Monday, May 19, 2008

Backpacking in Greece (Part I)

Some people visit Greece in search of medieval temples, castles and fortresses. Others look for peaceful harbors, hilltop villages or secluded bays and beaches. Millions of tourists are simply looking for a good time in busy and bustling holiday resorts with sandy beaches and lots of bars. I try to stay away from all the big holiday resorts, prefer a more relaxed place mixing with the locals, Whatever you are after i am sure you will find it in Greece!

Island life seems to be more of a slower pace than life in the streets of Athens and other mainland cities, as much as i like the hustle and bustle of Athens it is nice to move on to a quiet island. There is no better way to spend an afternoon than sitting at a waterside taverna/cafe on a hot day with a glass of cold beer or a frappe (cold coffee), staring at the sea.

Most of the people living in Greece are ethnic Greeks, Other smaller minorities include people from Slavic, Albania, Romani (Gypsy) also Armenian, as well as Vlachs.

Modern Greek is the official language spoken.You will find English very well understood, reason is, English is taught in schools from an early age. Small groups of people also speak Arvanitika (which comes from Albania)

Most Greeks living here are members of the Greek Orthodox Church. You will find that religion is taken very seriously.

The older generation of family members are very much respected and have a lot of authority. Children are raised firmly, and told to respect others, parents will spend a lot of their earnings on clothes, food and making sure their children get an education. The average age for marriage is between 20 and 26 for women and 25 and 35 for men.

Meats mostly eaten are beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Fish and seafood dishes are also very popular. Olives are grown all through Greece, whereever you look you will probably see them, usually with black netting around the bottom of the trees. This is used to catch them when harvesting. Olive oil is used in most cooking, and of course the Greek salad, which can be purchased in any taverna. Deserts are popular and mainly include fruit, also try the "baklava" or "kataifi" i could eat hundreds of these. On Easter Sunday you will find lamb dishes being served at most tavernas, as this is tradition. Most Greeks will now have their main meal around 9pm in the evening, and will spend a lot of time at the table once their food is served.
Eating in a taverna is a Greek pastime.

Ancient Greeks beleived that when you meet a stranger, always be polite as he/she could be a God in disguise. Even today this politeness has been carried forward. You will find most Greeks to be friendly.

A very important day in the Greek calender is 25th March, Independance Day, 1821 was the date that Greece begun its revolution against 400 years of the Ottamans ruling. After 8 long years of war they reached autonomy, the day now is celebrated by speeches and parades.

There are about 1,400 Greek Islands, but only 166 of them are actually inhabited with human life. There are 78 islands which you can travel to by ferry or high speed boat. The Greek islands fall into six groups. The most popular being The Cyclades, these have 26 islands which are easily accessable by ferry.

Next are the Dodecanese islands which have 17 islands. The Saronic Gulf islands follow, then The Eastern & Northern Aegean islands. Lastly The Ionian islands.

The islands mostly get crowded in July and August, this seems to be the busiest. To avoid all the crowds and the heat, you may find it better from end of April to mid June, or try in September. May seems to bring out all the wild flowers, and in September you will still find the sea very warm. Whatever time you visit, I am sure you will enjoy.

Getting there from the United Kingdom

Greece is about 1800 miles from London to most places, so flying to the Greek islands is the best way. There are direct flights to a variety of Greek destinations from all the major British airports. Flying time varies from three hours to almost four and a half hours. The cost of charter flights are fairly reasonable, but this depends on what time of the year you are flying. Easter and Christmas are classed as high season, so will be very expensive, January to May should be quite cheap, then June to early September will be more pricy as this is in the main tourist season.

If you are thinking about flying direct to Athens, either to stay or to move on to backpacking round the islands. Then "easyJet" will probably be your cheapest option for leaving the United Kingdom.
To see my link page click here

Getting there from Ireland

A high season charter from Dublin to Athens should cost around 200 Irish pounds return. Year round scheduled flights with Air Lingus and British Airways operate from both Dublin & Belfast via Heathrow to Athens. Another option is to fly to London first, you can pick up budget flights with British Midland, Air Lingus and Ryan Air.

Perhaps one day I will have visited all the Greek islands. In the meantime here is a list of the ones that I have visited, and some re-visited.

Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Crete, Corfu, Paros, Naxos, Sifnos, Mykonos, Santorini, Syros, Tinos, Ios, Kythnos, Zakynthos, Serifos.

And not forgetting all the places i have visited on the mainland. Which includes, Parga, Sivota, Nafplion, Argos, Corinth, Mycenae, Plataria, Preveza, and of course many times Athens.

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