Thursday, July 29, 2010

Elafonisi, Crete

The south western tip of Crete has one of the nicest beaches in all of Greece – Elafonisi.

The drive to Elafonisi has breathtaking views. (Just take care that you don’t hit any sheep.)

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The water is crystal clear and warm. The beach is perfect for children because the water is amazingly calm like a swimming pool.






Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chaniá, Crete

We took an overnight ferry from Athens to Chaniá, Crete. Chaniá, which is also transliterated from the Greek “Χανιά” as Hania, Xania, and Khaniá (making it confusing for tourists reading the maps and guidebooks), has a rich history that spans Minoan, Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman eras. During World War II, the city of Chaniá was invaded and occupied by German forces.

The ferry crossing from Athens to Chaniá takes 9 hours so we reserved a cabin in order to be able to get some rest. Sleeping in the bunk beds on the boat was a big highlight for the kids.

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We arrived a bit groggy at 5:30am in a port with a few vending machines, telephones and public conveniences. A short walk from the terminal, we found a bus to take us into Chania’s Old Town.

Despite being heavily bombed during World War II, Chania's Old Town is considered the most beautiful urban district on Crete, especially the Venetian harbour.

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We spent some time walking through the narrow alleyways.

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While the adults were marvelling at the beauty of the Old Town of Chania…

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The kids were looking forward to stopping for some juice and ice cream.


Monday, July 19, 2010

The Acropolis

“Acropolis” (Greek: Ακρόπολη) means "highest city" in Greek, literally city on the extremity and is usually translated into English as “Citadel” (akros, akron, edge, extremity + polis, city, pl. acropoleis). The most famous example is the Acropolis of Athens, which, by reason of its historical associations and the several famous buildings erected upon it (most notably the Parthenon), is known without qualification as The Acropolis. (Wikipedia)

We carried three guidebooks with us in Greece – two for the adults and one for the children. The guidebook that we brought for the children provided some great details about life in Ancient Greece and before visiting the Acropolis, the kids had a general idea of the rich history which helped them to appreciate this famous site.

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Even though young children are not fond of museums in general, our kids did enjoy the Acropolis Museum; especially the glass floor that allowed them to peer below to the remains of an ancient city underneath the museum.


For fear of the heat at the Acropolis during the day, we arrived at the top at 5:30pm when it was still hot but less suffocating.


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The kids wanted to spend some time sketching the ruins while we walked around admiring the details and the way that the colors of the ancient buildings change as the sun sets.



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The views from the Acropolis provides a sense of the size of Athens.

We left when the Acropolis was closing for the day.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Athens (Αθήνα)

Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece, is one of the world's oldest cities with a recorded history that spans around 3,400 years. (Wikipedia)

I had visited Athens back in 1992 for less than a day and after the few hours that I spent in the city, I was not impressed. Too much traffic, congestion, and pollution. However, my opinion of the city was radically changed after this past visit. As a result of the huge investments in urban transformation to host the Olympic Games in 2004 (estimated at over €10 billion), Athens is a very different city than it was less than a decade ago.

Monastiraki Square

Upon arrival in Greece, we took the train/metro from the Athens airport to Monastiraki Square. After a 9-hour sleepless, overnight flight, exiting the metro station into the lively square was a nice eye-opener.

“The former heart of Ottoman Athens, Monastiraki is still home to the bazaar and market stalls selling everything from junk to jewellery. [...] Monastiraki mixes the atmospheric surroundings of ancient ruins with the excitement of bargaining in the bazaar".

From "Greece - Athens and the Mainland" (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

Arriving at the Monastiraki Square under the shadow of the Acropolis
Remains from Hadrian’s Library (built in AD 132) right next to the metro station
View of the Acropolis from Hadrian’s Library
A man selling “koulouria”, the Greek version of a bagel
A video of the kids’ favourite cherry salesman. They repeated his “cherry chant” for days!
We stayed at a hotel in Monastiraki which wasn’t fancy but still had a great view of the Acropolis from our balcony.
Athen’s famous flea market is situated in Monastiraki.
A video of the hustle and bustle of the flea market.
There is an abundance of places to eat outdoors in Monastiraki and the adjoining Plaka district.
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And even though we have pigeons back home, the kids enjoyed spending some time with the Greek breed.