X Reasons You Should Get To Greece This Year

X Reasons to Go to Greece

X Reasons You Should Get To Greece This Year

With a friend recently planning a trip to Majorca for her upcoming vacation, my cries that now is the perfect time to head to the Greek Isles fell on deaf ears due mainly to fears about the current state of the Greek economy. Though she didn’t listen, you shouldn’t make the same mistake. This summer is the perfect time for beach-hopping or culture-vulturing (is that a verb?) or hiking along poorly marked trails through the Greek Islands, and here’s why:

Athens' Parthenon at Sunrise

  • The €urrency has never been more favorable.

Not only is the Greek economy down (like, seriously down) but even the €uro itself is at a historic low compared to the dollar. My Greece travel budget in 2013 was just under €34 per day, which at the time amounted to around $44. Today that same cost in Euros would equal around $38 per day, almost a 15% drop, and that’s not even considering the fact that costs are going to be lower as the economy continues to decline. There has been a lot of talk about ATMs running out of cash and people having difficulty accessing their accounts, but recent reports seem to indicate that this only applies to Greek bank accounts and that international travelers will be largely unaffected. Even better, you’ll be actively doing something to prop up that faltering economy – at a time when Greeks definitely needs all the economic support they can get. Take some spare cash, hop on a flight or ferry, and reap the benefits of a faltering global economy!

Herbs for sell in Athens Greece

  •  The food is still incredible. 

This one is a pretty easy sell, of course, but it ties in with first point because this is one of those costs that will keep getting cheaper. Even when I visited in 2013 there were plenty of restaurants offering a ‘recession special’ on their lunch and dinner menus. I did an astoundingly good food tour in Athens, full of fresh herbs and sweet desserts and even an olive oil so good you can drink it (no joke). In Crete, where I spent quite a lot of time, plenty of restaurants will feed you for less than 10 Euro and then give you a nice little shot of rakia to send you on your way. It’s fresh, full of flavor, and actually usually pretty healthy – I would eat this stuff all the time if I could find it at home.

Landscapes of Greece

  • Bright white beaches and snowy mountains.

Greece has a huge diversity of landscapes, from the white sand beaches and clear blue water you already know well to snow-covered mountain tops and desert islands that are probably less familiar. It can be easy to write off the whole country as a cliche beach trip dotted by free-flowing ouzo and olives (which, even as I write it, sounds pretty awesome) but there’s so much more to Greece than just the waterfront. For Example:

Camping in an Ottoman Fortress in Crete

  • Camping in Ottoman Fortresses (and Venetian, and Minoan, and also some caves and beaches and really pretty much any landscape you could want).

Sleeping in one of Crete’s amazing campsites or hiking the Samaria Gorge. My trip to the country was (unsurprisingly by now?) all about nature. Days sweating up steep trails through overgrown canyons, and nights spent building campfires in fortresses that haven’t been inhabited for almost 200 years. My main focus was the Crete E4 Trail, a small leg of the very large E4 European long-distance path that starts in Spain and ends a bit east of Crete on the island of Cyprus, but small traditional footpaths wind throughout both the island of Crete and really the entire country of Greece. Not always very well marked and very rarely busy, these hikes are a great way to turn a fairly popular tourism destination into a very nonstandard experience – I daresay adventure! And much easier and cheaper for many than planning a big hiking trip in Asia.

Saronic Islands in Greece

  • Tiny little islands.

Of course, island/boat/beach time definitely has a place as well. Crusing past islands like Hydra in the Saronic Gulf (near Athens) or even just sitting on the shores of Sweetwater Beach after a long day of hiking in Crete remain some of my most peaceful memories of not only that trip but really of all my travels in Europe, while for more party-minded travelers the shores of islands like Mykonos and Ios are a strong pull.

Poseidon's Temple in Cape Sounion, near Athens

  • The Temples of Ancient Greece.

Of course, last but absolutely not least, the culture and ruins that dot the country. You surely know the temples of Athens’ Acropolis and Agora.  While these are certainly the biggest and most famous they are by no means the only ones worth seeing. Whether the far trip out from Athens to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi or the much closer Poseidon’s Temple at Cape Sounion, any once-student of history or art or architecture will find much that delights. If you’re one of those (nerds like myself) who took classes on ancient Greek mythology back in high school? Well, hold onto your horses!

Relief Carvings at a Greek Temple in Athens

So, what do you think? Have you started looking already at booking flights to Greece for the summer? Let us know in the comments!


This post is sponsored by FirstChoice, but all opinions as always are totally my own. 

 

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    Instagram Updates – Best of May

    Screenshot_2015-06-25-13-40-58

    Instagram Updates – Best of May

    Well, hello there. It has been quiet around here, hasn’t it? I’ve been off tramping across the dunes of Dubai and up the volcanoes of Indonesia for the last few months, and of course spending time glued to the computer for my desk job back here in Bishkek; but that’s no excuse! You deserve better! Luckily if you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ve seen a whole host of delightful updates. I mean, what better way to start your day than with this handsome mug?

    No, but seriously, I spent the first ten days of last month climbing volcanoes and rafting rivers and biking above rice terraces and eating dirty ducks and watching dudes in Hanuman costumes dance through fire. Bali really is quite a spot, much moreso than the EatPrayLove-decrying hardcore traveler would ever give it credit for. I’ll blog about it all eventually, probably, but for now you’ll have to be content with the photos and the half-stories contained therein.

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      Instagram Updates: Best of April

      Instagram Updates April in Nrpal

      Instagram Updates: The Best of April

       

      Though I’m writing well after, I took all and posted most of these photos before the string of earthquakes that hit Nepal starting on April 25th. I encourage you to view these photos with an eye to the beauty of the country, but don’t forget that it will be a long road of reconstruction in a country whose infrastructure was already underdeveloped even before disaster struck. If you haven’t already, consider supporting the country either through formal aid structures or informally through a Nepalese friend of mine (one who, for what it’s worth, I trust implicitly to use donations at her best discretion for whatever the greatest needs in her community are).

       

      I was beyond excited to find out I would get to go to Nepal again this year. My first trip, in 2011, was one stuffed to the top with hiking and nature and wildlife and temples and religion and culture. I spent WEEKS in Kathmandu, more than a month on a single hike, and a fair bit of time poking around places like Janakpur and Chitwan in wonder about how amazing (and how photogenic) the country is. So many good people, cool places, and delicious food. It will take time to rebuild what can be rebuilt post-earthquake, but while I have other commitments at the moment I’m already thinking about when I might be able to make it back to the region – with any luck it will be before the end of the year even.

      Some of the places in these photos no longer exist, this first shot in particular from Patan’s Durbar Square which was hit very hard by the disaster, but even if the structures themselves can’t be repaired the people and culture that make Nepal so amazing to visit will still be there.

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        Victory! Celebrating Victory Day in Bishkek.

        Victory Day celebrations in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan

        Victory!
        Celebrating Victory Day in Bishkek.

        I’m currently out of the country, missing this year’s Victory Day celebrations in Kyrgyzstan. This is a big year, though, the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and likely the last big anniversary that will see a significant number of veterans of the fighting able to take part in the ceremonies in person. If you’re in a country that celebrates Victory Day, in the weeks leading up to May 9th make sure to seek out celebrations of this historic anniversary.

        If you had to guess, what would you say was the best way to celebrate Great Patriotic War Against Fascism Victory Day?

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          Uri Fleischer in Vienna’s MuseumQuarter

          Uri Fleischer in Vienna's Kunsthall Wien

          Uri Fleischer in Vienna’s MuseumQuarter

          (Note: this posted in a slightly different form in May of 2012, right after visiting the exhibit. I found it in the course of cleaning up old posts and links, and liked it enough to share it again. Enjoy!)

          I had a LOT of time to kill in Vienna, hanging around for two weeks waiting on three different Central Asia visas to process. Many of my days there were bright and sunny and seemed to invite the city out to parks and cafes to revel in the the sun’s warmth.

          Occasionally the day was drizzly and depressing, though luckily the city has more than enough museums to keep an itinerant visa seeker busy on blah days. Some of the best of these were all centrally located in Vienna’s MuseumsQuarter, with perhaps my favorite being the KunstHalle Wien.

          I get that modern art is a hit or miss type thing. Either you’re into it or you simply don’t care. With the KunstHalle’s Uri Fleischer exhibit, I was definitely on the former side of the divide.

          uri fleischer modern art vienna austria

          The exhibit itself is weird and fleeting and such that it can only ever be experienced in a given way one time; afterwards even a repeat visitor is living through a new version of the same. It is, in many ways, the same sort of feeling I have towards traveling. Even when going back to Vienna, a place I must have passed through five or six times in the past few years, every new visit is oddly different. The buildings are all still there and the currywurst still delicious, yet it somehow feels unsame.

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            Chariots and Pierced Tongues: Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur

            Chariot at the BIsket Jatra Festival in Nepal

            Chariots and Pierced Tongues:
            Bisket Jatra Festival in Bhaktapur

            It takes something special to keep me in the city of Kathmandu for an extra week instead of jaunting off to the mountains of Nepal. I’ve had good luck in the past with festivals in this country, though, whether with Tibetan monks at the Mani Rimdu festival high in the Himalaya or way down in the plains of Janakpur where Sita and Rama were married at the Sita Bibaha. With the promise of a tongue-piercing chariot-dragging good time just outside of Kathmandu, then, how could I say no?

            (Note: this one is pretty photo heavy. Put on your glasses, shut off your Dropbox, and welcome to the weird world of the Bisket Jatra festival.)

            Crowds at Bisket Jatra Festival in Nepal

            Even walking into the old town of Bhaktapur, the city feels transformed. What only a week before was a quiet warren of architectural inspiration of centuries past is now a teeming mass of people among whom the sounds of beating drums and full-throated yells that resound from every open space in the center of town. Anywhere there’s space, it seems, people are assembled en masse to watch processions of chariots and beshrined palanquins or to help pull down a symbolic wooden pole that doubles as a Shiva lingam. It’s loud, crazy, colorful chaos.

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              Albertina Museum: Vienna’s Most Elevated Art House

              Albertina Museum Vienna Terrace

              Albertina Museum:
              Vienna’s Most Elevated Art House

              There’s a lot of pun built into that title, but I’m going to be a jerk and not explain it to you till the end.

               There are just so many museums in Vienna. There’s Freud and Hundertwasser and Leopold and Strauss and Beethoven and Horses and Hofburgs and Furniture and Forged Art and… well, frankly, it would be ridiculous to try to combine them all into one trip. I mean I even LIKE museums and I’ve tried hard to catch some of the more impressive exhibits in Vienna but, come on, I like to see the sun every once in a while as well.

              Which is all an excuse to explain away the fact that, somehow, it was my third trip to the city and THREE YEARS since the first time I was in town that I finally stepped inside the Albertina Museum.

              (Also, on a tangent, it seems I waltz through Vienna exactly once per year these days. Who wants to join me in 2015?) 

              Albertina Museum Vienna Terrace

              I say ‘stepped inside’ because I’ve actually visited the Albertina many times – there’s a beautiful terrace out front overlooking the back of the Opera House and the front of the Cafe Sacher AND Cafe Mozart. Even better, there’s a snack stand just at the foot of the terrace that sells a delicious currywurst for like two or three Euros. So, Albertina and I were acquainted, but I’d never properly made the time to stop in and say hello until this last trip.

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                Instagram Updates: Best of March

                Atlantis and Palm Jumeirah from the sky

                Instagram Updates: Best of March

                I’ve been having a bit of computer trouble recently, in that my computer won’t charge at all and so I’ve got no way to access the hundreds and hundreds of shots I took in Dubai. I’m hoping to have it resolved soon but, luckily, I was able to edit and upload at least a few of them before things turned south. With one exception every photo I posted to my Instagram feed in March was from the UAE, either old shots from past trips there or newly taken beauties from the week that just finished. Enjoy some of the best of both here, and with any luck by this time next month I’ll have been able to go through and post tons more from waterparks and desert safaris and Emirati food and a seaplane ride over the city’s unbelievable architecture.

                 

                Abu Dhabi doesn’t necessarily have the same flashy vibe as more popular Dubai but there are a couple of spots where they’ve definitely decided to do it up big. The first of these, the Emirates Palace hotel, rises up like a phantom through the sun’s haze and defines the city’s beachfront for me even if I’ve not spent much time inside. The other major ‘site’ though, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, is just as worthwhile on the outside as it is in the interior. That alone is worth the trip over from Dubai, even if you jump straight back on the highway afterwards and head back.

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