DISCOVER Do away with the traditional touristy way of exploring Greece. Take a hike! GAURI SHAH
The sunshine of the Mediterranean, the yesteryear’s Roman empirical capital, the architectural wonder of the world; what the map knows as Greece, is that untouched piece of the European continent. A land of ouzos, gyros and musical squares with Greek Gods and Goddess still dotting the streets! An impromptu trip to this majestic country, revealed beauty mostly in all the “untouristy” sights. The globe knows Greece for its Acropolis, white-n-blue houses and, most recently, as a canvas for anti-establishment graffiti. Here’s a closer, more breath-taking view…
Every inch of the Greek landscape is simply pretty, but tourists that choose to go in summer (winters get frigid) must seat themselves with an uninterrupted view of the sun, just before the end of each day. Just walk through the tiny picturesque towns on the islands; the local art will have you mesmerized. Take back look-alike scrolls of the original (at 1/10th the price) as souvenirs. These towns are brimming with traditional art and craft, oozing with culture; a delightful way to spend the daylight.
Just do it
The Greek café culture is my favourite part. Each square (every couple of kms) plays home to a litter of cafes. Make the most of this; something that we can’t enjoy in any other part of the world. Find sometime in various parts of the day to grab a cuppa, herbed tea, a cold beverage or a quick bite and watch Greece happen around you.
Hit the sea
The Atlantic Ocean steals all the attention with its crystal blue ripples. Even though, unlike the other oceans, the water here is freezing even on the hottest day; dip into its inviting waves. The non-swimmers; walk along the length of the numerous picture-perfect beaches, choose a rock to perch with a book and the delightful sight.
The one compulsory pre-trip purchase has got to be a high-definition camera; splurge on this investment; will last you a lifetime. And trust me when I say you’ll be glued to it every inch of the way once you land in Greece. The images will serve as tear-welling memories; and a great way to advise future travellers.
Once you fly into Athens; ditch the air route and explore the beautiful Greek islands through the Aegean Sea. The pristine island towns of Santorini and Mykonos are a must on the itinerary and opt to take the jetty (mid-sized ships) to get there; gives you a glimpse of Greek countryside along the way. Keep a budget aside for the day cruises at Santorini — a little steep on the pocket, but worth every penny. Choose the sunset one; jump into the ocean, scuba dive, sip on local wines and even steer the ship while you wait for the sun to kiss the horizon.
Gyros is the most popular savoury of the place, and it doesn’t disappoint you. Street food is scrumptious so pick your version; veg/meat with salad, fries and sauces wrapped in Greek pita for a filling meal. The bistros offer a delicious variety of world cuisine, with a heavy influence of Turkish and Spanish delicacies; chomp on these instead of hunting for desi khana.Another popular Greek special; is their yoghurt with honey and fruit – that is placed complimentary on each table after your meal. It’s sinful!
Greek coffee certainly knows how to make itself addictive. But if you’re not the coffee lover, their ginger ale and lemonades must be sipped. Ouzo; the fennel seed (saunf) flavored Greek liqueur as well as their acquired taste draught were delightful discoveries. The local vineyards churn out the best brew though; the blush wine deserves full marks while the Sauvignon Blancs and Merlots come a close second!
Now the Euro is certainly intimidating; the street shopping no good and the brands overpriced. The flea markets are an enjoyable walk to scour for accessories like shades, hats, trinkets, souvenirs (if you’re ok throwing it away shortly). An interesting take-away-home is the locally made crockery, especially on remote islands; solid material in unique designs for a steal!
“When in Greece; use your feet” is all but tattooed over the land. Even though public transport (metro, bus, tram) is unbelievably good; use that as a last resort while ending your day. Walk to rummage through the mysteries of the land. You just never know what you might stumble upon; long-forgotten tombs, un-mapped views and even local party pads a ‘tourist’ will never be guided towards. Avoid cabs; overpriced!
Make yourself at home
Where you decide to stay is essential while in Greece and it’s important to research the choices thoroughly depending upon your budget to max out on the experience.
- St. George: Rs. 20,000(Luxury)
- Divani Palace: Rs. 8,000 (Mid range)
- Athens Backers: Rs. 2000 (Budget)
- San Antonio: Rs. 26,000 (Luxury)
- Zanoos Melathron: Rs. 12,000 (Mid range)
- Local apartments: Rs. 2500-3500 (Budget)
- Mykonian Ambassador: Rs. 18,000 (Luxury)
- Mykonos Imperial: Rs. 10,000 (Mid range)
- Artemis: Rs. 2250 (Budget)
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