On May 5th, I’m packing my bags, which will absolutely include one of my all-time favourites, Plato’s Dialogues, for a much needed vacation away from the cold and rainy (but still beautiful!) island of Ireland.
It has been a hell of a few months with fieldwork and editing this Journal, so this trip couldn’t have come at a more proper time.
Of course, as only a training Ph.D. would, I’ve been conducting research on some of the key spots around Greece and thus highlighted some of the spots I seek to visit below. Not sure of the chances of seeing these destinations, but I’ll certainly try.
Delphi, for example, is at least a three hour trek from Athens via bus. Some of the islands may be tough to get to as well. I do have a week to pull this off though. If I plan appropriately and have the guts to do it, it could happen (God willing).
Definitely have the guts. Pretty confident in my planning as well.
1. The Acropolis
No trip to Athens would be complete without seeing this. UNESCO describes its significance:
The Acropolis of Athens and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world. In the second half of the fifth century bc, Athens, following the victory against the Persians and the establishment of democracy, took a leading position amongst the other city-states of the ancient world. In the age that followed, as thought and art flourished, an exceptional group of artists put into effect the ambitious plans of Athenian statesman Pericles and, under the inspired guidance of the sculptor Pheidias, transformed the rocky hill into a unique monument of thought and the arts. The most important monuments were built during that time: the Parthenon, built by Ictinus, the Erechtheon, the Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis, designed by Mnesicles and the small temple Athena Nike.
2. Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
Sounion is located on the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula. It’s best known for being the location of the Greek Temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea in Greek mythology. Archaeological finds on the site date from as early as 700 BC. The Temple of Poseidon, built on a site set back from the sheer cliffs and with its magnificent view of the Aegean Sea and islands, ‘was ideally located for worship of the powerful god of the sea. In ancient times, mariners would see the brilliant white marble columns of the Temple of Poseidon and know they were close to home’ (grisel.net). Moreover, according to gogreece.com, ‘Sounion is cleansing to the mind and spirit and thrilling to the soul and heart. Don’t miss it! While there, you’ll be at one point of a magical triangle which the ancient Greeks enjoyed – from Sounion, you could see the Temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina, and the Acropolis itself’. How awesome does that sound?
Lycabettus Hill is really a limestone rock reaching almost 1,000 feet into the once-crystalline Athenian sky. In the evening, the top half is floodlit, and from the Acropolis it looks something like a giant souffle. By day, it’s a green-and-white hill toppoed by a tiny, flaringly white church, Agios Georgios. It’s a nagging challenge, and sooner or later you’re to want to climb it. Don’t try to walk up (pilgrims used to, but it’s an Everest for the faithless), and don’t try to take a cab, because it only goes half-way and you still have quite a hike to get to the top. Take the two-minute funicular up the southeast flank. To get there, follow the “telepherique” signs to the corner of Kleomenous and Ploutarchou Streets, between Kolonaki Square and the Athens Hilton. The panorama from the top is priceless – all the way to Mount Parnes in the north, west to Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf, with the Acropolis siiting like a ruminative lion half way to the sea. There’s also a cafe/restaurant up there. Source (tourtripgreece.gr)
4. Santorini (hopefully the village of Ia)
Santorini is a must for me. I’m putting it right at the top of my list.
‘Great poets have sung its praises, a 4,000 year old history. And the eternal rock continues to stand, strong and majestic, rising proudly from the sea and guarding well the secrets of Atlantis…’ That was according to santorini.net, which also provides a 3,600 year timeline.
Santorini, located in the Cyclades, Aegean, has one of the most spectacular landscapes in Greece and indeed the world. According to santorini-greece.biz, its traditional villages of the island, built on tall cliffs, offer a breathtaking view over a submerged volcano. Also according to santorini-greece.biz, they represent the beautiful Greek cliche one always dreamed about.
Aegina looks attractive for its famous beaches. I wouldn’t mind taking a quick nap on an isolated beach in the middle of the Mediterranean. Sounds good, no? I also read that Aegina is a friendly place and most of the merchants speak English.
I found this pretty darn good review on greeka.com of one person’s visit to Aegina:
I fell in love with Aegina ever since my first visit way back in 2004. This summer, it will be my fourth time in Aegina, this amazing island that never stops to fascinate me. This is the remarkable thing about this island, that on every visit, I find myself discovering something new. Set foot on the marina and you find yourself into a different world. Small cafes with tables on the sidewalk, street vendors selling fresh pistachios, car and bike rental agencies, the marina is a hub of activity. This small island has some of the best taverns in the islands. And don’t forget to wash down the food with ouzo! My favourite place is Perdika, about 30 minutes drive from the Town. Obviously not the best beach on the island, but certainly the best atmosphere. Fish taverns all along the coast, a beautiful setting to swim and an amazing view to a deserted island, right across the port. Frequently I do the swimming there. I need about two hours one way, so careful, don’t do it if you are not a good swimmer!!!
Crete is an island with an exquisite 1,000 kilometer-long coastline dotted with numerous coves, bays and peninsulas, which afford a multitude of soft, sandy beaches along the beautifully blue Mediterranean Sea. After all, it’s among the finest in the world and has established Crete as one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. And, of course, the island’s historic importance in today’s world as the home of the Minoan civilizationwith important archeological finds at Knossos, Phaistos and Gortys, is evidenced by the tens of thousands of visitors to these sites each year (Source: explorecrete.com).
7. The Minoan Palace of Knossos (on Crete)
The Minoan Palace at Knossos is over 20,000 square meters. The old palace was built around 2000 B.C but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700 B.C. Legend has it that this palace was the source of the Labyrinth myth. It was a structure that was made by King Minos of Crete, to keep the mythical creature Minotaur – who was half bull and half man – away. Eventually the creature was killed by Theseus.
The Greek myth associated with the palace about Theseus and the Minotaur is fascinating, but walking around the ruins of Knossos today it is hard to imagine it to be a place of torment and death. Instead, the palace radiates with joyous exuberance through the elaborate architectural planes and volumes that were clustered around the central courtyard over time. The elegant wall frescoes which decorated the walls speak of a people who approached the subtleties of life and the splendor of nature with a joyous disposition (Source: ancient-greece.org).
Delphi is a spot a really want to visit, but it could be a stretch considering it’s over 3 hours from Athens via bus. As someone who is fascinated with history, Delphi intrigues me because in Greek mythology, it was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god Apollo after he slew the Python, a dragon who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth (Source: Wikipedia). In research, I stumbled across this long and extensive piece on Delphi and the Oracle, though I’m not entirely sure about its accuracy. Nonetheless, it provides some interesting points.