You must see Mt Parnassus: a true wonder of the world

Mount Parnassus, a limestone spur in central Greece, north of the Gulf of Corinth, is one of the world’s most significant sites – and a ‘must-see’ for travellers interested in culture and history.

Towering above the ancient sanctuary of Delphi, the mountain plays a big role in Greek mythology.

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In addition to being sacred to the god Apollo, who often visited the nearby Oracle at Delphi, the mountain was thought to be the residence of the Muses and, as a result, the home of poetry and song. 

Even the name Parnassus, effectively means the mountain of the house of the God.

Over the centuries, Mount Parnassus has influenced many poets, writers and singers. For this reason, the name of the mountain (Mont Parnasse) was given to a quarter of Paris, France on the left bank of the Seine, where artists and poets used to gather and recite their poems in public.

Ruins of the ancient city of Delphi, which are visited by huge numbers of people each year, nestle into the south-western slope of the mountain – overlooking the coastal plain. 

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The phenomenal influence of this area in the ancient world – the Greeks called Delphi the centre of the world – resulted in its classification as a World Heritage Site.

Although Delphi is mostly known as the home of the Oracle, the city itself had much to offer. 

Every four years, the Pythian Games were held there and the ancient city also had an amphitheater, gymnasium, and other sanctuaries dedicated to gods and goddesses such as Artemis, Dionysus, and Poseidon.

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Mount Parnassus and Delphi are a comfortable day trip from Athens.

We travelled to the Greek capital courtesy of Scoot, which flies modern Boeing Dreamliners to and from Asia and Australia.

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Anogeia story catches media imagination

One of our most memorable travel moments has been highlighted by a leading Australian publication.

Our visit to the World War II ‘massacre village’ of Anogeia, in Crete and meeting with the Greek musician, Loudovikos ton Anogeion, has been retold across Australia by The Senior newspaper.

The visit, high in the mountains of Crete, was the culmination of many years of interest in Anogeia.

It also could not have occurred without the support of Scoot Airlines, which  operates a great service between Australia and Athens, the Greek capital city.

The reasons for our interest in Anogeia  were well explained by The Senior, which featured an article in its editions that circulate in the Australian States of NSW/ACT; Queensland; Victoria; South Australia; Western Australia; and Tasmania.

The Senior  has a national monthly readership of more than 1.3 million.

Here is its article:

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Anogeia

Was Santorini really Atlantis?

“The great Egyptian Age was but a remnant of the Atlantian culture,
The antediluvian kings colonised the world,
All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends, from all lands, were from fair Atlantis”.

That song from 1968 and a handful of movies over the years were all we really knew about the myth of Atlantis – until Scoot Airlines took us to Greece – and we visited the magical island of Santorini.

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As we now know, the Atlantis legend dates to about 360 BC, describing a prosperous land that disappeared into the sea.

So where does Santorini come into it?

There is a school of thought that Santorini – the famed isle of white buildings, blue rooftops and glorious sunsets – was once Atlantis, until a volcanic eruption wiped out the Minoan culture.

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The Atlantis theory centres on the former Minoan settlement at Akrotiri, destroyed by a volcano about 1450 BC – and now partially excavated.

All this talk of a mythical land beneath the sea adds plenty of spice to one of Santorini’s most popular attractions, the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, which displays ancient artefacts unearthed at Akrotiri and similar sites.

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Although relatively small and housed on the site of a former church at Fira, the Museum of Prehistoric Thira covers Santorini’s history from the late Neolithic period to late Cycladic times.

There’s decorative ceramics; religious and ritual objects; stone and ceramic vases; bronze tools; and complex wall paintings.

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The museum has four specific sections containing findings dating from the 5th millennium B.C. (late neolithic era) to the 17th century B.C.

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We were particularly impressed by the glowing gold ibex goat figurine, measuring around 10cm in length, dating from the 17th century B.C. which was discovered in mint condition in 1999.

There were also some remarkable fossilized olive tree leaves that dated to 60,000 B.C.

Age-Friendly rating

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9/10: From our experience, the Museum of Prehistoric Thira is well suited to visitors of any age and mobility.

Because it is located on the ridge at Fira, the museum does have about 12 steps on its main approach. However, a level alternative entrance is provided.

When we visited, the cost of admission was a modest three Euros. There was a reduction for senior visitors from within the European Union and free admission for children under 18 and students from the EU.

Once inside, the layout of the museum is simple and easy to follow. The exhibits are clearly labelled in relatively large writing – and all explanations and direction signs are in both Greek and English.

The floors are level; there are public conveniences; and a shop – again all on the same level.

The Museum of Prehistoric Thira could be viewed in a little over an hour, but a thorough visit would take a little longer.

The building is air conditioned; staff are multi-lingual; and the attraction is open year-round.

So, why only 9/10?

Because of its central location in Fira, visiting the museum may require navigating the narrow village streets, which are often extremely busy – particularly in summer. This can be a real effort for anyone- regardless of fitness or mobility.

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Review: Rocky mountain high at Delphi

I had no idea why I was going to Delphi.

To be honest, it just seemed to me like something everyone did when they visited Greece.

But, now that Scoot Airlines had opened a new, cost-effective service between Australia and Athens, a trip to all the wonders of ancient Greece – including Delphi – suddenly became a reality.

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In retrospect, I’m pleased we made the effort to take a bus 180 kilometres from Athens to the foot of Mount Parnassos.

And I understand why Delphi sanctuary and stadium are the second most popular attractions in Greece – behind the Acropolis.

For a start, the location is awesome – a modern town, the ancient ruins and a museum overlooking the Gulf of Corinth and the Phocis valley of olive groves.

The ruins hug the mountainside so tightly that they appear to have been carved into the earth.

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In ancient times, Delphi was considered the centre of the known world; the place where heaven and earth met.

According to mythology, Zeus sent out two eagles from the ends of the universe. The eagles met at Delphi, which therefore became the navel of the world.

As we walked through the sanctuary, the monuments included columns of the ruined Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle of Delphi resided.

This priestess was the most famous fortune-teller of ancient Greece, even though many now say that she was high as a kite on fumes rising from a crack in the earth.

Our path through the ruins wound on past a large theatre, the Athenian Treasury, Sibyl Rock and the Stoa of the Athenians – to name a few of the highlights.

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At the peak of the ruins, there is an ancient stadium, where the Pythian Games were held every four years. These Games were one of four precursors of the modern Olympics.

Male athletes at ancient Greek Games competed naked with their bodies oiled – and I suspect that Sue wanted to check that none had been left behind.

But the rocky path to the stadium had been worn smooth by footsteps over the Centuries – and, after several near-slips, we decided to call it quits and head for the museum.

After lunch and a beer at the nearby tavern, we headed about half a kilometre away to see probably the most photographed of the ruins of Delphi, the Tholos. This is a circular building that was constructed between 360 and 380 BC.

Then it was back to Athens, with a greater understanding of the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, and its significance.

Note: The writer was flown to Athens courtesy of Scoot Airlines.

Delphi Featured attractions

Visit the lost city at the Acropolis Museum

If you’re planning to visit Athens, Greece, don’t miss the ancient city beneath the ancient city.

Remains of streets, houses, bathhouses and workshops from about the 7th to the 9th centuries AD can be seen below the Acropolis museum in the Makriyianni area of the Greek capital.

The ruins of the ancient settlement were uncovered during initial construction of the museum, which opened in mid-2007 within walking distance of the iconic Acropolis.

In what was initially considered a controversial move, the museum was constructed above the ruins in a way that allows visitors to look at the ancient Roman and early Byzantine foundations.

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So, how accessible is the Acropolis Museum to all ages?

For a start, it’s easy to find.

We’d already been to the Acropolis, the symbol of ancient Greek civilisation and one of the most visited places in the world – and we then walked down the southeast side of the hill.

We turned off Dionysiou Areopagitou Street onto the glass walkway that leads to the museum entrance.

Looking down through the glass, we could see the start of excavations of an ancient urban settlement.

Then we came to a large viewing hole cut in the walkway to better display well-preserved remains from the 7th century AD.

These included a large circulat foundation of a Byzantiine tower, into which people were throwing coins like a wishing well.

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The Acropolis Museum, Athens

The glass floor continues into the museum proper to allow visitors to view even more of the excavations.

We checked with staff and were told that, by sitting the museum on pillars, the contemporary building deliberately floated above the Makriyianni foundations.

When excavations are finished, it’s hoped that museum visitors will be able to learn about the history and religious significance of the Acropolis at the same time as understanding the daily lives of people who lived in the shadow of the temples.

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The Acropolis

The museum itself displays more than four-thousand objects from the Acropolis, covering periods from the Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece.

It is a well-designed modern museum, with an easy ‘flow’ of exhibits, plenty of seating and a video area on the top floor. The interior escalators make the building particularly assessible and the large windows offer an excellent views of the Acropolis.

Because the museum is so centrally-located, it is close to most of the main attractions in Athens and is easy to find.

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That area of Athens is named after Ioannis Makrygiannis, a general in the Greek War of Independence, who once owned a house and land nearby.

‘Age-Friendly Rating’

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9/10: From our experience, considerable effort has been made to ensure the Acropolis Museum is accessible to people of all ages.

As well as being easy to reach on foot, by road and via the Athens underground rail system, the museum is simple to enter, with ramps and wheelchair/baby stroller access provided.

As you pass through the building, all three floors can be reached by elevator and lift, making the exhibition areas, cafe, facilities and outdoor viewing deck extremely accessible.

We could not fault the accessibility measures

Note: The writer flew to Greece from Australia courtesy of Scoot Airlines, on its Sydney-Singapore-Athens service.

Age-Friendly event ratings Greece

Review: Hotel Aethrio, Santorini, Greece

The ‘first impression’ can be particularly important for a hotel.

Our reaction on arriving at Hotel Aethrio, on the Greek Island of Santorini, was an unrestrained “Wow”!

White stone fence, blue gate, white-and-grey cobblestones, blue window surrounds, white stone buildings, blue sun roof – and a sparkling blue swimming pool.

Now that’s what you call street appeal!

We couldn’t wait to enter the hotel, perched high on an escarpment amid the scenic beauty of Oia village.

And we weren’t disappointed! The warmth of the welcome we received was matched only by the Santorini sunshine.

Our host led us to a fully equipped, two storey cave apartment in a prime position overlooking the pool and sunset deck. A wonderful few days had started.

Here’s our full review of the Hotel Aethrio:

Q: Was the booking process simple and problem-free?

A: Yes, online booking of Hotel Aethrio couldn’t have been easier. After comparing prices and location, we used the hotel’s website to book.

Q: Does the Hotel Aethrio have street appeal?

A: The hotel is off a narrow laneway, but Martin greeted us at the bus stop and carried our bags to our apartment. All we did was marvel at the beauty of the area and the hotel itself.


Q: Is the hotel close to facilities etc?

The Hotel Aethrio is within easy walking distance of the heart of Oia. As we had a fully equipped apartment, we walked to local bakeries and supermarkets to buy ingredients for our meals, coffee etc.

The location is less than one block from the bus terminal where coaches run regularly to the island ferry port, airport and the tourist shopping and restaurant hub of Fira.


Q: How did check-in go?

A: Smoothly. The reception staff were professional and fast – but thorough.

Q: How was the room’s accessibly for seniors?

A: Unfortunately, there are no lifts in a cave apartment. However, if you are able to cope with a moderate number of stairs, the atmosphere makes it all worthwhile. The curved cave roof and cool walls need to be experienced to  be fully understood We loved it all.



Q: Were the rooms big enough?

A: The rooms could not have been better. They were spotlessly clean and large. There was plenty of wardroom space, and the downstairs area had a stove, kettle, plates, cutlery, lounge and TV.


Q: Was the bed comfortable?

A: It was comfortable and, as the cave apartment was completely insulated from traffic and other noise, we slept soundly

Q: Were there adequate charging points?

A: We had seven electronic devices, including phones and camera equipment, but our Hotel Aethrio apartment catered for this with ease. As well as plenty of power points, there was one either side of the bed, ideal for using mobile phones as alarm clocks.


Q: Was there free wifi?

A: Yes. There were strong wifi signals in our apartment and in the pool area. Top marks for this.

Q: Were other facilities adequate.

A: Yes. Although we didn’t use it, the living room had a big screen TV  –  and the pool was beautiful.

Q: Was the bathroom to the expected standard?

A: Certainly. There was a large shower recess and a roomy vanity area. As with the rest of the Hotel Aethrio apartment, the bathroom was spotlessly clean and equipped with luxury toiletries.

Q: Did you get breakfast?

A: Breakfast was included in the room rate. There was a well appointed and modern eatery and the food couldn’t be faulted. It was first class.


The breakfast area, bar and, in fact, much of the main part of the hotel was a former sock factory that had been beautifully rebuilt for its current purpose.  There was plenty of space and some of the factory’s former machinery was on show, which gave an interesting touch to the room.


Q: How was the hotel’s service?

A: The Hotel Aethrio staff were friendly, efficient and particularly professional.

We were given valuable information on local bus routes and the best places to view the famous Santorini sunsets.

Nothing was too much trouble for the hotel – and staff certainly looked after us.


Q: Was there anything you didn’t like about your stay?

A: No. We decided to stay at Oia, rather than Fira township and review the Hotel Aethrio after readers mentioned its great location, facilities and service. They were right. This is a hotel that is doing everything right.

Duration of visit: three nights

Q: Would we return?

A:  Without hesitation.

Special mention: the hotel’s swimming pool and sun area is superbly presented and looks awesome.

Our Age-friendly rating

7/10:  From our experience, the Aethrio Hotel caters well for all ages. Our  shuttle was met by a hotel employee, who carried our luggage and helped us negotiate the narrow laneways of Oia.  The hotel itself had a simple layout;was close to bus transport and shops; and boasted easy-to-reach sunset decks and pool area. Our apartment had a number of stone steps inside, but these didn’t challenge our level of fitness.

 

 

Featured hotels Greece Santorini hotels

Review: Athens – selfies among ancient beauty

Athens was a great choice of destination for the first Scoot Airlines service into Europe.

The Greek capital is an absorbing place: a tapestry of old and new, where people stand in ruins more then 2,00 years old and take selfies.

Sitting on a coastal plain and built around seven hills, Athens is a whirl of sight and sound that melds the facilities of a modern, vibrant metropolis with breath-taking ancient scenery.

The past is important to Athenians, as it surrounds them in every direction, but the city’s heart pulses with the trappings of a modern European capital – high end fashion stores; coffee shops – and immaculately-dressed beautiful people.

Scoot also chose a perfect destination for a gateway to the stunning Greek Islands – and the rest of Europe. If you fly into Athens in the Scoot Dreamliner, it’s a simple matter to move onto the Greek Islands by ferry or air – and to fly to other European countries

Parthenon

 

Athens is also a wonderful destination of its own.

Outstanding sights include the famous Acropolis hill and ruins of the  Parthenon temple; the Acropolis museum; Syntagma Square and its Parliamentary guards; the vibrant central shopping area; National Gardens; outstanding churches; and ancient Delphi where the famous Oracle once handed out advice.
It’s possible to walk up Acropolis Hill and wander among the ruins of the Parthenon, before visiting the Acropolis Museum to se artefacts uncovered at the ruins. This is a tremendous experience that allows you to step back in time to the majesty that was Ancient Greece.

If you visit Syntagma Square, traditionally costumed evzones (guards) of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier change every hour.

On Sunday at 11am, a whole platoon marches down Vasilissis Sofias to the tomb, accompanied by a band.

When the guard is changing, they ‘march’ in slow motion, with a synchronised goosestep-like stride. And they wear wooden shoes somewhat like Dutch clogs, decorated with a Pom Pom.

Here’s a further sample of our photos of Athens:

Temple to Diana, Delphi

Decision at the theatre

Sue in the fashionable Ermou

Athens suburbs from Acropolis Hill

Ancient bank building, Delphi




If you’d like to see Athens for yourself, check our review on the ScootBiz premium service from  and Singapore.

Or see our review of Scoot’s 787 Dreamliner.

Note: our review trip to Athens was courtesy of Scoot Airlines but, as always the reviews are our own thoughts.

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