Greece: Classical, Modern, Sublime

Document created by ssindc on Aug 13, 2015
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Just back from Greece, after a nearly 40-year absence.  A much different trip than my first visit, with three generations along for the ride, including our youngest traveler, my son at 15, to our eldest, my sons' Greek-speaking Yia-Yia/grandmother.  Although we visited none of the popular islands (everything in life involves compromise!!!), we traveled in style with a private guide and a skilled driver (a blessing in small towns and tight alleys) piloting a comfortable Mercedes van (which, not surprisingly, I recommend if your budget permits).


Alas, Marriott recently left Greece.  [2016 UPDATE, apparently, with Autograph, Marriott has a newish presence - Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection: Elounda - Crete Unique Hotels - see also: Exclusive News: Crete: Greece’s Classical... | Marriott Rewards® Insiders]


Nonetheless we stayed at two interesting hotels.  In Athens, we enjoyed the centrally located and well managed Electra Palace (which offered a terrific breakfast buffet but, alas, smallish euro-sized boutique rooms).  In Nafplia, we stayed at the stunning/breathtaking/memorable Nafplia Palace, which boasted an incredible (if dated) physical facility and offered killer views and comfortable/captivating balconies (that more than offset the hotel's need of renovation/refreshment).


The primary sites we visited - Athens, Delphi, Epidaurus, Mycenae - speak for themselves, so I'll only highlight a few unexpected pleasures.

In Athens:

  • the (new-ish, modern) Akropolis Museum is exquisite, and be sure to budget a little time to savor a coffee (or a fredo espresso) in the rooftop cafe perched across from the Akropolis (or Acropolis) itself.  If your tolerance/schedule limits you to one museum in Athens, choose the Akropolis museum over the more familiar Benaki Museum (which is probably the one you remember from your last visit to Athens) - also consider the epic Archaeology Museum; and
  • if you're inclined to get some exercise, hike up to Mount Lycabettus - while the last portion is more steep/barren (and, on a hot day, potentially strenuous), the early portion takes you through one of the city's more stylish neighborhoods.

In Nafplia (apparently, the first capital of Greece - who knew?),

  • leave time to hike the stairs to explore Palamidi castle - what a site!!!
  • if you plan to buy worry beads (and you don't just want the typical touristy plastic, mass market stuff), check out some of the high-end boutique stores - the first string I asked to see from "the collector's case" was a mere 2,000 Euro (or $2,300), and another case I inquired about was sold by weight (at 20-40 Euros per gram, with a smallish string weighing at least 40 grams, so, that's $1,000 and up); and
  • take the quick ferry over to the Bourtzi castle (currently undergoing renovations to eventually be a destination restaurant).


We eschewed the more conventional vineyard tour and wine tasting for a visit to a small, independent olive oil processing facility - that was extremely interesting, fun, and tasty/gratifying.


Above Sparta, budget sufficient time to hike (up and down, but at least down) through the fortified Byzantine village of Mystras - wow!


As for dining, the options are endless, but I'll mention:

  • the “Dionysos” restaurant in Athens: touristy, yes, and probably over-priced, I'm sure, but a gorgeous setting and comfortable seating with an unobstructed view of the Akropolis - and, yes, the food was artfully presented and very good (or sufficiently good to make the entire evening memorable);
  • the “Tarazza”/roof bar seating at Kouzina - reservations a necessity - pairing killer views with a legitimate gourmet experience - my, oh my - the scenery, as the sun goes down, is not something you'll soon forget; and
  • it would be crime not to have lunch or dinner at one of the (innumerable) local taverns in Plaka, most of which offer splendid views and good food.


So, the challenge - of course - is to cull down thousands of photos into a manageable travelogue.  I've whittled it down to my top 40 (or so, which, frankly, is way too many, but....).  In the interest of keeping the gallery visually interesting and entertaining, I've (badly) jumbled the order (including mixing geography/regions, themes, genres, etc.).  Then I added a couple of macro shots of the worry beads from Nafplio, because, well, I thought they were cool....