Penny: Zeus wanted to know where the center of the world was. While Rick Steves Greece covers a few islands (Hydra, Mykonos and nearby Delos, and Santorini), most travelers headed to more islands will want to supplement their Rick Steves book with a guide to the islands (we recommend Lonely Planet Greek Islands). It offers little beyond lovely sand, turquoise water, and tranquility. We'll island-hop through the Aegean, sampling three classic Greek getaways — Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes — and basking in their dramatic beauty. So for more than 2,000 years, water has come out of this well. During this time, the golden mean was "nothing in excess." As in many Greek island towns, on Mykonos the windmills have harnessed the steady wind for centuries — grinding grain to feed its sailors. And just beyond the acropolis is the more exotic St. Paul's Beach, named for a legendary visit by the apostle Paul nearly 2,000 years ago. Its pocket-size harbor shelters the community's fishing boats. The Ottoman Turks finally defeated the Knights of St. John in the 1500s. Once a complete island like its neighbors, it was a volcano that about 3,500 years ago blew its top, creating a caldera — this flooded crater. Rhodes, or "Rhodos," as locals call it, is the fourth largest of the Greek islands. But, even with four ships in the harbor today, there seems to be plenty of room. This point, where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet, is famously windy — long powering windmills. Survey the remains of the ancient harbor: foundations of shops and homes, and hillsides littered with temple remains. See the Travel Details above for recommendations highlighted in bold, excerpted from Rick's guidebooks. ..helps prepare you to better appreciate the actual he-her-historic sites…. And tour groups are sure to have free time at the best photo ops. They'd pass through this imposing entryway and up to the religious heart of the city and the Parthenon. But the ease of not having to change hotels with every new destination and the abundance of entertainment on board can contribute to a nice vacation. Unlike most ancient sites, which have layer upon layer of ruins from different periods, the Acropolis we see today was started and finished within two generations — a snapshot of the Golden Age set in stone. Here, with a glass of ouzo and today's catch, as the sun slowly sinks into the sea and boats become silhouettes, you drink to the beauties of a Greek lsland escape. And there was more to Delphi than just the oracle. Punctuated by romantic nights at sea, our itinerary promises plenty of unforgettable sightseeing. Two hundred years ago, Athens was just a small town surrounded by big ruins, sitting on lots of history. Plumbing ran under the streets, and water was plentiful. Leonidas: We cook the lamb with the roast potatoes. To this day, the street feels medieval, with carved reliefs that show off that original national pride. Shady trees make it a breezy and restful spot. Terms of Service | Privacy, Athens, Greece: Ancient Acropolis and Agora, Athens, Greece: National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece: The Tranquil Anafiotika Neighborhood. Today, people pour out of the city's busiest subway station into this café-filled square. Greek architecture evolved in stages. Today, inviting whitewashed villages seem to crowd its dramatic ridges as if jostling to enjoy the views. I'm glad I'm packing light as I hike up to my hotel. The dazzling white-washed town of Lindos, originally a wealthy maritime center because of its harbor, is now totally overrun by tourists. With each port you've got sightseeing options: You can take the organized tour and be on their time table, or, you can hire a private guide. It's destroyed. A two-hour drive northwest of Athens takes us to Delphi, one of the most important sights in the ancient world. The four major monuments — the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylaea, and Temple of Athena Nike — were built as a coherent ensemble (c. 450–400 BC). With all its traffic congestion above and nearly a million Athenians zipping smoothly underground every day, the system is a godsend. Dazzling mansions of wealthy merchants with colonnaded inner courtyards. Innovative cisterns collected rain water — these round arches date from the third century BC. But it was destroyed by an earthquake a couple hundred years before Christ, and today nothing survives. Imagine Delos in its heyday — a booming center of trade: streets lined with 3,000 shops where you could buy just about anything. Presided over by hotels that run bars for young beachgoers, the Paradise action is nonstop. For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, Allow 1.5–2 hours for the site (hiking to the stadium alone is nearly a half-hour round-trip), and another 45–60 minutes for the museum. The island's oldest and most traditional taverna was the hangout of the sponge divers a century ago. Like other hilltop sights in the ancient Greek world, Athens' Acropolis (or "high city") was both a place of worship and of refuge when under attack. We're riding a Flying Dolphin — one of the fleet of speedy hydrofoils that zip from Athens to the islands, and from island to island. At the tiny church built to bless those who go to sea, a fisherman and his wife pop in for a few meditative moments among age-old icons and flickering candles. About five centuries before Christ, Athens was the center of the Western world. Leonidas and Panagiota have retired from running their restaurant. They came here to the big city looking for work. So we've got the theater, we've got the stadium…. The real attraction here is the beaches. Golden Age sculptors shifted weight more believably, placing their statues in a contrapposto pose — that means relaxed, with hips shifted realistically and weight resting on one foot. Ancient Greece set the tone for all Western art that followed, and this museum lets you trace its evolution — taking you in air-conditioned comfort from 7000 BC to AD 500 through beautifully displayed and described exhibits on one floor. So, they honored Helios by building a colossal statue. The earliest style, Doric, has flat, practical plates as capitals. Dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, this was one of the most important religious buildings on the Acropolis. The island of Delos was one of the most important places in the ancient Greek world, with temples honoring the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis. At a time when Rome was just a village, it was here that the foundations of our Western civilization were laid. Nope! From Athens to Mount Ararat, join Rick as he meets the people and explores the ancient sites of Greece and Turkey. Like so many great civilizations, ancient Greece peeked and then faded. The most trendy is Paradise, one of the ultimate party beaches in the Aegean. Visitors here can enjoy the building's fine interiors, a wide-ranging collection of artifacts, and the highlight of the entire palace: its fantastically detailed floor mosaics. The resulting Sanctuary of Apollo reached the height of its power between the sixth and the fourth centuries BC. Mykonos is another small island with a small port inundated by cruise-ship crowds. Rick Steves' Europe How to Embrace Life and Art in Paris In this second of two episodes dedicated to Paris, travel expert Rick Steves goes beyond the typical tourist stops for a … The iconic row of sphinx-like lions still heralds the importance of the place. You can also watch Greek sculpture evolve, from prehistoric Barbie dolls, to stiff Egyptian-style, to the David-like balance of the Golden Age, to wet T-shirt, buckin'-bronco Hellenistic, and finally, to the influence of the Romans. The Plaka district provides tourists with a more intimate Athens: no chaotic traffic, lots of colorful restaurants, and the best souvenir shopping in all of Greece. Relax and take in a sea busy with water taxis, ferries that connect this oasis with Athens, old freighters — like castles of rust — lumbering slowly along the horizon, and cruise ships anchored as if they haven't moved in weeks. They stand amid today's bustling metropolis. Ancient Greek treasures include the Poseidon of Artemision. If you do opt for a cruise, you'll live within a strict schedule: sail by night, sightsee by day — about 10 hours per stop. Just plop onto whatever appeals — don't worry; the drinks will come to you. They were also called the "Knights of St. John Hospitallers." Many of these dwellings originated as humble caves. A delightful way to cap the day is to follow the coastal path to the village of Kaminia. We're catching one for a windy survey of the island and to be dropped off for a scenic hike back into town. See the Travel Details above for recommendations highlighted in bold, excerpted from Rick's guidebooks. I've left our bus tour early for a rendezvous with a private local guide. Arrive early or late to avoid the crowds and midday heat. After 14 centuries of silence and darkness, it was finally excavated in the late 1800s, and today, the ruins of Delos are ours to explore. As the nearest Greek island to the Holy Land, Rhodes was a natural gathering point for Crusaders from all over Europe. This is a stop that lends itself to unstructured free time — just lazing on the beach, wandering, and browsing the shops. Gradually these cheapest bits of real estate were developed, and, with tourism, they became today's expensive villas, hotels, and restaurants. May 30, 2016 - Explore Sandra Kent's board "Rick Steves" on Pinterest. Statues looked more lifelike. The palace was fortified with three walls and two moats for good reason: the ever-present Turkish threat. And apart from coming here to consult the oracle, the other reason was also because, like in Olympia they had the Olympic Games, here in Delphi we had the Pythian Games. While the Acropolis was the center of ritual and ceremony, the agora was the beating heart of ancient Athens. Rick: So he called this basically the bellybutton of the world. Hi, I'm Rick Steves, back with more of the best of Europe. Two hundred years ago, Athens was just a humble town of about 8,000 huddled at the base of the Acropolis. I hope you've enjoyed our Greek island cruise as we've explored just three of the countless islands that make the Aegean Sea such a popular destination. Those paying for the cruise line's excursion get off the ship first, and head for an alternative port — where buses and guides await. In the 14th century, the Knights of St. John added on to an existing Byzantine fortress here to create a residence and political headquarters for their leader, the grand master. Antonis is an excellent local guide who enjoys introducing visitors to the hidden nooks and crannies of Mykonos. Sipping a drink here puts you right in the middle of a lively Greek scene. This is where, for 3,000 years, Athenians gathered. Today, the Royal Palace houses the Greek Parliament. It's Athens. Wherever you travel, seeing the precious artifacts in the big city museums first helps you better appreciate the historic sites out in the countryside. As it was in ancient times, Piraeus is still the port of Athens. Terms of Service | Privacy. These mountain fighters battled ferociously in Greece's early 19th-century War of Independence. For the uninitiated: Rick Steves is a 65-year-old travel writer, television personality and cannabis legalization and reform policy activist. If visiting by cruise ship, it's smart to get an early start. In 1843, a riotous crowd jammed this square demanding a syntagma (or "constitution"). To get the absolute most out of our Santorini day, I've booked half a day with Dimitris. There's an easy blend of work-a-day commerce, fancy yachts, and lazy tourists on island time. Donkeys rather than cars, the shady awnings of well-worn cafés, and memorable seaside views all combine to make it clear you found your Greek isle. Ancient Delphi, perched high on the slopes of Mt. Welcome aboard! Dana Morris. The Italians rebuilt it in the 20th century as an over-the-top imagining of a medieval fortress that scarcely resembles its original self — but in some ways, that makes it even more interesting to tour. People would journey here from all over the known world to seek wisdom from the gods on vital affairs of state. Whether from Spain, France, or Germany, each group built its own headquarters here to feel like home. Once again, when it was first pedestrianized merchants were upset. While we could fly or take a local ferry, this time our mode of transportation is a cruise ship. Statues from this age — around 600 BC — all had the same standard features: weight spread evenly on two feet, arms rigid at the side, stiff braided hair, almond-shape eyes, high eyebrows, and the same quirky little grins. Rick: This is a healthy diet. Penny: Correct. By Rick Steves Unlike some of Mykonos' "meat-market" destinations, Agios Ioannis beach is off the tourist radar. And hydrofoils vie with lumbering car ferries. It was the site of the oracle of Apollo, god of the sun. Its main town, also called Hydra, is home to about 90 percent of the island's 3,000 residents. It housed big bronze statues of Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, and Athena, patroness of the city. Ancient Greeks believed that this easternmost point of the Greek world, where the rising sun first kissed Greek soil, was the home of the sun god, Helios. Of its hundreds of islands, we'll visit three: Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes. Its superb harbor is surrounded by an amphitheater of rocky hills. And, for many, it's their Greek isle dream come true. Today tourists zigzag up the ancient Sacred Way to the Temple of Apollo. After the noise of Athens, Hydra's traffic-free tranquility is a delight. Rick: So people from all over the Greek-speaking world came here. Penny: There was a priestess inside the Temple and right underneath it there was this room where she was inhaling vapors evaporating from the ground. Cruising is designed for the masses, and it has its pros and cons. The king gave a balcony from this speech. The Stoa of Attalos, from the second century BC, was rebuilt in modern times to house the Agora's museum. We're sailing to three iconic Greek islands: Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes. Typical of Greek island resort beaches, it's lined with rentable lounge chairs and a strip of seafood restaurants. The black sand is a reminder of the island's volcanic origin. And recently, the city has curbed pollution, cleaned up and pedestrianized the streets, spiffed up the museums, and invested in one of Europe's better public transit systems. A fleet of taxis shuttle people to outlying hamlets and beaches. And we'll see how a cruise ship can be an efficient way to link up great island stopovers. It's the perfect companion to the Rick Steves Greece: Athens & the Peloponnese guidebook! Viewpoints here are some of the most striking in the Greek seas, as tourists clamber for just the right angle. I cap my visit by climbing to the summit of the island. And I love the way the blue and white of the townscape seems inspired by the colors of the Greek flag. Click here for more information on how to enable cookies. And those once-formidable walls now seem only to protect a fun-loving tourists' mecca and a vibrant artist's colony. As you observe the chain of islands dramatically swirling in 360 degrees, you can understand why historians believe that these Cycladic Islands got their name from the way they make a circle (or a "cycle") around this oh-so-important little island of Delos. Agora means "gathering place," but you could call this space by any of the names we typically give to the busiest part of a city — downtown, main square, forum, piazza, marketplace, commons, and so on. Assuming a sunny floating resort is what you're looking for, cruising can be both economical and efficient — especially when lacing together far-flung islands within a limited vacation schedule. We'll tour ancient ruins, then climb to the summit for a grand view, and sample Greek cuisine within splashing distance of the sea. While tourism dominates the economy, Mykonos still has a traditional charm thickly layered with white stucco, blue trim, and colorful bougainvillea. Greek Hellenistic art, like Greek Hellenistic society in general, evolved beyond the aesthetics of the Golden Age. We'll tour the must-sees of ancient Athens: the Parthenon, Agora, and amazing National Archaeological Museum. The one must-see sight outside the central tourist zone is the National Archaeological Museum. I'm Rick Steves. Its wild, mountainous landscape has hosted the interminable rise and fall of cultures which makes for fascinating sightseeing today. Colin was worried I’d be bored. I'm Rick Steves. Keeping my eye on the clock, I hop the cable car back down to the old port, where our ship's shuttle, or tender, awaits. Centuries before Christ, Delos attracted pilgrims from across the Western world. There were fine mosaics — like this one of the god Dionysus riding a panther. He let two eagles fly from the two opposite ends of the universe and this is where they met, here in Delphi. It's on an uninhabited neighboring island, a 30-minute shuttle-boat ride away. The Parthenon was perhaps the finest temple in the ancient world. And souvlaki is meat on a skewer — shish-kebab style. During the Archaic period, all the parts were there, but if it decided to walk, it would walk like a monster, stiffly with no understanding of the subtle interplay between hips and shoulders. The windy roads feel like a fairground racetrack for tourists, busy with an array of easy-to-rent vehicles. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually. During those pan-Hellenic (or "all-Greek") festivals, Delphi filled its theater, which seated 5,000. Dimitris: We had a big earthquake back in 1956, 7.8 Richter scale, destroyed very many houses like this captain's house over here, and on the other side, you can see the Venetian fortress. Lindos' beach is a broad and sandy strip, great for families. Enjoying the island with a local guide and then taking a short break to enjoy a cliffside bar — filled with happy travelers from around the world — is a reminder that even if on a cruise, you can exercise your independence and spark some great travel moments. Penny: Exactly. Greece, like all of the other Rick Steves tours, I have taken, was an excellent venture with a conscientious tour guide and congenial travel mates. 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