Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GREECE AS AN ALL YEAR ROUND DESTINATION

Greece is such a unique and totally diverse country! It is a shame that when people think of Greece they only think of Summer holidays by the beach on some island or a cultural and historical immersion to the what is also called as the cradle of Civilization. Best of Greece as one of the leading specialists in holidays to Greece has been trying for years to change this false idea that Greece is a summer only destination! There are so many unique areas to visit! Cultural Sites Mountains and so much more! www.bestofgreece.co.uk We have been offering tailor made luxury holidays to Greece since 1973! We are sure that we can build up a dream holiday for you! Just tell us what you are dreaming of and we will do our utmost to make it a reality! The Greek National Tourism Organization wrote this very nice article which we also went through and added some other ideas! We really do hope you enjoy the read and would look forward to answering any requests you might have. Top 6 winter destinations in Greece Mount Pelion www.bestofgreece.co.uk Where: Mount Pelion will be an unforgetable experience, Only a few kilometres away from the busy port of Volos in Thessaly stands mythical Mt. Pelion, which according to Greek mythology was the home of the mythical Centaurs, creatures who were half man and half horse. Ancient Greek heroes such as Achilles, Jason and Theseus came to Mount Pelion to master the arts taught by the Centaurs. Mount Pelion is home to 24 beautiful villages. Why: The unique combination of superb natural surroundings, dense greenery, cascading waterfalls and gorges, romantic bays with crystal clear waters and outstanding local architecture make for a “four seasons’ destination” that attracts visitors all year long.
Must visit: Pelion boasts some of the most famous traditional villages in Greece; set against an idyllic backdrop of shimmering olive groves, dense forests and lush fruit orchards, these stone-built villages are the true gems of Pelion. Visit the lovely old village of Tsagaráda –home to a 1,000-year-old plane tree; Makrinitsa, the so-called balcony of Pelion, which affords magnificent views over the Aegean; Portaria, which thanks to its impressive traditional mansions has successfully managed to preserve its traditional colour untouched by time, and Chánia, with its famous ski centre. Activities on offer: Explore this unspoiled world on horseback! The horseback trip starts in Argalasti, an attractive village in the south of the peninsula. From here you can reach beaches on both sides of the peninsula – open sea or calm gulf. The cobblestone trails between villages lead you back through time and are ideal for rides on horseback. The main trails out of Argalasti lead to many interesting locations, such as Kalamos (6 km to the west) and Lefokastro (6 km to the NW). Ski down snowy slopes at the ski resort of Agriolefkes near the village of Chánia or walk along narrow winding cobbled paths known as calderimia. The Chánia-Kissós path is one of the most popular among trekking lovers.
INSIDERS SECRETS: • Discover one of Pelion’s best kept secrets: the tiny, exquisite cove of Fakistra; the highlight is a stream that springs from the mountain and flows into the sea. It is rather difficult to get down to it but it certainly worth it; even in winter the setting is very romantic; pure magic. • Follow a scenic route from the village of Milies...by train! Take the legendary Pelion stream train, a narrow-gauge rail track built more than a century ago by the father of the surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, which crosses stone bridges and passes through rugged landscapes; all the stations are of unique architectural interest. • Visit the village of Damouchari, where several scenes from the movie Mamma Mia were filmed! Accommodation: Ancient old mansions of traditional Pelian architecture that used to belong to rich merchants have been turned into cosy guesthouses offering an exquisite atmosphere that is difficult to find anywhere else in Greece. Famous local products: Taste mouth-watering pies and home-made “spoon sweets” (a traditional dessert consisting usually of fruit preserved in syrup) produced by local women’s associations with all kinds of local fresh fruit! Zayorohória villages www.bestofgreece.co.uk/epirus Where: At the heart of Epirus, nestling among the steep and snowy slopes of the Týmfi mountain range. Why: A complex of 46 picturesque traditional villages built in a magical setting amidst pine and fir trees with one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems in Europe. Its unique traditional architecture, impressive stone mansions and undulating, natural forest surroundings are the perfect ingredients for an unparalleled destination, ideal for action-packed holidays!
Must visit: Visit Zayóri’s most picturesque villages; Monodéndri is a restored stone village. Stroll down its narrow streets past the village’s stone courtyards; take the rocky trail starting from the central square that leads you to Vickos Gorge, which is awe-inspiringly deep! From there, admire the Monastery of St. Paraskevi nestling on a rock overlooking the Vickos Gorge. Mikro and Megalo Papigko, Aristi, Kipi and Dilofo are just some of the precious gems of Zayori. Gaze at the beautiful stone bridges which connect the villages. These are architectural masterpieces of superb craftsmanship which are often associated with legends and other local traditions. Activities on offer: Trekking lovers will have the chance to hit a variety of mountain trails in Zayorohória. Cross the Vickos Gorge following the route from Monodéndri north to Vikos- Vikos to Pápigo, and Monodéndri south to Kipi, a traditional small village with old arched stone bridges. The route is quite long (it lasts at least 5 hours), but it is a very rewarding experience! Starting from Pápigo you can take a much easier, three-hour trail; follow the path leading to Astráka refuge and then head for the summits of Astráka and Lápatos. Hit the trails that connect the villages Pápigo and Mikró Pápigo through the Vikos-Aoós National Forest; go for an invigorating swim in the two natural forest lakes. The village of Vovoúsa in eastern Zagori is ideal for bird watching as it is located near the National Park of Valia Kalda, a protected forest populated with rare species of flora and fauna. Hot tips: • Follow the mountain trails to Kípi, an ideal mountain tourism destination: cross its two rivers (Vikákis and Baniótikos) using the Kaloyerikó (or Plakidas), a three arch bridge with a serpentine deck. • Explore the magical “Drakolimni”, one of the three alpine lakes in the Pindus mountain range, which according to local legends used to be inhabited by dragons! • Don’t miss the opportunity to walk the famous Vradeto Stairs at the edge of Vickos Gorge. These stone 1,200 meter stairs connect the villages Vradéto and Kapésovo, and they were the only access to Vradéto village until 1973! • Trekking through the Asprággeli, Dikóryfo, Manassís and Kaloutás villages, you will find the Kaloutás Bridge, which used to connect the village to with the Vissikoú Monastery (dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary).
Accommodation: Traditional stone-built guesthouses offer a warm environment to rest in after your day has come to an end; enjoy a glass of fine wine by the fireplace before going to sleep or a delicious breakfast with fresh local products before starting your day! Famous local products: Experience the true magic of Zayorohória: have a delicious meal in a mezedopoleío (local tavern) and taste the famous local pies accompanied by sweet local wine! Mountainous Arcadia www.bestofgreece.co.uk/peloponnese Where: Among the steep slopes of Mt. Mainalo in the Peloponnese nestle the mountain villages of Dimitsána, Stemnítsa and Vytína. Why: Get a deeper insight into Greek history by visiting the places where the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Turks actually began; a place synonymous with legendary heroes, fierce battles and glorious achievements. Today thanks to its proximity to Athens and its striking beauty Mountainous Arcadia is one of the most popular winter destinations in Greece.
Must visit: The village of Dimitsána; built like an amphitheatre overlooking the Lousios River, Lousios valley and the plains of Megalopoli, Dimitsána is nicely surrounded by snow covered mountain tops and lush pine tree forests. Some of its most famous sights are the six remaining legendary Gunpowder Mills that used to produce gunpowder for the Revolutionary War, the Philosophou and Timiou Prodromou Monasteries; the archaeological site of Gortyna and the houses of heroes of the Revolution. The village of Stemnitsa is a typical traditional Arcadian settlement set amidst ancient plane and fir trees. It boasts grand stone mansions, Byzantine churches, cobblestone paths, a beautiful square and an interesting Folklore Museum. At the heart of Mountainous Arcadia, among the slopes of Mt. Mainalo, lies the most popular tourist destination in Arcadia, Vytina, famous for its unique architecture and blessed with a rugged landscape. Home to a number of legendary heroes of the Revolutionary War, Vytína faced the rage of the Turks many times and the village was burned down on 7 occasions! Vytína used to be an important centre of for the textile industry and woodcraft but today the economy is largely based on tourism. Activities on offer: Go rafting down the Lousios River; if you are a trekking fan hit the mountain trails and take in the breathtaking scenery or glide down snowy mountain slopes at Mainalo ski resort, an ultra modern ski centre with first-class facilities. Hot tips: • Visit the Open Air Water-Power Museum in Dimitsána, the only museum of its kind, which demonstrates basic pre-industrial techniques using water as the main source of energy to produce a variety of goods. • Stroll around the picturesque district of Kastro in Stemnitsa and take in an amazing view of the Margaritsa Gorge sprawling below. • Visit the Folklore Museum, the “Greek School” and the Library of Vytína, where you can admire rare books and manuscripts. Accommodation: Impressive stone mansions turned into cosy family run guesthouses or first-class hotels offer a wide range of facilities and a cosy atmosphere to relax in with your family or to enjoy romantic moments by the fireplace with your other half. Famous local products: Sample sweet-smelling honey, crunchy nuts, fresh dairy products, delicious local cheese or healing herbal infusions; don’t forget to buy local folklore items like wooden sculptures or textiles before you leave. Cruise around the Peloponnese http://www.bestofgreece.co.uk/el/locations/greek_cruises/cruises_yachts/antiquity_to_byzantium_cruise_greece A unique idea which has been created by our preferred small ship cruise line Variety Cruises. On a unique 55 meter mega yacht which has sailed from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and the India Ocean. An amazing experience which takes you to some of the most beautiful sites around the Peloponnese!
Day 1: Friday- Marina Zea Embarkation 2-3 pm, enjoy a welcome drink and meet the crew and fellow passengers. Sail for Palaia (old) Epidaurus arriving in the evening. Dinner onboard. Day 2: Saturday- Palaia Epidaurus An early morning drive to Ancient Epidaurus which was known throughout Greece as a healing sanctuary. It is reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son and for its 300BC built theater which is still in use. Lunch onboard and then sail to Nafplion. Overnight in port. Day 3: Sunday- Nafplion/Mycenae After a short tour of Nafplion, we will go through the countryside of Argolis for Mycenae. We will visit the Ancient city and the; Lion’s Gate, Palace, Agamemnon Tomb and museum. Lunch onboard, then sail to Monemvassia. Overnight to Gythion. Day 4: Monday- Gythion Early morning arrival in Gythion. Trip to the Mani peninsula, Cape Tenaro and the spectacular Dirou Caves. Ancient Gythion; inhabited from prehistoric times and used by the Spartans as their naval base. We will cross the Mani Peninsula to reach Diros and visit the caves. Then to Areopolis for a stroll through the town. Overnight at sea to Pylos.
Day 5: Tuesday- Pylos A picture-perfect seaside town in the southwest of the Peloponnese. It is the site of one of the most important naval battles that led to the independence of Greece. We will visit Nestor’s Palace with well-preserved royal apartments decorated with frescoes and a central courtyard. We will then go to the town and visit its museum. Overnight sailing to Katakolon. Day 6: Wednesday- Katakolon/Olympia Arrive early morning in Katakolon, disembark around 7:00 a.m., then on a bus to Olympia; the birthplace of the Olympic Games. We will visit the Archaeological Museum and explore the Temples of Hera and Zeus. Lunch in the town of Olympia and then visit the museum of the History of the Olympic Games of Antiquity. We will travel by land to re-board in Patras, where we depart for Itea in the Gulf of Corinth. Overnight in Itea. Day 7: Thursday- Itea/Delphi Morning excursion to Delphi, one of the most revered sites of the ancient world. We will disembark early morning. Delphi is built on the side of a mountain with stunning views. We will spend half a day exploring the ruins and the museum. Then return to the ship and cross the Corinth Canal heading for Marina Zea. Overnight in Marina Zea Day 8: Friday- Marina Zea Disembarkation after breakfast. Arahova Where: Aráhova is a mountainous village nestling picturesquely at the foot of Mt. Parnassós in Viotia, Southern Greece Why: Because it is the most cosmopolitan winter destination in Greece, a great favourite for passionate ski lovers and celebrities, or just first-time visitors who wish to relax in a dreamy mountainous setting with modern tourism facilities. Its modern ski resort, its close proximity to Athens, and its breathtaking mountainous landscape are the strongest reason why. Apart from the mountain activities, Aráhova is also famous for its bustling nightlife! Must visit: The Byzantine churches of the village with their well preserved frescos. Activities on offer: Get involved in outdoor activities such as hiking or ski down the slopes of Mt. Parnassós at the biggest downhill ski resort in Greece. The mountain’s high altitude offers ski lovers long-lasting snow cover at the peaks. Hot tips: • Discover the traditional character of the village by taking leisurely walks through its narrow cobblestone streets. Enjoy hot and sweet or soft and fruity drinks in cafés, or traditional kafeneia (coffee shops). • Stay up all night and enjoy the village’s bustling nightlife. There are a plethora of bars and clubs up and down the streets of Aráhova. • Visit the nearby archaeological site of Delphi. Accommodation: Various elegant first-class hotels or traditional guest houses offer luxurious accommodation. Famous local products: Aráhova offers a memorable gourmet experience; taste local specialties: kontosoúvli (big hunks of pork skewered and put on a rotisserie with onions, tomatoes, peppers and seasoned with salt and pepper, garlic and oregano), kokorétsi (the intestines of the lamb stuffed with offal), sarmádes (stuffed grape leaves), traditional pies, handmade trahanás (pasta soup, can be sweet or sour), and hilopites (egg noodles made in linguine-sized strips, cut into small pieces). Aráhova also produces the famous cheese “formaéla”, a sweet smelling hard rind cheese of with a relatively mild flavour that you should definitely taste! Have a sip of the divine Parnassós local wine, the red “Mavroudi”, which achieved Protected Designation of Origin status in 2006. The “Black Aráhova vine” is a full-bodied prolific variety that produces wines of a deep red hue with a high alcohol content. Complete your meal with traditional “spoon-sweets”, or even better, try yogurt with honey, a dessert served compliments of the house. Before you leave Aráhova, pick up some hand-made beautifully coloured woven carpets (flocati rugs) and textiles to take with you as a going-away present. Karpenissi Where: A mountain village situated in Evritania, Greece. Why: Towering snow capped mountains; deep ravines; fast-flowing rivers and lakes; impressive gorges; Byzantine monasteries and tiny mountain villages make out an form an alpine landscape that promises to offer the ultimate winter experience! Must visit: The most popular sights of Karpenissi: The Byzantine Church of Agia Triada in Karpenissi, the Church of Panagia in Fousiana, Agia Paraskevi in Vraggiana and Proussos Monastery, the Library and the picturesque squares of Markos Botsaris and Katsantonis, both famous heroes of the Revolution. Activities: Trekking along winding mountain paths; canoe-kayaking in Kremaston Lake; kayaking and rafting down the Aheloos, Tavropos and Trikeriotis rivers; horse riding; canoeing through the gorges of Viniani and Vothonas; jeep safari and skiing at the modern ski resort of Karpenissi, one of the biggest and most popular in Greece. Follow scenic routes and admire the undulating natural surroundings. Two suggested routes are: Karpenissi - Gorgianades - Korishades - Klausi - Voutiro - Nostimo - Megalo Horio - Mikro Horio - Palio Mikro Horio – Proussos and Karpenissi - Viniani - Kerasohori - Marathos - Monastiraki - Epiniana - Agrafa - Tridendro - Trovato - Vraggiana – Agrafa. Hot tip: Visit the beautifully preserved district of Korishades and tour its fascinating museums such as the National Resistance Museum; visit restored manor houses, Byzantine churches, schools transformed into museums and the arched bridges of the area, wonderful examples of local architecture. Accommodation: Choose from among family run pensions, welcoming guesthouses or luxurious hotels! Famous local products: Taste fried trout and mushrooms (morchella) in red sauce. Other exquisite local products on offer include Katiki, which is a Euritanian goat cheese, feta cheese, yoghurt and butter, local meat, beans, noodles, pasta, chestnuts and walnuts, berries, black cherries, crab apples, figs and kumquats, honey and superb “spoon sweets” as well as wine, tsipouro and liqueurs. Don’t forget to buy folk art products, like handmade rugs and woven fabrics of exceptional quality. At best of Greece we pride ourselves of excellence in every detail! A client who has booked with us is sure to receive the best specialist services for an unforgettable holiday in Greece. Whether you are looking for a 5 star luxury hotel with spa and every other treatment you can imagine or just a beautiful traditional little hotel in an unknown and unspoilt part of Greece we can give you the best possible advice! Just ask and find out what our tailor made services are all about

Saturday, October 8, 2011

MOUSAKA RECIPE- HOW TO MAKE A MOUSAKA

Best of Greece is the top specialist for tailor-made holidays to Greece! Find out more under www.bestofgreece.co.uk Our devotion to Greece as a country and the Greek way of living is now helping you become a true Greek fan yourselves! We have found a great recipe of how to make Mousaka! One of the most known Greek delicacies! We hope you enjoy the recipe and look forward to hearing how it finally tasted ! We found this recipe on SimplyRecipes.com and the person who wrote it was Elise! Thank you Elise for this great recipe!
Moussaka is to the Eastern Mediterranean what lasagna is to Italy: A very rich, special casserole that is perfect for Sunday dinners or potluck gatherings. The recipe takes some time to put together, but like a good lasagna, it’s worth it. This version is Greek, although every country in the region makes its own version of moussaka. Even the Greek versions have endless variety, from different ingredients in the meat sauce, choices of meat, amount of béchamel, how they cut and cook the eggplants, whether to use potatoes, etc. The best way to make moussaka is in steps. Start with the meat sauce, and while that is simmering, prep the potatoes and eggplant. Make the béchamel last because it is not a sauce that holds very well. Don't be intimidated by the number of steps, we've just detailed the process carefully to make it easier to follow. Do you have a favorite way of preparing moussaka? Please let us know about it. Also check out the links to more moussaka approaches from other food bloggers in the link list below the recipe. Moussaka Recipe A word on the cheese: All sorts of cheese can be used here, and to be most authentic, use kefalotyri. We used mizithra, which is becoming increasingly available in supermarkets. No need to search the globe for these cheeses, however, as a pecorino or any hard grating cheese will work fine. INGREDIENTS Meat sauce 2 pounds ground lamb or beef 2 Tbsp olive oil 1 chopped onion 4 chopped garlic cloves 1 teaspoon allspice 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon black pepper 1 Tbsp dried oregano 2 Tbsp tomato paste 1/2 cup red wine Zest of a lemon 2 Tbsp or more of lemon juice Salt to taste Bechamel sauce 1 stick unsalted butter 1/2 cup flour 1 teaspoon salt 4 cups whole milk 4 egg yolks 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg The moussaka 3 large globe eggplants 1/2 cup salt 8 cups water 2-3 Yukon gold or other yellow potatoes 1 cup grated mizithra cheese (or pecorino or Parmesan) Olive oil METHOD Prepare the meat sauce 1 Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and brown the ground meat. By the way, the meat will brown best if you don't stir it. Add the onions about halfway into the browning process. Sprinkle salt over the meat and onions. 2 Once the meat is browned and the onions have softened, add the garlic, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3 Add the red wine and mix well. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat and continue to simmer gently, uncovered for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Add the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Mix well and taste. If the sauce needs more acidity, add more lemon juice. Set the sauce aside. Prepare the potatoes and eggplants 4 Mix the 1/2 cup salt with the 8 cups of water in a large pot or container. This will be the brine for the eggplants.
5 Slice the top and bottom off the eggplants. Cut thick strips of the skin off the eggplants to give them a striped appearance. A little skin on the eggplant is good for texture, but leaving it all on makes the moussaka hard to cut later, and can add bitterness, which you don’t want. (Some moussaka recipes leave the skin on and have you slice the eggplants lengthwise, which is an option if you prefer.) Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and drop them into the brine. 6 Let the eggplants sit in the brine 15-20 minutes, then remove them to a series of paper towels to dry. Place a paper towel down on the counter, layer some eggplant on it, then cover with another sheet of paper towel and repeat. 7 As the eggplants are brining, peel and slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds. Boil them in salted water for 5-8 minutes – you want them undercooked, but no longer crunchy. Drain and set aside.
8 To cook the eggplant, broil or grill the rounds. You could also fry the eggplant rounds but they tend to absorb a lot of oil that way. To grill the eggplant rounds, get a grill very hot and close the lid. Paint one side of the eggplant rounds with olive oil and grill 2-3 minutes. When they are done on one side, paint the other side with oil and flip. When the eggplants are nicely grilled, set aside. To broil, line a broiling pan or roasting pan with aluminum foil. Paint with olive oil. Place the eggplant rounds on the foil and brush with olive oil. Broil for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned on one side, then flip them over and broil for a few minutes more. Set aside. Prepare the béchamel 9 Heat milk in a pot on medium heat until steamy (about 160 degrees). Do not let simmer. 10 Heat the butter in a small pot over medium heat. When the butter has completely melted, slowly whisk in the flour. Let this roux simmer over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Do not let it get too dark. 11 Little by little, pour in the steamy milk, stirring constantly. It will set up and thicken dramatically at first, but keep adding milk and stirring, the sauce will loosen. Return the heat to medium. Add about a teaspoon of salt and the nutmeg. Stir well.
12 Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine. Temper the eggs so they don’t scramble when you put them into the sauce. Using two hands, one with a whisk, the other with a ladle, slowly pour in a couple ladle’s worth of the hot béchamel into the eggs, whisking all the time. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the béchamel while whisking the mixture. Keep the sauce on very low heat, do not let simmer or boil. Finish the moussaka
13 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Layer a casserole with the potatoes, overlapping slightly. Top the layer of potatoes with a layer of eggplant slices (use just half of the slices).
14 Cover the eggplant slices with the meat sauce. Then layer remaining eggplant slices on top of the meat.
15 Sprinkle half the cheese on top. Ladle the béchamel over everything in an even layer. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. 16 Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Let the moussaka cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Yield: Serves 8. I hope you find this recipe interesting and helpful! We do look forward to hearing your feedback from it! Your holiday specialist to Greece Best of Greece www.bestofgreece.co.uk

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A GREAT ARTICLE ABOUT THESSALONIKI

Best of Greece is the leading specialist in Tailor-Made Luxury Holidays to Greece since 1973! www.bestofgreece.co.uk In our effort to bring forward new city breaks to Greece we have been one of the first tour operators to include the wonderful city of Thessaloniki! Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and is also called the city which never sleeps! It is city full of culture, history and happy faces! We are sure that a holiday to Thessaloniki and the surrounding areas will be a holiday you will forever cherish! Find out more about this fascinating city www.bestofgreece.co.uk/thessaloniki We found this very interesting article written on the Telegraph by Robin Gauldie! We hope you enjoy it!
I like to start a visit to Thessaloniki with an early morning stroll through the market district and perhaps a wee ouzo in one of its back-alley cafés. Then a tour of the fish hall, among stalls heaped with eels, carp, crabs, lobster, octopus, squid, bream, sardines, mackerel and other less familiar fruits of the sea and rivers of northern Greece – so fresh that many still wriggle. The markets – the flower stalls of the old Ottoman Bedesten, the Modano with its piles of oranges and melons, barrels overflowing with olives and dried fruits and herbs and spices and tiny shops selling icons, good-luck charms and slender beeswax church candles – have survived a century of upheavals. "Salonika of the late 19th century was a combination of smart seafront mansions, shops selling European luxuries, modern transport, old-fashioned Oriental alleys and markets, frescoed churches and shady Muslim graveyards," writes Bruce Clark, author of Twice a Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey. But in the following century, war, foreign occupation, fire, the great "exchange of populations", genocide and earthquakes changed the face of the city. Once a place where Muslims, Jews and Greeks lived side by side, it is now almost wholly Greek. There are surprisingly few traces of almost 500 years of Ottoman rule – the White Tower, a handful of Koranic inscriptions, the domes of a Turkish hammam or two and a few minarets.
The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki tells the story of the Sephardic community which dominated much of the city's cultural and economic life from the late 15th century until the early 20th century.
Relics of an earlier era abound either side of Egnatia Odos, the road along which the legions once marched from Constantinople, and which is still the city's main thoroughfare. The second-century Roman forum is being excavated, but half a dozen grandiose Byzantine churches are scattered along the road's length and the triumphal Arch of Galerius is a classic piece of Roman vainglory, with its friezes of fleeing Persians and victorious legions. Just north stands the circular Agios Georgios (St George), also commissioned by the Emperor Galerius (around AD300) and one of the world's oldest Christian churches, with superb mosaics.
Saving the best till last, the highlight of the Archaeological Museum is the Gold of Macedon collection, with its silver-guilt ceremonial wreaths, jewellery and splendid wine vessels. Across the street, the Museum of Byzantine Culture exhibits mosaics, frescoes and wonderful icons that give you some idea of Thessaloniki in its pre-Ottoman golden age. These are the parts of the city's history that its present inhabitants prefer to remember. Its more recent histories, it seems, most feel should remain in the past.
You can find a selection of the best hotels in Thessaloniki as well as beautiful ideas of what to while you are there at www.bestofgreece.co.uk/thessaloniki/hotels We look forward to arrangin a memorable holiday in Greece for you! Best of Greece

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ALL ABOUT THESSALONIKI

Best of Greece is the leading specialist for luxury tailor made holidays to Greece since 1973.
www.bestofgreece.co.uk



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Formerly the co-capital of the Byzantine Empire, Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece. It is located in Northern Greece and is surrounded by low hills and facing the Thermaikos Gulf. It has a busy port that is complimented by a beautiful waterfront promenade.

This city has beautiful parks, many museums and even though it that has maintained a continuous history of 3,000 years, it has become a very modern city known for its nightlife, it’s shopping, its food and deserts as well as its ancient monuments. It is also home to many a Greek poet, writer, musician and philosopher.

With the combination of ancient ruins and the modern buildings this cosmopolitan city is said to be more attractive than the actual capital of Greece. Sometimes referred to as the Jewel of the North, Thessaloniki does not have many high rise buildings which is great for the city’s visitors and residents as there are sea vies from all over town. Thessaloniki has a lively café culture and many of the cafes and restaurants are found in the two main squares that sit on the waterfront.

Thessaloniki is famous for its White Tower, if you have seen photographs of Thessaloniki this is the tower you will have seen. It was built as part of the city’s walls and now stands alone on the waterfront. It has become the city’s most famous landmark.

This great city is provides it visitors with all the necessary facilities, copious accommodation options, sea views, beautiful old buildings, landmarks, Byzantine churches and much much more.




HISTORY

Thessaloniki was built in the area where ancient Therme stood. It was founded by King Kassandros in 315 BC. He named the city after his wife, who was a relation of Alexander the Great. By the 2nd century BC the city had become a protected city with walls built around it.

Like most of Greece Thessaloniki has been home to many a different civilization, because of its strategic position and its port that provides access to the Aegean and the Eastern Markets. There are cultural influences from the Turkish, the Jewish, the Serbians but also from the Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman Empire.

The Romans took over in 168 BC when the Kingdom of Macedon fell. The Romans took advantage of the position of the city and used it to connect the trading routes between Turkey and Albania as well as facilitating trade with Asia. They built a harbour (the famous “Burrowed Harbour”) that accommodated all the trade, up until the 18th century.

In 379, during the Byzantine Era, Thessaloniki became second only to Constantinople. During the Byzantine Era the city was subjected to a lot of violence. This included the invasion of by the Slavs and the Barbarians, which led to the slaughter of slaves and citizens. The city was only restored during the gradual recovery of the Byzantine power during the 10th, 11th and 12th Century. Due to its past, a strong Jewish community re-established itself in the 12th Century.


Thessaloniki moved into the hands of the Latin Empire in 1204 after flourishing financially as well as culturally under the Byzantine rule.

The city then changed hands between the Latin Empire, the Greeks, the Bulgarians and then back to the Byzantine Empire all between 1204 and 1246. The swapping of hands did not effect the growth of the city instead the city obtained a great intellectual and artistic reputation.

Thessaloniki was not left alone for long and it eventually was ruled by the Zealot Social Movement, who introduced progressive social ideas during their short rule.

The Byzantine Empire finally let go of the city in 1423 when they sold it to the Venetians, who lost the city after 7 years to the Ottoman Empire after a siege of 3 days. During the Empire’s rule the Muslims in the City eventually outnumbered the Greeks in the City. The Jewish community also grew significantly during their rule. Thessaloniki again was used because of its strategic position and became one of the most important cities within the Empire.

During the early 1900s a lot of Bulgarians moved into Thessaloniki and it became a hub for their political and cultural activity. The Ottoman Empire eventually gave into the Greek army in 1912 during the first Balkan War. In 1913 after the 2nd Balkan War Thessaloniki was named an integral city of Greece after the signing of the Treaty of Bucharest.

In 1917 Thessaloniki was set ablaze in what is now known as the “Great Thessaloniki Fire”. This single fire set alight thousands of homes, leaving in total 72,000 people homeless. Many Greeks then returned to the city for refuge from Asia Minor.

Thessaloniki also suffered largely from the bombings during the Second World War. However, the city recovered and was rebuilt quickly, leading it to eventually become the wonderful city that it is today.

You can see evidence of all the people that came through this area in the Modern city that stands today.

SIGHTSEEING

The White Tower

As we have already described above the White Tower is the city’s most famous landmark, so you will appreciate that this is something you have got to see. You can see it by walking along the waterfront but we would suggest that you go up to their rooftop café. From up there you can sip on a coffee or cocktail whilst enjoying a panoramic view of the city. You can also wonder into the Museum within the Tower housing artefacts from 300 AD to 1500 AB.

The Arch of Galerius & The Rotanda

The Arch is located in the Historical part of Thessaloniki. It was built in 305 AD to celebrate the defeat of the Persians. Unfortunately only a part of the monument still stands. It used to be an eight pillared gateway and now only two archways remain.

The Rotanda is located just a 100 metres or so from the Arch. This is a circular Church that was built approx 306 AD. It was originally built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Galerius but was then used as a Church and was embellished with lovely mosaics.

The Roman Forum

Originally a Greek Marketplace (Agora) which became a Roman Forum, this archaeological site is located close to the Diaksterion Square. It has an incredibly well preserved theatre which is still used for the occasional summer production.

Ano Poli

Take the time to go up and visit the “Ano Poli” (upper town) or Old Town. It is a vantage point for magnificent views and as it was not destroyed by the famous fire in 1917 it is the Heritage listed area of Thessaloniki. It has cobble stone streets, old squares, lovely little tavernas, old Greek and Ottoman Houses and is surrounded by the city’s remaining walls. You can also access the Seich Sou Forest National Park from there. Wander up to the top of this city’s Acropolis and enjoy some time in Old Thessaloniki with endless views of the Gulf and if you are lucky views of Mount Olympus.



Churches

This city has numerous wonderful churches, both big and small and that were constructed during many different Eras. Many of the Churches are found in the ‘Ano Poli”. Some of the most important Churches around are the following:
“Agia Sofia” which is a copy of the “Agia Sophia” in Istanbul, it was built in the 8th Century AD.
The Church of Apostoli is rich in Byzantine decorations and dates back to the 14th century.
“Agios Nikolaos Orfanos” was also built in the 14th century and has beautiful frescoes.

Museums

Archaelogical Museum: Rumoured to be one of the best museums in Europe, this museum houses a huge collection of artefacts and incredible treasures. You will even get to see the Tomb of Alexander the Great’s Father. The collection includes exquisite mosaics, the only fully intact papyrus in Greece form the 3rd Century and various other great items.

Museum of Byzantine Culture: This museum has a permanent collection of items that give a visitor of the museum a good look at what the culture and art was like during the Byzantine Era. They also hold temporary exhibitions.

Museum of Contemporary Art: a very newly established Museum (est. in 1997), this Museum has a permanent exhibition of the George Costakis collection which consists mainly of Russian Avant-Grade Art Works. The Museum also houses Temporary exhibitions and provides educational programs.

Municipal Art Gallery of Thessaloniki: the exhibition is housed in a beautiful Edectic Style House and it includes 1,000 or so Art Works and they also regularly have other exhibitions. The Museum is located in a wonderful part of Thessaloniki with old buildings which is worth walking around.

THINGS TO DO

Little Trips

Mount Athos: We are afraid only men can visit this Sanctuary. It is approx. 130 km from Thessaloniki but if you would like to take a step back in time and stay in one of the most scenic places in Europe this is the place to visit. The Monastaries resemble castles in their enormity and structure. They have libraries, gorgeous frescoes and mosaics, amazing seashore and incredible gardens.

Mount Olympus: 77 km from Thessaloniki Mount Olympus, the tallest in Greece standing at close to 3000 metres, towers up into the sky. If you are up for a long walk and a viewing of very rich tree and plant life, you should visit Mount Olympus and at least have a glimpse of it. If you are feeling adventurous you can climb the whole way up, keep in mind it takes approx. two days.

Vergina: this small cluster of archaeological sites, includes a palace, a theatre and hundreds of burial mounds. The area in which they lie connects to the life of Phillip (Alexander the Great’s father). He built the palace and the theatre and was assassinated there.

Beaches

There are no beaches that are in walking distance from Thessaloniki’s city centre. You will need to hire a car or jump on bus heading in the right direction. The coastline that runs along Thessaloniki and neighbouring areas is stunning and provides a number of options for people who want to have a swim.

Agia Triada- 26 km from Thessaloniki, this is a wonderful beach that has been awarded a Blue Flag. It is long and can get quite crowded in the summer.
Angelochori Beach- 30 km from Thessaloniki, here you can enjoy a nice swim or get active by doing some water sports such as Kite surfing.
Aretsou Beach- located very close to Thessaloniki this stretch of sand has cafes, restaurants etc.
Nei Epivates Beach- approx 24 km from Thessaloniki, this is a beach resort with 200 metres of sand to lie on.

There are number of other beaches you may want to visit but most are a bit further out from the city’s centre.


Shopping

Being the second largest city in Greece the shopping here is how it is in most cities. There are a number of Shopping Malls, boutique shops, street shops, souvenir shops etc. There are places you can find pretty much anything. The city isn’t very large but there are great markets and local shops.
If you are looking for a few souvenirs and some nibbles start in the local food market and then for whatever else you are looking for we would suggest you start your search on Agia Sophia Street, Mitropoleos Street or in Aristotelous Square. You should also check out Tsimiski Street and the Proxenou and Koromilia Shopping Areas.

NIGHTLIFE

This city is known for its nightlife! Your nights out here will remain unforgettable. The options of where to go, what to listen to and what type of bar/club are numerous. As you are aware the clubs open around 11 and stay open until the early hours of the morning. You can find traditional Greek music in Bars or you could even visit the Bouzoukia, you can find house, rock, soul, jazz, and pretty much anything else. The liveliest areas for going out are Ladadika, Mylos, Nea Krini and Aretsou, you will find everything from clubs and bars to ouzeris and restaurants.

If you are in the mood for gambling there is also a casino you can visit which is about an hour’s drive form the centre out toward the airport.

WHERE TO WINE AND DINE

The options of where to eat in Thessaloniki are also numerous. You can choose to eat down by the waterfront, in town or up by the castle walls in “Ano Poli”. It all depends what you are looking for. The area of town that accommodates more for the younger crowd is around Aristotelous square, the square has various cafes and restaurants. If you are looking for ouzeris and meze you should wander down to Ionos Dragoumi.

The food in Thessaloniki in general is of good value and of a good quality. You should try the Bougatsa’s with cheese, potatoes etc and their large souvlakia. The cuisine in this city is largely influenced by the East due to the occupation of the Ottoman Empire.
Thessaloniki is famous for a number of sweets and pastries so don’t miss the chance to try them. You have to try their traditional sweet Bougatsa (cream pie), Trigona panoramas (pastry filled with chocolate or vanilla cream) and Tsoureki (sweet bread).

Book your holidays to Thessaloniki or any other place in Greece with the specialist! Best of Greece
http://www.bestofgreece.co.uk/el/locations/best_of_thessaloniki_holidays

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Peloponnese paradise: Deserted beaches and ancient olive groves in the 'new' Greece

Best of Greece tailor made holidays to Greece
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We have been offering packages to Greece since 1973!
Our reservations and product team are people who know Greece by heart!
They are either people who have lived in Greece for many years or are Greeks who have lived in Greece for at least some years!

We found this article from the Daily mail which we believe that you will find very interesting!
Enjoy the read!


Peloponnese paradise: Deserted beaches and ancient olive groves in the 'new' Greece
By LEE MANNION

If anyone needs your holiday money at the moment, it's Greece.
The birthplace of modern civilisation, philosophy and medicine has become the sick man of Europe and those mental images of beautiful, sunkissed beaches have somehow been replaced by news footage of violent protests and riots.
But there's no sign of drama and destitution down in the Western part of the Peloponnese - Greece's southern peninsula - only a bullish determination to focus on the country's lucrative tourist industry with a new Mediterranean development.

Costa Navarino, in the south-west region of Messinia, didn't exist five years ago. If you'd visited the area back then you would have experienced a rough and ready coastline with hot and dusty countryside that mostly existed on olive agriculture.

The place to be: The Costa Navarino hopes to be the next big thing in the Mediterranean
But that was before a local shipping magnate spotted the coastal area's potential and vowed to make it Greece's new must-visit destination.
Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos dreamt up a plan to create a high-end resort that would fit in with the natural beauty of the area and provide enough local jobs so that young men wouldn't have to keep leaving to head for the cities and tourist areas.
The result is a surprisingly subtle development featuring two hotels, the Westin Resort - which I was to call home during my stay - and the Romanos Luxury Collection, both set among olive groves with views out over the Ionian Sea.

While the hotels offer all the resort facilities we have come to expect from a luxury Mediterranean holiday destination, including multiple restaurants and golf courses, 90 per cent of the area is reserved for natural or cultivated greenery, as per the orders of Captain Constantakopoulos.

The strict environmental regulations maintain the quiet ambiance and rugged scenery that is so associated with the Peloponnese, an area that, although known as the garden of Greece, has remained surprisingly untouched by mass tourism.
There are still stretches of serene sandy beach and pretty white-washed villages as well as little-visited Mykenaean palaces and Byzantine churches dotted around the Messinia province.

Take a dip: Voidokilia Beach is one of the best in the world according to the New York Times
And the culinary offerings are enough to have anyone salivating. No wonder Costa Navarino has decided to cash in on the food of the gods by offering cookery courses. All the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet are taught here and the food is so local, you can go and pick it yourself.
The head chef is Doxis Bekris, who has worked with British big hitters like Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, and has previously helped guests conjure up dishes like succulent roasted chicken fillet, stuffed with aromatic herbs, butter and a yogurt sauce.

Chop chop: Lee gets to grips with some local produce in the kitchen
And his own protegees are on hand to help this novice with everything from how to chop properly to recognising which vegetables in the kitchen garden are ripe enough to be picked.
But finding fresh produce to cook can be a hair-raising business. The ingredients don't always grow where you want them to.
Wild fennel, for example, prospers around the golf course, leading to Monty Python-esque scenes featuring chefs dashing across the greens in their whites, halting golfers mid swing so they can find what is needed for the night's dinner menu.
Olive trees are everywhere (6,500 of them were successfully transplanted as the resort took shape) and the estate makes good use of them. Aside from the olive oil produced, you can find some unusual local delicacies.
Mixed with herbs, spices and dough, the oil is the vital ingredient in koulourakia, moreish cinnamon smelling biscuits traditionally baked at Easter.
Then there is Elea, a single olive softened and sweetened with honey offered on a silver teaspoon as a welcome to guests. It may sound strange, but it tastes a little like a syrupy date.
Further use is made of Greece's most famous export in the hotel's serene Anazoe spa, which offers oil-based wraps and massages.
Back at the Westin, I retire to my room after a morning spent picking and chopping, to lounge on the terrace, which comes complete with my own infinity pool and view to the sea.
The other hotel on the complex, the Romanos, even offers rooms with three levels of water: You can recline in your bath, overlooking your pool and the sea beyond.

Down at the beach, a five minute stroll away, staff proffer towels as I arrive for a swim and I am assured that if I want to indulge in a more energetic pastime, paddle boarding and windsurfing can be arranged.
Ten minutes down the road lies Voidokilia, one of the best beaches in the world according to the New York Times and well worth a visit. Its shallow, crystalline waters are overlooked by a crumbling 13th Century castle and just set back from the coast is the Gialova wetland, a favourite stop-over for 225 species of birds migrating to Africa.
Although Voidokilia means 'belly of the ox', from the air this great curve of a sandy beach is shaped more like the Greek letter Omega Ω.
When the evening rolls around and my stomach begins to rumble again, it is time to find out what Doxis could do at another Omega, one of several restaurants on the complex.

True retreat: The to hotels offer serene pools and plenty of space for lounging around
The name of the restaurant here alludes to the philosophy behind the menu, which is created around foods that contain healthy Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
It is haute cuisine of outstanding invention. Of all the courses on the tasting menu, my particular favourite is a broad bean soup into which a divine nugget of tahini ice cream slowly melts.
Doxis' promise that, after several courses, I would feel well fed but not bloated, holds true.
Like the great classical heroes of old, Costa Navarino signals that the Greeks are putting up a decent fight for their economic and ecological future.
If the contented bellies and relaxed smiles of the punters are anything to go by, things are about to start looking up.
Travel facts

We look forward to hearing from you and hope that we can arrange the perfect holidays in Greece for you www.bestofgreece.co.uk

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Living like a local in Greece by international travel news!

Best of Greece is the leading specialist for tailor made holidays to Greece and the Greek Islands! www.bestofgreece.co.uk


We found this great article by Marvin Herman, Delavan in international travel news!
We are sure you will enjoy the read!

Rumors of strikes, riots in the streets and a collapsed economy did not deter us from planning our October ’10 journey to Greece. As my wife, Judy, and I had done several times before on trips abroad, we enjoyed meeting the challenges of independent travel and did our best to protect ourselves from the anticipated glitches that were bound to arise.

Making arrangements
We arranged for all of our accommodations online, opting for hotels with lower, noncancelable rates wherever available. Our credit card, a Chase Sapphire MasterCard ( 800/940-7592 ) with no annual fee, provides a decent trip-insurance policy that protects against forfeitures.

For the first time in our travels, we armed ourselves with a cell phone to use on our journey. .



For our stay in Athens, we rented an apartment for €75 ($107) per night, payable in cash on arrival. It was located in a quiet neighborhood south of the Plaka, within walking distance of the Acropolis and near the Syngrou-Fix Metro Station. It had two large bedrooms; a washer/dryer; TV (no English channels); all required kitchen appliances, dishes and utensils; free use of a computer, and a nice terrace.

Evangelos, the owner of the apartment, was very helpful, providing a map in advance so we could easily find the apartment from the Metro station. The Metro senior fare from the airport to our stop was €3 each.

The Athens Metro is the most modern system we have seen in Europe. The trains are clean, efficient and fast, and the signage is more than adequate for visitors. This infrastructure, like much in modern Athens, was improved for the 2004 Olympics.

Settling in

After settling in, we found a supermarket where we could stock up on olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, yogurt and coffee, and there was a bakery on the corner of our block where I would go to buy fresh bread each morning. We enjoyed being regular neighborhood people and, after the first day, we would be greeted by people whom we had previously encountered on the streets or in stores.

On our first morning in Athens, we walked over to Syngrou Avenue, a main thoroughfare, to find a travel agent who would sell us tickets for the ferries that we planned to take later in our journey. We didn’t book these online because we wanted to get a better idea of what the weather would be like. As it worked out, the weather was excellent and we were able to buy our ferry tickets in Athens.

That morning, on our way to the Parthenon, we also got a fix on the location of the Hertz car-rental office from which we would rent a car a few days hence on our departure from Athens. We had arranged, online, for an automatic-transmission vehicle through Auto Europe (Portland, ME; 888/223-5555 . The cost was about $330 for the week we had the car.

Around Athens
In Athens, we also visited the National Archaeological Museum (28 Octovriou [Patisslon] 44) and spent several hours following the early history of Greece, from about 3000 BC to AD 476, the end of the Western Roman Empire.

A five-euro taxi ride took us from the museum to the Central Market. We walked through wonderfully boisterous meat and fish markets complete with vendors shouting about their wares amid butchers wielding cleavers and knives that flashed as they sliced through tendon and muscle, scales and gills.

In the center of it all was a small restaurant, where we stopped for a meal of Greek meatballs and grilled lamb, all wonderfully fresh and served with roasted potatoes, garlicky bread and sautéed dandelion greens. Washed down with a half liter of cold rosé, it cost €24 for the two of us.

Returning to our apartment, we stopped to pick up dessert at “our” bakery and enjoyed the freshly baked baklava (a Greek phyllo-dough dessert with honey) with coffee on our terrace.

The next morning we set off for the Numismatic Museum, not because we are coin collectors but because it is the former home of Heinrich Schliemann, the German archaeologist who excavated Troy and, later, Mycenae. It is a large home, nicely restored and worth seeing if you, like Judy, are a fan of this man and the ruins he dug up.

We also visited the Jewish Museum. Before WWII there were more than 75,000 Jews in Athens. Today there are around 3,000. The museum endeavors to be a symbol of the struggle to establish a Jewish community in Athens.

Driving in Delphi

By 9 o’clock the next morning we were in the Hertz office to get our car. An officious woman filled out our paperwork and gave us instructions and some directions. We had purchased a good road map of Greece (Michelin Map Greece No. 737) from Amazon.com before we left home. We loaded up our luggage and headed for Delphi.

I have driven in many European countries and I found the roads in Greece to be above average. From my fraternity days I remembered the Greek alphabet, and it was of help in reading the directional signs and the names of towns that we passed.

Soon we arrived in Arachova, a small town near Delphi where we checked into Hotel Likoria, a charming, quiet and modern little place at the far end of town. It had a small parking lot across the street, and our room had a view of Mt. Parnassus.

Soon after settling into our room (€86 per night, including a mediocre breakfast), we were hungry for a late lunch. Walking through the little town, we smelled the smoke of a wood fire near a sign that read “Taverna Arachova — 30 meters,” with an arrow pointing down a long set of steep steps. I investigated and hailed Judy from below.

A mountain view and a crackling fire were the backdrop for another wonderful meal (€36 total). A liter of the house rosé and a baked eggplant appetizer started us off. Judy ordered her favorite, roasted lamb and potatoes, and I had roasted chicken in a savory sauce and the ubiquitous crusty bread.

After our shared dessert pastry, we noticed that our waitress, the wife of the chef, was being fêted with a cake for her 44th birthday. We joined with her family in wishing her well and she shared her cake with us.

We soon departed the taverna, but Judy forgot her purse. The birthday celebrant ran most of way up the steps to return it.

The next morning we drove about 15 minutes to the Delphi Archaeological Museum, which houses and identifies many of the objects found at the Delphi Sanctuary of Apollo. Afterward we went to explore the site where these objects were located in antiquity.

We found that Rick Steves’ “Athens and The Peloponnese” was a great guide for our exploration of the places on the Greek mainland.

We next visited the town of Delphi and did some souvenir shopping. It was the end of the tourist season and shops advertised large discounts. In fact, the prices were very high, we felt, so our purchases were minimal.

On to Olympia

The next day, we left for Olympia and the popular archaeological site of the first Olympic Games. We visited the ruins, the athletic fields and the workshop of Pheidias, the sculptor of the famous statue of Zeus on his throne.

The Olympic site was crowded with tour groups, and we were pleased to be able to see the site on our own and at our own, slower pace. We also visited the small museum nearby that houses many of the wonderful treasures from the site.

We then drove to Bacchus Tavern, in Ancient Pissa, operated as a pension by Zapantis Costas and his sister Maria. Our room (€76, including an excellent breakfast) was small but had a wonderful view of the surrounding olive groves and hills.

When we went to pay the bill with a credit card the next morning, we were told that the card machine was broken and we would need to pay in cash. After I said that I didn’t have cash, my credit card was accepted and the charge went through the “broken” machine. A similar scenario played out many times during our travels in Greece.

At gas stations, always ask the attendant, before you fill up, if credit cards are accepted. Once the tank is full, the answer will likely be “No.”

Mycenae and Nafplio www.bestofgreece.co.uk/peloponnese
We drove over scenic mountain switchbacks toward Tripoli and on to our rental apartment in the small town of Kiveri, about five miles from the larger city of Nafplio. We found the rental at www.holiday-rentals.co.uk (listing No. 413446). Located at the end of the town, it offered a view of the Argolic Gulf from its large terrace.

When we arrived, the rental agent, Socrates Grecos, in response to our earlier call, had arrived on his motorbike to help us settle in and we signed his lease form. The rent (€60) had been paid to the owner, a resident of Washington, DC, in dollars before we left the US.

Once Socrates left, we struggled with the washing machine, finally realizing that the water faucet needed to be turned on.

In Greece, it seems that many people leave appliances unplugged or turned off so they don’t further strain the fragile power grids. We were to notice that again later in our travels.

Our first full day in this area was spent visiting Mycenae and its acropolis. Excavated by Schliemann in the 1870s, it is a magnificent ruin.


The city of Nafplio was our main target for the next day, but first we headed about an hour away to Epidavros (Epidaurus) to see its famous theater, stopping to admire a Mycenaean bridge along the way. In Nafplio, we parked on the street and walked to the big Saturday market. We asked for and received directions to the Old Town and drove to the port, where it was easy to find parking in the big, free lot.

We toured the Old Town, sharing a coffee gelato at Antica Gelateria di Roma, operated by the affable Marcello, who saw that we were set up with a seat, a glass of water, some cookies and a chance to use the loo.

Many shops in Nafplio were a cut above the usual tourist traps, so we found it worthwhile to browse them. Rick Steves’ book has a great tour of the area.



The plan for the next day was to return to Nafplio and climb to the Palamidi Fortress, said to be the best-preserved Venetian fort in the Mediterranean. But we know what they say about plans, however well laid.

We did drive to Nafplio, which was crowded with Sunday shoppers, families enjoying the harbor, parks and beaches, and many tourists. Judy decided to go shopping while I planned to ascend to the fortress.

As I headed up Polyzoidou Street from the parking lot at the harbor, toward Arvanitia Beach, I reached another parking lot, turned left and found myself on the six-kilometer Nafplio-Arvanitia trail. With the gulf on my right and the mountains on my left, I decided to join the many locals on this wonderful scenic walk, which took me about two hours.

Mykonos and Delos www.bestofgreece.co.uk/mykonos
After dropping our rental car off in Piraeus, we took a cab (€7) to the port and eventually boarded a ferry to Mykonos. Our fare to Mykonos was €34.50 each. We had opted for the middle of the three classes of seats on all of our ferry trips.

I phoned our hotel in Mykonos from the ferry to confirm that we would be picked up. As we disembarked, we saw a young woman holding a sign with the name of our hotel, Alkyon

Sophia, who, along with her parents, runs Alkyon, was one of the most caring, hospitable hosts that we encountered in Greece. She spoke perfect English, amongst several other languages, and was congenial and helpful.

She showed us to our room with its beautiful view of the Aegean Sea and, in the distance, the island of Delos.

By morning, the previous day’s rainy weather had cleared and we were off to the island of Delos. Sofia had a moment to drive us down the hill and direct us along the waterfront to the kiosk that sells the tickets for the ferry going to the island (€5).


The ferry was loaded with a mix of tourists of various ages and nationalities. The trip took about a half hour, and we sat on the top deck open to the sun and breeze. Once on Delos, we waited in line to pay the five-euro entry fee.

Delos is a very extensive archaeological site with temples dedicated to dozens of gods. With the map given to us at the entrance, eventually we were able to locate the various sites of interest.

We stopped at the free museum, which displays some artifacts from the site, then covered much of the island, including an amphitheater, gymnasium and agora. Even for persons without any substantial interest in archaeological sites, Delos is a very worthwhile destination for its views of the Aegean Sea and for the island, itself.



Back on Mykonos, our late lunch at one of the pricey seaside restaurants frequented by fashionably dressed young women with small dogs led us to conclude that life is not cheap on Mykonos. If Greece was a country in financial crisis, it didn’t seem to have reached Mykonos.

It rained during the night and the temperature fell to the 50s.

We set off to explore the town of Mykonos in the morning, letting ourselves get lost in the winding streets. Before leaving our hotel, we called ahead to Krokos Villas, our hotel on Santorini, to confirm that we would be on the hydrofoil the next afternoon.

We were informed that we had been given an upgrade to a room at the Avaton Resort & Spa ), one of the sister properties of our originally booked accommodation, also located in the Imerovigli section of the island.

Checking the substituted resort on the Internet, we found comments on Tripadvisor.com to be quite favorable, so I sent an e-mail confirming our acceptance.

Santorini www.bestofgreece.co.uk/santorini
After spending most of the morning transfixed by the beautiful view of the Aegean, it was time to move on. Sofia (what a treasure!) drove us down the hill to the hydrofoil, a double-hulled vessel much faster than a ferry, which took us to the island of Santorini for €41.50 each.

We were met at the boat dock by a taxi (€15) and taken to the Avaton Resort (€80 per night). At the walkway to the resort, Markos, whom we dubbed the “super porter,” helped with the luggage.


The nine-room resort is located on the edge of a cliff overlooking a caldera that is filled with water. Beyond its far rim lies the Aegean Sea.

Our smallish room, located near the outdoor pool, had a stunning view, a great shower and a complimentary bowl of fruit and bottle of wine.

The hotel did have a dining room, but it was located in the spa. Although guests don’t use the spa during dinner hours, we found it unappealing as a place to eat and took our meals elsewhere.

Using a map furnished by the hotel, we walked the seven minutes to the tiny town center of Imerovigli and ate at a nice taverna called Anestis (phone + 30 22860 25374 ). Choosing from the large selection of Greek dishes, we fell back on the familiar roasted lamb with potatoes and a large Greek salad (€22 with wine). After a stop at a bakery for some baklava, we walked back to the resort.

Unearthed in 1967, Akrotiri is a Minoan city on the southwest tip of Santorini. The site was later covered by a modern roof which, unfortunately, collapsed several years before our visit; the site was closed to visitors. We did see many of the frescoes of Akrotiri at a museum in Fira, Santorini’s capital city, as well as in Athens.

The next morning was cool and breezy, but the temperature warmed throughout the day, reaching the low 70s. Outside our room, I sat in the small alcove overlooking the edge of the caldera and, beyond a sprinkling of low buildings, the sea. The quiet of Avaton was soothing — no boisterous tour groups here.

Markos brought our breakfast, wonderfully fresh and complete with a pot of steaming coffee; yogurt and honey; tomatoes; olives; eggs; feta cheese, and coffee cake. After breakfast, we walked about 25 minutes to Fira to visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira and the Archaeological Museum, both quite small but each holding many artifacts from Minoan culture.

Our best dinner on Santorini was at a restaurant called Nikolas (Erythrou Stavrou), in Fira, where we enjoyed sea bass and lamb in a comfortable atmosphere (€40 for both of us).

Paros and Piraeus www.bestofgreece.co.uk/paros
We boarded the Blue Star Naxos ferry for the ride to our next island, Paros. We stowed our luggage down in the garage so we didn’t have to drag our bags up and down the escalator to the passenger areas. Though the bags weren’t secured, passengers didn’t have access to the area during the sailing.

Sitting on the open back deck of the ferry, I phoned the Arian Hotel , our hotel in Paros, to get directions. It was a short walk from the ferry dock in Parikia, the principal town of the island.


After a good night’s sleep (our room cost €38, not including breakfast at €10), we headed into Parikia, a town of winding white passageways.


After about an hour of wandering, including a visit to a Byzantine church with an immense chandelier, we stopped at Symposium, a small restaurant with outside seating. For €7.50 each, we had one of our best breakfasts in Greece. I had eggs, bacon, fresh breads and jam and Judy had eggs Benedict with ham.

As we ate, a food peddler with a donkey cart came by to sell the restaurant fresh vegetables, and people opened shops nearby, greeting each other as friendly neighbors would in a small town.

At breakfast, we also got information on how to get the bus to Pounda, where we would take the ferry to Antiparos, a small island which has become a celebrity haunt since Tom Hanks and others have bought property there. Our round-trip bus tickets cost €3 each, and the ferry (leaving each half hour) cost €2 each way.

We walked to Antiparos’ center square and wandered the streets until we got lost. Then we returned to the main road, hopped the ferry and returned to Pounda, continuing by bus to Parikia.

The next morning, our last in the islands, we had breakfast at the port and watched as our ferry arrived for the 4½-hour ride to Piraeus (€19).

At Piraeus, we were besieged by taxi drivers but declined their services since we wanted to take the Metro to the Sofitel Athens Airport (phone +30 210 3544000 ), the hotel we had booked for our last night in Greece. Unfortunately, due to a strike, the Metro was not running out to the airport.

We must have looked as if we needed help because a young woman soon asked if she could assist us. We explained our predicament, and she walked two blocks with us to show us where to catch a bus to the airport (€3.10).

The bus was not crowded and made few stops. We, again, felt we were traveling not as tourists but as the locals do.

Back in Athens
The bus dropped us off at the airport, across from our hotel (€155 for the night). Shunning the expensive fare at the hotel, we decided to eat dinner at the airport (€19 for both of us).

Sitting in the boarding area the next morning, we were advised that there would be a delay because of an air traffic controllers’ strike in Paris. As a result, we missed our connection to Chicago.

Air France offered us overnight accommodations in Paris or a flight to New York with a connection to Chicago. Anxious to be home, we chose the New York option.

When we reached JFK, we found that our connecting flight to Chicago was canceled due to windy weather in the Midwest. Air France offered to put us up at a hotel at LaGuardia and gave us a coupon for dinner, since the missed connection in Paris was not weather related.

This was an unforgettable trip. We saw three different parts of Greece over 23 days, at our own pace and in our own way. We found our own way around on local transportation and, if we decided to sleep late or skip dinner, we were able to do so.

We always felt secure, though neither of us spoke a word of Greek beyond “Please” and “Thank you.”

If any reader would like detailed information on how to plan and execute an independent trip, please feel free to e-mail us c/o ITN.

Not all trips lend themselves to this form of travel, but in the instances that do we find it a most satisfying and fulfilling method of travel.

BEST OF GREECE
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

SMALL MUSEUMS IN GREECE

This is a very nice article written on the Telegraph!
We are sure you will enjoy the read!

Greece's best small museums
From art to archaeology, Robin Gauldie offers his pick of the best smaller museums in Greece.


Most museums operated by the Ministry of Culture are closed on Mondays. Admission is normally free on the first and second Sunday in September and the last weekend in September, first Sunday in October and national holidays. A useful guide to opening times and admission charges can be found at www.culture.gr but it’s not 100 per cent reliable as there is no longer the budget or staff to update it properly.
All museums are suffering from budget and staff cuts, so opening times may be curtailed without notice; many may also be affected by public-sector strikes.
Samos Archaeological Museum, Samos
All the archaeology, none of the crowds. Housed in a fine neoclassical building and a modern wing, this museum has a fine collection.


The centrepiece is the colossal marble kouros (statue of a youth), wearing a serene, Buddha-like smile and a hairdo that is irresistibly reminiscent of Rasta-style locks. Seek out other gems: the defaced but sensuous wooden figurine of a nude woman, dating from the seventh century BC, and the marvellously intact 18-inch tall ivory image of a kneeling youth.
Best of all, the place is often deserted (Iroon Polytechniou, Vathy; 0030 2730 27469; http://odysseus.culture.gr/index_en.html; €3/£2.65; under-18s and students free; over-65s €2/£1.75).
Vori Folklore Museum, Crete
Of all the islands, Crete is the place where tradition lingers longest. It’s only one generation since many of the household and farming implements on show here were in everyday use.
The museum brilliantly shows how life was for villagers within living memory: tough but not necessarily unhappy. Chaffing sleds, rakes and picks used to wrest a living from rocky soil, wooden looms, but also walls hung with graceful lyras and other musical instruments (Vori village; 28290 91392; http://odysseus.culture.gr/index_en.html; €3/£2.65; under-18s and students free).
Museum of Modern Greek Art, Rhodes
A reminder that Greek art isn’t all marbles, icons and traditional embroidery, this little museum has just six rooms hung with prints and paintings by 19th- and 20th-century artists.
The black-and-white engravings which make up around half the collection are the best part, and Second World War history buffs will enjoy the room incongruously packed with historic maps donated by the family of Noel Rees, commander of the clandestine MI9 operation in the Aegean and a forgotten hero of the war (Plateia Symis 2, Rhodes Old Town; 22410 23766; www.mgamuseum.gr; €3/£2.65; over-65s €1/88p; under-18s, teachers and academics free. The ticket also gives entrance to the New Museum of Modern Art at Plateia G, Haritos, in the New Town, which opened last year and is dedicated to works by 20th-century Greek artists).
Aegean Maritime Museum, Mykonos
This museum celebrates the vessels and seafarers of Greece with charts, paintings, photographs and, best of all, a flotilla of models of ships, from the cockleshells of the archaic Cyclades and the Athenian battle triremes that saved democracy from Persian hegemony to the trehantiri, the broad-bottomed workhorse of the Aegean to this day. A classic full-size example, the Evangelistria, is moored in the Old Harbour, a five-minute walk away (Enoplon Dynameon 10, Tria Pigadhia, Chora; 22890 22700; www.mykonos.gr; €3/£2.65; under-18s €2; £1.75).
Bouboulina Museum, Spetses
There’s a great, colourful painting of Greece’s own Pirate Jenny, the renowned female admiral of the War of Independence, hanging in the hall of her former home, a grand 17th-century mansion. Gesturing grandly – and displaying a considerable embonpoint – she is ordering the assault on the Turkish fortress at Navplion.
Born in 1771, the twice-widowed Laskarina Bouboulina, against the odds, became first a prosperous fleet-owner, then an admiral in the War of Independence. The struggle bankrupted her, and in 1825 she was murdered in a family feud.
The highlight is the grand salon, with its carved Florentine ceiling, Ottoman rugs and fine French and Italian furniture. Bouboulina’s gold-plated pistol hangs on the wall (Dapia, Spetses; 22980 72416; www.bouboulinamuseum-spetses.gr; €6/£5.30; under-18s €2/£1.75; over-65s €4/£3.50).
Archaeological Museum and Vouvalis Mansion Museum, Kalymnos
From cave-dwellers to millionaires, this great little museum covers a much greater span of Greece’s past than many bigger rivals.
Draped in bronze, the Lady of Kalymnos faces the entrance to the stylish new wing, which houses archaic finds from the island’s limestone caverns, as well as the usual bronzes, marbles and pottery.
But jump two millennia to the other wing, the Vouvalis Mansion, where the lifestyle of a 19th-century trading dynasty whose sponge-diving empire stretched from the Aegean to North Africa and the Caribbean and Florida, is preserved in all its maroon plush and gilt-mirrored glory (Enoria Aghias Triadas/Plateia Kyprou, Pothia; 22430 23113; €3/£2.65; under-18s €2/£1.75).
Theofilos Museum, Lesbos
The eccentric Theofilos Hatzimichail (1870-1934) wandered the hills of his native Lesbos (and of Pilion, on the mainland) dressed in the fustanella costume of a fighter of the War of Independence, paying his way by adorning the walls of local tavernas with his vivid murals of battles and island life. His naive genius was eventually recognised by a fellow-Lesbian, the remarkable Statis Eleftheriadis (aka Teriade).
The collection is an inspiration for all would-be artists to throw away the rule book and just do it (Varia, Mytilini; 22510 41644; http://odysseus.culture.gr/index_en.html; adults €2/£1.75; under-18s €1/88p).
Alonissons Museum, Alonissos
Lots of great piratical stuff in this husband-and-wife museum opened by Kostas and Angela Marikis in an old island mansion in 2000.
Cannon, cutlasses, maps and ship models abound, along with relics of Second World War resistance and traditional island life.
Bringing things up to date, there are also exhibitions of contemporary sculpture and photography (Patitiri; 24240 66250; www.alonissosmuseum.com; €4/£3.50; under-8s free; 8-18 €2/£1.75; over-65s €3/£2.65).
Cycladic Art Museum, Athens
Head straight for the first floor of this under-visited museum for a glimpse of a culture far more ancient (and less well known) than Athens or Sparta. Dating from 3000-2000BC, these small, highly stylised marble figures hint at an artistic mindset far distant from the Classical world. It is easy to see why they inspired Modigliani, Moore and Picasso (Neophytou Douka 4; 21072 28321; www.cycladic.gr; €7/£6.15; free under-18s and students; over-65s €3.50/£3).
Jewish Museum, Thessaloniki
This is one of a few Greek museums that act as a reminder that Greece was once much more multicultural than it is today.
Go straight to the third floor to step back in time to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe in its day, with displays of elaborate costumes and paraphernalia; then visit the fourth floor for the story of that community’s demise at the hands of the Nazis, when almost all Thessaloniki’s Jewish residents were deported and killed.
Moving, and grim (Agiou Mina 13; 23102 50406; www.jmth.gr; free admission).


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ABOUT SPETSES ISLAND

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One of our favorite island is the Island of Spetses located in the Saronic Gulf very close to Athens




DESCRIPTION
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Located in the Saronic Gulf, Spetses is a wonderful little island that is only a few hours away form Athens. It has kept its traditional style, architecture and no cars are allowed! Despite the fact that it is small and has kept true to its history and culture, Spetses is a very cosmopolitan island. It boasts a number of modern bars and clubs and lovely restaurants.

Spetses is riddled with picturesque bays, stunning beaches, quaint villages and a varied landscape. The island is covered in pines trees, mountainous areas, sandy beaches and rocky sea sides.

Don’t let the lack of cars put you off, people on this island travel by foot, donkey, horse drawn carriage or local buses. The island is small and travelling around in this way, lets one soak in the surroundings.

This little gem of an island has lush green pine forests and crystal clear waters. It is a very popular destination all year round for weekends away and holidays.





HISTORY
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Archaeologists have found signs that Spetses was first occupied in around 8000 BC. Further signs show that in 2300 BC Spetses 3 natural harbours acted as a refuge for ships carrying goods from the Argolis Gulf.

Spetses has a history of being used as a place of refuge, whether for ships or people. During invasions of neighbouring areas, many people took refuge in Spetses. The refugees on the island built most of the old village of Kastelli in the 18th Century.

The island has been occupied by a number of different people, as with most of Greece and its Islands. The Turks, the Russians, the Venetians have all past through.

At one stage the naval force of Spetses was one of magnitude and played a role in fighting off the Turks.

Spetses was the home to two well known heroes, Bouboulina from the war against the Turks in the mid 1800s and to the architect George Diamantopoulos who was killed by the communists in the late 1930s.

SIGHTSEEING
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MUSEUMS

The Hadjiyannis Mexis Museum is located a short walk from the Harbour and houses a collection of items, from the 4,000 year old history of the Island. The Museum is an 18th Century home that belongs to the Hadjiyannis Family; it’s a beautiful setting for a lovely collection.



The Bouboulina Museum is privately owned and located within a 17th Century mansion. It boasts a collection of items from the period of the war in 1821.

THINGS TO DO

Spetses has hardly any form of Transportation, so walk around and you will come across the most important things on the island.

One walk you should take is to the Old Harbour. The walk itself is a great one to do in the evening. The roads are closed to all vehicles in the evenings and you can enjoy the view of the sea from the coastal road, but also see the beautiful mansions that line the side of the road. You will also come across the Marina and its luxury yachts; don’t miss the Lighthouse, one of the first to be built in Greece and dates back to 1837. You can then have a nice walk up the Old Harbour, past all the cafes and restaurants.

You can also wander along up a steep dirt road to the tiny little church of Prophet Elia and enjoy the stunning views.

If you are on the island at the beginning of September, you may be able to witness a celebration that the island is famous for. The celebration of Panagia Armata is to put it very simply, the re-enactment of the battle against the Turkish Ships, with a wonderful display of fireworks.

Beaches

The most popular beaches are: Agia Paraskevi and Agioi Anagyroi they are both accessible by bus. If you do decide to go to Agioi Anagyroi check out the Bekiris Cave which even has its own little sandy beach.

Zogeria Beach is the most picturesque on the island and has a lovely restaurant on it. You can jump on a water taxi to get there if you don’t want to walk. Other beaches that are only accessible by water taxi or private transport are, Ligoneri, Vrellos and Xylokeriza.

We wouldn’t suggest that you swim in the Town beach as it gets quite dirty. However, you can walk about 20 minutes along the island’s main road and swim off either Kaiki Beach or College Beach, where you will find a few facilities.

Shopping

You will find a number of small boutique style shops in the Main Town. They have items such as sarongs, clothing, souvenirs, local specialties, hand made jewellery etc. As with most of the Greek islands it is best to wander around and have a look as there is also something new popping up.

NIGHTLIFE


With its cosmopolitan status and its close vicinity to Athens, Spetses has a very good Nightlife. Concentrated almost 100% in the Town and around the Old Harbour, there are a number of bars and clubs along the waterfront as well as in the little streets that run just behind the harbour.

WHERE TO WINE AND DINE

With a variety of things on offer, you will be able to find fast food, haute cuisine, ouzeris and traditional tavernas. There is a lot on offer on this little island. You should ask the restaurant in which you choose to dine what their specialty is; it might be something you would like to try.


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