Kalós órises to Greece!

Greece is in the news again. Are you like me where news in countries you’ve visited pops out at you long after your journey? I’ll always stop and read a story about Nepal, Egypt and India and remember another adventure. That’s probably why word of Greece’s recent failure to elect a new President hit me.

Actually, I’ve been watching Greece for a while. I am eager to share my adventures but conscious that the Greece I knew, still using Drachma as it currency, is archaic. And for some reason my travel guide, normally stuffed silly with receipts, brochures and recommendations from locals to jog my memory, is virtually empty. Even without mementos to prompt my memory, it hasn’t made much sense, given the political and economic turbulence, to talk about Greece.

But this summer Jill Abramson wrote about her recent visit to Greece. I thought her story would prove to be more of a catalyst to changing perceptions about the country. I also think she is correct that the slow economic recovery will have pluses for visitors. Not the least of which is smaller crowds at the major sites. I think its possible you could find lower price luxury hotel rates; or you can stay at a lower price (two or three star) hotel like the Metropolis Hotel and use the savings to for more local excursions. Of course all of this is back in doubt with the potential ” Grexit.”

BUT, if you are brave and going anyway, here are my traveler tips, recommendations from friends who recently visited  and other pieces of Greek wisdom

Go to Greece but don’t just visit Athens or the beautiful Greek Isles. I started on the Island of Rhodes and quickly picked up the art of lounging on a beach, relaxing. And seeing beautiful sites, largely untouched by my fellow Americans. Then, I traveled to Santorini, one of the most beautiful, picturesque places I have ever seen and finally on to Athens. I actually recommend starting in Athens and working your way to one or two islands. You’ll feel like you visited different countries when you return and the noise, pollution that are so dominate in Athens will not be so jarring if you are simply passing through on the way home from the islands.

Go to Greece and embrace Greek mythology. It’s simply fascinating to walk among ruins (even if many of them are recreations) and think about what could have been. If mythology isn’t your thing, I’d suggest you skip this country. You’ll be miserable.

Go to Greece and know that the people are warm and welcoming to visitors. Also know that its customary to cat call at single women, even approach and “get in your personal space” to speak with you. Get used to it and bring dark sunglasses so as not to avoid anyone thinking you are inviting the attention.

Go to Greece and don’t be a wuss like I was. Try all of the food, not just the Nescafe that offers you hours of space at the corner cafe. Try the honey, mixed with nuts. No yogurt company can replicate this, it’s delicious. Try the lamb and the seafood, too!

If you love shoes, visit the Poet Sandal maker of Athens. The poetry is not Pulitzer winning but it’s good enough and the shoes are fantastic. They are simple, classic designs each constructed in the shop. I loved my shoes so much I’ve begged people traveling back to Greece to get me more. Sadly, I’m on my last pair right now.

Go to Greece and be aware that across the Islands, it is possible you will meet only one or two other people who speak English. Be prepared to communicate through hand signals or learn a few Greek phrases.

Not convinced? Don’t take my word for it. Two friends also visited Greece this fall so I picked their brains. They too were told not to spend too much time in Athens because it was dirty. They say, it’s not spotless (it’s not) and thought of it like Paris. A big city with amazing history and ruins. I agree, but would add the pollution in Athens is strong. If you have breathing problems, be prepared.

They found the people to be wonderful and started their trip in Athens, moving to the island of Santorini which they agree is paradise. In Athens, they suggest Orizontes for amazing dinner and to-die-for views. On Santorini they recommend a catamaran tour (a semi-private all-inclusive tour was 100 euro) and eating at Ambrosia.

Been to Greece recently? Share your recommendations in the comments section.