The year 2016 brought in several opportunities for me. One of them was a chance to travel to Europe. It was time for our annual office sales conference in Athens, Greece and I was excited to fly to the land of ancient civilization, popular for its islands, beaches, historic architecture, food, music and culture.
The country reminds me of its famous philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Socrates to name a few; about whom I had read during my graduation years in the subject of arts.
One of the oldest nations in the west, Greece is identified as being the pioneer of democracy, Olympic games, theatre and monumental temples.
Out of the three-day trip to Athens, one day was reserved for office conference and gala night in the itinerary, second day for a guided tour, followed by a free day for the employees to explore the city as per our will.
Here are the places we visited in Athens, Greece.
Temple of Poseidon:
On the day of the guided tour, our first destination was Cape Sounion Temple of Poseidon located on a mountain top, roughly 70kms from the main city of Athens. We were escorted in a bus with a professional guide on-board who talked about various subjects – all that a tourist would be interested to know. I remember her telling us that Greek pistachios are the best in the world which turned out to be a useful tip as a lot of us ended up buying pistachios from the island of Aegina.
The views from the top of Temple of Poseidon were majestic, surrounded with a turquoise-blue ocean at the back of the ancient ruins site. We spent about an hour at the spot with a briefing by the guide about the significance of the landmark structure in the history of Greek culture.
Monastiraki Flea Market:
On the way back we had lunch at one of the local restaurants, and then headed to the next destination – Monastiraki Flea Market. The vibrant area is a blend of modern way of life, that connects us with the glory of the Greek past. A walk inside the market uncovers restaurants and cafes that offer traditional dishes and street vendors with a display of antiques. The place is full of shops that sell a variety of impressive things like clothes, handbags, footwear, furniture, souvenirs and everything that one can imagine.
The flea market was crowded during the month of June when we visited there. Between May to September, it is a peak tourist season with people gathering at most of the tourist attractions. One should be careful about pick-pocketing and take care of personal belongings at busy market places. One of our colleagues reported an instance of theft as someone stole her wallet and she had to abandon her shopping plans. It is recommended not to carry surplus cash as learnt from the case of my colleague; and be vigilant about unknown people surrounding you.
Leaving the unfortunate incident behind, we went to see the Acropolis – known as the crown of the city. The site is a classical elegance of the Parthenon and the Erechtheion temples. One can enjoy splendid views of the city with an opportunity to take post card photos.
We enjoyed our limited stay at the Acropolis and then proceeded to a guided city tour of Athens. We discovered some of Greece’s greatest treasures such as the Greek Parliament and the Panathenaic stadium – stage of the first modern Olympics.
Next, we returned to our hotel to get ready for the dinner outing which was planned at ‘Zafiro experience’ – on top of a hill at Central Athens. It was a memorable night, watching professional dancers in their traditional costumes and entertaining in the authentic Greek style. While we savoured on a gracious variety of delectable food and drinks, towards the end of the performances – they had a ritual of smashing plates – expressing joy; and the guests cheered aloud to the tune of traditional music. These are unforgettable moments of living life in the Greek way!
Three Island Tour:
On our free day, we opted for a tour of three islands – Aegina, Poros and Hydra. We booked Cruise tickets to visit the three beautiful islands with onboard entertainment such as live music and lunch. Other than that, you have an option to buy more drinks.
As the cruise ship reaches the harbour, one gets about an hour to ninety minutes on each of the three islands to explore the scenic waterfronts, and the splendid beauty of the town. The streets on the islands are nearly car free with horse carriages, bus services, bikes and the option of exploring the island on foot is open to the tourists.
We walked our way into the islands on a bright sunny day, with views of old architecture, colourful frontages of cafes, small houses on hills, local population engaged in trade and tourists enjoying the distinct character of the island.
It is a full day tour packed with fun and relaxed experience and I recommend it to you if you are planning to visit Greece and in search of places to see.
With that our trip ended and we were back to the hotel by evening and packed our bags to catch our return flights to India the next day.
There is much more to see in Greece, such as the islands of Santorini, Mykonos etc., and I wish we had a longer stay. Nevertheless, it gives me a reason to plan another trip in the future and travel to some more exciting and interesting parts of the country.
I hope you enjoyed this short virtual travel experience to Athens with me.
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Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai