Greece rates as one of my favourite countries in the world, to the point where sometimes I find myself googling pictures of it and practically drooling. So, in high flight-booking season (otherwise known as early summer) I thought I’d write an article about why everyone should go and get equally addicted.
Some may call this a bold claim; but I shall make it anyway: never have I ever met people so nice as those in Greece. From the moment I stepped out of Athens airport, I was enveloped by the warmth of an elderly couple, who insisted on literally holding my hand and escorting me all the way to my hostel (which made me happy but also slightly concerned that I must look very incompetent). This was only the beginning of three weeks of incredible hospitality from people all over the country, from a kind man making my friend and I dinner and letting us camp in his garden, to 17 year old Demetrious going well out of his way to show us a hidden beach on which we could safely pitch our tent. It was their kindness, and the kindness of many others that made our trip so memorable; as we were continuously blown away by the generosity of Greek people. It is respectful to local people do some research into the laws and customs of the country before you travel, so before you head to Greece (which you inevitably will after reading this article) make sure you’ve hit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice for all the information you could possible need to help you slot in.
Where to start with Greek food? From spinach and feta pastries made in the local bakery, to the thousands of wonderful things they do with lamb, to the classic Greek salad – the food of this country is such a delight. Whether consumed in a taverna next to the beach or at a quiet table in a backstreet laden with bougainvillea, the ambiance of the setting almost never fails to compliment what’s on your plate. Add a little retsina into the mix, a Greek wine made from pine and served in a carafe, and we’re really playing ball.
THE HISTORY AND THE LITERATURE
The arguable birth place of the epic – Greece’s history and literature is both inseparable and astounding. Tales of the Greek Gods and the unlucky mortals alive during their reign pervaded my childhood; as my Dad often read to me from a big book of Greek myths (when he wasn’t reciting Enid Blyton). My love of these stories led me to read the Iliad and the Odyssey, once I was old enough to stomach the blood and carnage and it has been incredible to actually visit some of the sites; which my imagination has been drawn to so frequently over the years. There are so many ruins, temples and tales of love and war to discover; as history and fantasy intermingle magically in a way which I have only experienced in Greece.
The misconception that the landscape of Greece is burnt and dry actually pains me; so, please allow me bulldoze that troubling falsity. Firstly, it totally depends on the time of year that you visit: head to Greece around Easter time and you will find green islands full of wild flowers and emerald foliage. Last March, I woke up in a taxi on the road through the Peloponnese and had my breath taken away by the lush and undulating landscape, bejewelled by yellow lemons. I had never been to Greece outside summer before and there was a beautiful and unexpected freshness to the spring-time. I do accept that the summer sun turns some of the islands and mainland brown; but much of the country does retain its greenness all year round you just have to choose an area which has a reputation for being well irrigated. However, irrigation or not, I totally accept that it’s damn hot in the height of summer. This means that many people end up exploring the beautiful landscape by quad bike or moped to save themselves some sweat. If you decide to do the same, make sure you’re covered by the right travel insurance and have an EHIC; because the likelihood is that a substantial medical bill will make you sweat more than 40 degrees ever could.
The sparkling waters and beautiful beaches are two of Greece’s better known talents. The choice of how to utilise these assets is yours: laze in the crystal shallows sipping an iced coffee, go diving, explore the sea caves in a kayak, or do all three. It doesn’t matter to me; but I highly recommend you do at least one and are insured for all three.
My advice for your holiday this summer is to go to Greece, swim in the sea, meet the people, eat the food, walk the landscape and soak up the history. But first, visit the FCO website to make sure you Know Before You Go: https://www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.
(Also, to help you chose that all important travel insurance, hit www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-insurance)