Greece – First Impression

We are just back from a trip to a country that had been my wish list only since past hundred years and I had no words to describe how great our experience was. As I try hard to cure my holiday hangover, I thought of jotting a few points about how we felt while traveling around Greece. These are just our first impressions and I am sure if we had longer time to spend in Greece, some of these might change.

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Street vendor in Athens selling roasted corn
  • West meets the East: We now live in Ireland and have traveled quite a bit through Europe, Asia, Australia and US. Even though Greece is unique in its own ways, we could see an effortless blend of the west and the east. Greece is a part of EU and geographically in Europe but we could still see splashes of eastern culture here and there. Raga had a hard time deciding if Greece matched more with Turkey or India. Having said that, the culture and infrastructure is way too modern for Greece to have that beautiful blend of the west and the east. Small things like these made subtle difference –
    • Simple buildings in Athens which lacked that European charm or architecture
    • Cheap labor – fuel stations not being self-service, buses having a separate ticket collector
    • Very good metro and tram connectivity but glitches in ticketing system
    • A lot of rickety two wheeler on the road
    • Somewhat clean city but lack of trash cans
    • Street vendors with a good quality cart selling peanuts, roasted sweetcorn and other items
    • Small mom and pop stalls on the footpath
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Parthenon at Acropolis of Athens
  • History field trip: Greece is a country which is rich in history, culture and mythology. They, like Indians worshiped numerous gods and goddesses. The heroes, legends and myths were interwoven in Greek culture that survived over the centuries in bits and pieces. The Acropolis (meaning a complex built on a hill) of Athens is only 2000+ years old, is the best example of this. It was originally built in honor of goddess Athena (who presided over Athens). Later with the rise of Christianity, the Parthenon (originally built as a temple of virgin) became a church and the Acropolis the center of Christian devotion. After the fall of Roman empire and the emergence of the Turks, the Acropolis was transformed into a Muslim place of worship and the Parthenon became a mosque. There was major destruction done to the temple and buildings. Finally, after the war of independence the Greeks reclaimed the acropolis and restored it to its former glory. The restoration and preservation is continuing till date with museums built at site. So much history, so much transformation and so much effort to preserve an ancient architecture and all the mythologies linked with it.
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Fira, Santorini at twilight.
  • More than just islands with beautiful beaches: We visited two Greek islands as a part of our trip – Santorini and Mykonos. Santorini is very touristy famous for beautiful beaches with red and black sand. Mykonos is famous for being a party island with beautiful beaches, beach shacks and lot of drinks. If you go during the right season, I am sure that would be a highlight of anyone’s trip. We went in October when the crowds were less, the sun was not very strong and the parties were over. The beach shacks and restaurants had closed by then because the water is too cold for a swim in October. Having said that, we still had the best time of our lives. Santorini is beautiful with the best sunsets in the world, beautiful cave houses and blue domes. Mykonos is really cute with freshly whitewashes houses, colorful doors, windows and stairs, beautifully laid stone paths and cafes with amazing food. Getting lost in the streets of Mykonos and Santorini was our favorite activity. Every bend, every street, every corner was picturesque.
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Nandita gobbling down unbelievably amazing food
  • Food paradise for Vegetarians: Living in Dublin and other experiences around Europe, we always feel that the vegetarian options are way too less here. A trip to Greece converted us. We were in food paradise and came back with good few kilos added to the body weight. Everything was finger and spoon lickingly good – feta cheese, greek and dakos salad, spinach pie, stuffed tomatoes and peppers, vegetarian musaka, baked aubergines, vegetarian gyros, gelato, frozen yogurt and what not. We had only one bad experience with lunch in Athens where I think the cook tried real hard to make the food inedible.
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A restaurant at Plaka, Athens with food menu in English
  • Easy to survive with English: You don’t need to know Greek to survive in Greece. Everything is translated in English. The food menu, metro signs, road signs, everything has two versions – Greek & English. People speak good English as well and it is easy to understand them. It’s a breeze to survive in Greece mainly because the country runs on tourism.

9 thoughts on “Greece – First Impression

  1. Can’t wait to read more… this sampler of your initial thoughts & impressions is such a teaser (but I enjoyed it and left, wanting so much more). I look forward to what’s to come. I was in Santorini back in 1989, so I’m curious to see how it’s changed.

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. 1989 sounds like centuries before, I was still a baby then and so was Raga. 🙂 The other day we were watching a movie – ‘sisterhood of traveling pants’ and there are some scenes where they show Santorini. It was shot 10 years back and I could still identify with a few unique buildings and places. I believe Santorini is much more commercialized now but its extremely beautiful. Me and Raga will be writing more about our Greece trip, so stay tuned. 🙂

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  2. Nandita,

    The whole of Europe has a rich history but Greece is the mother of all. After having read your blog I feel that this is one country one must see.

    Greece is facing turbulent times with hardly any economic growth and a huge deficit. These are truly tough times and tourism is one saving grace. They need to manage well and make the country more tourist friendly so that they can earn and contribute to the growth.

    Nice photographs

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    1. I agree papa.. but I believe they don’t really care.. about improving their economy because they have EU to back them up.. they are not the friendliest people in the world, getting a visa is a demotivating experience. The only thing that keeps it alive and going today is the beauty of Greek Islands.

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