarded the ferry, and it wasn't the best ride. The seas were rough, and I actually became a little seasick. I didn't feel well; I was sweating, and I couldn't wait to disembark.

When I got there, I didn't know exactly which bus to take to Karystos. I needed to get to Karystos as it was a transport hub to Halkida, the capital of Evia. But I ended up missing the bus to Karystos. There was no destination written on the front of any of the buses, and there would be no more bus services for the day. I was doomed. I ended up paying €10 for a taxi to Karystos.

The taxi driver and I had a nice chat in Greek, which was good for me, and the drive was a nice one, very scenic. There was a big tabletop-looking mountain infront of us. He dropped me off at the KTEL bus stop in Karystos and I asked for a bus to Halkida, the capital of the island. There were no bus services for the rest of the day. It just went from bad to worse. I should know the bus schedules in advance. It's not very easy planning a trip over here, but I was still learning how to travel. It is my first experience after all.

Leaving that aside, I decided to have a nice dinner by a seaside taverna. I had squid, which was quite tasty and I loved it.

And then, it got worse. I wanted to go back to Athens. This trip wasn't going to get anywhere, as it was Independance Day tomorrow as well, which would mean no bus services. I took a taxi back to Marmari for another €10. I wanted to catch the ferry back home, but of course, as fate may have had it, I missed the ferry, by a few minutes. I was enraged. I was forced to stay the night.

I found a hotel that wasn't too pricey. €35 for the night. I watched a bit of Greek TV while I was here. I relaxed and had a sleep. I would be up at 6am tomorrow for the ferry back to Athens.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 123 - Latvian Embassy and Panagiotis' Birthday, Athens

Today I decided to make my trip to the Latvian Embassy to clear up the fact that I'll be able to visit Latvia. I was pretty nervous.

I arrived and buzzed the door. I headed in, and asked all the questions that I needed answered. Since I have been in the European Union for longer than 90 days, I was uncertain of whether my Greek residence permit would cover me for it. They didn't seem to understand exactly what I was asking. I didn't get the clearest answer. I think I'm going to just have to go, and hope I don't encounter any problems.

I'll be coming here again on Wednesday to speak with the ambassador, when she would be there. I will try to get the matter cleared up once and for all. I've been thinking a lot about going to Latvia.

Later on, I was invited over to Aleko's place. It was his younger son's, Panagiotis' 2nd Birthday. I had a good time hanging around the kids, and to top that, Parry brought me two letters which were sent by Agnes. One was a birthday card, and the other was a valentine card. I was going to read them later, when I got home. Parry also got me a new mobile phone, which I fell in love with. It could text in Greek, and it was great! I spent quite a bit of time setting it up and importing my contacts.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 118 - Poros and Hydra, Saronic Gulf Islands

I checked out of my hotel room, and started my trek inland. I planned to go to the Temple of Poseidon. It was a long trek along a windy and twisty road, which was quite fun. I enjoyed the scenery along the way.

As I got higher, I was given more superb views of the Saronic Gulf. I could see the island of Aegina, and an even further Athens off in the distance. I could also see the Peloponnesian mainland in the other direction.

I hiked all the way to the Temple of Poseidon, situated on the top of this island. I passed a few locals on the way, had a chat, and bought myself a large water bottle from a very small shop, which was essentially a house. When I got to the Temple of Poseidon, there was not much to see. It was pretty much nothing but ruins. There was nothing tall standing, just column bases scattered along the ground. There were good views from up here, though, and I took what I could of the area.

I headed back into town, along the same twisty road whence I came up. I took shortcuts between hairpin bends and shaved off a bit of time. I've been walking for about three hours.

When I got back, I headed to an internet café and tried to log onto TRF. I realise that I have been banned. I was stunned. The message displayed was 'No longer welcome'. I'm guessing this has something to do with the crisis that happened recently on my forum. I will have to leave it aside for now, and find out more later. This problem did convince me to cut my trip a little bit shorter.

Nonetheless, I purchased an onward ticket to the island of Hydra. I rode the hydrofoil, also known as a flying dolphin. The trip took only forty minutes. It was an enjoyable ride.

The island itself was incredibly amazing! The town was situated on the foot of the mountain, and there were no cars at all. Main transport here was by donkey. You don't need cars on this island, as everything is within close proximity. This was one awesome island to be on, and very different from what I have experienced in Greece so far. I'm loving it! I explored what I could, and was accompanied by dogs, cats and donkeys. I had myself a meal at the seaside taverna as well. What a day, despite my unfortunate situation with TRF. I enjoyed it as much as I could.

By afternoon, I started heading back to Athens. I took the flying dolphin back to the port of Piraeus, and enjoyed the scenery from the back of the boat along the way. It sat back and relaxed.

After arriving back at Piraeus, I tried to make my way to the internet café in Pagrati as soon as possible. I ended up taking three hours to get there. I was getting very frustrated. I got on a bus that had it's destination as Dafni. I thought that this would take me to the metro station near Con's workplace. I ended up going to Elefsina. I knew it was going wrong when I could see the island of Salamina. I had to get off, and head back in the other direction.

There were no metro services available, when I got to the nearest metro station. This was crazy, and it made it even more difficult. I made my way around by bus, which took forever, and I arrived at the internet café by 9pm.

So, I tried to resolve the situation I was in on TRF. I sent an email to Justin, the forum admin, and asked why I have been banned. I then visited my forum, and found out that there has been a huge ruckus between this forum and TRF. Some of the moderators from TRF stumbled across my forum and found a thread titled 'TRF OC Spamfest'. They thought that it was a conspiracy to spam their forum, so Justin banned everyone involved immediately. I knew the problem now, and fired off another email to Justin. I got the situation resolved and explained that it was a huge jump to conclusion and misunderstanding. We didn't intend for that title to be taken literally.

So I stayed online till midnight, getting everything sorted. There were no more bus services at this hour, so I walked my way closer to the city, and got myself a taxi. The rates were set to Tariff 2, and I didn't have enough money on me. I told the driver to stop whenever the meter reaches the amount of money that I have on me. I said my final destination was Aghia Paraskevi beforehand, and the cab driver was kind enough to drive me the whole way, regardless of not having all the money. It was very kind of him. I gave him every cent that was left in my wallet and thanked him.

From here, it was still a long walk back home to Glyka Nera. I walked on for another hour, arriving by 1:30am, when I could finally lie down and relax. I've had a busy past two days, and I was overwhelmed. I had a great trip! Except for that last bit.