We decided on Greece for our first excursion from Amsterdam. It was early April, so we wanted to head south. It was Easter weekend, so we wanted to stay away from Rome. In Greece it wasn't Easter, so we wouldn't have to contend with the local holiday coinciding with our holiday. So we went.
We connected in Athens and flew into Santorini for a three-night stay. Santorini is a beautiful island formed from a volcano. The always-freshly-painted-white buildings built into the side of the dark cliffs of the caldera are a beautiful sight, as our one-thousand or so pictures can show. We stayed in a town called Firostefani, at a place called Dana Villas. We can highly recommend both.
We may not have realized this going in, but Santorini was our perfect vacation spot. There are great activities like swimming in hot springs, sailing, or hiking along the cliff. There is incredible natural beauty: very interesting geological features (the reddest rock faces I've ever seen), and amazing sunsets. And it is surprisingly not over-commercialized or over-priced.
And then there's the food. I was not prepared for the food. Since moving to New York ten years ago and discovering great food, I have considered Greek food to be in my top two favorite foods. An evening at Symposium with warm pita, tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves, olives, and feta could not be beaten. But for some reason it never occurred to me in all of the lead up to our trip to Greece that *there would be Greek food there*. I embarrassed myself at every meal acting like every bite of food was the most delicious I had ever tasted in my life. Because it was!
Athens was amazing for completely different reasons. It is touristy, but not in the good way where you have a nice clean accommodations. It is touristy in the crowded, cheap souvenir way. The problem we had in Athens is getting our minds around time. The oldest buildings in New York, I'm going to guess, are from the mid-to-late 18th century. Our canalhouse in Amsterdam was built in the mid-17th century. Amsterdam itself was established in the 13th century, but I'm not aware of anything that old that's still standing.
Athens has structures ("ruins" I guess, but that doesn't do them justice) that were constructed in the 5th century BC. It's too big a leap. I can't get my mind around it. There is a complete reconstruction in the agora that was created with the same specifications and materials as the original. It's impressive by today's standards -- 2500 years later, whatever that means.
We also embraced the early Christianity "Paul was here" aspect of Athens. We climbed atop the Areopagus on Easter Sunday and read the passage from Acts where Paul enlightens the Athenians about the unknown god they "have worshipped in ignorance." And the next day we took a tour out to Corinth and saw where Paul spoke in the Agora there. Again, we tried and failed to really grasp the power, wealth, and influence that this city had over two thousand years ago.
Next stop: Keukenhof