Sunday, September 20, 2009

Zante, a great Ionian holiday abroad

The Greek island of Zante is located off the western coast of mainland greece. Its is also known as Zakynthos and is one of the largest Ionian islands. The Island has an ideal climate for sunseekers and those looking for a relaxing holiday abroad.

The best way to travel to Zakynthos is by plane or ferry. Ferries disembark in the island's capital city of Zante town and its harbor port called Agios Nikolaos. Cheap flights are available from the Greek capital of Athens, and also most major airports in the UK. From the airport you can get a taxi or take the bus to your hotel. To find the cheapest holidays to Zante from your country of origin visit your travel agent or search the internet for Greek specialist tour operators.

This postcard perfect island offers a variety of pristine beaches, activities and entertainment for families as well as a pleasurable nightlife. Families can enjoy a delightful and safe holiday at some of Zakynthos's child-friendly resorts, while couple and singles can enjoy the adventure and excitement of Zante's large selection of pubs and clubs.

Zakynthos makes for a great cheap holiday destination for Europeans and anyone choosing to travel to Greece. The island offers an excellent selection of resorts, inns, and cheap hotels for visitors. Areas that are popular with travelers include resorts in Kalamaki, Argassi and Keri. Tourists will also find that in terms of budgeting, compared to other islands in Greece, Zakynthos offers quality entertainment, food and accommodations ideal for a cheap holiday abroad.

A unique feature of the island is Zakynthos' architecture, ruled by Venice for 400 years; the buildings of Zante are traditionally Venetian in architectural design, giving Zakynthos a distinct marriage of Greek and Italian architecture and adding to its charm. Another introduction to the island by the Venetians was the introduction of the graceful and fruitful olive tree.

This architectural charm is showcased by the island's main city and capital, Zante town. In this city the majority of Zakynthos's 35,000 residents live. This picturesque harbor town offers tourists a number of attractions including shops, traditional Greek taverns, restaurants and a nice selection of hotels.

A great influence on Zante is religion. Greek Orthodoxy is the main religion on Zakynthos, and the island's revered monasteries are a key attraction. A vast amount of Greek islands are famous for their local religious festivals and in Zante the holiday of saint Dionysios is the most well known. Islanders celebrate this day by a religious procession, which includes the carrying of the saints remains in a glass coffin, giving tourists and the religious a rare opportunity to see the remains of the saint.

For Tourists that prefer the nightlife, then Laganas on the south side of the island is your choice. The resort of Laganas offers lively bars and nightclubs for those who like to party untill the early hours. Ravers with enjoy the variety of bars and clubs found on the beachfront of Laganas. After the evening's entertainments end, visitors can relax, during the day, on the longest beach found on any of the Greek islands. For tourists, who are seeking an ecological adventure, divers can explore the underwater marine attractions that the island has to offer through its many cave dives and the wide range of marine life surrounding the island. Snorkelers can also enjoy Zante's marine life which includes moray eels, monk seals, and loggerhead turtles.

Zakynthos offers are variety of attractions for families, couples and singles. It's picturesque beaches, wonderful weather and fun atmosphere to sum up what tourists will experience while visiting Zante or as the Greeks call it Zakynthos.

Article Source:

Selling Up, Scaling Down: The joys of living smaller in Greece

The trend seems to have no end: families dreaming of buying property and permanently relocating to the tiniest communities of sunnier, warmer, smaller countries are younger and younger. Radical life changes are no longer held off until retirement.

Working with Property Greece, a Greece-based real estate firm catering to international clientele, I have encountered a growing number of young people pursuing the dream of simplifying their lives. Really simplifying them. A recent example is that of a very likeable British couple with 2 young children, looking for property in Paros or some other smaller Greek island. They both hold stable, well-paying jobs, they own a UK home and, by all accounts, they are not missing out on anything. Yet they have decided their family would be happiest on a Greek island, operating a B & B or teaching English, sending their kids to a small school and not worrying about violence and drugs, learning another language and, ultimately, becoming part of a community. They seem well aware of the difficulties and adjustment required and they know their plan is not foolproof. For them, however, it is all worthwhile.

Are they out of their minds?

Not in my opinion.

My family is one of many having done so. They moved to Greece from the U.S. in the early seventies – a time when Athens was light years away from today’s modern, fusion city. Back then the move seemed devoid of all logic. Let’s face it: transitioning from a suburban house complete with yard, pool and 2 TV sets to a cramped flat with no TV, no telephone for 2 years and a tiny balcony is nobody’s idea of fun. Strangely, though, there was no harm done. In fact, we reminisce about those days with nostalgia. Life felt so simple. It was the first time us kids played on the streets with no curfew, walked to school instead of being bussed over, learnt how to swim and fish and felt free and loved it. Going to Greek school without knowing the language could not have been easy at first but, in retrospect, I think we caught up in no time. We were kids, after all: tough, resilient and absorbent like sponges.

Last winter, while living and working on a small island in the northern Aegean, I crossed paths with yet another family that inspired me. I befriended a small boy of about 4, who was always running around looking happy and playing with the older kids after school, and came to know his mother, Suzanne. Originally from Switzerland, she had come to the island on holiday about 8 years prior, with her small daughter, following a nasty divorce. She fell in love with the place and decided it was as good a time as any to make a radical change— so she gave up an enviable job in a lucrative family business and moved to Greece with her daughter. She knew nobody and only spoke German and English. The first thing she did was to enroll her daughter in local school and ask some of the adults to be her own Greek tutor; in return, she started teaching their children English. Fast-forward to today and Suzanne is still in the village, happily married, has a second child, speaks fluent Greek and operates a small boutique. Her children are bilingual. They are just like everybody else, only different somehow – in a good way. They have used their differences to their advantage and fit in perfectly.

The remarkable thing, for me, is that they live what can only be described as an uneventful life. Suzanne’s favourite part of a day in the village (mine as well) is the evening: as everybody lingers around the house after dinner, people start to casually trickle in unannounced. Keys are left outside the door of most houses in the village, so there is no need to keep going to the door and letting visitors in; naturally, they could knock if they wanted to. I was there in the winter, and evenings were chilly. More often than not we just stayed in and huddled around the fireplace drinking a mouth-watering concoction of local liquor, warmed and sweetened with honey. There was no better way to end the day – or to make friends with the entire village. Each person had a story; some were hilarious, some were sad, some were ordinary, but they could all make their way into the pages of a good book.

To avoid being carried away, however, let us end on a realistic note: downsizing is not for everybody. Living small can be frightening and frustrating. It means having to let go of so many creature comforts we are accustomed to. Add to that the inherent difficulties of adjusting to a foreign culture, which takes patience, stubbornness and a certain amount of attitude. Multiply all this to the nth degree when relocating to a small village community, where all anonymity is relinquished and people come to know in the blink of an eye who you are, where you come from and why. But when your kids start mingling with the other kids, when you begin understanding the language, when you get rid of stress, stop racing against the clock and start spontaneous socializing on a daily basis… you know you have made the right move. Irrational? Perhaps. Difficult? No doubt. Worthwhile? Absolutely.

Article Source:

Sunday Nights Medieval City of Rhodes, Greece

Since the beginning of summer, when I came to Rhodes island, I have spent Sunday evenings exploring the Old Town, the Medieval City of Rhodes. It is my ritual for decompressing and enjoying quiet time. I know what you are thinking. Quiet time in the Old Town? An oxymoron if there ever was one! Yet I am talking about Old Town the neighborhood, not the evening hotspot.

There is another world, a neighborhood where people live peacefully, surrounded by history in Knights’ houses and centuries-old narrow streets, elements that have graciously survived for hundreds of years. The current shape and size of the Medieval City date back to the mid-15th century. The City itself has gone through numerous distinct periods, with a mélange of styles, nations and ethnicities, and as many masters: Byzantines, Knights, Ottomans and Italians, among others. Even though “ethnic” neighborhoods existed, the lines between ethnic and class formations were blurred. Take, for example, the old Jewish neighborhood, spread across the East side of town. Within the Jewish neighborhood alone, Jews, Greeks and Franks coexisted, along with at least five Christian churches.

That such a massive fortress like the one in the Medieval City remained intact since the 16th century, despite four centuries of occupation, is extremely rare. As the island came under Turkish occupation, its geographical significance lessened. As a result, with no serious threats facing it, there was little need to keep modernizing the fortress and it remained relatively unaltered. In turn, building facades in the Medieval City were, for the most part, devoid of ornamentation. At the turn of the 16th century, when Knights’ Town enjoyed special prominence, several buildings were restored. During that time some early Renaissance touches were added to the buildings, especially the ones facing ‘Magna et Communis Platea’, the Grand Square.

In the mid-19th century powerful earthquakes caused severe damages in the Old Town, with further damage ensuing when the city was bombed during WWII. Still, several monuments and the Town’s medieval character remained wonderfully intact. When the Dodecanese Islands were incorporated into Greece, shortly after WWII, the Medieval City was largely in ruins. Several years later, intensive and careful restoration began. Today, the Medieval City of Rhodes is a UNESCO World Heritage City, and one of the biggest and most important groups of monuments in the Aegean.

Inevitably, the Old Town is a visitors’ magnet. As you walk through the gate your senses switch to overdrive: a whirlwind of sights, sounds and smells vie for your attention. Tourist shops, selling everything from olive soap to replicas of medieval armor, compete with tavernas and bars in a decibel-induced feast. If this is not your cup of tea, keep walking until you get to the neighborhood. They say the only way to get past something is through it.

Back to my Sunday ritual, it goes something like this: spend the day reading and swimming in South Rhodes. Start the hour-long drive to Old Town in late afternoon, park by the harbor and walk through the Main Gate. Buy ice cream from the aptly named Medieval, up the street. Walk toward the main square, making way through dense crowds. Arrive to the residential section of Old Town just as ice cream begins to melt. Slow down, inhale evening aromas of jasmine and primrose, and look around. What I see is straight from the pages of an art book, frames of simple domestic life, beautiful: old ladies and men sitting in their courtyards, women hanging clothes to dry, barefoot children playing outside or feeding the cat. All this in the sanctuary of narrow streets and thick, textured walls. Sit on a stoop and rest bare feet on mosaic made of black and white pebbles, a trade nearly extinct. Look at sky above, dark but clear, and the occasional bursts of color from a bougainvillea or a brightly painted wall. Take all this in with voyeuristic joy. End the day feeling grateful for experiencing these Greek moments with history, tradition and modernity, young and old peacefully under one roof.

Article Source:

Vacation In Milos

The Greek isle of Milos, a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, is a beautiful and little-known vacation spot in one of the most gorgeous locations in the world. Known as “the island of colors,” Milos has a long history that is evident in the surrounding countryside and architecture. Near the ancient town of Milos stands a theatre dating back from the days of the Golden Age of Rome, and there are still remains of buildings and town walls. Milos is possibly best known as the site where the Venus de Milo was discovered, which now stands in the Louvre today.

Milos truly is a profusion of colors. Arbutus, orange, olive, and cypress trees decorate the island between fields of cotton and barely. Vines grow throughout the island, creating an enchanting and beautiful landscape. The island is truly “in bloom” in the months of April and May, a time that also offers beautiful weather for tourists. Every July Milos hosts a huge festival of cultural events and music, and this month is seeing more and more vacationers.

Traveling to and from Milos is easy, with daily flights to Athens and daily ferries to other shores. The island offers everything to attract tourists to vacation in Milos: pastry shops, discos, cafes, supermarkets, and jewelry stores are scattered throughout the island in convenient locations.

If you vacation in Milos, you will have more than seventy different beaches to choose from. Surrounded by water and sands of all colors, it is on the coast that you will understand why Milos is known as the island of colors. The sands range from white to black, and the waters range in various shades of deep blues and greens. The beaches are quiet and restful, with no restaurants, bars, or stereos (except during the season, in July and August).

The cuisine makes any vacation in Milos a true experience, and the variety of restaurants will tempt any tourist palate. Local delicacies include dishes made from cabbage, garlic sauce, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, and pork. Cheese made from goat milk is a mainstay of the island, and the locally-made thyme honey is sold in shops throughout the island. If you vacation in Milos, you will be able to taste locally-made wine, as well as wine imported from the island of Crete.

Any vacation in Milos will thrill and delight the senses. Milos is an island filled with colors, cuisine, music, and ancient mystery. The culture and sights of Milos, not to mention the glorious beaches, make a vacation in Milos perfect for anyone wanting to experience beauty and culture in an exotic and serene location. But be warned! One vacation in Milos often leads to another…and another…and another.

Article Source:

Quick Guide To The Greek Islands

Scattered between the coast of mainland Greece and the tip of Northern Africa, the Greek Islands have been popular holiday destinations for a wide range of holidaymakers.

Where are they?

The Greek Islands are dotted throughout the Aegean Sea, mainly off the south east of mainland Greece. They come in many shapes, sizes and geographical varieties and the people that visit them are as varied as the islands themselves. Whilst you can move between the islands, most people choose to stay on just one for the duration of their holiday. The islands are traditionally divided into seven groups: Cyclades, Aegean, Dodecanese, Sporades, Ionian, Argosaronic Gulf and Crete which, as a single island, is the largest in the group.

Where can I stay?

Try a Greek Island holiday with a difference by choosing a boutique hotel. You can’t beat the individuality of these small, intimate hotels where detail is a primary consideration and the needs of the guest always come first. Try Elounda Gulf Villas and Suites on Crete, Katikies on Santorini and Ostraco Suites on Mykonos. These are all unique places to stay, offering the ultimate in quiet understated luxury.

What can I see?

For most people, the attraction of the Greek Islands is the beaches. The quality and size of the beaches varies from island to island, as does the level of development in the main resorts. The sheer number of islands means that you can usually find exactly what you’re looking for; whether it’s 24-hour entertainment or a quiet relaxing break. For those that want to explore the islands’ culture, there are plenty of historical buildings, traditional villages and museums to visit.

How do I get around?

You can get to some of the islands such as Mykonos and Santorini by air, but most of the other islands are reached by ferry from Athens. The ferries are regular and there are ticket operators at the harbours, so you can also use them to visit other islands during your stay. To get around an island, you can hire a car or a bike, or use the local bus system. There are no train services once you’re off the mainland. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, hire a sailing boat and navigate your own way around the islands.

Article Source: