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Greece trip report! Thessaloniki, Vergina, Dion, Meteora, Delphi, Galaxidi, Livadia, Athens, and Naxos

Greece trip report! Thessaloniki, Vergina, Dion, Meteora, Delphi, Galaxidi, Livadia, Athens, and Naxos

Oct 1st, 2007, 07:14 AM
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Greece trip report! Thessaloniki, Vergina, Dion, Meteora, Delphi, Galaxidi, Livadia, Athens, and Naxos

So, I have shamelessly accepted a ton of help planning three trips (Italy 2004, Scandinavia 2005, Greece 2007) on Fodors and enjoyed countless trip reports of places I've gone, been going to, or just enjoy dreaming about, but I haven't contributed a trip report of my own. Here's the problem: I type 100 words per minute, I love to write, and I am incapable of summarizing.

I was determined to do a trip report for Greece, so I kept notes on a little pad I carried with me everywhere. And then I came home and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. Eventually, in under two weeks actually, my behemoth trip report was complete, weighing it at a mere 46,636 words (that's 81 pages pages single spaced 12 point font). For comparison, in November each year I participate in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, which involves producing a novel of at least 50,000 words from November 1-30. Too bad I can't use my trip report as my NaNo! (Though you can rest assured our heroine will go to Greece.)

I posted the report to my blog, where it is presented in daily chunks enlivened with pictures. I'm not sure what the etiquette is here, whether people would prefer I cross-post the text to Fodor's, or you'd prefer to read it at the blog where the formatting is slightly more palatable. I went truly multi-media and included a podcast in the post on speaking Greek.

I'll paste the intro here so you can get a an idea of the trip. Links for all the posts with brief descriptions are below that. I haven't been able to figure out what html coding can be used in the forum, so I apologize for the ugliness of the links.

The posts are divided by day and city, so if we visited more than one city in a day that day has two posts. I also have special chapters on eating, driving, sleeping, speaking, and "the facilities." This should make it easy to pick and choose what (if anything!) you want to read.

If it is preferable that I cross-post the report here, please let me know.



http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...f-players.html
Introduction to Greece 2007-Two Girls, Two Guidebooks, Two Weeks

When I went to Italy three years ago I fell in love with the ancient ruins, and knew I needed to get to Greece. I am a lawyer and lasted two years and one day in a big fancy schmancy law firm before I fled to the government for a 50% paycut in exchange for getting my life back. My close friend and neighbor K stayed over five years before she reclaimed her life, but her change was much more dramatic. Rather than just go to the government like the rest of us, she decided to spend the year in Pristina, Kosovo. Now that's a statement! It's not quite as unexpected as it sounds. She spent eight years in the Balkans during the war. She is in Kosovo working at an NGO on law system issues.

I knew I wanted to come see her while she was in Kosovo, so we were discussing what we could do. I mentioned I wanted to go to Greece and it was done and done. We decided to rent a car in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and drive into Greece to Thessaloniki, Meteora, Vergina, Delphi, and Athens. In Athens we would part, she'd go back to work and I'd head to the island of Naxos. Her boss decided to give her an extra week off at the last minute, so she'll be heading to Corfu after Athens, with a visit to Butrint in Albania, an amazingly preserved Roman town.

I turned 33 the day I left for my trip, and K is a very young 40. We are both fair haired, fair skinned, and unmistakeably American when we open our mouths. We didn't blend. We are not super-typical Americans, however. K has a lot of language competence including fluency in Serbian and Croatian plus some Albanian, Russian, Spanish, etc. etc. and many years of living abroad. My accomplishments are much more modest--pretty good Spanish, rapidly deteriorating French, and a smattering of Italian. I offered to be the Greek speaker for this trip, but when I saw that not only verbs but nouns have cases I gave up. I did the Pimsleur tapes from the library for accent and pronunciation, learned the pleasantries, and got pretty good at reading the alphabet.

K and I have traveled together before, first to the Dominican Republic for a week, then to Vegas last year. This was our first road trip and longest vacation together. We get along very well. K is laid back and this helps control-freak Type-A me unclench just a little.

K's guidebooks was Lonely Planet. Its backpackerier-than-thou tone is amusing. My guidebook of choice is DK Eyewitness Guides. I love that it has pictures because when you're looking at something that may or may not be significant, you can compare with the book and see if you're in the right place. Because, you know, I wouldn't want to accidentally enjoy something beautiful or interesting that turns out to be historically or aesthetically unimportant. We enjoyed pitting our guidebooks against each other.

I was nervous about the car part, as I have never driven in a foreign country and drive only twice a month at home. K had gone to Albania with another friend who doesn't drive a standard transmission. She said, "You're going to do some of the driving, right?" Um, of course!



THE BLOG

The blog address is http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspot.com. To load all the posts at once, click on the archives for September 2007; the posts appear in reverse chronological order (because I posted them in chron order and it shows newest posts first) so read from the bottom up. Don't try this with dialup! Here's a link to the September archives: http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...1_archive.html

Pictures organized by city are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7707505...7602033710851/
You can see a slideshow of all the Greece pictures, which unfortunately does not include titles or captions, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7707505...gs/greece2007/

THE POSTS

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...departure.html The difficulty of getting to Dulles Airport and the appallingness of airline food. I'll admit that this one is probably of interest only to my mother, and only out of politeness on her part.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...edit-card.html My quick trip into Vienna during my five hour layover. What a way to combat jet lag!

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...na-kosovo.html Landing in Pristina, Kosovo, including going through customs without retrieving my luggage, Pristina's sights, and birthday cake.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...countries.html Getting our rental car, getting lost in Thessaloniki, and our first fantastic (of many) meals in Greece.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...ssaloniki.html Muddling through Thessaloniki without a map and stumbling on amazing things to see for free.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...dont-turn.html Seeing the tomb of Phillip II (father of Alexander the Great) and the gold that went with it.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...gplant-at.html Visiting the amazing and extensive excavation site at Dion, turkish toilets, and the best eggplant on earth.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...untainous.html Climbing to the monasteries situated in the sandstone cliffs at Meteora, plus a near-death experience at the hands of an impassive tour bus driver.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...quabbling.html Arriving in the seaside town of Galaxidi, our base for visiting Delphi, and causing an international incident over a stuffed tomato.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...07-delphi.html A beautiful day in Delphi and some musing on the need for more tchotchkes.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...k-comtrex.html A nice afternoon and evening in Galaxidi, with no stuffed tomatoes or international incidents.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...-gorge-at.html A short detour to the gorge town of Livadia and arrival in Athens, including dramatic stormcloud photos and our first meal at the best restaurant in Athens.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...athens-we.html Visiting all Athens' sites on our combined entrance ticket (Acropolis/Theater of Dionysius/Temple of Olympian Zeus/Ancient Agora/Karameikos/Roman Agora) in one footsore day involving only mild hysteria.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...ns-market.html Athens' Monastiraki flea market and the archaeological museum, followed by utter collapse. The title of this one is Market, Museum, Malaise. We were tired.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...arrive-on.html K and I say goodbye and I head to Naxos, where I experience my first glorious Cycladic sunset.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...os-by-bus.html An all-day bus tour of Naxos, and an Aussie girl, an Irishman, and an American chick walk into a bar...

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...i-finally.html I finally manage to relax on Naxos, plus a visit to the Venetian kastro and the hora.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...hens-ouzo.html Back to Athens for the Syntagma ceremonial guards, the Benaki Museum, and lots of ouzo.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...ng-flight.html Leaving the hostel at 3:45 am to fly home, being seated next to an attractive, age-appropriate, unmarried man, which is every single woman's dream...except he seems to be an alcoholic with anger issues. You'll have to read the post to find out the twist on this one.

SPECIAL CHAPTERS

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...in-greece.html How to drive in a foreign country (hint: it's just like driving at home).

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...in-greece.html The indelicate topic of plumbing.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...in-greece.html Greek hotels, with reviews including location, price, and visual aids for the places I stayed.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...tarian-in.html I short out my keyboard while salivating over the memory of meals past. The food was one of the best parts of this trip. Includes a general discussion of food and restaurant etiquette, as well as reviews (price, location, dishes) of each restaurant visited.

http://travelathomeandabroad.blogspo...eek-to-me.html A discussion of the Greek language, including a podcast with a small lesson on basic pleasantries.
nicegirl512 is offline  
Nov 19th, 2007, 06:35 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 6
Thank you for your wonderful trip reports. I really enjoyed reading your blog. We're leaving for Greece in 3 days, and I found your reports very helpful, especially for a vegetarian - I printed out your blog on Greek vegetarian food and will bring it along.
mastercb is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 11:37 AM
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I haven't even opened a single link and already I'm thrilled!! Oh NG 512, could you ever give lessons to other trip reporters.

I plan to go downstairs, pile greek salad on my plate, and come back to read the food chapter first.

Thank you for this ---
travelerjan is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 06:51 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 23
Now THAT'S keeping a travel journal Just went through 'sleeping in Greece'(? I think it was) and noticed you found the Art Gallery in Koukaki! Great find and definetely a little gem considering the area! Wonderful to see passionate people sharing what they love Enjoy!
Litsa is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Wow - lots of good reading there! Nice to see a report from someone else who went to Thessaloniki - and stayed at the Hotel Tourist! You're right about the lack of maps - I flew in, and the aged guy at the TI booth in the airport gave me a map that wasn't as good as the one in my Lonely Planet! (Sorry, I'm on the LP side of the guidebook argument, Eyewitness weighs way too much to take on a trip.)
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 07:35 PM
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Oh yay! I'm so glad my report has been helpful/enjoyable! I really appreciate the compliments.
nicegirl512 is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 08:45 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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Yep, and I rationed myself... only allowed one report at a time, forced self to do chores in between. Totally hilarious yet right on the mark, from my experience in Greece.

One thing tho -- people like me who earned a living at "creative" writing/editing/communications for 40 years get really surly when someone in a completely different line of work can write so well!

Cheer me up; admit that your undergraduate work was english or journalism. please.
travelerjan is online now  
Nov 27th, 2007, 07:23 PM
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Heh! 'Fraid my undergrad was in political science, though I "informally" minored in english and creative writing. Does it help that I chose law school because it's a profession that writes a lot? I love to write.
nicegirl512 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2007, 05:33 AM
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I'm really enjoying your report. It makes me feel good because it's even longer than mine was.

I was just reading the part about how you couldn't find any tacky souvenir shops outside of Athens, though, and that wasn't my experience. While I didn't see an actual plastic back scratcher with Corinthian columns (and might have bought one if I did, since my back does get itchy at odd times and it's good to have one when away from home, columns or no columns), I did see lots of other stuff in souvenir shops in Delphi and Kalambaka.

And since I spent four days on a tour, I had a couple of enforced souvenir shopping experiences which actually weren't too bad. I bought my mother an inexpensive gold alloy bracelet in a Greek key design that she wears all the time.
Nikki is online now  
Feb 28th, 2008, 05:44 AM
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Hi NiceGirl!

Can you give another nice girl some good advice? We would appreciate any comments and/or suggestions regarding personal safety for 20 year old female studying in Thessaloniki and traveling alone in Greece and possibly Turkey, Bulgaria, and Albania.

Any tips for cheap eats or great shopping deals?

Thanks in advance!



Dreamer2 is offline  
Feb 29th, 2008, 05:47 AM
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Hi,

oh boy...I can see reading this trip report is cause for sitting down with time to spare, a glass of wine and maybe some cheese, so I will wait until tonight and make an evening of it!

In the meantime though - two things that jumped out at me:

1. Nicegirl: I laughed out loud reading about your blog and podcast, so techno! But then you wrote everything down on "a little pad" - I usually take 3 week trips every year and there's no way I could remember everything, so I take a small tape recorder. Much easier than scribbling!

2. Thursdays: You're right - the DK Guide IS way too heavy, but I don't take it with me - I make copies of the pages I'll need.

Regards,

Melodie
wlzmatilida is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2008, 07:04 PM
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nicegirl512,
Awesome blog about your Greece trip. I'm going in July and even though I'm going different places than you covered (with the exception of Athens), I found your trip report VERY interesting and VERY helpful. I especially love the 'special' sections. I'm going to share your website with some friends I am traveling with.

Keep up the great work and take another trip soon so I can live vicariously through you again!
talltraveler is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 12:20 PM
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Thank you so much for sharing your blog with us! DH and I are leaving in the morning for Athens and are always looking for advice!

I too am guilty of not always writing trip reports - what a great reminder of why they are so very important!
LilyLace is offline  
Mar 8th, 2008, 08:12 PM
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Wow, new readers! Thanks everyone!

Dreamer2--being alone in Greece will be no big deal. I was with a (female) friend for most of my time on the mainland, but I went to Naxos alone and then spent another day in Athens alone. I never had the slightest safety concern, and the language barrier wasn't a barrier at all so it was fine.

I haven't been to Turkey, Bulgaria, or Albania. I went to Kosovo, which is largely ethnic Albanian. I was there with a (female) friend who was living there so I can't say what it would like to be alone. With my friend we were totally fine--never felt the least uncomfortable. That friend went to Istanbul alone and said that she felt mostly safe, but was solicited by men for sex *constantly.* Like every 10 feet. She said it was crazy. Of Bulgaria I know nothing.

So jealous that you're going to Greece to study!
nicegirl512 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 03:01 PM
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Thank you so much for your reply! It was really helpful to read your detailed trip reports. Great job!
Dreamer2 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 06:18 PM
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Posts: 63
bookmark - great reading!
dy123 is offline  
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