Thursday, November 23, 2006

Trip to Greece?

Fellow Travelers...

These four hour days at school are killing me, not to mention consecutive four day weekends. I need a break, a vacation, time to unwind. I envision myself sitting in a cafe overlooking the Aegean, a plate of fried calamari before me, perhaps some ouzo and olives, maybe a gyro. It sounds like heaven.

My plan for Christmas break is to fly to western Turkey and take a bus up to Istanbul for a few days (including New Years) and then head to the Greek islands for 10 days. The prices are supposedly cheap even if the sun isn't always shining. I'm sure it will seem warm to me, as my room has no heat and the snowlevel is falling. Greece will be a nice reprieve.

My primary problem is that finding information on Greece is fairly hard out here in the village. No bookstores, Internet access, etc. And the residents of my village haven't done much island hopping, although a good many have family members living/working in Greece. My host brother lives in Athens. We have never met.

What I'm hoping is that some of you good people have been to Greece and could offer up some advice. Where are the best spots? How can I figure out the ferry schedule? Who has a wealthy friend living in Lesvos who wishes to wine and dine a couple American visitors? Anything of the sort.

I will not be traveling alone, but will be bringing a companion. We long to eat non-Georgian food, look at the sea, read books and drink coffee, maybe take in a sunset and eat some fresh seafood. I would sell my best kidney for a plate of calamari with aoli sauce.

So any help would be great. Hope all of you are doing well.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Elissa said...

Hi Nickum,

Whilst I don't have a wealthy friend that could wine & dine you and your companion, I have been to Lesvos and numerous Greek islands and the mainland, many times.

If it becomes at all possible, you should check out the following websites (all www.):
molivos.net; greeknet.com; greecetravel.com; lesvos.com; gnto.gr; gogreece.com; lonelyplanet.com.

You will find invaluable information and advice at all these.

Lesvos is a large (third largest in Greece after Crete and Evvia) island and very friendly, I've always found. There are plenty of places to stay (the molivos.net website is very good), but molyvos itself is not a cheap destination - maybe because it is so attractive. There are plenty of accommodation options, however, and many are open all year.

There are plenty of places to eat, but I haven't travelled there in winter for some time, and you may find your choices are limited then. Most of the local hotels have restaurants though and if you get a room in a guest house, or whatever, with cooking facilities, then you'd be doubly fine.

If you want to island-hop though, you're better off choosing an island in a group, as Lesvos is somewhat cut-off from the rest.
The Cyclades is considered by many the best for island-hopping (incorporating Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos and Paros, to name some of the better known islands); the Ionian (Corfu, Lefkas, Zante, Kefallonia (the book Captain Korelli's Mandolin is set on that island)); the Dodecanese (Rhodes, Kos); and Argo-Saronic (nearest islands to Athens; Aegina, Poros, Spetses). Although ferry travel may be more limited outside the summer months and subject to weather conditions.

Many islands have airports and the domestic airline Aegean (aegeanair.com) has lots of routes. Then there is the national Greek airline, Olympic (olympic-airways.gr).

Ferries are numerous, but only the major operators tend to display schedules (and they can change), especially outside the summer season. Again, you could check out www.ferries.gr and; gtp.gr.

English is widely spoken, and many Greeks (especially youngsters) love to practice on tourists, so language should not be a problem anywhere really. If you can take a phrase book, though, they can be invaluable.

As relations between Turkey and Greece are somewhat frosty (though getting better), travel between the 2 is not as full of choices as might be expected. There is a ferry service from Cesme (Turkey) to the island of Chios (Miniotis Lines run the Greek ferry, I'm afraid I don't know the Turkish ferry company); Ayvalik (Turkey) to Mytilini/Lesvos, though I understand the winter link is unreliable; Kusadasi (Turkey) to to Vathy on the Greek Island of Samos. I hate to say this, but you might find it difficult to get from Turkey to Greece this way, out of season.

Having said all of the above, you might consider staying in Athens; I know it's the capital city and may not seem as idyllic as an island, but you would not run out of things to do, or places to see and could also use it as a base to visit and maybe end up staying on, one of the Argo-Saronic islands, or possibly even the Peloponnese, which is easily reached by bus from Athens and crosses the amazing Corinth Canal.

You should be able to fly from Istanbul to Athens for around £250 inclusive of taxes (that's about 350 Euros, or $490), but you should check.

I hope that this has been of some use and I wish you luck in your travels.

11:56 AM  

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