Det är klart att du ska till Grekland och därför skriver jag i den här bloggen. Igår drog Apollo resor igång sin blogg tävling för att utse Årets reseinspiratör. Jag är nominerad till Årets lokala expert med min blogg om Grekland. Inspireras du av mina bilder och mina personliga berättelser om Grekland rösta på min blogg fram till den 9 juni. Din röst gör skillnad tack för att du röstar!
Rösta med ett klick (ingen avgift) här. Dem fem bloggar som får flest röster går vidare till finalen och kan så småningom bli Årets reseinspiratör.
You have already decided that your next trip will end up in Greece, but unsure of what treasures you may find here. Therefore, I write this blog. For you. Yesterday Apollo travel agency announced a blog competition about travel inspiration, and I am lucky to be a part of it. I am nominated for “local expert of the year”. If you feel inspired by my images and personal stories about Greece, please vote for my blog. I will forever be grateful for your support!
Vote with one click (no fee) here. The five blogs that receive the most votes will move on to the final and may eventually become the Travel inspo of the year.
When faith and nature do miracles… Meteora is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Meteora, after Athos, is Greece’s largest and most important monastery complex and consisted of 24 monasteries during its heyday, six of which are still active Greek Orthodox monasteries. In a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’ from the 11th century onwards. Meteora is one of the cultural Unesco world heritage sites in Greece.
The first time I visited Meteora was in the middle of the 80’s. Our Greek neighbours at Bastugatan in Stockholm came from Trikala and then it was not far to Kalampaka and Meteora. I visited them one summer and had the opportunity to walk up to the monasteries. At that time, there were most cars on the road and believers who wanted to visit the monasteries. The town Kalampaka was much smaller and the big tourist buses were rare. The monasteries became more famous outside Greece after the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was premiered. Some scenes in the movie were recorded at the monastery of Holy Trinity, despite the monks’ protests. Today, the number of monks has declined considerably and moved to the monasteries of Athos to get their call in peace and quiet. Although the tourists have increased significantly, I think that the sunset in the area is wonderfully beautiful and soothing, one must not miss when visiting the area.
How to get here
Meteora is located in the region of Thessaly in the middle of Greece. The nearest town is Kalampaka and the nearest village is Kastraki. I recommend you to get to Meteora by train, buss or car. By train with trainose.gr from Athens or Thessaloniki. By bus with KTEL from every town in Greece, the bus arrives to Trikala which is the nearest city to Kalampaka. Or by car towards Trikala, easiest with GPS of course.
The Great Meteoron Monastery is the biggest and oldest one of all. It was called the monastery that was “suspended in the air” (meteoro), because of the formation of the gigantic rock on top of which it was built. The Great Meteoro Monastery was founded by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite who was the first founder of the monastery. For this reason, the foundation of this monastery is considered to be the beginning of the organized monasticism in Holy Meteora.
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second biggest monastery. It resides at the opposite of the Great Meteoro Monastery and it was founded in the mid 14th century by the exercitant Hosios Varlaam. The elegant monastery Catholicon was built in the honour of Agioi Pantes in 1541-42, by two brothers and priests from Ioannina.
St. Stephen’s Monastery is the most accessible monastery, where instead of steps you simply cross a small bridge to reach the entrance. It is ideal for visitors who cannot use the steps and yet they wish to have a real experience of a Meteora monastery. The beginning of monastic life on the rock of Agios Stephanos dates back to early in the 12th century.
The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Anapafsas is the first monastery that we encounter on the way to the Holy Meteora and was founded at the 14th century. There are different stories about how the name came to be Anapafsas. The first one is that the name Anapafsas was attributed by one of the monastery’s founder, while the second explanation has to do with the monastery’s position being the first to be encountered on the way up and probably served to the pilgrims as a resting place before continuing on. Resting translates into Greek anapafsis, literally means Saint Nicholas the one who rests you.
The Holy Monastery of Roussanou has received the name of the first probable hermit who settled on the rock. The main cathedral was founded at the end of the 16th century and was decorated thirty years later. The monastery was initially founded by monks and it suffered severe damage during World War II. It became a convent in 1988.
The Holy Trinity Monastery (Agia Triada) is the most difficult to reach, but once you get to the top the you have a panoramic view. It has been a monastery since 1362. Visitors have to follow a pathway that directs them initially to the foot of the rock, before they start walking up about 140 steps. Part of the Monastery was used as the setting for the final scenes of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
SUMMER TIME April 1st – October 31st Great Meteoron Monastery 9-17 Closed on Tuesdays.
Varlaam Monastery 9-16 Closed on Fridays.
St. Stephens Monastery 9-13.30, 15.30-17.30 Closed on Mondays.
St. Nicholas of Anapafsas 8-17 Closed on Fridays.
Monastery of Roussanou 9-17 Closed on Wednesdays.
Holy Trinity 9-17 Closed on Thursdays.
WINTER TIME November 1st – March 31st Great Meteoron Monastery 9-14 Closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays.
Varlaam Monastery 9-15 Closed on Thursdays, Fridays.
St. Stephens Monastery 9.30-13 15-17 Closed on Mondays.
St. Nicholas of Anapafsas 8-16, Sundays 9.30-16 Closed on Fridays.
Monastery of Roussanou 9-14 Closed on Wednesdays.
Holy Trinity 9-16 Closed on Thursdays.
Note the dresscode for monasteries. For men long pants and for women skirt or dress below the knee.
There are many things to explore in this area, besides visiting the monasteries. We choosed the sunset tour with a taxi and a tour in the monasteries with Meteora Thrones the following day. Both was booked with the help from our hotel staff where we stayed in Kalampaka. Other things you can do to explore the area is hiking, biking, climbing at the rocks among others. More inspiration can be found here.
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Do you love greek food? Which is your favourite dish? A Swedish travel agency listed the list of ten popular Greek meze in their last campaign about Greek holiday dreams. And yes there are many options to choose when you are at the Greek restaurant….
Manouri med koukounari Greek cream cheese with pine nuts.
Fasolakia Cutting beans braised in tomato, onion and olive oil.
Saganaki In short, a piece of deep-fried cheese. Measuring!
Midia Green mussels on a rice bed. Grilled with garlic butter.
Dolmathakia Wine dolm filled with rice, nuts and various spices. Also works to eat hot and cold.
Feta med meli Filo dough filled with feta cheese, topped with honey and sesame seeds.
Taramosalata A spread made of fish rum, olive oil, lemon and potatoes or bread. Perfect to put on a piece of bread.
Pantzaria Citrus marinated beetroot with feta cheese and roasted sesame seeds.
Gigantes Beans in tomato and olive oil.
Saligaria White wine Sautéed snails filled with garlic butter.
Did you know that Cretan cuisine differs from the rest of Greece? If you plan to visit Chania this year and love greek food do not miss to do some nice food trips while you are there.
Many of my friends and neighbours in Sweden rent their own car and travel around Crete, and often asks me about my culinary trips. So here are my best food trips around the area of Chania. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the area if you are fond of the gastronomic culture of Greece. Cretans love their soil and produce everything from wine to honey…
Leave your hotel or accommodation and walk in the old town and the port of Chania. Old town with its charming Venetian style. Here you will find a good offer with restaurants with a lot of Greek food. My husband and I were delighted with a small fish restaurant at the harbor. There we saw the first time we were there that they had guests who were fishermen and locals mixed with tourists. At Stelios Psarotaverna, Akti Enoseos, you will find fish and seafood on the menu.
Visit a winery
Manousakis Winery, Vatolakkos Chania. In the village of Vatolakkos you will find the wonderful vineyard Manousakis. It is the story of Theodore Manousakis who leaves his village as 11-year-old for America and returns 50 years later to plant the first vineyard in his former home town. Book a tour to learn and taste the vines and enjoy the food in the restaurant.
Milia restaurant, Vlatos, Chania. The story of the medieval village Milia which once was abandoned and now refurbished to a mountain retreat. Here they cultivate and harvest organic products. The restaurant serves Cretan dishes such as organic vegetables, baby goat and lamb dishes. The village is located near the village Topolia.
Olive oil tour
You see olive trees everywhere in Crete. And a lot of olive oil is produced here. We visited TerraCreta’s facility in the Kolymbari area. Here you can book a tour and learn about olive oil and taste the different varieties, for just olive oil I didn’t know much about until we visited the facility.
Elos village, located 60km from Chania, on the way to Elafonissi. The village is known for their chestnut trees. In October you can buy nuts at the village stores and they make tasty dishes with chestnuts as well. I have been there twice at different restaurants and always equally satisfied.
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The first time I heard about Spinalonga was when the Greek channel Mega sent the first episode of the series “To Nisi”, meaning The Island in Greek. It`s the captivating story of the Greek family from Plaka, which achieved record ratings for Greek television. Plaka is a small fishing village in Elounda bay in Crete, opposite of the the small island of Spinalonga. The Greek history books did not cover the history of the leper colony Spinalonga, the island was unknown and forgotten until then.
It´s the fictional story is about leprosy patiens who lived and survived in Spinalonga and their relationship with the inhabitants of the little village Plaka. Giorgos Petrakis and his wife Eleni are the main characters in the story, they live in Plaka with their two daughters. He is a fisherman who trasports supplies to the lepra colony. One day he is forced to transport his wife to the island and later on his daughter. Its a story about fear, passion, love of three generations and the best tv serie Greek television ever produced I dare to say.
The island´s fortress was built in the end of the 16th century by the Venetians, who wanted to protect themselves from the Ottoman Empire that had invaded other islands in the Medeterranean. The islands name originates from this time, Spina Longa means Long Thorn. Two hundred years later the Turks invaded Spinalonga and in the late of 1800s as many as two hundred families lived on the island with two-story houses and a mosque. Around the turn of the century there are troubled times in Greece, French rule over the island and the Muslim population decides to abandon the island.
In 1903 the greek government decides that the abandoned island will become a leprosy colony as many, with Dr Hansen´s disease as it called, live in caves to avoid to infect others. In the beginning there was no treatment and many lepers died. But as time went by doctors came to the island and a hospital, shops and school was established. The lepers lived in the houses that the turks abandoned. People fell in love and married at the island, they had children, some of them who grow up at the island never get infected. When the cure of the disease was found the numbers of lepers fell and the leper hospital closed 1957 and the island was abandoned.
Spinalonga or Kalydon which is the official name of the island is reached by boat from Plaka, Elounda or from Agios Nikolaos in Crete. Visit the site early in the morning or late in the afternoon, its very hot temperatures during the middle of the day due to the little amount of vegetation at the island. The island is uninhabited, but there is a coffe shop and restrooms at the entrance. The island is open for tourists from April to October, more practical information at the official website for Spinalonga
There are a number of books written about Spinalonga. “The island” is the name of the novel that made Spinalonga known to the public. Victoria Hislop British writer and journalist made her debut 2005 with the novel. The book became a bestseller in UK and is sold over two million copies worldwide in more than 17 countries.
The Greek tv channel Mega broadcasted the series of 26 episodes in 2010. Shot in Crete and in Spinalonga over two years. Watch the trailer in English version here. The story begins with Alexis who wants to learn everything about her mother’s past. To her surprise, she finds out that her family is connected with the isolated island of Spinalonga, the former settlement of lepers.
Victoria Hislop about Crete and Spinalonga “Visiting Spinalonga for the first time was a very strong experience and I knew even in the first minute that I arrived there that I had to write about it. It was very compelling and very emotional. And I admit that this visit made a profound change to my life”. Read the article at Athensinsider.com .
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Welcome to the city where democracy was born. When you think about Greece you visualise beaches and islands. Athens may not be the city you associate with vacation. The fact is that Athens offers a lot more then you might think in the first place. Athens over the weekend or during a week is really is one of the best city vacations you can do in Europe. I recommend that you stay centrally so that you are within walking distance of the city’s attractions. It is wonderful to walk in the old quarter around the Acropolis.
Athens has a lot of nice museums you can explore. I visited the museum of Cycladic art the last time I was there. Some of the museum offers additional photo exhibitions as well. During the summer months, the city explodes by many cultural events. It’s all from festivals, theater shows, dance events and concerts. More information about current events can be found here.
What to see
The city’s main tourist attraction, queues in the entrances are the shortest in the morning and during the winter season. If you visit the Acropolis hill during the summer, you need a hat or cap and bottle of water, as it is always warmer on top than at the entrance. Opening hours and ticket information at the official website. Herodion theatre, below the acropolis hill, was built by the Athenian philosopher Herodion Atticus as memory of his wife. The theatre is open during the summer and many cultural events and concerts is taking place here during the summer evenings. The Acropolis Museum, modern and beautiful, where you can follow the history and originals of the statues up close. It´s also cozy to have a cup of coffee or eat in the restaurant with the best view of Acropolis hill.
Plaka is the old town below the Acropolis hill, where there are plenty of restaurants, cafés and shops. The area was populated here in the 17th century and have today many neoclassical buildings in pastel colors and is really nice to stroll around. It is known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods” due to its proximity to the Acropolis and its many archaeological sites.
Anafiotika is the residential area under the Acropolis hill that looks like a small village. Here, artisans moved from the island of Anafi to renovate King Otto´s palace at the end of the 19th century. Anafi is the island from the island group Cyklades, which this area received its name from.
Monastiraki square is the meeting point for tourists and Athenians. Tzistarakis Mosque was built during the Ottoman Empire and is now a ceramic museum. You have the Metro station here and many shops in the streets around the area. Collectors love this place as you have basars and a flea market in this area as well.
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world. Diogenes
Every Sunday att 11.00 you can watch the ceremony of Evzones or Tsoliades when they change the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The place is in front of the Greek Parlament at Syntagma Square. You can watch the ceremony every hour every day, but Sundays has a special ceremony and with the official costumes.
Where to eat
Eat like a greek or local when you are in Athens. Here are the restaurants I have visited and I recommend. Athens offers tourists a lot of food tours as well, because food matters and it tells us something more about the history of each city.
Quick Pitta– Mitropoleos 55. This place offers the best classical Pita with Giro in a fresh and modern interior.
Skoubri –Drakou 14. Fish restaurant witch resides in the upcoming area Koukaki. Fresh dishes and light interior with a nice fish menu.
Seychelles – Keramikou 49 Metaxourgeio. Trendy restaurant housed in a cute, early 19th century building. Don’t forget to make a reservation its a popular place.
To Kati Allo – Chatzichristou 12. A family restaurant serves greek homemade dishes, magirefta, in an old style taverna. It could be greek bean soup, moussaka and other traditional dishes that my mother used to make.
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My family comes from the mainland in Greece. I have traveled to many islands through the years but never been to Crete until recently. Now I understand why it´s such a popular destination. Crete is the largest island in Greece and its geographical position have made the people love and grow their land. Olive groves, orange trees or vineyards can be seen after the roads. I admire people with devotion or meraki as the greeks says. The Cretan cuisine is delicious, more about the gastronomic culture on the island here.
Are you going to Crete this summer? Are you thinking about where to stay? The island is large and there are many attractions to explore. If you choose Rethymnon then you will be able to make day trips to the east and to the west side of the island. Or just explore what is around the city of Rethymnon itself. Here are my best culture tips and photos.
The beautiful Venetian old harbor and the lighthouse are Rethymnons citys pride. The lighthouse we see today, 9 meters high, is built by Egyptians in the 1830s when Crete belonged to the Ottoman Empire. The harbor is the meeting point for tourists and locals. Here you will find many cozy taverns and cafes with the tables directly at the dock where the colorful fishing boats are located.
The city of Rethymnon was already there in the Minoan times. The old city we see today is the best preserved on the island built during the Venetian era of the 1600s. It so nice to stroll around old town and explore the old buildings and the architecture.
Fortezza is built on the hill Paleokastro (means old castle) under the Venetian regime. The Venetians built it to protect the city from the Ottoman occupation. But despite this, the Turks conquered the city in the 1600s. The fortress was destroyed during the second World War but is renovated and a mosque and two churches from the 1800s have been preserved.
Preveli Monastery is located 37 km from Rethymnon in a beautiful hill overlooking the water of Preveli beach. The monastery is consisted of two main building complexes, the Lower (Kato) Monastery and the Rear (Pisso) Monastery which is in operation today. The monastery is known for its battles against the Turks 1821 and in the battle of Crete 1941.
The beach is located about 2 km from the lower Monastery, has a nice parking place there. It takes about 15 minutes to reach the beach from the parking area, take the stairs and walk down the hill to the beach. It is a unique and popular place where the river Grand River opens into the sea.
Arkadi Monasterys church was built in 1587 by Italian architects and was heavily influenced by the renaissance art. But I’m more impressed over the interiors and beautiful colour of ochre on the walls. So nice to be a monk here and have time for reflection and inner thought in this beautiful environment. The Monastery is one of the Eastern Orthodox Monasteries underlining the catholicity and universality of the church and has therefore many visitors and pilgrims from the whole world.
I envy the fisherman’s lifestyle, a daily life without stress and deadlines. In the middle of the university city of Ioannina and yet in a calm as few can get away in today’s digital world.
What lifestyle have you chosen in your daily life? Do you live in a big city, in the countryside or somewhere in between? Do you hear the birds in the morning or are you sitting with the headphones on the bus on your way to work? I envy those who left the big city and moved to the countryside and chosen a still life…
Have you heard the story about the fisherman who lives in the present? A poor fisherman sat on the beach when a rich businessman passed by. “Why do you sit here with a lazy look? Why are you not fishing?” the businessman asked. “Because I caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman. “Now I’m sitting here enjoying the sun.”
The businessman shook his head. “Now when you have time you could catch more fish, do not just sit here and do nothing” “What would I do with the fish,” wondered the fisherman. “You could sell it and earn lots of money,” said the businessman. “Buy one bigger boat with bigger engine and fish even more and earn more money.”
“What would I do then?” wondered the fisherman. “You should be able to sit and just enjoy life”, said the businessman. “I do that right now”, said the poor fisherman.
Lake Pamvotis is the only lake in Greece with an inhabited island within its perimeter. And maybe one of the resons why it’s such a popular travel destination. Ioannina is the capital of the Greek province of Epirus. The city has about 100,000 inhabitants. Ioannina can be followed back to the 900’s but became important as Epirus’s first city in 1204 and became independent in 1913.
The photo is shot from Tzami Pasha Mosque. The island of Nisi is interesting with its history and role as the scene of the murder of Ali Pasha, ruler over Ioannina in the 1800s.
I love to photograph when I travel and explore new places or destinations. And of course I want to take some great photos. I’ve had my current camera for more than a year and it’s not always easy to learn all the amazing features that are in it. I practice as often as I can and not only when I’m on holiday in Greece. Often my composition in the image is perfect, but the colors in the picture are not always as expected. A lot of hours of practice and many photos later provide experiences, so here are my tips for beginners.
My best non-technical tips for beginners:
The light is alfa and the omega as the greeks says, and makes the difference between a good photo and the best photo. The image tends to get sharp shadows and shapes when you take it in the middle of the day, specially during the summer. The best light is available in the morning or in the afternoon, the “golden hour” is often the hour before the sunset.
But often when we travel, we do not have the luxury to be in place early or late in the day. I usually look for a shadow to stand in and shoot from that spot, it gives my photos a softer impression and bring some more colours in my picture.
Another tip is to shoot the image from several directions. For example, on a street, I shoot the picture in two different directions. Sometimes the difference is seen immediately in the camera or mobile phone and sometimes you see it when you export the picture to your computer.
I grew up in Stockholm, in the middle of the city. Landscapes views and nature were not around the corner. It was usually up to date on summer holidays when we went to Greece. The exception is my earliest childhood year when I lived with my grandparents in a small mountain village. As the years goes by I’m drawn to the mountains like a magnet and love the views of the those hilly landscapes…
In the region of Epirus, in the north west of Greece, you will find the 46 stone villages in a magnificent landscape, just one hour drive from the city Ioannina. Zagori means beyond the mountains, from the Slavic za “behind” and gore “mountain”. The area had its greatness during the Ottoman period and that is evident in the architecture of the houses, the unique bridges and monasteries. Kalderimi is the name of the cobblestone paved roads around the stone villages in Zagori. They are designed for foot and hoofed traffic and tie together many of the villages in the region. Zagoria or Zagori or Zagorochoria (villages of Zagori) is divided into three regions, western, eastern and central Zagori. Here is the attractions you do not want to miss.
West Zagori: The villages you must visit here is Megalo Papingo and Mikro Papingo, its the villages in the photos above. From Mikro Papingo you can start your hiking up to the mountain top of mountain Tymfi and reach the top Gamilla with an altitude of 2436m. The famous lake Drakolimni is also on the way up to the top and about 4,5 hours from Papingo. Between the two villages you find he natural swimming pools of Rogovo, recommend you to take a swim here during the summer. On your way to the village Aristi, stop at Aristi bridge and perhaps join the rafting groups for a pleasant rafting tour in the river of Voidomatis.
Central Zagori: The main attraction here is Vikos gorge, listed as the deepest gorge in the world by Guinness Book of Record. It begins between the villages of Monodendri and Koukouli and ends near the village Vikos. The village Monodendri has the most tourists as you have a spectacular view to Vikos gorge from this point. In the centre of the village you have Rizario Exhibition Culture Centre with nice handcraft and photography exhibitions. Central Zagori has the most famous stone bridges and monasteries in Zagori, don’t miss them if you are nearby. Villages like Dilofo, Kipoi are just some of the 20 villages in this section.
East Zagori: Consist of 16 villages which has the oldest villages in the area. This part of Zagori is for nature lovers, hikers, scouts and hunters. On your way up to the very east you find the villages Greveniti, Elatochori, Vouvousa and Perivoli among others. I have been to Vouvousa twice as its at least a few hours drive from Ioannina city. Here you can enjoy the national forrest of Pindos and the river Aoos which flows through the village.
Once upon a time the center of Minoan civilization which is the earliest known civilization in Europe. Today one of the most popular destinations for Scandinavians and many others.
And the reasons for spending your holiday in Crete are many, the beaches with the long bathing season and the sights with Greek ancient history are just a few. But what I’m most impressed of is the gastronomic culture. The Cretan cuisine is fairly considered as one of the healthiest and most delicious in the world.
If you ask the staff at your hotel what they are doing after the holiday season is over, they will probably tell you that they are taking care of the piece of land and the olive trees they own. Crete produces olive oil of course, wine and even their own beer. The name of the beer is Charma and is very tasty. And the best part is that you usually can visit the producers and taste and learn about products in place. We use to rent a car to make trips around the island to discover the producers or the restaurants with the authentic Cretan cuisine.
The last time we visit Crete we stayed in Rethymno and drove up to the little village Maroulas and there at the top of the hill we found a little nice family restaurant Fantastico with a fantastic view. The typical dishes we use to order as starters besides the Greek salad are: Dakos also known as Koukouvagia, consisting of a slice of soaked dried bread or barley rusk topped with chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta or mizithra cheese, and flavored with herbs such as dried oregano. Skaltsounia or Kaltsounia is pastries with kafkalithres or mironia, Greek wild greens that reminds of spinach. The locals here are very fond of drinking Raki or Tsikoudia the traditional wine of the island made on distilled grape peel. The Cretans love Raki so much that almost each family has its own unique recipe and can contain up to 37% alcohol. Raki is usually served after the meals with or without dessert.