I have just spent seven weeks travelling in Greece with Global Gypsy, an old friend who shares my love of adventure. What an experience. As I touched on in my previous post, our first foray was to join a painting class in the tiny coastal fishing village of Kyparissi – more about this later! After exploring the island of Rhodes from top to bottom, we spent a delightful week on tiny Tilos and then travelled onwards to Crete.
We decided to splash out on a cabin for the 12 hour overnight ferry. A night of luxury we hoped. How wrong we were! The sound system wakes you at every port of call – in two languages, one after the other. Even worse by law the “abandon ship routine” has to be gone through, in two languages, for the benefit of all new passengers at EVERY port. So you could say it was a very broken night and I might say, at first, a little alarming as my poor friend woke up with a start, leapt out of bed thinking we were sinking…
Crete, birthplace of Zeus, is the largest of the Greek islands and it is the most Greek if it is possible to say that! It has three main towns in the north Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion.
We also felt we should go to Santorini. Big mistake. The mighty cruise ships vomit passengers onto the narrow streets which, when empty, must be beautiful. But they were designed for donkeys and people, not three thousand passengers. I can only imagine that the wonderful photographs of the blue roofed buildings in the travel brochures were done at dawn on a sunny day in winter. Be warned. However, and this is a big however, the most exciting place for me on Santorini was in Akrotiri.
It is an entire town / city which has been unearthed recently. In 3000BC people lived both happily and jealously, went to war and had babies. They taught their children to be strong and work hard, committed adultery and bought their wives jewellery. There were meeting places and an amphitheatre, storage vaults for water and they even had waste disposal sorted out. It occurs to me not much has changed over all these years!
After Santorini, we found sanctuary in Paros. Still unspoilt and all you have to do is explore – unspoilt beaches, clean water, wonderful Venetian harbours and chic cocktail bars. We particularly enjoyed a concert in the warm night air which was held in an amphitheatre – four singers singing opera in six languages, with the children of the village singing the chorus! Each little girl dressed in white looking like angel!
Ancient Greek history is fascinating. I am ashamed to say I have always shied away from ruins and old rocks. “Only a complete philistine would miss a visit to Knossos” is apparently attributed to Lawrence Durrell of whom I am a great fan: so we went and never had a moment’s regret. I would never have imagined I would be clambering over Knossos at the hottest time of the day – and actually adoring it! With a bottle of tepid water in my hand and sweat pouring off me, I was transfixed by the unbelievable sophistication of mankind 3000BC. Guides speaking just about every language on earth let you into the world of our ancient ancestors.
So what are the Greek islands like now? Complex, each one is different and has its own charm – and there are so many of them. It is haunting, beautiful, bare and warm. Olives trees are everywhere. The mainland is lusher than the islands, the people are friendly and want you to enjoy what they have to offer with an innate generosity. When you sit down in a restaurant you will always be brought a little dish of savouries and a treat at the end – both on the house. The Airbnbs were spotlessly clean but we were surprised at the price differences, paying from 35 to 150 euros a night, even though they were all pretty much of the same standard.
And that painting course I mentioned at the beginning of this post. It is run by James Foot, a noted water colourist who has developed an interesting way to teach even the most untalented to paint. The most important thing he taught me is to look. I now notice dark and light how shadow falls, the outlines and the depth of colours. I loved every minute of it despite dreading I would be the dunce of the class! All painting materials are provided and a critique at the end of the day is over a glass, or glasses, of wine and Greek tapas. I had secretly hoped my painting would be passionate and colourful, but was surprised to find my pictures were detailed and pernickity. StrangelyI had expected that Global Gypsy’s work would be full of free strokes and bright colours, but not at all – it was very linear and pale. Not at all like her or her taste in clothes or life!
So, I thoroughly recommend the Greek Islands as a destination. Definitely worth considering for your next holiday… happy travelling. BPG
Check out the Hotel Guru’s top places to stay in Greece HERE