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Our itinerary:

view of the caldera, from Ia on the island of Santorini, GreeceGreece 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 bin.
  • 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.
  • A church near the square at Agios Constantinos, GreeceThe typical Greek dresses in faded blue jeans and leather shoes or sneakers. Fancier attire can be found at fancy restaurants in the evening.
  • 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 quickly).
  • 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.
  • The Propylaia at the Acropolis, Athens, GreeceInternet 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 page.

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