Welcome to another installment of The Bespoke Travelers, a travel photo blog depicting our journeys around the world! Today, we’re in Greece, the second half of a Mediterranean cruise we took in May.
Greece is hard to sum up. It’s home to proud, ancient civilizations, but currently struggling with an economy that just won’t start up and a refugee crisis that vexes and strains their culture. We met many Greeks and as a whole, I felt warmly welcomed. The food was amazing, the weather was almost perfect, and you get the impression that the Greeks will be all right. That’s not to say they’re not upset about it, and they have every right to be. But they’ve persevered for thousands of years, so what’s a little economic and refugee crisis?
Corfu was a brief stop after leaving Montenegro (that’s a country in and of itself, and a Bespoke Travelers post for another day) and our first brush with Greece. It’s an ancient port with a thriving old town, bustling city center, and may I say? Some delicious kumquat liquor.
Corinth Canal, Greece
The Corinth Canal was the reason a lot of the ship’s passengers had booked that itinerary. It’s a relatively new canal connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea, although the ancients had the idea to create it eons ago. There’s practically no clearance on either side of the ship and the ship has to have a tugboat drag it along in order to make it work. For such a short distance, it’s remarkable how much stress and time and energy went into getting us through. And, it was purely adorable to see our crew and staff geek out over the passage.
After docking at Athens’ port (but not going into Athens…yet), we took a day-long ferry out to Santorini. This was the stop on the trip that I had hyped up the most. It’s supposed to be a picture-perfect calendar of an island, and while it certainly didn’t disappoint, it’s interesting to now know what it really is, as opposed to the fantasy. It might be obvious, but that’s a really good reason to travel. Faraway lands are no longer foreign. They’re real and the experiences you have make it impossible to just think of the postcard vision.
In Santorini, we stayed near Fira, in the Volcano View hotel. The caldera on which the entire island of Santorini borders used to be the center of the island. It caved in during the mid-second millennium BCE in the Minoan eruption.
Santorini is not a town. It’s an island. And not all the towns on the island hang right on the cliff side of the caldera. There’s an entire flat side of the island where the agriculture thrives and most of the non-tourists live. They grow wine grapes and olives and work in the tourist industry. Several hotel employees we talked to take full advantage of the summer rush and work 7 days a week so that they can focus on their own ventures and their own travel in the off months. Hard work pays off in the long run, and they have an incredible backdrop on which to do it.
Athens is also a place that defies simple explanation. We had been warned that it was an unsafe city, and had been told by several seasoned traveler friends that it wasn’t their favorite spot. So my expectations were rather low. I found it to be a delightful, energetic international city, and certainly no dirtier than Paris or New York. The food, again, was some of the best of the trip (gyros for every meal!) and the people were generous, inquisitive and made us sad to see the trip come to an end. But while we were there, I greatly enjoyed .70€ Mythos beers on the rooftop of our hotel (and on the street sans paper bags because I’m a rebel).
There are so many museums and historical sites in Athens that it would take weeks to see them all. We saw just two: the Acropolis and the museum that sits at its base, and the Archeological Museum.
One of the most heartening things to see in Athens and other cities along the Dalmatian Coast was graffiti that read “Refugees Welcome” in English and presumably in Greek and Croatian. The government may be struggling to accommodate and the bureaucracy is stunningly slow, even by southern European standards, but there’s a humanity here that can’t be ignored.
The Bespoke Travelers are Annemarie & Justin Miller. Words by Annemarie. Images by Justin.
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