Greece Tips

Travel Tips For Greece: Greece Survival Guide for Travelers

This year’s plan was to see as much of Greece as possible and the successful execution of the plan resulted in 10 days in Greece visiting 7 cities/villages, Kastanies, Orestiada, Alexandroupolis, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania and all the way back, in chronological order.

First thing first, Greece is an amazing country will all the sights to see, tasty meals and friendly people, but this article is strictly not about what a great trip and how much fun we had in Greece since I personally find such articles a bit useless due to the fact that they involve a lot of (highly) personal accounts and irrelevant details which make the article difficult to absorb. Moreover, although it will at times be inevitable to mention things to see in Greece through the course of the article, I tend to refrain from that too since there are loads of navigation apps (including traveler apps) which tell you where to go where you are. Even a tourist map does the trick, if you are not into high-tech devices that much. Instead, this article focuses on the experiential accounts which backpackers, hitch-hikers and all kinds of travelers may take notes of to utilize in case of a trip to Greece.

Therefore, what you are about to read will provide you with all the information we have acquired in Greece regarding Turkish-Greek border crossing, public transport, wi-fi coverage, hotels, daily routines, airport issues and keeping yourself well-fed in Greece.

Turkish – Greek Border Crossing (Pazarkule – Kastanies)

Approximately 9 kilometers from Edirne City Center, this is the closest (and the least busy) checkpoint which seems a bit more relaxed, thus more suitable for travelers to use. In order to get to the Pazarkule – Kastanies border crossing from Edirne center, one needs to take the midi-bus to “Karaağaç” and definitely mention “Pazarkule” to the driver since Karaağaç and Pazarkule have a distance of roughly 5 kilometers and the midi-buses go there only when they are asked to. If you forget to mention this, you will have to get off of the bus in Karaağaç and walk the 5 kilometers or take a taxi for 10 Turkish Liras (better to talk about this with the driver before taking the taxi).

Once you get your passport stamped out of Turkey, you need to walk about 1 kilometer through the no man’s land to reach Greece on a nice little road between agricultural fields until you see the Duty Free Shop and the checkpoint. Approximately half this way you will see two Greek soldiers but it is not the checkpoint, just say “Ya Sas” (“Hi!” in Greek) and move along.

The Greek checkpoint is right next to Kastanies, so you can just walk to Kastanies center once you enter Greece. However, if you intend to take the train from Kastanies, you need to watch for the sign on the left (saying both Stathmos and Railway Station), which is roughly 200 meters from the border. A subtitle at this point could be useful though.

Kastanies Stathmos (Railway Station)

Once you turn left upon seeing the Stathmos sign, there is again around 1 kilometer to walk until you reach the station. It is a nice walk through agricultural fields again, but if you are carrying something heavy, DO MAKE SURE that you know the exact schedule for the train you want to take, because in Kastanies, which is just a small village, it is more like a “stop” instead of a station and there is no one you can ask a question. Well, we saw the shoes and clothes of a possibly homeless guy, but I doubt he works for the Department of Public Transport. Unless you have the exact train schedules, you will have to walk back to the town, which means a loss of at least half an hour, depending on your walking speed.

Greece Travel Tips - Kastanies Railway Station

Kastanies Railway Station

A better way to reach where you want would be to take a bus (a coach, more precisely) to Orestiada, the next town which is 20 minutes away from Kastanies and from Orestiada, there are buses to many cities including Thessaloniki and Athens. However, we sadly had to learn that there are no early morning buses from Orestiada to almost anywhere, so it is better to try to get there around 11.00 a.m.

A bus ticket from Kastanies to Orestiada cost 1.60 Euros and from Orestiada to Alexandroupolis cost 10.50 Euros. If you would like to go directly from Orestiada to Thessaloniki, the fare is 39.50 Euros.

Speaking of Public Transport in Greece, let’s deal with the matter in more depth.

Public Transport in Greece

In and between all of the cities we visited, we had the chance to have at least a little public transport experience and in summary, we loved it! Public transport in Greece has a really great coverage and especially in larger cities, you can go basically anywhere you want anytime of the day. The only negative thing is that when you say public transport, you typically refer to buses and coaches since we could not take a single train although we so badly wanted to do so. Read the reason why below.

Intracity Public Transport in Greece

Greece Travel Tips - Thessaloniki Bus 78 (Bus Terminal - Airport)

Thessaloniki Bus 78 (Bus Terminal – Airport)

OK, this one can be a little bit tricky in smaller cities where you may not always find a bus to take, but in larger ones like Thessaloniki, the buses run 24/7, which is perfect. The buses are air conditioned and not so crowded (not packed at all) which make the short intracity trips not so boring. Most of the bus stops have signs indicating which buses can be taken at that particular stop in addition to electronic boards showing how many stops it will take for a bus to reach that stop, which is really useful for travelers.

Across the country, there are literally thousands of kiosks from which you can buy cigarettes, water and snacks and almost all of them sell (intracity) bus tickets as well. A typical bus ticket costs 1.10 Euro. If you are eligible to buy a student’s ticket, though, you pay 0.60 Euro. If you cannot find a kiosk to buy your ticket (which is almost impossible) you can also buy it inside the bus from automats with touch screens (their software has English and German versions, just look for the flags), but they do not return change, so make sure you have the exact amount. Don’t forget, first you choose your ticket, then insert the money. Inserting the money first only gets you in a vicious circle in which you begin to believe that the machine is malfunctioning.

In the Greek Public Transport System, however, buying the ticket is not the end. Once you get on the bus, you will see two or three orange boxes (dot matrix printers, actually), into which people insert their tickets. Do the same. DO DO the same. Because there are ticket inspectors appearing inside buses all of a sudden and they do inspect your ticket. Your ticket is not legit unless it has the details of your trip printed on it and you may face a really good fine.

On the other hand, we have also observed that some Greek youngsters do not really care about having tickets or not. In our last intracity bus trip, the inspector gave a lecture to a group of teenagers about what will happen if they do not buy it (we don’t speak Greek but it was so obvious) and the group was able to trick the inspector into buying only one ticket for 5 people. Meanwhile, another teenager bought his ticket from the automat the moment he saw the inspector and he had no problem. Some others just watch for the inspector during their trip and when he gets on at a random stop, they get off, which also seems like a solution.

Intercity Public Transport in Greece

Greece Travel Tips - Orestiada Bus Station

Orestiada Bus Station

This one is really easy. Unless you want to take the train for your intercity trip, you can find a bus easily to whatever place you want to go between 06.00 and 23.59. However, as mentioned earlier, smaller towns may not have that luxury and it is best to give it a try between 11.00 and 18.00 smaller places. For instance, on our way back, we arrived at Orestiada around 06.30 a.m. and the guy dealing with the station (yes, there’s only 1 guy, small place as I said) told us that the next bus to Kastanies was 5 hours later, which gave us a hitch-hiking opportunity that lasted only 15 minutes. Just perfect!

On the bright side, in larger cities it is just so convenient to take the intercity buses. The buses are quite comfortable (Neoplan, mostly) and 8 out of 10 times you will have a working wi-fi inside the bus, which means the trip much less boring. Typically, the buses have a 20 minute break every 3 hours.

We saw two kinds of routes, as in most countries, express and non-express, which seriously affects the trip duration. However, unless you have time restrictions, I strongly recommend the non-express coaches because it is a great chance to see the country to its smallest towns and villages.

In order to get on the bus, you buy your ticket from the station (oh, really?) and show it to the driver before you get on so that he tears it just a little to make it a “used” one, and luggage is free, unlike some other countries. However, if you take the intercity buses from somewhere on the road, it is possible to pay in the bus for the trip.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: In Crete, we observed that the tickets were checked multiple times, after each bus station, so it would be wise to keep it somewhere safe until the end of your trip. Between Kastanies and Thessaloniki, we did not see anything as such.

Regarding the bus stations, many larger cities have proper bus stations and terminals, but in smaller cities like Orestiada, you may have to look for a rather large “shop” next to which buses stop and operate. Alexandroupolis also has that kind of a station, a bit larger though.

As far as the trains are concerned, we wanted to badly to take a night train from Alexandroupolis to Thessaloniki and from Thessaloniki to Orestiada, but there was none. The last train for the former route was at around 15.40 and for the latter route at around 16.30. But we were told that the train tickets costed around half the price as bus tickets. So if you do not mind reaching your destination at midnight, trains may be convenient.

Wi-fi Coverage in Greece

Wi-fi coverage helps a great deal to travelers and Greece is literally a wi-fi paradise so I thought it would be useful to give some information about it.

First of all, THERE IS FREE WI-FI almost everywhere in Greece (well, everywhere we’ve been to, at least).

In touristic places like Heraklion, Rethymno or Chania, the local municipalities cover at least the city centers with free wi-fi. So if you need to use it, just stand in the middle of the main square of the city and look for a wi-fi connection named “Municipality of (the name of the city)”. The speed of this connection is naturally not so great as your home connection, but it does the trick to a great extent. We even had Whatsapp calls with our friends when we were in Chania.

As I stated earlier, most intercity buses have working wi-fi connection, so you can use it during your trip.

You are not in a touristic city center, neighter on an intercity bus, then what? 

Well, here is how we did it, and it worked 100%. I strongly believe that it was not because we were lucky, but it was because that is so across the country.

When we needed a wi-fi connection on a random street, we simply checked available connections, and 70% of the whole time, there was an open connection for which a password was not required. If there wasn’t, we just moved to the next street and tried again, if not, once again. That is so far we had to go throughout our whole trip and it worked on the third street tops. Since I use Nokia City Lens (a navigation app which takes you to tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants or transport facilities) we needed a connection quite frequently and we had no problem whatsoever to find it.

In short, wi-fi is not an issue in Greece. However, just for the sake of a sense of security, it is advisable not to enter sensitive passwords into your smart phone or laptop when on one of these insecure connections, which is an advice not only for Greece but the whole world.

Hotels in Greece

Before we went to Greece, everybody, including us two, was saying that tourism is so expensive in Greece and we needed a lot of money. Simply put, it is not so. In the center of Thessaloniki, it is possible to find a hotel (not a hostel, a hotel) for as little as 15 Euros (private bathroom a.k.a. ensuite) per person, per night.

Greece Travel Tips - View from the 4th Floor of Ilios Hotel, Thessaloniki

View from the 4th Floor of Ilios Hotel, Thessaloniki

In Crete, hotels are just a little bit more expensive but there are at least 5 or 6 hotels with the same minimum rate as Thessaloniki. We skipped one of them during our booking, and we regretted it because it was one of the cheapest hotels in Heraklion and it was right in the middle of the city center.

Greece Travel Tips - View from the Restaurant of Castello City Hotel, Heraklion

View from the Restaurant of Castello City Hotel, Heraklion

Naturally, one would take cleanliness into consideration especially when the rates are the lowest in the city. However, that doesn’t seem like to be an issue in Greece. We stayed in only two hotels, and they were among the cheapest in their cities, but both of them were exceptionally clean. So clean that I realized the “wet-looking” floor was only wet-looking because it was so clean that it reflected my image. Amazing…

Air-conditioned rooms also seemed like a standard in Greece to us, along with free wi-fi, reminding us the fact that many chain hotels really suck since some of them charge their guests for such simple services regardless of their astronomic rates.

Daily Life in Greece from Travelers’ Eyes

I do not feel really competent enough to talk about the daily life in Greece because we did not “Couchsurf” there, which is a mistake in my opinion. Because unless you are actually “involved” in the daily life with a local, it is only a matter of possibly false inferences that you and your national media make.

Thanks to the catasthrophe scenarios of media, we went to Greece believing that daily life there came to a halt due to the economic crisis they were going through (as of July, 2015). However, this wasn’t what we saw there. Everything seemed normal in terms of daily routines to us, including people going shopping, spending time in the famous cafes of Greece or eating out in restaurants. Even in Crete, there were many domestic tourists, which strengthened my lack of trust in media.

Anyway, from what we observed, Greek people seem to love spending time in cafes and having fun and the timing to do these is more adherent to the Mediterranean culture. Most shops are not open early in the morning, and they are closed on Sundays (including supermarkets), so if you come from a culture where people work the typical 9.00 – 17.00 shift, you might find this a little bit different.

We didn’t check what was open and what was not for sure, but around 11.00 o’clock, everywhere is open to be closed around 14.30 again until 17.30 or so. This is just like the “siesta” time of other Mediterranean countries, so the wise move is to cover your needs before 14.30 or after 17.30. Moreover, do the shopping before Sunday, since you might not be able to get it then.

Street art may also give you clues about what is going on in a country, I believe. And most of the socio-political street art I saw in Greece was about anti-fascist activism and gay people’s rights. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on these issues since we didn’t Couchsurf in Greece and have local insights. Damn, one hell of a mistake to skip Couchsurfing!

Did I mention cafes in Greece? OK, this is an important part of the current Greek culture apparently, since we did not see one cafe without customers in any of the cities we went to. People seem to drink all kinds of coffee in those, in which many old (and possibly retired) Greeks spend their whole days, play backgammon and count their beads. Nescafe Frappe seems to be a really popular type of cold coffee drink across the country and we loved that one, too. We also learned how to prepare it and since we got back from Greece, we drink it on a daily basis (even right now). For that reason, Frappe totally deserves a subtitle in this article.

Frappe in Greece

Also known as Greek Frappe or Cafe Frappe, Frappe is a really, really popular drink across in Greece. The word frappe is actually a French word, meaning “chilled” in a shaker with ice cubes. And the rumour is that the drink was invented in Thessaloniki in 1957 merely by accident. The story of invention is that a Nescafe representative in Thessaloniki failed to find hot water for his regular instant coffee and tried cold water with ice and Eureka! He invented one of the most popular drinks in Greece!

Greece Travel Tips - Frappe in Rethymno

Frappe in Rethymno

I will not explain how to make frappe since I am not daring enough to give recommendations related to a foreign culture, but in general, the ingredients are instant coffee, some water, some milk and some sugar (a mixer or shaker, too).

Together we had at least 30 cups of frappe in Greece in 10 days in all of the cities we went to, so it would be safe to say that the price of frappe changes between 0.70 Euro and 3 Euros. Strange enough, we had the best tasting frappe in “Mario”, a cafe in Thessaloniki, which had the lowest price (0.70 Euro). However, the random cafe we went into in Nea Krini (south eastern part of Thessaloniki) had some really good frappe, too, for a price of 2.50 Euros.

Missing out on Frappe in Greece is a huge mistake. Do drink it. Embrace it. Hug it and kiss your frappe gently on a regular basis.

Eating Tips for Greece

Food is a natural part of the cultural experience, if you are eating or desperately trying to find what you eat at home, you are definitely missing an integral part of traveling. If you have loads of money to spend during your trip, you are fine, you don’t have to think about what you eat at all. But if you are on a tight budget, here are some ideas for you:

Just like anywhere in the world, supermarkets provide you with the cheapest food possible in Greece, too. And the best part is that you can find everything a local person eats in supermarkets, although the quality may be in doubt.

In a typical Greek supermarket, you can find a lot, a lot of sea food in different sizes and content. If your hotel/hostel/apartment has a kitchen, that is just perfect, just buy them cheap and cook in your kitchen. However, if you are on the road and want to get away with snacks, sliced bread costs about 0.70 Euros and you can buy sliced cheese and ham or 2 Euros or so. For the 2.70 Euros you pay, you can have two meals, which is quite a bargain.

Moreover, canned beans (of several kinds) are about 1 Euro per portion, which may also be a nice meal for those short on budget.

You want something both warm and cheap? Then GYROS is the way to go!

Gyros in Greece

Greece Travel Tips - Pita Gyros

Pita Gyros

For those who have been to Turkey, Gyros may be a familiar taste since quite a similar dish or sandwich in Turkey is also served with the name “Döner”. Quite a typical dish in Greece, it is pork or chicken grilled vertically and served as a sandwich or full course. The sandwich can be made with bread or pita. Accompanying ingredients are tzatziki (a sauce made of yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and some spices), tomatoes and onion.

I don’t know the exact basis weight to be served, but a Pita Gyros is more than enough to feed one person and the chances are you will not be able to eat all of it, since the portions are really huge. A sandwish Gyros costs between 2 Euros and 3.5 Euros while a full course usually costs from 5 to 8 Euros.

Other budget alternatives to Gyros are souvlaki (a version of shish kebab) or various kebabs, a piece of which costs 1 to 1.50 Euros.

For non-budget food options, restaurants usually have fixed menus costing around 12 Euros per person, but the portions are really large as I said earlier, so it is well worth the money.

The only exception that we were able to see was a restaurant named “Cochila” in Agia Pelagia, which is a set of bays 20 minutes from Heraklion, Crete. This restaurant had an outstanding menu of fish, salad, tzatziki, a nice dissert, a portion of watermelons and “Tsikoudia” (a type of Cretan Raki – 2 shots per person) for only 6.5 Euros, accompanied by the great view since the restaurant is only 2 meters to the sea!

But everyone likes beer, no?

National Beer Brands of Greece

In Greece, we were able to see 3 national beer brands, Mykos, Alfa and Fix. Since I always tend to try the available brands whatever country I go to, I wanted to give all of them a shot, and succeeded by 2/3 since I somehow couldn’t find Fix anywhere. My bad, most probably. However, I managed to try Mykos and Fix.

Mykos is the more expensive one among the two, costing around 1.20 in supermarkets for a 50 cl can, but its taste was kind of sourish and stronger, which is not what I expect from a can of beer.

Alfa, on the other hand, is much more like 100% malt beer that you can find in many countries and its taste is quite smooth so I vote for Alfa as the beer to drink in Greece.

If you have any ideas about the brand that I couldn’t try, that is, Fix, please leave comments!

Water in Greece: Tap or Bottled?

From what I observed, tap water is drinkable in most parts of Greece. Except for Heraklion, we drank tap water all the time and we didn’t do so in Heraklion only because I read something about that somewhere on the internet. Could be drinkable, better to ask…

Most of the bottled water is actually mineral water, on the other hand. A bottle of water (1.5 liters) in a kiosk costs 0.80 – 1 Euro while the same bottle can be bought in a supermarket for 0.19 – 0.25 Euros.

Since we are not so much used to drinking mineral water on a daily basis, we found ΡΟΥΒΑΣ (Rouvas) and sticked to it throughout the trip. Here’s what its bottle looks like:

Greece Travel Tips - Rouvas 0.5 lt Bottle

Rouvas 0.5 lt Bottle

By the way “Nero” means water in Greek. You may need it.

Thessaloniki and Heraklion International Airports

Greece Travel Tips - Heraklion Airport

Heraklion Airport

These are the two airports that we used during our trip, so I’d like to give a little bit of information about them regarding how to get, what to do and what to eat there.

Thessaloniki International Airport can be reached 24/7 thanks to the ever-working public transport system of Thessaloniki. If you want to go there, your bus is 78, 78N or 79, but after the midnight, you can catch only one bus per hour, if I’m not wrong. For the airport, the trip costs 2 Euros, which means the ticket you bought from a kiosk may be a problem if an inspectors wants to look at it. While we were looking for ways to reach the airport from Nea Krini, a flight attendant on her way to the airport was kind enough to take us there, so I quote her for the ticket:

“You have to buy the ticket inside the bus, for this bus only.”

Don’t forget, this means you need the exact amount of 2 Euros.

At the airport, there are seats outside and many more inside and there are several cafes (3-4 of which are the same brand) where you can eat or drink. My advice is, don’t be afraid of the prices as they are not sky-high as it is usually the tradition at any airport. A frappe costs 3 Euros and a huge sandwich can be bought for 4 or 5 Euros.

There is no supermarket within the airport, and the small shop which looks like a mini market only sells magazines, books and cigarettes, which means you have to eat at one of the cafes, unless you have your own food.

There is one more alternative, which is a set of alternatives, though. Just 2-3 stops from the airport, there is the shopping area of Thessaloniki with 4-5 shopping centers including IKEA. Until 22.00, it is quite convenient to spend some time and eat, especially regarding the fact that you can have a full meal (Hot Dog, Chips, Coke) at IKEA for 1.80 Euros.

For those who have to spend the night at the airport, it is perfectly possible, the security doesn’t mind and many people sleep on the seats at night. However, the seats are metal so they can be a little bit uncomfortable if you don’t have a matress or a sleeping bag. And the whole airport is heavily airconditioned, so make sure you don’t fall asleep on a bench only with a t-shirt.

Heraklion International Airport, on the other hand, is a bit smaller. You can take the bus from the city center many times a day, but since we went there in daytime, I don’t know until when the buses work. Chances are they work 24/7, too. The prices are similar to those in Thessaloniki airport but, probably because it is a touristic destination, there are many more shop from which you can also buy souvenirs and even olive oil.

When you are trying to get to a Greek airport, and you don’t know what to look for, the word you need is “AERODROMIO”, which looks like “ΑΕΡΟΔΡΟΜΙΟ” (capital letters) and “αεροδρόμιο” (non-capital) in Greek Alphabet.

Speaking of which, do you think you would need to know how to read Greek in Greece? Yes, I believe.

Greek Alphabet: A Useful Tool for Travelers

Greece Travel Tips - Greek "S"

Greek “S”

There is a distinction between Consonantal Alphabets and True Alphabets in linguistics, but I’m not going to go into this in depth since it is not the topic of this article. However, it could be nice to know that the Greek Alphabet, which was adapted from the Phoenician Alphabet in the 8th century, is the first True Alphabet known to mankind.

In Greece, especially in touristic areas, most scripts are written both in Greek and Latin Alphabets, however, there are many exceptions and if you are looking for something or somewhere specific, you will definitely need to make sense of the Greek Alphabet. One more piece of info, most buses have small screens which show the next stop as sliding text, don’t feel frustrated to see it in the Greek Alphabet, since it displays the same information in the Latin Alphabet as well.

There’s one more thing, that you can find advantageous, that is, if you can read the Cyrillic Alphabet, the Greek Alphabet will make sense since many Cyrillic letters actually come from the Greek Alphabet. I can read the Cyrillic, so I had no problems reading Greek, too, with a few mistakes, though.

And mind you, both in Cyrillic and Greek, capital and non-capital letters may differ to a great extent, as you can see in the “Aerodromio” example above, so it is wise to learn them both.

There are numerous web sites teaching both Cyrillic and Greek alphabets, however, Google Translate also does a great job providing the translation and both Greek and Latin scripts.

This article seems longer than enough, but I wanted to make sure I could write an article informative enough for first timers in Greece, as we were also first timers there (which is a shame since we live only 10 minutes from the country). Before I finish the informative part, I would like to give the last tips for Greece that travelers may find useful:

– Most public toilets in Greece are extremely clean. I don’t know if it was only luck, but we’ve been to almost 10 cities and we haven’t seen a single dirty public toilet. They are not only clean, they smell really nice. So, no need to hesitate to use the toilets.

– The toilets in bus stations are free. The public ones in city centers usually cost 0.50 Euro. They are all clean.

– If you’re going to swim and you don’t want to go all itchy because of the salt, prefer organized beaches. Organized beaches in Greece have free showers and dressing cabins. Admirable!

– Even in the most touristic areas, a beach umbrella costs 2-3 Euros (Limited to the cities we’ve been to). That’s cheap in my book.

– At times, you may find it difficult to find an English speaker to ask for directions or something you need. Young people do speak English in Greece, so approach them. Moreover, in bus and train stations, you will have no trouble getting the info you need in English.

So, how about some interesting things to see in Greece?

My point, everywhere, everything and everyone is interesting as long as I’m in a foreign country since it is a different one, a different culture and different lives. However, this section is about the things that we found “really insteresting” or “really nice”, which are, of course, our subjective accounts.

A Rather Random Memorial – Kastanies

While we were waiting for our bus to Orestiada, Özge and I decided to have a glass of frappe in a random cafe in Kastanies (the border village). There were only 2 women sitting in front of it and we took the table next to them. Then some other women came and joined the 2, mostly wearing black. Lastly, an Orthodox minister and 3 more women, again in black came and it was obvious it was a special day. Only we didn’t know what it was. The minister gave a short speech and they started eating what looked like dried nuts in a cup while chatting.

The women were also kind enough to offer us a cup of those dried nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts and sugar) while asking where we were, in Turkish! They looked happy to learn that we were from Turkey and even happier to learn that we lived only 10 minutes away from Kastanies. Then two old women came to us, and we started chatting in Turkish, again, which was a moment we asked ourselves why we couldn’t speak Greek.

The ladies told us that it was a memorial day for one of the ladies’ mother-in-law, who passed away 6 months ago. Meanwhile, one of the ladies asked us if we liked what we were eating, and we had to agree since it was really tasty and the ingredients were just what we needed as travelers with heavy backpacks. Then the woman who lost her mother-in-law added, “If only they didn’t die and we wouldn’t have to prepare this…”.

Atatürk’s Birthplace – Thessaloniki

Greece Travel Tips - Atatürk's Birthplace (Exterior), Thessaloniki

Atatürk’s Birthplace (Exterior), Thessaloniki

For those who do not know, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founder of the Republic of Turkey, a revolutionary figure (probably the most) in the history of Turkish people who abolished the caliphate, introducted the Republic, gender equality and the Latin alphabet along with countless other reforms. The name “Atatürk” means “the father of the Turks”. Millions of people respect him and the first question you get once people learn that you visited Thessaloniki is “Did you see Atatürk’s Birthplace?”, and so we did.

Greece Travel Tips - Atatürk, the Founder of Republic of Turkey

Atatürk, the Founder of Republic of Turkey

The house is in the center of Thessaloniki, adjoining the Turkish Embassy in the city and it is very well preserved as a museum. The entrance is from the back of the building, through a black metal door and it is free.

Inside, you can see waxwork illustrations of Atatürk (both as an adult an as a child) and his mother (Zübeyde Hanım) along with some tools, clothes and kitchenware Atatürk himself used. The visitors are given what look like mobile phones, from which you can listen to a quite detailed historical account of Atatürk’s life and his reforms. It was in Turkish, though, and we didn’t ask if it was available in English, but probably it is.

Greece Travel Tips - Zübeyde Hanım, Atatürk's Mother

Zübeyde Hanım, Atatürk’s Mother

Cretaquarium – Gournes (Crete)

Since we are both sea-lovers, Cretaquarium, around 20 minutes from Heraklion to the east, was among the most amazing places that we saw in our Greece trip. Getting to and from from the aquarium is really simple, there are buses in daytime every 20 minutes and you can take one of them from Heraklion Bus Station. Just tell the driver’s assistant you’ll go to the aquarium and s/he’ll tell you when to get off of the bus. I seem to have forgotten to take a note of the ticket price, but it must have been around 1.80 – 2.50 Euros.

Greece Travel Tips - Cretaquarium, First Entrance (Noone here)

Cretaquarium, First Entrance (Noone here)

Once you get off, you have to walk around 10 minutes through the inactive and idle US base all the way down, and you can’t miss it.

Greece Travel Tips - Parts of the Former US Base

Parts of the Former US Base

According to the brochure, there are 2500+ species in the Mediterranean (and Aegean) sea and you can see a lot of them in the aquarium, including sharks!

Greece Travel Tips - Cretaquarium, Entrance

Cretaquarium, Entrance

Some nice music accompanies you during your (approximately) one hour visit and there are two cafes within the facility for those who would like to spend some more time. Let the video do rest of the talking.

AQUARIUM VIDEO

A Dance Show in Heraklion

This was also quite random. We were just walking around in the city center of Heraklion, and we saw a stage being installed, then we went there to see what was going on in the evening. Seemingly, it was a dance show as the pre-event of a carnival in which local dance groups participated, and it looked like this:

However, at the end of the show, a traditional band took the stage together with a folk dance group, that’s when everything got really interesting.

Folk dances can tell a lot about a culture and it was really nice to listen to Cretan traditional songs while realizing that the folk dances really resembled Western and North-Eastern Turkish local dances. Similarity with western Turkey is understandable since this part of Turkey neighbours Greece. But north-east? At least 1200 kilometers to Greece? I had to Google this a bit and and found out that the “Pontic Greeks” lived in what is now North-eastern Turkey from 700 BC to early 1900’s. This may be the explanation of the similarity.

Epilogue

All in all, we didn’t get bored for a single moment during our 10-day Greece trip and we really regretted the fact that we didn’t do this long ago. However, Greece will for sure be a regular destination for us from now on and I believe we will have explored the whole country in the next 5 years. Greece, highly recommended! Lastly, if you’re interested in cultures, take a look at the common traditions between Russia and Turkey!

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Travel Tips For Greece: Greece Survival Guide for Travelers
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Travel Tips For Greece: Greece Survival Guide for Travelers
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Travel Tips For Greece: Greece Survival Guide for Travelers
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Ecotripsos - Travel, countries, cultures...

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