“Hello from beautiful Santorini in the Greek Islands! Sorry I didn’t get to finish the last email. Chances are it will happen again! We have some photos uploaded to the site now. We haven’t seen most of them yet, so I have no idea what is there! Should be interesting. http://www.sytone.net By the way, we have decided to photograph all the McDonald’s shops that we see and have a Maccas gallery on the site. Don’t ask me why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time! Well, I was up to Venice. Venice is beautiful but very polluted. Some of the people who we met on our trip went on a Gondola ride and saw amongst other things dead floating rats in the water and also other bits that you might find floating around Bondi beach! So after we checked out of our expensive hotel we went to the train station and set about working out how to catch a train to where we had to meet our tour. After lining up at several information desks I finally worked out how to get the tickets so I decided to be very smart and ask for them in Italian. It all went well until she told me how much they were in Italian. I then forgot any sembalance of my newly-found Italian language skills and said ““What, how much?”” I left without even saying thankyou because my confidence had all disappeared. We got on the train bound for Mestre which is one station out of Venice. That all went well. When we got off the train we had another epic of finding the right bus and then finding out where to but the tickets. Just a tip: you can’t buy bus tickets at the ‘Tickets’ window, you have to get them at the cafeteria (how silly of me!) We waited for the number one bus to Fusina (which is basically the Penrith of Venice) where the rest of the tour group had stayed the night before in a camping place. After an hour at the bus stop and meeting another group of Australians from Leeton which is near Wagga who were headed the same way we got on the #1 bus which was packed with campers heading to Fusina. But the bus driver turfed us out when we got to the turn off because apparently this bus didn’t go all the way. We never did find out why. So us Aussies banded together and decided to walk. ““It can’t be far”” we said, but were not convinced when the street sign said that our little stroll is 6km. To make matters worse it was about 35 degrees, humid, we were carrying our packs (at least 15kg each) and we only had an hour to get there. We weren’t convinced that the next bus would be any quicker than the last, so given the options, walking was still our best bet. (WARNING: the next section may scare some parents!) After walking about 2km of the optimistic 6, we saw another couple who were on the bus go past in a local car. Hmm, not a bad option. Let’s hitch. Shortly afterwards some lovely young Italian boys with radio blaring picked us up without having to even raise our thumb. Luckily the road was quiet because they were driving at twice the speed limit in the middle of the road. We thankfully arrived at our destination unscathed with 25 mins to spare! A few minutes later the other 3 Aussies arrived in the back of a ute. Geez Aussies are a resourceful bunch! After meeting the tour guide and being told that we weren’t leaving for another hour, we sat and had a beer (what else was there to do). We then got onto an empty tour bus as we were the only ones joining the group at point, and proceeded to backtrack our steps basically back to the same spot we had left 3 hrs earlier. Bugger! At this stage we met the rest of the group. Although they had been travelling together for a while they were happy to welcome us into their fold. They are a really nice bunch of people with an average age of about 28. We are the youngest people on the tour, which is good because it means that we haven’t got a whole stack of 18 year-old people who just want to party and couldn’t care less about looking at any of the sights. The group has 2 South Africans (both of whom have been working in London for a while), 4 Kiwis and 9 Aussies! Our tour guide, Flora, is Greek Australian and grew up in Melbourne. She’s fantastic and we’ve been having a lot of fun. She’s moving to London after this tour and has invited us to use her floor until we can find our own place. Anyway, from the Venice port we boarded the huge ship to Patras in Greece. We had an amazing view of Venice on our way out, there are some photos on the site. We were supposed to share a tiny cabin with another couple and their huge Samsonite suitcase, but they decided that the room wasn’t big enough for the 5 of us so upgraded and left us in the room by ourselves. Bewdy! The cruise took 2 days and 2 nights and was a lot of fun and very relaxing. We then caught a bus to Athens. I’ve gotta tell you. Athens is a dump. Our Hotel was near the local meat market which is out in the street in the boiling weather, and is completely un-refrigerated. At the end of the day whatever isn’t sold is lumped on the streets in the hope that the street cleaner will come and scoop it up! Hmm, yum. They scoop it up with big loaders and then put it in dumpsters which stay on the streets for a day or so until they’re empty. I guess the reason it stays there is because what else would the hoards of stray dogs and cats in the city eat? There were 2 good things about Athens. Our Hotel had a rooftop pool with a view to the Acropolis, and we had a nice time watching the sun go down from there. The only thing is that Athens is basically built in a ditch, and the pollution is amazing. The sun actually disappeared behind a cloud of smog before it went behind the mountain! The other good thing is the food. Greeks really know how to cook. We have taken quite a liking to Greek salad and yeeros. Oh, and there is one other good thing, there is lots of old stuff. The Acropolis is amazing. It is on the top of a hill and looks huge. It is truly an architectural masterpiece. We went to the Olympic Stadium which is the site of the 1st modern Olympic games (who said we left the Olympic city). >From the ground it looks quite small, but from the top it looks huge. >It is built entirely from marble. We also went to the temple of Zeuss and a few other spots. Oh, and the Athens Metro station has to be the cleanest in the world. It also doubles as a museum because they dug up some other old stuff when they were digging the underground. They have armed guards keeping the dog and cat population and other undesirables out. So we had pretty much seen all Athens has to offer when the bad news came that we had to spend another night there because the ferries were striking and we couldn’t get to Santorini. The drivers in Athens are mad. They don’t stop for red lights or pedestrians. We saw an old women knocked down in the street. Her head was lying in a pool of blood but she was still alive! The ferries were still striking the next day, so our tour guide organised for us to fly. We got to Santorini a day late, which meant that we either stayed for only 2 days or missed out on going to Ios (another island). We decided that the former option was better, so we opted to stay in Santorini. Santorini is exactly what you see in postcards. The blue and white buildings are perched on top of cliffs and the weather is hot and sunny. Our hotel, also a blue and white building was really nice, but in the middle of nowhere. It would take us ages to walk to the beach or catch a bus, so we needed transport! After consulting our insurance policy which wouldn’t cover us for motorbikes (scooters and mopeds included), a car was the best option. We opted for the jeep which was a small Suzuki with no top. When I say no top I mean it. Even if we wanted a roof they didn’t give us one! Lucky it never rains! Drivers in Santorini are mad. They overtake on blind corners (they just beep their horns to let people know they’re coming), they park anywhere they can, they drive fast. The law says that people who ride motorbikes etc have to have a helmet with them, but there’s no rule about wearing them! But I was brave and decided to try out the right side of the road, after all, when in Santorini, do what the Greeks do. We drove around most of the Island, following some of the other members of the group who braved the scooters. We took New Zealanders, Darren and Sarah (pron. Dirrin and Sirrah) stopping from time to time to look at the view from atop a cliff, or to go for a swim in a beautiful spot in crystal clear waters. Every beach has a different coloured sand, black, red, black round rocks, or just boulders. It is really varied. We even went wine tasting. Grapes are Santorini’s main crop. They are everywhere around the place, but they don’t string the vines up to posts, they just lie on the ground in the barren, dry soil. The Greeks on Santorini also know how to cook. Our first meal was breakfast at Momma’s. Momma is quite a character, and she is well known amongst the locals and also the tourists. Her catch cry is ““Momma loves yous babies””, and she yelled it out at least 3 times during our breakfast of omlettes and inch-thick pancakes. We’re off there for dinner tonight as well (breakfast was on Tuesday). Today we took the car back at 11am (btw, I got pretty good at Santorini driving) and went on a tour of Santorini’s volcano Island. It is at least 40 degrees today, and I’m getting pretty burnt and Jon has a heat rash all over is hands and feet). We walked down about 2000 steps to the port, all the way battling with donkeys (you can hire a donkey to ride up or down the stairs). The stais are made from marble rocks set in cement, which are shined and made slippery by the donkey poo and their hoofs as they go along. After a boat ride, we trekked up the inactive volcano, nearly died from heat exhaustion and pretty much all we saw was a few deep holes in the ground and a bit of Sulphur coming out of the ground. Afterwards the boat took us for a well-deserved swim in the hot springs (which are hot because of the Volcano). When we got back we decided that by far the best option was to fork out the 5 bucks for the cable car back up the cliff. Wow, what a view. We all were pretty burnt (we went with 2 people from the tour group) and were lectured by an obnoxious American who told us to go to the pharmacy to get some Aloe Vera for our burns. Little did she know that the two girls we were with are a doctor and a pharmacist. Geez some people are obnoxious! Well, now I’m up to date. I’m in the net cafe and writing this letter. We’re off to see the sun set from a cliffside bar followed by dinner at Momma’s. Tomorrow we’re off back to Athens by ferry (assuming they’re running) and we have to spend another night there before embaring on 3 days of sailing around the islands. It’s tough . . . Go unemployment! Now here’s the personal messages: *Mum and Dad, thanks for taking care of the phone shenanigans and look after the cat! *Hello to Barbara and Derek *Tham, I met a girl on our trip from Leichhardt, she has the best job- she works for the department of defence. Her job is to look at units and buy them for Army staff to live in. She buys a few every week! Thanks for your long email too. Hope you’re enjoying the Olympics! Say hello to all the OzEmailers for me. *A big Hi to Malinda. Thanks for all your emails. *Nick, thanks for your email too. Hope you’re not missing us too much. Could you please forward this to Jen and Marty, they haven’t signed up yet. *Mim and Gus, congrats on the expected arrival. Don’t forget to name the baby after me. If you want to reply, please reply to our normal addresses. Jon’s is sytone@sytone.net and mine is jane_bullen@hotmail.com We’ve stopped the replies from going to everyone on the list. If you want to make comments there’s a place on the site. Keep in touch. Jane and Jon”