October 3, 2018

Greece: A Country Soaked in History and Sunshine

 

Greece has always had a charm that has enchanted the world since the ancient times. As the birthplace of Greek mythology, ancient civilization, the Greek philosophy, society and culture, Greece has profoundly shaped our modern civilization. The origins of Greece are buried in legends, and it can be difficult to determine where the myth leaves off and the reality begins. A trip to Greece sea, sun, historical sites, and the often overshadowed mountains.

The Greek word xenoi is one of the first things you must understand when visiting the country. It is a word with a dual meaning, both “stranger” and “guest” simultaneously. A stranger is automatically a guest in their country, their town, their home. Visit a Greek home, and you will experience hospitality that can be overwhelming. Admire a painting on the wall, and you may find yourself taking it away with you as a gift. Walk in the country, and you might be given fruit to eat by a farmer, or beckoned to someone’s house for a drink or a slice of bread and cheese.

Athens

Athens is steeped in history. You will want to visit its Parthenon, of course, but don’t overlook the other ancient sites and museums, many of which have undergone a fabulous makeover. Akro poli means “upper city,” and many Greek towns have an acropolis. Athens has the most famous, capped as it is by the Parthenon.

Plaka is the warren of streets that meander to the north and east at the foot of the Acropolis. The streets are mainly pedestrianized, there are some excellent restaurants, souvenir shops, and the atmosphere is lively, day and night. As you approach the district of Kolonaki from Syntagma, you realize that you are entering a more upscale area of Athens. There is an increasing number of galleries, antique shops, and fashion stores, as well as far more well-dressed young people, frequently posing in sidewalk cafés with their cell phones and ladies with their lapdogs. The hill of Lykavittos can be seen from everywhere in central Athens, and a visit there is a must.

Thessaloniki

To get the city’s vibe best, start your tour with a stroll through the Thermaikos promenade. Start from where Makedonia Palace is and then walk up to Thessaloniki Concert Hall. You will get to see beautiful theme parks, like the Umbrellas of Zoggolopoulos and a breath-taking view of the sea. Watching the sunset in Thermaikos while drinking a cup of coffee to one of the cafes in the area is an experience not to be missed.

The White Tower, erected in the late 15th century, is the most famous monument of Thessaloniki and the emblem of the city. It was part of the modernization of the city’s fortifications, constructed by the Ottoman Empire. You can visit the museum located inside the White Tower and learn more about the city’s history through the digital reconstruction available for visitors.

The Greek Isles

With numerous flights and fast ferries from Pireas, the port for Athens, the option of island-hopping opens up. It’s one of the most liberating experiences, to be on the deck of a ferry reluctantly leaving one paradise but heading for a new destination and adventures unknown.

The largest island, Crete, offers the best of everything in one place: beaches, both busy and quiet, mountains for hiking, attractive harbor towns like Hania and Rethymno, proud people and culture, music and good food, and numerous archaeological sites of which Knossos is the biggest and best known.

The Cyclades are probably the prettiest island group, with two unique gems, Santorini and its black sand beaches and Mikonos known for its nightlife. The ancient Gdadic civilization flourished here, producing dazzling works of art. The Dodecanese offer lots of variety, from busy Rhodes to smaller islands like Tilos and Halki. The southernmost of the island groups, they are gorgeous in spring. Ionia is harder to get around so you may want to focus on Corfu, a scenic island with plenty of variety. Close to Italy, its buildings show influences of the Byzantine, Venetian, French, and British past.

Peloponnese

Peloponnese is a peninsula in southern Greece, connected to the mainland by the Rio-Antirio Bridge. The region is home to several famous ancient cities, including Mycenae, Sparta, Olympia, and Epidaurus. It was here, that the Peloponnesians, with their historic fighting spirit, began the Greek War of Independence in 1821. From Mycenean palaces and classic Greek temples to Byzantine cities and Venetian fortresses, the Peloponnese region offers plenty of historical attractions to admire, inspire and astonish.

Important archaeological sites include Mycenae, home to the famous King Agamemnon, he who initiated the Trojan war, and Epidaurus, an ancient healing village with an impressive amphitheater. Further sites such as the ancient Olympia, where the Olympic games first originated, Kalamata and Nafplio are also must-visits.

The scenery is ever changing as you explore, with a mountainous interior featuring deep scenic valleys and gorges, and a coastline dotted with gorgeous beaches.

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