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  • Barbara

6 Weeks, 9 Destinations, 12 Beds



View from my balcony in Chania, Crete. Griffins on the balcony!



If you've been following The Greekish Life on social media - and I hope you are - you know I've been away on an epic trip around Greece.


I'm back now, and hoo boy, there's a lot to cover!


The trip started in mid-May and finished up in late June, which is the longest I've ever travelled anywhere. It was amazing. And frankly, I could have stayed longer, but for the terrible Greek summer heat which was kicking in in earnest. It makes me lethargic and turns me into a cranky, schvitzing goblin hissing at the sun and ducking from one cool, dim space to another in hopes of a breath of relief.


I know Greek Summer is a thing, but I will avoid it at all costs. Been there, done that, couldn't wait to make it to stop.

But starting in May, the heat wasn't much of an issue. The trip began, as it always does, in Athens, to see family and friends, and spend time enjoying the vibrant capital.


First stop - Elefsina, the modern name for ancient Eleusis, home of the Eleusinian Mysteries. This was one of the most important sites for ancient Greek religion, honoring the goddess of grain and the harvest, Demeter, and her daughter Persophone, goddess of both Spring and Hades.


Elefsina, site of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries.


After Athens, I was off to my first Ionian island ever - Kefalonia. What a treat! Kefalonia is one of those islands that pops up frequently on social media and makes you think "Too perfect. It's got to be Photoshopped."

Nope.


Blue beyond belief.



The next leg was a truly memorable road trip with my cousin, who did most of the research and planning for it, and her husband. We went north to the regions of Epirus and Macedonia, starting in the historic lakeside city of Ioannina and moving on to the Zagorochoria - a collection of wildly scenic little stone villages in the Pindus mountains. From there we went even further north to Kastoria, another lakeside city only about 30 minutes from the border of Albania. I was surprised to see bear-proof fences all along the highways, as well as signs to watch for bears.


Well, I thought, we're not in Santorini anymore.



Ioannina Castle - Epirus


A view of the Tzoumerka mountains as seen from the monastery of Tsoukas - Epirus


Vradeto village view - Zagorochoria, Epirus

Note how there was still snow on the mountains in June.


Kipinas Monastery - Tzoumerka mountains, Epirus

The monastery is carved into the rock face of a high cliff,

and contains an entire not-fully-mapped cave system within it.


One of the many stony little traditional villages we visited - Monodendri


The beautiful lakeside city of Kastoria, far to the northwest of the Greek mainland - Macedonia


This was my first time this far north. I was smitten.


The lush mountains, some still with snow at the peaks, the enormous waterfalls and rushing rivers, and the beautiful old arches of the stone bridges in so many places show that Greece is so much more than white cubed houses and blue domes. We went to several out-of-the-way sites and saw so many astounding and magical things.


Middle Earth? Westeros? No, a very atmospheric ruin of a Roman aqueduct - Epirus


The famous Bridge of Arta - Epirus.



The amazing and unexpected waterfalls tucked into the Tzoumerka mountains - Epirus


A Dragon's Cave? A Neolithic settlement? The Amazonian-looking huts of a Sarakatsani stani? A bridge out of a fairytale? Who could have guessed?


The Dragons' Cave - Kastoria


Dispilio neolithic site - Kastoria

A recreated Neolithic settlement called Dispilio, where excavations are still being done - Kastoria.

I especially like the view of stone-age huts in the front and the modern city in the background.


A Sarakatsani "stani", or temporary settlement,

recreated in a small educational park - Zagorochoria region


The magical Paleokaria Bridge and falls - Thessaly


Since the return back to Athens from Kastoria is way too long of a drive, we stopped for a night in lively Trikala. This town turned out to be a sleeper favorite of mine. Something about the mix of modern and old-school really appealed to me. It was like a rembetiko song come to life, but without the crime and opium dens.


Trikala - Thessaly

Trikala struck me as a cheery little city.


While we were in the neighborhood, we took a drive to stunning Meteora and it's monasteries in the sky, where I hadn't been since I was a teen.


Meteora - Thessaly

Note the small white box on the cable. This is how supplies are passed along to the monks.



Okay, so the vacation could have stopped there and still been awesome, right? But no.


After the road trip I was off to a place I've dreamt of visiting for years - Crete!

For some reason or other, my previous plans never worked out, but this time I made it. I started in lovely Rethymnon, with a day trip to the Minoan palace of Knossos and the city of Iraklion, with it's magnificent museum.


Bliss! Even the hammering sun on the open plaza couldn't wither my spirits at finally seeing this ancient and utterly enchanting site. And the museum rivals the National Archeological Museum in Athens, in my opinion. What a top-tier collection of Minoan art and artifacts! If you're an antiquities lover like me, this is heaven.


You'll forgive my geeking out over the Prince of the Lilies, I hope.

This is a reproduction, of course, out in the elements as it is.

The original is in the museum in Iraklion, and I got to see that, too.


The iconic red pillars of Knossos.


The Blue Ladies - Iraklion Archaeological Museum


After a few days beachside in Rethymnon, I continued on to Chania. This may be my new favorite city in Greece. The little alleys, the scenic views, the spectacular beaches a couple hours away - the whole vibe of it was so great that I'm already plotting how to get back there. Western Crete in general was beautiful, with wonderful traditional villages, deep gorges, and more.


I'm a sucker for the twisty alleys and centuries-old architecture of an Old Town,

and Rethymnon's did not disappoint.


The Venetian Harbor - Chania

Here's the lively waterfront with the old Mosque of the Janissaries and the Egyptian lighthouse.


Thought to be the oldest olive tree in the world, estimated to between 3000 and 5000 years old.

The Minoans would have picked olives from this ancient tree,

and it's still producing to this day - Vouves, Crete


The pink sand beach of Elafonissi - Crete

You'd be forgiven for thinking it was Bora Bora.



And I wasn't done yet!


Once back in Athens, my cousin and I drove to the island of Evia (over a bridge that connects the island to Attica) to her country house. A few restful beach days there, and back to Athens for the final few days. Some last-minute shopping and visits with friends, a great food and street art tour, a farewell family dinner and I was back on the plane home.


Monastiraki - Athens


Street art - Athens


The Acropolis from a hotel rooftop bar we managed to persuade ourselves into, even though we weren't staying at that hotel. We had it nearly to ourselves! - Athens


Wow.


I saw SO much. I had so many wonderful experiences - floating in a nymph-haunted sunken lake in Kefalonia; having Cretan musicians make up silly and flirty mantinades - on-the-spot verses - about me in a Chania taverna; swooping around multiple hairpin turns in the green Tzoumerka mountains, filling our bottles from the roadside spigots gushing fresh mountain water; and enjoying a glass of tsipouro with the Sarakatsani innkeeper in front of his fireplace on a chilly night while he told us stories about his semi-nomadic life of cattle herding.


There were monasteries and museums, beaches and bougatsa, family dinners and solo restaurant adventures, and so many shades of green and gray and blue that my senses were nearly drunk with it all.


Melissani Lake - Kefalonia

This is also called Melissani Cave, as it's an underground lake you can paddle around in.


Myrtos Beach from a lookout point above - Kefalonia


The green mountains of Tzoumerka, part of the Pindus mountain range - Epirus


Kokkoras stone bridge - Zagorochoria, Epirus


Elafonissi Beach - Crete

Of course, many of these places and experiences will find there way into new galleries and articles here on The Greekish Life, so keep an eye out!


* * * * * * * * * * *

Which brings me to the next bit of information...


My hosting site, Wix, has informed me that I have reached the limit of static pages for the site and must now convert to dynamic pages.


Dude, I have no idea what that even means.

What do dynamic pages even look like compared to static pages? Why must technology torment me so?

(You know, things were working out fine between us, Wix. You did your thing, I did mine. Sure, there were the occasional hiccups, but that's true of any relationship. Mostly we were a great team. Now you wanna go and add this new headache to my life. And I can't even break up with you because you get ALL the stuff in the divorce.) So your gal's gonna be going through a learning curve here. I'm working with someone to try and get it all updated, but if it's a little while before you see new content, that's why.


Don't want to wait for more photos and info about this latest trip? Scroll through my IG feed for more, and Follow me if you haven't already. There's LOTS to see.


Wishing you a great rest of the summer...


Filakia,

Barbara


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