The museums of Irakleion are veritable treasure chests of knowledge about the history, culture and traditions of Crete. What’s more, they have adopted new technologies to provide unique interactive experiences.
5,500 years of history brought to life
Treasures of world cultural heritage, including the Phaistos Disk, the Snake Goddess figurines, the bull-leaping frescoes from the Palace of Knossos, the gold bee pendant from Malia, and the colorful Kamares pottery, are all beautifully presented in the newly renovated Archaeological Museum of Irakleion. The tour begins on the ground floor dedicated to Neolithic Crete and the Minoan civilization, and continues onto the first floor in the room that features the Knossos frescos. Here, The Prince of the Lilies competes in the beauty stakes with La Parisienne, also known as The Minoan Lady. Returning downstairs, you can conclude your tour at the display of archaic sculptures, which includes some of the oldest in existence in Greece.
Meet El Greco
Irakleion was the birthplace of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, and here at the Historical Museum of Crete you can see two of the artist’s most important works – the View of Mount Sinai and the Monastery (1570) and the Baptism of Christ (1569). The museum is housed in 1903 mansion and covers the history of Crete from the early Byzantine period up to the World War II. Of particular interest is an impressive 15m2 scale model of the city of Irakleion, then called Chandakas. The hall devoted to Christian religious art is also a must-see. Browse through one of the applications designed especially for the museum and when you’re done, finish off your visit in the garden, sipping homemade lemonade while enjoying the sea views.
The life and times of an eminent Greek
The village of Myrtia, lies 15 kilometers outside Irakleion; it is “the soil where they (the ancestors of Nikos Kazantzakis) were caught and buried,” as the famous writer, poet and philosopher put it in his novel Report to El Greco. During renovations in 2009, the museum took the opportunity to modernize its tour methods, leveraging digital media to create a “living, breathing” space where you can open the drawers of the furniture, browse through the author’s work via touch screens and take an up-close look at the table where he sat and wrote most of his novels. You can also see his pipe, his glasses and his handwritten manuscripts. The room dedicated to Katzantzakis’ epic poem The Odyssey stands out, as does the space with the suspended suitcases that symbolize all his voyages.
Homage to Byzantine Iconography
With the low lighting, an atmosphere of solemnity and prayer chants, it’s easy to think that you’ve come to church instead of a museum dedicated to Christian art. Housed in the largest monastery of the city – St Catherine of Sinai, a 13th century Venetian building – this recently renovated space serves as a small museum while still operating as a church. Among the treasures housed here are 15th century icons attributed to the great icon painter Angelos, as well as six icons by Michael Damaskinos and the 1721 icon of the Virgin Kardiotissa. After the occupation of Irakleion by the Ottomans, the monastery was converted into a mosque known as the Zoulfikiar Ali Pasha. At the coin exhibit, press the button and look left: a section of the minaret which remains visible becomes illuminated.
A look back at everyday living in Crete
More than 3,000 objects, most of which were part of the lives of Cretans up until the middle of the last century, are on display at this museum, in operation since 1973 and located in Voroi, just a few kilometers from the archaeological site of Phaistos. A tour of the two-story 500m2 building is an initiation into popular Cretan culture and into the history of the island. The objects date from 1000 AD until the middle of the 20th century. Another space is dedicated to those crafts that have been lost as professions, such as basket-making.
Meet a Deinotherium!
The most striking exhibit at the museum is the model of the third largest mammal to have ever walked the Earth, Deinotherium giganteum. This creature, which lived in Crete 9 million years ago, has been modeled by the scientists at the Natural History Museum of Crete. Set in an industrial building on the coastal road, the Natural History Museum of Crete delivers a full sensory experience, with impressive representations of nature presented in actual scale, as well as a simulated earthquake. Children love the animated dinosaurs and the Discovery Center, where they can play in caves, look for fossils in the sand and watch a video projection.
*Originally published on Greeceis0 Read More
Kasos is located to the east of Crete and is the southernmost of the Dodecanese island cluster. At first glance, its rugged landscape makes it appear somewhat savage and hostile. But this is an island of pleasant and welcoming people that is very rewarding for those who make the effort to visit.
Located near the main port of Fri, locals in the pre-Ottoman era poured all of their considerable skills into the construction of this 2,000-year-old port. At the Church of Aghios Spyridonas, with its ornate bell tower, the owner has an important collection of family photographs that illustrate life on the island in the past century.
Take a walk from Pounta to Emboreio to enjoy the sunset or a swim at its beach, which is particularly pleasant when there is no northerly wind. Next, head for Panaghia, a pretty village with a number of well-maintained stately homes that stand out for the imposing archaic-style columns at their entrance and their beautifully carved wooden doors. The same village is home to the Church of Pera Panaghia, which hosts one of the biggest fetes on the island on August 15, a national holiday marking the Dormition of the Virgin. The six small churches located in the village also constitute a fine example of Byzantine architecture.
This landmark is best visited off-season so that you can truly appreciate the synergy between the Byzantine architecture and the stunning Aegean seascape. September 2 is an important date for this church; locals gather for a major religious festival and stay at the monastery’s dormitories overnight.
Passing Fri and Bouka as you head west, you will come across a small church dedicated to Saint Constantine (Aghios Constantinos) that marks the turnoff to Ammouas beach. If you keep going for about 5k further along the road, you will reach Antiperatos beach, which consists of three small coves with excellent blue-green waters that can get a bit choppy in northerly winds. The beach at Helathros is also worth a visit, made up of massive rocks embracing a pretty bay with clear waters.
Set sail from the port and in 35-40 minutes heading west you will reach the islet of Armathia, where you can swim at one of the loveliest sandy beaches in the Mediterranean, known as Marmara (Marbles). Another amazing tour – though you will need a local guide – is along the eastern coast of the island, allowing you access to beautiful beaches that cannot be reached in any other way, such as Agali and Gialoui.
Kasos is renowned for its excellent cheeses and other dairy products. Near the entrance to the village of Aghia Marina when traveling from Antiperato, is the dairy of the Vonaparti family, the only large business on the island producing fine local cheeses and exporting all over Greece. Aghios Georgios in Hadia is about 15k further along the central road and along with Mytata, is where the people of Kasos have been producing cheeses for decades.
Nothing will make your visit to Kasos more worthwhile than attending one of the many traditional feasts that islanders are so fond of hosting, mostly to celebrate a marriage or baptism, or to mark some religious holiday or other. Local bands perform traditional tunes mainly on lyres and lutes, while songs have the narrative lilt of Cretan mandinades. There is also no shortage of theatrical flair, as the meaning of the lyrics is often illustrated with dramatic hand and facial gestures. As you sip your raki, you may find that you’ve lost track of time and the sun has already started to come up, but don’t worry, these are experiences you’re sure to remember for many years to come.
It is a scorching hot, midsummer’s day up in Ano Mera and, standing atop a brown, rocky formation, typical of the Mykonian landscape, Dimitris Mantikas, an architect who has built more than 200 houses here since 1981, is left to the inspiration brought in by the strong Meltemi wind whipping the hillside. He ponders upon the challenges of the deteriorating ground and the clusters of rocks that need to be preserved. He has to take everything into account: the strong winds, the ever-changing course of the sun, the durability of his designs, the environmental impact of the structure and, of course, the view from the finished edifice.
In front of him lay different but very similar white blocks, all typical samples of Mykonian architecture. For some, these are simple forms offering practical benefits. For others, they are a means of showing off wealth. But for the architects and designers that we meet, these materials are the physical embodiment of a love affair, with all the turmoil and excitement that pathos usually brings along with it.
The colorful crowds that flock the streets of Matoyianni every summer probably don’t know that once upon a time, long ago, the island was filled with castles, the remains of which can still be found in places like Lino and Portes. From this very well organized defense system that protected the island from pirates and thieves to the huge villas with the crisp swimming pools that are found today on every little hillside, there have been centuries of evolution and transformation, always adding new elements to what we call today traditional character. And all of these changes were driven by the needs of the day.
The little houses were built one atop the other and the streets were made as narrow as possible in an attempt to close up the town against the pirates. The houses were small due to the scarcity of basic building materials and their shape and color were in reaction to unique weather conditions. Square formations and white colors protect from strong winds and the melting heat.
All this takes place in Chora, the central stage of the island. Ion Stavropoulos, an architect who has known the island since the seventies, also talks about the simple, plain cottages in rural Mykonos: “These were bright examples of the so called ‘additive architecture’, little gems of anonymous folk creativity, symbols of another type of civilization, created by poverty and inventiveness, edifices that the modernist architect Aris Konstantinidis called ‘god-built’”, he says.
Basic living dwellings were formed by cell-like rooms creating “wings” around shaded little patios. A corral for the animals, a wood-fired oven, a winepress, a water cistern, a well, and, in many cases, a small chapel would complete the farmhouse or “chorio”, a word used euphemistically for these farmhouses scattered in the rural areas, since it actually means “village” in Greek.
“This organic and shabby creation of unities ended up becoming a masterpiece of unique character”, says architect Nikiforos Fokas, while Apostolos Nazos, a born and bred Mykonian architect actively involved in strengthening the protection afforded by the local urban planning, adds: “The people who created these masterpieces were very much aware of the concept of space. Today, we are left speechless when we think of their simplicity and moderation. Every little cube is placed in the right part of the field that surrounds it, correctly oriented, and of a size barely fitting the soul of a man. What they used to say was, ‘A house just enough to fit in, a field just as far as you can see’”.
Round rocks, dry earth patches and scattered little whitewashed chapels create a dreamscape that, since 2005, has been protected by law; the island itself is legally classified as one of distinctive, natural beauty. When the sculptor and interior designer Deborah French first set foot on Mykonos in 1978, she instantly fell in love with the island. She kept coming back almost every year, until finally moving here in 1985. “Though one could argue that other places had some of these qualities, Mykonos is where I found them,” she says. “The architecture, the sculptural quality of the structures that, being white, stand out so well, allowing the eye to see the shapes as a union and to follow the undulation of the surfaces…
Other Cycladic islands had this, but none quite as perfectly.” So she decided to set up her home here, calling it “Re-inventing Mykonos”: “The original architecture of the island was my general inspiration but I took much of it from a small old farmhouse where I’d had spent my summers. It was so simple yet very alive, because of all the movements of its surface and the simple rustic details. Being a sculptor I could fully appreciate its beauty and uniqueness.”
It is safe to say that, having worked here for 35 years, Dimitris Mantikas knows the island like the back of his hand. “The reasoning of nature, of the landscape here, is much more powerful than that of the builders who tried to impose their vision on it”, he says. Javier Barba, a Spaniard who has built more than six houses here since 1997, finds his calling to be the integration of each project into the landscape: “We work the architecture from the land, with the land, adjusting to the natural pre-existing conditions. The landscape conditions you, inspires you and gives you guidelines to work on,” he says.
The wind, too, is a force to be reckoned with on Mykonos. The tough one, the Meltemi, comes from the north. The Mykonians situated their houses with their “backs” turned to the north, to shield from the wind. “On a windy day in the old houses, you could stand on the front veranda and be completely protected. This simple intelligence has been lost to those of us who are disconnected with nature and the concept of bending to it for our ultimate advantage” says Deborah French. Nikiforos Fokas believes in the elements as well. “The landscape, the climate and the strong Mykonian tradition can only bring inspiration,” he says. That inspiration, however, may come at a price.
Looking back on his first ever commission on the island, Apostolos Nazos remembers he was frozen, unable to use everything he had been taught. It was impossible to intervene in what to him was – and still is – magical scenery. Thankfully, the law has worked to the advantage of Mykonos. For her house, Deborah French had to get special permission that allowed her not to paint it white. At that time, only the animal shelters were left unpainted. “I saw that a large white house up on the hill would look ostentatious and detract from its surroundings. But built from rock, the residence blends in and almost disappears into the hill. A few years after the house was built, a rule went into effect that houses up on the hills should not be painted white. Someone got the point!”
It was, in fact, Dimitris Mantikas who brought the revised study of her house to the architectural committee, and he was also the first architect to design and establish the double walls that resembled the shapes of old farmhouses, starting a trend back in the mid-’80s. “The buildings blend well with the environment and the land has been respected,” he says. “So, if you want to talk about eco-friendly architecture, it is not always about the use of double windows or putting solar or aeolic energy to use. The way the island has been built is totally eco-friendly. Not to mention that traditionally the roofs were insulated with sand and seaweed!’’
Ion Stavropoulos talks about a violent rise in construction that started in the mid-’80s and has changed the landscape: “From being something to satisfy the basic needs of the dwellers, the house gradually became a vessel for luxurious vacation and a sign of the owner’s wealth. Contemporary materials, often imported, allowed for buildings that wouldn’t have been built by the architects of old,” he says. Deborah French adds: “The town of Mykonos was transformed in a matter of a few years from one whose streets were pristinely clean and white-washed with lime wash, bathed in soft, natural light, to one where, once high-end retailers descended, the lights became garish and the streets dirty, painted once a year at best, and with latex or enamel paint. It is a good example of how insensitivity and ignorance have eaten away at what was once so special about Mykonos.”
Skyrocketing land prices and high demand for real estate have turned Mykonos into a unique case study. According to Ion Stavropoulos, architects are often called in to design structures on secluded tracts of land, chosen solely for the purpose of offering its owner the privacy he seeks. This seclusion poses numerous challenges, including not having access to basic infrastructure, such as sewage systems and water supply.
Nikiforos Fokas believes the island has been going through a nouveau-riche phase for a long time, but Dimitris Mantikas is more optimistic: “Although there has been an effort to create a golden facade through Mykonian architecture, in general the buildings haven’t lost their traditional shape thanks to the urban planning laws. The only place left for showing off is the inside of the houses.” According to a spokesperson from the architectural design firm Zege, “it is easy to assume that Mykonos is an island of loud manifestations of wealth. But in architectural terms, there is a constant struggle to keep our traditional Cycladic building principles, devoid of excess and modernity.”0 Read More
The 5 best reasons to spend a day – or week – on Antiparos, Paros’ little sister.
Antiparos, a small, anti-mainstream island, has stood its ground as an alternative offshoot to neighboring Paros, tourism-oriented and cosmopolitan with a vibrant, fancy and high-decibel nightlife. By contrast, the mild tourism development on Antiparos has not taken away the purity of the island, a focal point for the rock-punk community since the pre-digital 80s. Those unconventional camping-ground types our parents advised us to keep away from have since grown old, lives were influenced by the considerable time spent at La Luna, the little island’s legendary outdoor club, as well as at the rock-oriented Doors club, dedicated to the late rocker Jim Morrison, while the “official nudist beach” – as defined by its frequenters – behind the camping ground, was a carefree spot. The Cycladic island’s hippy spirit has not really changed over the years. Five reasons to visit the island follow:
The island’s devotees widely believe that Antiparos is its camping facility, launched in 1978. It has carved out its own history on the island as an alternative-scene focal point and, even today, stands as the reason why many visitors choose to holiday on Antiparos. The restaurant operating at this 300-tent capacity camping facility is its pivotal spot. Groups of friends gather here to play cards and backgammon in the afternoons and enjoy their first warm-up drinks for the night. Most campsite dwellers usually don’t take off for the main town, a ten minute walk away, until well after midnight. Shots and cocktails are had at Camping Antiparos before they head to La Luna for late-night partying.
The bars at the town’s square close at around 3 to 3.30am to avoid disturbing neighbors. As a result, revelers relocate to either the late-night La Luna disco or Mylos, a dance club.
The former, an open-air, down-to-earth nightlife oasis that enjoys cult status, is said to have once been the location of a poultry enclosure. Since opening in 1979, its owner has hardly touched a thing. Any signs of wear or tear have been left unattended, which has added to the spot’s accumulating vintage charm. La Luna is located deep amid fields. The moonlight serves as a useful guiding light to locate the spot, it is said. Everybody dances a lot here. The music is dominated by old classic tunes from the 70s and 80s. Revelers know when it is time to leave when Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, the club’s signature closing-time song, comes on. Strictly order beer here.
Extremely different, Mylos plays mainstream dance music. It is housed at an old mill with a view of the sky. At daybreak, the sunrays enter from the glass roof and revelers party on donning their sunglasses. Should you lose track of your friends in the crowd, you may climb the mill’s outdoor staircase to the top and try and spot them from there. Otherwise, the climb is ideal for the breeze and sunrise experience. Without a doubt, the two clubs represent two entirely different camps. You either belong to Mylos or La Luna. There is no between.
Sifneiko beach, named as such because it looks towards Sifnos, also known as Iliovasilema, meaning sunset, is a lovely beach offering an uninterrupted sunset view. As the “golden hour” draws nearer, scores of people, especially couples, rush through the alleys to make it to the beach on time for the experience. Two laid back café-bars also operate here if you feel like treating yourself to a drink. The route to Sifneiko runs by a mid-15th century Venetian castle located within the town. It was built by Giovanni Loredano, a Venetian nobleman, to protect the island from pirate invasions. Twenty-four houses were later built in the surrounding area. Many of these are still inhabited today.
Soros beach is one of the most renowned and essential places to visit. Its Megalos beach is more cosmopolitan and offers a good beach bar. The Mikros beach, which is not organized and covered with fine pebble, offers greater privacy. From this point on, the shoreline features numerous delightful coves with turquoise waters and clean water.
Besides the beach by the island’s camping facility, part of which has been defined as “nudist” by frequenters, Faneromeni and Aghios Sostis, are the island’s other leading swimming spots. Located on the west side of the island, they are challenging to reach but well worth the effort. On the east side, Monastiria and Livadia are great spots for windsurfing and kite surfing.
One of the world’s most significant caves, located in the centre of the island, may be reached by descending 411 steps or 85 metres. Its entrance is located at the top of the Ai-Giannis Mountain, also the name of the charming small church perched on the rock. Fragments of ancient vases, as well as carvings and inscriptions on stalactites and stalagmites by a number of historic figures, have been discovered inside the cave. The descent to the cave’s bottom is safe and reached by a concrete staircase. The heart of the cave is divided into three sections. The first features stalagmites and stalactites, resembling waterfalls. The second is renowned for having hosted a Christmas Day mass in 1673, during Ottoman rule. The third section is known as Vassilikos (Royal) as a result of a visit to the cave by King Otto, the first monarch of modern Greece, and his wife, Queen Amalia. Their inscriptions still exist.
Significant findings from ancient times have been made on Despotiko, an uninhabited island west of Antiparos, as well as at two other neighboring virgin islands, Tsimintiri and Stroggylo. The oldest Cycladic settlement was discovered on Saliagos, an islet off Antiparos. However, the archaeological interest is focused on Despotiko, identified as the location of Ancient Prepesinthos, where proto-Cycladic tombs and cemeteries were discovered a century ago. Two constructions were also discovered a few decades later. One of these, a superb sanctuary dedicated to the god Apollo, is estimated to have been used from the 7th century BC until the Roman era. The people of Paros built this place of worship as they were determined to consolidate their dominance in the Aegean. Numerous parts of sculptures, six kouros heads and over 500 architectural pieces are some of the discoveries that have been made over the years, shedding intensifying light on ancient Greek history. Despotiko may be easily reached by boat from the small Ai-Giorgis port at Antiparos. Once there, do not miss out on the opportunity to swim in this little island’s superb turquoise waters, whose beaches are covered with fine golden sand.
A low-key Cycladic island experience, conveniently close to Athens.
One of the country’s more low-profile islands, Kythnos is located in the western Cyclades, just a three-hour ferry trip from Piraeus port. It features five main villages, Merihas, serving as the island’s port, Hora, the main town, also known as Messaria, Dryopida, Loutra and Kanala, as well as some smaller villages. The autumn season suits this island well as it derives its beauty more from the interior than the coastline. The greenery between Messaria and Merihas, the scene of ceramic roof-topped houses at Dryopida and the medieval castle at Oria are examples of the island’s inland charm.
Emotional and impulsive, the people of Kythnos, once called Thermia, are lively and full of surprises. Don’t be caught off guard if asked to take command of a traditional wooden boat (trehadiri), as was the case during our first visit to the island, when we found ourselves steering a 12-meter vessel at Kavouroheri, Potamia and Aghios Sostis, three small bays close to Loutra. Also, don’t feel awkward if offered a sip of local wine from a hollowed-out bull horn. They were used as spoons in the old days here. Another of our unusual experiences on the island was when a wine-filled horn spoon was passed around one night during an outdoor celebration to the sound of lute (lauto) and tsabouna (traditional bagpipe) in Dryopida.
When the dancing begins, locals let visitors know that it is time to get up and move. Any claims by outsiders of not knowing the steps to traditional dances are immediately brushed off. Visitors really have no choice but to join the traditional syrtobalos dance. Locals can be insistent on such issues and may seem a touch harsh or mad but, deep down, they are hospitable people.
The island’s culinary offerings are exceptional. On our brief trip, we tried thesfoungata (cheese croquettes), tarahto (scrambled eggs with tomato),tyropitaria (cheese pies), dried olives and, of course, souma (distilled spirit). The sweet-toothed members of our group were drawn to theTratamento confectionary workshop and store in Messaria, whose products included beetroot sweet preserve, verbena (louiza) liqueur andamygdaloto (almond-based biscuits).
*Originally Published on GreeceIs0 Read More
They are pictures as reminiscent of Greek summer as glasses of ouzo and slices of watermelon. White sandy beaches, beach umbrellas which look like colorful buttons scattered across the frame and tranquil turquoise watersin which the figures of tiny people float.
These are the beautiful drone photographs captured by Marina Vernicos in tribute to the Greek summer, which form part of a series titled “Shades”.
The Athens-born photographer studied Communications and Photography at Emerson College, Boston, and Business Administration at Harvard Extension School. Since 2001, her work has been showcased around the world, including at the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Louvre and the Hangaram Art Museum in Korea, London, Monaco and New York.
She has also won the Sandro Botticelli award and the France La Grand Exposition Universalle.
Her foray into aerial photography began two and a half years ago, when a friend of a friend showed her husband a drone he had bought. “My husband got really excited and got one too. This is how it all started.” says Marina.
“We’ve seen aerial pictures from helicopters, but never like this, looking from above straight down. We’re not used to seeing this kind of view so it’s something new and interesting for us.”
Since buying the drone, she’s been working on her technique, and says that drone photography is the next big thing in her field. “I think it’s the best that photography has to show right now. It’s a whole different concept, a wholedifferent view. And it’s very tricky in order not to make the pictures seem as if you’re looking at Google maps. There’s a fine line between art and Google Earth. ” says Marina.
Why is it that we find aerial photography so fascinating, I ask her. “It’s a completely different point of view,” she says. “We’ve seen aerial pictures from helicopters, but never like this, looking from above straight down. We’re not used to seeing this kind of view so it’s something new and interesting for us.”
Her pictures showcase locations around Europe such as Ibiza, the Dominican Republic and Formentera, Spain, but are heavily focused on Greece. “The locations are places that I go and that I love. This is my suggestion to anyone who is involved in photography, to start from where you come from.” says Marina. “You have to photograph the places you know best, and the places you love and this is how you get inspired.”
Her upcoming project focuses on the Greek islands. She currently traveling around them and, as she puts it, trying to capture the very best that they have to offer.
And when it comes to Greece, her enthusiasm for the country that so often occupies her lense is endless. “I think Greece is the most beautiful place on Earth. I really do believe that. I’ve traveled all around the world, I’ve been to107 countries. Nothing compares to our waters, to our energy, to our light. The beauty of Greece, you can’t find it anywhere in the world!”
Santorini’s anonymous builders carved their homes into the volcanic cliffs of the caldera for the sake of expediency. As their uneven, sugar-cube settlements expanded, they created strange gravitational perspectives; cobbled pathways morphed into iconic rooftops, unwittingly becoming aparkour paradise. This perfect playground draws the world’s freerunning elite every year, and the 6th Red Bull Art of Motion – from 28 September to 1 October – will be no exception.
Check out the talent by voting for your favorite 90-second video, and help give one lucky entrant a chance to win free transport to, andaccommodation on, Santorini. While anyone over 16 years can compete in the selection jam on 28 September, the on-site qualifier on 29 September will give a sneak peek at the main event, as 20 winners vie for a coveted spot in the finals on 1 October. Eagle-eyed judges will seek those with clear, original moves, while the rest of us will simply enjoy a show with plenty of freeze-frame moments. Lives are sometimes changed. Take, for instance, Dimitris DK Kyrsanidis, who was catapulted to parkour stardom after winning the 2014 and 2015 editions of Red Bull Art of Motion, all before turning 21. These days, the two-time champ from Thessaloniki travels the world taking part in freerunning contests, living his dream.
Backflips over infinity pools and other gravity-defying acrobatics over the caldera’s steep ledges are the norm in a sport made for volcanic landscapes. It was invented after the 1902 volcanic eruption on Martinique, when a French officer, George Herbert, found himself amazed by the athletic prowess of the indigenous people who routinely leapt over natural obstacles.
You don’t have to be a parkour enthusiast to be swayed by the sudden twists of a sport where passion matters more than experience. The spirit of danger is ever-present as rivals throw themselves into the air with reckless abandon, and bond in a celebration of athleticism that conjures the highest of Olympic ideals.
“The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion at the Saronic Gulf is one of the most memorable sights of Greece thanks to its rich history and beauty”
On the peak of Cape Sounion, at the southernmost tip of Attica, stands thetemple of Poseidon, beside whose columns one has virtually a hang-glider’s view of the Saronic Gulf. The distinct promontory was also sacred to Athena, worshiped in a small sanctuary below the summit. A timeless navigational landmark, Sounion was vulnerable to the passing Persian fleet in 480 BC, which stopped long enough for the invaders to destroy the temples of both Poseidon (early 5th c. BC) and Athena (6th c. BC). The latter was rebuilt a decade later, while a new temple for Poseidon, designed by Athens’ “Theseion Architect”, arose ca. 444 BC. After Sounion was strengthened with a hilltop fortress in the late 5th c. BC, it became an important Attic borderpost and coast guard station, equipped with a rock-carved ship’s ramp for the drawing out and rapid launching of small naval craft.
As Philip II, Alexander and their successors rose to power in the 4th and 3rd c. BC, Sounion was occupied by Macedonian troops. Under the Roman empire, the stronghold lost much of its military significance, but still proved advantageous to a band of rebellious slaves (ca. 100 BC) temporarily on the lam from the silver/lead mines at nearby Lavrion. Sounion also became notorious as a pirate haven and later as a favorite stopover for early travelers and antiquarians—including Lord Byron, in the early 19th century, who left his name prominently carved into one of the Poseidon temple’s marble doorposts.
For today’s visitors, just as for Byron, ancient Sounion should not be missed. This is one of the most inspiring, memorable sights in Greece. From the moment one first spies the tall elegant columns, while approaching Sounion along the sinuous Attic coast, the ancient temple’s ruins elicit awe. On the sacred promontory’s summit, sea and sky stretch into the distance as far as the eye can see. Peace and quiet reign, the sound of the wind, even other visitors’ voices seem not to offend. This is the perfect place for streaky pink sunsets, evening calm, an ouzaki by the sea in a neighboring tavern.
The European Best Destinations platform asked travelers to vote for the best European beaches.
With the weather heating up, Brussels-based European Best Destinations(EBD) compiled its list of the most breathtaking beaches in Europe. Greece ‒ with its clear blue skies, crystal clear water and golden sand – could not be missing from the lineup. Beaches on the islands of Lefkada, Karpathos, Samos and Zakynthos were praised for their beauty, making the Top 12 which was topped by Stiniva Beach on Vis Island in Croatia.
The European beaches from a selection of 280 beaches shorlisted by the EBD jury were voted on by 10,218 travelers from 136 different countries. The beaches were assessed on a number of criteria, such as their suitability for relaxing, partying or simply walking.
•Stiniva Beach, Vis Island – Croatia
•Tossa de mar, Costa Brava – Spain
•The Concha, San Sebastian – Spain
•Berlanga Island – Portugal
•Cala Acciarino, Lavezzi Island – Corsica
•Kavalikefta Beach, Lefkada – Greece
•Armacao de Pera, Algarve – Portugal
•Apela Beach, Karpathos – Greece
•Santa Maria Dell’ Isola, Calabria – Italy
•Ksamil Beach, Ksamil Islands – Albania
•Kokkari Beach, Samos Island – Greece
•Zakynthos Islands – Greece
0 Read More
Cretans tend to be very patriotic when it comes to their island, let alone their respective towns of origin. Still, you don’t need to hail from Chania to admit that it is the most picturesque city of Crete. Graced with one of the finest and best-preserved old towns in Greece, many even consider it one of the prettiest in the Mediterranean Sea, calling it “Venice of the East.”
Evidence of its charm is its long, millennium-spanning history of settlers and conquerors (Minoans, Dorians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Egyptians and Ottoman Turks) who selected it for its strategic position by the sea and its fertile land, and left their indelible mark for all modern-day visitors and settlers to witness.
Finding accommodation within the fortifications of the old town is a must, even if you end up not staying inside a Venetian palazzo; chances are you will be waking up right next to one. In the western quarter of Topanas, long arched pathways meander left and right past picturesque façades and inviting entryways, lending themselves to hours of leisurely walks. To paraphrase Heraclitus, you can never step into the same street twice.
For great views and romantic promenades, head towards the sea and stroll along the Venetian harbor. The best time of day is late in the afternoon. This way, you can catch the sun setting behind the lighthouse and avoid the tourists who are about to flock to the seafront restaurants.
To get away from the bustling crowds in the summer, head east towards the quarter of Splantzia, which was inhabited from Minoan times and which became the center of the city during Ottoman rule. The area has been restored in recent years, its old houses have been renovated, fresh new businesses have been added and it has been transformed into the most indie quarter of the old town.
Start your day with a coffee under the old plane tree on Splantzia Square(aka 1821 Square), which may have witnessed brutal hangings during the Ottoman rule, but nowadays offers shade and an ideal spot for friendly encounters. Then, head off to discover the neighborhood’s back streets and get a sense of its local vibe. If you happen to be there on a Saturday, don’t miss the colorful farmers’ market on Minoos street.
Like the town itself, its gastronomy is a melting pot of civilizations and by no means obsessed with Greek tradition. Tamam restaurant just off the harbor, housed in what used to be a Turkish hamam, serves oriental dishes, like the unusual Iranian rice (Basmati with vegetables and dry fruits), but also delicious Cretan delicacies, like apaki (pork fillet smoked with local herbs and vinegar).
The Well of the Turk in the quarter of Splantzia comes with an actual well and one of the most picturesque yards. It serves Mediterranean and Turkish-Moroccan dishes and is always packed, so make a reservation. Try the Moroccan Bricks (filo pastry with aubergine, feta cheese and pine nuts), and the refreshing avocado and orange salad. For delicious fresh fish and traditional Greek dishes, like stuffed courgette flowers with yogurt, seek out the unpretentious Doloma, which lies half-hidden behind mulberry trees in a peaceful yard overlooking the back of the Venetian dockyards.
On the northern border of the old town, the Municipal Market is an exquisite 4,000 sq.m. cross-shaped structure, built in 1913 in late-Neoclassical style, housing 76 different shops. Stop here for local delicacies and souvenirs. On Splantzia square, look up to marvel at the uniqueDominican Temple of St. Nicholas (constructed around 1320 during Venetian rule), which features both a Christian Orthodox bell tower and a Turkish minaret. The Cathedral of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary(aka Trimartiri) is an architectural gem built in 1860 in the style of a three-aisled Basilica and its yard is a great place for relaxing in the afternoons.
The 16th century Venetian dockyards (arsenali), where the ships were maintained during winter, are rare examples of such structures and worth a visit. Finally, the emblematic Egyptian lighthouse, a 16th Century Venetian structure originally, which was re-built by the Egyptians in the 19th Century, is unique in that it resembles a minaret and adds a unique charm to the harbor.
If you can’t get enough of architecture, head outside the eastern fortification wall and towards the district of Chalepa, which during the 19th century developed into an aristocratic suburban resort of European glamour housing rich merchants and prominent citizens of Chania. Eleftherios Venizelos, the eminent Greek leader of the national liberation movement and then prime minister, who hails from Chania, lived here. His house was built in 1880 and renovated in 1927 and can be visited today.
Royalty also resided here, like Prince George of Greece, whose neoclassical palace built in 1882 can still be admired from the outside. He’s also the one responsible for the quirky, Russian-style church of Saint Mary Magdalene, which he ordered built in 1901, during his time as high commissioner of Crete in honor of his sister Maria. The building was inaugurated in 1903. It is built inside a beautiful garden, ideal for repose after a long walk in the neighborhood.0 Read More
We are G&I. Greece and Italy Custom-made Services. And we know these two glorious countries like no-one else.
© Copyright 2016
Dousmani 20A, Glyfada 16675, Athens, Greece
+30 211 0128 448
+30 694 5300960