Fun fact about me: I am absolutely obsessed with my parents. Please don’t read that as weird, because it really isn’t. I feel like we’ve gotten to a point where they don’t really need to parent me as often, so the time we get to spend together is a lot more fun.
My dad and I grab a coffee almost every morning, watch a movie together at least once a week, and occasionally communicate in our own language. My mum and I are big shoppers and spend at least five hours on the phone to each other a week. And that’s not including all the direct messages we send to each other on Instagram of clothes, travel destinations and Gossip Girl quotes. I regularly third wheel them, so much so that I am writing this from Byron Bay where I am gatecrashing what was supposed to be their couple getaway.
Needless to say the idea of going on ten day road trip through Greece with them was all mine. Initially, it was something I wanted to do with my Grandpa, or Papou as I call him. Παππού Dino and me had long discussed visiting the archeological sites of Greece- from the mystical Delphi- “the centre of the world” – to the birthplace of the Olympic Games, Olympia. Unfortunately, he is no longer fit to travel, and the baton was passed onto my dad who was just as excited by the idea as my Παππού. Mum, not so much, but we promised we would visit some beautiful beaches along the way. Here’s a bit of a recount of our adventure.
WHERE WE WENT:
As Jack and Dean jumped on a plane back to Melbourne, I got on one to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city and the birthplace of my Mum. I have so much family and history in Thessaloniki, so it was just amazing to get to be there and see my family after ten years.
As most travelers rush towards Athens and the Greek islands, Thessaloniki tends to be forgotten, which is a real shame. Thessaloniki is a thriving city, so beautiful and rich with history. It’s a city where old and new cohabit wonderfully: ancient ruins overlook busy shopping precincts while the White Tower of 12th century origin is juxtaposed against a waterfront packed with bars and clubs. I can’t wait to visit again soon.
After I met up with Mum and Dad in Thessaloniki, we drove to Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the region of Thessaly. I don’t really know how to describe this place without resorting to words like magical, mystical, breathtaking, spiritual.
The giant rock formations of Meteora are perched above the charming town of Kalambaka, and at 400 meters high this alone was super impressive. What blew me away were the monasteries that decorated the summits. While only six stand today, it is estimated that 24 monasteries were built on the rocks of Meteroa from the 14th to 16th centuries. The whole time we were here we were in awe of how a small group of monks built these impressive buildings. Even if you are not religious, Meteora is definitely worth a visit. Entrance to each monastery is €3.
We drove from Meteora to Parga in a manual car. I point out that it was a manual car simply because my Dad hasn’t driven a manual in at least ten years. I would also like to add that the road we were driving on translates to “curse road.” It was a traumatising experience that involved a couple stalls up very steep hills.
By the time we arrived in Parga we were mainly thankful to be alive, but also pleasantly surprised by this charming maritime town. Visited mainly by Greek tourists and some Scandinavian tourists too (random, I know), it has unforgettable blue-green waters, cobbled stone streets and picturesque colourful houses. We spent most of our time here at Lichnos Beach, which is about a ten minute drive from Parga town. The water was insane. We were sad to have to leave.
Lefkada is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, connected to the mainland by causeway. I have been busting to visit Lefkada ever since seeing pictures of Porto Katsiki beach on Instagram. When I found out it was kind of on way to the next destination of our road trip, I relentlessly nagged Dad until he agreed to drive there.
I’ll leave out the finer details of this story (including the tortuous drive in which Mum had to stop to vomit twice) and fast forward to the part where we arrived and Dad screamed at me for suggesting we drive there. “THERE IS A REASON WHY PEOPLE GET A BOAT HERE BENITA!” Moral of the story: don’t drive to Porto Katsiki Beach. Definitely visit it because it is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but do get a boat. I don’t think I have ever swum in such turquoise water before. I had to pinch myself it was so beautiful. I swam out really far and just floated, taking it all in. I then posed for 100 bikini pictures.
This was probably the place I was most excited to visit on our road trip, and not only because it had beautiful straight roads. I feel like many people go to Delphi simply because it is on a list of sites you’re supposed to see when you visit Greece. You know, just another collection of ruins in a country that’s full of them. Yet since studying Ancient Greek history at high school, I’ve come to learn how historically important Delphi is to both Greece and the modern world.
The sanctuary was home to the famous oracle of Apollo who gave cryptic predictions and guidance to individuals and city states. It is thought that the Greeks only won the Greco-Persian Wars due to the advice of said oracle. In addition, Delphi was also home to the Panhellenic Pythian Games, one of the precursors to the modern Olympics.
But perhaps most importantly, Delphi was considered the center of the world, the place where heaven and earth met. This was the place on earth where man was closest to God, and still to this day you can see why our ancient ancestors thought this. When looking out from the valley, to the Gulf of Corinth and the vast fields of olive and cypress trees you can’t help but get goosebumps. There’s undeniably something magical about Delphi, and the fact that the town still attracts a million visitors a year proves it.
After staying a night in Rio and visiting Patra for dinner, we made our way to Olympia. Olympia is one of the most well known tourist destinations in Greece, yet despite this, it is amazingly preserved and protected. As a visitor you are able to walk through the ruins freely, and envision the athletes that trained there. You’re even allowed to run in the ancient stadium, just as the ancient Olympians did 3000 years ago. The museum here is also amazing, it homes the famous Hermis of Praxiteles and the statue of Nike of Paionios.
I know I’ve probably lost of a lot of you by this stage in this post, but the history buff in me is having a field day here.
Dubbed one of the most beautiful towns in the Peloponnese, Nafplio was actually the first capital of the newly born Greece between 1823 and 1834 (God, I’m cramming history down your throat today). The old town of Nafplio has a lot of Venetian and Ottoman influence, yet it really reminded me of Plaka in Athens, albeit on the sea. It has stunning squares, beautiful old buildings and lovely little stores selling handmade jewelry and artwork.
Yep, another historical site. Epidaurus is located on the north eastern side of the Peloponnese, and is just a 40 minute drive from Nafplio. It’s famous for its Ancient Theatre, which was constructed in 4th century BC to host religious ceremonies for the healing god, Asclepius. The theatre is famous for its amazing acoustics: audiences of up to 14,000 have long been able to hear actors and musicians, unamplified, from even the back row. The theatre is amazingly restored and still houses performances of ancient Greek drama during the summertime. I definitely want to see a play here when I next visit Greece.
Mycenae is an archaeological site in the Peloponnese from which the name Mycenaean Age is derived. The story of the Mycenae civilisation dates all the way back to Homer’s story of Trojan War where King Agamemnon, the leader of Mycenae, was thought to lead the whole of the Greeks civilisation in the War. It is largely thought that the palace found at Mycenae validates Homer’s story. (Side note, watch the movie Troy because its great, somewhat historical, AND you get to see Brad Pitt in all his pre-Angelina, long blonde hair, bum exposed glory).
Indeed, this archeological site is one of the oldest in Greece, dating back to around 1600 BC to 1100 BC. It was pretty epic to be at a place so rich in history. I was so surprised to see the Lion’s Gate, dated to about 1249 BC, is still almost entirely intact.
HYRDA & SPETSES
On our last day in Greece we decided to spontaneously book a day trip to the Saronic Islands of Hydra and Spetses. It was one of the best decisions we made during our road trip. Both quaint and cosmopolitan at the same time, Hydra has been home to Greek prime ministers, artists, bohemians, movie stars like Sophia Loren and the signer and poet Leonard Cohen. Hydra also stands alone as the only Greek island free of vehicles. Yep, no cars or scooters reside on this island. Instead you’ll find tiny cobbled lanes, plenty of donkeys and mules, rocks and deep blue sea. You simply step off rocks and jump into the sea here. Spetses has a very similar look and feel to Hydra, boasting gorgeous Neoclassical buildings and imposing mansions rich with revolutionary history. The main difference is the island itself, which is quite flat with easily accessible beautiful beaches. It was just amazing. I can’t wait to get back.
HAVE YOU TRAVELLED THROUGH MAINLAND GREECE- WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE? I’D LOVE TO KNOW IN THE COMMENTS SPACE BELOW!
I’m almost at the end of my travel series! Next week I’ll be writing all about my time in Paris and Barcelona, and then I’m done! Wah! I guess it’s a good excuse to go travelling again- anyone want to join me?
Click here to view ‘My European Adventure.’
Click here to view ‘Ten days in Italy.’
Click here to view ‘Greek island hopping.’
THANK YOU TO CHELCIE SCHIRRMAN- GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
Chelcie is a Melbourne-based Graphic designer with an interest in publication and typography. With a keen eye for detail, she has extensive experience in branding, campaigns and logo design. Chelcie works at APR Creative in Black Rock and freelances at www.chelcieschirrman.com.