As a holiday company mainly concentrating on the Cyclades it may come as a surprise that we do offer breaks in other parts of Greece, contrary to popular opinion we do work in the winter, so my current project is adding new destination guides. So where do we think it is worth visiting for a short break on the Greek mainland? Well let’s start with Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras and Nafplion.
For many years my experience of mainland Greece was restricted to landing at an airport or arriving at a port with the sole intention of moving on, not stopping and enjoying it, if I had to stay it would be in a faceless airport hotel. Mainly with Athens it was a case of landing, hopping on a bus through the less than beautiful streets for the journey to Piraeus, arriving hot and irritable whilst trying to locate a ferry in what is the largest ferry port in Europe (fortunately we do not put our customers through this experience our drivers pick them up from the airport and take them directly to their ferry – no fun you lot!) Or conversely, I would arrive in Piraeus sleepy and half dead at six in the morning after an all-night ferry from one of the more remote islands – and in those days was far too tight or broke to pay for a cabin, just to jump back on the same bus in the opposite direction. Thessaloniki was just an airport which came in useful for beach holidays in Halkidiki, and Patras in my mind was just the port area where our all singing and dancing European Tom Tom did not actually recognise Greece as a European country – and Nafplion – well I will pass, I had never heard of it!
My ignorance meant I missed out on some fascinating places. Since living in Syros we have be so lucky to visit Athens on a number of occasions, needless to say those few times will never be enough as there is just so much to see and do, it does not even have to be that expensive, there are some fascinating walks and in winter major sites are half price to enter, hence us climbing the Acropolis on a sunny December day last year for only 10 euros each, it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Athens has had much bad publicity since the crash, and some parts still have the all too familiar graffiti and rubbish lined streets, but when you know where to go Athens is not just an alluring place for those interested in ancient history. Athens is a vibrant offering a wealth of culture and gastronomy.
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second city, it’s popularity as a destination for mini-breaks increased with the wonderful book “The Thread” by Victoria Hislop and if you have not got around to reading it yet I would highly recommend it. Thessaloniki is also full of sites of archaeological interest and has a fascinating history, definitely a “foodie paradise” offering Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, great seafood, street food, eastern flavours and traditional breads and cakes.
A combination of research in to the tradition of Carnival in Greece (we have a great one in Syros) and again Victoria Hislop led to the glaring realisation that Patras is not just a port – it is in fact Greece’s third city and every spring hosts the biggest carnival in Greece (one of the biggest in Europe).
And so finally to the mysterious Nafplion, I knew again from my research in Syros it was briefly the first capital of modern Greece and that is where my knowledge ended! I did not know that it is considered to be one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in Greece, not that I am hinting but a weekend in Nafplion would make a perfect Valentines present, (husband take note!).