• Coming face to face with history in awe-inspiring Athens

    Here’s the thing about ancient ruins. They’re almost always more, well, RUINED than you might think. There’ll be cranes and all sorts of reinforcement/construction work going on, which kind of mars your picture-taking opportunities. It will be far from a postcard-perfect scene.

     

    parthenon in acropolis athens 2013

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    As sights go, though, the Acropolis is totally worth the admission price (12 euros as of 2013). The views from the top alone are priceless – a magnificent vista of glittering roofs all around, an empire indeed.

    view from acropolis in athens

    We also hiked up the nearby Hill of the Muses, which is a great spot to stop and picnic and take in the panoramic surrounds, ringed by the misty coast in the distance, blocks of apartments pointing the way in razor-straight lines.

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    I was quite taken with this lonely collapsed column at the Temple of Olympian Zeus…

    collapsed column temple of olympian zeus templt of olympian zeus athens

    Nearby is the Arch of Hadrian, where I managed to slip in what must be the only mud puddle in the entire arid city in my effort to capture this photo

    arch of hadrian athens

    Plaka is full of little surprises, like this random church down a quiet street…

     

    greek church in plaka

    And some puzzling/disturbing graffiti.

    IMG_9809graffiti in athens

    People may tell you Athens is a hole. A dump that’s only worth a day at most. True, it’s dry and charmless for the most part. I can’t help but wonder what the weight of history places on the city’s inhabitants. It’s a lot to live up to, being the birthplace of modern democracy and all. The huge rock in the middle of Athens is a daily reminder of that. And look at it now. Can a city burdened with such a great legacy come back with a second act? Hopefully. But in the meantime, that marble mountain keeps people coming. Long may it continue.

  • Greece on a budget: Ways to save when visiting Santorini

    Touristy? Yes. Gorgeous? Insanely.

    santorini sunset

    Explosive sunsets and blindingly white stone buildings; beaches that run the gamut from golden to black and even a rusty volcanic red; ocean that smudges perfectly into the sky in one sweeping swathe of blue; the charming town of Fira, rutted with cobblestones, and Oia, where in contrast the polished stones underfoot pose a different kind of threat to your footing.

    White walls, blue roofs - must be Santorini! Santorini's brilliant whitewashed architecture Santorini's brilliant whitewashed architecture santorini sunset

    Even amidst the churn of the ferry at Athinios port, the ocean still glittered a crystal cerulean.

    santorini athinios ferry port

    All things considered, it’s not difficult to see why Santorini was named the most beautiful island in the world by the BBC in 2011.

    Best of all, this is Greece, so it’s not terribly expensive to start with. You can camp right by the beach for a song, stay in a hostel, or find one of the many reasonably priced villas and apartments, all of which should offer a free transfer from the ferry port or airport.



    Booking.com

    We stayed at Katefiani Villas, which I can highly recommend. Bright, clean and just a couple of minutes from the beach, it’s right around the corner from a fantastic bakery and a stone’s throw from the supermarket, restaurants and bus stop.

    katefiani villas santorini

    Here’s a few more tips to stretch your travel budget a little further.

    Bakeries are your friend
    Most places don’t do breakfast, as you’ll probably notice. Don’t worry – there are plenty of bakeries, some of them open 24/7! We lived on slices of pie from our local bakery, mainly the chicken pie, breaking it up with the beef and cheese or moussaka pie for variety. Plus there are lots of cheap kebab places around, some better than others.

    Supermarkets are your friend
    Santorini is an island, so things are a little more expensive here. Nonetheless, you should stock up on the basics at your local supermarket. If it’s a little too far, you can call and they will pick you up! Seriously (at least, that’s what the posters advertise).

    The bus is your friend
    If you’re on a budget, don’t rent a vehicle. All those scooters, quads and cars roaming around? They’re convenient, but nowhere near as cheap as the local bus. If you must rent wheels, shop around. We found a sweet deal at Dimitri’s in Perissa, on the main road just a short walk back from the beach.