Richard and Lei's Vacation to Greece, Crete, Italy and Austria
Lei on the bed in our sleeper berth on the ferry from Ancona, Italy to Patras, Greece
From Germany to Crete
Lei and I began this adventure around midnight on June 30, 2005 when we boarded a midnight train to Munich, Germany from our home in Sandhausen / St. Ilgen near Heidelberg, Germany. I had done all of the planning to maximize the this two week adventure, my first real vacation since arriving in Europe in late October 2004. Lei was a little concerned when she looked at our itinerary, but she was also ready for a vacation because the two of us had been working solid since the beginning of 2005 to set up our new house and get settled in. I was not concerned because I had been doing planning for years for private sector businesses, for the Government and for the Military. I was very confident that my plans would be fine and allow us to see a significant of Europe on this adventure.
I had arranged for EuRail Passes for both of us online and also made sure we had sleeper berths in our reservations. I had also made reservations online for the ferry from Ancona, Italy to Patras, Greece, from Athens, to Crete, from Crete back to Athens, from Patras to Bari, Italy and all of the train links between all of the cities we would visit as well as hotels where we would need them. After all, we were going to visit several major cities and see many sites on this adventure. We were going to spend time in Ancona, Bari, Naples, Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Vienna, Athens, Patras, Chania and KnossosPalace with several sites I am sure I have missed. I had also contacted our friends, Ken and Maria Harmon because we planned to stay and visit with them during our stay on Crete from July 3-6, 2005. They assured me they were happy to see us and they had plenty of room for us while we were on Crete. We left Heidelberg with the intentions of going to Munich, Germany on a high speed train and then catching another overnight train with a private sleeper berth on the train to Milan, Italy. We would then take a high speed train to Ancona, Italy on the AdriaticCoast, where we would catch an overnight ferry to Patras, Greece on Superfast Ferries. We arrived in Munich, Germany with about an hour to spare before boarding the overnight train to Milan, Italy through the Swiss Alps. In Milan we had breakfast and had about an hour before we caught the train for the next leg to Ancona. During the trip from Milan to Ancona, we both noticed that "high speed train" in Germany and "high speed train" in Italy do not mean the same thing. We arrived in Ancona around noon on July 1, 2005 and our ferry was not due to leave Ancona until 3:00 pm. We spentthe time looking around Ancona and taking a few pictures.
Around 3:00 pm we boarded the ferry and settled in our berth before going up on deck to have dinner. The ferry was like a cruise ship in many ways but also carried trucks, busses, cars and many RVs. We had a nice dinner and then a walk around the deck to relax and enjoy the sunset on the Adriatic. We awoke the next morning about two hours before we arrived in Patras, Greece and again took a walk around the deck and looked over the Greek Coastline before we came into Patras, Greece at around 7:00 am on July 2, 2005.
We had only about an hour before we caught the high speed train to Athens. After we boarded the high speed train to Athens and found our seat, Lei and I were both shocked. First off, we had first class tickets in a non-smoking car, but the car was the only first class car and right next to the dining car which was a smoking car, so every time the door to the dining car was opened a big cloud of smoke came in to the first class car. We thought we were lucky because we had seats on the right side of the car so we would have a view of the GreekCoast. "High Speed Train" took on a whole new meaning in Greece. This "High Speed Train" probably never went over 35-40 mph (50-65 kph) and when we left Patras the train traveled through an area for about 10 minutes where the bushes on both sides of the train actually rubbed on the side of the train. About half way into Athens the train ran along the coast and it was really a pretty view of the sea, but the train ride was very rough, sort of like riding in a wagon pulled by a horse. In fact, it was so rough that we were very glad this train didn't go any faster because it might have left the rails and it was quite a ways down to the sea. We arrived in Athens around 2:15 pm and our ferry to Crete was supposed to board at 3:30 pm and had to take a taxi from the train station to the Port of Piraeus, where we would catch the Anek Lines Ferry. We were a bit rushed on this leg, but we made the ferry on time and got settled in to our berth for the evening before going on deck for dinner and some wine and to watch the sunset again. Lei and I were very excited about waking up the next morning on Crete and getting to see Ken and Maria again. We were also pretty tired from the train ride and hauling our luggage all over during the day. We went to bed just after sun down and woke up very refreshed then next morning as we were coming into port in Chania, Crete. Ken Harmon picked up Lei and I at the Port of Chania as we came off of the ferry. It was great to see Ken again as it had been a couple of years since I seen him and Maria when they were still living at their home in Fredericksburg, VA. Ken and Maria had been our neighbors in Fredericksburg, VA for nearly 9 years and Ken and Maria are some of my dearest friends. Ken took us home and we had our reunion with Maria also. It was so good to see our friends again. Maria called the rental car place and confirmed that we were able to pick up the rental car and then Ken took me over to get the rental car while Lei and Maria visited with each other.
After we picked up the rental car and took it back to the house, Ken took Lei and I out and showed us a few sites around Chania and especially a great spot to get a good panorama of ChaniaBay.
Maria was preparing for a party that we all were invited to that was being given by another friend of theirs so we came back after just a short time out.
We went to the party with Ken and Maria and we ate, drank, listened to the Greek Band, ate more and had more to drink and talked to many new friends and Lei even got a chance to dance with Maria teaching her how to dance Greek Style. What a great way to start a super adventure.
Enjoy the photo album below and then below the photo album I will continue the adventure........
Chrisoskalitisas Monestary on Crete
Independence Day on Crete
Lei and I got up the following morning, July 4, 2005, and after having a wonderful breakfast that Maria prepared, she told us that both her and Ken had things they had to do and that Lei and I should go explore Crete.
I almost forgot, Maria didn't let us leave until she gave us a cooler with drinks and food that she had prepared for us for our day trip.
Lei and I started off with our map and headed out towards the beach at Falaserna. We had planned a full day ahead of us that also included going to Chrisoskalitisas Monastery and Elafonisia Beach if we didn't run out of time. Our only concern was to make sure we were back to the house by 6:00 pm if we wanted to have dinner with Ken and Maria. We were not going to miss out on anything Maria or Ken cooked. They are both "True Chefs"!!
The first stop was at a small village where we picked up a snorkel, mask and some swimming fins to take to the beach with us. We stopped occasionally to take pictures of the landscape but the next real stop was at the Beach at Falaserna. We decided to go swimming there and play in the water. After maybe an hour, we decided the surf was a bit too rough so we decided to carry on with our expedition and see what adventure might lay ahead for us.
Next we grabbed the map and plotted our second stop which was Chrisoskalitisas Monastery. We stopped for picture taking along the way at several points where the views were just awesome and stopped to wait for a herd of goats to cross the road at one point. We also met an old man riding side-saddle on a jack-ass and we stopped when he flagged us down. When we stopped, he was very polite, but his English was no better than our Greek and we did finally figure out that he only wanted to see if we had a cigarette.
While at the Chrisoskalitisas Monastery Lei and I tried to get a good picture of her sitting on the edge of the wall and one of the Monks told us not to go near the edge and got a bit angry when we said we just wanted to get a picture. The Chrisoskalitisas Monastery was a really beautiful old Monastery and it sits very close to some of the most deep blue waters I have ever seen in my life. It is worth the time to go explore if you ever get to Crete. It was getting a bit hot so after an hour, Lei and I headed off towards our third stop at Elafonisia Beach.
When we arrived at Elafonisia Beach we had to find parking and it was really crowded because it is such a great beach and the water is very calm. Lei and I stayed here for about two hours and build sand castles and played in the water like kids and really enjoyed ourselves. After a couple of hours, we decided we did not want to miss out on dinner, so we headed back towards Chania and Ken and Maria's house. We got home around 6:00 pm and Ken and Maria were preparing dinner, so Lei and I joined and helped and once again, we had a wonderful dinner, drank a few beers and a bit of wine with dinner and enjoyed listening to Maria tell us about some of the many other sites we should visit while we were on Crete.
It seemed to me that there were just more sites to see than we had time to go to and of course, there was not enough time to spend with our friends, so I am sure we will have to go back to visit Ken and Maria on Crete again.
July 5, 2005 at Knossos Palace on Crete
Lei and I got up this morning and again Maria had prepared breakfast and after breakfast, she also gave us an ice chest with snacks and drinks before sending us on our way to Knossos Palace.
Sunset On Our Last Day On Crete
July 6, 2005 - Lei's Birthday And Our Last Day On Crete
Well, the time has gone so fast and we only have a little time before we must say good-bye to Ken and Maria and take the overnight ferry back to Athens. This has been far too little time and we both know we will have to return to this beautiful island and our Wonderful Friends, Ken and Maria.