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Planning for Two Weeks in Greece Next May

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Jun 17th, 2014, 12:01 PM
  #1
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Planning for Two Weeks in Greece Next May

Somehow we've missed out on Greece, despite a longstanding and deep interest, so time to make its acquaintance. We're hoping to make this a sixteen day trip, departing JFK on a Friday night in mid-May, returning two weeks later on Sunday.

We are primarily interested in history and mythology, but of course hope to gain a little insight in modern Greece in Athens and other larger cities. We're not particularly interested in beaches, especially at that time of year, or shopping, and our idea of nightlife is a few drinks after dinner on an interesting square.

So we're thinking:

Fly to Athens Friday night, continue onto Chania Saturday. Two days Chania getting over jet lag and perhaps another for the Samaria Gorge. On Tuesday, head for Heraklion to see the museum and Knossos.

On Thursday ferry to Santorini for two nights.

Saturday get to Nafplion for three nights, visiting nearby sites such as Mycenae and Epidaurus.

Tuesday depart for Delphi (two nights?)

Thursday to Athens. Depart Sunday.

I had originally hoped to get to Olympia but I think it would be too rushed. I also wanted to get to Delos, but don't see how to fit it in. Although I would prefer not to, I suppose I'll have to rent a car on Crete and the mainland, but it would be nice if public transit would work at either or both places.

Does this seem like a reasonable itinerary? Any way to shave a day or two to make Olympia or Delos possible? Appreciate your assistance.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 12:19 PM
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Well I'm not looking at the ferry schedule but if you want to go to Delos, why not go to Mykonos instead of Santorini?
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Jun 17th, 2014, 12:24 PM
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I agree, with limited time, Olympia is a faaar reach --- however, many people don't realize they can get the "sacred games" experience on a trip to Nafplio….. at Nemea, just about 5 Km off the main road coming down from the Corinth Canal… check it out on this great online map (click & igt gets huge) http://www.esperides.gr/images/pelop..._esperides.jpg . Even if u take public transit to/from Athens(2.5 hrs via hourly KTEL bus), , it's easy to rent a car IN Nafplio -- it makes it so much easier to see Epidaurus & Mycenae .. And if u go beyond Mycenae a few miles, you're in Nemea. It's got ruined temple, arena, stadium, museum … everything but Olympia's tour-bus crowds. It's been carefully excavated by UC Berkeley (amazing what money can do!!), and the stadium & its tunnel authentically restored. It's a thrill, and u can enjoy it in under an hour. A hidden gem.

BTW, if you are going from Santorini to Nafplion in one day, think about a flight! Otherwise u have a 12-hour trip. If u come in to ATH airport by noon if u decide to rent a car there (under 50€ day in may), u can get to Nafplio in just over 2 hours from airport, on most modern divided hiway in Greece. Check it out … budget-athens (the hyphen is important) gives great rates reliable cars).
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Jun 17th, 2014, 01:14 PM
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The ferry connecting Crete to Santorini requires risk management. You get some ideas of the boats connecting this route at http://www.gtp.gr/RoutesForm.asp. You get around one boat per day off seasons. You really don't know the scheduled sailing until a couple weeks before the date and the real operations until the day of the trip. With just two nights at the arrival side of the trip, a day late can mean just 12 hours at the destination. If you had three nights to begin with, a day late leaves at least one full day (two nights.) Routes served by big Bluestar ferries, Santorini-Naxos-Paros-Pireaus, etc, are more reliable. They continue to sail during inclement weather that keep smaller boats in ports.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 01:25 PM
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I would go to Olympia, spend a nite there, and take the time out of Athens to do it, or spend just one night in Delphi. Athens is worth a day or two at most, compared with the rest of the country.

So I would pick up a car in Nafplion, visit Mycenae and Epidaurus and maybe a couple of the other sites around there, then drive to Olympia via Corinth. Stay overnite. Then drive to Delphi and stay overnite. Get up early, see Delphi before the tourist buses get there, then go on to Athens.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 03:50 PM
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dwd, in Greeece you can't do the pick up in Nafplio, drop in Athens scenario that is possible in US and perhaps UK. They don't have the big car-swap networks (even for Avis, Hertz etc). I have worked with others on this problem who tried to do what they easily do in US, no can do. HUGE drop off fee… HUNDREDS of Euros. However, if they flew in, got car at airport, at end of their mainland time, they could drop it off in central Athens w.o. drop-off fee… but frankly it's much less hassle to drop at airport & take metro to city center. I have done this numerous times.

As for cutting time in Athens, they really only have 2 days… arrive in Athens late THurs,have fri & sat. in athens. leave sunday probably right after breakfast. You personally may feel "Athens is worth a day or two at most," but that is your judgment, and since they have expressed interest in ancient history, they may feel differently.
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Jun 18th, 2014, 06:32 AM
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Thanks for the tips concerning driving and the ferries -- looks like I'll be doing some flying. Otherwise, I guess the plan seems basically sound.

Oh and special thanks to travelerjan for the information on Nemea!

FD
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Jun 18th, 2014, 09:23 AM
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Quite welcome, Fra! a PS to that… the ruin is in the midst of the BEST vineyards in Greece… for Nemean Red, which I adore… and which in Nafplio tavernas is sold by the pitcher as the house wine. There are many vineyards around, but the easiest one to find is in the small village of Nemea, after you leave the ruin. There's vineyard outpost right on the Main Street (ask directions at the Nemea museum, because everyone there speaks excellent english). You can spot this vineyard also by a huge tank in the back yard of the small building, lol. When u go inside, there are huge barrels… and also an assembly line where they are corking up bottles and slapping on labels as you watch. Excellent wines for about €4, also some good whites. AND samples (don't give the driver any!!). The 5 of us bought some bottles & took them back to our Athens hotel terrace, and had a festive, bibulous last-night sundowner celebration!!
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Jun 18th, 2014, 12:31 PM
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travelerjan--


Fra asked how he could squeeze Olympia in, and I was trying to show him how to do it. I still think it can be done if he flies into Athens and picks up and drops the car there, as it now looks like he will do.

Fra has five nites after leaving Nafplio which he now has allocated between Delphi and Athens. Olympia is rich in history--one of the better archaeological museums and of course the site of the first Olympics. The drive from Delphi to Athens isn't that long, and neither are the drives from Olympia to Delphi and from Nafplio to Olympia so he could easily drive there, explore, spend the nite and then go on to Delphi.
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Jun 18th, 2014, 01:03 PM
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Fra_Diavolo

Keep an eye out for my trip report. We did Athens-Chania(Crete)-Zaros(Crete)-Santorini-Athens over 15 days. You saw my mini report on Agiofarago but the full report might take a month or more due to a flurry of business travel. You can reference my TA reviews - the last couple go up today. Just search imcarthur.

Highlights:

Zaros - we stayed at an agro in the southern foothills. Walked a small canyon to a pocket beach. Got lost on a goat path walk. Stunningly beautiful & little touristed in comparison to the north coast.

Imerovigli (Santorini) - Do not stay in Fira unless you love crowds. Imerovigli is a wonderful 30 minute walk from Fira & a 2 hour walk from Oia. No souvenir shops, just some really good restaurants & a couple of grocery stores & a bus stop! The trekkors walk through without stopping - except for pics! OK, OK the sun sets behind a very distant island but the freedom from crowds & a great, great hotel offset that one minor detail.

Low Points:

Athens. It is a dump. My opinion of course, but limit your time there to the must sees. The Plaka is wall-to-wall tourism & ugly buildings sprayed with graffiti. We eased the pain with some great restaurants.

Heraklion is a small version of Athens. Ugly. We had a good meal, though! And Knossos was utterly a bad experience. At one point, I had to literally & I mean literally bash my way through a wave of cruisers 5 abreast on a walkway. They would not let me through any other way. 20 minutes & we were done. Phaistos on the other hand - in the south - was virtually empty - because it is too far from a cruise port for easy access.

Fira. Certainly a lot prettier than the other two above. But when a cruise ship was in port it was a zoo. Souvenir shops, the fish feet girls, tourist's restaurants everywhere. Lucky's for gyros is a must, however.

Ian
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Jun 18th, 2014, 01:08 PM
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But re Heraklion, the new museum is open & a must see!

Ian
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Jun 18th, 2014, 01:31 PM
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Thanks all, again.


tj -- always good to know a good source of wine.

dwd -- appreciate your alternate route and will bear it in mind.

ian -- as you know I enjoyed your earlier report and look forward to seeing it completed. I am sorry to hear the generally negative reviews of Athens reinforced, though I'm sure the historic districts will keep us occupied. Very sorry also to hear about your experience at Knossos. A few months back I read an account of the deciphering of Linear B, which reignited my interest in Greece.

http://www.amazon.com/Riddle-Labyrin...+the+labyrinth

Of course I knew Evans' reconstructions were controversial and figured crowds would be a problem, but I would certainly hate to be chased away after 20 minutes! Forewarned is forearmed.

FD

FD
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Jun 18th, 2014, 05:20 PM
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U can avoid cruise crowds at Knossos by going at 8 or 8:30 they can't get there until 10, or going after 2 pm when they must leave for their ships, also they're seldom there on weekends. here are good links to Knossos DIY http://campus.lakeforest.edu/academi.../KnosTour.html
http://www.bsa.ac.uk/pages/content.php?cat_id=22
and Herak Museum highlights: http://ancient-greece.org/museum/muse-iraclion.html … also, at Knossos (unlike delphi), licensed guides sometimes are at gate, making up small groups & u can join for 10-15E.

Yes isn't that "Riddle" book wonderful!!! Another amazing scholarly woman who didn't get credit for her breakthrough… like whats-her-name Franklin who actually found the double-helix concept that Crick & Watson took w.o. telling her, and got the Nobel prize for it.

About Nemea (in answer to above) … I did not mean to XX out all chance of Olympia! I just saw your time squeeze, and didn't want you to cut down Athens just to 1 day (which several others here seem to advocate). Athens in May is dream weather… and history is EVERYWHRE .. I could take up pages just with the serendipities I find there every t rip.
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Jun 18th, 2014, 06:07 PM
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Like you FD, I have always avoided Greece. I don't really know why. Too common because we have heard/read all of the stories? Too touristed since it has always been a bulls-eye for tours & cruises? But we are really glad we went. The people, the sites, the history - ALL make it a worthy destination.

Re avoid tour groups . . . yes, we employed the usual tactics when we could. Acropolis at 3:30 pm on a Monday was only lightly touristed. A similar time at Akrotiri produced a similar result. We walked into both the Bernaki & the Archaeological Museum in Athens early in the morning & had no problems. But for Knossos I was wedged into a 1 hour drive from our accommodation in Zaros, with a wife that would not budge until she had her leisurely 8 am breakfast & a car drop at 4 pm at the port. The worst time slot possible for a Knossos visit.

I must say seeing that the result of Evans' vision of what Knossos was like was intriguing. I still got a reasonable overview of the site & some great pictures. The 'throne' room had probably a 30 minute mass line & we obviously skipped it. Phaistos (spelled Faistos on a TomTom GPS btw) was a great counterpoint.

Ian
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Jun 19th, 2014, 06:31 AM
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More great advice -- thanks.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 01:06 PM
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<<>>

These might interest you? I have 2 posts here (Jan 30 & Jan 31)

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...eloponnese.cfm

on the 'Hotel Belle Helene' in Mycenae where Heinrich Schliemann stayed while he was excavating the site.

You can rent his room (#3) which is furnished with furniture of that period.

Also this on the very possible location of the Actual Bathroom (as in bathing) where Legend claims Agamemnon was murdered in his Mycenae Palace.

But as I state;

"Factual history is the best when visiting ancient sites but if unavailable sometimes a good myth helps bring the ruins alive."

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...r-location.cfm

Most of the links are dead but this pdf is excellent with diagrams of 'Bathing Rooms' in Pylos and Tiryn located in basically the same location (Throne Rooms) as the one in Mycenae (with an excellent diagram on this location).

http://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/dspace/...milarities.pdf

And a map showing this Bathroom #17.

http://www.travelinstyle.com/greece/...s/IMAGE003.JPG

Also I am more into Roman history so my 'storyline' of the mythical events here was only somewhat researched just too give we tourists something cool to see and relive when at Mycenae plus it plays into the movie 'Troy' with Brad Pitt butting heads with Agamemnon and also the scenes of Agamemnon's Throne Room at Mycenae early in the movie.

<<< Nafplion for three nights, visiting nearby sites such as Mycenae and Epidaurus.>>>
Be sure to check-out that 'Mycenaean Bridge' I mention in my post-link above it's on the way to Epidaurus from Nafplion and can be seen from the road.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 02:14 PM
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Thanks Rostra, I've followed your Roman posts with great interest over the years. Good to know you have some Greek interests too.
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