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Twelve things I love about Greece

On my last adventure holiday I was in the Greek Islands. I saw some amazing sites - some well-known like these windmills in Santorini - and some lesser known, like the Rouvas Gorge in Crete. I ate well and I hiked my heart out. Here are twelve things I love about Greece.

1. Greetings

The way people greet you. Yassas! It sounds upbeat. And often they put the emphasis on the first syllable, as if they are genuinely happy to see you. Sort of like saying "Hey! Hi!"

2. Landscapes

From rocky islands to cool forests, from snowy mountains to stunning beaches, from rushing streams to azure blue seas

3. Activities

Sure, a beach bum can have a great time. But adventure travelers will want to get out and explore. The hiking is great everywhere, you can bike, sail and ski or do something more far out like bungee jumping.

4. The food.

While the tourist resorts have given in to a watered down version of Greek food, travel even a little off the beaten path and you will find a plethora of delicious food. Moussaka tastes better in Greece than it does here, Fasolatha is a delicious white bean soup and the lamb chops are amazing everywhere you go. Greek salads are always served with home-baked bread and make for a fantastic lunch. And for desert, give me loukoumades ( fried doughnut-like balls drenched in honey syrup) or galaktoboureko (custard pie) any time!

5. The generosity of the people.

It's a custom that has been lost in some of the more popular places, but you'll know you're in an authentic place when dessert and a shot of raki are on the house. I even had my hotel make ice cream for me after I had mentioned I really fancied one and no one in town offered any. That same hotel in parting gave me a bottle of wine

6. The wine

Wine is plentiful and offered by the half or whole litre. However, that's the house wine which is most often of dubious quality (to the point where I once returned my rather pale-looking glass of red, only to be told that was their version of red...). Yet there are some great wines to be had. Find any wine bar and they'll be able to serve from a large selection of local wines. On Santorini try white wine made from the Assyrtiko grape which makes a fresh, lime-infused wine, with an incredible mineral intensity.

7, The islands.

The Greek islands are different from the mainland in that they largely depend on tourism. Cue the postcard perfect white-washed houses with blue trim. And while that may feel like a stereotype, it's beautiful nevertheless. In addition, each island has its own character. Think Santorini with its caldera views, Mykonos the party place or Paros with its Byzantine trails connecting the interior to the coast. And then there's Crete.

8. Crete. Of all the islands I visited, Crete is by far the most authentic. It's where you can still get a Greek coffee without being asked if you want sugar in it. To a Greek there's no other way. Crete is also where you'll find remote mountain hamlets with tavernas that cater to locals, numerous hiking trails, incredible mountains (where you can ski!) and some of the wildest roads in Europe.

9. Coffee culture.

Drive through a small town in the morning and chances are you will see several men lingering over a syrupy cup of Greek coffee, chatting with friends and watching life go by. Watch them comment on you too, then find yourself a seat and join in.

10. The history.

If it's only Roman it's hardly worth mentioning. Look around anywhere and you will find remains of ancient cultures, from Mycenaean to ancient Greek, from Roman to Venetian and from Byzantine to Ottoman. And with Greece being the birthplace of democracy you can't help but compare their struggles against the Persian Empire with the current conflict of Ukraine versus Russia.

11. The churches and monasteries.

Be awed by the ancient art visible in the icons and iconostasia and be inspired by the chanting of the priests.

12. The people

They make time for you and love to chat. And there is a love for life in the air, something i witnessed when two people I had met spontaneously started to dance over lunch.

The icing on the cake was the airline crew asking me at boarding if I had had a good time in Greece. They were genuinely interested and happy to hear I had!


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