Sunday, 7 July 2013


I often write about my time in Rome but I also spent quite a lot of time in Greece, Athens,traveling by road around the Peloponnese and sailing the Aegean Sea around the Cyclades Islands between 2007-2011. Greece is a wonderful country and I always enjoyed my stay there even during my last visit when I became the victim of a pick-pocket who stole my wallet in the old Plaka. I always stayed at the same hotel The Athens Gate after trying many others which I did not like much, this includes the pretentious and terrible Hilton.

 Hadrian's Gate, near the Athens Gate Hotel
Hellenic Parliament on Syntagma Square

We also had a chance to travel to the islands in different seasons by boat from Athens. We also took a tour by car of the Peloponnese and then to Mount Parnassus along the gulf of Corinth.  There are many beautiful places to visit in Greece and the people are nice and hospitable.

I grew up listening to Melina Mercouri and her 1960 movie Never on Sunday. I also like the music of Mikis Theodorakis and Georges Moustaki both composers who were very popular in the 1950 to 1980 and remain musical icons. The blue of the sky, the sunshine, that certain relax atmosphere you find.
The various monuments of antiquity have by themselves the ability of creating beauty and peace simply by their age and the fact they came to us from such a distant past.

There are seasons to visit Greece and summer is not one of them. Far too hot and the Islands like Mykonos and Santorini are stuffed with tourists, prices are high, it is unpleasant to many crowds and the heat is oppressive. If you need to go in the Summer, choose a lesser known islands, there are hundreds of them, so you do have a choice. Then after end of October the ferry boat schedule from Piraeus is modified and because of winter storms, far fewer boats connect the islands. I recommend the book of Lawrence Durrell, The Greek Islands (1978) where he describes the islands in the 1930's as almost primitive by the simplicity of life on them and then in the 1950's how everything had changed. A very good portrait of Greece.
                                         From Delphi a view of Mount Parnassus lost in the clouds

The mainland becomes the place to visit. The premier winter ski station is at 2450 meters above sea level at Mount Parnassus, a place sacred to Apollo and his 9 aunts, the Muses, is wonderful. We stayed at Arachova in a wonderful stone hotel, very rugged with great restaurants of authentic Greek cuisine. This is mostly a resort for wealthy Greeks from Athens. You are also minutes away from ancient Delphi and its sanctuary and breathtaking views.

 Corinth Canal connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea

Corinth, Temple of Apollo, Doric style, built in 540 B.C.

 Mykonos in late afternoon, October
Santorini Island in late October

You can tour the Peloponnese and visit numerous ancient sites and the scenery is always beautiful.
Corinth and the canal is spectacular, Epidaurus with its wonderful ancient theatre still in use today and the sanctuary of Asclepius the Healer, son of Apollo. This is were I learned what the symbol of medicine meant, the snakes had healing powers and the staff is knowledge.

There is also Nafplio, a seaside port and the first capital of independent Greece (1829). We had a lovely lunch there on a terrace facing the sea. An interesting story about the town of Nafplio, this is where the potato was introduced in 1828 into the Greek diet. This tuberous vegetable was unknown in Greece previously and the Governor Ioannis Kapodistria who was the ruler of the then Capital of newly independent Greece, decided that it could help supplement the diet of people. He bought a large shipment of potatoes and offered them free to anyone who might be interested, of course no one was since they had no idea what it was and had never eaten them before. So he devised a strategy by posting guards in daytime only to watch over the shipment and the growing crops. People were curious as to why potatoes which had been given away freely were now guarded carefully in day time only. Like all things, some individual wanted to know and started stealing them at night and eating them. Today the potato is present in almost all Greek dishes, often offered in restaurants as French Fries large cut with a healthy helping of rice, two starches on one plate.

Returning to Athens by the more scenic road instead of the highway is well worth it for the scenery alone of mountains and sea views. Athens is a huge metropolis today but until 1960 it was a relatively small town. I always stay in the Plaka area, at the foot of the Acropolis. The ancient city grew around it and the Plaka is the oldest part of the city.
Olympian Zeus Temple, Athens

For years I had been travelling to Athens, I think that the first time was in the 1990's this means that I was able to see the renovation and reconstruction of the temples of the Acropolis including the Parthenon. I was anxious to travel to Athens in November 2009 to see the new Acropolis Museum designed by Bernard Tschumi, a masterpiece of architecture This is an absolute must, if you go to Athens. The one artifact in the museum I was fascinated with where the original statues of the Cariatides from the Temple of the Erechthion on the Acropolis. They are displayed in such a way that you can walk around them and see their incredibly complicated hairstyle, each very different from the other, no two women would want to be coiffed like her neighbour. The statues you see on the Acropolis are copies.

Other great museums are the Benaki  near the Parliament and the Byzantine and Christian Museum just a few blocks away and the Museum of Archeology with its magnificent marbles from the great masters of the Golden age of Greece,  it will celebrate 125 years of existence in 2014.

There is also the neighbourhood of Psiri a gentrified area on the other side of the Acropolis known for its restaurants and bars and Monasteraki which is part of old Athens and known for its shopping and various specialty shops. Athens is a place for walking exploring the old streets. The Agora at the end of the Plaka has many beautiful ruins and some of the oldest roads of the city. Not to be missed is the Stoa. The Agora (city centre) dates from the 7 century B.C., today it is a beautiful, peaceful Park.

One of my best souvenir of Athens is of having breakfast in the morning on the roof top of the Athens Gate Hotel watching the sun rise over the city and its rays hitting the acropolis and the Parthenon, the pentelic marble changes colour as the light increases, a wonderful way to start the day, looking at the birth place of Western Civilization, always gave me a good feeling.

View from the Hotel rooftop restaurant

Through are friends in Athens we also discovered the neighbourhood of Gazi, until 20 years ago it was heavily industrial and not a place you would visit. Today the old gaz works are gone, the area is a lively open air museum, with restaurants, bars, music and parks.

We still have friends in Greece and I do hope to go back one day.

Temple of Poseidon, Cap Sounion, Attica, near Athens in late afternoon at Sunset. The little Olive tree is a sacred symbol to Poseidon and Athena.


  1. Going to Greece some day is definitely on our "must travel" list! It looks so wonderful from your photos.

    1. Thank you. It is a wonderful place, well worth the visit.

  2. I have always longed to see Greece, having grown up on myths and Greek history and theatre. I want to see this place. I suppose it is in the 'top ten' of my bucket list of places to see/things to do. Nothing particular I wish to see, but 'Greece". I sense I won't though, alas.