As the cradle of western civilization, of democracy, philosophy, the theatre, and so much more, Greece has drawn visitors for centuries with all extolling the purity and clarity of its skies, the overwhelming hospitality rooted in its ancient civilization and the zest for life of the Greeks themselves.
Obviously, Greece is synonymous with antiquity, with Athens in particular a city of intriguing paradoxes – ancient yet modern; busy and frenetic but so laid-back; a capital city, yet in places as intimate as a village. And if one building can ever symbolise an entire nation, it is the Parthenon - but Athens is much more than this. The hugely acclaimed new Acropolis Museum succeeds wonderfully in displaying the outstanding ancient masterpieces within to the finest effect. We visit the best of Classical Greece, including Epidaurus, the greatest healing centre and finest theatre in the ancient world. Then there’s Mycenae, and a very different experience – a place of myths and legends and of a fierce, untamed people so vividly depicted in Homer’s epics. In complete contrast, Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games is set in an idyllic pine-forested valley and is the very spot where the modern Olympic torch is kindled from the rays of the sun. You also spend a night at the centre of the world! At least that’s what the ancients believed Delphi to be – the world’s navel, where mortals, via the ‘oracle’, communicated with Apollo.
We also stay for three nights in one of Greece’s most charming and sophisticated small towns, Nafplion. Guarded by no less than two imposing Venetian castles, the old town of Nafplion is jumble of red-roofed houses overlooking a wide sheltered bay. The town’s air of quiet elegance draws weekend visitors from Athens and many of the older mansions have been sympathetically renovated, whilst the wide, palm-lined promenade and charming central square are the perfect places to while away an afternoon.
Then there is some startlingly beautiful scenery too: the steep ravines of the Peloponnese mountains are spectacular, their peaks rocky and barren, whilst heather and broom cover the slopes and the enchanting scent of wild thyme and oregano hangs heavy in the warm air. The views from Delphi in particular are quite exceptional, with the valley below a silvery sea of olive groves. And in Greece we are never far from the sea – innumerable bays, coves and headlands form one of the most enchanting coastlines in the world, with islands and distant mountains shimmering under cobalt blue skies.
Greek cuisine, known for its simplicity, has been legendary for centuries, with many previously unknown regional dishes now becoming standard fare – try stuffed courgettes and dolmades made from tender cabbage leaves or a salad of ‘horta’, mountain greens with lemon and olive oil, or perhaps a ‘stifado’, a stew which can be made with beef or wild boar. And of course, there’s nothing like some freshly-caught fish just simply grilled and enjoyed under a starlit Mediterranean sky in a genuinely atmospheric taverna!
So come with us and enjoy one of the most beautiful and intriguing countries in the world, and catch a glimpse of the fine slender threads that still join our modern world to the distant past in ancient Greece.
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