So I've put together some ideas and, while a few are crazy, most seem manageable. I'm going to throw some of them out there for feedback, suggestions, criticism and laughter. Remember, this is all very subject to change. I'm simply inviting you all in to take a peek at my personal madness.
First, a note on how we are going to travel on this trip. While keeping costs down is a consideration, my main priority is getting an authentic experience, which should, in and of itself, keep costs low. Now, getting an authentic experience over the course of twelve days (did I mention we extended our trip??) is impossible, but I want to immerse us as much as possible. No big hotels for us ~ we are staying in small villas and pensions. Bathroom in the room? Optional. I don't intend to spend more than 100 euros per night for a double - I'm aiming closer to 50 or 60, honestly. I'm looking for small places tucked into a centralized yet charming nook in the area where we are staying. Things that float my boat? Here are some quotes about the hotels that are catching my eye:
...the owner will happily provide you with his excellent homemade area hiking maps...
...a restored neoclassical mansion...within the walls of the citadel...boasting only 7 rooms for hire...
...breakfast (upon request) is homemade jams, ham, cheese, fruit and local honey...
...the owner's mother tends the lovely little garden...
Okay, are we in the mood now?
The locations I'm choosing for us to visit are a blend of the unfortunately necessary tourist trap locations (but hopefully we'll undertake them with a bit of non-touristy flair, you'll see) and a couple of spots off of the well-worn path. Luckily, it seems so far that, in comparison with some of the other spots I've visited recently, Greece itself is less traversed than most of Europe. Of course the islands are out of control party-insanity, but I'm going in expecting that. Apparently, mainland Greece, other than Athens, has been somewhat forgotten. Am I wrong?
Places we are going:
Ben, if you are reading this and want to be surprised (you DO want to be surprised, by the way, it's much more fun) click away from here NOW!! I mean it! Go away!
We arrive in Athens at 9am. Ben's foremost preparation for this journey is the securing of the sleeping pills. I usually doze mightily on flights, but I might just be overly excited this time. We will need the rest. It's a seven hour time change and as soon as we step off of that plane, we are going.
I decided, after all, to rent a car. With the extra days, it makes the most sense to take our plans (and our lives) into our own hands rather than risk the possible hideousness and expense of a (gasp) package tour. So I've got three requests out there for local car rental agencies for bids. We (or rather, Ben, since I don't have a license any more) will be driving 5.5 hours that first day to Ioannina (way north).
Here's the problem I'm having right now with that drive. Thank you very much, Google. Anyone speak Greek? Hello?
See, Ben's other pre-trip responsibility (aside from drug acquisition) will be to get that elusive International Driver's License. The Internet says it's easy. I supplied him with the address for AAA. It's in his hands now. Which is quite scary.
In Ioannina (assuming we make it), we'll stay at the Hotel Kastro (that's the 7 room neoclassical mansion within the walls of the citadel. That reservation is confirmed ~ someone there speaks English, yea!) and I think we'll have dinner here.
To do in Ioannina:
- Take a small boat to the island Nissi, where the womanizing, violent Ali Pasha tried to hide from the sultan's men in a priest's cell. He (Ali Pasha, not the priest) was shot from downstairs while he was hiding upstairs, shot through the floor. The building is now a hotel and the boards with the gunshot holes are on display. The island is supposed to be a prime spot for an evening stroll and the last boat back to town is at midnight.
- Enjoy the International Festival, which takes place in this town the first two weeks of July each year. What that entails, we shall see. Dancing, maybe? Greek music? I hope so.
- Eat Kalmaki. I don't even know what that is, but I think it's something sweet.