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porcupine Athens - A travel report by Bryan
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Athens,  Greece - flag Greece -  Attik√≠
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porcupine's travel reports

Greece on the verge of Winter

  17 votes
I went to Greece in November/December 1997. I was with 2 friends, and we set up base in Athens where the brother of my friend worked at the US embassy. The three of us had a grand time in Athens where we lived above a bakery and ate lots of pastries.


3 of us, sharing the driving
3 of us, sharing the driving
After setting up in Athens and exploring some of its offerings, we took a bus to Epidaurus, Napflio, and Mycennae. It was an ideal loop. Then we rented a car for a week and went to Mt. Olympus, Meteora, and Thesaloniki. Back to Athens via Delphi, we then took a ferry to Santorini.

As for Athens itself, I highly recommend the Byzantine Museum, the National Archaelogical Museum, and the area around the Acropolis known as Plaka for shopping and eating. The town of Glyfada, just south of Athens is good for cafes and beachgoing.

The weather was great, ranging from 16 to 25 degrees celsius. (I converted that special for you European readers), and I can't imagine suffering the summer heat in Athens with all that nasty traffic and deisel exhaust. Plus it is cheaper to go off season, and there are no lines anywhere. To top it all off, it was still warm enough in the islands to go in the water.

A couple of warnings. If you are there on November 17th like us, stay out of downtown Athens, especially if you are American. This is an annual protest day and there are marches and random acts of mayhem going on all day long. The next day, life returns to normal.

Also disconcerting for animal lovers is the packs of wild dogs and stray cats everywhere. There were even wild dogs on the islands (as pictured at the bottom of the page) I mean, if you can't control a dog population on an island, then you obviously just don't care.

If you feed a dog, especially on an island, it will follow you everywhere. We even had one sleep at our hotel door. Very heartbreaking. They can cause trouble too. When we hiked Santorini, a pack of dogs ran with us and they can get pretty excited when they are running in the pack. One of them got into someone's property and killed a chicken. A capital offense for a stray dog. Needless to say, we zipped out of there with the dogs and the dead chicken, lest the dog get executed.

Favourite spots:
Meteora. Someone else's photo. It was foggy when I was there
Meteora. Someone else's photo. It was foggy when I was there
Napflio was the biggest surprise. What a great town. Cool Turkish fortress and narrow streets. Great for 2 or 3 days to explore and hang around to eat, drink, and be merry. If you are going to Epidaurus to see the theater, then Napflio should be included in your rounds.

The theater at Epidaurus is in excellent condition and is worth checking out. There is not much else there however. Same goes for Mycenae. Check out the ruins, Lion's Gate and Beehive tombs, the whole Agamemnon legend, and you're out of there.

Meteora (pictured right) is a must see. That's the town with all the monasteries perched on monolithic stones. Unique in the world. For James Bond fans, this is also a primary location featured in the film 'For Your Eyes Only'.

What's really great:
An Octopus's Garden
An Octopus's Garden
I had a great time walking the perimiter of Thesaloniki at night. Ruins at Epidaurus and Delphi were great. Walking around Athens and the Acropolis and the Plaka was brilliant. A very special place indeed. Too bad they have built so many ugly cement apartments in Athens. I had seen a painting from the turn of the century showing the Acropolis, and there was nothing around it. I guess you have to use your imagination to erase the ugly effects of 20th century industrial architecture and sprawl. Aye carrumba!

Sights:
Yasso!
Yasso!
I will use this spot to mention one place that we missed. Mt. Athos is a small island south of Thesaloniki where there are only monasteries and monks, and visitors can hike from monastery to monastery, stay with the monks, and get fed for a small contribution and/or labor. The catch is that you have to be a male (so as not to tempt the monks, or so it has been reasoned) and you need a letter from your embassy or state department as they restrict the numbers. Here's a link on the details: http://www.inathos.gr/athos/en/VisitMoun-tAthos.html

I can't imagine a better chance to be submersed in a medieval lifestyle and feel like you have gone back in time. Anyhow, I mention it here because if you want to go you obviously need to plan ahead. Sorry ladies, I don't make the rules. Next time I go to Greece, I'm there.

Accommodations:
Romanian orange pickers in Mycenae
Romanian orange pickers in Mycenae
We always stayed in various family owned hotels. Go with the Lonely Planet's suggestions on that one. If you're going, it's best to find your own spots and have your own adventure. We payed about $30/night wherever we stayed. $10 each was like camping. What a deal! Probably not that cheap anymore, but you have to be resourceful.

Nightlife:
a classical element if ever there was one
a classical element if ever there was one
While I do like to hit clubs on occasion, I found the cafes better. Clubs in Athens were pretentious and fake. I saw a lot of crappy beer halls that tried to look American or dare I say 'Western'. An American can easily spot fake American clubs just like an Irishman can spot a fake Irish pub. I'm sure there are good clubs in Greece, I just didn't happen on any.

Restaurants:
Atkins friendly
Atkins friendly
I loved the food in Greece. I am a big fan of salad sans lettuce, and I must have had one there every day. Cucumbers, tomatoes, olive oil, and feta were standard. Occaionally peppers and onions came to town, but mostly it was the aforementioned with a fine serving of hearty bread.

If you get a chance to go to a restaurant that let's you chose your meal by selecting it from the kitchen directly, then do so, it's a fun experience. I'll have a slice of that, and that, and a bowl of that. The Lonely Planet will point it out if a restaurant operates this way. I also never had a bad moussaka or gyro. Moussaka is a great dish that usually consists of creamy mashed potatoes, ground beef or lamb, usually eggplant, and sometimes pasta, layered like a lasagna.

Other recommendations:
running with the skeelos on Santorini
running with the skeelos on Santorini
I only went to Santorini, but from what I understand there are many fantastic Greek islands. While there, many recommendations came across for Crete, but alas we were pressed for time. Got to pick your battles. The ferry from Athens (technically Piraeus) did take forever (about 15 hours) so if you can aford it, take a flight, especially if you're there at a busy time.

When you get to an island, it is common for locals to offer you a free ride up the hill. They then expect you to stay at their house for a fee. For us being there in the off season, there was a lot of competition for our business. I think it's best to pay for a taxi up the hill, or walk, relax, and then pick your lodging at your own pace.

Once you're settled you can choose to rent a moped, but the 3 of us decided to walk around and it was much safer. If you want to go from one end to another you can easily take a bus. Otherwise the towns themself are small enough to explore in their entirety on foot.

Published on Friday September 9th, 2005


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Sat, Sep 09 2006 - 02:08 PM rating by mrscanada

I love Athens...smog and all. Great review.

Lyla

Sun, Jul 09 2006 - 05:17 AM rating by alfonsovasco

Magnific report, my friend!

Wed, Sep 14 2005 - 12:13 PM rating by bootlegga

Excellent first effort, keep it up!

Mon, Sep 12 2005 - 12:22 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

very nice report

Sun, Sep 11 2005 - 06:39 PM rating by akhila

Excellent Report!!

Sat, Sep 10 2005 - 05:05 PM rating by eirekay

Thanks for a terrific report. Obvious that you had a wonderful time!
Eire

Sat, Sep 10 2005 - 03:50 PM rating by mistybleu

Nice report.
Misty

Sat, Sep 10 2005 - 03:59 AM rating by christianj.

Hi Bryan,

welcome to globosapiens and congrats to such a great first report! I'm also fascinated of the greek way of life - especially in the 'non-touristy' regions. Maybe you could add some more detailed informations like restaurants you can recommend etc. or helpful websites....

Have fun with globosapiens!

Christian

Sat, Sep 10 2005 - 03:12 AM rating by dipaks

Well....nice report

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