Greece


Greece is a fascinating country filled with unique locations. One interesting place of great spiritual significance is Meteora with its fairy-tale-like monasteries built on giant stone pillars. The name Meteora comes from Greek meteoron meaning lofty (that's where the word meteor also comes from). I visited the six active monasteries in Meteora - Great Meteoron, Varlaam Monastery, Monastery of the Holy Trinity, St. Stephen Monastery, Roussanou Nunnery and Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas.

My favorite was the smaller, beautiful and very peaceful St. Nicholas, while Great Meteoron and Varlaam were impressive; but all of them are a delight to visit. You'll find loads of tourists in some locations and some of the monasteries require climbing lots of stairs, but those were minor issues.

The landscapes in Meteora with their impressive stone formations made you feel like you were in the land of giants. Don't miss the beautiful sunset or a star-filled night sky while in the area.

For another interesting location of great spiritual significance see my Mount Athos album.

Athens, the capital city of Greece, is fantastic if you're into ancient history. The Acropolis, home to the world famous Parthenon and to other equally impressive ancient ruins, is located on a hill overlooking the city; get there at 8:00 AM before the crowds invade and enjoy the marble masterpieces in the warm morning sun - it's magical.

As the birthplace of modern Western civilization some 4,000 years ago, Athens is full of impressive sites (many are close to the Acropolis): the Ancient Agora with its museum housed in a reconstructed ancient building; the beautifully preserved Temple of Hephaestus; the stunning Temple of Olympian Zeus; and the New Acropolis Museum.

Outside of the Acropolis area my favorite places were Plaka (a bit touristy but fun) and getting on top of Mount Lycabettus by cable car to enjoy stunning views of the city and a cool Greek Frappe.

In the very good National Archaeology Museum of Athens I was thrilled to discover the original Antikythera Mechanism on display - an ancient analog computer built in the 1st century BC and used to calculate astronomical positions. It baffles the mind that similar technology did not appear again until some 1,500 years later, in the 14th century AD.

In Thessaloniki check out the Rotunda, the Hagia Sophia church and the White Tower, and have a coffee in the rotating cafe of the OTE Tower.

Outside of the big cities Greece is a great country for vacations, sunny beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. A nice and relaxing little resort is Kalamitsi which features excellent beaches, clear waters, good food and its own little island that you can swim to and explore a bit (you'll also get to see a curious little octopus if you're lucky). Nearby Sarti features more shops and restaurants, as well as 3km of beaches. Driving around the Halkidiki area while listening to traditional Greek music and stopping in various villages and resorts is very nice. Don't miss the Bouyourdi oven baked cheese dish and the very good Greek olives.

Additional info:
- country entry on Wikipedia
- country profile on Wikivoyage

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Greece

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