The surreal island of Santorini, related to what was probably the biggest volcano eruption in recorded history is famous for its spectacular sunsets. Amazing, top-rated, absolutely beautyful! The southern island of the Cycladic group in the Aegean Sea, is internationally famous for its seductive geological characteristics, as well as the romantic and picturesque landscapes. The island shape is a consequence of the activity of the volcano in prehistoric times. The island itself owes its very existence to the volcano!
The last huge eruption of the volcano dates back 3,600 years, to the late bronze age. Thirty million cubic meters of magma in the form of pumice and ash were blown to a height of up to 36 kilometers above the island. Pumice deposits, dozens of meters thick, buried one of the most prosperous pre-historic settlements of that period, feeding the myth of the lost Atlantis.
The mild activity of the volcano after this major eruption continues into the present (the most recent eruption occurred in 1950) building up two small islands within the caldera, Palea and Nea Kameni. These islands represent the volcano's most recent activity.
The marvelous dry climate and continuous sunshine create year around conditions which are perfect for observation, photographs and videos under an extraordinary variety of natural lights and colours that give the visitor the exceptional advantage of reaching the interior of the volcano by boat.
According to Herodotus, the island was initially called Strongyle (the Round One). Then later, because of its beauty, it was named Kalliste (the Fairest One). The Phoenicians settled in Kalliste, and after the Phoenicians, the Lacedaemonians arrived and renamed the island after their leader, Theras.
After the 1956 earthquake there was a huge decrease in the population resulting in an economic catastrophe. Towards the end of the 1970s however, tourism began to develop, bringing economic relief to the island.
Epirus (or Ipiros) is a geographical and historical region in southeastern Europe, shared between Greece and Albania. A rugged and mountainous region, filled with natutal beauty and historical sight, a chalenge for romantic adventurers!
A land with beautiful beaches stretches from the Ionian Sea until the borders of West Macedonia and Thessaly, Epirus. It is a land with beautiful beaches binding with high mountains that impress with their wild beauty.
The coasts of Epirus in the Ionian offer some of the best beaches in Greece and also big tourist resorts (Parga, Syvota, Preveza, etc.) that accommodate millions of visitors from Greece or abroad every year.
The traditional folk music with themes from the people's daily life and struggle and the main musical instrument, the clarinet, are defining of the history of the people of Epirus. Epirus with its virgin natural environment, the historical monuments (archaeological sites, oracles), the many museums, the traditional villages, the social mores, the hospitality and its traditional music, satisfies the most demanding visitor.
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece at 2,917m. and one of the highest in Europe in real absolute altitude from base to top, since its base is located at sea level. It is situated at 40°05′N 22°21′E, in the greek mainland. It is renown for its very rich flora with several endemic species. The highest peak on Mount Olympus is Mitikas, which in Greek means "nose" (an alternative transliterated spelling of this name is "Mytikas"). Mitikas is the highest peak in Greece, the second highest being Skolio (2912 m). Any climb to Mount Olympus starts from the town of Litochoro, which calls itself Haven of the Gods because of its location on the roots of the mountain.
In Greek mythology, Mount Olympus is considered the sacred home of the twelve primary gods that rule the fate of mortals. The Greeks thought there existed crystal mansions on top of Olympus wherein the gods, such as Zeus (The King of Gods and Goddesses), dwelt. Moreover,according to myth when Gaia (mother earth) gave birth to the Titans (the ancestors of the gods) they were so huge they used the mountains in Greece as their thrones and Cronus (the youngest and most powerful of the Titans) sat on Mount Olympus itself. The etymology and meaning of the name Olympus (Olympos) is unknown, and it may be of Pre-Indo-European origin
The city of Delphi is the modern residential area and the evolutional transformation of the so famous ancient Delphi Oracle.
The official excavations of 1893, that led to the abandonment of the old village of Kastri (a settlement located exactly where the ruins are existing today) brought the ruins of the Oracle into light. The new City of Delphi was relocated to its present area, just a few hundred meters after the Archaeological Sites. At an altitude of 550m on the slopes of mt Parnassos, Delphi is an important cultural, nature discovering, recreation and athletic center which is providing a high level of tourist and hospitality services.
Its magic view is just a part of the so called “Delphico Topio” (“Delphic Landscape”) that is protected under law and is preserved by every possible way. A pure mild Mediterranean climate is also responsible for a real “positive energy” feeling that is spread around town and, believe it or not, it’s just not only the climate that fills the atmosphere with energy. Discover Dlephi, the “Navel of the World”.
Delphi sister cities are: Tonga (Japan) and Teotihuacan (Mexico)
At the foot of Mt Parnassus the imposing landscape between two huge rocks, called ‘the Phaedriades’, hosts the panhellenic sanctuary of Delphi and most famous oracle of ancient Greece. According to an age-old legend, the two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to locate the center of the world, met at Delphi. Ever since, Delphi has marked the navel of the earth and not only geographically. For many centuries this sanctuary defined a spiritual and religious center, a symbol of unity among the ancient Greeks. This is evident from the numerous works of art dedicated here by delegations of city-states as well as individuals. The beginnings of Delphi are deeply rooted in the historical and mythological past. Literary tradition refers to an early shrine here, dedicated to the goddess Gaia (Earth) and guarded by a fierce dragon, the Python, until Apollo -transfigured into a dolphin and escorted by Cretans- arrived at Kirrha, the port of Delphi. Subsequently Apollo killed the Python and established his own sanctuary. The myth concerning Apollo’s arrival and domination survived in festivals at Delphi, such as the Septeria, the Delphinia, the Thargelia, the Theophania and, of course, the well-known Pythian games, which included musical and athletic competition.
The oldest finds in the area of Delphi date in the Neolithic period (c. 4000 BC) and come from the Corycian Cave on Mt Parnassus, which sheltered the primary cult practices. In the area later occupied by the sanctuary of Apollo a Mycenaean settlement and cemetery seems to have existed. Traces of habitation are scarce and fragmentary down to the 8th ct BC, when the cult of Apollo prevailed and the growth of the prophetic sanctuary began. The first stone temples had been built by the end of the 7th ct BC, one for Apollo and another for Athena, who was also officially worshipped at Delphi as ‘Pronaia’ or ‘Pronoia’ and yet in her own temenos. As attested by literary sources and finds from excavations, Artemis, Poseidon, Dionysos, Hermes, Zeus Polieus, Hygeia and Eileithyia were, too, worshipped at Delphi.
"Tightly related to the Delphic sanctuary was the institution of the amphictyony, a confederation formed by 12 states of Thessaly and Mainland. It started out as a religious league, later charged with a political role. The Delphic amphictyony controlled the property and operation of the sanctuary, as it appointed the priests and other officials, chosen from among the local population. Under the protection and administration of the amphictyony in the 6th ct BC the sanctuary consolidated its autonomy (1st Sacred War), increased its influence, grew larger and re-organized the quadrennial Pythian games, next in significance only to the Olympic games. From the 6th to the 4th ct BC the Delphic oracle reached its peak. Apollo’s prophecies, regarded as the most reliable, were ‘spoken’ by Pythia and converted into verses by the priests. Cities, leaders and ordinary people hasted to seek divine advice. Their gratitude and religious sentiment were expressed via brilliant offerings, which gradually crammed the sanctuary. The beginnings of the oracle go far back in antiquity and its reputation crossed the frontiers of the world. The Delphic oracle is believed to have foreseen Deukalion’s inundation, the Argonauts’ expedition and the Trojan War. Highly important, however, was the guidance it offered during the period of colonization (the founding of Greek colonies). Precisely the prestige and power of Delphi triggered two more Sacred Wars, in the middle of the 5th and the 4th ct BC, respectively. In the 3rd ct BC a new political and military power, the Aetolians, came to the forefront. They underlined their active and dynamic presence by various ex-votoes in the sanctuary. Under the rule of the Romans (post 168 BC), Delphi was favoured by some emperors and ravaged by others, such as Sulla and Nero. Among the consequences of the philosophical rationalism movement in the 3rd ct BC was the decline of the oracle. Still, the prophetic procedure remained unchanged until the 2nd ct AD, epoque of the emperor Hadrian. At that time the traveller Pausanias visited Delphi and recorded numerous remains of buildings, inscriptions and sculpture. His minute description contributed significantly to our reconstitution of the site. Shortly before the end of the 4th ct the oracle ceased to operate by edict of the Byzantine emperor Thedosius A’. With the prevalence of Christianity, Delphi became an Episcopal seat but it was deserted in the early 7th ct AD, time of the Slavs’ invasion. Gradually the ancient sanctuary was covered by earth-fill. Later on, a whole village, named Kastri, was established on top of the buried ruins. Survey on the archaeological site of Delphi began in about 1860 by the Germans. In 1891 the French were granted permission by the Greek government to conduct systematic research and to commence the ‘Grand Excavation’, after the village Kastri had been relocated further to the west. Impressive finds were revealed, as well as approximately 3,000 inscriptions casting light to various aspects of ancient public life. Work at Delphi continues nowadays, including excavation, restoration, museum and exhibition projects undertaken by the Greek Archaeological Service in collaboration with the French School. The only monument of which the authentic material was adequately preserved for an almost complete reconstruction was the Athenian treasury. Its restoration in 1903-1906 was funded by the Municipality of Athens. The altar of the Chians was also reconstructed, as was part of the temple of Apollo and the tholos. In an effort to resurrect the Delphic ideal in the 1930’s, the poet Angelos Sikelianos together with his wife, Eva Palmer, organized performances of ancient drama in the ancient theatre of Delphi, hoping to create a new spiritual navel of the earth. The archaeological site of Delphi comprises two sanctuaries, one dedicated to Apollo and one to Athena, as well as other installations, mostly athletic. Travellers from Athens first encountered the temenos of Athena Pronaia. Within its premises was the tholos, the famous round edifice, as well as the remains of three temples in honour of the goddess: two temples built of poros on the same spot in the mid-7th BC and 500 BC respectively, and a third one, of limestone, which occupied the western part of the temenos after the earthquake of 373 BC. The temenos also includes inscribed altars dedicated to Zeus Polieus, Athena Ergane, Athena Zosteria, Hygeia and Eileithyia, as well as remains of a building possibly sheltering the cult of two local heroes, Phylakos and Autonoos. These two heroes, assuming the form of giants, had repelled the invasion of Persians at Delphi. Two treasuries of the Doric and the Aeolic order, with superstructures of Parian marble, stood beside the old temple of Athena. The Aeolic one, featuring characteristic column-capitals with palm-leaves, had been offered by the people of Massalia. The sanctuary of Pronaia also contained a trophy-memorial of the Persian repulsion, a hypaethral statue of emperor Hadrian and a building tentatively identified as priests’ house. Moving NW, a pilgrim would reach the Gymnasium, an installation for athletic training and also an educational institute including a palaestra and bathing facilities of the classical and the roman period. The pilgrim’s next stop would be Castalia, the sacred fountain of Delphi. Its water helped visitors quench their thirst and purify themselves prior to consulting the oracle. At all times, the most significant and attractive place of Delphi was the sanctuary of Apollo. It was enclosed by a peribolos (enceinte) with a main entrance at its SE corner. Visitors followed the sacred way, ‘spinal cord’ of the temenos, leading to the temple of Apollo with the famous adyton, where Pythia gave the oracular responses. Having the temple and the sacred way as focus point, the sanctuary gradually expanded and was contained by monumental analemmata. Its sloping ground was arranged in successive terraces, framed by stoas (of Attalos, the Athenians, the Aetolians) and accessible by gates through the enceinte. The sanctuary was practically full of numerous and diverse dedications by city-states, rulers or even individuals, to commemorate historical and socio-political events, or to express their religious sentiment, piety and awe. These works manifest the technical skills, the advanced artistic achievements of people of the time, from the oriental inland to the Mediterranean coastline. In addition, they denote each dedicator’s wealth. Ex-votoes range from bronze or silver tripods (one of the symbols of the oracle) to complex multi-figure statuary groups made of marble or bronze. Among architectural offerings, the treasuries, impressive and luxurious, sheltered portable dedications but –above all- highlighted the art of each dedicator’s homeland. The sacred way was flanked by such ex-votoes, densely spaced along its course. In the heart of the sanctuary, on a plateau contained by an enormous polygonal wall, lay the dominant, grandiose temple of Apollo. Further to the north was the theatre, where the drama and musical contests of the Pythian games took place. Even higher up the slope, beyond the peribolos, was the stadium, for athletic competition. Judging from excavation finds, ancient delphians must have lived on the perimeter of the sanctuary. Outside and around the peribolos we can see dispersed domestic remains, some of which date to the roman period".
Text by: Dr Elena C. Partida -archaeologist © 2007 Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism All Rights Reserved, Hellenic Culture Organization
The Meteora monasteries are considered among the most awe-striking sights in Greece. The name Meteora (“Μετεωρα”) means “hanging in the air," which perfectly describes these six remarkable Greek Orthodox monasteries. The sandstone peaks were first inhabited by Byzantine hermits in the 11th century, who clambered up the rocks to be alone with God. The present monasteries were built in the 14th and 15th centuries and there were about 24 monasteries by the year 1500. Only six exist today, the four of which still host monastic communities.
A strict dress code is to be respected: all shoulders must be covered, men must wear long trousers and women must wear long skirts. The list of the monasteries is as follows:
Agia Triada Monastery
Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery
Agios Stefanos Monastery
Great Meteoron Monastery
The coastline of the north east coast is one of the most scenic on the whole of the island, with rich greenery, overlooking sparkling blue water. As you approach from Corfu Town along a winding road with spectacular views, you will discover an array of captivating villages scattered along the coastline. The area is peacefully quiet with a relaxed atmosphere, but hidden nightlife is there for those who want it. Along the twisting road surrounded by lush green vegetation and olive groves you will discover an assortment of typically Greek houses.
Sightseeing in Corfu:
The Mon Repos Palace was the birthplace of Britain’s Prince Philip and was used by Greece’s royal family as a summer residence. The palace has been the subject of ownership battles between the Greek government and the ex-king Constantine. Researchers discovered a document granting the royal family use of the estate and not permanent possession and the ‘royal estate’ has since come into the possession of the Municipality of Corfu.
The hub of Corfiot life is the Esplanade. Stroll around the gardens or sit in one of the many cafe bars underneath the arches of the Liston. The Liston was built by the French in 1807 in emulation of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. During the summer months, cricket matches still occasionally take place and concerts by one of Corfu’s many philharmonic bands are often given on the bandstand. The wide-open space of the Esplanade was originally created to provide a clear field of fire from the Old Fortress.
This famous building was constructed in 1892 for Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Princess Sissy). The Empress was obsessed with the Greek hero Achilleus and she commissioned various statues including Achilles dying which can be found in the beautiful gardens surrounding the palace. The huge and magnificent statue of Achilles Triumphant gazes out over breathtaking views. Kaiser Willhelm II of Germany purchased the palace in 1907. Some of the downstairs rooms contain mementoes of both former owners. The Palace is situated in Gastouri, near Benitses, about 20 minutes drive from Corfu Town.
The first settlement of the new Corfu Town during the 6th century started on the hill that would later become the Old Fortress. Built and fortified by the Venetians, the fortress housed the entire population of the town until the 13th century. An important part in the island’s defences, the fortress was Europe’s last defence against the Turkish invasion. A stroll through the Old Fortress will take you through tunnels, past abandoned barracks to bastions and look-out points. The top of the fortress gives a panoramic view overlooking Corfu Town.
The walls of the New Fortress tower above the north-western side of the Old Town. Erected on the hill of St Mark to help strengthen the defence of the town, most of the fortification works were completed by 1588. The defence barracks were built during the British Protectorate in 1842.
A small islet housing an ancient monastery, which today has just one monk, Mouse Island is the most photographed tourist attraction in Corfu. According to legend, Mouse Island (or Pontikonissi) was formed when the ship that had taken Odysseus back to Ithaki, returning to its home port, was turned to stone by Poseidon, angry at being defied by the Phaeceans. Close by is the Convent of Vlacherna.
Kapodistrias was the first president in the Modern Greek state. The museum contains paintings and souvenirs of Kapodistrias’ life and is housed in two rooms in the Kapodistrias family residence. The Museum of Solomos Dionysius Solomos is the National Greek Poet who wrote the lyrics of the National Greek Hymn; he lived the major part of his life in the island of Corfu (1798-1857) where he wrote a great part of his work. The museum is housed in the beautiful house where the poet used to live and exhibits many of Solomos personal items, a collection of its manuscripts, various portraits and some photographic material.
The Museum of Asiatic Art
The Museum of Asiatic Art is unique in Greece and one of the most important of its kind in Europe. It contains some eleven thousand exhibits spanning the eleventh century BC to the twentieth century AD from a variety of Asian countries The greater part of the collection, more than ten thousand objects, come from China and Japan, while the rest come from Tibet, Korea, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia.
What is there to say about the cradle of civilization?
In an attempt to express our admiration, we invite you to have a look at a world map. Then, hide the part were Greece stands, and imagine the world without its contribution to the –western world. Would there have been Democracy? Or, Philosophy? Theater? Olympics? Mathematics? Or even, Christianity? Would we have the privilege of using the thesaurus of the Greek language in science and in so much more? Would we be who we are?
It might seem as exaggerations but one who has studied some basic history of the region, knows it is not. Democracy has not a clearer symbol than the most perfect and imitated building ever built, the Parthenon, whose roof stands on the columns as parallelism for the “system-roof” and the “people- columns”. Philosophy and theatrical plays had the liberty of thriving grace to centuries of progressive legislation. Athletics were born initially as an opportunity to promote life, health, piece and binding between the members of the city society or the city-states of ancient Greece. Christianity would not have had the same impact if the most long lived empire ever, Byzantium(a.k.a. the Eastern Roman Empire), had not been the first to “adopt” and straighten the teachings of Christ through the scriptures.
The immensity of the Greek civilization has one every day proof.: Half the words we use in Latin and Slavic related languages have a Greek rout (grace to Great Alexander’s love for his Greek identity). So, even when you say “kiss me”, you are actually speaking the words of Homer’s Odyssey (Odysseus said to Penelope when he finally returned and faced her!).
So, indeed, the above comes from a Greek, but is there anyone to object to the fundamental service of Greece to the world?
Off course, you will visit Athens and Greece not only for the rich history and culture, documented in attractions, museums, streets, historic buildings and to its welcoming and worm people, but also for the absolutely fabulous landscapes, the gorgeous sandy beaches and the sunny crystal waters of the mythical islands and the picturesque mainland, the colorful sunsets and for the world famous Greek cuisine and parties.
Athens offers all you can imagine, it is really “breathtaking”, as mentioned by the official campaign of the city currently: one can say that the world is a small place, only after visiting Athens.
It is estimated that the city of Athens has been established as a city since 1400 B.C. It was build around the acropolis hill, just like all other ancient cities, due to the grate strategic importance hills had at those ages. Around 800 B.C. the city was united and for the first time, we find the Panathinaia, the leading fest of Athens in honour of the goddess Athena. Around 8th and 7th centuries, the four tribes of the Athenian population rotate in power, in 624 B.C. the legislation of Dracontas consists of the famously strict laws, and Klisthenis in 508 B.C. laid the foundations for the Athenian Democracy.
The city reached to its prime around the "golden century" of Athenian Democracy, (the 5th century B.C.), a while after Periklis (490-429 B.C.) took charge of the Democratic Party and the First Peloponnesian War came to an end. It is the era of the Parthenon, Socrates, the Sophists, and the three great dramatists, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides for whose plays we still crowd at the cashier office of the Athens Festival every summer, as well as the Ancient theatre in Epidavros, where most revivals are staged.
The unique spiritual and artistic flourishing of Athens come to its decay as a result of the Second Peloponnesian War (431-421 B.C. and 416-404 B.C.), the humiliating Athenian defeat in Sicily by the Lakedemonians, followed by the prosperous period of the greek city sate of the Macedonian Dynasty and the Roman domination.
The rising of the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, was rapid. The need for a safer seat led the Roman Empire to the establishment of a second capital, Constantinople, in 323 AD, around which Greek population was concentrated and thrived. The new empire adopted Christianity and rejected the previous pagan religion, destroying statues, temples and symbols, although eventually handed down the torch of the antiquity treasures for the European enlightenment period.
Within the long history of Byzantine ruling in the region, the Greek language and civilization was past on, Christianity was divided in 2 main directions, Orthodoxy and Catholicism and waves of eastern tribes were held back, maintaining the borders of the eastern world.
In 1204, due to internal malfunction, corruption, weariness of wars against eastern tribes and abandonment of the navy, the city was assaulted and weakened by the western crusaders, and in 1453 it finally fell in the hands of the Ottomans. The Greek population lived under Turkish occupation for about 400 years, during which the language, the religion, the history and the culture survived.
Early in 19th century the circumstances allowed the Greek Revolution to manifest and the region was liberated, little by little, from the Turks. In 1834 the Greek State was established. In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games took place in the Stadium Kalimarmaro that stands wonderfully even today. The greatest politician of the 20th century, Eleftherios Venizelos, achieved great improvements for the State in internal and external affairs. In 1922 during the war against Turkey to regain the Minor Asia region were the Greek population was the crushing percentage, Greece was defeated and sustained in the Aegean, as border between the 2 nations. The two World Wars found Greece involved, standing by the side of the winners. Greece went through German Occupation and later dictatorship. In 1974 Democracy was re-established. In 1981 Greece accomplished the E.U. membership and in 2001 entered the Eurozone. In 2004 Athens hosted with remarkable success the Olympic Games.
ATTRACTIONS – SIGHTSEEING
The Parthenon was build by the architects Kallikrates and Iktinos between 447 and 438 BC. It was built as part of Pericles' great construction program and was the ultimate expression of this achievement, showing the Athenian people at their zenith. It was a public dedication, offered by the Athenians to their patron goddess Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin), in thanks for the city's salvation and Athenian victories in the Persian Wars. It is the biggest building of the hill, but there are also other religious buildings on the hill, sich as: the Temple of Athena Nike (a small, elegant, Ionian, amphiprostyle temple, built by the architect Callicrates in 426-421, on an earlier tower of the Mycenaean walls, dedicated both to the patron goddess Athena and to the prehistoric goddess Nike, protector of the entrance).
The Temple of Brauronian Artemis , the Chalkotheke, the Erechtheum (Ionian style in 421 BC, dominates the north side of the Sacred Rock. It is complex and elaborate in its structure, and equally complex in its symbolism).
In spite of the adventures of the Parthenon during it’s 25 centuries of life, its sight still provokes grate awe. It became a church during the years of the Byzantine Empire, a mosque, during the Ottoman occupation and a storage facility for Turkish gunpowder later. In 1687 the Venetians bombarded it from below. A cannon ball hit the gun powder and blew it up, and in 1806 the British Ambassador Lord Elgin stripped the Parthenon of it’s decoration taking these exquisite works back to England with him, in what has been called "the greatest art theft in history". Hence the condition of the remaining, the restoration of which, took more that 30years and was nor presented naked (etached from any technical means).
The New Acropolis Museum is a jewel among the modern museums of the world and hosts the rich collection of findings of the area and imitations in distinctive color of the stolen decoration, screaming “bring them back”.
The theatre of Herod Atticus built by the Romans in 161 AD.
The Ancient Agora where once the great philosophers Socrates and Plato preached and great rhetoric speeches were delivered.
The National Archaeological Museum popular thanks to its enormous collection of famous treasures, such as those unearthed from Mycenae by Heinrich Schliemann and the staggering array of sculpture including the earliest known Greek figurines dating from around 2,000 BC; frescoes from the volcanic island of Santorini.
The old district of Athens, right below the Acropolis hill is the gathering place for travelers and tourists, particularly in the warm Athens evenings. Strolling the narrow streets of the Plaka flanked by ancient monuments, Byzantine churches and mosques, stately mansions, and inviting tavernas with vine-covered courtyards, makes a pleasant diversion.
Kolonaki and Lykavittos Hill: the fashionable regions, very close to the center. Excellent shopping strolls around the neo-classical buildings.
Syntagma Square is the heart of modern Athens. Houses the Parliament Building (built in 1840 as the royal palace). Tourists flock to photograph the unusually presidential guards at the palace with the skirted and pom-pommed shoos who change shifts ceremonially every hour.
Also serves as the gate to access to all the major attractions of Athens, particularly the 'museum mile' along Queen Sophia Avenue, which runs (Benaki Museum,Museum of Cycladic Art and the Byzantine Museum).