A Travellerspoint blog

Greece

Northern Greece

[[https://www.travellerspoint.com/gallery/users/Liamps/countries/Greece/
|Greece photos]

My Greek odyssey was bookended with visits to two destinations in the north of the country; neither of which warranted independent blog entries. On first glance, the cultural and natural wonder of Meteora and the major city of Thessaloniki may seem unrelated, but Greek Orthodoxy and Byzantine architecture are characteristic of both identities. This is probably a flimsy connection to justify grouping them together, but I’m running with it. In late August, I arrived in Trikala in Central Greece after a lengthy overnight trip from Bulgaria. I was surprised by how developed Greece appeared and how proficient at English the Greeks I encountered were; both of which contravened assumptions I had made based on the country’s dire financial circumstances. The effects of the crisis are not really identifiable for a tourist, especially since locals continue to engage in a cosmopolitan lifestyle as bars and cafes are full in the evening throughout the week. I used Trikala as my base to visit Meteora, which was a visually stunning introductory to Greece. I deliberated ad nauseum about the concluding stages of my trip, but all roads led to Thessaloniki anyway if I were to avoid flying into the Western Balkans. I stayed in the grungy second city of the Byzantine Empire and the modern Hellenic Republic for two nights.

Meteora is among the most extraordinary sights on the planet and a rightful claimant to the title of “eighth wonder of the word”. Colossal oval-shaped rock formations rise from barren and relatively flat grasslands to create a captivating landscape similar to the Karst Mountains of Southern China. Some of the formations are, however, steeper than that seen in China, which results in the exposition of black rock as the inclination is too substantial for plant growth. The most beguiling attribute of Meteora is the preposterous positioning of six Greek Orthodox monasteries on top of these granite peaks. The monasteries were constructed five to six hundred years ago and once numbered twenty. Extensive foundations were built on the sides of the peaks to support the precariously situated complexes. I caught the bus up to the largest monastery, Great Meteora, and walked between the others. The interiors of complexes were rather uninspiring and alike; it’s the views which are awesome. I ended the day by hiking through a verdant valley between the rock formations to Kalambaka, before departing the area.

Thessalonians are overtly proud of their Macedonian identity and their city’s rich history. Thessaloniki was the primary port of the ancient kingdom of Macedon. It became the capital of the province of Macedonia under Roman occupation and the second city of the Byzantine Empire until its collapse in the fifteenth century. Considering the anonymity of Thessaloniki from a tourist perspective, I was surprised to find the city dotted with surprisingly extensive Roman ruins and several astonishing Byzantine edifices, more so than Istanbul and Athens. The most impressive are the expansive remains of Emperor Galerius’ palace that are located in the heart of the city,
surrounded by towering apartment blocks. Connected to this complex is the arch of Galerius and the wonderfully preserved seventeen-hundred year old circular Rotunda that originally served as a colossal pagan temple. Thessaloniki was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the early fifteenth century, which began five hundred years of Islamic rule. Traces of this epoch that exist in the central area of the city include Turkish baths, small mosques, the wooden houses of the Old Town and the robust fortified towers of the city walls. While Greece gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in the early nineteenth century, Thessaloniki was not liberated until 1912 after the first Balkans War. The historic region of Macedonia was partitioned between four neighbouring countries, which has spurned continual animosity between the Greek-speaking and Slavic-speaking areas based on the usage of the name and the identity of Alexander the Great. It is now the second city of Greece and remains the capital of the Greek province of Macedonia.

Thessaloniki boasts numerous archaeological and architectural wonders, but it is fundamentally a modern and unattractive city. The layout follows a conventional grid-plan with four lane boulevards and heavy traffic, so it lacks the Old World charm of the central areas of other European cities. The building typology is uniform throughout Thessaloniki: unimaginative and plain six storey apartment buildings with vast balconies. The promenade area and the old Turkish residential areas on the slopes above the business district are reasonably appealing.

The constituent commonality between Meteora and Thessaloniki is the Byzantine architecture of Greek Orthodox churches. Ancient churches from the Byzantine era can be found on virtually every city block in Thessaloniki. Byzantine churches are much smaller than Latin churches (slightly larger than a cathedral chapel) and feature the Greek-cross layout (symmetrical). The Byzantine churches of Thessaloniki exhibit remarkably minimal stylistic variation. The external surfaces consist of exposed red brick and stone, the roofs are composed of terracotta tiles and they usually a small dome above their centre points. The Byzantine era is celebrated in Greece as the Golden Age of the country’s faith and is thus often referred to as the Greek Orthodox Empire. The monasteries of Meteora were built to replicate the architecture of this bygone era. The museums inside are quite interesting because they espouse nationalistic propaganda, glorify the Byzantine state and abue the Islamic Turks for subjugating the Greeks to “slavery”.

From my first meal in Greece, I knew that I would love the country’s culinary offerings. I tentatively began my examination of Greek cuisine by ordering classic dishes at a taverna in Trikala. I enjoyed an ultra-garlicky tzatziki (my favourite kind), traditional Greek salad (tomato, cucumber, green capsicum, olives, oregano and a slab of feta on top) and souvlaki. In Greece, souvlaki refers to skewers of meat with pork and chicken the most common varieties. Weeks later in seaside Thessalonian restaurant, I ticked off another Greek classic, prawn saganaki, which I had never previously sampled before. The prawns were smothered in a rich tomato sauce with feta mixed through. On my last night in Greece, I ordered Thessaloniki’s signature dish: soutzakakia, a plate of flavoursome skinless veal sausages. I also enjoyed a heavenly eggplant dip (tangy instead of smoky) and tzatziki that tasted like Turkish cacik (cucumber dip) to its detriment.

Meteora was a stunning and unique sight, an unmissable destination in Europe. Thessaloniki though should only be visited if transiting from the South of Greece to the Balkans. There are some appealing attributes to the city at least, particularly the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman relics.

1. Rome
2. Paris
3. London
4. Barcelona
5. Florence
6. Berlin
7. Istanbul
8. Munich
9. Porto
10. Amsterdam
11. Prague
12. Venice
13. Vienna
14. Lisbon
15. Copenhagen
16. Athens
17. Turin
18. Granada
19. Seville
20. Lyon
21. Madrid
22. Naples
23. Brussels
24. Thessaloniki
25. Palermo
26. Sofia

That’s all for now,

Liam

[[https://www.travellerspoint.com/gallery/users/Liamps/countries/Greece/
|Greece photos]

Posted by Liamps 09:10 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Naxos

Photos of Greece

After Santorini, I decided to visit another Greek island and selected the Cycladic’s largest, Naxos. Lonely Planet describes Naxos as the only island in the group which could economically survive without tourism, because it has sufficient space for a viable agriculture sector. The island produces wine and olive oil and is particularly renowned for its sheep’s milk products. The architecture of Naxos’ buildings is similar to Santorini’s, but its geography is substantially different. Naxos consists of mountains, a dry Mediterranean landscape, bountiful olive groves and vineyards and pristine sandy beaches. It is aesthetically more indicative of the stereotypical imagery of a Greek island than unique Santorini. Naxos is fundamentally a quiet island destination orientated towards couples and families; and therefore has minimal liveliness. My stay on Naxos was slightly compromised, because after seeing Shamba I fluctuated into a poor mood derived from isolation. I realise now that such episodes usually occurred (several times this year) when I lodged in private rooms instead of dormitories immediately after travelling with someone successfully. Thus (if possible) I will use private rooms only when I am completely sick of people altogether (though that has happened frequently) instead of affordability being the only criterion.

After disembarking my ferry at Naxos City, I was inundated with offers for cheap accommodation. I reluctantly accepted one of these options and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hotel I stayed in. The building was situated within an all-white neighbourhood (structurally speaking!) only five minutes from a beach. Unfortunately though, the hotel was completely empty which consequently made for a rather quiet three days on the island. Naxos City is a beautiful small town of winding streets, white box-shaped buildings and hundreds of cats. It occupies a westerly point of the island on gradually rising slopes. The peak above the town is crowned by a Venetian fortress, as Naxos was formerly the capital of the Venetian possessions in the Cyclades. A narrow isthmus juts from the centre of town and connects to a small island. An ancient temple was originally built on the island, but only an iconic stone doorway survives. The architecture of Naxos City is completely uniform throughout. Buildings are rectilinear and unassuming, which is quite different to the sinuous lines and colour of towns on Santorini.

I caught a bus from Naxos City to the southeast of the island and spent a day wandering along the beaches. This section of the Naxian coastline consists of dozens of calm, turquoise water small beaches that effectively form a continuous stretch or are disconnected only by minuscule coves. The beaches are relatively thin and without dunes, although they do feature clean white sand. The dusty road follows the coast and it was actually quite an intriguing sight to see top-heavy buses bobbing along a tight sandy track so close to the beaches. Lining the road are tavernas with massive terraces overlooking the scenery. I exited the bus at the furthest beach from Naxos on the strip and gradually ambled northwards. I passed the semi-nudist beach of Plaka and then suddenly found myself at a full-nudity beach, which was quite a disturbing experience because most of the naturalists had already celebrated their sixtieth birthday. Needless to say, I opted not loiter around and quickly hurried to the next beach; a family beach located on the other side of just a cluster of rocks. Small white and blue fishing villages border further beaches.

I spent my last day on the Naxos exploring the pretty villages and landscape of the mountainous interior, where it was easy to forget you were on an island. I caught a bus to Filoti, the most populated village in the Cyclades, and wandered around the neighbouring area. Filoti is spread across a steep slope and has commanding views of the nearby villages. I walked along the highway to two nearby villages and then strolled along paths through olive groves to the village of Chalki. All the villages in the area are incredibly picturesque and their streetscapes are visually similar. The houses are white, usually feature blue trimmings and some are draped in vivid purple bougainvillea. Each village featured a quaint blue-dome church and an imposing medieval fortress tower. Separating the villages are vast olive groves and vineyards that are intersected by a secretive stone paths below ground level. I helped myself to juicy grapes.

Eating fried fresh calamari doused in lemon juice with sweeping views of a beach on a Greek island: jealous much? I certainly would be, if I was enduring insipid weather in Melbourne! Fortunately I’m not, although it is rather nippy in Montenegro as I write this. In early September, I was alternatively enjoying hot weather and splendid food at traditional tavernas on Naxos. Greek taverna owners are such warm and generous people to provide complimentary appetizers and drinks ; even if the ouzo or identifiable shots are absolutely puerile. I cannot reconcile how a culture with exceptionally high food standards can obsessively favour such abysmal liquors. Anyways, my petulant critique of their alcoholic preferences is needless and I should simply be complimentary of their wondrous cuisine. I couldn’t possibly visit Greece without eating moussaka (layers of mincemeat and tomato mixture, eggplant, béchamel sauce) and the version I sampled at a taverna on Naxos was certainly the tastiest I have ever encountered. The moussaka was not saturated with tomato sauce and featured an ideal balance of flavours. Part of the joy of eating at tavernas is the traditional and slow-life ambience they exude. I visited a quaint taverna with a landscaped patio area that overlooked a quiet, old-world street of Naxos City. The kindly host offered me a dish of lentils marinated in olive oil and fennel (you would have loved that dish Sean) and sheep’s milk based dessert free of charge. I ate a delectable spicy feta dip and succulent rabbit with a peppery tomato and onion sauce. When I explored the interior Naxos, I lunched at a village taverna in Chalki with a colourful grape-vine covered patio area. I ordered Greek salad that was served with a mountain of Naxian sheep’s cheese (creamy and lighter than feta) and onion pie (filo pastry with an onion and herb filling). Simple ingredients and recipes equalled robust flavours on Naxos.

Naxos is a beautiful Cycladic island and it is substantially more peaceful than neighbouring Santorini. The island retains authentic charm in the main town and traditional life continues in the interior villages, untainted by tourism. Nevertheless, it was somewhat isolating for an independent backpacker and consequently I decided to conclude my tour of the Greek islands.

Tutulu,

Liam

Vote 1 Albo!

Photos of Greece

Posted by Liamps 00:17 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Santorini

Photos of Greece

I suppose it was inevitable that my avoidance of relatives would conclude eventually, but it could certainly have been prolonged. Shamba outrageously gate-crashed Globo Trip in early September and then rudely opted to fly home the day before my birthday; leaving me alone and despondent in a scary country. In fact, they coordinated their flight arrangements to “miss” the fourteenth of September altogether. This was obviously an intentional ploy to symbolise their contempt for me. Fortunately such slights fail to interfere with my cheerful nature, especially since I understand their motives. Sean’s derogatory comments throughout the year about my former beard were just indicative of his jealousy that increased proportionally with the growth of my beard. He has an unfortunate condition whereby no growth is possible on his head; not on his scalp and nor in the vicinity of the mouth. His neck does, however, have an abnormal (and hideous) dark crop. Sean and Amber appeared to have changed little in the past eight months, save only for Amber’s hair becoming lighter. They concluded that I also had not changed whatsoever, contrary to Mum’s assumptions. So when I return to Australia, expect to encounter the charming, polite and delightful company of Liam that you’re accustomed to. However, Mark Stevens successfully identified a physical change when he brazenly implied in a comment of a photograph that I had accumulated weight. Too much schnitzel? Hmmm, yes, and all the rest. To counterbalance my insipid diet this trip, I’ll need to eat nothing but vegetables for twelve months. Oh no… I’d turn into Sean… what a horrendous thought!

Its probably not conventional for an introduction to have absolutely no reference or relation to the topic of the written piece, but it is normal practice for my blog entries. Thoughtful Liam resolved to determine a destination to meet Shamba that would satisfy all persons involved. The Greek Islands seemed the logical choice and together we decided to visit Santorini, the indisputable jewel of the Aegean. Santorini is famed for its sublime natural beauty and unique blue and white architecture. A volcanic eruption over three thousand years ago decimated the island’s landmass and created a caldera. The island was settled prior to the eruption and there has thus been speculation that this event was the impetus for the story of Atlantis. The constituent towns of Santorini are situated above unbelievably high slopes that descend dramatically into the sea. Sean and Amber have left their backpacker days behind and since they were on vacation, we stayed at a hotel substantially more exclusive than the usual abodes I (attempt to) sleep in. It was excitement enough to have a fresh towel and a clean bathroom (seldom seen in hostels), let alone the lap pool, billiard’s table, buffet breakfast and sweeping views of vineyards and the coast of half the island from our balcony. We enjoyed three days exploring Santorini and despite what I may have said in the introduction, Shamba provided decent company.

Fira is the stunning capital city of Santorini, situated at the centre of the island on steep slopes above dramatic two hundred metre cliffs. Fira thus commands outstanding views of the caldera and other areas of the island. The town is almost exclusively composed of white and blue buildings, characteristic of the Cyclades. The structural surfaces are painted in white with bold splashings of royal blue on window sills, doors, gutters and pots. This was not the first occasion in which I had encountered this evocative stylization, as I previously visited towns in Morocco and Tunisia that exhibited the white-and-blue colour combination also. However, on Santorini it is most explicitly realised, particularly because of the blinding purity of the white (unblemished by dirt and rubbish). The white profile of Fira’s buildings contrasts starkly with the charcoal colour of the volcanic rock slopes. The architecture of Fira is quite simplistic, humble and unadorned; the vivid colours essentially provide the only decorative motif. Sinuous lines are utilised in the designs of buildings and barriers, which structurally connect to each other. The town thus exudes an impression that it has organically “grown” on the slopes of the island, haphazardly and yet in harmony. The main square and primary thoroughfares of the Fira are teeming with tourists (horrific sight for a “traveller”), but strangely the paths along the slopes, with mesmeric views of the caldera and town, were quite peaceful. Visitors seemed to prioritise buying souvenir junk ahead of enjoying scenery among the best in the world. Our hotel was located just outside of Fira.

Shamba decided to hire a car to explore the island for a day. The few roads that connect settlements are narrow, winding and crowded with wannabe motorcyclists. Sean volunteered to drive on the wrong side of the road and he performed a masterly effort to avoid an accident. I was rather happy that someone else offered to drive so I was not required to. We visited the village of Oia on the northern tip of the caldera. Oia is considered to be the most beautiful town on the island and the colour ensemble is richer than in Fira. The white and blue stylization still dominates the architecture, but light colours such as beige, pink and baby blue are also used. Oia is dotted with iconic white churches that feature small blue domes. Sean was infatuated by a sprawling purple bougainvillea. The slopes and cliffs that descend from the town to the water exude a red ochre colour. In the afternoon, we swam at one of Santorini’s “black” beaches. The beach is composed of black volcanic pebbles that were piping hot to walk on in the afternoon. The water was surprisingly choppy for the Aegean, so I was unable to see any aquatic life. We returned to Oia in the evening to watch the sunset from purportedly the best position on Santorini.

Shamba’s all too short visit culminated with a sunset cruise around Santorini. We disembarked from Oia on a catamaran with a lamentable group of American tourists. The boat stopped near the dormant volcano, where we swam in sulphur (not so) hot springs. We voyaged around the island to the “red” beach, where the rock and pebbles were intuitively red. The sea floor was quite interesting because it was a seemingly endless lava field with absolutely no life forms detectable. We sampled the wretched Greek spirit of ouzo on-board, while the tasteless Americans guzzled it down. We were treated to magnificent views of Santorini’s extraordinary cliffs and the sunset from the water.

Lobster with spaghetti is not strictly an authentic Greek dish, but somehow we still managed to enjoy it on Santorini anyway (and the crustacean was a Greek at least (supposedly)). Sean’s selfishness usually conspires to deny Amber the opportunity to order a lobster. Fortunately though, sympathetic Liam was present and obliged to share the beast at a Fira restaurant overlooking the caldera. To enjoy the sunset at Oia, we dined on a rooftop terrace with commanding views of the town, caldera and tip of the island. We shared several traditional meze dishes, including saganaki, Greek salad, tomato fritters (delicious) and white eggplant (specialty of the island) with tomato and (almost flavourless) sheep’s (?) cheese. We also tried dakos, which consisted of a thick slab of toasted bread, tomato and sheep’s cheese. I thought this was a rather boring dish and was surprised to find it on every taverna menu I scanned in the Cyclades. The buffet at the hotel was rather awesome and sufficiently covered our breakfasts and lunches. The highlights included fried eggplant, spanakopita and Greek doughnuts soaked in honey (Shamba missed those).

I thoroughly enjoyed the company of Shamba, much to my surprise. I hope they enjoyed mine also, as they read this entry two weeks after returning to Melbourne. Well Sean anyway, since Amber admitted to not reading the blog. Santorini is deserving of its fame and it was one of my highlight destinations in Europe.

That’s all for now,

Liam

GO HAWKS!!!

PS. Factual inaccuracies exist in this entry in relation to Shamba. Exaggeration and fictional elements are usually more amusing than the truth. Remember that, little ones.

Photos of Greece

Posted by Liamps 13:23 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Athens

Greece photos

I have continuously bemoaned about how my blog writing is usually at least two weeks behind. I recently persevered to eradicate the gap and only two weeks ago miraculously became up-to-date. Well two weeks have now elapsed without a new addition, so yet again the cursed difference of a fortnight has resurfaced. Sean and Amber travelled to Europe at the end of August to meet me in Greece, and this conspired to postpone my writing for several days. A subsequent and brief period of loneliness and questioning about the continuance of the trip made writing untenable if entries were to be completed in a thoughtful manner. This poor attitude was probably caused by wasteful fretting about my itinerary in Greece (bothersome geography), which is disappointing retrospectively because Greece is among my favourite countries visited on this trip. Nevertheless, I suddenly felt a compelling urge to leave and start afresh in a new country. So I cut my time in Greece short and travelled to Macedonia, where my mood seemed to instantaneously lift when I crossed the border. Since that phase has fortunately passed and I have returned to my normal self (of rueing the day I return to Melbourne), I’m unfortunately obligated to initiate writing once more. I’ll discuss my first destination in Greece, Meteora, in a latter entry and focus now on Athens, where I spent four days.

The significance of Athens to Western civilisation is probably exceeded only by Rome. Many of Europe’s greatest cities were established by the Romans or were founded thereafter during the Middle Ages. Remarkably though, the Golden Age of Athens (let alone the original settlement) transpired more than four hundred years before the formation of even the Roman Empire. Although Athenian political and militaristic power waned after the Peloponnesian War in the fifth century BC (defeated by Sparta) and was utterly extinguished by the Macedonian conquerors in the fourth century BC, Athens remained the cultural and philosophical centre of the civilised world throughout antiquity. However, the rise of Christianity in the fourth century AD was cataclysmic for Athens (and Western civilisation), because of the city’s inherent connection to pagan teaching. Athens has failed to regain international prominence during the seventeen centuries since, which partially explains the absence of monumental architecture and public spaces that characterise the other great capitals of Europe. Unfortunately, few vestiges of Athens’ glorious ancient history survive, so it is thus difficult to distinguish the historical pre-eminence of the city.

The ruins of Ancient Athens are minimal and concentrated in a small area surrounding the Acropolis. Throughout history, the Acropolis has been the defining feature of the Athenian cityscape and layout. During the Archaic period, religious and commercial structures were built on the natural plateau and objects were placed there to venerate the gods (particularly Athena). All sites on the Acropolis were utterly destroyed by the invading Persians around 480 BC. The Acropolis subsequently became the province of the gods and thus only buildings with religious purposes were constructed on the plateau during the Classical period. The Acropolis’ iconic structures of the Propylia (entrance building), Erechtheion (most religious temple on the plateau, where Athena defeated Poseidon) and Parthenon were part of the ambitious building program initiated by the legendary leader Pericles (democratically elected, though functioned as an autocrat), colloquially referred to as the “first citizen of Athens”. The Parthenon is an architectural masterpiece and has been used as a prototype for other buildings throughout history. The design features numerous intriguing characteristics that many believe are intended to achieve visual symmetry (illusion). Almost all the lines of the Parthenon are subtle curves. The reason for this could be to compensate for the distance illusion which would normally make the structure appear like as though its bulging in the middle. If two parallel lines are superimposed onto a series of lines that meet at a single point, then the parallel lines appear to bend because our brains perceive the central point as being farther away. To compensate for that illusion (allegedly), the lines of the floor are curved so the corners are slightly lower and the lines of the roof are curved to make the corners slightly higher. Unfortunately I had forgotten about that theory and other fascinating details when I visited so I failed to look out for them! I was at least able to enjoy spectacular night-time views of the Parthenon from the rooftop terrace of my hostel. The Ancient Agora exists on the northern slope of the Acropolis. The signature highlights of this vast precinct are one of the world’s best preserved Doric temples and a reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalus, which was a colonnaded structure where commerce was conduct. On the southern slope of the Acropolis are two huge amphitheatres and the impressive Acropolis Museum, which houses the sculptural treasures retrieved from the plateau. Near the Acropolis on the western side is the infinitesimal remains of the Temple of Olympia Zeus, which was one of the largest temples of the classical world and took seven centuries to complete. That basically surmises all the visually exposed traces of one of the most important cities in Ancient world.

Structural beauty in Athens is virtually limited to the perfectly proportioned temples of antiquity. Apparently the Athenians decided that aesthetics is a worthless consideration in architecture (I suppose they’re correct), as most of the metropolis is composed of ugly and uniform five storey apartment buildings. The city is partially beautified by the copious number of trees with expansive canopies, though they cannot entirely hide the unattractiveness of the modern Athenian streets. The metropolis of Athens is hemmed in on three sides by mountains and by the Aegean Sea on the southern side, as its suburbs now extend to the historical port of Piraeus. Hills covered in evergreens randomly protrude from the urban environment and provide exceptional views of Athens and the Acropolis (I hiked up the tallest, obviously). While the city is visually unappealing at street-level, Athens is stunning from a macroscopic perspective as it as city of pure white with patches of green. Plaka and Monastraki, immediately north of the Acropolis, are quaint districts of lightly coloured buildings, grapevine covered terraces, byzantine churches and cobblestone streets.

Since I am rather obsessed with the Olympic Games, visiting the Panathenaic Stadium was somewhat of a pilgrimage for me. The venue was constructed during antiquity and hosted athletic competitions (though not the Ancient Olympic Games) that were dedicated to pagan deities. The events were consequently disbanded after the rise of Christianity and the stadium became derelict for fifteen centuries. In the nineteenth century, Greece obtained its independence from the Ottoman Empire and patriotic interest in the country’s ancient history resurfaced. A wealthy benefactor funded the Panathenaic Stadium’s refurbishment and it became the host venue for the 1896 Athens Olympic Games, the first of the modern era. The stadium’s layout and composition is almost entirely consistent with its ancient design. It features parallel wings on opposite sides of the running track, which is longer and narrower to standard tracks of the modern age. One length of the track is the equivalent of a significant distance in Ancient Greek measurement (i.e. analogous to one kilometre). The two wings of the stadium are connected at one end by a circular component. It is the only stadium in the world completely built of marble.

Sean and Amber (Some people assume their collective name is spelt “Shamber”. However, the document in which the term was originally published spells it as “Shamba”. So I do not want to see “Shamber” written anymore thank you!) were able to acquired two weeks of annul level for early September and logically rushed across the planet to meet me. Our rendezvous occurred in Athens, although after I had visited most of the said attractions (though I generously delayed attending the Acropolis). I wanted to write a sarcastic review of their stay, but I really just want to finish this entry so I will postpone such comments to the Santorini entry.

Athens is romantically considered to be the cradle of democracy, so it felt most satisfying to cast my vote in the 2013 Federal Election there. I was irritated and shamed by the presence of Bill Shorten on the candidate list for my electorate, although the discovery of several eccentric parties on the ballot paper for the Senate provided some comic relief. I subsequently mocked these candidates on Facebook, which included the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party. After Election Day in Australia, I scoured the news websites to learn the outcome; although I had no doubt the country would elect an imbecilic new Prime Minister. However, I was astonished to see that several of the candidate parties tipped to win seats in the Upper House made Tony Abbott resemble a component politician. I have chosen to be inspired, rather than horrified, by their dubious success and will run in 2016 for the Emperor Liam Party. I’m thinking say twenty or thirty votes (from the relatives, as they would essentially become members of the imperial family) and astute preference arrangements should be sufficient to form a new regime. Democracy was crushed in Greece and Rome by imperial dynasties to the benefit of both civilisations. Its time for an imperial revolution to occur in Australia also.

Greece unreservedly earned the status of the best country I have travelled to for food. Every base is covered. The tavernas provide cheap and traditional meals, exceptional street food is abundantly available, the bread is surprisingly high-quality, there are dozens of options for starters, excellent dishes for each of the constituent varieties of meat, delicious seafood, delectable pastries, fresh and flavoursome fruit and a remarkably high strike-rate for quality dishes (in two weeks, I was delighted with literally every meal except the last).The Greeks utterly disgrace the Turkish in culinary skill, despite their respective cuisines being purportedly similar. Gyros are omnipresent (only two euros!) and are the Greek equivalent to Arab schwarmas and Turkish kebabs, only vastly superior. Generous quantities of meat cut from a roasting spit are wrapped in pita with tomato, chips and lashings of tzatziki. The Australian version usually consists of lamb, so I was flabbergasted to discover that in Greece lamb gyros are simply not available; pork, chicken and beef are the usual options. Pork is the meat that features most prominently on menus, which was surprising because I have never associated piggy flesh with Greek cuisine. Amber and I shared an unusually flavoured but fantastic pork stew with feta, lemon, garlic and oregano at a taverna in Athens. Sean’s pointless ideology is usually rather irritating and embarrassing for all society, but fortunately we were able share several brilliant vegetarian dishes. Sean and Amber’s favourite was a fava bean salad, which was a dip vaguely similar to hummus. My favourite was a stack of grilled haloumi, tomato, grilled vegetables and basil pesto. Other delightful dishes included a tomato and cheese pie, zucchini fritters (similar to my recipe, though not as amazing), mackerel with chickpea salad (although Sean was being difficult and didn’t sample it) and mastic cream with rose-water syrup. Prior to Shamba’s arrival, I ate at a taverna in the Plaka district with a grapevine-covered patio area. I enjoyed superb taramasalata (caviar dip) that was without the standard fake pink colour and rack of lamb with mouth-watering stewed eggplant and a tomato sauce. At another taverna, I ate a eggplant salad (basically a garlicky eggplant dip with walnuts) and roast chicken with mustard sauce and chips. While these dishes sound rather simplistic, they were so incredible I was compelled to convince Shamba to come on my return visit! I ate many Greek pies in Athens, such as spanakopita (spinach and cheese with filo pastry) and various forms of cheese pies.

Numerous people (such as mother) derided Athens and emphasized the desirability of departing the city immediately for the Greek islands. However, my impressions differed substantially and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the city. While its harder to appreciate Athens’ remarkable history in comparison to Rome, the fragments of its ancient past that have survived are awe-inspiring and indicative of the advancement of the civilisation that constructed them. The areas surrounding the Acropolis are quite pleasant and the numerous hills throughout the urban fabric provide scenic views of the city. Athens boasts a lively atmosphere throughout the central area and it’s the second best city for food I have travelled to (after Florence). The history, ruins, views, atmosphere and food compel me to rank Athens reasonably high, although it can hardly compete with the top ten.

1. Rome
2. Paris
3. London
4. Barcelona
5. Florence
6. Berlin
7. Istanbul
8. Munich
9. Porto
10. Amsterdam
11. Prague
12. Venice
13. Vienna
14. Lisbon
15. Athens
16. Copenhagen
17. Turin
18. Granada
19. Seville
20. Lyon
21. Madrid
22. Naples
23. Brussels
24. Palermo
25. Sofia

That’s all for now,

Liam

Go Albo!

Greece photos

Posted by Liamps 00:29 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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