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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Travel To Athens, Gift From The Gods

Travelers who expect to be greeted by lone standing relics of ancient Greece will be awestruck by the sprawling urban metropolis of today’s Athens. The capital city is an explorer’s paradise as historic gems are embedded within the modern day melee and cultural nuances of a turbulent past are written between the lines of concrete and the sparkling blue Aegean Sea. Everywhere in Athens is a testament to why this mythic peninsula is considered the cradle of Western civilization and modern democracy.

Of particular interest, Athens received a much needed facelift in preparation for the 2004 Olympics. Notorious for its nefos (smog) resulting from rapid growth and congestion following World War II and the Cold War, Athens realized the need to clean up its act when it became clear that historic monuments were eroding at an alarming rate due to acid rain from air pollution. Due to this Olympic makeover, it is extremely easy to navigate around the well marked streets in English and Greek and transportation has never been more streamlined.

Mythological Mythos
Ancient Greece reached its societal peak in the 1st century BC when magnificent monuments like the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike were constructed on the fortified Acropolis and Socrates and Plato developed their Western thinking schools of thought. While most of the major attractions from the time period are in the center of the city, travel in the outskirts of Athens will bring encounters with many significant locations from this time period. Marathon, of the famous battle (and today’s 26.22 mile race), is just northeast of Athens and the ancient Mycenaean excavation site at Velatouri is to the south, boasting the unearthed Thorikos theatre. While the Grecian period is omnipresent, Greece has fascinating Turkish and Persian cultural influences as a result of many wars and takeovers until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century.

Club Hopping or Island Hopping?
In the spring and summer evenings, enjoy the cafés and restaurants as they begin to spill into the streets and squares. Greece, and particularly Athens, is notorious for its boisterous and tireless nightlife. The Port of Piraeus comes to life as many vacationers head out for their island excursions from this historic cove. Athens is the perfect place to become immersed in Greek culture and life before taking a ferry ride to one of the surrounding tranquil, historic or party islands – the choice is yours. The port itself is also of particular historic interest. One of the oldest in the world, the port was heavily used during the Peloponnesian Wars in the 4th century BC and remnants of the long Themistoclean Walls, which fortified the port and Athens together during this time period, still survive today.

A trip to Athens is not only a journey of history, but one of modernity and progress. After Greece’s golden age, Athens’ grandeur was squandered to nearly nothing by invaders and the sweeping tides of history. Today, the free and booming capital city is again a testament to its historic commitment to forward thinking civilization. Experience the rebirth of the foundations of the western world in Athens!

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Paxos – The Holiday Island For Music Lovers.

The tiny Greek island of Paxos, with its groves of olive trees, secluded beaches and coves, and pretty coastal villages, has become a favourite destination for music lovers during its annual jazz and classical music festivals.

In June, the Paxos Jazz Festival attracts talented and well-known musicians from far and wide to perform in open-air, idyllic locations with perfect summer weather. And from 2–13 September 2006 the renowned Paxos International Music Festival features classical music concerts in Loggos.

Since 1986, this Festival has established a tradition of excellence in performance, and has developed a loyal following of visitors and locals. As well as presenting major works from the chamber music repertoire, the Festival has commissioned new pieces especially for the Island. These included We Shall be Here, for a thousand and a thousand more years, a cantata tracing the history of Paxos from its mythological beginnings to the present day and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf translated into Greek. Now directed by the UK’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the 2006 Festival will present major works by composers who have anniversaries this year, including Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet; Schumann’s Piano Quintet; a Bartok String Quartet and a Shostakovich piano trio. And Guildhall students and teachers will give five special concerts. For the first time in Paxos, singers will present a repertoire of songs and arias.

The cosmopolitan capital of the Island, Gaios, bustles with life at festival time and its harbour is packed with yachts and cruisers. Cafe bars and restaurants line the waterfront, nestled between charming villas with their Venetian architecture, and the island's nightlife includes late-night music bars overlooking the harbour. At the waterfront terrace of Bar Taxidi, in picture-postcard Loggos, you might even find Spiros, the owner, making traditional music.

Some of the best accommodation on Paxos is to be found in the lovely little fishing harbour of Loggos but, be warned, with limited accommodation Paxos villas are in high demand at the time of the music festival so be sure to make your booking way in advance.

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Travel To Greece: Turn Myths Into Reality

It is nearly impossible to comprehend the magnificently eclectic and robust concoction that has become today's Grecian society without exploring the region first-hand.

The first traces of a city-state on Crete date back to the Neolithic Period, beginning in 6000 B.C. Minoan and Mycenaean Kingdoms were followed by the Dorian invasions and the Dark Ages. From 500 to 146 B.C., Greece enjoyed its most prosperous and well-known Classical and Hellenistic Periods during which Plato, Socrates and Democracy thrived and the Parthenon and Acropolis were built in Athens. Roman annexation followed and can be seen in the transitional art and architecture, along with the blending of mythologies. Greece was overrun by Byzantines and Turks throughout the modern era and a cultural revival and War of Independence in 1821 sparked the reunification and appreciation of Greek culture that is still miraculously thriving today.

Greece by Land...
Aside from major attractions like the Parthenon, Greece provides a plethora of other sites and activities unique to the nation's cultural heritage. For a spiritual experience, visit the town of Meteora in the northern Thessaly region. These spectacular cliff-top monasteries were originally reached by curiously placed ladders and ropes. Today people can reach the sky-high pinnacles by climbing the etched stone stairs or by the growing popular sport of rock climbing. You can also get close to the gods, as the Greeks put it, by visiting the archeological wonder at Delphi, considered to be the center of the known world by Ancient Greeks. Nafplio, the former capital of Greece, is also a wondrous and enlightening adventure. Centuries of history decorate and surround the city. Close by is the ancient Mycenae civilization and the famous theater at Epidaurus.

Or by Sea...
There are nearly 1400 Greek islands to explore. Much of Grecian history is based upon the maritime and merchant centers of the seven island clusters. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey venture through beaches and ports you can visit today. Crete and Santorini, with its volcanic caldera, are by far the most popular destinations. Make a stop on the notorious party island of Mykonos, part of the Cyclades Greek Islands, to party, dance and drink in a fashion that would make Dionysus proud. Relax in the lush greenery and white sand of the Ionian Islands, which emanate a more European feel. Every island region has something unique and intriguing to offer, so don't be afraid to leave this part of your itinerary open for exploration!

Greece is bursting at the seams with history, culture, food and wine. Every corner of this ancient nation is abundant with once-in-a-lifetime escapades. This is a trip you do not need to structure too much to feel completely immersed in Greek life. Although, it is wise to remember that the summer months of July and August attract hoards of people making accommodations hard to come by and can also be uncomfortably hot. Enjoy a more pleasant and relaxed journey in May and June or at the end of the summer peak season.

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Greece - History and a Modern Touch

Many consider Greece the cradle of modern civilization. The historical sites in the country are impressive. Still, Greece also has modern touches making it a good travel destination.


Walk practically anywhere in Greece and you are walking in the footsteps of antiquity. The home to such historical figures, fictional or not, as Plato and Homer. [not Homer Simpson – the other one]. As the center of modern civilization, Greece is considered the home of art, philosophy and many other aspects of culture which set us apart from other creatures. While you could literally spend months in Greece visiting and exploring archeological sites, there country is known for very modern pleasures.

The beaches of Greece are world famous as is the nightlife. For nightlife, Athens is a vibrant city that more or less stays open all night long. Even on Mondays! For sheer excitement, take a taxi on a trip through the city which will make any roller coaster look tame. You can walk through the various market areas or visit the new structures and parks created for the recent Olympic Summer Games.

If a tan is a must, you’re best off heading to the islands. Islands such as Santorini, Ios and Mykinos are the stuff of legend among sunbathers. You can burn under the Mediterranean sun all day and party like a rock star all night. All the islands can be reached by ferry with trips taking a few hours.

The Greeks are colorful and a fun-loving group of people. Sit down in a little café somewhere and you’ll soon be talking to a local with tears of laughter in your eyes. Just make sure you watch out for friendly ouzo toasts. They pack a punch. A serious punch.

If you’re looking for a travel destination with both historical locations and a chance to loaf on the beach, nothing beats Greece. Prices are generally cheap, so give it a try.

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Athens, Greece - A Whirlwind of History

Athens is the pre-eminent city of Greece and the main arrival destination. No city mixes history and a chaotic energy better than Athens.


Athens is city with stunning archeological sites, colorful neighbors, overcrowding and smog like you’ve never seen it. For many travelers, the general impression is one of a poetic chaos. Roads are packed, taxi drivers are nuts and shops seem to spill off the sidewalks and into the middle of roads. Yet, in the middle of this chaos you’ll find peaceful places such as the Acropolis, even though it is packed with tourists.


You can’t mention Greece without talking about the Greeks impact on civilization. The city is littered with sites of extremely significant significance. This is not the place where you’ll stand in front of an old structure where Sir so and so fought Sir so and so to the death in a duel that established something faintly important. Instead, you’ll stand in front of monuments where civilization took a quantum leap forward.

The Acropolis is the dominant archeological site in Athens. It is one of those rare locations you can visit where the massive number of tourist do not diminish the impact. Towering over Athens, the Acropolis has seen better days until you consider how old it is. The Pantheon and Erechtheion are the two standing structures and both are impressive.

While contemplating the Pantheon, one can’t help but be impressed by the ability of the Greeks to build such a towering, stone structure when much of humanity still considered a hut a luxury. The Erechtheion is amazing because it contains the famous Caryatids, the columns molded into the form of female figures. Standing upon the mount, you’ll have a view of Greece that will reveal the chaos and a sense of the age of the city.

Athens has much to offer beyond the Acropolis. Books have been written on the subject. Large books. I’m not going to try to cover them here, but you should try to get over to the Tower of the Winds, where the Whirling Dervishes got their start.

Walking through Athens is like walking through history. They say time travel is impossible, but Athens seems to suggest otherwise.

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Athens Taxi Ride - Extreme Sports

Athens is a huge, congested city and the local taxis are your main means of getting around. The average Athens tax ride is inexpensive, just bring your helmet.

Living on the Edge

I had just arrived in Athens with a couple who’ll remain nameless. [He’s now a respectable doctor and married to someone else.] My buddy, “John”, had a Greek friend who lived in town named Stavos. We were going to stay with him and explore Athens before heading to the islands.

Stavos had gone to college with us in California and more or less been raised there. After experiencing the finer points of higher education [fraternity parties, etc.], he and his brother had started a snowboard company in Athens. Who could possibly be buying snowboards in Greece? It turned out Stavos and his brother were selling them throughout Europe, not in Greece.

Anyway, Stavos collected us in a friend’s car and took us to his small studio. We decided to catch some winks and then head out for a night on the town. Thus, we would experience an Athens taxi ride for the first time.

Taxi driving is a competitive sport. I am convinced there is a World Cup of taxi driving and drivers practice on the streets of their location. San Francisco and New York taxi drivers are an elite group, while taking a taxi in France is a good way to see the Eiffel Tower while going the wrong way down a one-way street. In Athens, it was all about speed.

Being an idiot, I yelled out “shotgun” as the taxi pulled to the curb. I should’ve guessed my triumph wasn’t a good thing when Stavos just smiled. In we went and Stavos gave the driver our destination. For the next fifteen minutes, I feared for life itself. Mine and others.

Our driver was apparently convinced he would get a bonus if he beat a certain time. We peeled out at the curb and the race was on. Through the tight, winding streets of Athens we went. As is the nature of chaotic Athens, the roads are packed with cars, buses, people and very brave cyclist. Considering this an obstacle course, a driver whipped through the throngs at over 80 miles per hour. Most of the time was spent in the SLOW lane, where less cars were. I still have nightmares about the faces of cyclist staring at me as we passed them with maybe 5 inches to spare. Frozen pictures of terror. Throw in cars starting to pull out in the road and you have the white knuckle event of the year.

When we finally pulled up to the club, I started breathing again. As I pulled my hand off the handle on the door, I left impressions. Standing outside of the cab, Stavos asked me if I wanted to sit in the front on the way home and started laughing.

It took two drinks to calm my nerves. Come hell or high water, I was walking home.

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Athens - A Walk On The Wild Side

Athens is known for archeological sites and history. If you want a break from history, Athens has much more to offer travelers.


You’ve seen the Acropolis, you’ve hit the museums and you’re trying to figure out if it is time to head to the islands. Wait! You’re missing much of the modern charm of Athens.

There is a conundrum with many historically significant cities. Guidebooks tend to send you off to every site with any potential historical significance, but leave out any mention of the modern attractions of the city. In the case of Athens, slavishly following your guidebook is a very bad choice and you’ll be the worse for it.

As with any city, there are two good ways to see the charms of modern day Athens. The first is to get out and just start walking. The second is to befriend some local residents and let them show you the city. Either way, you’ll do fine in Athens.

The charm of Athens is found in the hubbub of daily life on the streets. The city and residents exude energy and character. If you get off the tourist tracks, you’ll find little neighborhoods with outdoor cafes and no tourists. This is where the action is in true Athens. Just plop yourself down at a café and start people watching.

One particularly good spot is in the Plaka neighborhood. A nineteenth century quarter, Plaka has a mix of Turkish and Greek influences. From Plaka, you can head to the shopping bazaars found throughout the city. The bazaars in Athinas and Eolou are a bit touristy, but no excessively. With a mideastern feel, you can sit down and drink tea with local shop owners while they hock their wares.

From there, the city is wide open. If you dare, grab a taxi and tell the driver you just want to see the real city. It will be the ride of your life.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Greece Twitter

Greece /ˈɡriːs/ (Greek: Ελλάδα, transliterated: Elláda [e̞ˈlaða] , historically Ἑλλάς, Hellás, IPA: [eˈlas]), officially the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία, Ellīnikī́ Dīmokratía, [e̞liniˈkʲi ðimokraˈti.a]), is a country in southeastern Europe, situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has borders with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east and south of mainland Greece, while the Ionian Sea lies to the west. Both parts of the Eastern Mediterranean basin feature a vast number of islands, islets and rock islands.

Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of ancient Greece, generally considered to be the cradle of Western civilization. As such, it is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy.

Greece is a developed country, a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATO since 1952, the OECD since 1961, the WEU since 1995, a founding member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and a member of ESA since 2005. Athens is the capital; Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion, Larissa, Volos, Ioannina, Kavala, Rhodes and Serres are some of the country's other major cities.

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