Sunday , May 19 2024

Travel Stories by Nidhi Patnaik: Greece

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An intoxicating experience with crystalline blue Aegean Sea, breathtakingly beautiful caldera along with its spellbound sunset views, turquoise golden sand beaches and historical wonders of the world

I think this is the title which summaries best about what I am going to write today . It is none other than ‘Greece’ which fits in the description of the title 🙂 .I am sure that how much I write about the beauty of Greece ,it won’t suffice on how much more alluring and captivating it is in real .

CHAPTER 1: Athens

Frankly speaking , I am not someone who is very enthusiastic about visiting ancient historical sites specially when you get a chance to visit the other beautiful islands of Greece for which I was more eagerly looking forward to. So, let’s see what Athens had in store for us 🙂

Day 1: Arrived Athens from New Delhi

We had an early morning flight from New Delhi and reached Athens by afternoon. Thankfully, we had a better experience at immigration this time without any hassle of waiting in the queue for long both in New Delhi and Athens. We took an Uber to the Airbnb destination but the cost turned out to be pretty high (38 euros) and it might have been better to use the public transport .Our Airbnb destination was in the city centre. You cannot expect the beautiful houses like it is in most countries of Europe. Even though in a regular locality with the usual streets and houses which we are used to looking at, it was a lovely house with a nice antique decor with things like CD player and gramophone.

So, we had some time before the sunset at 8:30 PM to visit the Philopappos hill for viewing the acropolis. It was around a 20 mins walk to the beautiful park. We entered into the park with a lot of shaded trees and headed upwards along the wooded path amongst many which can be taken to go up. It was both sunny and windy , making it pleasant for a nice hike. As soon as we reached the first view point, we could see the splendid view of acropolis and that was the moment, I felt excited about Athens. As we went further up and reached the top, we saw great panoramic view of Athens with Aegean sea on one side. It was very peaceful and beautiful with less people around. We spent some time admiring the beautiful views and enjoying the peaceful surrounding with lot of sunshine, cool breeze and not to forget, the clear blue sky 🙂

After a lovely evening, we headed back to our accommodation. We wanted to explore the Greek cuisine and there was an amazing restaurant ‘Sarantatrio’ which I just came across online . It was near our house, so we went for it and it had good reviews as well. At first, it looked empty from outside and had an uninspiring exterior so we thought of skipping it but since we couldn’t find anything else nearby, we decided to go for it . Once we entered the restaurant, it opened into a charming enclosed garden and we were happy for choosing the right place for our first dinner in Greece with delicious food 🙂

Day 2: Exploring Athens

Next day, we left in the morning to visit the famous landmarks and attractions. We first walked to the temple of Olympian Zeus from where we took a one day combo ticket to visit the famous attractions. It was good to take the 30 euro combo ticket here since the ticket counter at Acropolis was very crowded and the ticket for Acropolis alone costs 20 euros.

There are only several pillars left to see now but undoubtedly, history and architecture fans would love it for sure. I did not find it that impressive and yes, as I said I am not a great fan of history :-).

Next, we walked towards the most popular attraction which is the Acropolis and Parthenon. There was a queue at the entrance to walk up towards the pinnacle of the Acropolis hill where Parthenon is located. It was crowded, and it was bit of a hike to get to the top with bazillion of people around and walking over smooth slippery pebble rocks. While going up, there were ruins of a beautiful amphitheater. We climbed up to reach the top and were stunned to see the majestic acropolis standing tall and shining under the Greek sun. The unique magnificent temple looked amazing and I realised how inspiring and marvellous ancient architecture can be. We walked around the Parthenon to explore other structures and also enjoyed, the splendid views of the city. After spending a lot of time to appreciate the grandeur of this place, we started towards our way back. While going down, there was one place I really loved. It was the Theatre of Dionysus which is a fabulous outdoor theatre and we sat on those marble seats to admire its beauty and thought how cool it must be for ancient Athenians to watch performances here.

Now was time for some lunch, as we exited Acropolis and hit a lively neighbourhood. The neighbourhood was nice — it was a commercial district of Athens with lots of restaurants. We just chose a restaurant which had some space since it was very crowded. We ordered a dish of eggplant and a chicken souvlaki. I am not very fond of vegetarian dishes but I never imagined that I would love the eggplant dish so much. It was brinjal topped up with some cheese and amazing sauces. I was so hungry that I missed taking its picture 🙂 Chicken souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce is no doubt a very famous Greek dish and has always tasted amazing as many times we tried it at different places.

We walked toward the Roman Agora which are the remains of an ancient Roman marketplace. The ruins consist of some ancient columns which are left and several interesting items from Acropolis. We were hungry by the time we finished walking around the whole area.

After having a sumptuous meal, we headed toward the Stoa of Attalos. It is a part of the ancient agora which is a public open space for gatherings in ancient Greece. Stoa is a covered walkaway which itself looked stunning and is a beautiful restored building. There is a museum inside and there are benches where you can take some rest and get some cool respite from the sunny afternoon 🙂

Later we walked towards the Kerameikos archaeological site & museum. I was not interested much in this 😛 but there was a beautiful church in the background and we took some nice clicks there.The site has ruins of graveyards of many ancient rich Greeks which did look interesting and fascinating. Also, there were not many people and it was nice to stroll around and spend some peaceful time sitting on the bench and enjoying the cool wind and the church’s beauty in the background.

From here we took a cab using Beat app to go to Aristotle’s Lyceum. This was the only place for which we took a cab since it was quite far 🙂 We explored all the places on foot and I was really happy to see my health app after it. There was not much here at least for people like me who are not history lovers and I was actually forced to go here 😛 as my husband was very interested in a place where Aristotle taught his students. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed lying on the bench here with shaded trees around and watching the clear blue sky along with the cool wind blowing.

From here, we walked towards Lycabettus hill which offers great views of Athens from the top. It was a steep walk as we had to take multiple staircase to reach the hill. From the hill, the climb till the top was also quite a hike. I think there is a cable car and a funicular as well which we couldn’t find. But once we reached the top, the fantastic 360 degree views of Athens are worth the effort it takes to get to the top. After this, we walked back down to the main city and decide to go to Plaka for dinner. But, the place was very commercial and crowded. The dinner turned out to be expensive though the food was good but we had better lunch and the dinner day before. From Plaka, we walked back to our temporary home in Athens to get some sleep as we had an early morning flight at 5:00 am to Santorini, the most awaited destination 🙂 The taxi to the airport again costed around 53 euros but since it was early morning flight, I didn’t want to take a risk of using public transport to reach the airport.

We stayed in Athens for one and a half day and it surprised me with its beauty. The Acropolis and the Parthenon were breathtaking for sure. Just that it’s charm was a little lost because it was crowded but only a little. Despite being crowded, it still looked magnificent.
Though infrastructure wise, Athens is similar to India but the blue sky and clean environment obviously sets it apart.
The public transport is pretty good which we didn’t use as we covered exploring the entire city on foot 🙂

CHAPTER 2: Santorini

Day 3: Arrived Santorini from Athens

We landed in Santorini around 6:00 AM and our Airbnb host had arranged a cab for us to the Airbnb destination which costed 20 euros. We booked our Airbnb accommodation in Imerovigili which is a beautiful village. A 10 mins walk to the capital town of Fira from where we could get buses to the port, Oia which is another popular town and the other popular destinations in Santorini.

We reached the airbnb destination by 7:00 AM even though our check in time was at 2:00 PM. Even the reception was supposed to open at 8:00 AM. We waited outside appreciating the beautiful white cottages facing the deep blue sea. It was very windy here as well, maybe more than Athens. I googled to find out that the sea wind ‘Meltemi’ blows over the Aegan sea. It was not very cold, just a little in the morning and later at night. There was a supermarket nearby which was very useful for buying light snacks and dinner. We waited till 8:00 AM and got some respite to see the receptionist or the person who managed the place. We were wondering if we could get the room early since we were very sleepy 😛 But our room wasn’t available and we had no option other than to keep our luggage and visit some places around. Luckily, he asked us to wait since he wanted to check if there was a spare room where we could rest till the time we get our room. We almost dozed off while waiting :-P. But finally we did get the spare room where we could rest till afternoon. We slept till afternoon as we were sleep deprived because of the early morning flight.

In the afternoon, we shifted to our cottage. It was a lovely white cottage with a balcony facing the sea in front. Also, the cottage was quite nice with a kitchen, dining area and the bedroom. It was definitely worth the price we spent which was around Rs. 6000 per night. The choice of our accommodation made us happy and we decided that now it is time for us to start exploring the island. We got ready and headed out to explore Immerovigili where most of boutique and expensive hotels are located facing the caldera views. It is bit of a steep climb to reach Imerovigili but not much and it’s quite close.

We were greeted with beautiful white traditional houses and lot of hotels.As we traversed through the narrow paved paths, we finally saw the breathtaking caldera view. I can still imagine the serene blue sea surrounded by huge volcanic cliffs. The beauty of it cannot be described much and can only be felt and experienced. The white and blue lovely chapels and churches in the background were complementing the blue sparkling aegan sea . The mesmerizing beauty definitely transports you to some other magical world. I think the pictures as well don’t do complete justice to it’s actual beauty.

Next, we followed the path down to Imerovigili through lot of stairs to Skaros rock from where we could see the stunning caldera views and the lovely white hotels and houses. We couldn’t climb up the rock since it looked quite difficult and there is no proper path defined. It was a short hike till here and my husband wanted to go to the other side as well through stairs which led to the bottom of the rock. I was more worried about climbing back up since it looked a little steep and it is always much easier to go down 🙂 We thought that there might be a beach but we were stunned to see a beautiful blue domed white hidden church besides the sea. I was really glad that we came here. The best part was that not a lot of people come here and there was no one except us when we reached. That made it even more special. I think I was possessed by the beauty around me. The pleasant weather with the sun and the cool wind added to the heart stirring experience. After taking a lot of pictures here, we headed back and yes , the climb back to Imerovigili was a little tough as we had to climb back all the stairs we took to come down :-). But no doubt, it was worth the effort to experience something which will stay with us forever.

Next was our plan to watch the sunset from Imerovigili itself at 8:30 PM. There was quite some time left till sunset, so we decided to head back to our apartment where we had some snacks. There are lot of nice cafes and restaurants in Imerovigili but I feel they are very expensive just for the views they offer. We chose a pathway from where we could get the best view and waited eagerly for it. Watching the sunset over the Aegan sea was truly a splendid treat to the eyes. Later we decided to go a nice cafe to enjoy the view after crowds dispersed. After the sun set, the sea and the lights turned on of the hotels and houses looked even more spectacular. On our way back, we stopped by the supermarket to get some dinner. The chicken with rice was my favorite dish here which we used to mostly takeaway for dinner and also, we once had a vegetarian spinach pie which was also quite delicious. So, there were good vegetarian options as well 🙂

Original Author: Nidhi Patnaik

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