London Diary – A Taste of Greece

Sep. 2018

We holidayed in Greece late September.

Greece is one of the top travel destinations in the world but it is the only country that receives tourists twice as much as its population. Is there any wonder why?

Known as cradle of Western Civilisation, so much about Greece has left a mark on my brain. Just to name a few,

  • Grandeur and timeless beauty of classic Greek Architecture,
  • Greek Mythology,
  • Invention of theatre,
  • Olympic Games,
  • 6000 years’ history of cultivating olives,
  • Birth place of city state and concept of democracy,
  • Its eternally influential philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the development of modern science and ground breaking new way of understanding the world without resorting to religion and magic.

In other words, without the contribution of the ancient Greek, the world might not have been what it is today. It is an unrivalled, glorious heritage indeed. The intriguing question is, how I’d find the juxtaposition of ancient and modern Greece?

Athens

We loved our hotel in Athens, A for Athens, which is located right at Monastiraki Square with stunning view of the square and Acropolis and super convenient, close to loads restaurants, shops and attractions, Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Market, Hadrian’s library and more.

Greece is the sunniest country in Europe. The gorgeous blue sky that we so admire in photos can be a risk for heatstroke in person. I know, it happened to me on the first time we were on Acropolis. It was a dry and brilliantly sunny day. I was fully prepared with thick layer of sun lotion, sunglasses, hat, and umbrella. I didn’t feel uncomfortably hot either, yet it still hit unexpectedly.

We visited Acropolis a second time, since the first was cut short. It was a breezy day. What feels like a gentle breeze on the ground became uncomfortably gusty on Acropolis. We saw hats blown away multiple times. Afterwards, I realised I was covered in sticky dust.

There is no downtown with a jungle of skyscrapers in Athens. As a matter of fact, there are few tall buildings.

Graffiti is keenly conspicuous throughout the city. We were told by our tour guide, it is the doing of the angry youth. And she followed, “it will pass”. Luckily they haven’t dared to get their hands on the ancient antiquities.

And most memorable are the antiquities, such as entrance gate to Acropolis, Parthenon, Caryatids of Erechtheion, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Temple of Hephaestus which commands a panorama view of Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and Lycabettus, Stoa and statue of Alexander the great at Ancient Angora. When you set eyes on these, you feel transported to an entirely different world and completely mesmerised, albeit temporarily.

Delphi

Ancient Delphi is located on the dramatic steep slope of Mount Parnassus and surrounded by stunning scenery. Even though most of the structures is lost, you can still envision its former glory and beauty. Adding to the picturesque site its intriguing history, Delphi is quite magical.

Most of the day tours from Athens are too much a rush. You have about 1 hour to visit the site before being whisked away to lunch. You might not have time to go through the entire site, let alone time to visit the museum.

An overnight trip would have been more satisfying. But if you can’t do over night, do the day tour anyway.

Meteroa

Beautiful monastery buildings perched atop phenomenal rock formation, Meteora is stunning.

The drive from Delphi to Meteora is 3-4 hours. 2/3 of the way it travels through plains. Yu can spot many solar panels, sometimes a large block, sometimes just a few fitted on top of a house. And every now and then an unfished or abandoned building can be seen.

Santorini

Hm, what to expect from an island that is almost synonym to romantic paradise?

There are many good points about it. The island is a volcanic phenomenon. There are plenty splendid viewpoints, particularly on the caldera side of the island between Fira and Oia, a phenomenal red beach in Akrotiri and black beaches, unique Cycladic cubic houses linked with each other in labyrinth fashion.

But I was quite taken aback by how gaunt and earthy most of the island looks. Vegetation just doesn’t appear to be thriving on the island. Even vines that do well are the brown and low crawling types. Nevertheless, the grapes are turned into pretty good wines.

Food, which was consistently good on this holiday, became slightly better, and also more expensive, probably in part because Santorini has to get most of its vegetables and fruits from mainland or bigger islands like Crete.

Santorini’s tourism runs in interesting cycles. Locals in the field, which is most of them, work literally none stop for 7/8 months of the year and stop for the rest of the year. Winter might be quite desolate on the island. We were told however more and more tourists are coming to the island in the winter and some local businesses now stay open during winter by appointment.

Ancient ruin in Akrotiri is an interesting visit. It is an archaeological dig in progress and you might see teams working on site. Objects unearthed from the site are displayed at Archaeological Museum in Fira, which is free on the weekend. You have to visit the museum to fully appreciate Akrotiri.

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