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is Great, That’s no Myth
By Vani Saraswathi
Not to Miss
esearch. That’s the key word. While a package tour may seem to work out cheaper, keep in mind that it will always be to the advantage of the tour operator. Putting together your own schedule will actually work out far more convenient and a little less expensive. It is not even like hard work... in this era of connectivity, every bit of information you need is just a click away. And why a sermon to introduce a destination? Because experience matters... We did a bit of research that helped us, but didn’t do enough of it to avoid the bloopers we committed. Having said that, lets get going to Greece, where the term ‘modern’ probably describes something about a century and a half old. If you are looking for an outing in a
A few of the sites that just can’t be missed. Parthenon of Acropolis A part of the complex of temples atop the rugged rock called the Acropolis. The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena who saved the Athenians from the Persians. It was built and ornamented at the order of the leader of Athens Pericles and the artists Pheidias, Iktinos and Kallikratis. It was completed in 438 BC. It is considered to be the finest example of Doric-style construction. The Parthenon survived the ravages of time pretty well, serving as a church and then a mosque, until finally it was used as a munitions depot during the Turkish Occupation of Greece. In 1687, during a battle with the Venetians, an explosion tore through the building and caused much of the damage seen today. There was also a damaging fire in ancient times. The Theatre of Dionysos On the way up to the Parthenon, the theatre is where plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were performed. The Herod Atticus Odeon, where the Athens Festival is held in summer, is also in the vicinity. Delphi Delphi is one of the most important archaeological sites of Greece and is famous for its oracle that influenced affairs in the known world for over a thousand years. Archaeologist have found evidence that the site of Delphi was inhabited as far back as the Neolithic era, and that by the end of the Mycenaean period (1600-1100 BCE) it had become an important religious and political centre of influence. Delphi was considered by the ancients to be the centre (Omphalos = navel) of the world, and the oracle Helladic era (1600-1900 BCE). It is of Delphi was a religious centre, believed that the first god worshiped most famous for its accurate predicat the sanctuary was Kronos who tions of the future. The oracles were was replaced by his son Zeus about given by Pythia, the priestess who the same time that Doric tribes muttered incomprehensible sounds replaced the Mycenaeans in the in a state of trance, which in turn Peloponnese around 1100 BCE. The were translated in comprehensible largest temple at the centre of the language and give to those who Olympia sanctuary is thus dedicated made the pilgrimage in search of to Zeus. answers. The sanctuary of Delphi spans with its influence the entire gamut of ancient Greek history as we know it. During the Mycenaean era between 1600 and 1100 BCE, Delphi was a place of worship of the Mother Earth deity (Ge), before it was converted to the place of worship of Apollo as the god The stadium where the first modern Olympics was held in 1896 of light, harmony and order at the end of the 11th c. BCE. Its influence grew over The Islands the next few centuries, and by the The islands are Greece’s chief 8th c. BCE the oracle of Delphi had morphological trait and an integral acquired international fame for its part of the country’s civilisation accurate predictions of the future. and tradition. The Greek territory comprises 6,000 islands and islets Olympia scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Ancient Olympia is located at the Sea, a truly unique phenomenon west end of the Peloponnese penon the European continent; of these insula in the midst of a fertile plain islands only 227 are inhabited. between the rivers Alpheios and The Greek Archipelago takes up Kladeos. The complex of ancient 7,500 km of the country’s total structures at the south slopes of Kro16,000-km coastline, offering a nos hill developed over many cenhighly diversified landscape: beachturies into a sanctuary. A multitude es stretching along many kilometres, of deities were represented there sheltered bays and coves, golden during the Bronze Age until it was stretches of sand with dunes, pebbly dominated by the worship of Zeus beaches, coastal caves with steep at the end of the Mycenaean era. rocks and black sand typical of volThe history of habitation of canic soil, coastal wetlands... Olympia is lost in prehistoric times, Look out for packages on islandbut buildings have been unearthed hop cruises. dating as far back as the middle
The Odeon theatre near the Parthenon
A wide view of Delphi
quaint villa on a remote island, sailing and relaxing, then you don’t need too many travel tips. But if you are looking at a little more action, taking in the historical sites, museums and tavernas, then read on. It’s Euro zone so most things are heavily taxed and frightfully expensive, but if you are a serious shopper and tote up a large enough bill, you will get tax refund, provided you are not a EU citizen. Greece is a wonderful place to travel with children, and even at the hippest joints and the most sober museums they (and their parents) are not looked at as an annoyance. Which, as any parent would agree, is an absolute must for a family holiday. Now, when you tell someone you are going to Greece, the immediate assumption is that you are into history
and archaeology. While that may well aid in building yourself as an ‘intellectual’ type, it is a gross injustice to everything else the country has to offer. It is not all about Titans, Ionic pillars, Gods and Goddesses. It definitely has the aura of the exotic, after all most places of interest are
It’s all about myths when you enter Greece. The first myth that will be exploded is that folks in touristy places are polite and friendly. That apart, it’s best to arm yourself with some mythological titbits, and even a mythology handbook, before you venture out. It will make your wanderings a lot more interesting and meaningful. Here is a bit on their main Gods: Titans Sons of the goddess Earth, who ruled the cosmos before the Olympians. Cronus, king of the Titans, was deposed by his son Zeus. The Giants, also sons of Earth, stormed Mount Olympus in revenge. But they were repulsed by the Olympian gods with the help of the hero Heracles. The Olympian Gods After gaining power over earth and heaven, the 12 Gods of Olympus shored responsibilities and posts amongst themselves, in accordance with the wishes of Zeus. They lived on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. The Gods were Zeus, his main wife Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hestia. Zeus Zeus was the youngest son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. When he was born, his father Cronus intended to swallow him as he had all of Zeus’s siblings: Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter and Hera. But Rhea hid the newborn in a cave on Mount Dicte in Crete. (To this day, the guides at the “cave of Zeus” use their flashlights to cast shadow puppets in the cave, creating images of baby Zeus from the myth.) When he had grown up, Zeus caused Cronus to vomit up his sisters and brothers, and these gods joined him in fighting to wrest control of the universe from the Titans and Cronus, their king. Having vanquished his father and the other Titans, Zeus imprisoned most of them in the underworld of Tartarus. Then he and his brothers Poseidon and Hades divided up creation. Poseidon received the sea as his domain, Hades got the Underworld and Zeus took the sky. Zeus also was accorded supreme authority on earth and on Mount Olympus. Eros AKA Cupid The naked boy with gold wings and the bow from which he shoots his magic arrows, is the son of Aphrodite and Ares. He could soften the hardest heart and the roughest character among men. Narcissus Handsome youth who was caused to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool for breaking the heart of a suitor. The nymph Echo fell in love with him but could not adequately express her passion because she had been condemned only to repeat the words of others. Her adoration unrequited, she wasted away until only her voice remained. Narcissus also languished beside the pool, dying either from starvation or excessive self-love. Oedipus King of Thebes who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother.
The Temple of Zeus
Sanctuary of Apollo
Doha’s crazy traffic and murderous drivers, it was tame out there. So don’t hold back from walking around, exploring the heart of the old city and getting adventurous with Greek cuisine – a distant cousin of Arab cuisine, related by the Mediterranean. And if you are so inclined, get on to a two-wheeler – scooters, sports bikes, cruisers... For some good, cheap shopping stroll around Plaka and Monastraki areas. A tour of the scores of temples is a must. While guided tours may sound easier, it will restrict your explorations. A good guide book will not only be as efficient as a well-informed guide, but it will also be more respectful of your need for moments of silence and peace. So do give it a go, on your own, with a book and camera, and enjoy the
The picturesque Cape Sunion
at least a couple of millennia old, but is also a fun place to go to. It is bustling, it is safe, it is beautiful, and it is only as expensive as most of Europe. Most of the seven days were spent in Athens, and despite warnings (during the course of our rather inept research) that traffic was lethal, and following traffic rules was considered an inconvenience, for someone straight out of
experience. While tours will be tempted to jam you in on a Sunday, which is a free entry day, it is worth paying the two or three Euros and going on a less crowded day. Taxis are horrendously expensive, that’s offset by the transportation trinity of metro-tram-buses, which is both economical and efficient. For instance, a bus ride to Cape Sunion on the southern tip of Greece will cost you less than 5Euros. And 90minute drive is definitely worth taking, driving through rural Greece, and landing in the picturesque cape which is home to the Temple of Poseidon.
Travel light and take the metro out of and to the airport, and save yourself close to 200Euros (approximately QR1000). Be it temple-hopping, skiing, yachting, trekking, cruising, shopping or eating, for every mindset there is something on offer. A note of warning is due – be it a five- or four- star hotel, the appearance and efficiency is frankly no match to what we have out here. Service is considered at best a chore and at worst a fine print to be ignored. Expect a clean bed to rest on, and little else.