Greece Travel Tips

Sep 20

Acropolis' Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Acropolis’ Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Greece is one of the world’s most beautiful countries with an incredible history. There are ancient sites everywhere you look in Greece. The food is amazing and cheap. Why have you not gone yet? Here are some Greece Travel Tips!
  • Do not stick to the islands only. There are SO many amazing places to visit on the mainland from Athens to Delphi to Epidaurus to Olympia
  • Make sure to visit the islands as well. I took a day trip to Poros and Aegina which was all the time I had but I regretted not visiting Santorini (It is now on my Bucket List)
  • The best time to go is September or early October. I went in early October which is near the end of the high season and when the islands are slowing starting to pack up for the winter. There are fewer tourists like yourself so it makes for a nicer trip and the prices for accommodation are cheaper
  • Do not be afraid to try the local cuisine or street food. The prices are incredible and damn tasty
  • Try the Ouzo – it is a Greek drink. It is pretty strong but you cannot go to Greece and not try one of their most popular local drinks. I think it tastes a bit like licorice. You drink it straight with no mix or anything to dilute the flavor. Greeks drink it practically at every meal
  • Book early – this tip is almost for any trip but it works. The earlier you book your flight and accommodation, the cheaper it should be
  • Greece is SUPER HOT. Even when I was there in October, the weather was nearing 30 degrees Celsius most days and often it exceeded it. You will not need layers in Greece unless you go to the mountains near Meteora 
Meteora from monastery, Greece

Meteora from monastery, Greece

  • Speaking of Meteora, that is an amazing area that is famous for its monasteries. They sit atop small mountains, very rocky formations, and is quite the trip to visit them. Go visit!!
  • Be prepared for last minutes strikes or protests. Greece is still going through a tumultuous time economically and politically so be prepared. Some historic sites may be closed or its workers are on a one day strike. That occurred to me back in 2011 and I hear that it is still occurring. It can cross over to the transit system and taxis as well
  • Also keep in mind that museums are not opened every day and as is the case in most European countries, they have different hours depending on their summer or winter schedule. Do your research in advance; check their websites online
  • Do not be ignorant – learn some Greek phrases. While English is quite common in Greece, I ALWAYS suggest learning a bit of the local language. The locals appreciate it in particular and I always love learning new words
  • Try the olives. Unfortunately, I HATE OLIVES but they are everywhere in Greece and everyone else loves the olives. I did try them but seriously, I cannot express how much I dislike them. Everyone else? They LOVED them; they cannot get enough. Olive oil is another story; I love that and it is tasty dipping with bread. That I did enjoy!!!
  • Book your accommodation near the PLAKA area if you stay in Athens. It is the oldest part of Athens and a wonderful area to take nightly walks or stop by the wonderful restaurants to try the moussaka (mmmm), souvlaki or gyro. Honestly, I did some good eating in Greece! Once again, I never took any pictures of the food. I am going to force myself in the future to do so
  • A short note about Athens – I loved it there BUT I spent a lot of time at the Acropolis and in the museums. The city itself can be quite dirty with piles of garbage on the corner and dogs roaming everywhere even on the Acropolis site (which I found adorable but others did not) especially on the edges of the Plaka area. Be careful with street vendors and scam artists. They are everywhere as well
Temple of Hephaestus in  Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece

Temple of Hephaestus in Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece

Well those are the top Greece travel tips I can think of off the top of my head. I’ll post something more about my trip to Greece next time. I had a great time: spend a few days in Athens, then went on a tour of some of the ancient sites such as Delphi, Epidaurus and Meteora via a five day tour of the mainland via Viator before coming back to Athens then heading to Italy. Yes that was a GREAT trip!  Mmmmmm the food, the history, the men….oh such a delight.

So have you been to Greece? What tips do you have?

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My Favourite Travel Food – Sauerbraten

Sep 17

With Oktoberfest about to begin this weekend, I started thinking of my favourite memories of Germany. First is Oktoberfest and all the fun I had drinking with all the Germans and tourists like myself. Second is the food. I loved the German food. My mother’s family are German so I have always been fascinated with all things Deutsch! German food was not a staple in our house: we were more of a meat and potatoes family (very Irish which happens to be the background of my father) so I was very excited to visit Germany and check it out first hand.

From bratwurst to apfelstrudel to currywurst to käsespätzle (noodles with cheese) to schnitzel, I did some good eating in Germany. However, my favourite travel food was and is SAUERBRATEN!

So what is Sauerbraten? German is very straightforward to translate – sour beef. It is a very simple recipe as well. You marinate the beef roast (usually a tough cut of meat) for a minimum of three to four days in a mixture of vinegar or wine, herbs and spices. Then you simmer the meat in the marinade for several hours and you end up with a very tasty and tender roast. Different areas of Germany will have their own versions and add their own mixtures.

It was made originally with horse meat but thankfully we have moved away from that. If you want horse meat, go eat at Ikea. 🙂

Rheinischer Sauerbraten adds raisins and gingerbread to the sauce while Swabian Sauerbraten has no sweetening or raisins. You serve it with potatoes, dumplings or noodles such as Spätzle.

I wish I had taken pictures when I was in Germany but I’m one of those people who NEVER takes pictures of food. But take my word for it and try it out. My German tutor Catrin told me to check out currywurst and sauerbraten so I have to thank her or I probably never would have ordered it.

Sauerbraten in Deutschland

Sauerbraten in Deutschland – photo courtesy

I plan on trying my hand at this soon. When I do, I will take pictures and update this article with my attempt. I think I shall try this recipe or this one unless anyone has a better one.

So there you have it: my favourite food during my travels. Of course I adored the pasta in Italy and pastry in France but nothing beats Sauerbraten!  So what is your favourite travel food?

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General Travel Tips

Sep 06

Athenian Treasury Delphi Greece

Athenian Treasury in Delphi, Greece

General Travel Tips for the Inexperienced Traveller

  • Travel in the off-season or during the end of the high season. I have gone to Europe in June and October several times. I love that time of year, especially October. The high season is winding down, there are fewer of your fellow tourists, the weather is cooler and you can still see all the great sights.
  • If going during high-season, consider a “skip the line” pass. I have bought one for the Vatican, Colosseum, the Louvre and others. You get to skip the line, do not have to wait hours in line (yes in high-season it will be hours) and get a tour guide. You can also remain after the tour to look around on your own.
  • You should try to learn the language of the country you are visiting. If you cannot learn the whole thing (which can be time-consuming and understandable), make sure to learn the basics and phrases you will need. You should know: hello, thank you, how much is this, where is the toilet, how far to my hotel, more wine please and so on. Be thoughtful and the people will adore you for trying.
  • Join a free walking tour. I stumbled upon one in Munich and had a fantastic time. You can find these in most major cities in Europe.
Berlin Wall Germany

Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany

  • The most important tip in hotel selection: LOCATION! Research the area to make sure you are not miles from the metro or too far from the city centre where most of the sights may be. Google maps is really your best friend in this case. I find staying in the wrong location can negatively affect your trip. You don’t want to be spending half your day on the train or metro.
  • Pack light! This is one tip I have trouble following. I always take a suitcase with me and yes, I check it. I have been damn lucky so far; never lost my luggage. Fingers crossed! Do I regret taking so much stuff with me each trip?  Hell yes, but I always manage. My last two trips I have taken my smaller suitcase and managed fine. So yes you can do it.
  • Make sure you do your research – some places require reservations. An example: to view Michelangelo’s David in Florence, you need a reservation in advance. You can book this online.
  • I recommend spending more time in each city. Don’t try to see Europe in two weeks. You will be exhausted. I find three nights minimum in each city is the way to go. That way you are not rushed between days. You can return and you should to see the rest of Europe. I did a tour of Germany where I stayed in a couple of places only two nights and I felt too rushed. You really only one full day in that city plus whatever time you have the day you arrived so maybe a day and a half then you’re off. Too rushed!
  • Eurail passes are awesome! I did that for my German trip and it was worth the money. Just research the cost of individual rides to make sure it is worth your money, but it is an easy and convenient way of travelling around Europe! There are many types of passes so lots of flexibility! You can buy these in advance of your trip.  Check out Seat 61 for more European rail information.
  • Buy comfortable walking shoes. If you don’t, you will suffer. I have great memories of my first trip overseas to London BUT I had crappy shoes, ended up with blisters after the second day so the rest of my time was very painful.
  • Wear a moneybelt. Safety first people!
  • If you don’t wear a moneybelt (umm I don’t), wear a bag across your body. I have a small bag (mini-purse) since I don’t like carrying a backpack that I hold in front of me. I basically keep my hand on it whenever anyone is nearby or in large crowds or the metro. If you carry a backpack, safest way is to carry it in front of you.
  • Be careful of scams, petitions or gypsies/street folk selling stuff. Most likely it is a scam so don’t engage them AT ALL. Walk away, tell them to leave you alone, you are not interested and so on. Rome and Athens were horrible for all that: they would not leave me alone. It got to the point where I was NOT polite anymore. They don’t care.
  • Notify your credit card companies before you head off so they don’t flag your card. I had my card flagged when I wasn’t even travelling: I was booking a flight on the Russian airline Aeroflot. So let them know in advance so your charges are approved.
  • Check with your bank: most charge extra for European withdrawals and sometimes charge extra for the currency conversion.

So there you go: a few general travel tips for the masses.  What tips would you include? What has worked for you?

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