Our first problem. After purchasing tickets (travel agencies are less frequent in Athens, but occur almost on each block in the islands, especially concentrated near the waterfront) for a 7am ferry, we realized that we were traveling without an alarm clock. After strategizing the wake-up possibilities, we determined an alarm method: drink two liters of water, go directly to bed, wake up each hour without bathroom breaks. Genius. And better still, it worked. Worked so well we used that method for each succeeding early morning. Slightly uncomfortable, but hell, we didn’t have too many options. (And why would we BUY an alarm clock when we could spend that money on booze?)

After an eight-hour ferry ride (the “ferries” are similar to cruise ships, complete with fast food and escalators), we arrived on Santorini, a beautiful, crescent-shaped island. Santorini is a tall island, with stairs leading from the water to the hilltop cities (you can also ride a donkey or ride in a car to the top, depending on the port). Our first nights were spent in Oia (a tip of the crescent) which included a day trip to Perissa (the bottom of the crescent) until we transfered to Fira, aka Thira, as the Greeks don’t believe in consistent translations, (found near the middle of the crescent) for the wedding.

As the island is the site of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions on the planet, we felt a volcano tour would be appropriate and touristy enough to meet fellow travelers. We found one lone traveler, soon to become our third wheel. After exemplifying each negative Jewish stereotype –from telling us the prices of his clothing to singing praises of his mother to explaining his lifelong dedication to finding a nice Jewish girl to a history lesson of Passover – Cousin ‘Olly started to lose a little of her composure and integrate comments designed to make me laugh. After a deep analysis of his Birkenstocks, ‘Ol said, “Just like Jesus wore!” and when I complained that my cold was giving me an under-nose rash, she likened it to Hitler. Insensitive, yes, but he would (good-naturally) laugh and give us three minutes of quiet to listen to the tour’s history lesson. This man was the only American traveler we came across throughout the 18 days of travel who was not accompanied with his girlfriend/fiancee/wife. Greece is not an island to which guys travel with other guys. Apparently watching sunsets and beach picnics is not their thing.

The boat trip also took us to the “hot” springs. Quotations included because they were not hot. Not in the least. And I have been to hot springs in Iceland, a place that is chilly, so I know that hot springs, regardless of latitude, can reach hot temperatures. In order to reach the “hot” springs, we jumped ship (a large ship) and swam through the Aegean Sea. The Aegean is cold. So cold that Cousin ‘Olly and I were reciting dialogue from Titanic. “Jack! Don’t leave me!” “Rose, you selfish twit, can we not share the freaking door? Or take turns?” “I’ll never let go, Jack!” “I meant not to let go of me, not the damn door!” (Ok, maybe our memory was a little remiss in the actual lines, but oh, we thought we were so funny.) But yes, the Aegean = cold. The “hot” springs = slightly less cold. Also, they bubbled through red clay, which is a substance that stains swimwear. Awesome. But again, as ‘Olly and I find ourselves so amusing, she would question my red-clay-stained bikini, and I would answer “Oh this? It’s from swimming in the Aegaen Sea.” Oh so very blasé. A stain from the U.S. is sloppy but a stain from the Aegean? Cultured.

Although the wine continued to be bad, the food (and beer!) was excellent. The stray dogs followed us constantly (Cousin ‘Olly refused to ‘fess up to the bacon in her pocket) like we were the pied piper. The people … at least the Greeks, were wonderful. The non-Greeks … were somewhat troublesome.

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