About Greece

Before moving to Toronto’s downtown core – the Entertainment District, I did some time out in the East End of the city on the Danforth. Otherwise known as Greektown. I fell in love with the people, and I fell in love with the food. My brother from another mother, George and his father (my butchers) would talk about the blue seas, the blue skies and the blue roofs of Santorini. I knew I needed to visit and learn more about Greece.

History

  • We all know Greece is the cradle of civilization and excavations show that the first settlement in Ancient Greece dates from the Palaeolithic era (11,000-3,000 BC). 
  • From 168 BC and onwards, the Romans conquered Greece, and Ancient Greece turns into Roman Greece.
  • The regime of Greece has been the Parliamentary Republic since 1975.

Capital

Athens
What To Do In Athens In 2 Days

Currency

Euro

Food

You’ll find vegetables, olive oil, grains, fish, wine (white and red), and meat (including lamb, poultry, veal, beef, rabbit, and pork). Also, you find cheese, lemon juice, herbs, bread, and yogurt. The most commonly used dessert ingredients include nuts, honey, fruits, and filo pastries. 

The cuisine is strongly influenced by Ottoman cuisine and shares like baklava, tzatziki, gyro, moussaka, dolmades, yuvarlakia, and keftethes.

  • Taramasalata – a mainstay of any Greek meal is classic dips such as tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic), melitzanosalata (aubergine), and fava (creamy split pea purée). But the delectable taramasalata (fish roe dip) is a must. This creamy blend of pink or white fish roe, with either a potato or bread base, is best with a drizzle of virgin olive oil or a squeeze of lemon.
  • Moussaka – Variations on moussaka are found throughout the Mediterranean and the Balkans. Still, the iconic Greek oven-bake is based on layers of sautéed aubergine, minced lamb, fried puréed tomato, onion, garlic and spices like cinnamon and allspice, a bit of potato, then a final fluffy topping of béchamel sauce and cheese.
  • Courgette balls (kolokythokeftedes) – Sometimes a patty, sometimes a lightly fried ball, be sure to try these starters any chance you get. The fritter is usually made from grated or puréed courgette blended with dill, mint, or other top-secret spice combinations. Paired with tzatziki, for its cooling freshness, you just can’t lose.
  • Honey & baklava  – Greeks love their sweets, which are often based on olive oil and honey combinations encased in flaky filo pastry. The classic baklava involves honey, filo and groundnuts. Or try galatoboureko, a sinful custard-filled pastry. A more simple sweet is local thyme honey drizzled over fresh, thick Greek yogurt.

Electricity

In Greece, the standard voltage is 230 V, and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electrical appliances in Greece if your country’s standard voltage is between 220 – 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa).

Public Transit

Taxi

Taxis are available almost everywhere in Greece. The rates are pretty low compared to other European countries. That said, Greece’s taxi fares double after midnight (and until 5 am). Often companies will have a flat rate for airport transfer or pickup, so the double rate probably shouldn’t affect you.
Yellow city cabs are metered, and grey rural cabs
are not. Make sure you ask how much the ride will cost before you get in and it’s important to note that most cabs will only take cash.

While most taxi drivers are amicable and helpful, Athenian drivers have a bit of a reputation for overcharging tourists so as I mentioned above either estimate how much your ride will cost or ask how much the ride will cost before you get in

The safest and most convenient option is to order a taxi in advance – it will cost a little extra, but you’ll know the rate in advance, For islands that don’t allow vehicles of any kind (Hydra, Spetses) – you can travel around these islands on a water taxi (also known as a hydro-taxi).

Subway

Athens is the only city in Greece with a subway system. This is a cheap, safe, and reliable way to get around downtown Athens. You can buy tickets at train stations for about 1.20 euro each. Tickets are valid for  70 minutes, even if you’re switching from the train to a bus or vice versa. You can use Google Maps to figure out which station is closest to your destination.

Bus

Buses are another option for getting around the city, particularly if you’re travelling to the suburbs or town outskirts. Most towns have buses, although you’ll only need them if you’re staying in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, or Kalamata. Bus tickets cost the same as metro tickets (1.20 euro), although if you’re transferring from metro to bus, you don’t need to buy a new ticket at all. However, it can be tricky to get a stroller or heavy luggage onto a bus – in those cases, a taxi may be a more convenient option.

Plane

Travelling by air is probably one of the easiest ways to get to Greece. Aegean Airlines has affordable flights to and from most major European cities. If you’re travelling from North America, you can get a direct flight from Athens departing from Philadelphia, New York (JFK), Montreal, or Toronto. The Eleftherios Venizelos Airport is approximately 30 minutes outside of the city center (also accessible by metro), and as mentioned most taxi companies offer a flat rate to and from the airport.

But if you’re travelling within Greece, say to one of the islands, many smaller islands don’t have airports. Take a ferry might be a better option. 

Ferries & Hydrofoils

These will get you to almost any island in Greece (some islands are only accessible via other islands). Ferries are cheaper but significantly slower and often more crowded than the smaller hydrofoils, also known as “flying dolphins.” When you buy a ticket on a hydrofoil, you also reserve a seat. On a ferry, you are not guaranteed a seat, but there are usually lots of seating options both indoors and on the deck. If you’re looking for the quintessential Greek travel experience, you have to travel by boat at least once. Even if you head out to a nearby island for a day trip (like Aegina, for instance), it’s worth it! 

Train

Travelling by train is one of the best ways to get around the major cities of Greece. The slower trains, which stop at every station, are extremely reasonably priced – even cheaper than bus travel. The faster inter-city (IC) trains are a little pricier but more modern and a lot more comfortable.  

Car

Unless otherwise specified, the highway’s speed limit is 120 km (almost 75 mi) per hour. On open roads, you can drive 110 km/68 mi per hour. In residential areas, the maximum speed is 50 km/31 mi per hour. People under 18 years of age aren’t allowed to drive in Greece, however, to rent a car, you must be 21 years of age.

Beeping is illegal in most cases unless in an emergency Another exception from the rule is driving in areas with curves and limited visibility, such as mountains. Although this is never recommended, if you want to overtake a slower vehicle you can use the horn to warn the potentially approaching vehicles about your intention.

You may cell while driving, but only on hands-free equipment. People caught using their phones can face a significant fine on the spot (100 EUR). Also, be sure to fasten your seat belt (passenger and driver) The penalty ranges up to 350 EUR. The same is true for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike. Finally, children under ten years of age must travel on the back seats of the car.

Stopover or Layover Destination

Major European cities and international cities around the world

Safety

Greece is a very safe country. It is ranked 39th on the ranking of the world’s safest countries. All the risks listed below have a slight chance of happening, but as one of the top touristy destinations and an intense economic crisis, travellers may face some dangers.

  • Pickpockets and bag snatchers are an issue in crowded subway stations of Athens and other cities and near tourist attractions.
  • Violent crime is very low. There have been some reports of fights between intoxicated tourists near resort areas such as Korfu or Rhodes
  • Begging is not uncommon in some larger cities but you will rarely experience aggressive beggars.
  • Since the Economic crisis, some organized protests can lead to fights between the demonstrators and police force,
  • Protect your personal belongings at all times, especially your ID and passport.
  • In big cities, take the usual precautions (e.g., not walking in parks alone at night, not leaving your bike or phone and camera unattended and not keeping your wallet in your back pocket)
  • You will most likely not encounter any crime at all while staying in Greece.