Well, as soon as spring break snuck up on me, it was over.
I started off our week and a half vacation by flying to Limnos, a northeastern Greek island, along with 4 of my friends (Megan from Barnard, Emily and Eric from Notre Dame, and Kate from Toulane). After being picked up by our hotel owner who did not speak very much English, we wandered around the town. There were a lot of people out and about, because it was Greece's Independence day, but that meant that the only things that were open were tavernas. We enjoyed a chilly, and extremely long lunch about 5 feet away from the Mediterranean Sea. One of our favorite dishes was a baked feta and herbs in a tomato sauce covered with another cheese. Also, I tried retsina for the first time, which Limnos is famous for. I cannot say that I enjoy it very much. Retsina is white wine that is flavored with pine resin. It had the smell and what I imagine the taste to be of nail polish remover.
We then walked up the town's mountain to a Venetian fortress which overlooked the two coves and the Sea. It had some pretty cool mini caves and a lot of easily-climbable rock faces. Kate and I thought it was a great idea to climb down a grassy/rocky slope to the sea down below. Turns out that it was much farther, and more difficult than we had originally imagined. We bonded over the fact that we may not make it out alive--always a fun topic. It was completely worth the hike though, because it was so serene and beautiful at the bottom of the slope, and we were able to stand out on rocks being pelted by the waves.
Back up and to our hotel/hostel to warm up and start our continued tradition of playing cards at any lull in the action. Since Emily, Eric, Kate, and I are all from the Midwest (Kate is also from Indiana, even though she goes to Tulane) we all knew how to play Euchre, a popular card game in the Great Lakes region. We went out to an Ouzerie for dinner which had some of the best tzatziki that I've had since coming to Greece. Ouzeries are similar to Tavernas, but only offer the appetizers to go with the ouzo. Since this is what we usually get anyway, it was fine, and much cheaper. Eric and I split a bottle of ouzo that was made on the island, and I realized that I actually like the taste of ouzo when it has been diluted by ice cubes and accompanies dinner. The black-liquorish flavor kind of cleanses the palate in between dishes.
The next day, we were planning on renting a car so that we could drive to the other things Limnos has to offer, such as waterfalls, hikes, hot springs, and flamingos. However, none of the car rentals were open until later in the day, so we lounged on the beach for awhile. We then found out from the car rental place that we were supposed to be 23 to rent and/or have an EU license. Since we had neither, we ended up hanging out around the town again, playing a lot of cards, and getting fun coffee drinks at a cafe/club overlooking the Sea. Went back to that club later in the night for their extremely fun fruity mixed drinks (I stuck to a gin fizz).
Said bye to Limnos the next day and boarded the 7 hour ferry to Lesvos (a little southeast, bordering Turkey) where we played endless amounts of cards and a fun character-guessing game that they play in "Inglorious Bastards"... long enough that Emily ended up getting a post-it-note sunburn on her forehead.
We arrived in Mytilene, the main town of Lesvos, in the afternoon, and spent the afternoon wandering the city (pretty big for an island). We found yet another Venetian fortress and climbed (illegally?) up the walls into the castle. It was not nearly as big as the one on Lesvos, but it was much better preserved. We went to a taverna on the way back to the hostel, and I finally got to try the coastal speciality of Greece: grilled octopus drenched in lemon. It was pretty good, but I would rather have squid.
Fortress/castle in Mytilene. I clmibed the trianglular wall support to the right (farther away) and went into the round area of the castle.
The next day was Emily's 21st birthday, so we woke her up with mimosas in the morning, and proceeded to go rent a car. (Don't worry, Eric didn't have any mimosa, and he was the one driving.) Apparently, the car place we went to did not have the 23 year old rule, so we got a car without a problem... except for the fact that Eric only knew a little bit about driving a stick shift. That was an adventure in itself, and provided a lot of entertainment and joking. Luckily, Kate knew a bit, and directed him through the process and we were able to drive across the mountainous terrain to the other side of the island, stopping at a huge monastery, anti-climactic petrified forest, seafood taverna, and the home of Sappho along the western coast. As you may have guessed, the name of the island, Lesvos (spelled Lesbos in Greek characters), is linked to the word lesbian. Sappho, the first woman poet from around 6th century BCE was renowned for her poetry, some of which was erotic and directed towards women. When, in the 17th century AD, people were starting to define sexuality and fragments of Sappho's works were discovered. Thus, Lesvos became a site of pilgrimage for the newly defined lesbians, and continues to be so today. The beach we visited had a bunch of interesting interpretive sculptures of Sappho but was too windy and chilly to sit by the water. So we ended up not staying for sunset and instead made the beautiful and windy drive back to our hotel (complete with sing-a-long in the car).
Skela Erossos, home of Sappho (the town, not that hut)
The following day was quite relaxing. We started off the morning by driving up north to the village of Molovos where we participated in a 115 degree Fahrenheit mineral hot spring. The white dome was situated directly on the sea, and as directed by the woman who ran the bath, we slowly, slowly, slowly (siga siga!) dipped our limbs into the scalding water. When our whole bodies were submerged, we would stay in for 2-5 minutes, slowly slowly get out, and then go jump into the Mediterranean (whose big waves were knocking us against the rocks). We then repeated this process another three times or so. The room itself was pretty interesting. I had to duck through a small archway (like I was entering a hobbit house) into a domed room pierced with holes allowing beams of sunlight to pierce through the steam and enter the clear pool that was about fifteen feet long by five feet wide. I felt so relaxed and rejuvenated by the end of the process! Continued our day by eating lunch at a taverna overlooking the hills and valleys of the town where we got to go into the kitchen and pick out which meat we wanted (amazingly spiced and grilled lamb and pork) to go with our Greek salad, cheese rolls, tzatziki, and white wine famous in the region. We then drove down to the south where there is the longest beach in Greece. Sadly, it was too cold to swim or even bask in less than a long sleeve and pants, but we had fun just relaxing. And after a few more games of cards, it was time to go to bed, and say good bye to Lesvos. Eric and Emily caught their flight out early the next morning, and Kate, Megan, and I continued on our way through customs, and onto the ferry to Turkey.
Hanging out at a random meadow in the mountains of Lesvos