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Daily excursions to transcontinental explorations

The Islands

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The Indolence of Astypalaia

A bewilderment surrounds the delayed entrance of Astypalaia into the list of our favorite things in the world.

It might have been attributed to the longer than usual ferry distance from Athens; or younger minds being attracted to flashier alternatives. Ever since it did, though, it established itself as our quintessential summer destination.

Come along in a playground of turquoise waters, fire-red scorpion fish, seriously skillful cooks and lullaby-singing waves.
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Folegandros Vs misconceived evolution

Everyone knows that on a prizefight of the most stunning island towns and villages, the heavyweight champions would originate from the Cyclades region.

In terms of picturesqueness, the belt undeniably belongs to this here town.

The island that first took us by the hand to a journey beyond commercial summer destinations, balances on a thin line between wisely investing its assets and losing its soul for yet another luxury resort or tennis court...
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Kimolos for the perfect underdog

Considering the stratospheric level of satisfaction that emerged from previous year's summer vacations, the follow-up assignment to Kimolos was seemingly as unfair as pushing a singer on stage after, well, Pink Floyd.

Against all odds, it kept the originality levels sky-high and reshuffled our all-time favorite beach ranking with two fresh additions.

The former, which is pictured above, is located in the uninhabited neighboring island of Polyaigos and features bioluminescent plankton during night time.
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Floating Into the mystic of Amorgos

The typical image of Amorgos is the one immortalized in Luc Besson's celluloids of "Le Grand Bleu".

Sandwiched between Hozoviotissa monastery's dark blue skies and Agia Anna's deep blue seas, lies an island of raw beauty and mystical energy that is seemingly able to charge electrical devices over air.

Believers are awarded with all the above plus a seriously tactful base for daily cruises to small Cycladic islands for the moments when Robinson Crusoe awakes in you.
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An unprejudiced approach on Serifos

There are specific debates that rule out tactful opinions. A stake is on the table and you clearly have to decide which side are you on.

Serifos is one of those cases. It has loyal visitors that swear over its name, right next to dumbstruck faces that wonder why they didn't jump off the ferry on another port.

The Hidden Cellar stoically hears both sides, gets baffled and sails South to perform an extensive field research before presenting its final verdict.
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Rediscovering Hydra

Under specific circumstances, thirty eight nautical miles from Athens can somehow convert to light years away from the drag of the capital.

Take for instance this unexpected Sunday excursion, that turned out to be the birthday to remember.

It served as a reason to rediscover a piece of land that counterpoised Sophia Loren's stellar looks back in the 50s and charmed Leonard Cohen to the point of becoming his sanctuary.

The Mountains

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The autumn canvas of Tzoumerka

"Oh, come on! Anyone who sees these shots will start asking about retouche nonsense!”. This thought crossed my mind more than a dozen times during a 48-hour stay in one of the country's most stunning mountain regions.

The stage before the lens was full-on unrealistic, including Tolkien trees that started walking the moment you blinked away, monasteries hanging from vertical stone walls and waterfalls that only the paintbrush of Bob Ross seemed capable to seed in a frame.

Crossing the river towards the authentic part of Greece, before the bridge collapses once and for all.
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Dragon Chase in Zagori

There’s a lake in Northwestern Greece which is mythical in more than one ways. Its staggering beauty being the foremost, serving as a physical duplexer of the surrounding navy skies, cotton white clouds and glorious summits.

Creatures that live within it, are another. Small dragons with orange bellies, even large ones that awake to eat sheep herds and throw rocks according to the urban myths, have baptized it “dragon lake”.

The Hidden Cellar attacks the trail aller-retour in less than 7 hours, spends some magical minutes lying on its back mesmerized from the scenery that adorns the homepage, makes up with dragons and spiders and leaves a piece of itself on the lakeshore.
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Meanwhile in Olympus…

We had already survived a full week of 40+ degrees in Athens when synoptic meteorology came to our rescue: “1 Celsius degree every 100 vertical meters”.

This is how the temperature drops in a dry atmosphere as you move upwards. Adding 2700 m to the equation gets you a whopping 27 degree cooling compared to the boiling sea level.

All good things, though, come at a price. In this case, it was a demanding but astonishing 6-8 hour trek (one way) that started at 1100m and ended at 2700 m of the Muses plateau, right underneath the throne of Zeus.
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Doing sweet nothing in Vardousia

“Zippin' up my boots / Going back to my roots”. The lyrics couldn't have been more appropriate. Besides being the birthplace of nearly everyone in the family tree, Vardousia mountain range also stands as one of the country’s last gates to pure wilderness.

Our persistent attempts towards the summit (Korakas, 2495m) have steadily been suspended by high winds or milky fogs, still there hasn't been a single time that our rucksacks contained regrets upon homecoming.

Enjoying every minute in a land where even doing sweet nothing can become such a thrill.
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Giona - Oiti

On a weekend when the crowd rivers raged towards the beach, we decided to move like salmons.

And in a time and place where humans kept fighting over politics, we abandoned our species to make up with the birds that were singing about the sunshine instead.

Crossing the heart of Mt. Giona's pristine forest with mountain bikes and Oiti's dirt road network right after a heavy downpour.
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If tranquility is what you’re after on a national holiday and you seek for it in the whereabouts of the nation’s most famous winter destination, you probably are not a wisecat.

Except if you are willing to add a factor that the hip crowds aren’t: effort.

Two hours of steadily uphill trekking, covering 600 vertical meters within just 2km of horizontal trail length. This is the #22 trail from “Michalis Defner” refuge in Mt. Parnassos to the summit of Gerontovrachos.
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Special Feature: K2

14 full breaths for every step.
160 heart beats per minute at sleep in C4 camp (7850 m).
25% chances you’re never coming back.
1 decision that demands balls of steel.

This is the story and images of the 2014 Greek expedition on K2.

Jungle Fever

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Siem Reap, Cambodia

“The terror, the terror” in 21st century Cambodia was mainly related to an airplane landing amidst a monsoonal storm; a private boat ride that came close to end up a swim with alligators; airport officials demanding to approach the visa bench “one by one” in such a way that couples wouldn’t even think of approaching together; oh, and temple warning signs that read “do not leave the trail, danger of mine explosion”.

Big deal, we say. The true Apocalypse about Cambodia lied in its people. The people of a nation that’s been through seriously rough historical times, were constantly helpful, smiling and kind. We couldn’t get enough interaction with them the same way the camera sensor couldn’t help turning enough pixels into green.

Riding up a river of exquisite monuments, cuisine and natural beauty, light-years away from the sterile wombs of Western civilization.
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Paraiso tunay ang Palawan

In an era where pompous terms such as “lifetime experience” and “out of grid” are assigned to bungee jumping and “unexplored Thailand” packages, it is impractical to compose an impactful statement on travel destinations. Only well-put essays of the past might do justice:

“This is a dream place that doesn’t look real while you are there, yet it becomes painfully real the moment you return home.”

Crossing the Linapacan archipelago in Philippines from Coron (Busuanga) to El Nido (Palawan) on a tradional Philippino bunka boat with the TAO Philippines crew on the role of real-life lamp genies.
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It’s not impossible for a modern traveller to find his preconceived experiences in 2010s Vietnam. Still, it requires significantly more effort than one initially believes.

Impressive natural features are still there, but nowhere near the rural centers, where urbanization has arrived in waves.

Four days on location squeezed a decent taste of chaotic Hanoi, the Tam Coc caves and river, as well as a cruise on Halong Bay.

Tough faces, badass driving, tuktuk rides, expired Oreo cookies and Coca-cola signs in places where you would least expect to find.

The Cities

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Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay

A trip that does not involve an exhaustive exploration of the destination and surrounding areas, is a trip not worth doing.

Hidden Cellar crosses the Atlantic and North America all the way to San Francisco and does not spare a day for an excursion to Yosemite. Neither does it for Lake Tahoe’s dry powder. Nor for Mavericks’ big swells. It does not bother even visiting freakin’ Alcatraz in the middle of night with head torches.

Sounds like a disaster trip? No, no.
Read on, get your kicks.
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Getting knocked down by New York City

The town couldn't stand a chance against the Cellar, when the Cellar came to town. It was a straight, no chaser barrage of city streets, ferry rides, metro havoc, impossible photographic perspectives and hearty portions of delirious jazz horns.

Around midnight, though, was right when she decided to start playing dirty. We ordered a burger, closed our eyes for four hours and tomorrow never came in terms of stomachic wellbeing...

Here's the pilot episode of a poisonous flirt with the mother of all capitals, documented in 39 frames.
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Rome in its birthday suit

There’s an annoying crisis of self-discipline among travellers when they are referring to Rome. Flavorless characterizations are shamelessly associated to a city that deserves nothing short of the brightest superlatives.

Even an one-and-a-half day visit that was inevitably stripped from touristic highlights such as the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon, managed to deliver excitement that most European cities could not provide even along a monthly stay.

An attempt to turn music in our ears, Trastevere orange in our pupils and the taste of Giolitti's banana ice-cream, into words for the Eternal City.

Et al

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The ancient theater of Epidavros

2000 B.C. script.
2015 A.D. meanings.
4030 A.D. theater acoustics.

Experiencing an excellent implementation of a classic Aristophanes play in the unsurpassable setting of the ancient theater of Epidavros.
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Mountain biking towards the womb of the earth

An allergic reaction to stress had been grounding all wishful planning for quite some time. The doctor’s strict advice was “avoidance of tedious activities, allergic-friendly foods and environments”.

Mountain-bike trails in the heart of spring, full of freshly blossomed flowers and dancing bees might not exactly fit the above description, it was nevertheless our homemade anti-stress prescription.

Here's the ancient trail from Korykeio Cave down to Delphi.
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The Tatoi estates

Riding a bike on a sunny Sunday morning is by definition a blissful experience.

Ditching the convenience of paved roads for lush vegetated dirt trails definitely adds to the experience.

The garnishing with the abandoned estates of the ex-royal family, eventually brings you the closest possible to a ride across the movie set of Grand Expectations.
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