There’s absolutely no way I could write in detail about all the fun, crazy, irritating, hilarious, and exciting things that happened while I spent 5 weeks backpacking across Italy & Greece with my best friend. But I’ll give a quick overview. To get an idea of our trip, I suggest watching the video. It’s much more fun!
Everyone wants to do something awesome for their 30th birthday, so in 2014 I booked a 5 week adventure through Italy and Greece with my best girlfriend Melinda for her big 3-0. Her roommate Samantha joined along, and the 3 of us had an incredible backpacking trip through Europe that we’ll never forget.
Since I live in Oklahoma, and the other girls lived in Colorado, we all planned to meet up at the airport in NYC for our overseas flight to Milan. Just getting through the domestic flights and airport security was a debacle, and a whole separate story in itself. But thankfully we all made it to the meet-up spot with our backpacks in tow.
We began our journey arriving in Milan, Italy after a 7 hour flight, where we immediately hopped a 2 hour train ride, and then another hour-long bus just to get to a little mountain town called Lake Como. (George Clooney apparently has a “lake house” there.) We stayed at a Hostel for a few days and got to explore the countryside. We even hiked up a mountain that ended with the most incredible view of the Swiss Alps in the distance.
From Lake Como we journeyed to Venice, most famously known for it’s waterways and gondolas. Our trip was scheduled over Dirk’s birthday, so I wanted to get him something he would truly appreciate. Since soccer (or, futbol) is one of the most popular sports in Europe, I figured it would be fairly easy to find an Italian soccer jersey in Venice. I was wrong. I spent an entire day hunting down ANY store that sold sports jerseys, and finally came across a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop that sold every team jersey ever made. Mission: Birthday present was a success. Barely.
The Temple(s) of Apollo
After a week in Italy, it was time to head to Greece. Our ferry transportation was a grueling 30 hours, but it gave us plenty of time to play cards, read our books, and nap across the seat cushions. Upon arriving in Greece, we had to make our way to Athens which was another long bus ride from the ferry port. The moment we crested the final hill overlooking the city of Athens, my heart started racing. The population was nearly 4 million, and the idea of finding our tiny hostel in a sea of cityscapes and people was daunting to say the least. At least the Italian language is vaguely similar to Spanish, which made it slightly less difficult to interpret. But in Athens, the Greek alphabet looks like ancient hieroglyphics. It was overwhelming.
The ancient city of Acropolis at the top of the mountain was breathtaking. Unfortunately, due to the acid rain from the pollution (that’s a real thing), the structures have deteriorated so much that they are constantly under renovation. Many of the temples and statues are covered by scaffolding and it’s hard to get a good photo.
We had planned to stay in Athens for 4 days, but outside of Acropolis we realized we weren’t that impressed with the city. As luck would have it, Nathan Schmidt was staying at the same hostel and had 3 extra seats in his rental car. His plan was to tour the mainland for a couple days, visiting several historical sites. He invited us to go with, and although we didn’t know the guy at all we decided to throw caution to the wind and said “YES!” Turns out, Nathan was a pretty cool dude and we’re still friends on Facebook. Thanks for the invite buddy!
My personal favorite part of the whole trip was visiting all of the historical ruins throughout Greece. Just standing in the middle of a temple knowing that someone stood in the exact same spot 3,000 years ago was pretty amazing. We returned to Athens a couple of days later and packed up for our next round of adventures… Island hopping.
Altogether we visited Mykonos, Ios, Naxos, Santorini, and Crete. When most people think of Greece, they picture the whitewashed houses with blue rooftops along a seaside cliff. That’s exactly what Santorini looks like. On the other hand, Ios and Mykonos are considered the “party” islands where many younger travelers go to swim, drink, and meet other backpackers. Naxos, for us, was a little disappointing only because there was a really strong storm that came through and made it impossible to swim, lay on the beach, or enjoy our time there due to the heavy downpour. But CRETE… Crete was unanimously our favorite island of all.
If anyone has ever wanted to visit the Greek islands, I would highly recommend spending at least 3+ days in Crete. We were lucky enough to discover a backpackers hostel on the southern side of the island (about 3-4 hr bus ride from the ferry port). It was definitely worth the trip.