Greek Seduction – Athens and Delphi

Few countries seduce women like Greece. It is a ladies paradise…picture perfect islands, pretty whitewashed buildings with lovely pink orchids set against the backdrop of a scintillating Mediterranean sea, charming ‘Greek Gods’, a sophisticated nightlife and beach parties, medieval walled cities and legendary sunsets! Add to that the bliss of a cruise in style around the Greek islands and you have the recipe for a perfect holiday…..

Charmed by seductive Greece, eight women headed out from Mumbai for what was to be an unforgettable Greek odyssey. Our Qatar Air flight finally hovered over Athens after a stopover at Doha. This is an aerial view of Athens seen from air:

Photo courtsey: Seema Bhardwaj

We were greeted in Athens by Helen and her team of cheerful drivers at the unpronounceable ‘Eleftherios Venizelos’ international airport. Our bags were loaded into the Mercedeez cars that awaited us and we were whisked off to our hotel in grand style.

Photo courtsey: Seema Bhardwaj

You read about Athens in history books, but nothing prepares you for the actual majesty of the ancient city, sprawling in front of the Acropolis. The term Acropolis means the fortified height or citadel of any ancient Greek city.

Photo courtsey: Jyothi Bathula

Our Greek adventure started next morning with a visit to the majestic Acropolis. This is the GOTG gang on the way up to the Acropolis:

Photo courtsey: Sheetal Kumar

The most fascinating surviving monument of classical Greece is the Parthenon, built on top of the Acropolis …. a grand temple dedicated to Greek Goddess Athena, the patron Goddess of the Athenians.

Photo courtsey: Jyothi Bathula

Dedicated to Dionysus, the God of wine and the patron of drama lies the ‘Theater of Dionysus’.

Photo courtsey: Jyothi Bathula

We spent time at the New Acropolis Museum, that has a rich collection of artefacts unearthed from the Acropolis that is an absolute ‘must visit’ for anyone visiting Athens. Taking photos inside was not permitted, so here is us just outside the museum:

Photo courtsey: Sheetal Kumar

For those travelling solo it is great to book yourself on the ‘Hop on, Hop off bus’ that takes you around all the important historical places like the Panathinaiko Stadium (where the first Olympic games took place), the temple of Olymian Zeus, ex royal palace, Hadrian’s arch, tomb of the unknown soldier etc. If organised tours are more your thing, you can join the tours organised by Key Tours.

Lying in the shadow of the acropolis is Plaka, also referred to as ‘The neighbourhood of the Gods’, a charming residential cum commercial area with a great vibe, quaint cafes, colourful shops selling ‘Greek Gods turned fridge magnets’, olive soaps and other souveniers. Its great fun exploring the narrow lanes and bylanes, bordered by neoclassical buildings jostling for space with high end acropolis view restaurants serving Mezes and souvlakis.

This is us advertising for the ‘Plaka Gate Cafe’, a cute, streetside cafe where we stopped for some coffee:

It is worth it to stroll down the narrow lanes of Plaka with your camera. There are surprises at every bend waiting to be photographed. This is one of the many bylanes of Plaka leading up to a cafe ahead.

Plaka has the most mindboggling collection of naughty T Shirts that can leave you in total splits for hours. This one simply took the cake :

That’s us chilling out on the steps of Plaka after another round of mindless  jokes and observations:

Photo courtsey: Seema Bhardwaj

At night Plaka has a distinct buzz that must be experienced. The streets light up and everyone is in a mood to let their hair down and have fun. This is a typical late night scene on the streets of Plaka.

Dinner time at a local Greek taverna is a lot of fun with live performances, song and dance that is great to experience as a first time traveller to Greece. It immediately draws you into the local, cultural life of the city.

Photo courtsey: Sheetal Kumar

Next morning we were up early to visit Delphi, believed by the ancient Greeks to be the centre of the world. This is the seat of the mystical Oracle that advised the government on important matters pertaining to governance. The oracle was delivered by the Pythia or high priestesses and interpreted by the priests of Apollo. This is also a major site of worship of Apollo after he slew the Python, a deity that protected the navel of the earth.

We loved Delphi’s spiritual connect and the first view of this ancient seat of mysticism had us floored:

This is Delphi seen from another angle:

One can spend an entire day in Delphi and there will still be so much more to explore. A walk into the less touristy parts of the site will be highly rewarding like we were rewarded with this beautiful view of a flower offering in an ancient stone trough:

Photo courtsey: Sheetal Kumar

For the not so spiritual or historically inclined, a visit to Delphi in May is reccomended just to see the fabulous landscape ablaze with flowers in vibrant colours:

Photo courtsey: Sheetal Kumar

The Delphi museum is a must visit and showcases several ruins discovered at the site. The larger than life sized twins of Argos command attention and are the oldest votive offerings in Delphi:

My personal favourite is this quaint porcelain plate art on display at the museum of Delphi:

It was a pleasant 3 hour drive back to Athens past beautiful fields, windmills and mountain villages during which we were regaled by our guide Angelo with stories of Oedipus, Eros, the European economic crisis and gas stations in Athens.

That is Angelo for the records probably wondering how to keep a gang of women interested in ancient Greek history:

Photo courtsey: Sheetal Kumar

Back in Athens we dressed up to check out the hot and happening night scene at Psiri in Athens. We reached Psiri early in the night and were disappointed to see a rather dead neighbourhood with empty cafes and pubs. We decided to dine at a restaurant and then call it a day. But by the time our food was served the place was buzzing and we ended up on the dance floor with great live Greek music. We thought we were lucky to have entered the only happening place in Psiri. But we were wrong. When we stepped out on the roads, we could barely stand…..the place was thronging with people who had come partying on Saturday night. Every restaurant and cafe had turned into a party zone featuring African music, heavy metal, trance….you name it. We stepped into a lounge where a singer was entertaining the audience with fabulous toe tapping Latin American music. In moments we were transported into the borderless world of music and dance where we joyfully partied as a befitting tribute to Athens before we boarded our cruise the next morning for the second part of our Greek adventure …. cruising the Greek islands!

Watch this space for more on the GOTG Greek sojourn…….

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