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Navplion – A City To Visit In Summer Or Winter

November 11, 2013

Fortress-Navplion-GreeceNavplion – A City To Visit in Summer Or Winter

My first glimpse of Navplion was from our chartered yacht as we rounded the headland during a glorious evening sail in July 2012.  As we approached we could see the magnificent fort on our port side, which the Greeks once used to guard the entrance to the harbour.

Our berth (one of the last available against the harbour wall) was to be between our lead boat and a vast high-sided catamaran with a rather anxious gentleman on board who began pacing up and down even more quickly when he saw a female at the helm.  Once safely ensconced for the night, we couldn’t wait to explore this city which had seen so much history.

Navplion History

Bouboulina

Greek Naval Admiral

Navplion was the capital of Greece before Athens (1821-1834) and sits at the head of the Argolic Gulf in the Peloponnese.  It is here where the fearless sea captain Laskarina Bouboulina and her fleet of eight ships sailed to and took part in the siege of the fortress which she eventually captured.  Bouboulina was born on the island of Hydra, moved to Spetses following her marriages to two sea captains who left her wealthy enough after their deaths to buy several ships and form her own fleet.  Very sadly, Bouboulina was shot on 22nd May 1825,  in a family dispute. Bouboulina was one of the first women to play a major revolutionary role and without her and her ships, the Greeks may well not have gained their independence.

Within walking distance of the (industrial) harbour wall is the most amazing ice-cream shop … further on a plethora of side streets lead you away from the main road to the pedestrianized area and grand main square which is adorned with the most attractive Venetian-style houses, restaurants, bars, shops and tavernas.  There is so much to do in Navplion, you would be hard-pressed to get round it all in a day, well, that is if you take in refreshments, food and shopping like we did!

During the hot summer months, pretty much all the restaurants feature those welcoming ice-fans to cool you down while you sip your vodka-martini and watch the action – always lots going on in the way of outdoor entertainment.

Easily accessible from Navplion is Mycenae

Mycenae

Entrance to the underground water source at Mycenae

What a spectacular coastal view from the home which used to belong to the King of Sparta, Agamemnon.  There is an almost eerie silence which surrounds the ruins now and the highlight for me were to treat the well-worn steps from ground level, leading underground to an extensive plumbing system which provided Mycenae with fresh drinking water.

History: The site of Mycenae was first excavated in 1874 by Heinrich Schliemann, the German amateur archaeologist who had also discovered the ruins of Troy.  A magnificent palace used to reside on this hillside, which was surrounded by great walls.  The city was crowned with an acropolis even before the Mycenaean civilization, and the location of the site was of huge strategic importance.  The ancient city boasted houses, bakeries, workshops, and even a granary. Several of the tombs in Mycenae have been named after the family of Atreus. There is Agamemnon’s tomb, the tomb of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus’ tomb.
Mycenae was almost completely destroyed by a fire in the 12th century. The Mycenaean civilization declined, but the area was still inhabited. It is believed it was abandoned in the 3rd century AD.

The findings from Mycenae can be viewed in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, but all over Greece there are also smaller museums that hold Mycenaean objects.

Summary:

Navplion is a joy to visit.  From a sailor’s perspective, no showers immediately available on the quayside but lots of small hotels if you are desperate in the winter.  You can eat with the locals at a typical taverna offering local dishes in one of the back streets or dine out in your finery at one of the high class (and more expensive) restaurants that Navplion has to offer.  The buildings are amazing with a strong Italian influence and there is lots going on.

Return soon to read more about Greece, her islands and all she has to offer.

 

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Top 10 Greek Islands for Summer Holidays 2013

July 5, 2013

Greek Houses Online

by Greek Houses Online

1. Santorini

Possibly the most photographed Greek island, Santorini is a glorious mix of stunning steep cliffs rising out of a sparkling deep blue Cyclades sea and whitewashed houses, black sand beaches and bijou designer hotels featuring luxury rooms and plunge pools.  The views over the caldera and sunsets from the west coast are magnificent.

You can travel by boat from Santorini to Crete and Rhodes.

Top tip: go out of season when prices are not so hiked.

2. Crete

The largest and most southerly of all the Greek Islands, Crete has everything the visitor could possibly want. The majestic white mountains are snow-covered even in the height of summer and the north eastern coast of Crete is a paradise for tourists looking for stunning beaches and excellent snorkelling. The Cretan people are even more hospitable than anywhere else in Greece and their cuisine is said…

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Ikaria

January 20, 2013

Ikaria MapI have finally found the special Greek island I would like to retire to which is in the north-east Aegean. Both my best friend and my mother sent me the article written by the Daily Mail journalist Jan Moir, about Ikaria so I believe this is the Greek omen I have been waiting for –  there must be something in the fact that two people who know me better than most others thought of me when they read it.

I have therefore done a little research on Ikaria.  Located off the coast of Turkey, close to Samos where, strangely enough, I almost bought a share in a property a couple of years ago. Apparently the people live until more than 100 and are happy drinkers and some even still smoke!

Back to Ikaria – in Jan Moir’s words “the people live longer and better than almost anywhere else on the planet.”  Well, that’s a good enough start for me!

People on Ikaria regularly reach the age of 90 with two and a half times the frequency of Americans. Ikarian men, in particular, are four times as likely to reach 90, and are often in better health than their foreign counterparts.
It is said that Ikarians also suffer less depression and a quarter of the rate of dementia. ‘On Ikaria, they stay sharp to the end,’

It comes as no surprise to me that locals and experts agree that the most important keys to Ikarian longevity and good health are diet, exercise and wine, which us Grecophiles have known particularly about the island of Crete for some time.  We Brits could do worse than to take some advice from Greek islanders who are said to be some of the healthiest people in the world.

Ikarian wine, made from a mixture of red and white grapes, does not contain any additives or sulphites, but has a very high alcohol content of 16 per cent and sometimes even 18 per cent — this just gets better!  On Ikaria it is usually drunk in small but convivial measures, and never without food.  (Greeks are more sensible about their drinking habits than elsewhere in the West).  Please Waitrose, can you get your act together so that I can order some online!

A typical Ikarian breakfast is tea (made with wild herbs), bread with local honey, (bought by me in large quantities when in Greece to combat nasty winter colds in miserable UK winters), olives and cheese. Elsewhere in Greece the tea is swapped for strong Greek coffee and most of the Greeks I know only have a cigarette or two for breakfast.  The main meal of the day on Ikaria, like on other islands, is lunch: typically vegetables with pulses or beans, wine (of course) and bread – a must everywhere in Greece, followed by a siesta. The light evening meal on Ikaria is apparently similar to breakfast.

Horta, a generic name for a selection of wild plants picked from the hillsides is a well known dish all over Greece – usually boiled and dressed with olive oil and lemon or sometimes used in salads.

The island’s capital 

Agios Kirykos (Άγιος Κήρυκος) Its population was 3,243 at the last census, and its land area is 74.745 km². It is the administrative capital of Ikaria and includes the island of Fourni.

The municipal unit shares the island of Ikaria with the municipal units of Evdilos and Raches; of the three, it is the largest in population and smallest in land area.

It was named after St. Kirykos , the youngest martyr of the Eastern Orthodox Church, who suffered death at the age of three in Asia Minor. The Cathedral Church of the town is devoted to him. Agios Kirykos is famous for hosting the annual International Chess Tournament, “Ikaros”, each July.

As with most other Greek islands, Ikaria boasts its own archaeological museum, a traditional square, and a stadium (in Patela), which hosted the 10th Pan-Aegean Games.  It also hosts the statue of Skepsi (thinking woman), the altar of the flame for the Aerathletic international IKARIADA Games and the Lefkada Annunciation medieval monastery.

Hotels

Swimming Pool - Cavos Bay Hotel, Ikaria

There are a few small hotels offering pools right by the sea. Check the Trip Adviser site to see what others have said.

Ikaria offers an excellent diversity of beaches to suit everyone. From remote sandy beaches where you are unlikely to encounter anything except pure nature, to cosmopolitan beaches with amenities.The clarity  of the shallows surrounding Ikaria are unparalleled. The sea surrounding  Ikaria ranks amongst the cleanest in the world. Ikaria’s most popular sandy beaches are predominantly located on the North side of the island and on the South side the beaches are less crowded.

Music and dancing are major forms of entertainment on Ikaria, and figure prominantly in the lives of Ikarians. Throughout the year Ikarians host baptisms, weddings, parties and religious festivals where one can listen and dance to live traditional Ikarian Music.

Ikariotiko

While in Ikaria don’t miss the chance to experience firsthand the “Ikariotiko” (traditional dance of Ikaria) by attending one of the many Panagiria (Saints’ Days/Feasts) which take place during the summer. In the meantime you can get a taste of Ikarian Music by clicking here.

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The Greek House Features Kefalonia & Halkidiki

October 14, 2012

We are featuring some new properties on our website which deserve a mention due to their wonderfully unspoilt locations:

Southern Kefalonia

The southern coastline of Kefalonia boasts a string of safe sandy beaches, gorgeous views across the deep blue Ionian sea to the island of Zakynthos, and the fabulous backdrop of Mount Aenos (at 1628m the highest peak in the Ionian). There are no big hotels or large resorts here.

Kefalonia Villa With Pool

Spartia is an authentically sleepy whitewashed village perched on the hillside above the sea with a fishing jetty safe enough for children to play in the gently sloping shallows either side. Although only 15 km from Argostoli, and 10km from the airport and resort of Lassi, Spartia has remained traditional and the lush countryside makes you feel like you are very much off the beaten track. It has a  taverna and two mini-markets.

Lourdas, halfway along the south coast, has a long white sandy beach which stretches for around a kilometre and shelves gently into the bluest of seas. Sunbeds are available to hire, and there are around six tavernas to choose from as well as a mini-market.

The original village of Lourdata has a beautiful and traditional plane-tree-shaded square, three tavernas and a couple of small shops.

For much of the year Lourdas is very quiet. However, it is popular with locals and can be busy during weekends and in the high season.

HALKIDIKI

ATHOS is the third and most easterly of the three ‘legs’ of the Halkidiki. peninsula, and the closest airport is Thessaloniki.  Athos is also the least developed and this has to be one of its most attractive features.
The majority of Athos cannot be visited without a special permit as the ‘Agion Oros’ or ‘Holy Mountain’ has been run as a self-governing monastic state for more than 1,000 years and is dominated by the majestic 2,000m conical peak of Mount Athos.
The Athos peninsula extends for about 60km to the south and its surrounding seas are notorious for strong currents. Although linked to the land, Mt Athos is accessible only by boat and all non-religious support workers live in the central village of Karyes.
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Religious rules are strictly enforced on Agion Oros and women are not allowed to set foot on the Holy Mountain.
The majority of tourists are restricted to viewing the monasteries with binoculars from on board boats offering trips around the peninsula.
The only places to sleep in Agion Oros are the monasteries, which offer spartan dormitory-style accommodation. Most, but not all, require advance reservations.
No payment is expected for stays of one night in a monastery but donations are usually accepted, especially for longer stays.
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This year Greek Islands are even more appealing

August 12, 2010

Looking out of my window at the rain on a decidely cold August day, I am glad I went to Crete this summer – despite a couple of days when the petrol stations were closed.   The lack of other tourists made this July a very special time to be in Greece – we even had the beach to ourselves one lunchtime and always managed to sit at the best tables next to the shimmering water in our favourite tavernas.

One of special note is Ergospasio in Elounda.  Co-owners Kostas and Dimitris have done a marvellous job converting the old Carob Factory.  A three-storey stone structure set at the water’s edge features some very beautiful touches; pashminas for the ladies when the wind gets up in the evening, their own Ergospasio label wine, and this year’s addition, a gorgeous and talented singer and guitarist singing in Greek and English.  There is even a little washing line (complete with pegs) where the boys hang their baby squid to dry as soon as it reaches dry land!

Waterside_Table_ErgospasioCrete will always hold a special place in my heart but this year more than any other I felt so fortunate to be able to enjoy all it has to offer with so few people around.

The locals had time for a chat to catch up, even the usually bustling fishing town of Aghios Nikolaos had an almost serene atmosphere as we enjoyed our last morning’s breakfast next to the harbour.  I’m pleased to report that the sea is still as crystal clear as ever it was (and the waiters as chirpy).

So if you haven’t been away and are looking for a relaxing break before the kids go back to school, I would thoroughly recommend this island, reputedly the birthplace of Zeus.

If the beach is not for you there are so many other places to see on Crete, centre of the Minoan civilisation and steeped in so much history.  My favourites are the archealogical site at Knossos (where the first flushing toilet was invented), Vai Beach (the palm tree beach where the original Bounty ad was filmed), The Samaria Gorge (simply breath-taking scenery).  You can even take an excursion to stunning  Santorini to experience the most amazing sunset I have ever seen,  not forgetting of course the pretty little island of Spinalonga, which was a leper colony up until the late 1950’s and whose history inspired Victoria Hislop to write “the Island.”

boat in Elounda Bayclick for The Greek House video

Read more from The Greek House Blog

souvlaki-greek-salad-patras-wine-what-could-be-better/
dodecanese-islands/
time-to-think-about-remote-greek-islands/
should-we-feel-sorry-for-the-greeks/
sailing-in-the-ionian/
greece-her-captivating-islands/

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What to do on the island of Crete

June 29, 2010

What to do on Crete
If you are lucky enough to be visiting the rugged and spectacular island of Crete this summer you might find it interesting to read about a few of the extraordinary trips which are worth taking time out from the beach for:

If you’re staying on the eastern side of this magical island it is relatively easy for you to get to any of the following – either by local bus (they have air-con these days and the possibility of you coming across a live chicken is relatively remote) – or by taxi or car:

Knossos CreteKnossos – Interesting Fact:  The Minoan Palace of Knossos housed the first ever flushing toilet (although you wouldn’t think so judging by the lack of progress since).

Bottomless Lake at Agios NikolaosAgios Nikolaos – Interesting Fact:   The lake around which this bustling fishing harbour is built is bottomless and was the location for the BBC TV series “The Lotus Eaters” during the early 70’s.   The series derived its title from the Lotus Eaters of Greek Mythology – those who ate the fruit of the Lotus tree lost the desire to return home …. hmmm… sounds somehow familiar.

The Bounty Advert Beach on Crete

Vai Beach – Interesting Fact:  Surrounded by natural palms, Vai  is  Where the original Bounty Bar advert was filmed.

Island of SpinalongaSpinalonga – Interesting Fact:  Spinalonga was a leper colony up until the late 1950s.  This special but somewhat eerie island with it’s battlements and ruins draws you back time and again.  Also the inspiration for the book by Victoria Hislop, The Island.  If you have read The Island you may be interested to know that there is a filmset in the village of Pano (upper) Elounda where the Greeks are making the book into a film.

If you are staying on the western side of Crete, in the Chania region, the following trips really are worth making if want to make the most of your visit – assuming of course you have the energy to leave the beach and your sunbed for a while!

Longest Gorge in Europe Samaria GorgeSamaria Gorge – Interesting Fact:   The longest Gorge in Europe,
Samaria starts at an altitude of 1,250m and you complete the walk from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli where you can dive into the Libyan Sea for a very welcome cool down.  The walk takes between 4 and 7 hours.  If you don’t fancy a 16km round trip, there is also “lazy way” – from Agia Roumeli to the Iron Gates and back which takes in around an hour of non-challenging terrain.

Chania war Museum Interesting Fact – designed by the Italian architect Makouzo.
The War Museum of Chania is located on the corner of I. Sfakianaki and Tzanakaki streets next to the Municipal Gardens. The building, built in 1870 was once the Italian Barracks.
The aim of the Museum is the collection, protection, conservation and exhibition of war artifacts and other items, mainly from 1821-1940 which covers most of the national wars and revolutions, including the participation of Cretan soldiers in the Macedonian Wars, the Balkan Wars, the Asia Minor Campaign, and the World Wars I and II and during the German occupation (1941-1945).

Naval Museum at Chania CreteChania Naval Museum Interesting Fact:  This beautiful building was used as a prison by the Turks and by the Nazis.
From ancient Greek mariners to World War Two heroes you will learn lots of interesting facts about the events that filled Crete’s poignant past.

Elafonisi Beach – Interesting Fact:  This amazing beach is home to som expert windsurfers windsurfers and even features pink sand!
I can honestly say having travelled throughout the Caribbean that this beach is top of my list and well worth the drive if you are staying in or close to Chania.

Elafonisi_Beach_Pink_Sand I hope you enjoy soaking up all that Crete has to offer as much as I do – Happy Holidays!

Read more from The Greek House blog:

souvlaki-greek-salad-patras-wine-what-could-be-better/
dodecanese-islands/
time-to-think-about-remote-greek-islands/
should-we-feel-sorry-for-the-greeks/
sailing-in-the-ionian/
greece-her-captivating-islands/

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Souvlaki, Greek Salad, Patras wine – what could be better

June 23, 2010

If like me you are a bit tired of the traditional British BBQ, try diced lamb with a Greek twist – this week’s Greek House blog is dedicated to putting together (my favourite) Greek meal.

What could be tastier than lamb souvlaki, tzatziki, patatas (French fries to you and I) and a “horiatiki” salata (peasants salad) all washed down with a glass (or two) of local wine served from the barrel.

TypicGreek Tavernaal Greek “taverna” food may be simple but the way it is cooked makes it deliciously scrummy.  Diced lamb on a skewer covered in lashings of olive oil and oregano and barbequed (yes, you can do it at home) before squeezing lemon juice over the lot and adding a sprinkle of salt.

Souvlaki

Tzatziki
To make your own tzatziki use only the best  Greek yoghurt and be sure to strain off any excess water – grate the cucumber and don’t forget to discard the seeds.  Ensure you squeeze the garlic through a press, adding mint only as a final touch with a touch of olive oil – now it’s ready for your souvlaki and pitta to be dipped into!

Patatas (French Fries)
This meal just wouldn’t be the same without them –think thin & crispy when cutting your potatoes and parboil them just for a few minutes.  Ensure they’re fully dry before plunging into hot oil for a few minutes until golden brown.

Horiatiki Salata

Greek Salad
Roughly cut up your cucumber and (must be) beef tomatoes, thinly slice a green pepper and a sweet red onion – mix thoroughly.  Add a slab of feta cheese (Waitrose sells Apetina which is already diced for you) and a few black olives (Greek of course).  Pour on some olive oil and finally sprinkle over some dried oregano – mmm …. delicious.

Greek Wine (Krasi)

Wine from PatrasDifficult to find a local Greek wine straight from the barrel here but there are good Greek wines to be found for around £5 a bottle, Waitrose also do a Greek wine, Mavrodaphne of Patras www.waitrosewine.com/230201113/Product.aspx

This meal takes only around 20 minutes to prepare so why not treat yourself – kali orexi!

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