2011-06-24: What a beautiful week we had in Greece, near Athens (Αθήνα). Talk about sand, sea, sun and fun! The first day had some threatening clouds, but thereafter beautiful blue skies, and a bright sun. To my pleasant surprise, the most used 2nd language is English!
The flight was from Paris, CDG (LFPG - 49.0097445,2.5626195), via Aegean Airways, in an Airbus A320. A little less than 3 hours of flight and we descended into Athens's airport (LGAV - 37.9363575,23.9444705). About 2,700 Km direct. Then via a hotel bus for about an hour to the Mare Nostrum hotel, 350 rooms, at Vravrona, on the east coast. Also see Google Map image.
As usual with Annie, we mapped out our itinerary within hours ;=)) The first day was by bus/train into Athens, about 45 Km, to just wander around, and visit the Acropolis. Then we hired a little car for 3 days, so on the second day headed south, to Souino, total about 300 Km. The third day, west to Korinthos, and south, in the Peloponnese region, to Nafflio, total about 400 Km, and the 4th day by car into Athens for another look around. The 5th day was a relaxing by the hotel pool. The 6th day an all day boat trip, visiting 3 islands, Hydra, Poros, and Egina. Quite a tough day commencing at 5:30 AM! And of course in the 7th day our departure.
Here is a full set of images, taken with our little Panasonic Lumix digital camera. Clicking any image should bring up the full 3456x2592 image, or about 9 Mega-pixels.
Of course, knowing no Greek, it all sounded, well all 'Greek' to me ;=)) But as mentioned, to my pleasant surprise, it seems the major second language is English
Greek, uses the Greek alphabet, dating from 8th century BC. It is still in use today. It is the first and oldest alphabet in the narrow sense that it notes each vowel and consonant with a separate symbol. Thankfully, lots of signs will be rendered in both the Greek and Latin characters. But with a little effort both can be read.
Take the major city, Athens, which is called 'Athena' in Greek. The capital 'A' remains the same 'A' - alpha; the 'th' becomes 'θ' - theta; the 'e' sound 'η' - eta; the lower case 'n' is 'ν' - nu, and finally the lower case 'a' as 'α' - alpha; so the street sign will show 'Αθήνα'... sort of simple when you get the hang of it ;=)) See the 24 letter Greek alphabet below.
All the usual, bus, train, car, plane, with a special surprise on the island of Hydra, where no cars are allowed, donkeys or horses! On all the trips we took, they were clean, and efficient. Going into Athens from our hotel was a pieces of cake, taking the 304 bus from its terminus, just outside the hotel gate, to its other terminus, at a metro station, and take the metro to your destination station, all using the same ticket.
The little Hyundai we hired for 3 days from Pop's Car Rental, with a desk inside our hotel, was quite new, having done only an indicate 30,000 Km. (car image). The 3 days, unlimited mileage, cost 171 Euro. Fuel was interesting. Unlike France with unleaded 95 and 98 octane, they have 95 and 100 octane, although the 100 was not available everywhere, which was ok since the little car was 'happy' with unleaded 95. The other interesting thing was while the big stations, like Shell, BP, etc were happy to take a credit card, most of the 'little' stations ONLY took CASH!
Driving on their roads and highways was ok, but this particular infrastructure could do with some TLC ;=)) - read lots of cracks and potholes. As usual these days there were abundant speed limit signs, with a maximum of 120 Kph on the big highways, although it has to be noted that very few drivers strictly obey such signs. In some cases I was even overtaken by truck and busses!
And regrettably the Greeks have a similar habit as the French - that is extreme impatience;=(( If you do not have the car in gear and moving forward within a frightfully short space of time after the lights turn green, like probably less than 2 seconds!, YOU WILL BE BEEPED ;=() Maybe it is some stupid 'sport', passed onto the young ;=))
The highway signs can be quite challenging. First many will only have the Greek name, but hopefully by now you have recorded in your mind the two forms - Greek and Latin! But the important thing is that there will often be only ONE indication! When it indicates say turn left to go to your desired destination, that usually means RIGHT NOW! And if you fail to take that immediate left, there may be no other indications that you are now heading in the wrong direction. We made this mistake several times before cottoning onto the 'immediate' nature of the signs ;=))
Naturally, our actual travels in Greece, during this week, covered just a small part of the territory of Greece. On the map below, the yellow line is that done by car, over 3 days, the the green line that by boat, on a one day trip. Of course there is MUCH MORE to see ;=()
A map showing the expansion of the Greek republic, 1832-1947
The 24 letter/symbol Greek alphabet - with 'wiki' links to each letter... Note the sometimes quite different rendering of the capital letter versus the lower case letters...
|Α α||Alpha||Β β||Beta||Γ γ||Gamma||Δ δ||Delta|
|Ε ε||Epsilon||Ζ ζ||Zeta||Η η||Eta||Θ θ||Theta|
|Ι ι||Iota||Κ κ||Kappa||Λ λ||Lambda||Μ μ||Mu|
|Ν ν||Nu||Ξ ξ||Xi||Ο ο||Omicron||Π π||Pi|
|Ρ ρ||Rho||Σ σς||Sigma||Τ τ||Tau||Υ υ||Upsilon|
|Φ φ||Phi||Χ χ||Chi||Ψ ψ||Psi||Ω ω||Omega|
There are some other symbols, and diacritics... see wiki Greek Alphabet
Some item 'missed', as a reminder for the next trip...
1. Binoculars - How we forgot to pack these, I will never know.
2. Water Goggles - Essential when swimming in the sea, to get a good view of the 'fish'...
3. Helicopter or Light Plane Ride - This is normally something on our agenda, and maybe only because it was just a short week. I saw both flying quite low over our hotel.
Nothing essential, but important to remember none the less ;=))