Destination: Greece

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WHY VISIT GREECE

With a cultural and historical richness that is recognized universally, Greece is also renowned for its sunny side and the warm and festive attitude of its people.

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Athens, the capital, sets the standard in displaying treasures from the past: The Parthenon in Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus, and the Agora, to mention some of the most important ones. Stroll down Plaka’s narrow streets, visit the National Archaeological Museum and the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic and Ancient Greek Art, and enjoy the atmosphere combining Eastern and Western cultures in this city. It may be polluted but it is also visually and culturally stunning.

In the Peloponnese peninsula, there are several places definitely worth discovering: Of particular interest are Epidaurus, Mycenae, Corinth and Olympia.
Do not miss the monasteries of Meteora which are perched on rocky peaks, these were once connected to the mainland by ladders, later a winch basket system was used to reach the top.

The Cycladic islands are themselves a popular destination for tourists: Golden beaches, gleaming white houses, deep blue sky and a turquoise sea. Although some of these see little tourism others can be crowded at times by both Greek and foreign visitors.

Rhodes, in the Dodecanese archipelago, is remarkable for its medieval city and its beautiful buildings on Knights Avenue: Of special interest are the Castle, palace and acropolis.
For beach lovers, you can choose between those of the Sporades archipelago, the Ionian Islands, and of course those in Crete.

Source: http://www.thebesttimetovisit.com/

WHAT TO SEE IN GREECE

Top destinations in Greece are:

  • Athens
  • Thessaloniki
  • Rhodes
  • Corfu
  • Santorini
  • Mykonos
  • Delphi
  • Lindos
  • Rethymno
  • Nafplio
  • Chania
  • Heraklion

WHEN TO GO TO GREECE

Weather in Greece

The best period to visit Greece is from May to October.

If anything is God-given to the Greeks, it is their climate. The best time to visit most of Greece is outside the mid-July to end of August peak season, when soaring temperatures, plus crowds of foreigners and locals alike, can be overpowering. You won’t miss out on warm weather if you come in June or September, excellent times almost everywhere but particularly on the islands. An exception to this, however, is the north mainland coast – notably the Halkidhikí peninsula – and the islands of Samothráki and Thássos, which only really bloom during July and August. In October you will almost certainly hit a stormy spell, especially in western Greece or in the mountains, but for most of that month the “little summer of Áyios Dhimítrios” (the Greek equivalent of Indian summer) prevails, and the southerly Dodecanese and Crete are extremely pleasant. Autumn, in general, is beautiful; the light is softer, the sea often balmier than the air and the colours subtler.

December to March are the coldest and least reliably sunny months, though even then there are many crystal-clear, fine days. The more northerly latitudes and high altitudes endure far colder and wetter conditions, with the mountains themselves under snow from November to May. The mildest winter climate is found on Rhodes, or in the southeastern parts of Crete. As spring slowly warms up, April is still uncertain, though superb for wildflowers, green landscapes and photography; by May the weather is more settled and predictable, and Crete, the Peloponnese, the Ionian islands and the Cyclades are perhaps at their best, even if the sea is still a little cool for swimming.

Other factors that affect timing for Greek travels have to do with the level of tourism and the amenities provided. Service standards occasionally slip under peak season pressure and room prices on the islands can rocket. If you can only visit during midsummer, it is wise to reserve a package well in advance, buy any ferry tickets beforehand or plan your itinerary off the beaten track. You might choose, for instance, to explore the less obvious parts of the Peloponnese and the northern mainland, or island-hop with an eye for the remoter places.

Out of season on the islands, you will have to contend with reduced ferry and plane services plus fairly skeletal facilities when you arrive. You will, however, find reasonable service on main routes and at least one hotel and taverna open in the port or main town of all but the tiniest isles. On the mainland, winter travel poses no special difficulties except, of course, in mountain villages either cut off by snow or (at weekends especially) monopolized by avid Greek skiers.

Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Greece

January

January 1: New Year’s Day (Protokhroniá) In Greece this is the feast day of Áyios Vassílios (St Basil). The traditional New Year greeting is “Kalí Khroniá”.

January 6: Epiphany (Theofánia/Tón Fóton) Marks the baptism of Jesus as well as the end of the twelve days of Christmas. Baptismal fonts, lakes, rivers and seas are blessed, especially harbours (such as Pireás), where the priest traditionally casts a crucifix into the water, with local youths competing for the privilege of recovering it.

February/March

Carnival (Apokriátika) Festivities span three weeks, climaxing during the seventh weekend before Easter. Pátra Carnival, with a chariot parade and costume parties, is one of the largest and most outrageous in the Mediterranean. Interesting, too, are the boúles or masked revels which take place around Macedonia (particularly at Náoussa), Thrace (Xánthi), and the outrageous Goat Dance on Skýros in the Sporades. The Ionian islands, especially Kefaloniá, are also good for carnival, as is Ayiássos on Lésvos, while Athenians celebrate by going around hitting each other on the head with plastic hammers.

Clean Monday (Kathará Dheftéra) The day after Carnival ends and the first day of Lent, 48 days before Easter, marks the start of fasting and is traditionally spent picnicking and flying kites.

March 25: Independence Day and the feast of the Annunciation (Evangelismós) Both a religious and a national holiday, with, on the one hand, military parades and dancing to celebrate the beginning of the revolt against Ottoman rule in 1821, and, on the other, church services to honour the news given to Mary that she was to become the Mother of Christ. There are major festivities on Tínos, Ýdhra and any locality with a monastery or church named Evangelístria or Evangelismós.

April/May

Easter (Páskha: April 15, 2012; May 5, 2013; April 20, 2014; April 12, 2015) The most important festival of the Greek year. The island of Ýdhra, with its alleged 360 churches and monasteries, is the prime Easter resort; other famous Easter celebrations are held at Corfu, Pyrgí on Híos, Ólymbos on Kárpathos and St John’s monastery on Pátmos, where on Holy Thursday the abbot washes the feet of twelve monks in the village square, in imitation of Christ doing the same for his disciples. Good Friday and Easter Monday are also public holidays.

April 23: The feast of St George (Áyios Yeóryios) St George, the patron of shepherds, is honoured with a big rural celebration, with much feasting and dancing at associated shrines and towns. If it falls during Lent, festivities are postponed until the Monday after Easter.

May/June

May 1: May Day (Protomayiá) The great urban holiday when townspeople traditionally make for the countryside to picnic and fly kites, returning with bunches of wildflowers. Wreaths are hung on their doorways or balconies until they are burnt in bonfires on St John’s Eve (June 23). There are also large demonstrations by the Left for Labour Day.

May 21: Feast of St Constantine and St Helen (Áyios Konstandínos & Ayía Eléni) Constantine, as emperor, championed Christianity in the Byzantine Empire; St Helen was his mother. There are firewalking ceremonies in certain Macedonian villages; elsewhere celebrated rather more conventionally as the name day for two of the more popular Christian names in Greece.

Whit Monday (Áyio Pnévma) Fifty days after Easter, sees services to commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit to the assembled disciples. Many young Greeks take advantage of the long weekend, marking the start of summer, to head for the islands.

June 29 & 30: SS Peter and Paul (Áyios Pétros and Áyios Pávlos) The joint feast of two of the more widely celebrated name days is on June 29. Celebrations often run together with those for the Holy Apostles (Áyii Apóstoli), the following day.

July

July 17: Feast of St Margaret (Ayía Marína) A big event in rural areas, as she’s an important protector of crops.

July 20: Feast of the Prophet Elijah (Profítis Ilías) Widely celebrated at the countless hilltop shrines of Profítis Ilías. The most famous is on Mount Taïyetos, near Spárti, with an overnight vigil.

July 26: St Paraskevi (Ayía Paraskeví) Celebrated in parishes or villages bearing that name, especially in Epirus.

August

August 6: Transfiguration of the Saviour (Metamórfosis toú Sotíros) Another excuse for celebrations, particularly at Khristós Ráhon village on Ikaría, and at Plátanos on Léros. On Hálki the date is marked by messy food fights with flour, eggs and squid ink.

August 15: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Apokímisis tís Panayías) This is the day when people traditionally return to their home village, and the heart of the holiday season, so in many places, there will be no accommodation available on any terms. Even some Greeks will resort to sleeping in the streets at the great pilgrimage to Tínos; also major festivities at Páros, at Ayiássos on Lésvos, and at Ólymbos on Kárpathos.

August 29: Beheading of John the Baptist (Apokefálisis toú Prodhrómou) Popular pilgrimages and celebrations at Vrykoúnda on Kárpathos.

September

September 8: Birth of the Virgin Mary (Yénnisis tís Panayías) Sees special services in churches dedicated to the event and a double cause for rejoicing on Spétses where they also celebrate the anniversary of the battle of the straits of Spétses. Elsewhere, there’s a pilgrimage of childless women to the monastery at Tsambíka, Rhodes.

September 14: Exaltation of the Cross (Ípsosis toú Stavroú) A last major summer festival, keenly observed on Hálki.

September 24: Feast of St John the Divine (Áyios Ioánnis Theológos) Observed on Níssyros and Pátmos, where at the saint’s monastery there are solemn, beautiful liturgies the night before and early in the morning.

October

October 26: Feast of St Demetrios (Áyios Dhimítrios) Another popular name day, particularly celebrated in Thessaloníki, of which he is the patron saint. In rural areas, the new wine is traditionally broached on this day, a good excuse for general inebriation.

October 28: Óhi Day A national holiday with parades, folk dancing and speeches to commemorate prime minister Metaxas’ one-word reply to Mussolini’s 1940 ultimatum: Ohi! (“No!”).

November

November 8: Feast of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel (Mihaïl and Gavriïl, or tón Taxiárhon) Marked by rites at the numerous churches named after them, particularly at the rural monastery of Taxiárhis on Sými, and the big monastery of Mandamádhos, Lésvos.

December

December 6: Feast of St Nicholas (Áyios Nikólaos) The patron saint of seafarers, who has many chapels dedicated to him.

December 25 & 26: Christmas (Khristoúyenna) If less all-encompassing than Greek Easter, Christmas is still an important religious feast, one that increasingly comes with all the usual commercial trappings: decorations, gifts and alarming outbreaks of plastic Santas on rooftops.

December 31: New Year’s Eve (Paramoní Protohroniá) As on the other twelve days of Christmas, a few children still go door-to-door singing traditional carols, receiving money in return. Adults tend to sit around playing cards, often for money. A specially baked loaf, the vassilópitta, in which a coin is concealed to bring its finder good luck throughout the year, is cut at midnight.

Source: http://www.roughguides.com/

HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH GREECE

Local transportation includes highly expensive inland flights, frequent buses, and ferries to travel to the islands. Once on an island, renting a scooter can be convenient. In the city, there are a lot of taxis which can be shared.

by plane, the main airports are:

by train

by car

GENERAL INFORMATION ON GREECE

health tips & vaccination: none

local currency: European euro

local time zone: GMT+2 (+3)

electricity: type C and type F (230 V – 50 Hz)

mobile phone operators:

WHAT TO DO IN GREECE

typical food in Greece

  • Dolmades, stuffed vine leaves;
  • Fasolatha, a hearty soup made of beans, crushed tomatoes, and vegetables such as onions, carrots and celery; often flavoured with thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
  • Gemista, tomatoes, peppers and courgettes, stuffed with rice and oven-baked;
  • Gigantes, big butter beans baked in a rich tomato sauce with olive oil;
  • Moussaka, aubergine casserole with minced lamb, cinnamon, red wine and olive oil;
  • Calamari, deep-fried rings of squid or octopus;
  • Gyro, kebab-like dish made of pieces of meat (usually chicken, pork, lamb or beef) cooked on a rotisserie and wrapped in a flatbread or pita along with salad, onions and a variety of sauces;
  • Koulouri, large soft bread rings covered with sesame seeds;
  • Souvlaki, spit-roasted meat, generally pork or chicken; usually served with tzatziki (a sauce made from yoghurt, cucumber and mint), pita bread, salad or rice.
  • Stifado, rich beef stew with caramelised onions, cinnamon and cloves;
  • Loukoumades, small fried doughnut-like balls drenched in honey syrup and sprinkled with various toppings such as cinnamon or crushed walnuts.
  • Galaktoboureko, custard slices, made with layers of flaky phyllo pastry and sprinkled with cinnamon;
  • Baklava, small sweet pastries soaked in honey-like syrup and layered with crushed nuts such as walnuts or almonds;
  • Kokkinisto, a rich stew of either beef, pork or chicken cooked with red wine and tomatoes;
  • Horiatiki, salad of feta cheese, tomato, cucumber, green peppers, black Kalamata olives and fresh olive oil;
  • Spanakopita, phyllo pastry layered with feta cheese and spinach and flavoured with dill;
  • Tyropitacrunchy phyllo pastry wrapped around a savoury cheese filling;
  • Krasi, wine – lefko is white, kokkino is red;
  • Retsina, wine made with pine-needle resin;
  • Ouzo, an aniseed-based clear spirit to which water is added;
  • Raki, a sharp and fiery spirit made from distilled grapes;
  • Metaxa, a Greek spirit, similar to brandy;
  • Greek coffee, thick and strong, and sugar according to taste;
  • Frappe, frothy iced coffee made from Nescafe and drunk through a straw;

souvenir from Greece

  • Woven bags;
  • Hand-painted Byzantine Icons;
  • Rugs;
  • Ceramics such as hand-made replicas of amphoras, wall-hangings, decorative plates and cups;
  • Hand-made leather sandals;
  • Bouzouki, the mandolin-like musical instrument
  • Komboloi, the typical worry beads;
  • Backgammon set;
  • Gold and silver jewellery;
  • Olive products: olive oil, olives, oil soap, oil shampoo and body lotions or olive wood items;
  • Honey, cheese, fresh and dehydrated herbswines and Ouzo;
  • Sweets such as LoukomiHalva, Baklava or Kataifi

SIMPLE DICTIONARY

Hello: Χαίρετε (Chaírete)

Goodbye: Αντίο (Αντίο)

How are you?: Πώς είσαι; (Pós eísai?)

Thank you: Ευχαριστώ (Efcharistó)

What is your name?: Πως σε λένε? (Pos se léne?)

How much is it?: Πόσο κοστίζει? (Póso kostízei?)

Sorry: Συγνώμη (Sygnómi)

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