Monday, October 26, 2015

Chios, Greece

I wrote this blogpost once already, but the text got deleted when I went to upload another photo.  Happy Monday?

One of the great things about living in Europe/Asia is how close other countries are. This is especially true for Turkey and Greece.  The Greek Island of Chios is so close to Turkey that you can take a ferry there.

The island with the blue dot is Chios and the big land mass is Turkey

Chios is one of those places that we knew we wanted to go, but had put it off because it was so easy that we knew we would do it eventually.  This weekend, we had nothing else planned and figured it was the perfect time to go.

Friday afternoon, we got in the car and drove to Cesme, which is a little less than an hour from downtown Izmir.  It was raining and the traffic was bad, so we barely made our ferry!  The ferry was actually pretty nice, with tables and chairs to sit at under a covered area, which was nice since it was raining on and off.  When we arrived in Chios, we cleared customs and decided that we would just walk to our hotel since it was supposedly close by.

As soon as we got off the ferry, we were greeted by our first refugee sighting since we left the United States. Izmir supposedly has tons of refugees, but they don't seem to be where we are, so we haven't seen any camps or been able to distinguish refugees from anyone else.  As soon as we walked into Chios, though, the first thing we saw was a huge refugee tent set up by the Red Cross.  As we walked along the water to our hotel, there were tents set up everywhere.  This was heartbreaking and brought tears to my eyes.  Since it was raining, all of these tents had flooded and people were constantly trying to scoop out the water so they could sleep.  It definitely put our walk to the hotel in perspective.

Once we arrived at our hotel, we dropped off our bags and headed back downtown for a late dinner.  At this point, it was 8:00 and we were both starving. We chose the first restaurant we saw, which just happened to be a burger and pizza restaurant.  Typical Americans.  It was actually really good, although I don't think we needed a huge pizza AND a burger, but you only Greece once, amirite?  After dinner and a few drinks, we returned back to our hotel.

Let me just take this opportunity to rave about our hotel, the Grecian Castle Hotel.  We almost always go with one of the cheapest hotels on booking.com.   We don't spend a ton of time in our hotel rooms and would rather spend the money on an excursion or food.  This usually means that we get decent hotel rooms, but nothing special.  While we went with our same strategy on Booking this time, we were pleasantly surprised with our hotel.  Not only did we get free breakfast, we also had a large bedroom and bathroom, plus a decent view (when the sun was out). Definitely recommend it!

The view from our room
Anyways, I digress.  The next day, we woke up to rain and lots of it. This was a major bummer because we had planned to walk everywhere.  On top of that, we found out there was no public transportation on the island, so we would have to take a taxi.  That was probably poor planning on our part, but still, a major bummer.

The hotel called us a taxi and within a few minutes (after a delicious free breakfast!), our driver arrived. Our first stop was Nea Moni Monastery.   It's a working monastery, but it dates back to the Byzantine Empire and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (we love those things!).
cracks me up!



First, we went into the sanctuary, which was gorgeous.  It was gawdy, but in a tasteful way.





After the sanctuary, we went into the museum.  It was interesting because, although I'm used to the Roman Catholic and Episcopal church garments, seeing Greek Orthodox garments from hundreds of years ago was very cool. Unfortunately, we couldn't take any pictures.  Before we left, we wandered around the grounds of the monastery.










Our last stop was the little chapel at the entrance to the monastery. 

Looks nice right?

Oh wait, those are real.....

Our next stop was going to be Mesta, which is a small town in the southern part of Chios, but since it was raining, we decided against that (we ended up going the next day) and headed straight to Chios Microbrewery.  I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed this little stop.  I don't think it's meant for guests since they don't have a bar or even beer glasses, but the owner was so nice and gladly showed us his set up, all while drinking some of his beer.  I'm not even a beer drinker, but this lager was actually good (I would order it in a restaurant) and the beer expert agreed with me.  He even let us try his porter, which wasn't usually for tasting and Mike was in Heaven! We stayed for about an hour just chatting with the owner about everything from beer to the Greek economy.  When we asked why he doesn't distribute to Turkey, we were not surprised when he said the taxes were too high.  We called our taxi driver and made our way back to the hotel with six beers in hand.


A little taste of Turkey in Greece...gotta have the Evil Eye!


We had the taxi driver drop us off at our hotel so we could put our beer in the room and regroup before heading to Chios Town, which is the little town along the water. 


We spotted these guys along our walk into town



We found an "authentic" Greek restaurant and settled in out of the rain for some lunch/dinner.
Greek salad anyone?

After lunch/dinner, it was late enough in the evening that we didn't have time to do any other sightseeing, so we found a wine bar and settled in there. 

Purple
and gold for my favorite university


While we were there, I was stalking all forms of social media for any sort of update on College GameDay at JMU! My parents, Ben and countless friends and classmates were there to help welcome the broadcast.  
I don't think I've ever seen a bad picture of this place







After tasting a few glasses of Greek wine, we called it a relatively early night and headed back to the hotel to rest up for day two of our Greek Island adventure.