Gorgeous Greece

A haven for travellers for centuries, the popularity of the Greek islands has never waned, as evidenced by Shobha Rani’s account of must-see ancient sites and stunning sea- and landscapes.
Greece – the wonderful land of Aphrodite and Zeus – captures our imagination. Our first evening in Athens (named after the goddess Athena) begins with a short panoramic drive through the city centre, as we go to see the illuminated Acropolis. Then a pleasant walk through the narrow picturesque streets of Pláka, the old city, brings us to a typical Greek tavern. There, my niece Haritha, sister Rani, friends Usha, Vasantha, Nirmala Padma and Ramola and I have dinner while taking in a floor show, live music and Greek folk dances in traditional costumes.
The taverna is packed with people from all over the world. Young boys and girls join in the dancing and havea wonderful evening. Meanwhile, the waiters serve us a pikilia of various mezedes, with classic dips like tzatziki – a mixture of yogurt, cucumber and garlic. Then came moussaka, dolmades-minced meat and rice wrapped in a grape leaf, grilled vegetables, and the Greek wine Ouzo. For dessert, we opted for baklava, a flaky filo pastry layered with nuts and honey, and galaktoboureko –a custard-filled pastry.
e drove through Thebes, Levadia and the charming village of Arachova on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. There we saw the ruins of the temple of Apollo and the fallen columns of the famous oracle of ancient Delphi , where kings and queens once consulted the oracle called Pythia. We then moved on for an interesting trip through central Greece, to the towns of Lamia and then Kalambaka.
Shobha Rani Shopping 
But getting to know the place meant visiting its monasteries. So we went to Meteora’s ageless monasteries, which stand suspended between earth and sky on top of sheer granite rocks. The Holy Trinity Monastery atop a rocky precipice was used as a location in the Roger Moore Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only.
The Greek archipelago has thousands of islands that exert an irresistible pull. Daily ferries ply locals and tourists to these islands. The most popular are Mykonos and Santorini. In Fira, the capital of Santorini, we stayed in the centre of the city at the Cycladic-style KallistiThera boutique hotel, within walking distance of the caldera. The streets are lined with souvenir shops, and with cafés selling souvlaki, gyros and skewered meat wrapped in pita bread with slices of tomato and onion and lashings of tzatziki.
From Santorini, we sailed on the traditional caique for a day trip to the islet of NeaKameni to climb to the top of the crater of the volcano. The boat then headed to the small islet of Palaia Kameni. Men, women and children alike dove off the boat into the sea, to swim in the green-yellow hot springs that have healing powers. The boat stopped next at Ammoudi port. Here we saw octopuses hung out to dry. The tavernas serve octopuses grilled or in a stew and offered with pasta. A line of donkeys and mules takes tourists up the steps to the top of the caldera. Oia village, perched on the edge of the caldera, is quaint and mesmerising with its chalk-white houses, colourful windowsills covered with red bougainvillea and opulent boutique hotels.It also features old cave homes, shops, bars, art galleries, and blue- and red-domed churches.
There is also Mykonos, the playground of the rich and famous, where the jet set has their beach parties. The maze-like cobbled streets of Chora (where we got lost and walked around in circles) has hundreds of fashion and jewellery stores, and places to eat with vistas of the deep-blue Aegean Sea. As you walk along the streets you come across goats being charcoal-grilled or spit-roasted in the open. It’s a fun place where you can chill out on iced coffee along a bustling waterfront, watching boats bobbing up and down as the sun gradually descends into the sea. Strolling around, a sparkle of white catches our attention: dresses pure and white as snow hang in a shop entrance. It’s a white shop where everything on offer is white. We pick up some stylish white tops as gifts. After browsing a row of jewellery shops, we buy necklaces, earrings and bracelets of semi-precious stones like topaz, aquamarine, amethyst, and citrine, set in gold and silver with incredible designs.
Greece is fun, fresh and breathtakingly beautiful. And while we touch its past, Greece also encourages us to love the living of the present.                                                                                                                                                                      ..... Shoba