Sunday, May 30, 2010

Last Leg of Spring Break: Crete!

Tuesday afternoon we were dropped off by our hostel at the port, and we took a ferry back to Heraklion, Crete. The ferry departed late, and we were terrified that we would miss the last bus from Heraklion to Rethymno, which was where we were staying that night. We made it with 6 minutes to spare! After an hour bus ride, and walking around a little off course, we found the hostel at last. The hostel we stayed at was the youth hostel, but we were the youngest ones staying there. Most of the people there were middle-aged. Hmmmm. Since we arrived late, around 10:30, we had to maneuver in the room in the dark. Lights out at 10? Youthful people don't go to bed that early. Anyways, we all stayed in an 18 person room together. Right when I was about to go to sleep, one of our roomies starting snoring so loud (even louder than my parents, YIKES). Finally, after someone woke him up, I fell asleep.

The next morning we grabbed breakfast in a little square near our hostel and headed to the bus station to head to our final destination: Plakias, a small town on the southern coast of Crete. The bus went through the mountains. It was beautiful and scary at the same time. Once we got there, I fell in love with the cute little boardwalk, endless restaurants, and gorgeous beach. We headed to our hostel, which was about a 5 minute walk from the beach in an olive grove. The atmosphere of the hostel was "chill" for lack of a better word. Everyone was really laid back. A hammock hung between two palm trees. Citrus trees lined a grass area. The rooms were little bungalows. It was a very different (but awesome) experience. None of the rooms were locked, or even had lockers. At first this seemed a bit unnerving, but after staying there, I feel like there really was no need for locks. Everyone was trusting of one another. Basically, they were all hippies!

Plakias Beach

Chris, the manager of the hostel was really nice. He gave us tons of suggestions on things to do: hikes, beaches, restaurants. We stayed in Plakias for three nights, and this was definitely my favorite part of our trip. Our stay felt like a real vacation. We had no plans and just went with the flow. We spent a lot of time laying out on the beach and exploring the area. We ate dinner outdoors with a view of the ocean, and went to all the little beach shops. It was just what I was hoping this vacation would be.

The last day of our break, (Saturday) we stayed in Heraklion so we could catch the early morning flight back to Berlin. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel that was close to the airport. We spent our last few hours in Greece eating Gyros (pita rolled up with meat, fries, and a yogurt sauce) and hanging out by the hotel pool. We left early the next morning, and the owner of the hotel was nice enough to make sure there was fresh coffee and juice for us. We said our goodbyes to Greece and headed back to Deutschland.

First Few Days in Greece: Breathtaking Santorini

Early Friday morning, I took a bus with 6 others to Berlin. We spent two days there before our flight to Heraklion, Crete Saturday evening. In Berlin, we saw an amazing break dancing group perform by the Brandenburg Tur. We also visited the Terror Museum, which was dedicated to the forms of terror and humiliation implemented by the Nazis during WWII. We ate gelato on a patio outside, visited the Currywurst Museum (whichi turned out to be too expensive do we just went to the shop) and saw the Sony Center lit up at night. At the Sony Center, they play movies in the original language, so we were thinking about seeing Iron Man, but decided against it in the end.

After a good time in Berlin, it was finally time to go to Greece! We met 2 more people from our group but when we got to the gate, we were informed that our plane had a flat, so we were delayed an hour. Finally, FINALLY, we were in the plane and on our way to Greece. We arrived in Crete at 10pm, but it was 11pm due to the time change. It was so warm even at that time. We got taxis to the hotel we stayed in, and after dropping our things off, we got Gyros for dinner. They tasted like heaven and were really cheap too! We only spent a night in Heraklion, and woke up early for a ferry to Santorini Sunday morning. At 8am it was already so hot. Here is the first glmipse of the ocean in Crete:

The ferry lasted about 2 hours, and we got lunch at the port in a little restaurant with outdoor seating. I had Spinach Pie, YUM! The hostel picked us all up in a little white van, and we were off climbing the mountains of Santorini to the other side of the island to a town called Perissa. There we rented ATVs (four wheelers) for the two days we would be there. They were so much fun! We were able to get from one end of the island to the other in just over an hour. They were so useful and easy to drive.

Santorini was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Everywhere we drove, the views were breathtaking. We had amazing weather the entire time, and it was a great few days there. We visited all over the island with our little ATVs, hitting just about everywhere. We saw the red beach, the black beach, the light house, Thira and Oia. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the island:

Our ATVs

Oia at Sunset

The Red Beach

Me in Thira

April & May

Can't believe I haven't updated this thing in over two months. Here's a little summary of what's been going on:

Engineering classes started the second week of April. Tuesdays I have class until 6pm and Thursdays I have class starting at 7am. Gah, it hasn't gotten any easier yet.

The first weekend we got back, most of the engineers got together. It felt really good to see everyone. I didn't realize how much I missed them! That Saturday most of us went on a river cruise down the Elbe to a little town called Pilnitz. There was a palace there with a beautiful garden/fountain. The weather was pretty crappy that morning: typical Germany, raining, cold, etc. Thankfully, by the time we got to the palace, the clouds cleared away a bit and we saw the sun! Yay! The trip took a long almost all day, and later that night we celebrated the bagillion April birthdays we had among our group. Note: cheesecake is NO replacement for birthday cake.

A week or so later, I had about 15 people over for chili. Megan and I made a huge batch from scratch. I found out that I get so nervous being a host! I was so ancy leading up to everyone's arrival. Hopefully it'll get easier. In the end it was a success! Everyone loved the chili! Here's a picture of our masterpiece:

The night of May 4th was a TU Dresden annual Nachtwanderung, or NaWa for short, which means "night wandering". That night, TUD students bar hop to the different student clubs, which all have special bands, etc. Shuttle buses run specifically for the event to each of the clubs. A pretty big group of us participated in the school event. It was a lot of fun, and we met a lot of Germans along the way! Our German was put to good use!

Sprinkled within April and May, we had a few really beautiful days here in Dresden. We filled it with good ol' barbecues, playing frisbee in the Großer Garten, and walking around the Old City. We also took a trip to the Saxon Alps, which is a huge hiking area about an hour train ride from Dresden. Our student train passes cover the area so the trip was free. The guys went bouldering here, and the girls that tagged along had a picnic and hiked the area.

The last two weeks before I left for Greece were jammed packed with homework, exams, and getting ready. It was absolutely insane, which made vacation taste even sweeter.