|Greece is an important destination for any
world traveller, as Greece is the starting
point for so much of Western literature,
architecture, and politics. Its warm, sunny
climate is ideal for relaxing. And, its islands
offer stunning natural beauty.|
A few general observations from our two week
self-guided trip in early September of 2006:
- We had picture perfect weather -- daily highs
throughout our itinerary were in the low
80's, low humidity, clear blue skies and
bright sun, and mild to strong breezes (which
made for pleasant sightseeing weather, but
cool beach weather). Nights were crisp and
often required a sweater for outdoor dining.
- Our flights were non-stop between JFK and
Athens on Delta -- overall a pleasant experience,
but the over nine hour trip there and over
ten hour return were naturally a bit uncomfortable
in coach class.
- English is the second language of Greece,
widely spoken by the Greeks, and many street
signs, subway announcements, menus, and other
key information are in both Greek and English
in areas frequented by tourists.
- We found the water drinkable, but bottled
water is widely available at cheap prices
(as little as €0.50 for a large, 1.5
liter bottle) for those who are more cautious.
- The largest culture shock was the toilet:
many public toilets were western style, but
some had no seat, and others were squat toilets.
Toilet paper often times had to be purchased
from an attendant. Oddly, the paper is never
to be flushed but to be discarded in a trash
- Suitcases with large, sturdy wheels are essential
as smooth, paved surfaces are hard to find
outside of the airport. We found carrying
a separate luggage cart that we bought at
Wal-Mart very helpful because its 3.5"
wheels and 100 lb capacity enabled us to
stack and pull both suitcases at once over
all kinds of terrain.
- The typical Greek dresses in faded blue jeans
and leather shoes or sneakers.
can be found at fancy restaurants
- Taxi drivers are notorious for charging what
they think they can get. If at all possible,
choose the extremely cheap public transportation
(buses, trains, and ferries). If not, agree
on the fare before hand and don't show any
desperation (such as the need to get somewhere
- Greece is not a culinary destination, but
the food (fish, pork, and vegetables) are
adequate. Sandwiches are primarily bread
with a thin slice of meat and some slices
of tomato. The sesame bread rings (sold by
street vendors) are a good way to start the
day; they come in hardness ranging from soft
bread to almost stale breadstick crispness.
- For guides, we took the Lonely Planet (2005)
and Michelin's Green Guide (2004); the latter
added little to the information found in
the Lonely Planet, although Michelin did
provide a bit more detail on the highlights
of the museum collections. Neither guide
proved completely accurate on times and their
recommendations on restaurants often were
a bit off (perhaps as a result of changes
at the restaurants from being "discovered"
by the guides). Research on the internet
proved to be best source of information.
- Internet access was available throughout
the trip, with €1.50/hour in Iraklio,
Crete being the cheapest we found.
- Lastly, bring plenty of film or storage cards.
We didn't think we took a lot of pictures,
but we ended up with over 500 by the time
we got home.
Our two week trip was organized into three
phases: relaxation, natural scenery, and
antiquities. We relied on the excellent public
transportation system and stayed in a moderately
priced ($50 to $150 per night) hotel accommodations.
For more about our itinerary and experiences,
follow the links at the top left of this