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Journey To Greece



This is another blog from the archives... this blog incidentally is the most read blog I've ever written according to the stats that blogger keeps... anyway I've been busy but I am working on two new entries... so I thought I would rerun this one since @jakester said previously that he was interested in visiting Greece soon... 


Traveling offers beautiful new views of the world that can lead to a moment that changes your life or your outlook forever... No matter where in the world I am (especially if I'm not having a great day) I try to find beauty in something or someone and strive to try to make the moment as remarkable as possible.
The one place in the world where it is almost effortless to find beauty in the surroundings and people and create remarkable moments and memories is Greece... Greece casts a magic spell over me each and every time I've been there (over a dozen times) and each time I visit I leave with a new friend, insight and treasured memory... one of the earliest lessons  traveling gave me is that by learning the way of others and understanding how they live and their customs and beliefs helps to make us more complete... and with this understanding of others we can come closer to understanding ourselves.
Although I've traveled to Greece many times I still have much to see and discover and I always  have an insatiable desire to return... and that is what makes Greece so amazing to me.... I could not possibly write a complete guide to any place much less Greece in one installment so I'll offer a starting point and a few pointers and an overview for your future sojourns to the islands. If you have never been I recommend taking  tours with  small groups (which I hardly ever recommend) on your first and maybe second visit... Start with Athens, Delphi, Olympia, Epidaurus and Santorini... (I'm putting Santorini here because of all the islands in the world it's one of my absolute favorite.) Most travel can be done by car or train and of course boat to the islands (some have small airports but you miss some of the majesty and beauty if you don't arrive by water.
Spend a day and a night at Hotel Plaka... there are much nicer hotels but this one has awe inspiring views of the Acropolis especially at night. If you want something more elegant Astir Palace Vouliagmeni is a lovely resort just outside the city.
I would start early at the Acropolis; it's just breathtaking visiting the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the ancient theatre of Dionysus..I like to get out of the summer sun for a couple of hours so I go to museums... In Athens I like National Archeological Museum, Jewish Museum Of Greece, Benaki Museum and the Byzantine Museum... One of my favorite restaurants in Athens is O Damigos in Plaka and it's always one of the best meals of the trip. (not  well known or fancy and mostly locals but the food is divine)
The next day head to Delphi northeast of Athens as it's one of the most beautiful places on earth with million dollar views looking down to the Gulf of Cornith. Take some time to visit the Monestary of Ossios Loukas.
This trip will give you a taste of classic ancient Greece then going to Santorini  will give you the feel of islands; Santorini is in the southern part of the Aegean and is the southernmost island of the Cyclades. Make sure you visit Franco's Bar it's my favorite in the entire world.


A tried and true island hopping holiday is to get a ferry to Santorini (Thira) and then make your way back through the Cyclades. If you look at the map, generally the islands to the East, Naxos, Paros, Anti Paros, Mykonos Ios are the party Islands, and the Western Cyclades Milos, Sifnos, Serifos and Kythnos are much quieter but would give you a more authentic Greek Island experience... but if you are going to Mykonos, Santorini or Paros  if you've been to Ibiza or Sitges things don't really get started until after 11:00 at night; just follow the tanned crowd from place to place... it's also a good way to meet people. I tend to head home before 2:00-3:00 when the drama level starts to rise with the amount of cocktails consumed. Oh and one more thing... If a Greek man rubs his cheek it means he likes you... but don't wave back at him it's an insult... go over and chat if you like him.... (no matter where you go a little research on customs and such is always helpful)
Taverna in Paros
 I once spent the whole summer sailing from island to island and was not able to experience everything... but I did learn something important... wherever I go I visit the marina areas as you usually meet a different caliber or more interesting mix of locals and travelers than in the hotels or in town... besides the shops and restaurants and bars are usually a bit more down to earth and authentic.
If I were to give you any advice about where to visit in Greece I would have to say... over time and after many visits try to see everything...
The Ioanian Islands
The Argo-Saronic Islands
The Sporades and Evvoia
The Northeast Aegean Islands
The Dodecanese
The Cyclades
... but like almost every other place else in the world if you are willing to go off the beaten path taken by most tourists you can find some of the more remarkable places with the most interesting people... (sometimes not... but it's always worth the gamble to me)... because some of these people and experiences changed my life or the way I look at it forever.
Some practical advice...Like everywhere else common courtesy and a respectful attitude  will take you a long way... and like most other places many people speak english but try to learn a few key words and phrases especially if you are going to be far from the larger towns and cities and tourist locales. I've never needed formal attire in Greece but if you visit churches and monasteries men need to wear trousers and woman skirts or dresses and your arms should be covered... I carry this dress code into museums as well. Most state run museums and archaeological sites charge an entrance fee of between 1.5 & 6 euros. Taking photographs in churches and monasteries is forbidden and it's best to ask at museums and religious buildings. Opening hours seem to vary from day to day or season to season but the state run  museums and archaeological sites are open from about 8:30 am to 2:45 pm but during the summer the major ones are open until about 8:00 or 9:00 at night. Monasteries and convents are open only during daylight hours and close for a few hours in the afternoon. Shops are usually open Monday, Wednesday & Saturday from   9:00-2:30 and Tuesday, Thursday & Friday from 9:00-2:00 and reopen each day from 5:00-8:00; Sunday shopping is possible in the tourist areas especially in places where the cruise ships dock. Greek time is always 2 hours ahead of Britain and 7 hours ahead of New York. The crime rate in Greece is relatively low but it's always a good idea to keep your hotel and car doors locked and keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings--- especially at night... in terms of getting around I've rented a car, taken the train and even flew once from Corfu to Crete it took about 45 minutes. I've usually taken the ferries to and from the different islands... there are also Hydrofoils  (known locally as flying dolphins) that take about half the time. In a pinch you can hire a taxi boat. There are many car rental companies that offer a range of vehicles from small cars to a minibus. I've also rented a motorcycle a bicycle and a moped.
Like most major cities on my trip itineraries in Athens I'm good spending a couple days at the start and a day and night before leaving... Taxicabs used to be a major drama but now  have a fixed price of 35 euros to anywhere in Athens from the airport or you can take the metro.

I wish I could say what I love best about Greece whether it's the people or the food or the  history and the artistic and archaeological and architectural wonders or just the breath taking scenery at every turn... but I do love the ocean and water no matter where I go on holiday and the beaches in Greece are my favorite in the world... In ancient Greece nudity was quite normal and widely accepted in certain social concepts especially in athletics... now Greek attitudes are not quite as liberal. Topless sunbathing is accepted at most all beaches but nudity is restricted to clothing optional areas and almost all the beaches have such an area and if you wish to sun and swim au natural be aware of the locations designated to clothing optional use.

Some of my favorite beaches in the islands are...
Hersonissos, Red Beach, Kommos & Plakias Beach---Crete
Super Paradise, Elia & Paraga Beach---Mykonos
Plaka Beach---Naxos
Montasteri, Lageri & Theologos Beach---Paros
Kolumbo & Vlychada Beach---Santorini (Thira)
Filiraki Beach---Rhodes
Myrtiotissa & Almyros Beach---Corfu
Mavros Gialos Beach---Chios
Eftalou Beach---Lesvos
Tsamadou Beach---Samos
Ammoudia Krassa Beach (known as Banana Beach)---Skiathos
Velanio Beach---Skopel
 Navagio Beach (Shipwreck)---Zakynthos 


Of the many things I've brought home from Greece include...olive wood, ceramics, spices,  attire and jewelry... but the most treasured are the memories and lifelong friendships with Giannis, Niko, Melina and Dimitris who each helped me learn about going out into the world to find  beauty in others, different cultures and myself... and a special thank you to Buck who brought us and most of these journeys to Greece all together.

Edited by Kawika

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I'm getting closer. Finally read Herodotus and my head just about exploded. Will now likely have to be the fall of next year, though if spring becomes possible I might try to make that work. My plans must involve caring for my dogs, the house, work, etc. Athens and the sights/sites; on to Santorini - Thera; then on to the other islands, Crete, making my way east to Kos; then by ferry to Bodrum - Halicarnassus - on the Turkish coast. I want to travel as much by ferry and rail as I can. So there will be planning. I'll be alone, the most luxurious way to travel. As you see, I come back to your guide.

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Thanks for coming back for a read. I wish I could take the trip with you it sounds wonderful. If you need any tips or pointers let me know.

Edited by Kawika
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