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Greek customs and traditions

Greek traditions and customs can be better understood if you decide to actually to go on holiday on this beautiful land: you will experience first hand how the people here are so tied to the classical myths but still contemporary in their lifestyle.

The countless tourists coming to Greece by plane or ferry (click here) are attracted not only by its fantastic beaches, but also by its ancient culture, its history and its traditions.

parthenon

Photo Public Domain

Greek traditions are linked very deeply to religion as the Greek people are very religious. On the other hand, in some ways, they feel deep down a clear trust in faith. If it is true that the Greeks are very religious, it is also true that they are also very superstitious – and you can see this peculiar psychological trait perfectly on many occasions. As you proceed inland, getting to the small villages populated by shepherds, or however you move away from the big cities and touristy places, and more you will get how, hand in hand, the belief in superstition increases.

Throughout the year every religious or pagan celebration brings with it at least one rite of good luck or to ward off the evil eye. All holidays refer directly to the many local and ancient traditions, but they are also very present in everyday life. Here are some examples, just to get you an idea:

– For New Year (which for the Greeks coincide with the feast of St. Basil), during the evening of December 31, many young people go from house to house, holding a fruit of pomegranate, a symbol of prosperity, as a sign of good luck for the coming New Year.

Another custom linked to the New Year celebration again in honor of Saint Basil is to eat a traditional dessert called Vassilopita; a coin is put in the dough at the time of preparation, and it will bring lots of luck to the diner that will find during the supper.

Carnival is almost throughout Greece celebrated with masked balls, parades and various games; the most famous Carnival is held in Patras. In Ioanina, a beauutiful town located in the northwestern part of Greece, there are dances around bonfires and a greasy pole is put in the main square of the city to be climbed on.

patras-carneval

Photo CC-BY-SA Tonyesopi

If there is a party, or indeed for any occasion which requires it, the Greek popular music is there. Traditional instruments play the poignant melodies that become as fast and enthralling. Those who have never heard this music will find the pace so addictive and so difficult to resist the call of a dance! The traditional Greek dances are numerous but the most famous is certainly the Sirtaki.

At the end of the carnival, to mark the beginning of Lent, the day is called Kathari Deftera, that is, the Pure Monday; generally families go out for a picnic during which children fly kites in the sky.

During all festive occasions, but also in every-day’s life, the Greeks drink their most traditional drink called ouzo. It is a distillate with anise flavor. It is very easy to find this drink in the Greek taverns where there is also traditional food to taste.

A custom that has certainly not religious origins but has is root rather into the popular superstition, is to spit three times on the ground after having spoken of a deadly event or anything negative! You should not be surprised, therefore, if in the middle of a conversation you see someone spitting on the ground. Although of course this spitting around can seem very rude, it’s just a popular mean to get rid of the negativity.

The evil eye is something Greeks are very afraid of, especially in the countryside and for the elderly, and to remove it and protect themselves, people tend always to wear an amulet with a blue eye shaped  (you’ll find it in the shops or stalls selling souvenirs). For the same reason children often wear necklaces with blue beads that should protect them and, indeed, you can see some animals such as mules wearing these amulets. The explanation is very simple: through the eyes the bad thoughts of those who are envious or jealous can be directed to you, and thus wearing these sort of amulets seeks to dissuade him to send you the evil eye.

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to the home of a Greek family, then you must be prepared to eat a lot. Itwill be useless to say “no, it’s enough, thank you”, because by the time that you empty your plate, it will be filled again, and this to the bitter end, up to the dessert. The generosity and kindness of the owners, however, are great enough to make people forget this not always pleasant side. Then, in order to demonstrate their pleasure for your visit, the hosts will also be inviting all his relatives for the meal and all this will translate into a “big, fat Greek lunch” so lively that it will surely leave a beautiful memory for you!

If it is then an invitation for dinner, then it is useless to hurry because before 22 definitely nobody will eat; in the afternoon in Greece it is time for siesta and thus before 17 you do not leave your home (this habit of many southern countries is fully justified, given that in the early afternoon is so hot that you can not go out and perform any activity). The result is that everything is delayed by a few hours respect on the habitual dinner-time, especially if you compare it with the Nordic countries!

A travel guide of Heraklion

Heraklion on the northern coast of Crete, is the capital of this marvellous land since a few years, taking away this privilege to the nearby Hania (Chania). In fact, in the past this city was the most important fortress in the eastern Mediterranean. Heraklion was however also known as a strategic place, since it was the harbor of the ancient city of Knossos.

Since 1971, when it became the capital Heraklion, both the city and the port have become increasingly important and crowded. The population has increased a lot and that’s why all the most modern part of the city is still growing. The offer in the tourism sector has also “modernized” and has become particularly attractive.

Heraklion2

Photo CC-BY-SA 3.0 Beemwej

In the port ferries and large cruise ships (click here) arrive daily, pouring into cities their cargo of tourists eager to discover all the beauties of Heraklion. When you arrive in a new place, it is common to wonder: Who knows if the leaflets seen in travel agency or the images seen on the internet are truthful? But here, in Heraklion, you can be reassured and there will be no disappointment. The sea is really clear, the beaches are truly heavenly, the old town is no doubt full of charm.

We start our virtual tour from the town: it is surrounded by the defensive walls built by the Venetians and it is 4.5 km long and 18 m high well. In the South of the walls there is BASTION MARTINENGO. La Porta KENOURGIA dates back to 1587 and, in the North you can find the Porta of Pandokrator.

The Castle or Rocca a Mare, as the Venetians used to call it, was instead called “Megalo Koule” by the Turks, and now it is known as Koules. The castle was originally built by the Venetians in 1500 and also served as a prison. Over the years there have been several war events with its consequent partial destruction. The Koules was restored and nowadays dominates again the harbor; from the towers you have a fantastic view of the harbor and the city together. In front of the castle there is the Arsenal where Venetians ships used to rest before sailing the seas in search of new conquests – in fact the Arsenal was built to repair broken or damaged ships.

The Venetians have bequeathed many buildings and palaces, one of the best and most sensational is definitely the VENETIAN LODGE, dating back to 1626, which is located in Via 25 Angoustou, a street leading from the center to the old port.

On the same street there is the Cathedral S.TITO “AGIOS TITOS”, dedicated to the saint who was the first bishop of Crete and which is still highly revered.

Via 25 Angoustou leads also to PLATIA VENIZELOU, also called Piazza dei Leoni. Here the fun reaches its toll, as all around the square there are bars, cafes and restaurants; at the center of the square stands the FONTANA MOROSINI from 1628, with pretty mythological figures.

Fontana-Morosini

Photo CC-BY-SA 3.0 Moonik

From the square you can see a faithful reproduction of the San Marco bell tower in Venice. This is the Basilica of St. Mark’s bell tower, which was originally a cathedral built in 1239 by the Venetians. Today it also houses the Municipal Art Gallery.

Continuing you reach a pretty shopping street, with various craft shops of handicrafts, and you get to Kornarou Square, where you can admire another fountain of 1588, the FONTANA BEMBO.

Even the exclusive and chic VIA DEDHALOU is very animated with tourists who stroll around  looking at the windows of the most elegant shops.

Square ELEFTHERIAS (Freedom Square) is the main square of Heraklion. Near the square there is the ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM which houses artifacts of various archeological sites: Knossos, Archanes, Phaestos, Zakros with an amazing, beautiful hall of Frescoes.

Speaking about the KNOSSOS archaeological site, which is located just 5 km from Heraklion, it goes back to the Bronze Age and is an important witness of the Minoan civilization. The city was shaped like a maze (the legend of the Minotaur and Theseus tells precisely about the labyrinth of Daedalus) and you can still see part of the Palace of King MINOS.

On the road to Knossos is the MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY of Crete, which offers a botanical garden with various species of flora and fauna coming from the island of Crete.

In the suburbs there are many, beautiful, small fishing villages but also in the inner area, the shepherds vilage (the goat and sheep cheeses are highly valued here). If you have time it is worth making a trip to discover them, because the distance from Heraklion is minimal, and you can safely use public transport to get there. It also quick to get to Hania (Chania), the other major city of Crete.

The Heraklion beaches are mostly sandy, beaches of fine white sand; they are generally equipped for tourism. You can however also find free beaches and a little wilder seaside. There are also stretches of cliffs by this stunning sea landscape.

5 km away from the center there is the AMOUDARA Beach, a pretty long beach. There is also a free beach in the area. You can follow windsurfing courses here.

One of the most crowded beaches is Hersonnisos, located on the east coast of the city.

To the west there is the wild coast with the beaches of AGIA PELAGIA (here there is also a monastery) and LUGARIA.

In the Gulf of MASSARA there is the beach MATALA; here the sand alongside the cliff where there are also the prehistoric caves.

At 15 km from Heraklion you can find  a colorful and interesting aquarium, THLASSOCOSMOS, that reproduces the marine world of the Mediterranean. Here adults and children can enjoy more than 200 marine species.

Even the most demanding tourists will be attracted  by the city of Heraklion, but the most important gift will be, without any doubt, the wonderful welcome of the locals!

Igoumenitsa: highlights

 

Igoumenitsa
Photo CC-BY-SA 3.0 by Evmeos

Igoumenitsa’s port is located in the northernmost part of the Greek coast across the Ionian Sea; Igoumenitsa (or Igoumenitsa) is part of the ancient Thesprotia Region,  very close to Epirus. Behind the town, heading towards the hinterlnd, there is the Pindos mountain range. Instead , just in front of it, looking towards Italy, there is the island of Corfu.
Indeed arriving by ferry (book here) seems to be inside a postcard view: the sea, the port and the city with the woods behind create a bright green and blue backdrop under a clear sky. Nature is very lush here, due mainly to the Balkan climate, meaning  cold in winter and hot in summer, but without reaching the typical scorching temperatures of the south.
while landing in Igoumenitsa you won’t be able to see that the city is modern with a historical center as in most of the Greek cities; there aren’t ancient monuments and churches to explore. The explanation is that, unfortunately, the whole city was destroyed during World War II; the inhabitants have rebuilt with great effort and undivided commitment, but of course they couldn’t do much about restoring to the previous beauty the lost ancient monuments.
Luckily something is left, such as the FORTRESS Ragio with its 5 meter high walls that had to protect the city from enemy attacks. Here, in more than a few ruins, you can also see the Bronze Age findings.
The port of Igoumenitsa has been rebuilt in 1960; the new port instead was built in 2003. It was a necessary decision also because the city, thanks to its strategic location, has a great flow of travelers, especially from the sea. There are several Italian ports on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, from which are able to ship ferries to Igoumenitsa: for example from Brindisi it takes about 8 hours to get there.

New_port_of_igoumenitsa
Photo CC-BY-SA 3.0 by Evmeos

Exploring Greece from  Igoumenitsa: Egnatia Odos

From Igoumenitsa also you can reach very quickly CORFU as the isle is very close, as well as the ISLAND OF PAXI.
If traveling by ferry transporting a car or a motorcycle, you can take the famous Egnatia Odos, which is the highway that, from Igoumenitsa, allows to cross the mountain range of Pindos and arrives very quickly into all the major Greek cities; Thessaloniki, Ioannina and Athens; the latter is far from Igoumenitsa just 480 km. The Egnatia Odos comes to the border with Turkey, the Kipi border crossing.
If you are not bringing your own transport, it will easy to rent out something using one of the many charter agencies here in town. It will certainly become  a different holiday because you will also be able to shoot a little in the rear and going after less tourist sites with the most picturesque views.

Ancient Monasteries 
One of the most magical and charming places in all of Greece is no doubt METEORA, near the city of Kalambata. It is a short distance from Igoumenitsa but absolutely worth going there. A number of orthodox monasteries will look at you, perched on high rocks: the name literally means “in the middle of the air”. Watching from afar these monasteries, one wonders how  they could possibly have built them on top of those rocks. Yet they were built as many as 24! Of these, however, only 7 remain standing , 6 of which are inhabited by monks: Agios Stefanos, Agios Nikolaos, Aghia Triada, Gran Meteora, Roussanou and Varlaam. You get to the monasteries going up the stairs in the rock. But be careful because  women must have their legs covered in order to be allowed inside and visit the monasteries  (the monks themselves may provide a towel).
METEORA was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Beaches
You can also move easily around just using public transport. Buses make several trips a day in the direction of the main Greek cities, but also to the seaside resorts as PARGA, SAGIADA and SIVOTA or the beaches of PLATARIA. The latter is located at 12km from the city, towards south, and it is a small fishing village – you can eat cheaply in one of the many tavernas on the waterfront. Its beaches of ELENA, the beach of SOUFIS and ELIA are popular with tourists.
The Drepanos beach is only 5 km far from the port of Igoumenitsa and extends over 7 km. You will enjoy a beautiful stretch of white sand, a crystal clear sea and pine and eucalyptus trees that give very generously shade and fragrance.

Cousine
Instead if you are staying n the city, you have the option of cheap hotels. You must taste the typical Greeks dishes in one of the many delicious restaurants and taverns that are located near the port or on the coast. It would be better to avoid those restaurants offering international cuisine: just take full advantage of this holiday to sample amazing and original Greek food which is very tasty.
This way you can say that you have done everything necessary to deepen your knowledge of the territory, with all its incredible elements to discover, and your Greek holiday will be very successful.

 

New Year 2016 in Greece

Why to go to Greece for the new Year 2015? There is the economic factor, which certainly is important for everyone, especially in these years of crisis. It is clear that Greece is busiest in the summer, and in winter the flow of visitors is lower; consequently, to attracts tourists’ attention, we can find in many hotels and resorts great services and convenient locations at a very cheap price! You can even rent a car in the area to explore restaurants and amazing venues offering live music and evening shows. .

The second reason is that, not being too hot as it happens in the summer, you certainly want to get around to visit the many interesting places, because it is less drawn to the beach and the sea (though walking on deserted beaches has an incredible charm and is worth doing sometimes!).
Another reason still is that we will not find the usual crowd and everything will be easier and more enjoyable, since the movement, but also for the visits of the various monuments and museums, to find places in restaurants, etc.
We could continue to list the advantages of going to Greece in the winter but now instead enter specific.

Knossos_bullPublic Domain

Greece is very easy to reach by air or by sea, also by ferry (click here).
From the geographical point of view, it is a very complex, given its fragmentation in a continental part and an insular one; it is no less than 2,000 islands, often gathered in archipelagos scattered in the waters of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Ionian.
The Greek cities and the islands to visit are many, but since we can not list them all here. This time we will talk about Athens, alone, certainly offers plenty to see at all.

Athens is the capital of Greece and reaches 35 percent of the total population, as in past years there has been a massive migration from the inland. From the tourist point of view it is  a large concentration of monuments and historical places to visit in Athens. But the city, despite being rich in history and classical mythology, is very modern. To appreciate this feature just such travel with its new and gleaming subway. It is a colossal realization that is unmatched; It was built for the Olympics in 2004. Each station has been transformed into an underground museum: in fact the artifacts found during the excavations have been exposed, making the trip a real underground cultural journey. These are artifacts of the Mycenaean sculptures, the Byzantine walls and statues dating back to the Hellenistic period that is to the Roman.

Needless to say, there are many historical monuments to visit in Athens, are famous throughout the world. Let’s just mention the Acropolis, in the heart of the historical center, the Parthenon, one of the most impressive monuments, then again the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hephaestus, the Hadrian’s Arch, the archaeological site of Kearminos, the Church Kapnikarea with its stunning architecture, the Temple of Athena, then the Academy of Athens located right in the center of the city; there are so many that it is almost impossible to name them all.

But Athens is also a place of fun and this can be seen even more in the New Year.
The most frequented is certainly the Plaka district, a real tourist haunt, just below the Acropolis. The areas with a more pronounced are the nightlife district and the Psirri Gazi. The first is perhaps less expensive, while the second is more fashionable. Then there’s Kolonaki where you can find many nice venues, not to mention the closeby University of Athens.
You can also choose to go to the movies or the theater with a wide choice, because the Greeks are very fond of going there. For families with children there is the famous theater of shadows Kargiozis, just as there are many fun parks, such as in Alimos or in shopping center Park Allou. Also for families with children, but not only, it is a good idea to visit the Zoo Attica, home to many species of animals.
Then, to change completely kind of fun, there, for fans of gambling, the Casino Mon Parnes located on Mount Parnitha.

In general the nightlife of the inhabitants of Athens intensifies in winter because many of them in the summer move to the islands. It is the reason why it will be easier to know them and interact with them in order to have a truer idea of ​​their customs and traditions.

For New Year’s Eve squares will be animated with traditional events: in Syntagma Square there will be fireworks, bands will perform and will dance the syrtaki, one of the best known among the traditional Greek dancing. How can we forget the scene more evocative of the film Zorba the Greek, in which the actor Anthony Quinn dancing witch all just the syrtaki?
What is certain is that it is a very addictive dance and who will be in place on New Years Eve hardly resist the overwhelming music. It will certainly be a nice way to join the party.
A tradition not only in Athens but all over Greece is that, for boys, going from house to house singing and carrying in his hand pomegranate fruits as a sign of good luck.
Another Greek tradition is to eat vassilopita. It is a sweet dedicated to St. Basil, who is the patron saint and is born on December 31. In preparing the cake it puts a coin in the dough. The person eating the sweet will, will have joy and luck.
You may even decide to spend New Year around Athens; some locals of the nearby beaches will be organized for the event.

Whatever you choose, you will certainly delight.

The last thing to say about the weather: winter is not hard and the weather is sunny it is possible that it may be even a T-shirt, but we must not forget that the evening is colder and therefore need a coat or down jacket, especially if you spend the night of New Year outdoor.

Nightlife in Kos

For all those who love Greece, its islands, beaches, art but also the fun, Kos is, without doubt, the ideal destination. The numbers related to tourism on the island grow from year to year so that we can safely say that it is the second largest island of the Dodecanese as regards the number of tourists coming and who choose it as their holiday destination. Moreover, Kos is an island that enchants both day and night, and thanks to beautiful beaches and typical Mediterranean, is due out at night, that animates the streets of the city.

Before talking about the nightlife of Kos, it is important to describe the island in all its glory, going to seize all its many nuances that make it so unique and so beloved. What attracts Kos is above the sea: its beaches are characteristic for the fine sand covering a crystalline sea.

Even the creeks that are located here and there are very attractive and make Kos a destination for everyone. It is, in fact, an island very romantic yet also suitable for families with children, as the stretches of sand are much safer cliff and that the water is low enough for children to get a good bath safely. Among the most beautiful beaches you must mention undoubtedly the beach of Therma, located in the south of the island and is famous for its sand very dark. Noteworthy is also the thermal pool located in the sea, where you can enjoy a temperature between 42 and 50 degrees, until late autumn. This area, as well as being very beautiful, is frequented mainly by those who want to fight skin problems and rheumatism, since the water of the place is rich in active ingredients.

Therma-Kos-500x328

Photo CC BY-SA by kallerna

For those, however, love the white sand, the area north of the island is the beach of Tigaki and Kardamena Beach, famous for water coral. Drinks are also the beach of Mastichari, the beach of Agios Stefanos and the one of Marmari are three of the best known beaches of the island and also the most beautiful in all of Greece.

But Kos is not only sea, beach and fun: there are several things to see and many archaeological sites of great interest, as in the rest of the nation, which was the cradle of civilization. Among them, the archaeological site of Asklipieion is a real gem and if you are passionate about this kind of thing, is a must.

Being just 3 km from the town of Kos can be easily reached by those staying in the area. It is a site that contains a shrine to the god of medicine, Asclepius. Naturally, Kos town is beautiful to look at, despite an earthquake has destroyed almost everything in 1933. The ruins of ancient Greece, however, have fortunately survived this disaster and, therefore, you can still visit them. Kos is a quiet town and very impressive and one has to lose through the narrow streets of the old town to grasp its beauty. Not to be missed are the Archaeological Museum, the Castle of the Knights, the Ancient Agora, excavations Western where you can see many artefacts and Plateia Platanou, a little square very dear to Hippocrates. Even the villages of Zia, Kardamena, Pyli and Kefalos are worth a visit, because they are all very picturesque and quaint.

Where to have fun in Kos? This is the question that you make especially the younger ones, who see in Greece the ideal destination for what concerns the night life and entertainment. Fun in Kos is very simple and the opportunities to do so are nothing short of many. The centre of the island is without doubt the city of Kos which contains the largest number of possibilities. Here, in fact, there are several clubs that animate the nightlife and making the city the most lively of the Dodecanese. Discos, bars and animate the main streets of the fun, which are the Diakon and Nafklirou. Even the main square is full of clubs and bars, though much quieter and more suitable for families with small children.

The area of ​​the port of Kos, however, produces a number of restaurants, plus where to taste the foods of the Greek tradition and lots of seafood. All rooms have beautiful views of the sea, which makes them ideal for romantic dinners. Of course, also the evenings on the beach are all the rage: the places of worship on the island are undoubtedly the Paradise Beach Bar and Mylos Beach Bar, which very often organize theme nights and more. For those who like house music and techno venues they should go in Tigaki Angios Stefanos, Psalidi, Lambi.

As you note, the island of Kos offers a vacation tailored to any type of tourist and, above all, for any need. Of course, the housing solutions are many and trying to meet the needs of everyone, including the younger tourists and with less disposable income.

From the houses for rent, the b & b, from residences to hotels here there really is everything you look for a holiday to remember, full of unbridled fun, but also the clear blue sea. The island of Kos, remember, it is easily reached by ferry and with air. Kos Airport (Kos) is dedicated to Hippocrates and is only 22 km from the city of Kos.

KOS_SAngelo-500x332

Photo CC-BY-SA by Mazaki

To find the best offers and to achieve further savings, it is always good move  a little ‘in advance, though, being a very popular tourist destination, there are often also valid last minute to discover this wonderful island in Dodecanese.