Most people visit the three main buildings of the Acropolis - the Parthenon, Erychtheon and Propylaia - and then they go home. But as you go downhill from the Propylaia, turn to the right, almost back on your tracks, and you'll find yourself on the north slope of the Acropolis, and probably alone, despite the crowds a few yards away. Here are caves and springs in the rocks; in the Cave of Pan, we watched the water slowly bubbling up in a muddy spring. Here are little rock-cut niches for worshipping the gods. The great buildings of the Acropolis give you a feel for the 'official' Greek culture of Pericles' time - but underneath it, there's a different world, more in touch perhaps with its Mycenean roots.
Google map: tinyurl.com/33pwp8s
Marvellous ice cream shop. At first we looked at the mere six flavours available that evening and were disappointed; but it's all made on the premises, and really fantastic ice cream - coconut that really tasted of coconut, and the best frozen yoghurt I've ever tasted. Add to this a wonderfully crazy and incredibly friendly proprietor, who the night we were there was supporting Argentina against Greece in the World Cup footie (she has guts!) - and who kept breaking off while we watched the game to go and tend her machine, then gave us a free taster of the latest flavour.
84400 Parikia, Paros, Greece
+30 (22840) 24864
Google map: tinyurl.com/3alt57h
Does what it says on the tin! Mike is a real character, and we stayed several days more than we'd intended - at the very reasonable rate of EUR 20 a night for the two of us. Air con, TV, a little kitchen, a balcony where we ate our breakfast and drank our late night raki ... and visible from the harbour as your ferry comes in.
Agia Pelagia is a small fishing village which doesn't really qualify as a mainstream tourist resort - and that's a good thing. Situated 23 km west of Heraklion, it has a rich history going back to Minoan times when, because of its strategic and sheltered location, it was an important harbour.
Nestled in the curve of a wide bay at the foot of a hill, its picturesque setting was noticed by a few intrepid businessmen who understood the area's potential in the burgeoning tourism industry of Crete. Slowly but surely, hotels and restaurants were built but never too many and so the area has kept its charm. Today, it is a popular destination for families and couples who prefer a quieter getaway.
Near Agia Pelagia is the small hotel&aparts Villa Bellevue built just over the beach of Ligaria.
The hotel is nestled at an idyllic spot in Agia Pelagia.
Villa Bellevue Apartments, +30 2810811102, www.agia-pelagia-bellevue.com
South eastern Crete remains one of the few areas on the island that has not been swamped by a dependence on tourism. The infrastructure is there to provide for tourists' summer needs but agriculture remains the main source of income for locals. The two-hour drive from Heraklion Airport has helped to keep the area largely unspoilt, with many hidden gems of isolated beaches and traditional mountain villages just waiting to be explored. There is a good (daytime) public transport service between Heraklion Airport and Ierapetra with an hourly service on to Makry-Gialos which has the widest selection of accommodation and is a good base for the area.
Santorini is a beautiful and impressive island known all over the world for its active volcano. Its last eruption took place in 1950 but more than 100 eruptions have taken place during the last 40 centuries. The most disastrous one occurred 3.5 thousand years ago and lead to the burial of a flourished civilization under tonnes of lava. The eruptions followed by lava spreading have lead to the creation of two small islands in the centre of the caldera area of Santorini, named as Palea Kameni (Old Burnt island) and Nea Kameni (New Burnt island). The first one is 2,000 years old consisting of a thin fertile soil level where locals cultivated animal feed, in the past. Nowadays, one can see wild animals like rabbits or goats that try to survive there. The second island, Nea Kameni, is much bigger that Palea Kameni and is composed of lava rocks with a few plants and rabbits as well as a lot of lizards living there.
The two small volcanic islands are surrounded by the Santorini complex which consists of Thira (the half moon shaped island), Thirasia (on the north west side of Thira) and Aspronisi (south Thirasia) which are the earth parts that stayed above sea level after the volcano eruption, 3,500 ago, that created the caldera of Santorini.
The eruptions were always preceded by warnings such as water warming, water subsiding, earthquakes.
The Santorini volcano has been sleeping for the last 60 years while hot springs on the coasts of Palea and Nea Kameni and gas emissions remind people of its being alive. However, scientists have installed an equipment network in order to get notified of any pre-eruption phenomenon so as to keep save both locals’ and visitors’ lives.
Guided tours are organized to the volcano area so everybody can visit it, swim in the medicinal baths of the hot springs and see the rocks or the soil that have been created by the lava.
One of the most beautiful islands in Greece is Lefkada which lies in the Ionian sea.
The island has natural beauties that never end. Breath taking sandy beaches like Egremni, Porto Katsiki and Agiofili, capes, natural anchorages and harbours, like the one in Vassiliki.
There is a perfect combination between the green mountains and the turquoise waters of the sea.
Even Onassis loved this island so much that he bought the island of Skorpios which is located next to Lefkada.
Should you ever travel in Greece, there is one thing you definitely must do: taste the “frappé”. It is a mixture of instant water coffee and sugar shaken and served in long glasses accompanied by a straw. It is iced and a thick foam layer covers its top. Some people add milk in it and some others add a scoop of ice cream, dependent on one’s preferences. I have also tasted it with Bailey's and I got excited!
To cut a long story short, Frappé is a cultural issue in that country. Vivian Constantinopoulos and Daniel Young have written a very interesting book entitled “Frappé nation” where they analyze every aspect of the Frappé as a cultural item. They call it “The Modern Greek Elixir” and I totally agree with them. I have experienced the Frappé ritual several times as I visit Greece every summer. I have a lot of friends there who are fond of the Frappé and so am I. It is a long drink that helps Greeks to wake up in the morning, provides them with energy, thanks to caffeine, during the day at work, and relaxes them in the evening, at a café with fellows. Many of them, who travel abroad for a long stay, carry in their luggage the Frappé equipment because they can’t stand missing it.
According to the writers of the “Frappé nation”, Frappé should be considered as the Greek coffee instead of the small hot coffee that has come from eastern countries and is also known as Turkish. In my opinion, it is a reasonable point of view and Greeks should take it seriously into account. Moreover, I have read a thought expressed by a Greek film actor in that book that attracted my attention. He says that ancient Greeks would have been perfect Frappé drinkers had it arrived in their country earlier than it finally did. They had plenty of free time and lots of issues to discuss, so Frappé was ideal for their daily life as it reinforces brain activation and is a perfect drink within a brain storming company!
Frappé is a Greek trademark that reflects the easy going way of living of this country, a way that dates back Greek ancestry, as Constantinopoulos and Young mention appositely, where “the thirst for conversation began” among the “pioneers of the culture of dialogue”.
You can still stand, or stand still, at the foot of a thousand years of history housed in the Hozoviotissa monastery, and watch from above the dolphins who come to breed off the North East coast of Amorgos.
The nearest Aegean islet floats, the head of a half submerged hippo, guarding their privacy. The monastery is an enormous seagull stain on the dramatic cliffs, and preserves the tradition of a penitential climb towards the miracles and the icon. Except in August, of course, when Mainland Greeks, American Greeks, Italians, French and even some Spanish cinephiles, turn the peaceful pilgrimage into one of the more crowded circles of Hell.
Amorgos, because of the ten hours on the ferry from Pireaus, preserves other traditional Cycladic experiences; the crystal sea, the pristine beach, the picturesque eateries. The main village, Hora Amorgou, is renovating its windmills in homage to, and hopes of, the tourist trade on Mykonos, and high summer brings a tribe of jewellery making ‘trustafairians’, vaguely Goan English public school ‘hippies’ on extended gap years, ‘just travelling round the Med’. So, there are slow changes, and the island is not quite the hermit paradise it used to be. Its starring role in The Big Blue was not a killing blow, however. The virtues of Amorgos performed slow judo on the crowds pulled in by the movie, almost as if the fervent hopes of the cinema tourist had actually managed to reproduce the scenery, the characters and the atmosphere they were expecting from the island. What really happened was that the movie caught some of what was already there, and amplified it, and then the unique conditions of Amorgos, the geography, the history and the sociology, trapped the wave of tourism and coped with it, just like it coped with the tsunami at Ayiali after the 1956 earthquake. Your photographs should feature a small, dark, native and attractive bottle of ‘Psimeni Raki’ , to celebrate this success.
I think Craft is Greece's only microbrewery. Its excellent beers are on sale in various bars in the city and elsewhere in Greece. The bar/restaurant on Alexendras Ave also houses a brewery and serves beer-friendly grub.
The smoked lager is particularly unusual and goes well with the sausage platter. Red Ale, Black Lager and Weiss beer also tasty.
205 Alexandras Avenue
Tel: +30 210 646 2350
Nearest station: Ampelokipoi
I've not been to its namesake on top of the Hilton but I imagine they couldn't be more different. Located in a shopping arcade (!) the Galaxy is an old-school bar that doesn't feel like it's changed since the 60s. Pictures of Kerouac, Balzac, Jack London and Beethoven behind the bar. Dapper barman serving seasoned drinkers.
Stadiou 10 (in shopping arcade)
210 322 7733
Nearest metro: Syntagma
Wonderful private museum housed in a beautiful mansion. What's great about the Benaki is that it offers a brilliant overview of Greek history (not just classical) through its collection of artifacts, art works, costumes and furniture.
Koumbari 1 (cnr Vasilissis Sofias)
Nearest metro: Syntagma
Budget hotel a short stroll from Plaka and Monastiraki metro stop. It's certainly no frills but also clean and friendly. Double rooms start at 57 euros (in season).
29, Eolou Street, Athens
Nearest metro: Monastiraki
Basically, nearly every village in Greece has a church named after a saint, and when it is that saint's day, the village usually has a party.
Ikaria is justly famous for its panagiria, which tend to start at midday and end when the last musician drops off his/he chair from exhaustion, some time around dawn the next day. Food is usually basic: roast goat, rice, chips and salad, with wine or beer to wash it down. Music (always live) tends to be predominantly nisiotika (traditional island music) with a fair amount of rebetika thrown in. All ages attend (at one, the youngest person at our table was my daughter, then aged 6 months, and the oldest, my wife's aunt aged 102!).
You will drink and you will dance, even if you normally do neither. Fantastic fun, and a great chance to participate in a folk culture that is very much still alive.
Ask around when you get there or check this site:
Pleasant live music venue, featuring local jazz and "world music" musicians, along with some more interesting contemporary Greek acts.
Popular jazz trio Human Touch are highly recommended, although they do not play here as often as they used to. Armenian Haig Yazdjian is another regular who is always worth hearing.
Konstantinoupoleos & Agiou Orous, Kollonos,
Post code: 10447
Live Jazz venue at the music school run by outstanding bassist Giorgos Fakanas. Apart from his own band, who are usually outstanding, I have seen acts there such as Allan Holdsworth, Wallace Roney, Mike Stern and Birelli Lagrene. Highly recommended to all jazz fans.
3 Poseidonos Ave., Neo Faliro,
Tel 210 4813605
Greece is mainly famous for its ancient glorious past; thus, the museums that are associated with that period are the mostly visited. However, Greece kept on living and evolving and there are many museums that are addressed to every kind of taste.
ANTIQUITY-RELEVANT: This year, the New Museum of Acropolis (www.newacropolismuseum.gr/ ) opened. Its ambition is to house all the finds and statues that were discovered in Acropolis from archaic till Roman times. In the National Archaeological Museum you will have the chance to see a panorama of ancient Greek art, its development and some of the major artworks of that period. You can also experience ancient Athens through a virtual reality time travel in the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Centre, which is housed in an original industrial complex. Grasp the opportunity of seeing how the Ancient Agora or Ancient Olympia really looked like!
FOR ART/HISTORY LOVERS: The National Art Gallery and the National Museum of Contemporary Art house collections of contemporary Greek painting and art. There is also the National History Museum for those who want to get acquainted with the medieval and modern Greek history.
FOR CHILDREN: In the Hellenic Children’s Museum, children can combine playing with learning, in the Goulandris Museum of Natural History they will come in contact with the elements of the natural environment whereas in the Museum of Touch they will have the chance to touch every single exhibit. There is even a Museum of Children’s Toys.
VARIOUS: The Museum of Islamic Art, the Jewish Museum and the Numismatic Museum are considered to be among the best of their kind in a global level.
So, if you want to scratch the surface of the city in order to reveal its real self, visits to the museums are definitely recommended.
For a list of the museums of Athens, you can check: www.athens-greece.us/athens-museums/
Mykonos is the queen of entertainment. So, anyone who visits Mykonos should try at least once go to a really cool bar to dance till the first morning hours and drink some original cocktails.
I think that the bar El Pecado is an excellent choice. It is considered to be one of the hot spots of the island and a must-visit bar. We were sent there by a local when we asked him for a good place to drink nice liquor and dance like crazy!
We were very satisfied by what we saw. It has a medieval-style decoration, reminding of a church, with Argentinean and Spanish elements. There are also wall paintings representing Adam Eve. We stayed the first hours on the balcony, feeling the breeze of the Cycladic wind and looking the lights of the port. Then, when we felt ready for partying, we entered in the main clubbing area and danced mostly Latin music but also some popular mainstream songs.
“El Pecado” means “sin”, and you should know that it was not named like this at random. We left when the sun had already risen and I wish I had taken my sunglasses with me, because I definitely needed them when I got out of El Pecado…
I recommend to everyone visiting Mykonos and wants to feel a little –or, actually, a lot!– of its party spirit to go to El Pecado for an unforgettable, “sinful” night!
For a list of Mykonos bars, check www.mykonos-hotels.info/nightlife.asp
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