Be careful with English translations of Greek place names, however; you'll often see multiple spellings in English for the same location! There is no "official" way to express the sounds and names of Greece except with Greek script! Remember: a Greek 'P' sounds like our 'R', and what appears to be a lower-case 'v' sounds like our 'n'! Athina is world-class city in the fullest sense. Give it three days. I could have used three more! It's modern-day problems are no more scary than any other large city, and getting around in Athens is easier than anywhere else I went in Greece. The metro was clean, fast, and easy to use; the X51 bus from downtown to the airport was painlesss just pay the driver 3.
The only hard part for me was locating street signs- but that was all over Greece and not particular to Athens the street signs, when available, are posted on the sides of buildings! Don't short-change yourself; don't try to see too much if you don't have the vacation time! Only a day stay in Greece? Three or four destinations, tops. You can always take day trips from your location to the sites, then return "home.
I hope these suggestions help somebody out there. I also know that some will disagree, but there you have it: one man's opinions!
Things We Did
Via Michelin was sometimes helpful in judging driving times, but their website isn't particularly friendly. Wonderful, detailed report Sounds like you had a blast.. Every hotel I emailed on four different islands replied to all of my messages promptly usually the next day, but sometimes even the same day , with only one exception.
In that case, a Sifnos hotel took two weeks to respond, but apologized profusely for the delay and explained they'd been having computer problems. The fast responses came as a very pleasant surprise, since I had messaged the hotels during mid- to late August -- the busiest time for travel in Greece -- and I expected hotel staff to be too busy to reply for at least several days.
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The only other delayed response was from a ferry ticket agency, but their reply came three days after I wrote to them -- still a very reasonable response time. The only booking I couldn't make online was for seats on an Olympic Airways flight from Athens to Milos. The airline's online booking system was undergoing maintenance and would allow bookings only for international flights at the time, so I had to contact Olympic directly to make the reservations. Sorry to hear that you didn't get replies to any of your messages; understandably, that would have been incredibly frustrating and disappointing.
Also, we drove on Santorini and Naxos and had no problems at all with the roads. We found them safe and did not meet any crazy drivers on our way :. I think that if a person has only 10 days in Greece , I would say pick only 2 destinations!!!! More than that won't allow you time to really feel and enjoy the places. About the food, I agree about the feta grilled feta at Dimitris, in Amoudi - Santorini - is what I remember of a delicious meal But the meat did not impress me.
As a South American I don't expect much of European meat : But Moussaka, hmmmmmmmm Back home, I go greek yogurt hunting in every supermarket in town Great observations, but like the previous posters, my experience differed in only two ways. First, I also had no problems booking online, both for Athens and the Isles. Second, I also found driving very easy, though I would not have tried it in Athens. The two major challenges were avoiding the distractions of the scenery, and driving thru small villages where the streets seemed to be only a couple inches wider than the car.
So I simply parked on the outskirts and walked into town. Driving a motorbike also eliminated that problem. Many other first-timers and even vets will benefit. I just have one disagreement,along with those above, and hope your experience will not discourage people from booking on the internet. I have booked online for all of my 7 trips except the first, and have almost never had problems.
I always use small family hotels, and they seem to answer VERY promptly Perhaps you were deaiing that large hotels or chains. I wasn't dealing with a representative sample of the population, that's for sure, but the several hundred students who I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to seemed driven to take control of their future, innovate, and overcome the massive economic challenges facing their country.
That's the good news. Brain drain risk. But the potentially bad news is that these savvy students might not stay. I gained no great insight into the macroeconomic situation in Greece — and I didn't have much insight to begin with.
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But an observation I did have is around a long-term risk more significant than the country's debts: the possible population brain drain of the students mentioned in point 3. Many smart young people are thinking about leaving the country; they told me so themselves. There's a self-fulling dynamic here. If the smart people perceive there's no future for them in Greece, then they leave, and when the smart people leave, there really is no future for the country.
It needs to find a way to keep them.
The common approach elders take to keeping talented youth in a country is appealing to notions of civic duty and national pride. That's one approach. But a grittier entrepreneurial approach is to focus on the business opportunities that are the flip side of societal problems. If taxi drivers strike constantly, why not start Ubercab for the businesspeople of Athens? Maybe not a great business idea, but it's an example of emphasizing practical self-interest over high-minded ideals when urging the best and brightest to stay.
Labor strikes. There are strikes every day in Athens thanks to the severe government cuts that are part of the austerity measures. Garbage men were on strike—so garbage was piled high on every street corner. Public transit and taxi drivers went on strike—so nobody could get around. Archaeologists and museum security guards went on strike—so nobody could go to museums. Tax collectors and government officials went on strike—so nobody could use basic government services.
Apparently, daily strikes have been going on for about two years, and are now a certain occurrence. There's a web site in Greek that each day shows who is striking and for how long—it's become a must-read in Athens.
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Everyone I spoke to about the strikes agreed that the protesters were against the austerity measures, but were not for any specific alternative approach. Diplomats and local staff. Wireless internet access in the room. I have the Acropolis right out my window. It looks really nice now because the hill is all lit up. I dropped of my bags and headed out for lunch. Chicken Souvlaki. It was yummy.
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But I thought I was getting a gyro. I got my food terms mixed up. It came with fries which were also good. Walking around I felt like I was in a different country. But tons of shops and people yelling to get you to come in -not rudely. Of course plenty of gypsies.
All with a backdrop of the Acropolis which can be seen from almost everywhere. I went to the Catholic church. I need to set up two Masses. But it was closed. It looks like they are only open for Mass. At 5 PM everything closes. Many touristy shops stay open, but most everything else closes.
People go home for a disco nap. They come out again at for dinner. I unpacked. Watched the President on CNN. Took a quick nap and went out to eat. I ate at Greek salad. I ended up at a pretty touristy restaurant. I was disappointed in myself but I wanted to be near the action. But the food was actually great.