Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ridiculously super awesome European adventure – Greece and the gauntlet

July 19-26

Driving around Europe is immensely fun and rewarding. It can, however, be a bit stressful. Though on the road for the best part of three weeks, there hadn’t been too much time to relax. We thus hopped on a plane from Munich and headed south to the Greek island of Zakynthos for some R&R.

It may be obvious from the volume of blogs that I write, but I struggle if I am forced to stay in one place for an extended period of time. I get restless. A week without much communication with the outside world is thus not my top pick for a holiday. This time, however, I knew that I had no need to worry about boredom. This wasn’t a usual holiday. It was a family holiday…yet not my family…

This was eloquently put to me as ‘the gauntlet’. A week with Hannah’s family with no means of escape, and no way of watching the cricket. A week of ridicule and banter would surely ensue and break me down to the point at which I would rather be venomised by the numerous spiders, snakes and insects we walked past than endure another breakfast.

Well, in a parallel universe that may have happened. As it was, the most poignant mockery was made just about within the first hour of arriving at the tiny airport. We were whisked off onto a rented boat and driven around to the northern side of the island. It was here that everybody else quickly realised my inability to dive. The Polish driver described my dive as like one of a toad. One of my objectives for the week became to learn to dive. The video at the bottom will show you if I was successful.

Zakynthos, more commonly known amongst the 18-30 crowd as Zante, is an island to the west of the Greek heartland. The area we stayed in was very much a place where the 18-30 crowd don’t go: the quieter side of town. We were in a villa high above the sea, within binocular range of where Prince Edward was staying. Like I said, not your usual 18-30 zone. The drink-yourself-to-the-abyss pat of Zakynthos is a town on the south side called Laganas. Put an ‘S’ in front of that and you’ll discover our rather low opinion of the place, and that we avoided it.

The members of Hannah’s family who owned the villa also had a boat called Barbara. Unfortunately, she was out of action for the majority of our stay, but we did rent a boat for another morning. The temperature of the sea fluctuated mildly, but was never uncomfortable. Some areas were shallow enough for us to mess around on the surprisingly rare sand-filled bed, yet others were darkly deep within metres of the rocky shoreline.

The advantage of having a boat at your disposal is that you have the freedom to travel to any part of an island’s coastline and explore areas that one may not otherwise find. One such example took us to a café further south from the port. The calamari was fresh, tender and delicious: probably the best I’ve ever had.

Though I spent a lot of the week relaxing in the shade, I was able to expend plenty of energy running, swimming and playing tennis to prevent from becoming fidgety. Running up and down the steep hills is brutal in the intense heat offered on Zakynthos, even in the early morning. On one such run I lost my bearings and ended up quite far inland, much to the amusement of those in the villa.

By the time final full day had snuck up on us Barbara had been fully mended and was ready to take us on our final boating excursion. Lots of jumping and diving – the toad turned into a prince eventually – into the deep blue sea.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable week in Zakynthos. My first experience of Greece was probably unique amongst people of my age, but I am certainly not complaining. I also now know why people invest so much money into buying boats. ‘The gauntlet’ was very much survived and was nowhere near as bad as certain people had suggested, and was entertaining throughout.

Love you all


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