Glories of greece
Reader Juliet Taylor-Cousins describes herself as a Hellenophile, fond of Greece and Greek culture.
She says she’s experienced Greece five-star and three-star and “if anything, the three-star aspect was more enjoyable”. She, husband Michael Cousins and daughter Antonia are planning another trip for September — their third visit to a “wonderful and welcoming place” in just over five years.
Greek tourism hit an all-time record in 2014. According to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, there were 14.5 million international arrivals at Greece’s 17 major airports, more than half from countries outside the Eurozone.
But it’s been a tough start to the year — political turmoil and talk about exiting the Eurozone (Grexit), combined with the Russian economic crisis, have significantly decreased pre-bookings.
Many in the Greek tourism industry had thought bookings would be going through the roof by now. Pre-bookings have recently come to a halt. In Russia, many travel agents have closed down.
The Greek industry says tourists are showing interest in other Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and southern France because they want to ensure that they will spend their holiday quietly, without potential strikes, protests and disruption.
But back to Juliet, who shares some of her explorations . . .
Crete, in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, is the biggest island in Greece.
Juliet writes: “One must go to Knossos. It is fun to see the line of shops opposite that advertise ‘authentic museum reproductions’ at ridiculous prices. On the south coast, there is the original Preveli, after which Prevelly near Margaret River is named, where Allied soldiers were hidden by the monks and eventually had to swim out to a British submarine in the middle of the night.
“There is quaint Kissimos, with a tiny museum in an ancient Venetian building that houses the most beautiful and intricate mosaic floors, and the lovely seaside towns of Rethymno and Chania, with tiny old town streets that ooze the faded charm of the old Venetian rule. Rethymno is also overlooked by a wonderful Venetian fortress where there is an open-air theatre for music concerts.”
They also drove to Arkhadi monastery, where the villagers held out against the Turks, Margarites for ancient pottery traditions and up to hillside villages.
“Even Iraklio is a fascinating place. The museum, although small, is filled with delicate Minoan artefacts. We wandered through the old part of town and found tiny tavernas where hardly anyone spoke English and the limited menu was scrawled on a cracked old board but the food was delicious and worth far more than we paid.”
“We got lost in the twisty windy streets of the Old Town and a local (with little English) helped us through the maze, out along the dried-out moat and back to the harbour. On the edge of the Old Town we found a little taverna where the food was so fresh and delicious. The owner was so proud of his food: ‘Come and share my culture, be Greek.’
“We caught the local bus to Lindos, what a treat. Winding through little villages and seeing the local colour up close. Once at Lindos we walked up to the magnificent acropolis which was almost deserted and we had the added bonus of a clear sunny day.”
“The last time in Athens we stayed in a little three-star hotel on the edge of the Plaka. What a super choice — it was spotlessly clean, perfectly located and the staff went out of their way to be as accommodating as possible. The rooftop bar had a clear view up to the Acropolis and we took our beer and chips up there every night to watch the sunset.
“The thrill of being able to go out the door and turn left into the old Plaka was great. To sit in the sunshine, at a street cafe or taverna and ‘people watch’ was lovely.”
“We took a four-day tour with Greek company GO Tours —everything was excellent. To tour the ancient sites with a guide was a good choice. Our guide, Dimitria was so patient with me asking what must have seemed like a million questions.
“Being the off-season meant we were a small group, staying in good hotels. The Greeks are so proud of their heritage and are keen to share with you if you strike up a conversation. Our day in Delphi was super. Beautiful sunshine and hardly another soul in sight.”
“Meteora — OMG. It was breathtakingly magnificent. Out hotel was at the base of the rocky limestone pillars and we had a fantastic night-time floodlit view of one of the monasteries from our bedroom. The next morning the coach wound its way up to the top and we visited Vaarlam Monastery and St Stephen’s Nunnery. Truly an experience that we hope to repeat on our next holiday.”
© The West Australian
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