|A dog joins the author in enjoyment of a sunset on the island of Santorini.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.Among architectural wonders, discover the magic of an individual moment
Among Architectural Wonders, the Magic of a Moment
My dinner host removes the beeswax coating and slices some avgotaraho, a Mediterranean delicacy of cured fish roe. He squeezes a lemon over the top, cracks some fresh pepper over the platter, then holds it out to me expectantly.
|Avgotaraho, or cured fish roe sometimes called the “poor man’s caviar,”
is dressed here by my dinner host in lemon juice and fresh cracked pepper.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
He pierces a slice of the roe with a toothpick, places it in his mouth and savors the salty, oily flavor. It is subtle, yet somehow sensual. After a reverent pause, he looks me in the eyes, “The rich, they don’t know how to live. How to eat. How to love. How to make love.”
The low light exposes his humble Athens apartment like a secret affair, filled floor to ceiling with books and jazz albums.
|Enjoying avgotaraho and American Jazz in the low light of my dinner host’s apartment
in Athens, Greece. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
The deliberate enjoyment of such simple pleasures–music, food, poetry–the philosophical conversations and social commentary as complex as the food served, and the sense that there is not now, nor will there ever be, a suggestion to leave or rush anywhere, are uniquely Greek. In a society that claims to have invented “everything”–including math, science and astronomy–that once conceptualized a world map with Greece at its center, that still hosts buildings more than 2,000 years old, the greatest of monuments is the individual moment.
|Tourists make their way through one of the many ancient structures of the Acropolis.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Perhaps it stems from their impressive history, or the strong sense of nationalism you’ll discover among the Greek people, who need little encouragement to tell you about the inventions and discoveries of the Greek.
|The island of Santorini is known for its Cycladic blue-domed churches and breathtaking views.
For the best views, get a room on the caldera, when you go. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
|In the town of Fira, Santorini, visitors can ride a mule up–or down–the nearly 600 steps
from port to town, for a fee. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
It is a feeling lost as you stroll the Plaka, one of the oldest sections of Athens, which is teeming with tourists shopping for traditional kompoloi, or worry beads, the distinctive liqueur ouzo and leather goods.
|The winding streets of the Plaka are teeming with tourists. It’s a great place to buy
souvenirs, or people watch. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Yet it is rediscovered when standing the shadow of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the size and scope of which will have you wondering whether Greece really was and still is the center of the Earth, and if so, why would you want to hurry off anywhere else?
|Odeon of Herrodes Atticus, an amphitheater built on the south slope of the Athenian Acropolis.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
|Baklava, served at a restaurant in Athens. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
It’s hard to walk around Athens without your mouth agape as you experience the Acropolis towering over the heart of the city, the winding streets of the Plaka and the crumbling archeological sites seemingly everywhere.
|Caryatids, carved female figures acting as pillars, stare out from the porch
of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens. Photo by Charish Badzinski
These historic elements seem to arm wrestle with challenges of the modern city: traffic, pollution, graffiti, feral dogs and noise.
|A problem of the modern city: graffiti. While this dog appears to have an owner
(based on the collar he is wearing) there are also many wild dogs in Athens.
This building was razed just days after this photo was taken.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Athens is an assault on the senses–a marrow-of-life-stew–and a welcome assault at that.
The Acropolis Hill, or so-called “Sacred Rock” of Athens, yields otherworldly wonders as well as a panoramic view of the city of Athens. The Parthenon is considered to be the most important monument of the ancient Greek civilization.The Erechtheion is dedicated to the worship of the two principal gods of Attica, Athena and Poseidon, and includes the famous “Porch of the Maidens,” where six graceful female figures serve as pillars supporting the porch roof. The Temple of Athena Nike and the monumental gateway of the Acropolis, the Propylaea, can all be seen on site.
Due to damage caused by pollution in Athens, some portions of the monuments have been moved to museums. For that reason, a visit to the New Acropolis Museum is recommended while in Athens, in addition to a tour of the archaeological sites. The Agora of Athens—the heart of Athenian life in ancient times—and the Temple of Olympian Zeus/Arch of Hadrian sites are also worth a visit, in between stops for lingering over Greek-style meals or plates of flaky, honey-soaked baklava.
When staring at stone buildings in various states of disrepair for hours, malaise can take root. As you pick your way among the fallen columns and moss-coated stone, the ruins can lose their historic meaning and decay to the intellectual stimulation of a pile of rocks. Consider hiring a tour guide, or at the least, buying a guidebook, to help keep the wonder alive. Bring good walking shoes and watch your step; crumbling rock has led to many a twisted ankle near the city’s archaeological sites.
No trip to Greece would be complete without a foray to its idyllic islands, most of which can be reached via ferry, cruise ship or plane. For dramatic views of Cycladic blue-domed churches perched on cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea, Santorini is an unparalleled choice.
A ride on the ferry from the port of Pireas will take the good part of a day, more than seven hours, while a higher-priced ticket aboard a catamaran will take about four hours. The approach to the island is breathtaking, with layers of colorful rock forming steep cliffs that dive nearly a thousand feet in some places down to the sea, offering one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Ferry riders have the option to taxi to Fira, though visitors who arrive via cruise ship must choose between taking a cable car from the Old Fira port, walking or riding a donkey up the 600-plus steps to the village of Fira.
However you get there, you will find hotels and restaurants perched along the caldera, offering great views of the sunken volcano, whose eruption 3,600 years ago is believed to have inspired the myth of Atlantis. Tours of the volcano crater, which is still steaming and spewing sulfur, are available. Visitors can also opt to bathe in the bubbling sulfur springs of the volcano.
For those sun seekers looking for unique beach experiences, Santorini offers a number of places to sprawl about and enjoy the moment. Many of the beaches have black sand, while the Red Beach is a popular choice for tourists and locals alike.
Sunsets on Santorini are the stuff postcards are made of, literally. When visiting the island, tourists flock to the village of Oia near the northern tip of the crescent-shaped island, the population of which swells at sundown as shutterbugs try to capture the magical color changes of the light.
It is then, when the fading sun dips below the steaming volcano and turns to gold the whitewashed buildings perched around the caldera, that you will most clearly comprehend the everlasting Greek value that never ages, of living in the moment.
This article was originally featured on page 44 of this issue of Coulee Region Magazine. It is republished here with permission.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning features, food and travel writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications, providing powerful storytelling to her clients.
Posts on the Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World travel blog are never sponsored and have no affiliate links, so you know you will get an honest review, every time.
Find Charish on Twitter: @rollrbaggoddess and on Instagram at @rollerbaggoddess. You can also read more about Charish Badzinski’s professional experience in marketing, public relations and writing.
3 thoughts on “Destination: Athens and Santorini, Greece”
Nice post. Santorini is on my Travel Bucket List
Carole, you simply must go. It is a lovely, lovely place. When people ask me what my favorite place in the world is, Santorini is on the short list–though it's impossible to choose just one! I would recommend going off high season, so that you aren't navigating heavy crowds. As a bonus, the lodging rates are cheaper! I went in mid to late October, and loved it.