by Patty Drake
One day my business partner looked at me and said, “I want to go to Greece!” So, we decided to create a tour and invite all those that wanted to go with us. We picked October going for the milder climate, and decided to work with a well-known tour company that specializes in Greece, since we were unfamiliar with the area, and wanted to make sure that we had good hotels, transportation, guides and other services. Our tour was 10 days long and began in Athens. There were fifteen of us to depart Reno in the morning and arrive the following afternoon in Athens. We were met by our guide Marina, who would become our friend, expert and historian. She was well educated and had her masters in Greek Theology which would become very entertaining down the road.
We arrived at our hotel, the Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel, located just a few blocks from the Acropolis, the very famous ruins overlooking the city of Athens, as well as restaurants, museums and shopping. The tour group couldn’t wait to begin exploring the area and of course that would begin with dinner, located just a few short blocks to an area that had plenty of restaurants to choose from. Lovely smells, lighted patios and the lure of local chefs brought us to one of our favorite restaurants the Paradosiako. Of course the wonderful staff standing outside to bring us in, helped! Now I am not much of a foodie, however the meals we had in Greece were incredible. Everything was fresh, well prepared, delivered nice and hot, with plenty of feta, olives and of course olive oil. The Mediterranean salad was my favorite and delivered perfect every time.
The following morning, we woke up, refreshed and were ready to explore this beautiful country. We boarded a very comfortable bus, along with our expert guide and off we went to explore the city of Athens. Amazed at how many ruins were located within the city limits, everywhere we turned there was an ancient Greek site, built thousands of years ago sitting alongside 21st century buildings.
The morning was spent at the Acropolis. Our guide gathered us under an olive tree and explained how the ruins were built in the fifth century BC that included the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike, and other buildings that were damaged in the 16th century when gunpowder was being stored in the Parathenon and was hit by a cannonball and exploded.
There is no way to explain the feeling of standing on ground that was created and walked on centuries before your time. I didn’t want to leave such a beautiful place and with such significance. But, we had so much more to explore so off we went.
The next day we transferred to our ship that was going to take us around the islands of Greece. We couldn’t wait to see the Aegean Sea and visit the quaint island just off the coast. Our first stop was Mykonos, considered the Jewell of all the islands. We arrived just before sunset along with a beautiful full moon. Walking along the seawall, filled with small wooden boats, white washed buildings, lovely shops and restaurants. We were greeted by the community, there was always a hello or a smile from a local stranger making us feel very welcomed.
The next day were arrived in Turkey and our visit to Ephesus, one of the more famous ruins, built in the 10th century. Due to its location, it was an important port with fertile valleys, and considered the trade center of the ancient world. Also, home to the house of the Virgin Mary, the Basilica of St John, and the Temple of Artemis, and considered the seven wonders of the Antic World. As we walked through the ruins with our expert guide, I was astounded at the knowledge and technology that the people had of that day, it was truly the cornerstone of human civilization. They had built the largest library with more than 1200 scrolls hidden in the walls to prevent decay, an ancient stadium where gladiators trained, baths, a gymnasium, athletic grounds and even a brothel, that was connected by tunnel from the library. Once again, my breath was taken away to have the ability to walk the same steps as Antony and Cleopatra, St John and ancient kings and queens of the day. Following our tour we boarded our cruise ship and traveled to Heraklion, the capital of Crete, the birthplace of Zeus the king of the ancient gods. We took advantage of a tour that was offered to explore the local wineries and view the gorgeous countryside ending our day at the beautiful island of Santorini. This was one of the highlights of the trip for us.
We arrived in the late afternoon, taking the gondola to the top of the island where we could sit at a lovely café overlooking the Mediterranean ocean, visit the whitewashed buildings and do a bit of shopping. As we rode the gondola backdown to our ship we could look up at the town all covered in lights, it looked like a strip of lights had been thrown across the top of the mountain, eliminating this beautiful city. We continued to cruise towards Pirus arriving in the morning and began our tour to the town of Delphi, the second most popular archaeological site in Greece, and considered to be the center of the world where heaven and earth met. Once again, we were taken by the beautiful views and the historical significance of ruins built centuries ago. We had the opportunity to enjoy lunch at a restaurant served local foods, followed by a short walk overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean.
Our group returned to Athens in the evening at the hotel where we began our journey just eight days prior. The following day we had to ourselves so we decided to go visit the “Plaka”. A well known historic shopping district, built centuries ago, filled with colorful and interesting items, everything from scarfs to hand carved wooden items, traditional foods, jewelry and leather goods. We spent the rest of the afternoon, buying items to bring home to family and friends. Wrapping up our wonderful Greek vacation we had a fond farewell dinner reliving all our experiences, sharing pictures and saying goodbye to new friends we had met, promising to stay in touch. If you’re looking for a vacation that delivers spiritual experiences, wonderful food, ancient stories, with people that are welcoming, kind, always have a smile that you have visited their county, I recommend Greece, an experience of a lifetime.
Things to know before you go: