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.

1FD2A236-C8F3-4183-A3D9-7EB7FE8C3E1E.JPG

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. 

00F37952-0460-4A36-8AC2-49DBDB0B7E40.jpg

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.

3078ED5B-935F-4F31-B901-70A5DF0837F5.JPG

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.

Greece travel

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:

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 6.15.24 pm

 

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.

cinque-terre-828614__340

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.

Oia sunset.jpg

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.

2DE72D50-FB99-4AAE-8627-6F1281E8168B.jpg

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.

D6D4EFB3-4ABB-4E4E-BE5F-F257A90FDBED.jpg

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

3EE715F5-BED5-4EAC-981D-74E3FBF4AB24.jpg

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

gauge

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.

Greece

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.

GPTempDownload 2.jpg

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.

C949F4B7-21B0-46D1-A5D5-98C247217E0B.jpg

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.

GPTempDownload 3.jpg

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.

ee95027464d5f76834292e09bbcbb883.jpg

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’

gauge

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

Peskesi: tastes and aromas of Crete

Where shall I find you, how shall I see you, what gift shall I bring you to make you remember Crete, to make you raise from the dead?

We stumbled into Peskesi Restaurant by mistake – but it was one of the best errors imaginable.

During a visit to the wonderful island of Crete, we were looking for somewhere that served traditional food in Heraklion.

pexels-photo-262978.jpeg

We’d heard of Peskesi – widely touted as one of the best, if not the the finest restaurant in Crete – but we were having trouble finding it.

After doing a couple of laps of the city centre, we shrugged and decided to look look for another place to sample the legendary Cretan cuisine.

We walked into a lovely old building in the heart of Heraklion (and there are many) and asked if we needed a reservation to eat.

To our amazement, we had found Peskesi Restaurant without realising it. Some things are just meant to be!

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 8.50.30 am

The restaurant is in a traditional ‘Cretan House’, set up in the restored historic mansion of Captain Polyxigkis, a prominent Cretan freedom fighter from the 1860’s.

This setting has resulted in Peskesi being ranked among the 80 best designed bar-restaurants in the world and the top 10 in Europe.

As we sat down, a Canadian couple nearby whispered how fortunate we were to be admitted without a reservation.

Apparently, the waiting list can be daunting.

Glass.JPG

And one taste of Peskesi’s home-made breads and Cretan salad told us why.

It was awesome: an explosion of tastes from the fresh produce grown at the restaurant’s own farm, where more than 25 kinds of fruit and vegetables are cultivated.

This was followed by slices of meat served on hooks standing over a bed of smoking herbs – washed down by a small glass of Cretan Raki/Tsikoudia and honey.

As we booked a reservation for the following night, I asked about the name ‘Peskesi”. The waiter politely referred me to the restaurant’s website.

This is what I found:

The inspiration for our name came from our great writer and philosopher, Nikos Kazantzakis, and his book “Report to Greco”, a fictional autobiography, where he addresses his Cretan “grandfather”, Domenikos Theotokopoulos, with the following excerpt: “: “But you had turned into a flame. Where shall I find you, how shall I see you, what gift shall I bring you to make you remember Crete, to make you raise from the dead? Only the flame can be at your mercy; oh, if only I could become a flame to meet you”.

Peskesi is located in Heraklion, Crete.

The writer flew to Greece courtesy of Scoot Airlines.


 

Restaurant Opinions

Does it get any better than this?

The Greek Islands certainly know how to make an impression.

On our last visit, we spent three days based in a beautiful cave apartment on Santorini, three days on awesome Crete and another day island-hopping by ferry.  And, it was certainly hard to think of anywhere more stunning.

Italy had long held our most treasured memories, but beautiful Greece became an instant favourite.

The contrast between harsh, wind-swept volcanic hillsides and white-and-blue painted clifftop villages could not have been more marked.

Add the sparkling clean blue waters of the Aegean Sea and the intensity of the famous sunsets and it is an intoxicating mix indeed.

In Santorini, the final rays of the day – sweeping over the Caldera – bath everything in pink and promote a feeling of wellness and awe.

So what if Santorini is tourist central. Crowds don’t detract from the amazing views of this slice of heaven.

Travelling through the islands on a Blue Star ferry, we were also blown away by the beauty of both Paros and Naxos.

Here’s a selection of our Greek Islands photographs:

Late afternoon sun over Naxos

Old port, Fira, Santorini

Santorini sunset glow at Oia

Church bells, Oia, Santorini

Paros

The famous Santorini sunset

Fira, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

If you’d like to see this stunning scenery for yourself, check our review of the ScootBiz premium service to Athens from Australia and Singapore.

Or see our review of Scoot’s 787 Dreamliner.

From Athens, it’s an easy matter to visit the Greek Islands by air or ferry.

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

Greece

Review: Heraklion, Crete

After finding the Scoot Airlines service from Australia to Greece was particularly ‘Age-Friendly’, we decided to also rate Heraklion, capital of Crete.

Soon after landing in Athens in a Scoot 787 Dreamliner, we hopped a domestic flight to Heraklion.

It was our first visit, but we had an itinerary mapped out;

* checking out the age-friendliness of Heraklion Airport and ferry port – including their transfer links

* ditto for the city centre’s pedestrian access

* visiting Heraklion’s huge archaeological museum.

* travelling into Crete’s mountains to the famous massacre village of Anogeia.

* seeing the ruins of the Minoan palace of Knossos, about five kilometres from the city.

* visiting the Agios Titos Church.

We achieved all of this during our brief three-day stay in Crete, but the biggest impression caught us totally by surprise.


The people we met in Crete were among the friendliest imaginable.

Strangers approached us in taverns, thanked us for visiting their island and insisted on paying for our coffee.

If we puzzled over directions in the streets, locals would immediately stop and offer help. And the staff at our hotel – the Atrion – were delightful. Nothing was too much trouble and everything was done with a smile.

Bus drivers politely offered advice at our handful of faltering Greek words delivered with an Australian accent.

And when we once accidentally overpaid a taxi fare, the driver immediately handed back our money and explained that the fare was actually much cheaper.

Our Age-Friendliness rating:

gauge

9/10: From our experience, Heraklion is wonderful city that has much to suit all ages. From our brief stay, it seems the island’s greatest asset is the warmth of its people. This has no age barriers – everyone can benefit from experiencing it.

Another surprise: Cretan food is an explosion of taste – similar in some ways to the traditional Greek cuisine, but with its own variations and recipes developed from the island’s distinctive natural environment.


The centre of Heraklion is suitable for all ages.  It is a vibrant mix of modern restaurants, fashion shops and traditional street stalls.

Cobblestone streets meander Italian-style from square to square, between fountains and through architecture that reflect the city’s Turkish past.


In the busy 25th of August Street we gazed at beautiful Neoclassical  housing banks, travel bureaux and tourist shops.

Locals explained that 25th of August Street may have been first cut by the Arabs in the ninth or 10th centuy – and has always been the main thoroughfare of Heraklion, linking the town centre to the harbour.


During the city’s Venetian period (13th-17th century) it was called the Ruga Maistra (Main Street), while in Ottoman times it was known as Vezir Tsarsi (Vizier’s Market) after the Vezir Mosque.

The modern name of the street is due to a tragic event. On the 25th of August 1898, a mob slaughtered many Christians, including 17 British soldiers and the British Consul.

Midway down this impressive pedestrian street, we were stopped in our tracks by the simplistic beauty of the Agios Titos Church.


Probably the oldest church in Heraklion, this building was erected in the 10th century, but later became a mosque. Re-built in 1872, it contains the skull of Saint Titus, a disciple of the apostle Paul.

The excavations of the Minoan palace of Knossos  are another wonder that appeal to all ages and are  easy to reach by bus; fascinating to see; and perfectly complements Heraklion’s huge archaeological museum.


If incredibly old civilisations are your thing, then you will certainly get your fix at Heraklion.


We found the transport links to and from the airport and ferry port to be excellent – and ideal for of all ages.

It’s only a small airport and you need to walk across the tarmac to get on and off an aircraft, but the airport process are laid back and relaxed.

The port is busier, with ferries coming and leaving just about every day and connections to the other Greek Islands.  Using the ferries is an interesting process, but straight-forward enough for all ages/

Bottom line: we loved Heraklion, its people, attractions and it’s food.

 

.

Crete