Author Topic: "On The Fly" summer trip! Greece, Italy, and a tad of Switzerland  (Read 3103 times)

Offline yahaatim

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Well I'm not really sure where to start so I guess I'll jump right in.
About a few months ago my friend from Manchester got engaged and scheduled his wedding for erev rosh chodesh elul assuming that no one had anything better to do with their time then, than to fly out to Manchester and drink some tea. We took this as an opportunity to get in a nice trip in Europe and end up at the wedding. The original plan was to drive up from Athens alongside the Adriatic coast but after a 30 second google maps search we realized that it wasn't so practical and we'd be in the car for 40 % of the trip. so ..... with a lot of help from the forums (special shout out to @SuperFlyer for hours of work he put in to map everything out with me) plan b was born.
We would drive up from Athens to Dubrovnik Croatia and drive back down on the inlands. great plan, right? WRONG!!
And here's where we begin (sorry for the long into just needed to set the stage)
DAY 1
 Sunday July 30th
 outbound flight from TLV-ATH bluebird airways with a bunch of restless Israelis excited for bain hazmanim (prob not as most werent religious) is a combo you don't just get anywhere! The flight reminded me more like a kiddush club. There were groups of people shmuzzing in the aisles, people switching seats as if there was some kind of musical chairs game I wasn't notified of. Not to mention the no vaping policy was non-existent (literally clouds of smoke from whomever pleased!) Besides that everything was looking up and we landed in ATH and checked into our AIRbnb in athens. (rented a car in athens for one day. the nightly fixed taxi rate from the airport to the city was about 55 euro plus the drivers charge for luggage if you have a lot of it)


DAY 2
Monday july 31st
Checked out Chabad of Athens which i highly recommend it has a nice air conditioned BM and and a very efficient well priced (needless to say the food was delicious) restaurant downstairs. We only had one day in Athens so we trekked up the big hill to see the famous acropolis ruins. nice place but we were too cheap to get a tour guide so wasn't quite sure what I was looking at.Later we hit up the restaurant with mincha maariv and headed to the airport for our much awaited flight to JTR. (santorini)We had extra luggage that we didn't need for our trip so we checked it in at the airport locker service for 48 hrs. cost us about 15 euro per guy. but a lot cheaper than checking it in for both back and forth.The flight went smoothly but for some reason none of our credit cards were working on the AIRbnb app so we p.m. the house and book off platform. When we arrived in OIA they met us to direct us to the place being that there are no addresses for it is a cliff and all the houses are caves. When our host realized that we were one more than the house could fit she wasn't so pleased and wouldn't let one of us sleep on the couch until we gave her an extra 100 $ / paid 600$ total for 4 beds 2 nights in prime location so i'm not complaining.

DAY 3
Tuesday Aug 1st
Santorini is gorgeous. I don't know if I would recommend it to a group of single guys but it would hit the spot for a quick couple getaway/honeymoon. The views are actually unbelievable. (If you find accommodations significantly cheaper out of oia take it because everything looks the same at night and by day you can just take a bus.)We took a bus to Fira and hiked back to OIA. Idk why but we all thought the hike was an hour and a half so we weren't so prepared with water etc. (i did it in slides, highly unrecommended) and it literally took 4 hours. Most of it was really nice. You get a lot of views that you can see from the main spots. We got back to Oia just in time for sunset. ''the famous sunset of santorini''(rated on most lists as the nicest sunset in the world). snapped our selfies (with a lot of people in the background ) and took it all in. During prime season the island is packed so if you're the quiet getaway type of guy go off season or pick somewhere else. Let's just say most accommodations are not private whatsoever.

DAY 4
Wednesday aug 2nd
check out day. We packed up and took a bus to fira where we rented atvs and toured the rest of the island. the "heart of Santorini is a must see at an angle of the volcano you cant get from fira/oia. After ripping around on our newfound noisy friends for a few hours we started to wrap up part one of our trip and head to the airport. The flight back to Athens was quick and uneventful.now.... remember I started off with my little introduction... well here goes nothing!We landed in ATH at about 11 pm and I made my way over to the Europcar rental desk to pick up the 13 day rental. Everything was going great until I told the rep. "By the way how much extra is it to take out of the country?" (I asked this because that's what the website which I booked through told me to do)"I'm sorry sir, you can't take our cars out of the country!"Well, I guess we missed one small detail! After doing further research online and checking in with every other rental car company in the airport we were informed that the only way to leave the country was to have a written proof of insurance coverage from your carrier. Which we of course didn't have. Why we failed to look this up is a question I'll be asking myself for a very long time. I guess we just assumed that if the website said all we are required to do is inform the representative at the time of the pickup that we would like to leave the county then why shouldn't we believe them. I've never heard of anyone recently having issues driving from one country in Europe to another. That is not to say that I endorse someone taking my word on that! I was later informed that because Albania isnt part of the EU the border control is extra strict with certain things, this being one of them.Well after sitting there brainstorming in our headquarters (we set up shop in the Athens airport computer kiosk next to some old lady who fell asleep playing very loud italian opera) for about 3 hours mulling over our options we came out that a 14 hour bus ride to Tiranna (Albania) was off the table and just taking the car out anyways and just winging it wasn't either so enticing because if we did get stuck at the border not only is it a 4 hour drive each way to albania but we'd be stuck with a 1200$ car rental restricted to greece.

DAY 5
Thursday aug 3rd
A joint decision resulted in a reroute to somewhere else and just cut our losses.We found decent 90$ tickets to Rome for 10 a.m. and booked itlanding in Rome. We haven't slept in quite some time so what does one do when he's going 35 hours no sleep? off to BA' GHETTO! really amazing dairy food and the Gelato store next door is a must. @Dan I ran around looking for "the famous iced tea that Dan raves about ' ''. and either I didn't find it or they lost their touch since your last visit because I tried a few places and wasn't really into any of them.Anyways we davened at the great synagogue di roma (bring your passport and no shorts or pictures allowed!!!) and retired early into our AIRbnb.
 Now, where were we going to stay/eat for shabbos? (originally we had reached out to the chabad house in tirana albania who was happy to host us)
Where would we go from Rome? Would the trip take a turn for the worse or for the better?
stay tuned for the next post (i'm not trying to keep anyone in suspense i figured it's best to break it up so as not to bore everyone)
This ends part one of the trip that was dubbed "The amazing trip to the BALKANS that never was"!

Part 2

Day 6
Friday aug 4th

Still needing a place to eat and sleep for shabbos we asked all the restaurants in the ghetto if it was too late to make a reservation for 5 (a friend had joined us for a few days of the trip). not much success. Someone recommended that we check flour, a dairy restaurant not in the Piazza Bologna not for shabbos but for friday brunch. Definitely recommend it. The menu was limited as it was 12 oclock Friday afternoon but everything we ordered was amazing. I was told he makes his own cheeses. As we were leaving I figured with nothing to lose I'd try my luck and asked the manager if he knew anyone that would be interested in hosting us for a meal or two as none of the restaurants were taking reservations. He told me to hang on one minute while he called his friend. 3 minutes later a man walks up to the store and introduces himself as the guy who'd be hosting us at his son's bar mitzvah this week! We offered him money but of course he refused! Well now that we got meals outta the way, the next task at hand was to find an airbnb within walking distance from the shul (also in Piazza bologna). which proved to be a bit hard as airbnb wasnt showing the exact location of the houses and the back and forth of messaging hosts was taking some time. We figured we would go check out the coliseum as we worked on it. While we were there our host called to inform us that we would not be able to get into the shul without registering first. This was at about 2:40 p.m. and the deadline was 3 oclock . So quickly we scanned everybody's passports and with a buzzer beater finish managed to get them all in time. The reason I say this is because during the balagan a passport was mistakenly returned to my friend's briefcase instead of its original place. Now you might be thinking what's the big deal? Next time you need them you'll find it there. Not quite. You see, my friend was leaving us on Sunday to do his own trip. What ended up happening to that? (remember for now we're still oblivious) best believe we'll get back to that.So as Shabbos krept closer and closer, we were still unable to find a suitable place for Shabbos within an hour and some walking distance. So off to the hotels it is. After unsuccessfully inquiring at hotel after hotel we were kinda beginning to fight over who got which park bench for friday night and who would get it for shabbos day nap. No hotels had room for 5 for shabbos. One of us came up with the brilliant idea of asking for just Friday night and not Saturday night. So by the next place we convinced the guy that in about 50 minutes we cant drive or check in to a hotel so please let us book for tonight and staff can remove our stuff Saturday after checkout. Well it did take some convincing but it worked and 250 euros later a puzzled hotel manager handed us our room keys.What could I say, kol mi shelo raah italian bar mitzvah, lo raah italian bar mitzvah byamav. The bar mitzvah was unbelievable! They served real Italian cuisine with utensils, I'm still not sure what they are used for. The family was very accepting and was very excited to have guys from Lakewood at their simcha (only one of us was from Lakewood but that's all they seemed to care about). We wrapped up the night and headed back to our hotel.


DAY 7
Shabbos Aug 5th

Shabbos day was a repeat of friday night with a full italian styled community wide kiddush featuring fish stations carving stations and don't forget the lemoncello stands. We ended up just staying in the shul for the rest of shabbos being that we would not be able to get back in if we left as it is locked in the afternoon and we had no hotel to go to. On Motzei shabbos we bade farewell to our friend who was with us for shabbos, picked up pizza from Yotvata and hit the road down to naples. We found a great hotel literally right next to the central bus station in Naples called The Bella Napoli hotel.

DAY 8
Sunday Aug 6th

Down to the Amalfi coast we go! Drive was scenic but very annoying as you are literally turning every second. Spent the day at the coast. I definitely recommend it. The views are a combination of lushes bluish water, the cliffs and some villages in the background. But as it got dark and we tried booking an Airbnb we realized that most places wouldn't fit in our budget so back up to Naples it is with plans of driving to venice the next day. (ended up back at the same hotel as the night before :) 

DAY 9
Monday Aug 7th

Packing up the car we realized that my friend did not have his passport! After a quick customs-esque baggage check around we called the other guy (who was just with us for shabbos) to check his briefcase and lo and behold there it was! "Great well just swing by on our way to Venice and pick it up from you in Rome. we'll be there in a few". '' Sorry guys i just drove down to Lecce i'll be back thursday"!!! (just to give some context to the non geo-heads like me Lecce is basically the most southern city in Italy barring Sicily which is a few miles past) So my friend hopped into an uber...... lol . 7 hours later... (We stopped off in Bari to make a bbq) we arrived in lecce at about 1200 a.m. picked up the passport stocked up on redbulls and hit the road. Destination: not sure at this point. We were quickly beginning to realize that  "Mann tracht un Gut lacht" ain't just a saying, we were living every bit of it!

DAY 10
Tuesday Aug 8th

We put Venice into maps and we figured we would try to get as far as possible if we needed to stop...  I must have had 3 expressos, 4 redbulls, some chips and throw in a couple of cokes for good measure, that night/morning. We ended up stopping off in Florence , figured we would rest up and continue on to Venice the next day. Florence wasn't really my cup of tea. It had the Rome vibes just much less packed and tons of art museums which didn't really interest me. If you are planning a trip there I would advise you to book tours beforehand. There's a chabad house there in the ghetto so we davened there after a little touring and called it a night. 

DAY 11
Wednesday Aug 9th

Off to Venice we were! probably the most normal thing we did yet! What could I say, Venice lives up to the hype. While there are not many activities to do there it's a great place to just hang out and walk around taking in the iconic city. I don't know why but I always thought Venice has been around for forever and was mainly natural, well turns out after losing a bet with my friend and googling it most of the city was actually man made. you learn new things everyday! The kosher restaurant there was great. good food, pricing, and service was solid as well. We went to daven in chabad. Afterwards they sent us to this great smoothie place. (Can't remember what it's called but I'm sure you can ask them) It was nice to have a refreshing blended fruit concoction so far away from home. Definitely hit the spot and capped off a great day. We stayed at a hotel near the city because it was significantly cheaper and we were done with Venice so it didn't make much of a difference. 

Day 12
Thursday Aug 10th

Having basically covered most of italy we began our shabbos plans hoping on going to a different country. After a little crossing off we came out that Switzerland seemed to be the best option. I started doing my research on places for shabbos and unless we were paying 600 franks a guy the kosher resorts were not an option so we drove up to Milan to pick up food for shabbos and we would just have to find a place to stay hopefully close to a shul. Arriving in Milan I took a deep dive into my pockets and realized, No I don't have 1800$ to spend on a sports jacket so there went my shopping idea in the galleria. We also had to return our original rental car as it was up and took out a new one which took a few hours. Of course we went to Baghetto (which you gotta speak to your L.O.R. but mine said that the Milan Baghetto was the only one which was glatt kosher) the service was amazing as was the food. The waiters kept coming over to see how everything was going, they even threw in some deserts on the house! Highly recommended. We found a decent Airbnb and checked in for the night all the while trying to find a place for shabbos.

Day 13
Friday Aug 11th

I had reached out to chabad of Crans-Montana the night before as per advice of a very helpful DDFer (don't know if he would like to say his name so if you think it's you it probably is). At first the rabbi said that there were no meals at the chabad house but later reached back out to me and said he could personally host us for Friday night and the shul provided a kiddush by day. He recommended the Hotel Maribeu (which I think closed down since, for renovations) as a good kosher option. Of course we didn't hit the road before stopping by Caramel for some pas shachris. i dont think I'll ever get burnt out of Italian food, especially pizza. The drive from Milan was quite scenic as is most driving in the alps. Hotel was simple but clean and the view from our room was beautiful. After davening we went back with our host. Great guy, great food, Couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

Day 14
Shabbos Aug 12th

Shabbos day was great as well. It's very convenient to have a hotel to return to after the shabbos day seuda. A luxury apparently not everybody has! Being that we had been on the move the past week we decided to utilize that luxury and stay in the hotel for the night and plan the last two day from there.

Day 15
Sunday Aug 13th

The hotel gave us these passes for the cable cars which brought down the price from I think 70 CHF to 10. I honestly couldn't really hear or breathe up there and my cap flew off the mountain so I spent most of my time up there climbing mountains.The view is not something you can make up. Honestly when someone describes the alps to you you can't justify it with words or a picture or two. It's the epitome of HTBT! We made our way to Lucerne and made a BBQ alongside some lake. Simply put, beautiful. Picture a gorgeous blue lake with the perfect tinge of green in between a valley of mountains, some green as can be while the others snow capped all in one. being that we only had basically 1 day there I definitely would like to go back to really take it all in.

Well folks the next day was flight day and while I would love to tell you about my flight where i boarded the bus on the tarmac to get to the plane and then when we got to the plane they sent us back to the gate to wait for another hour but being that I had already given in my boarding pass I couldn't get into the lounge. but I don't think you want to hear about that.

To recap we did a lot of planning and it didn't help us at all. We called an audible to Italy and BH it really was an enjoyable trip, while not for the faint of heart if you're an on the fly type of guy you wouldve enjoyed it!it also cost me about 2 times what i planned for (for my cashapp info pm me  ;D )

Feel free to reach out for any questions or comments.(thats what i wrote this for, not to make it on the mt of trs)
Now I know what you're thinking "how can you enjoy a trip with so many things going wrong" and the answer is quite simple: it's all about perspective. When life gives you lemons.....you know the rest. This brings an end to
''The amazing trip to the BALKANS that never was (Greece, Italy, and a tad of Switzerland)''

Offline SuperFlyer

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Very neat TR! Honest, funny and very readable.
A shout-out for @yahaatim for the shout-out of @SuperFlyer
Appreciation is a rare trait nowadays, so thanks for that.
Did you end up at the wedding?

Offline yahaatim

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Did you end up at the wedding?
yes. although i can prob right a small tr on that itself. london was pretty cool

Offline shmoe joe

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Re: "On The Fly" summer trip! Greece, Italy, and a tad of Switzerland
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2023, 11:40:46 AM »
Nice tr! Enjoyed reading it.
give some love (likes) to a brother!

Offline SuperFlyer

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Way too little response.
Reviving this ;-)