As a side trip from France in 2009 (milking our one-year around-the-world airfare for every kilometre!) we flew across to Greece, the land of my husband’s heritage, hoping to find evidence of his father’s birth there (and therefore his right to an EU passport). Alas, nothing was found on the family history front, but Greece’s ancient history was evident everywhere!
Staying near Marathon Beach, we drove into Athens on the Sunday when the roads were said to be quiet – although we didn’t find it so! And, with no GPS, made various wrong turns, misinterpreting road signs (despite being in English… it was the arrows we couldn’t understand!) eventually arriving in the quaint old Plaka district within easy access of all the main ancient sites.
Wandering around the rambling narrow streets, at the first sign of rain, we took refuge at one of the many el fresco restaurants for lunch and enjoyed mouth-watering lamb as the light rain developed into a full-blown thunderstorm. (We still wish we’d had a video camera running to capture other patrons getting drenched when a table umbrella collapsed under the immense volume of rain!)
80 km west of Athens lies the seaside town of Corinth (Korinthos) where we strolled around the foreshore and surrounding streets, enjoying the laid-back atmosphere.
On our way to Ancient Corinth, we turned off to check out Acrocorinth (Akrokorinthos) – the ruins of a Byzantine castle – unfortunately arriving right on 3 pm closing time… but that didn’t stop us from enjoying yet more spectacular views. (In the photo below you can just see the castle atop the mountain in the distance.)
At the ruins of Ancient Corinth we took our time soaking up the sense of history and imagining what life might have been like way back then. We especially appreciated the peace and quiet, allowing us to reflect – after experiencing the throng of tourists in Athens.
During our week in Greece we even ventured 500 km north to Thessaloniki – a very pretty port-side city with a great vibe. Checking into a convenient little hotel (Hotel Luxembourg) to stay the night, we learned that the next day, 28th October, was Ochi Day – the National Anniversary of Greek Independence.
The weather was superb and we enjoyed stumbling upon random archaeological sites within the city area. Walking the length of the waterfront to see the White Tower, we found ourselves among a crowd of spectators at the celebratory parade, where many people were dressed in traditional Greek costumes. Later in the day, the roar of jet flyovers surprised us, and the festivities continued late into the night.
Ochi Day in Thessaloniki was certainly a highlight of our trip to Greece. But it’s often is the unexpected experiences that are particularly enjoyable and memorable, don’t you think?