My associations with Greece? Family holidays when I was young. My parents are both very interested in history, therefore it often felt like we were turning over every single stone at archeological sites. Especially great when it was 38 °C in the shade… Though highly educational, it’s nothing you really enjoy doing as a kid.
Coming to Greece for my secondment was a tough one. The first couple of months of 2023 were difficult for me work-wise, and my private life was also quite turbulent. So I left for Athens pretty heavy-hearted — as fate would have it, exactly on the same day as I initially moved to Belgium, but two years later.
And what can I say? I loved it. The country, the weather, the food, the people — it was absolutely amazing.
The first couple of days I already started exploring the city: I enjoyed some beautiful sunsets from Areopagus and Filopappou, visited the Akropolis, had a late night stroll through the buzzing neighborhoods of Monastiraki and Psyrri, enjoyed dinner at 11 pm (something impossible back in Belgium) and met locals very quickly who I ended up spending a decent amount of my time with. I of course also took advantage of the proximity of Athens to the sea and several evenings and weekends were dedicated to time by the sea, swimming and enjoying the good life.
Athens by night.
My weekends were well-spent exploring Greece:
One weekend I went all the way up to Meteora in Thessaly. It is a very impressive place to visit and listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was a rather cold, rainy, and foggy day when I visited the monasteries, which created a very gloomy atmosphere. An advantage of the bad weather was not only the unique atmosphere but definitely also the absence of tourists.
One Sunday evening, I went to Cape Sounion and the trip was definitely worth it: It was absolutely magical to see the sun go down behind the Temple of Poseidon, coloring the sky in orange and red.
Top: Cape Sounion, bottom: Sunset at the Temple of Poseidon.
The other weekends I mostly spent on islands, either doing one- or two-day trips: Aegina, Agistri, Hydra, Poros, Santorini or Zakynthos to name a few. Every single one of them had its own kind of beauty and I really enjoyed it.
Aegina is famous for its pistachios and, among other archeological sites, the Temple of Aphaia. I took a bus to explore the island, visited the temple and then walked all the way down to Agia Marina, enjoying the beautiful view. Of course I also did not miss out on trying the delicious pistachio products and had the most delicious pistachio ice cream I’ve ever tasted.
Temple of Aphaia in Aegina.
Agistri can be seen as Aegina’s daughter. It’s smaller, less touristy, and has beautiful beaches. I had a wonderful day there walking around, having a delicious lunch and enjoying the afternoon at the beach. But better be careful — it’s also home to many sea urchins.
Hydra was one of the most beautiful places I visited in Greece. It’s a carless island, so wherever you want to go, you either have to take a donkey, a horse, a boat, or simply walk. I decided to simply go by foot and it was absolutely mind blowing to walk along its coast, seeing the amazing turquoise color of the Myrtoan Sea.
Beautiful water colors off the coast of Hydra.
Zakynthos has a rather questionable reputation due to party tourism. But let me tell you, if you stay away from certain areas, you will have a dream weekend on one of the greenest Greek islands. Just rent a motorboat and explore some beautiful hidden beaches and caves along the coast. Enjoy the sunset on a SUP and if you are lucky, you can spot the famous Carretta-Carretta turtles diving through the crystal clear Ionian Sea.
Views on Zakynthos.
Greece and its islands are so underappreciated, which is a shame as it is one of the most beautiful countries I have been to in Southern Europe and definitely always worth a visit.
To conclude, even after two months I do not like Ouzo and Mastiha, sometimes have issues with the time management of people here (yes, a very German trait of me), but I will dearly miss the sun, the warm summer nights, the great food and also the openness and friendliness of the people here.
Ελλάδα, θα μου λείψεις!