Enter ancient Greece at Mycenae

Greece is famous for its rich amount of archeological sites. Building in the country is almost impossible due to the abundance of history hidden underneath Greek soil. As a result, even the smallest towns have archeological sites or museums. Most of these sites are fields, covered with ancient foundations and restored columns. The most famous sites might have a building that survived time, like the Parthenon in the Acropolis or the theatre at Epidaurus. At the ancient city of Mycenae, however, you can actually touch and enter the structures built thousands of years ago. This archeological site is a truly unique experience.

Argolis, Peloponnese

Archeological site

1.5 – 2 hours

€6,- to €12,-
seasonal

Be careful

Yes

Location

Mycenae lies in the North of the Peloponnese peninsula, in the Argolis region. The ancient site is just 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Athens Airport by car, and the first famous archeological site you find when entering the Peloponnese.

The location of the ancient city is impressive. On top of a hill, overlooking the sea in the south, and de fields and mountains all around.

Mythology

Mycenae is an ancient city on top of a hill built from giant rocks. It seems almost impossible that human hands constructed this city so long ago. So, Greek mythology came up with an explanation.

According to mythology, Zeus and Danae (the daughter of the king of Argos, a city close by) had a son, Perseus. He wandered around the area that is now Mycenae and either dropped his cap or found a mushroom. A cap, as well as a mushroom are myces in the ancient Greek language. So we can not know which of the two Perseus was about to pick up. But when Perseus picked up his myces, he found a water spring. He decided to settle right there and called his city Mycenae.

Perseus wanted to fortify the city he was now king of and called the cyclopes. These one-eyed giants were strong enough to pick up large and heavy stones with ease. They created fortification walls that mark the outline of Mycenae till today. The Cyclopean walls, named after their builders.

History

Mycenae is over nine thousand years old. The first signs of human life in the area date back to the Early Neolithic Age in the 7th century B.C. However, not much of the early Mycenae survived through time, and the archeological site mostly tells the story of the city’s prime time.

Between 1350 and 1200 B.C., Mycenae was a major center of Greek civilization. The city expanded rapidly to a population of 300,000. Many buildings in the citadel were rebuilt, and the fortification walls were constructed. The Lion Gate, the tholos tombs, and the palace, for example, all originate in this time in ancient Greece. Unfortunately, because of this, not much of Mycenae before this time survived. 

After 1200 B.C., Mycenae lost its status as the center of power. The site got destroyed for an unknown reason. The citadel was partly rebuilt later but caught fire and then was slowly abandoned. The ruins of ancient Mycenae have been a tourist attraction since Roman times and have remained popular till today. The site has been on the list of UNESCO world heritage since 1999.

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The archeological site of Mycenae

The archeological site of ancient Mycenae is one of the oldest in Greece. Eight hundred years older than the Acropolis and constructed two thousand years before the close by site of Mystras. However, the site is well preserved. A visit to Mycenae is like a visit to ancient Greece.

I have never felt more connected with history than during my visit to Mykines. There are ancient streets you can walk on, structures you can enter, spaces you can experience, and walls you can touch. At the site, there is a concrete path you can follow. This path leads you to all the impressive structures of the old city. I would recommend first entering the citadel and visiting the tombs at the beginning of the site afterward.

The Lion Gate

The most famous and first structure at Mycenae is the Lion Gate. This gate marks the entrance to the city in an impressive 3-meter (10 feet) tall wall. 

The reason behind the gate’s name is above the passage. There is a large, triangular, limestone slab with the image of two confronted lionesses. Although the heads are missing, the image in the stone is still clear and detailed. But more impressively, the lionesses are not just there for ornamentation. The limestone’s triangular shape gives stability to the giant rocks in the wall above the entrance. Without this stone, the gate would collapse.

Nature and History

After passing through the Lion Gate, you have entered the citadel. From the gate, a concrete path marks the route around the city. Along grave circle A, the palace, temples, and many other buildings. 

Cyclopean walls, constructed for fortification, enclose the entire citadel. From these walls, the view of the surrounding landscape is breathtaking and reveals how well-positioned this ancient city used to be. At a both strategic and defensive location in the area. You will be continuously drawn between being amazed by the ancient structures, to being astonished by the magnificent views.

The underground cistern

At the most eastern point of the archeological site, you can find a rare experience, the underground cistern. Although its entrance looks like a cave in the fortification wall, it is actually the beginning of a spectacular piece of architecture.

The cave marks the entrance of a passage. This passage is a staircase that leads 18 meters deep and at the end of this staircase, there is an even deeper structure. A well, made of clay, collects water from a natural spring. This well used to provide a continuous supply of water to the citadel, and is one of the oldest underground aqueducts you can visit in Greece.

Unfortunately, only a part of the tunnel is open to the public. However, this is enough to reveal how advanced and intelligent the Mycenaen civilization used to be. You can enter the tunnel, descend part of the stairs and see how deep down the staircase reaches. However, even the giant stones that enclose the stairs in an arc-like shape, are an art piece by themselves.

The tholos tombs

After visiting the ancient city of Mycenae, you can enter grave circle B. Located just outside of the city’s wall, the tombs of Aegisthus and Clymentemnesta are worth the climb down the steep hillside.

The tombs are called the tholos tombs. Tholo in Greek means dome, which perfectly describes the shape of the tombs as they are large underground domes, or beehive tombs in English. But how were these impressive underground shapes created?

First, the Greeks make a large round opening into a hill. Inside this opening, they placed huge stones in circular rows, on top of each other. Each row sticks out slightly over the previous one, to decrease the diameter of the circle of stones gradually. They continue this process upward, until the circle’s diameter is as small as a singular stone. This is the top of the dome.

After the Greeks completed the dome shaped-structure, they restored the hill, by adding soil on top of the tomb. The dome shape of the structure made it survive underground. The tomb of Clymentemnesta proves the strength of the dome design. When a theatre was built on top of it at later times, the structure was able to hold the weight.

The entrance to the tombs is a wide path leading into the otherwise hidden dome. This path is called the dromos in Greek. This dromos leads to the tomb’s entrance, marked by a gate, constructed similar to the Lion Gate. 

The tomb of Aegisthus is destroyed at the top. However, the tomb of Clymentemnesta is fully preserved and impressive. The scale of the tombs at Mycenae is unbelievable, and the acoustics inside adds to their size. They are real masterpieces of ancient Greek architecture.

Tips:

  • The whole site, except for the tombs, is accessible by wheelchair. However, the concrete path is very steep at some points, so keep this in mind.
  • Visit the site in the order described above. You will go from being amazed to being more amazed, and being beyond amazed!
  • Bring plenty of water and sunscreen when you visit the archeological site of Mycenae during the summer months. The location, on top of a hill, requires quite a hike, and shading is scarce at the citadel. Therefore, it is better to visit off-season. This period will also show a clearer view of the landscape around.
  • Don’t forget to visit the museum and the tomb of Agamemnon. The museum is located slightly downhill, on the North of ancient Mycenea. You can find the tomb on the road down to the village of Mykines.
  • Combine a visit to Mycenae with Epidaurus, Nafplio, the Sunken City, the Dolines of Didyma, or any of the beaches close by.
  • You will have to pay entrance to enter Mycenae. A ticket costs €12,- from April to October. Off-season and for children, the price is €6,-. There is another ticket available that is valid for three days and combines Mycenae with other museums and ancient sites in the area. This ticket costs €20,-.
  • Mycenea is open from 8 AM to 8 PM during the summer months. When traveling outside this season, you should check the opening hours before your visit since they change each month.

Fall in love with Greece in Autumn

We said goodbye to our sunglasses and shorts. Now we wear jackets and don’t leave the house without an umbrella. Days have become shorter and grey. Summer is over, and we look forward to Christmas or spring next year. However, the fall doesn’t have to be rainy and cold, not when you treat yourself to a getaway in Greece!

Fall is perfect in Greece

Although Greece is the place to be in summer, the country is a perfect destination through all seasons. Autumn in particular. While temperatures are still more than pleasant, tourists are rare, and prices are much more budget-friendly. Besides, the mountainous landscape of Greece turns into a beautiful painting when trees change the color of their leaves.

Temperature

Autumn’s temperatures are perfect for those who don’t like the heat of Greece’s summers. In September, temperatures reach between 25-30 degrees(77 – 86 F). October averages 20-25 degrees ( 68 – 77 F), with mostly sunny days. In November, the chance of rain increases, and temperatures drop to 15 – 20 (59 – 68 F). But still, most days are more than pleasant. Just pack a jacket for the nights and early mornings.

Benefits of visiting Greece in the fall

Lower temperatures

The lower temperatures in autumn in Greece, especially in September and October are a huge benefit compared to the summer. Summers are great for the perfect beach holiday, but often prevent you from many other activities Greece has to offer. During the fall however, you can fully explore this beautiful country.

The view

High temperatures and dust tend to obstruct the views of the Greek landscape during summer. It is continuously hazy in July and August. Close-by islands and mountains look vague, making landscape photography or even a good view difficult. However, as soon as the temperature drops and the chance of rain increases, the sky clears. You can see further away while the landscape adapts to its beautiful autumn colors. The result? Magnificent views, perfect for both landscape photographers and nature lovers.

Lower prices

Prices are always a result of the combination of supply and demand. Since many tourists want to visit Greece in the hot summer months, prices increase, and a holiday can become extremely expensive. During the fall, demand drops, and with it, the prices decrease. This results in cheaper accommodation, food, drinks, car rental, and plane tickets. 

Less crowded

Greece is full in summer. There are about three times more tourists than there are locals and a cue for every popular tourist attraction. Fall, however, is the time you can enjoy Greece without these crowds. Perfect beaches can be private, lines at archeological sites disappear, and you can explore the idyllic traditional villages at your own pace.

Culture

Fall in Greece is magical, giving the most precious fruits: olives (olive oil), grapes, chestnuts and more. And people express their love for those product in famous agricultural festivals, small or big, all around Greece. From a family harvesting and pressing the grapes to a whole village celebrating their precious product. Attending one of these festivals is the most authentic experience you can have.

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What to do in Greece in Autumn?

September is the time the real Greeks go on holiday in their country. The Greek islands and sea still have a pleasant temperature this month, while accommodations are much more affordable.

From October, a beach holiday might not be the best option anymore. The sea-water temperatures are still ok, but many beach bars are closed, and an entire day in beach-wear can get chilly. However, this is the perfect time to discover everything else Greece has to offer. The mountains, the cities, and the culture.

Archeological sites

Greece is famous for its rich amount of archeological sites all over the country. However, visiting these sites on a summer day is far from pleasant in my experience. Days are too hot, and the sites often lack a shadow or a cooling breeze. Autumn, however, provides a great climate to discover Greece’s history. Plan a visit to Delphi. Or combine Epidaurus, Mykines, and Mystras with the colorful landscape of Peloponnese. 

Agricultural festivals

During September you can join the harvesting and pressing of grapes in many areas around Greece, especially around Thessaly. You can also join the famous festival of pistachios in Aegina.

October is the month of the distillation of tsikoudia in Crete or tsipouro in the mainland. Be prepared to be invited to a family’s celebration, which includes a lot of food, alcohol, music, and dancing. Chestnuts also have their special moment during October. You can find those festivals all over Greece, especially in mountainous areas.

Finally, end of October and November the most famous Greek product, our beloved olives, are getting picked. Peloponnese, Crete & Lesbos are the biggest producers. There you can see locals picking the olives and in many agro-tourism guesthouses, you can see and even join the process of olive oil production.

City trips

Athens and Thessaloniki are the two largest cities in Greece. Both have a lot to provide, from historical sites to amazing food. And with the beautiful urban atmosphere at night, there is something for everyone. During the Autumn months, the temperature in Athens is still pleasant. So don’t be surprised if you enjoy your Greek coffee under the rock of the Acropolis wearing only your t-shirt.

On the other hand, the weather in Thessaloniki can be unpredictable, but still, the temperature is pleasant. The gastronomical experience the city has to offer deserves your visit. And don’t forget to visit the many historical sites that are hidden throughout the whole city.

Another Greek city that is not well known but perfect for an Autumn getaway is Ioannina. Ioannina is surrounded by mountains and is located around a huge lake. Visit the old castle, enjoy local food, or go hiking in the mountains around.

Hiking

Greece is over 80% mountainous and perfect for hiking and climbing. Since the summers are often too hot for these activities, the Greek mountains are the perfect destination during the fall. Wonderful locations for an active autumn getaway are:

  • Zagorohoria and Tzoumerka in the Epirus region.
  • Crete, where you can hike along multiple beautiful gorges
  • The Corfu trail, the whole length of the island from North to South. 
  • Conquer Mount Olympus, the highest mountain of the gods.

Tips:

  • What to do on a rainy day?
    Although most days in the fall have plenty of sunshine, you might get unlucky and encounter a rainy day in Greece. But don’t worry, there is still plenty to do in Greece. Visit one of the many indoor museums, go shopping in the giant indoor shopping malls around the big cities, or go to one of the many religious sites. Besides, a rainy day is perfect to get in touch with your inner real Greek. Go for a coffee in one of the many kafeneio’s to wait till it gets dry. I am sure you will meet many locals who join you to do the same.
  • Check what is open. 
    Although Autumn is perfect for a trip to Greece, many touristic places are only open during the summer months. When you plan on visiting one of the smaller islands, it is a good idea to check what is still open during the fall. Beach bars, boat rentals, or even taverns might have adjusted opening hours, or might close completely.
  • Pack a jacket
    Although temperatures in Autumn in Greece can be more than pleasant during the days, the night can get chilly. When you’re traveling outside the months of July and August, it is always a good idea to bring a jacket for the nights!

Explore Xanthi. In the North of Greece

The day I heard my Greek boyfriend is from North-West Greece, I felt a bit sad. Why didn’t I find a guy from Crete, Kefalonia, or Mykonos? How am I supposed to enjoy my summers, spending an entire month in Xanthi? The only place in Greece that can have months of rain. And just 60.000 inhabitants in a region of almost 500 square kilometers.

Three years later, however, I realize how I based my opinion on prejudices. Asking me today if I want to go on a holiday in Crete, I would reply, only if we visit Xanthi as well! This small and unknown region in western Thrace stole a place in my heart.

Thrace,
mainland

City

5 days

Free

Yes

Yes

Why visit Xanthi?

Looking at the facts, Xanthi does not do well. The region does not have the bluest seas, the highest mountains, the most picturesque towns, interesting archeological sites, or idyllic churches. Xanthi is not the best at anything. However, it has everything. And that’s Xanthi’s power.

After waking up at the beach house in the morning, I have the freedom to do anything. Go for a swim or go shopping in the city center. In the mountains, I can go hiking or canoeing. I can get lost in the narrow streets of the old town, visit multiple archeological sites, or see an idyllic white church on a lake surrounded by flamingos. The best thing is, I can do all of the above without meeting other tourists and not spend more than 30 minutes in a car!

The region of Xanthi

The region of Xanthi is bound by mountains in the North, on the border with Bulgaria. In the South, the region is enclosed by the Aegean sea. In between, there is a plain, where the people of Xanthi used to grow tobacco. Which used to be the most important part of Xanthis economy.

The city of Xanthi consists of two parts. The old town, on the foot of the mountain Augo. Augo means egg in Greek, which perfectly describes the shape of the peak. Below the old town, towards the south, the new city of Xanthi is built. From here you are going towards Xanthis coastline.

In the east of the region are the wetlands. Home to many different bird species and part of Natura 2000. In the middle of a lake, part of these wetlands is a small monastery, built on a wooden deck in the water. In the winter, this area is home to thousands of flamingos.

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How to get to Xanthi

Xanthi doesn’t have an airport, making the region not easily accessible. In the summer months, however, many smaller airplanes fly from Athens and the islands to both Kavala and Alexandroupoli. From here, Xanthi is very close by.

The other option for reaching Xanthi is to fly to Thessaloniki. You can take a rental car or bus from here. This journey is about 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on how Greek you drive. On your way, you will pass the giant lakes of Korneia and Volvi, but you will also see Halkidiki and drive through the mountains. 

Is Xanthi expensive?

No. Xanthi is not (yet) discovered by tourism, meaning that prices here are Greek. You can buy a coffee, with a bottle of water, for less than two euros. Going out for food at one of the many tavernas costs approximately 10 euros per person. And staying in a hotel with two people during the summer costs only 60 euros a night. Outside of the summer season, prices will drop to 50 or even 40 euros. Besides, along the coast are many privately rented beach houses which usually offer a pretty good deal.

Meet the real Greeks

The prices make Xanthi the perfect place if you want to stay in Greece for a longer period and get to know the Greek culture. Tourism is not a big thing in Xanthi, so every person you meet or see during your stay will be Greek. 

Great events to visit in Xanthi are Carnival, Easter, Christmas, their liberation day on the 4th of October, and the old town festival at the end of the summer. But even the usual days here are worth experiencing. Pick up bougatsa for breakfast in the morning. Work only till 2 in the afternoon. Leave town for a swim in the summer, or a hike in the winter. Enjoy long and tasty Greek lunches. And visit the main square or the old town, at night. That is what life is like for the locals.

What to do in Xanthi

Here is a list of all the things you can do in Xanthi:

  • Go to the beach in Myrodato or Mólos. Or visit the beach bar Porto Moló at night.
  • Hike in the mountains, especially from Augo. The view on the top is amazing.
  • Canoe or barbecue on the Nestos river. 
  • There is also an accessible “monopati” if you want to watch the river on foot. From here you can see many old railway tunnels through the mountains.
  • Visit the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas.
  • Get lost in the old town.
  • Visit the bridges around Xanthi.
  • Watch flamingos in the lakes during the winter months.
  • Visit the Pomaks villages, like Smithi or Echinos.
  • Eat at local taverns, or try bougatsa, and a lot of other sweets.
  • Go to the Bazar on Saturdays. It used to be the biggest one in the Balkans.
  • Visit the waterfall of Levaditis.
  • Have a look at the great mansion of Manos Hatdjidakis. One of the greatest worldwide recognized music composers of Greece.
  • Walk the path of life.
  • Hang out at the square, together with the locals.

How long to stay in Xanthi?

As I mentioned before, Xanthi is perfect for a longer stay in Greece to blend in with the locals. Nonetheless, a shorter stay is also possible. Rent a house or room at the beach and relax for a week or two. Or, go hiking in the mountains. To visit all the landmarks of Xanthi four or five days should be enough. However, I do not recommend staying only for those days. Xanthi has to grow on you, so give it a chance!

Travel guide to Lemnos, Greece

Lemnos, or Limnos, is an island in the Aegean Sea, in the northeast of Greece. With just 476 square kilometers of land, it is not very big but enough to make one of the most surprising islands in the North of Greece. From a small desert to a giant salt lake, from the biggest castle in the Aegean to the traditional windmills, and from their famous cheese to the most beautiful sunsets. This island is worth your visit.

How much does it cost to stay in Lemnos?

Lemnos is not well-known by foreigners and maybe that is the beauty of it. There are no overcrowded landmarks, no packed beaches, and no overpriced meals or hotels. Staying on the island in the capital Myrina is affordable. In the summer months, you will spend around 50 euros per person per night on a hotel, while in May, June, and September just 20 euros are enough for a very comfortable stay. To make things even better, a good dinner, on average, will cost you no more than 10 euros and most of the amazing places you must visit on this island are completely free.

How to get to Lemnos?

You can reach Lemnos either by ferry, from Kavala or Alexandroupoli, or by airplane from either Athens or Thessaloniki within just 50 minutes. From the airport, there is a bus to take you to Myrina, the capital of the island. When arriving by ferry, you get off the boat in this capital.

How to get around on Lemnos?

When in Lemnos, you will need a car or motorcycle to get the most out of the island. There is public transport, but since many of the must-see areas are very secluded, a bus will not be able to take you there. In different locations on the island there are rental companies, but also taking your car on the ferry is an option.

If you want to rent a car, it is always good to reserve one before arriving, because especially in July and August, the companies may run out of cars. Besides, don’t go for the cheapest option since there will be many dirt roads waiting for you. A small 4×4 would be ideal.

How long to stay in Lemnos?

The island is not super big but since the roads on the island are not great, you will actually spend quite some time getting around the island. I went for four days, and although I saw most of the things on my list, at least one day extra would have been better. If you want to explore the whole island I would go for 5 to 6 days, of which 3 in Myrina, the capital, and 2 to 3 somewhere more to the west of the island.

What to do in Lemos?

Map

The old, the empty, and the ugly. The story behind architecture in Greek cities.

The Greeks are famous for their architecture, they even invented this type of art. Look at the Parthenon, the temple of Apollo, or the theatre in Philippi. All amazing architecture, and all on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites today. But also on the islands, the architecture resembles an art. The idyllic villages with narrow stone streets. Surrounded by white walls, and blue roofs that match the color of the sky. The Greeks knew what they were doing, but what happened with architecture in modern Greek cities?

A quick history of Greek Architecture

Architecture was born in Greece almost three millennia ago. The White House, amongst so many other political buildings, is inspired by Ancient Greece architecture. But even more important, the Greeks invented the elements that are needed to turn a structure into a piece of art. Which became, and remained, the base of architecture as we know it today, all around the world.

After Ancient Greece, architecture continued to evolve in the land that is now Greece. With influences from the Byzantines, the Venetians, and the Ottomans, many cities became a combination of beautiful churches, mosques, and castles. But unfortunately, history does not end there. After the Second World War, the country was in ruins. And when years later Greece was finally in an economic situation to rebuild. The country seemed to have forgotten about architecture.

Rapid expansion after the war

In the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s the economy in Greece was booming. Many people left their houses in the villages and moved to the cities to work. Quickly, more houses were needed and they needed to be built fast. So instead of letting architects and urban planners design the cities and housing, an enormous amount of apartment buildings were built and designed by engineers. Paid by whoever had the money to make such an investment.

There was no “beauty committee” from the municipality. Neither did the Greeks follow the rules that were there. The reconstruction after the war resulted in a loss of architecture in Greek cities. Everyone could, or just did, build whatever they wanted. What they wanted was the same as what any investor wants. Investing the least amount of money to earn the most of it later.

As a result, the cities became packed with six-story high concrete apartment blocks, leaving no space for parks or proper pavements for pedestrians to walk on.

Lack of maintenance

Although these apartment blocks were ugly from the start, the Greeks did not really take care of their buildings either. The investors knew that there was a shortage in housing so they did not feel the need to maintain their buildings. And since many of the Greeks rented their apartment, they did not care for it either, for the outside at least. A Greek interior is always clean and tidy, but on the outside, paint is falling off, windows are broken and graffiti is covering the facade on the first floor.

In the ’90s Greece became a part of the European Union and with this came money. The Greeks were rich again and ready to invest in more housing. As a Dutch, I would say great! Time to get rid of the now-abandoned concrete blocks and make our cities great again. But unfortunately, this is not what the real Greeks wanted to do with their money.

The old, the ugly, and the empty

Why invest money in someone else’s leftovers if you can build something that is completely your own? While the ugly buildings from after the war were falling apart, more concrete was put in the city by engineers. Until the crisis hit Greece in 2008.

After 2008, not only were many buildings left unfinished, many companies, as well as people, lost their houses. I stayed last February in a hotel in the city center of Thessaloniki. On the corner in front of the hotel I stayed in, there was one abandoned building, one unfinished structure, and one apartment building with only a few residents almost falling apart.

It makes an interesting scenery. All those years of history in architecture in Greek cities, combined with the complete lack of it in modern times. Every time I visit a Greek city the architect in me imagines the potential of all the beautiful old empty buildings. As well as parks and skyscrapers in the places now occupied by the concrete, earthquake-proof engineer blocks. But will Greece ever make her cities beautiful again?

The largest fortress of the Aegean Sea.

Myrina Castle – June 2021

When you reach the island of Lemnos by boat, you’re welcomed by this imposing Castle. Built on a rocky and craggy peninsula at the tip of the island, the castle of Myrina is the largest fortress in the Aegean Sea. Over the past 1000 years it endured many battles.

The history

The construction of this castle was commanded in 1186 AD by the Byzantine emperor Andronicus Komnenos, on the site of an earlier ancient fortification. But even before finishing it was taken over by the Venetians, who completed the castle around 1214.

After this, many wars came. First, the castle came back to Byzantium and then it was taken by the Ottamans. From the 15th to the 17th century the island went back and forth between the Venetians and the Turks. And in the 18th century also the Russians showed their interest and ruled the island for a while. In 1912 the Greeks took over the castle of Myrina from the Turkish and since then it has been a part of Greece.

Visiting the castle today

Today the castle of Myrina is a monument for the public with many parts that are still standing. The castle has one entrance to the east side, the only point which connects it to the land. Inside the walls are cisterns, houses’ remains, an underground vaulted room, and even a mosque.

Today, this castle is uninhabited by people, but refuge for about 200 deer. The locals provide them with food and water. And when visiting the castle at sunrise or sunset is very common to spot at least one deer.

Tips:

  • To go to the castle, you walk a path for about 20 minutes from the main square in Myrina.
  • There is a very small parking next to Nefeli All Day Bar & Suites from where the walk to the castle is only 10 minutes.
  • The hike up to the castle is quite easy because it has concrete stairs
  • Inside the castle there is a lot of information about its history.
  • Perfect to go to watch the sunset. But don’t hang around for too long since finding your way back will be both difficult and dangerous in the dark.
Sunset on the Castle in Myrina. At the back is the shadow of Athos.

Driving in Greece. The basics

No western driving school can prepare you for driving in the chaos that is the Greek traffic. However, I can truly recommend exploring this amazing country by car, since other forms of transport severely limit you in your explorations. So keep reading the quick guide below, get in your rental car, put your fears aside, start driving in Greece and enjoy!

Stick to the maximum speed

Many Greeks will drive up to 140 to 180 km/h on their newly constructed and often empty highways, but do not try to keep up with them. Especially in the mountainous areas in the north of the country, there are many surprising turns. Locals know when to break, but you do not. Take it easy and enjoy the view!

Keep right. And I mean really right

Many of the national roads in Greece consist of only one lane for you, but through the eyes of a Greek, there is always more. Don’t get scared when a car is heading towards you in the middle of the road. Use the concrete next to your lane. This is what they expect you to do. A road is more than the lanes that are marked on it when driving in Greece. And even when there is a line telling the Greeks that they can not pass other cars, they will.

Passing safely

Even though it seems that Greeks are always in a rush when they drive, around smaller villages you often find a few that took the concept of siga siga with them behind the wheel. Going just 40 km/h on a 80 to 100 road, dangerous! But these people often drive their cars on the right side of the official lane, making it easy for you to pass them. They are also very friendly, when their left indicator keeps blinking when you are right behind them, they give you the sign that there is no traffic ahead. It is safe for you to pass.

Do not trust your navigation

Many times I followed googles directions to guide me somewhere while driving in Greece. Going over dirt roads on cliff sides with sharp turns and steep inclines, only to discover that there is a concrete road on the other side. When you have doubts about the road that you’re on, try to find the signs instead of trusting Google. Locals always know better.

Prepare your car to get dirty

On many islands however, there is no way to avoid dirt roads. Be prepared for this and make sure that the car rental company allows you to go off-road.

Do not stop at zebra crossings

Pedestrians never ever have priority in Greece, unless there is a traffic light. When you stop at a zebra crossing, there is a big chance the car behind will crash into you because he simply doesn’t expect you to stop. Even more important here is that as a pedestrian in Greece never just cross the street, because no car in this country will stop for you.

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Parking…

Greeks park everywhere. Especially in the smaller cities cars are parked wherever. Double parking, parking straight underneath a no-parking sign, and against a yellow band are quite common. However, what the Greeks have and you don’t is inside information about when the police will walk around to hand out fines. So don’t do it! When parked wrong the police might end up taking your number plates to make sure that you will come to pay your fine. To get them back as a tourist is both time consuming and expensive. Especially in big cities, search for accommodation that includes parking to make your trip much easier.

Try to avoid taking a rental car on a ferry

Island hopping is a great way to explore the many beautiful islands of Greece, but getting on one of the ferries with a car is really the most stressful experience I have ever had. If you have to opportunity to rent a new car on each island and enter the ferry by foot, do this! Especially since without a car, the ferries are really affordable.

Be prepared for the Greek ferries

Before entering, make sure that the right mirror is closed and only the driver remains in the car. All passangerswill go on foot taking everything you need during the trip. And when you’re alone, make sure everything you want to take is within reach. When your car is on the ferry, only the driver’s door will be able to open just for a little while.
When you enter, there will be many guys shouting to you in Greek, telling you where to go. This is overwhelming, even when you speak Greek. Try to follow the car in front of you until he stops. Then you will park almost against him as well as against the car on the right. And soon your car will be closed on every side.

Although the experience might be stressful with the many men shouting at you. Remember that they are very friendly and if your really don’t understand what they mean or you can not do what they tell you, they will take the time to help you!

Trust yourself

In Greece it is very easy to get a drivers license. Either you pay someone to get it or you take an exam driving just 20 km/h in a small village. Although this means that Greek drivers aren’t really the safest to be around. It does also mean that you are far better than they are. So trust in that, drive defensively, prepare for the worst but have faith in yourself. After a short while you will understand that driving in Greece is not as bad as it seems.

If you are planning on driving in Greece and you are not from the EU, you need an international driver’s license to be able to rent and drive in Greece. Read more about this here.

Vitamin D deficiency in summer

Every year there are around thirty million people who come to enjoy the Greek summer sun. But while the tourists take over the many Greek beaches to work on their tanning. The locals often are trapped inside with a vitamin D deficiency in summer.

Life in a Greek city during summer is far from the paradise we find in Greece as foreigners. The continuous heat combined with the lack of greenery, makes the cities heat up so much during the day that the only way to live is by staying inside. With the windows, shutters, and curtains closed and the air-conditioning put to its maximum. Waiting for the night to come.

Fortunately, many Greeks that live in the big cities have a family house somewhere far away from the boiling concrete. But amongst the people that do not have this luxury or the ones that have to work too much for too little money and can not afford to leave the city, vitamin D deficiency in summer is a very common problem.

So next time you find yourself drinking a cocktail on one of Greece’s paradise-like beaches. Getting rid of your vitamin D deficiency. Think about the real Greeks. Because real life in this beautiful country is not as pleasant as your stay there.