Itinerary of Greece for the horseless, or to cover the vastness.
I am interested in the topic of description of routes, because it is not always convenient to describe all the details of travel and ticketing, but I want to help those who are looking for easier and faster way to get from point A to point B, especially when I remember how I myself searched the Internet for the right information.
Greece is a beautiful Mediterranean country, where millions of tourists come for the ancient temples, the myths and legends of Hellas, the mysteries of the ancient Greek gods, the Orthodox pilgrimage, and, of course, for the beautiful gentle sea. Today we will also go to this interesting country and try to combine great cities, beautiful Meteora and rest on the Aegean coast. Our route is designed for independent travelers, who for various reasons decided to travel without a car, and since the country has good transport links, then in addition to a comfortable ride, we will get lots of bonuses – watching the lives of ordinary Greeks and close communication with them, a relaxed contemplation of the beauty of Greece from the bus window, no problems with parking, gas stations, broken-down, as well as the ability at any time to drink refreshing Greek wine:) And we will try out almost all modes of transportation: bus, plane, ferry and cab:) If you want, you can also use the train, for example, to get from Thessaloniki to Meteora. So here is our travel itinerary for Greece: Athens, Naflion, Aegina Island, Thessaloniki, Meteora, Halkidiki.
We start our journey by arriving in the capital of Greece. From the airport to the center goes x 95 bus, cost 5 euros, there is also a metro line. For those who did not fall in love with Athens immediately, 2 full days will be enough to explore most of the sights and relax in the tavernas on the Plaka. The Acropolis, Plaka, Anafiotica, Areopagus, the Temple of Hephaestus, Monastiraki Square, the Trilogy Library, the University and the Academy, the Lekavitos Hill, the port, the museum – that is, in general, all the main attractions of the city.
Those who are in love can spare a couple of days for wandering around the city, sitting in taverns and other attractions. Early in the morning we will drive to Nafplion, a lovely cozy town, which was for a short time the capital, and which has a charming embankment, narrow little streets, a small but beautiful beach with blue waters, a small postcard fort of Burdzi, and of course the magnificent huge fortress of Palamidi, which has 922 steps and offers a great view over the city and the Mediterranean.
The bus number 051 to the train station of Peneloponissou stops at the street Zinonos and Menandrou (Omonia district, every 15 minutes from 5 am to 11:30 pm). Across the street in a store you can buy tickets, preferably round trip. The way to the station takes about 30-40 minutes. It’s necessary to walk through the station and to the left side of the terminal, A, in a small ticket office to buy a return ticket for about 20 euros (buses leave every hour from 6 am to 11 pm).
It takes about 3 hours to get to Nafplion, so it’s better to take the morning flight.
The bus arrives at a small bus station, from where it is only 10 minutes before the start of the ascent to the fortress, it is better to go there immediately, while it is not hot. You can also get there by cab from the other side of the hill. The fortress is a must-see, it’s very large, it will be interesting for all generations, and what a view of the city you have from there! After spending there a few hours, tempted by the beach, seen from a height, we will go to the sea where we will dive with childlike enthusiasm into the salty, warm waters of the Mediterranean, relax in the shade of pine trees and drink a bottle of beer in a beach cafe, listening to the guitar playing of local musicians.
After a couple of hours we’ll take a leisurely stroll through the famous flower-lined streets lined with tavern tables and climbing steps up. Dine on fresh seafood at one of the many waterfront taverns and restaurants overlooking the fort, and have coffee at some charming coffee shop. Then we’ll walk along the waterfront, squinting in the gentle sunset sun, and slowly walk to the last bus. 3 hours and we’re in Athens, and here we need to buy a ticket in advance, because at 10-11 pm ticket offices are closed. The cab to Omonia area will cost you 10 euros, and you’ll get a surprised look on the driver’s face, saying, what have you forgotten in this terrible area:)
First things first: the idea and the outcome of our trip to Greece.
I tell you why we went to Greece and why this trip was special.
A trip without an idea is like a movie without a plot: you can watch it, but it’s hard to grasp the essence. What was it for? What changed? What did I gain, learn, realize? If there is no concept, such questions remain unanswered, and often not even raised at all. But as soon as the trip has a semantic core, concentration on the main thing comes, and fragments of images and impressions assemble into a coherent picture. As a result, you return from the trip not slack and empty, but collected and with a rich catch.
For our last tour of Greece we set a theme:
Pilgrimage to the origins of European civilization. A trip to the places where the ideas that defined our past, present and future were born and blossomed.
You could say that this journey began even six months before we arrived in Greece. At that time we were in Turkey, on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. As we stepped upon the ruins of ancient Ionian cities, we fell through a time portal that transported us back two and a half thousand years to the dawn of Western philosophy. It was there, in the great Miletus, that the famous Thales and his followers felt that they were crowded within the narrow confines of mythological and religious dogma, and for the first time thought about the true structure of the world. So was born philosophy and science, on the basis of which gradually grew up our entire European civilization. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas, Descartes, Newton, Nietzsche, Freud, Einstein and hundreds of others would come later, but it was Thales of Miletus who paved the way for them all.
To stand in silence among the ruins and realize the greatness of an event that happened exactly in this very place and determined both the course of world history and your personal destiny is a powerful impression. Renata and I were curious to find and launch a few more such portals, opening doors to the most important moments of the past. So we went to Greece for them.
Renata among the giant columns of the Temple of Apollo in Didyma, a sanctuary connected by a sacred road to Miletus.
Athens is our everything
After Miletus fell under the onslaught of the Persian empire, Athens took over the palm of primacy in the ancient Greek world. It was there, through the efforts of the best minds of the main ancient Greek polis, that all of our Western philosophy, sciences, drama and other pleasant things that once and for all determined the future of Europe took shape. Figuratively speaking, it is our school. It was there that we learned politics, the arts, and in general learned to learn, to think, and finally learned that we know nothing. In general, Athens is our everything. So that’s where we went first.
To tell you the truth, from the times of Pericles, Socrates and Aristotle in modern Athens there is only a crumb of it: the Acropolis, the ancient Agora and the Kerameikos cemetery – a few buildings, a few dozen upright columns, and the rest is just stones, stones, stones. And almost all this heritage is squeezed on all sides of the gaudy architecture of the last century, souvenir shops, restaurants and roads with buzzing scooters. Oh yes, and let’s not forget the crowds of tourists. In general, to capture and feel the spirit of ancient Athens here and try not. But it is useful to visit, to see and to touch. Reading about Ancient Hellas by Mikhail Gasparov, or books on ancient history, or the ancient classics themselves, will be much more enjoyable and interesting.
The Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora is very beautiful and perfectly preserved. I’m in the Psiri quarter in Athens. And Socrates once walked these streets! View of Athens from the observation deck on the Areopagus. View of the Acropolis.
Cyclades – a distant antiquity
The ancient Greeks were once only guests on the territory of the future Hellas, or rather aggressive invaders from the north. Before their arrival in those lands lived other peoples, who created a much more advanced civilization and sophisticated culture than had had immigrant invaders. The future Greeks (Achaeans, Dorians and others), in the best tradition of the conquerors, destroyed all available civilizations and the region went into a kind of dark ages for several centuries. However, the cultural achievements of the most ancient Greeks did not disappear without a trace, they became the foundation on which the civilization of the known to us Ancient Greece, and then Rome, and then the whole of Europe, and then almost the whole world, gradually grew up.
The Cycladic civilization existed so long ago that neither the ancient Greeks nor you and I know anything about it. It was four or five thousand years ago. Roughly speaking, Socrates, who lived about two and a half thousand years ago, is separated from the Cycladic culture by exactly the same amount of time as we are. Can you imagine how old that is?
The Cyclades themselves are two hundred small islands in the Aegean Sea, north of Crete. The archipelago includes famous Greek resorts like Milos and Santorini. On the islands themselves you are unlikely to find any artifacts of ancient civilization, but you can admire them in the museums of Athens. Especially interesting is the specialized Museum of Cycladic Art. In this wonderful temple of history, founded by the Goulandris family, we spent half a day and we were completely delighted. There we admired not only charming Cycladic idols, but also artifacts of Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. And on the upper floor of the museum there is a wonderful exposition of ancient Greek household and art objects. Despite its modest size, this exhibition perfectly immerses the viewer into the classical era of ancient Greece. The cleverly crafted exhibit is matched by atmospheric music and a good accompanying film. I recommend this place to all history buffs.
Cycladic Idol. Smaller idols. Crater (wine and water mixing vessel) with erotic scene, 500-490 BC. Inside the museum.
Crete, the original of Greece and Europe
It wasn’t just museums and ruins we saw in Greece. The simple pleasures of the earth and the breeze of freedom of autotraveling are not the least of our favorites. After five days in Athens and a short trip to Budapest (yes, I know, strange and unexpected), we flew to Crete, where we spent eight glorious days, six of which drove around almost the entire island up and down (to cover 1300 km on the island 260 km – the result is pretty impressive).
What is interesting for the hunter of originals Crete? Besides the magnificent beaches, gorges and serpentines, the island is remarkable for its history. Once, long before the arrival of the future ancient Greeks, a strong and advanced Minoan civilization flourished here, which had an impressive influence on the entire region. It got its name after the legendary King Minos. It was to him that Delalus, the greatest inventor in Greek mythology, served and to him Athens, powerless before the Cretan power, paid the famous bloody tribute in the form of young men and women sacrificed to the harsh Minotaur. The Greeks have never forgotten that before they were masters of this land and these seas, it was the Cretans who were in charge. For a thousand and a half years this culture existed, until the volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini and the arrival of the warlike Dorians destroyed it. Here on Crete there is also a cave that became the home for the child Zeus, who was destined to become the victor of the titans and the first among the gods. This is the impressive background and status of Crete! Every Greek knew and remembered it, and after the discoveries of Arthur Evans every European knows and understands it. So there was no way we could avoid Crete on our journey to the origins.
While traveling in Crete, we explored the island itself in its entirety, focusing on the natural beauties and the Venetian heritage. We didn’t aim to visit the ruins of the palaces of the Minoan civilization – their state of preservation is dismal, so that even we didn’t find them too interesting. We did not even try to visit the famous palace of Knossos, because even it in reality is just a pile of stones, and all local constructions are remake on the basis of fantasy of the above mentioned archeologist.
The Shaitan of Limania on Crete.
The Tomb of King Philip and the Dawn of the Empire
Straight from Crete we flew to Thessaloniki to continue our journey to the beginning. We rented a car and drove to one of the most atmospheric museums we had ever visited.
This incomparable museum complex is located in Macedonia near the town of Vergina. Here was found the tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. And if the name of the famous commander, who conquered half the world, is known to every schoolboy, not everyone knows about his father. But it was Philip who began building this great empire: he strengthened Macedonia and united the whole of Greece under his rule. He was the first politician in the history of Europe to think globally, geopolitically, with huge ambitions and an unusual desire at the time – to build an empire. Had he not been killed in his prime, it is likely that it would have been he, and not his famous son, who would have led his invincible phalanxes to conquer the East.
The royal tombs at Vergine are definitely worth a visit for the unique atmosphere and chic exposition. You will find yourself in a dungeon with a thick, mysterious semi-darkness, dissected by the bright glitter of shimmering gold. You will see the king’s armor and weapons, elaborate gold wreaths, jewels and other artifacts found during the excavation of the burial ground. And then the main experience awaits you – the tomb of King Philip, for admiration of which a special room, hidden even deeper in the dungeon, is equipped (to find oneself there alone is a special pleasure). Do not even doubt, this is not just a trip to the museum, it is a real journey.
The Crown. The tomb of King Philip.
Olympus – the abode of the gods
For the final stage of the big Greek trip we had planned the activity I was most looking forward to – climbing Mount Olympus. There is hardly any need to explain how important for the people of Hellas is the residence of the main ancient Greek gods whose names even we, the distant descendants, know from our early childhood. Mount Olympus is their religious primordial and the highest sacred object.
Our goal was not to climb Mount Olympus itself (which requires a two-day hike with an overnight stay), but to reach the Plateau of the Muses, which is only two hundred meters below the main peak directly below it. The pictures of the plateau, found on the web, were beautiful and beckoned to hit the road. The reality didn’t let us down: the plateau is really beautiful, and the view of the throne of Zeus is spectacular.
Our one-day hike to the Moose Plateau went exceptionally well. The weather was wonderful, the autumn forest on the slopes of Olympus was fabulously beautiful, and besides us on that day there were only two other couples of tourists, with whom we crossed just for half a minute. We could say that on that day we were only in the company of gods, muses and dryads. The way there and back took the whole day, although its length was not even a little more, so that the last hour and a half we walked through the woods in complete darkness. But we saw a lot of stars and even spotted a couple of shooting ones. During the day we had walked 24 kilometers with the altitude of 1600 meters (1100→2700). Though, both ascent and descent were not easy, especially in the absence of hiking shoes and sticks. But we managed, though our leg muscles refused to work for a few days afterwards. Nevertheless, one day I would climb again, but all the way to the summit.
We started the ascent to Olympus in a fairy-tale forest. The forest was changing as we climbed. And we climbed higher and higher. And here we are on the plateau of Muses! And in front of us was the throne of Zeus.
Of course, during this trip we visited a lot of glorious places that were not included in this list: the anarchist neighborhoods in Athens, the bounty beaches on Crete, the soaring monasteries of Meteora, the metropolis of Thessaloniki, and much more. They are all interesting, beautiful and important, but it just so happens that the idea axis was the five listed above: Athens, the Cycladic Museum, Crete, Philip’s Tomb and Mount Olympus. All five portals to the origins of Western civilization worked, and we found what we were after.