Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car
Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car
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Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car
Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car
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Approaching people

There is a very fitting word for the Greek attitude toward foreign visitors: filoxenia (hospitality). Throughout history, hospitality has been a typical virtue of the Greeks. In the Homeric epics there are scenes where a foreign visitor shows up at the door, receives the warmest welcome, and is treated like a “sacred person.” The Greek gods (and especially Zeus) would frequently take the human form and show up at people’s doors either to help them with some important matter or to take care of their own business (which was frequently of an amorous nature). The ancient Greeks knew that, so whenever a visitor knocked on their door they received him with the greatest honours and treated him with utter respect. They invited him to dine with them, filled his glass with exquisite wine, offered him a place to rest, and only when the stranger was well fed and rested did they dare to question him about his name and business.

Modern Greeks are quite different. Some of those who live and work in very touristy areas and who are proud of their glorious past are in fact totally ignorant of what hospitality means. The truth is, of course, that there aren’t many Greeks working as waiters, receptionists etc in the first place! Blond tourist girls, who found a clever way to have a free or even lucrative holiday, serve you non-Greek drinks, which you enjoy while listening to non-Greek music along with many other non-Greeks. Foreign waiters hand you menus without a word of Greek in them, so that you can decide which non-Greek specialty to order. Foreign receptionists answer your questions in your own language, so that you can have an unforgettable stay at a non-Greek environment with all the comforts you would expect to find in your own country. In the midst of all this, the large poster on the wall of your room (which shows one of those delightful empty beaches nobody can exactly direct you to and has a huge GREECE on the bottom) may vaguely remind you of the country you are in...

Greece is not only sea and sunshine and gorgeous post-card landscapes; it is also the people who live here. And it is worth visiting it to find both, and perhaps even more for its people. But if it is difficult to find pure, unspoiled landscapes, it is twice as difficult to find pure, unspoiled Greeks. Look for them away from the much visited tourist places.

Cretans are particularly fond of motorcyclists. Children in villages will generally gather around you and cheer and gesture and ask you to do a tail spin (soùza) for them. They will look at your bike with admiration, observe your outfit, helmet and gear, marvel at the speedometer, and ask you what’s the maximum speed you can reach (pòsa piàni). Let them touch their dream and give them food for endless talks with their friends. All it takes is sitting them in front of you on the bike and letting them touch the bars, press the starter or even turn on the gas. Needless to say, all this must be done when the bike is not in motion; avoid taking them on a ride, because you are assuming a serious responsibility.

Young boys and girls, on the other hand, will more likely stare at you from a distance, but they will have a more proud and reserved attitude. This doesn’t mean you cannot approach them, though, and start a conversation yourself; in fact, they are your best sources of information on local hang-outs and can help you to find your way around. If country youths are hesitant or even frightened at first, it is probably because they are afraid of seeming inferior in your eyes, so talk to them as an equal and do not try to impress them (they’re already quite impressed with the fact you travel on a bike). Ask them about their life and plans, and let them reveal to you a side of modern Greece.

Unlike the reserved teenagers, the local motorcyclists are certain to approach you and to invite you to join them at their table, or they will come and sit at your own table taking it for granted that they are welcome. Do not be offended if they seem a little proud; this only means they feel they know the ropes in their own area. In fact, their forward behaviour is nothing more than the expression of a friendly spirit, which is quite strong among motorcyclists in Greece and extends to all of “our own.”

Finally, the old men in villages will be glad to see you, and they may get a bit nostalgic too. This may be because you remind them of their youth, when they would ride their horse and go work in the fields, or would travel on business or take part in war expeditions... Park your bike in front of the kafenìo (traditional café) at the centre of the village, greet them with a loud “hi” (yàsas), and sit at a table next to them. Before taking the first sip of coffee (or kafè) - which, by the way, they will most probably not let you pay for anyway - lift the cup and say “stin ighià sas” (“to your health”). If you like, you can do the same with water. This is enough to show that the sympathy is mutual and to establish a friendly ambience. One of them is likely to know some English or German and try to chat with you, but it would be very useful for you to know some Greek words or phrases too. In any case, wherever there is a friendly climate you are bound to find some way of communicating, even without too many words. A warm smile or handshake, a friendly gesture and an easy-going attitude will go a long way toward unlocking this special world - a world that is full of genuine feelings, traditional values and truly charming stories... a neglected world, too, which vanishes little by little.

Even the most out-of-the-way places are not totally deserted; some old man or woman is bound to have stayed behind at every abandoned village. The mountain dirtroad you took, which seems to be in the middle of nowhere, may in fact take you to a shepherd’s sheepfold (or you may drive by one as you continue your exploration). The empty beach where you’ve set up your tent may be visited by a passing fisherman who leaves his boat and fishing nets and lays back waiting for his catch. The folks you’ll meet are hospitable and warm, and they’re always ready to give you something. They may offer you a glass of raki and a nice snack, or they may take you to their home and offer you a sumptuous meal. Be prepared, then, to give them some little thing in return, because you may never have a chance to visit them again and they will never visit your homeland. A bottle of wine or a nice dessert would be a small but symbolic contribution to their table. If, of course, after the first glass of raki you end up staying in their home for a day of two, enjoying delicious home-cooked meals and an experience to share with your grandchildren, you must think of something more suitable to thank them for their hospitality. If you are not prepared for this, do not hesitate to offer them something from your personal possessions; a small portable radio or a knife would make very welcome gifts. As for shepherds, a pair of binoculars is the most precious gift they could hope for. If you have a camera with you, take a few pictures of them and send them by mail. Whatever you do, do not offer them money. They may be gravely offended and consider your gesture as an act of charity.

Driving discreetly
Visiting an unspoiled landscape or a remote village is, by definition, a kind of intrusion into a place with a delicate balance.
To savour the beauty of the experience to its full extent, you must take care to approach the place as quietly and discreetly as possible and show great consideration. As far as driving is concerned, keep in mind that the most annoying form of pollution your bike can cause is noise pollution. This is why before leaving on your trip it is a good idea to check that the exhaust is in good condition. Also make sure you pay attention to some delicate situations such as the following:

When you drive on a dirt road and pass through an inhabited area, go as slowly as you can to avoid raising a lot of dust. Be especially careful when you see a peasant hanging her laundry to dry, a villager whitewashing his walls, a shepherd milking his sheep, or anyone sitting or walking by the side of the road.
When you see sheep or goats at the side of the road coming in your direction, stop, and wait until they have all passed you. Put 10-15 metres between you before you drive on to avoid scaring them and creating problems for the shepherd.

When you pass through inhabited areas late at night or during siesta time (that is, between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 p.m.), drive as quietly as you can and avoid using the horn.
In remote villages and small places in general, traffic is so limited that people will often use the streets as walk zones and meeting places (and this is true even for the main street). Old women sit in front of their doorstep and chat, old (or young) men pull a table under the sun and play backgammon, farmers load and unload farm products and tools, kids run around in carefree play. The picture speaks for itself, so drive with extreme caution.

Little things you can do for tortured creatures
Shepherds, as you know, live on cream cheese, rusks and mountain greens and drink plenty of milk. Naturally, they think nothing is better for their dogs than what they eat themselves... On top of that, they praise them for eating so little: “See, I put all this bread and milk in his bowl and he just took a couple of bites”(!) The poor dogs munch their food with obvious resentment, eating hardly enough to survive. They drink so much milk that they’ve almost grown wool on their bodies and their barks start to sound like bleating... Keep that in mind as you enjoy your steak or chicken at the tavern and do not throw away the bones. It is so easy to give a hungry dog a taste of paradise...

In Crete, more than anywhere else, dogs are often tied up at some post in the middle of nowhere, guarding the sheepfolds, fields or abandoned homes behind them. Their masters visit them once a week and throw them some food, and they plant an iron barrel next to them to protect them from the heat. (Naturally, the poor dogs never use those barrel-shaped ovens). From the day they are born, these dogs are chained to the same post, wasting away in loneliness and misery and never knowing the joy of a good, long run. If you run into one of them (and see it can be approached), do something simple: give it the bones you have saved, and when it’s fed untie it. It will run around for a while, but it will soon return to its base.

Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.


Tip of the day

Transport in Athens. Information on the public transportation in Athens. The transport system in Athens has been modernised the last  years. New roads, bridges, a brand new rail network and new modern means of transport like the Athens Metro, the suburban railway and the Athens tram have reduced a lot the transportation problems of Athens, as well as they have played a main role to the reduce of the atmosphere pollution of the Attica basin. 
The means of transport in Athens are divided in 4 categories.
The urban buses that are under the authority of the OASA (organisation of urban transport of Athens) that connecting all Municipalities of Athens and Piraeus.
The suburban buses that connecting Athens with suburban areas and with the rest of the mainland of Greece under the authority of KTEL. The main terminal stations of Ktel are located in 2 major areas, the first is at Kifisou 101 for western Greece and Peloponnesus and the other is at Liossion street 260 for northern Greece. For East Attica suburbs and coastal resorts like Rafina the terminals are in  Pedion Areos next to the junction with Alexandra's avenue. OASA has create an innovation with the  bus line 400 that takes you to the most interesting sites of Athens the ticket costs 5 euro and it makes a sightseeing tour of Athens.The bus 400 goes from the Archaeological museum to Omonoia, Psyrri, Kerameikos,Thiseion, Monatiraki, athens Market, Klafthmonos Square, Syntagma Square, Benaki museum, National Gallery, Ampelokipoi, Stadium, Plaka,Acropolis, Olympian Zeus temple, Greek Parliament, University and Omonoia. Frequency every 30 minutes.



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