Finally, the months of waiting for this major trip was over, and we made it to Greece for our 10 days holiday. We had never been to that part of Europe, and at least for me, had a ton of expectations. Mention the word ‘Greece’, there’s at least 2 things that came to my mind. One.. the financial troubles that constantly made it into the news for nearing bankruptcy. Two.. it’s a place which conjures all names Greek that I can recall through my life like ‘Sparta’, ‘Crete’, ‘Delphi’, ‘Olympus’ etc etc, from movies and games (think 1992.. when I was a teenager playing Indiana Jones Fate Of Atlantis). Not that I visited any of those places this time round. But, we were sure damn glad we made it here anyway!
The trip was essentially made up of:
1. A road trip around the mainland, consisting of Athens (the capital) and the drive out towards Napflios (a nice sea side town)
2. Santorini island, famous for its incredible views of its caldera and romantic atmosphere
This post covers just the first part, and it began with a 12.5 hours flight to Frankfurt from Singapore, followed by a stopover, and then another flight taking approx. 3 hours to Athens itself. What seemed like it would be a gruesome journey (especially with a baby) turned out to be quite a pleasant event. It was a night flight, and Ethan slept through most of it. The same could not be said for the return flight (which I will cover in the next post). More importantly, we arrived in our hotel (Greco Pallas Athena) where we were treated to beautifully decorated room. At least baby approved..
Athens (or Greece in general) is a place with such a historical significance to modern civilisation, you really cannot go very far without bumping into a sign that says ‘archeological site here’ everywhere. One could probably spend months here, if you truly want to cover and learn about all these sites (or perhaps a life time!). The first 2 days were spent, just walking around town to cover the most significant sites which included:
Being on top of a hill, you can’t help but notice it the minute you arrive near the Athens city centre. What could be more ‘eye-opening’ than a couple of thousand year old crumbled buildings, in the middle of a bustling city!
View from top of Acropolis is pretty impressive too. That’s Temple of Zeus right smack bang in the city center..
Part of the Acropolis is this Ancient Theatre built around AD161 called ‘Odeon of Herodes Attica’.. overlooking the city!
It’s only after the tour of the Acropolis that I realised there are actually tons of ‘Acropolis’ across Greece, just that this one in Athens is the biggest and perhaps of greatest historical significance. Poor Parthenon has gone through so many wars, and one period it was a temple of worship for the greek goddess Athena, the next it was a treasury, to a church, and then a mosque, and had even been turned into a ammunition storage during the Ottoman war period! So much happened at this one site, and I can imagine any history buff would need to spend a considerable amount of time to digest alone.
The Acropolis History Musuem
Not too far from Acropolis itself, towards the bottom of the hill is the Acropolis History Museum where we spent a number of hours admiring sculptures and artworks collected from the Acropolis itself. Interestingly, the museum is built on top of a significant archeological site as well (though probably not as significant as the Acropolis), called the Makrygianni which served as the entrance to the Acropolis site in ancient times. Kudos to the architects who preserved the ancient site underneath, such that visitors can still see it from the top!
In summary, it’s modern, it has a very nice outdoor restaurant where we had lunch, it even has a nice nappy change room! Too bad, Ethan is too young to appreciate any of it.. guess he’s just too young!
This is also near the location where literally bumped into my relative from Australia (brother in-law’s parents) on the streets! Extreme co-incidence played a part, and demonstrated just how small this world really is. We had no clue/hint that they were also here!
The shopping street is not that far from Acropolis site itself, and is where we did most of our ‘limited’ shopping. It’s messy, full of tourists, and people trying to sell you stuff!
Most tourists coming here either walk around town, or take one of the city bus tours. We found the ‘Happy Train’ that we thought Ethan might like, which took us around the city to show us a couple of interesting sights. Frankly, I don’t think he cares all that much!
For the rest of the trip, with our rented Honda Civic from Europcar, we started to head towards southwest Greece. We followed a pretty ‘standard’ itinerary that you can find in a typical tourist brochure for that part of Greece. In summary, it included:
Compared to the Acropolis of Athens, this site is relatively quiet, although it might have to do with the fact that we came here on a weekday. The historical significance of this site is no less than the Acropolis, with the city going through multiple wars and destructions like Athens did. The ruins aren’t as ‘grand’ as the Acropolis, and certainly looked a little more ‘weathered’. Nevertheless, it is complete with features of any acropolis site, which includes multiple temples, a theatre, markets, propylaea etc etc. Interestingly, Corinth is even mentioned in New Testament bible, apparently due to Paul the apostle (Not part of the original 12) while he was here for 18 months.
It’s a 6.4km man-made canal that separates the Peloponnese and mainland Greece. Apparently many attempts were made to complete the canal (as far back as 7th Century BC), but was only completed in 1882! The canal was suppose to allow ships to pass through, for easier/faster trade route. Except.. the width of 21.4m meant that it’s not usable by modern commercial ships. So the canal, is only of interest to tourists like us, taking photos from the bridges above, and sight-seeing boats passing by time to time.
The height is enough for most people’s legs to go soft when looking down from the bridge on top.
Whilst the name refers to the city/town of Epidaurus, we came here (like most tourists) for the grand theatre, apparently famous for its acoustics. Apparently, the design allows near perfect intelligibility of unamplified spoken words from the stage to all 14,000 spectators regardless of where they sit! I’m not sure if there’s any modern theatre that could make that claim today!
Interestingly, this theatre is still being used during summer for live performances. Unfortunately, we weren’t there at the right time, so all we got were a lot of tour guides clapping/singing excerpts on the stage to demonstrate the ‘acoustics’ of the theatre. It can be quite entertaining to watch actually…
Once a major centre of Greek civilization, the artifacts found here stretches way back in history somewhere between 1600BC to 1100BC! The Lion Gate is arguably its best feature which serves as entrance to the town.
We didn’t get to spend too much time here as much of the site is open, with too much sunshine. Gotta spend more time here next time!
Nafplio probably isn’t on most traveller’s mind for their first time to Greece. We made it here based on the recommendation from my Greek colleague based on how close it is to Athens, and our limited time. Yes, we forewent Olympus and Delphi, but apparently they are much further away and ‘not that impressive’ anyway. Apparently Napflio is where Athenians come for short breaks, so we came to check out what the fuss is all about. In summary.. it’s a romantic seaside town…
Watched over by Palamidi Castle
And plenty of beaches to choose from around it..
The rustic atmosphere and the narrow streets, somehow reminded me of Italy. Not sure why… The 2 days spent here were relaxing, soul soothing and certainly lived up to our expectations. We almost forgotten what good coffee tasted like living in Singapore for so long. We tasted just how good calamari is when fried with fresh squid. Even something as simple as fried flour ball (Called Loukoumades) we had at Pergamonoto tasted wonderful..
Now I know, if we ever wanted to ‘chill’… Napflio is the place to come!