The Delights of Travel in Greece

February 21st, 2012

What images do you conjure up when you think of travel in Greece?

The azure blue of the sun drenched Mediterranean, the heady perfume of meadows full of wildflowers heralding the onset of spring or of pine needles crackling underfoot on one of the mountain trails; terraced vineyards tumbling down the valley ridges or the omnipresent groves of olive trees .. entrenched in antiquity?

Perhaps – the narrow flag-stoned streets winding between white-washed village houses, the flotilla of small fishing boats, bobbing lights astern, rounding the headland, as dusk descends into balmy night? Struggling to find just the right Greek phrase when the phrasebook is not much help, or gazing with awe on the Parthenon and marvelling in its architectural illusions?

Travelling into the Greek Countryside - Samos

Maybe, that romantic encounter in a quayside taverna, or, the sight of a wizened crone in funereal black? Or does the aroma of must and citrus wafting up from the fruit-laden baskets straddling the donkey you met on a hillside path come to mind?

The stirring sounds of rembetika? The uninhibited giving of self and the irrepressible delight, as the music strikes up, the plates are smashed and the dancing begins? Or is it that inexpressible quality of light imbued with a spiritual and ethereal essence to which no painter’s brush or palette can do justice?

It matters little whether your travels in Greece have seen you exploring spots off the beaten track on the mainland, or whether you’ve sought the peace and quiet of a seaside village on one of the Greek islands (those ‘scattered stones’), in offseason. Where-ever you travel in Greece your senses will be assailed with a raft of experiences all too personal to you and when you come to leave, these memories of your time spent in Greece will leave an indelible impression.

Travel Greece? Sure can ..

February 23rd, 2012

Some readers will be aware that I am shortly to head through to Greece after an absence of 20 years. My wife Maria and I intend to be away just over six weeks.

Knowing how difficult it can be to obtain accommodation in high season, I’ve decided to arrange most of this from the NZ end after doing due diligence online. One of the things that did surprise me was that a number of hotels and pensions were not disposed to accept credit cards. Fortunately for me though , they were prepared to waive a prepaid deposit; perhaps having a Greek wife may have helped in that regard.

Our itinerary will see us spending some days in Piraeus with family – our nephew’s wedding in Nikaia is going to be a real highlight! We’ll commute to Athens from there. Then a relaxing three days on the tiny island of Agistri (pronounced Angistri), followed by time with family in Argos (and a few lovely days in Nauplion). Then its off to Samos where we will get to spend most of our time, before returning for a final few days in Piraeus.

I thought to mention here though a Greek gentleman who has become something of a legend in his field of work in Greece .. a man brought to my attention by the gifted commentor on Greece and “things Greek,” Matt Barrett. I’ll be putting up a decent review of Matt’s site at http://www.greecetravel.com/ shortly and later we’ll also get to visit some of his other great Greek sites.

I picked up on Matt’s recommendation to engage the services of George The Famous Taxi Driver, when we found ourselves arriving in at Athens airport in the very early hours of the morning. I’m still trying to come to grips with the fact that Greece is no longer the shoestring budget traveller’s paradise it was thirty odd years ago and having to convert the abysmally weak Kiwi dollar to Euro, effectively I find that for many things I’m paying twice the price of what I’m paying here in NZ. But hey .. I guess there’s not much I can do about that.

Anyway .. returning to the matter at hand. The cost of taxis is no exception and aside from the risk of finding oneself ripped off, a taxi trip into central Athens is not cheap; around 30 Euro. After midnight .. you can double that. Our destination .. Piraeus .. add a further 10K to the trip .. so I was most pleasantly surprized when I found I could hire George at 60E to collect us from the airport and drive us through to our hotel in Piraeus. No taxi queues, no risk of being ripped off. And being dropped off right at our hotel. Most reassuring as parts of Piraeus are known to be a bit on the seedy side.

George (and Matt) have received a raft of testimonials from very satisfied customers. Okay .. maybe I am jumping the gun a bit putting up this post, but as I say .. most reassuring knowing that he will be there waiting for us and so I thought to let you in on the secret of George right now rather than have you wait a few more weeks.

George set himself the goal of being the very best taxi driver in Greece and it sounds like he’s made it! He readily comes into his own with the excursions he is able to provide .. so if you fancy a trip down to Cape Sounion to view the famed temple and watch the sunset, or a visit to the monasteries perched atop Meteora .. or even a budget priced island hopping excursion .. take it from me George comes highly recommended. He will leave you the richer for your Greek experience, you will learn things you would not otherwise learn and get to eat some of the very best food you will find in Greece. George The Famous Taxi Driver could end up being the highlight of your trip to Greece.

Footnote: George’s son Dennis is now working alongside of his Dad making this a real family affair!

Update: The Greek trip has been and gone and although we never did get to meet George, our cab was there at the airport ready and waiting .. and waiting .. as our flight was late in. Our driver we were to learn was one Alexandros (I believe one of George’s relatives). Never holding back on any opinion of anything and acting out the commonly perceived Greek male macho role, we nevertheless found him to be very friendly and very obliging. I would without hesitation recommend George The Famous Taxi Driver and his staff to anyone wishing to have a worry free, and no less expensive way of getting to their destination in the wee hours of the morning.

Taxis in Athens charge double rate after midnight and if we’d been foolish enough to engage one instead of hiring the services of George we would have paid even more to get to our hotel in Piraeus.

Travel Greece And Doors Will Open For You

February 23rd, 2012

I was drawn to the realization that timing is indeed everything when you travel Greece, after a thoroughly enjoyable, leisurely read through Priya Tuli’s bloGGawhatziz blog. No .. the cat didn’t just run across the keyboard!

I did a ‘double take’ when I found out that in the course of her Greek travels Priya had amassed a collection of photos of many thousands of doors! Can you imagine that? But I’d have to be the first one to agree with her that there is “an ineluctable magic in those doors”. Particularly in those which she goes on to describe as “leprouschippedandpeeling”.

Photographs courtesy Priya Tuli

Copyright.©

Before you get sidetracked and decide to gorge on the whole of bloGGawhatziz , I recommend you start with a read of “An Ineluctable Progression of Doors” which provides a backdrop to Priya’s later post on the same subject – “aha moment”. And .. it is in this latter post, that all will be revealed on how to time it so you can ensure you get the very best pics of Greek doors if you’re suddenly drawn to whip out your camera. Hint .. it does have to do with the weather!

Caught your interest? Then head on over, read what Priya shares with us and if you are looking to travel Greece you may want to change your travel plans just so that you can experience these weathered treasures for yourself. Nope .. the doors won’t be going anywhere .. but then you wouldn’t want to be seeing them all freshly painted and nice and shiny now, would you? Or would you?

Travel In Greece – An Overview

February 22nd, 2012

It is intended that in due course this Travel Greece and Live! blog become one of the premier sites for those seeking a Greek experience which is just a little different. It will run to dozens if not hundreds of pages and will also become a major portal to some of the very best content to be found online relating to Greece and things Greek. So .. while I will be starting with a broad overview, I urge you to bookmark this site, so that you can return to discover fresh, new, enlivening content . Even at this early stage it would be wonderful if you could share your experience of travel in Greece with us .. as I know the blog will be the richer for it. Please do therefore take a few minutes to leave a comment. It would be most appreciated.

Your Next Great Greek Travel Adventure? Chios

February 22nd, 2012

Imagine 5 days and 6 nights on the exotic Eastern Aegean island of Chios .. and experiencing something outside the usual ‘tourist loop’. Well, if you have an interest in the healthcare sciences and the natural environment why not consider attending this years summer school to study and experience the amazingly versatile, aromatic and therapeutic gum mastic.

The American College of Healthcare Sciences is inviting applications from those looking for such a hands on experience between June 17th to June 22nd, but the intake is limited to just 20, so it is important that you make an early reservation as their Educational Travel programs fill up very quickly.

The program workshop includes going Greek and working alongside of local farmers harvesting the precious mastic, identification of plants on a traditional mastic trail, and use of the mastic gum in preparing culinary and skin care products. The guest lecturers will also include a local pharmacist and homeopath who make use of mastic in their practices.

Three tours are also scheduled; you will get to visit a local citrus museum and a folklore museum exhibiting the tools and instruments used for the mastic harvest and you will get to sample gum mastic liquor at a local ouzo distillery.

Add delicious sun drenched Mediterranean cuisine all prepared from local fresh produce and the chance to stay in a traditional medieval mastic village set high in the hills of Chios .. well .. enough said. I recommend you follow the link to find out more about this exciting online program.

PS: The video below showing how to prepare flower essences gives you a taste of what these adventures on the Greek islands can be like. It was filmed at the Australasian College of Health Sciences Summer School on the Greek island of Syros a couple of years back.