Travel information & tips from our hashers
Skiing in Greece
A good site for ski resorts in Greece is:
Island of Aegina [Playboy2]
-The Ag. Nektarios car ferry from Pireaus is the cheapest at Euro 4.00 per person & fine inside.
(Tel: Pireaus: 210-422-5625 or Aegina: 22970-25625 for departure info. & reservations)
- Avoid ferries stopping at Souvala on the way to Aegina as it adds 1/2 hour to journey.
- The Odyseus open car ferry
- Save money on Catamaran or Flying Dolphin (www.dolphins.gr, Tel: 210-419-9000) by buying a return ticket.
- At the weekends it is
necessary to book seats on Cat or Dolphin or space for car on ferry.
- Cheap hotel(s): Hotel Plaza (Ulrica & Christina) - Manager Michalis Kororos
Kazatzaki Street, Aegina. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 00 30 22970-25600
Directions: On exiting car ferry jetty, turn left, walk for 2 minutes along the seafront and it's on the right.
- Good, inexpensive little
seafood restaurant on harbour front: Skotathis Tel: 22970-24014
(Must try the baked sardines - come filleted & opened. Also try the octopus...along with some ouzo)
See the Hangouts page for Aegina bars information.
Island of Crete
Samaria Gorge walk [Camel Fu*ker & Two Moons Rising ] ( about 9 hours of gentle walking with fantastic scenery) (There are stopping places, refreshments & park rangers all along the route).
Long weekend suggestion: Catch overnight ferry from Piraeus (sleeping in cabin) & arrive in Hania the next morning. Check into hotel. [NOTE: You may be in time to go straight to the bus]
In Hania, find where the special bus to the Samaria Gorge goes from & purchase round trip ticket (Euro 10 each way). The buses leave the next morning at something like 6.00 am, 7.00 am, 8.00 am. Enjoy the day in Hania. Next morning take small rucksack with sun block, swimming costume, towel, camera, water, snacks, cellphone? & take bus to the Gorge. As you walk along the gorge, occasionally step aside to let fit, elderly persons pass you! Take photos to prove you did it! At end of gorge, bathe in the sea while waiting for the bus to take you back to Hania.
The Pilgrimage to the
tomb of St. James of Compostela (one of the 12 apostles of J.C.)
- at The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Santiago, Northern Spain
The pilgrimage is to the tomb of an apostle who was witness to the Resurrection (Acts 1.22) and is made on foot, bicycle or on horseback. The Cathedral has, ever since ancient times, awarded the pilgrim an official document called a Compostela. In 1999, 154,613 on foot pilgrims from 91 countries made this pilgrimage. 2004 is the Holy Year of Saint James & the church grants a special year of grace to pilgrims.
One important thing to note is that the pilgrimage it's not a touristy thing to do. You should find spiritual reasons for doing it even though you may not be religious. The people in the community are NOT enthused by the few people who are just there because it is neat. A lot of people on the pilgrimage worry that the fragile balance of the ecology of the countryside, the free refuges, and the number of available beds each night would be lost if too many people just went there for the ride.
Now that having been said, here's some answers from DB:
(1) Fly from Athens to which
city & airport in Spain & on which airline?
Well actually you can start the trip from anywhere. I went along the Camino Frances, the one from the Pyrenees, which starts in France. There's also a route that goes along the northern seaside of Spain, one that goes up from southern Spain, and one from Portugal. The one I did is the most popular, seeing 100,000 people per year. The minimum you can do is 100 km, so we started from the town of Sarria (113 km away). Some people start from Leon, or Pamplona. We took Alitalia (NOT RECOMMENDED) to Bilbao, then took the 8 hour train to Sarria. Bilbao has lots of places to stay in the old part of the city, and has the Guggenheim.
Something fun I did while in Bilbao
was read the World History of the Basques, a historical page-turner. It was
neat to read about things that happened there in Basque country.
(2) From airport - where (&
how) do you go to start pilgrimage?
So once you pick your starting city, you just go to a pilgrim information center and get your pilgrim's passport. This needs to be stamped at each refuge and in cafes and churches that you stop by to prove you walked the route.
(3) Where did you get the "record book or paper" that was stamped at each stage of journey?
I guess that's answered above. By the way, a web group called Confraternity of St. James provides a great guidebook for this pilgrimage. The guidebook is essential, since you must plan to be at the next refuge around noon when it opens, or you won't get a bed. Therefore you need to know where the hills are, where the towns are, and how far away the next refuge is.
(4) Where did you stay the first night (i.e. did you start walking straight after you landed)?
We spend the first night at a pension in Bilbao. No one ever, ever spoke English, even the Pension owner and the waiter at the fancy restaurant nearby. It's good that I had some Spanish! Then we took the train to Sarria, where we tried to spend the night at the refuge there, but they fill up around noon as I said. So we stayed in a pension there.
(5) About how far did you walk each day? Easy, medium, difficult?
We started out walking 7 km from the pension in Sarria, then gradually increased. Sometimes we had to go 20 km. The rules are that you have to go a minimum of 10km to be allowed to stay at the next refuge. Sometimes refuges are far apart, or they're so near that it's not worth wasting a day, so you stretch it a little more. Towards the end, lots of people had planes to catch out of Santiago airport, so they had to go farther! Needless to say, we'd all purchased knee braces towards the end.
(6) You stopped at hostels overnight giving preference to walkers. How much did they cost?
They were free. Yay! Some people brought mats and sleeping bags so they didn't mind staying on the floor, and they had more time to walk since there was usually floor space until around 4pm. But bikers (who have to go 200km minimum) got last choice.
Speaking of sleeping bags, you really really need them. The beds are just mattresses!
(7) where did you get the paper or book stamped?
The pilgrim's passport gets automatically stamped at each refuge. Plus, churches and cafes and restaurants have pretty stamps. Some people try to get as many stamps as possible as a matter of pride. I opted for the prettiest ones.
(8) How many days walking?
I think we walked for 8 or 9 days. We were glad to have taken 2 1/2 weeks to do the whole thing, so we could hang around Santiago for a few days too and see all the sights there. It's a short bus ride from there to Finisterre (the end of the world).
(9) Any "must have" souvenirs one should buy?
Well, the pilgrim's passport is the best souvenir. You also get a certificate at the cathedral in Santiago. There's tons of souvenirs available with symbols you saw along the way, such as the yellow arrows that marked the trail. Galicia is the celtic region of Spain, so there's lots of celtic stuff, and also a tradition of witchcraft, so you can get witchy stuff.
(10) How (& from where) would one return to Greece?
If I did it again I'd fly back from Santiago via Madrid or something. I took a night bus back to Bilbao and then flew out.
Hope that helps! Regards D.B.
The great thing about the states is that there are two websites you can use no matter what city you are in:
This will tell you the best restaurants in your price range and neighborhood, based on extensive surveys. When in NY, it's good to buy the Zagat book, too. They also have theatre and stuff, but they're famous for the restaurant guide.
This includes the best restaurants, clubs and hotels. Everyone uses it to see what's happening on the weekend.