By Captain Dimitrios Flokos
When you sail to Greece, they say you sail to the land of gods, myths and heroes. And that couldn’t be more true – when you sail into the Aegean Sea and you see the wide open skies and deep blue sea dotted with islands, you can sense the deep heritage and history of many millennia the land carries with it.
I joined Oceania Cruises at the very beginning in 2003 and have had the opportunity to sail to many gorgeous and remarkable places during my career and with my wife, Denise. After all of these travels, I have to tell you that there is no land as enchanted as Greece. What sets Greece apart are, yes, the masterpieces from ancient times that are on everyone’s travel lists, but also the culture, the people and the cuisine. Greeks practically invented hospitality. There is something about the ambiance that you will notice, the way Greeks interact with each other, the way they welcome you, that is particular to the country.
Born in Volos and a long-time Athens local, I have some suggestions on how to enjoy the country as the Greeks do and make the best of your time.
AN OLD FAVORITE
One of the places Denise and I always go to shortly after arriving back in Greece is a small restaurant in the center of Athens. It’s just off Plaza Kolonakiou in the exclusive neighborhood of Kolonaki, which has many restaurants and cafés that are perfect for taking in the afternoon. One of my favorite restaurants that I have been going to for years and years is called Tops. It’s a place we gather with friends at and has delicious Greek food and the best service. They are truly friendly here – so sit back, relax, and enjoy a slice of Greek culture.
I grew up in the center, so for me, it is a must to see Plaka, the oldest neighborhood of Athens which sits on a hillside in the shadow of the Acropolis – it has a village feel to it and is filled with great restaurants and shops. Monastiraki is another top choice – this lively area is known for iconic landmarks like Hadrian’s Gate, along with a sprawling market. Taking a stroll through the National Gardens is a nice treat – often you might come across an outdoor concert. From here you can visit Syntagma Square where you can watch the changing of the guards. Just before dusk, I recommend you visit the rooftop of the Grand Bretagna for a cocktail to watch the sun set over the Acropolis.
Stay tuned for my top culinary recommendations, favorite restaurants and more next week.