Tag: church (page 1 of 4)

Photo highlights from our trip to the Peloponnese and Hydra

Monemvasia

The fascinating fortress town of Monemvasia, where we spent three days and nights in early June

 

Amazing experience: I only need one word to describe our first-ever visit to Greece’s Peloponnese region and  Hydra island this month: Wow!

We weren’t even halfway through our holiday when we noted that the trip was shaping up as one of our best vacation experiences ever in Greece. Now that we’re back home, recalling all the places and sights we encountered and sorting through our photos,  we’ve agreed that it was our favourite trip of all. 

The Argolida and Laconia districts of the Peloponnese far exceeded our high expectations, while a spur-of-the-moment trip to Hydra impressed us immensely as well. The sights and scenery everywhere we went were simply amazing.

 

 

 

We enjoyed exhilarating views of sparkling turquoise seas and mountains extending as far as the eye could see. We roamed around charming villages and towns, visited historic archaeological sites, and walked dozens of kilometers along scenic coastal paths. We saw vast groves of olive trees, thousands of citrus trees laden with fruit, and dozens of picturesque churches, chapels and monasteries. We explored ancient castles, even spending three nights in a fortress town and swimming in the sea below its formidable stone walls. And we drank good wine and dined on delicious traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine. 

I will tell you more about our trip in detailed posts to come, but will launch my 2016 trip report with a series of photos showing some highlight sights and scenes from our travels.

Please click on the link below to view the pictures on page 2.

 

the monastery of Elona

The Monastery of Elona, which clings to the face of a cliff on Mount Parnon, was a breathtaking sight during our drive from Nafplio to Monemvasia

 

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Sky views of Santorini’s sensational cliffside scenery

 

Drone tour: Here’s a video to excite and inspire those of you who will be going to Santorini this summer — or possibly sometime in the future.

Created by NPro+ Aerial Production, the two-and-a-half minute film will take you on an exhilarating aerial tour of the western side of Santorini, renowned for the picturesque villages that cling to the peaks of rugged caldera cliffs towering nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the Aegean Sea.

Although dozens of drone videos of Santorini are available for online viewing, I particularly like NPro+’s Santorini from the Sky because it starts with a superb view of Agios Theodori, the church that has been pictured on countless Santorini postcards, posters and travel guides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instantly recognizable by its shiny blue dome and brilliant white belltower overlooking the volcano island of Nea Kameni, Agios Theodori church was the first fascinating sight we saw moments after arriving at our hotel in Firostefani village on our first visit to Santorini in 2004. The video goes on to show other remarkable scenes that amazed us throughout that holiday, including views of four clifftop villages — Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia — and beautiful Amoudi Bay below Oia. Of course, the film also shows some of the sensational sunsets for which Santorini is famous around the world.

Scenes from some of the shop-lined streets in the heart of Fira, and from a few of its many cliffside cocktail bars and cafes, also made me feel like I was right back on the island experiencing it in person all over again.

The only thing I didn’t like was the brief view of tourists riding donkeys on the path that winds down the cliff from Fira to the cruise ship tender port. Click here to read why you shouldn’t take a donkey ride if you visit Santorini.

Agios Theodori church in Firostefani

Even if you’ve never been to Santorini, you’ve probably seen Agios Theodori church — it has been pictured on scores of postcards, posters and travel guides. Located in Firostefani village, it was the first impressive sight we saw on our first visit to Santorini back in 2004. There’s a great view of the church, and the Nea Kameni volcano island (upper left), at the beginning of the Santorini from the Sky video I posted above.

A Sifnos island icon: The Church of the 7 Martyrs

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Like hundreds of other picturesque chapels in the Cyclades, the Church of the 7 Martyrs on Sifnos has a traditional Cycladic design with whitewashed walls and a shiny blue dome

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

but its startling location — perched atop a rocky peninsula pounded by powerful winds and waves — makes it one of the most memorable and impressive shrines in the region

 

Windswept wonder: We have seen hundreds if not thousands of blue-domed churches in Greece, but the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs on Sifnos easily ranks as one of the most memorable.

We got to see it during a four-day visit to Sifnos in late September 2007, and were practically blown away by the experience — and not just because the chapel is such an impressive sight. 

It was warm and sunny when we arrived at Sifnos on a Friday afternoon, but conditions changed abruptly. Within less than two hours, near gale-force winds began blowing, followed overnight by thick, dark stormclouds and periods of light rain. The gusts were so strong that rough seas forced the cancellation of ferry service for the next three days. But we didn’t let the unrelenting wind stop us from sightseeing. Occasional breaks in the cloudcover motivated us to get out and explore,  and we spent one day hiking to the villages of Artemonas, Apollonia, Kato Petali and Kastro.  

 

A breathtaking sight below Kastro village

We got our first glimpse of the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs while following a clifftop footpath that winds along the the east side of Kastro, about 90 meters above the sea. It was breathtaking to look down and suddenly see the whitewashed, blue-domed church far below, perched atop a rugged, rocky peninsula that juts into the Aegean. We saw a group of tourists making their way down a twisting, stone-paved path that leads to the church, and decided to make the trek as well.  But the blasting winds actually stopped us in our tracks a few times, and more than once nearly blew us off balance. When one particularly strong gust nearly knocked down a woman walking behind me, she and her companions turned back, saying they felt it was too dangerous to venture any further. But we plodded on, climbing down dozens of steps and then up a short hillside to reach the church.  

The wind was even worse here, but we couldn’t go inside the church to escape it because the door was locked (apparently the chapel is open only several times a year for special occasions and feast days.) It was almost impossible to hold our cameras steady to take photos, even on the south side of the building where the wind was partially blocked. In fact, the blustery conditions were so unpleasant we stayed only a couple of minutes to view the coastal scenery before making a hasty climb back to the sheltered lanes in Kastro.

Despite the inclement conditions, it was well worth braving the elements to briefly see the chapel. If anything, the wind and the surrounding whitecapped sea gave the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs even more of an exhilarating “wow” factor.

Below are several more of our own photos of the church. You can see full-size versions of them, along with 20 additional images, in my Chapel of the 7 Martyrs album on Flickr.  At the bottom of the post are two wonderful pictures of the chapel that were shot by photographers from France and Greece.

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Much of the chapel’s tremendous visual appeal stems from its location on such inhospitable coastal terrain

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Dozens of stone steps lead down the cliffside to the church

 

 Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Here’s a view of the steps from a point far down the cliff 

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

After descending dozens of steps, visitors face a short uphill climb to the chapel. A terrace that wraps around the church offers amazing views of the sea, the Sifnos coast and Kastro village, but we weren’t able to enjoy the scenery because of the high winds.

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Looking northwest along the rugged coast of Sifnos 

 

7 Martyrs Chapel on Sifnos photo by Giannis Kontos

A view of the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs in weather conditions even more severe than we experienced. This image, which has been widely circulated in social media, was captured by Sifnos photographer Giannis Kontos.

 

7 Martyrs Chapel on Sifnos photo by Charley Lataste

Another image that has been shared extensively on social media is this sunset view of the chapel, shot by photographer Charly Lataste.

 

Exploring the quiet lanes and alleys of Andros Town

a lane in Andros Town

Three curious cats watch as we approach them in a lane in Andros Town

 

During our visit to Andros at the end of May, we usually had most of Andros Town all to ourselves while walking around — we saw only a small number of residents and even fewer tourists whenever we were out and about. Although the town’s main commercial street was  bustling with people each morning and again in the evening at dinner time, it was a different story off the main strip, where we typically would encounter some cats but barely any people on side streets and lanes like the one in the photo above. For us, the quiet alleys and walkways were pure bliss — a refreshing escape from the crowds, traffic, sirens and incessant city noise that stress us out back home in downtown Toronto. In main travel season, I’m sure Andros Town is teeming with tourists and residents, but we didn’t mind finding it so empty in May.

Here are more street scenes that will give you an idea of what it’s like to stroll around Andros Town:

 

a street in Andros Town

Approaching a church near the eastern tip of Andros Town

 

the main street in Andros Town

Looking along the main street in Andros Town. Vehicles can drive on this particular block, but beyond the intersection a few doors down, the street becomes a pedestrian-only thoroughfare.

 

the main street in Andros Town

With most shops and businesses closed in late afternoon, the pedestrian section of Andros Town’s main street is empty. Stormclouds gathering overhead seemed to scare most of the tourists back to their hotels until dinner time.

 

the main street in Andros Town

A view of the main street during a busier time of day

 

the main street of Andros Town

Shops and cafes line the marble-paved street

 

a lane in Andros Town

A view down the steps leading to the island’s Museum of Contemporary Art. It was open only between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and since we were always off exploring other parts of the island during those hours, we were unable to visit the galleries. Other tourists told us that the museum’s collections and special exhibits are impressive.

 

steps in Andros Town

A steep flight of steps on the south side of Andros Town

 

a street in Andros Town

Not a soul in sight on this street, either

 

a street in Andros Town

A colourful section of street near Agios Georgios Church

 

Agios Georgios Church Andros Town

Agios Georgios Church

 

steps in a lane in Andros Town

A lane of steps in Andros Town

 

road at Nimborio Beach Andros Town

The road along Nimborio beach on the north side of Andros Town

 

a street in Andros Town

A street near Nimborio beach

 

the main square in Andros Town

The big main square in Andros Town

 

steps from Andros Town to Paraporti beach\

Looking down the long, steep flight of stairs leading to Paraporti beach …

 

steps from Paraporti beach to Andros Town

… and looking partway up the same stairs from a spot near the bottom

 

a lane in Andros Town

This lane has views of two of the most famous landmarks at Andros Town — the Tourlitis lighthouse and Agia Thalassini Church

 

 a street in Andros Town

Steps leading from Andros Town to the Nimborio beach area

 

a lane in Andros Town

A lane high above the bay on the north side of Andros Town

 

a street near Nimborio beach

A street near Nimborio beach

 

Agia Thalassini Church on Andros

A wide waterfront promenade leads to Agia Thalassini Church on the seaside

Recognize these places?

Ikaria beach scene

Rugged cliffs and dramatic rock formations rise beside a beach on Ikaria, one of Greece’s East Aegean islands

 

It’s all in Greece!: From time to time one of my blog’s Facebook friends or contacts shares a link to a fun Where is this place? photo “quiz” that a Greek-language news and information website, e-fungus.gr, first published in November 2013.

Someone posted the link on Faceback again today and I thought I’d pass it along since the photos in it are so impressive and inspiring.

Entitled “Where is this place? Gia sou Hellas!”, the article shows a series of spectacular Greek destinations that people could easily confuse for places elsewhere in the world, like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Tibet, the Ukraine, the Alps, Jordan, and Bora Bora.

There are nearly 50 images of exceptional sights and remarkable scenery, including islands, mountains, beaches, castles, churches, fields, forests, coastlines and rock formations. I like viewing the photos every now and then to get ideas for places to visit on future holidays — though to date I have managed to see just 10 of the places on this particular list. Obviously, I need to get to Greece more often!

Click here to view the article and see how many places you’ve been to yourself, or that you might recognize as destinations in Greece. As the article introduction observes, “Heaven on Earth truly exists, and it is in Hellas, which is the correct name of Greece.”

I can’t wait to get back to heaven in May!

 Metereo Greece

A Greek Orthodox monastery crowns a tall crag of sandstone in the Meteora region of central Greece , near the town of Kalambaka

An awe-inspiring Aegean Airlines video trip to some of the ‘most magical places in Greece’

 Enter Greece is a fabulous 11-minute Aegean Airlines-produced film that will give you “a taste of the most magical places in Greece!”

 Sensational scenery: If Greece isn’t already on your “bucket list” of places to visit, the Enter Greece video from the Aegean Airlines YouTube channel might well convince you to include it among your top “must see” destinations.

Even if you have been to Greece before, whether as a one-time or repeat visitor, you’ll still enjoy watching sensational cinematography of what the airline calls some of “the most magical places in Greece.”

The 11-minute film clip includes amazing views of the Athens Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, Cape Sounion, Spetses, Santorini, Mykonos, Delos, Milos, Crete, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Meteora, Monemvasia, the Corinth Canal and many more outstanding island and mainland Greece destinations.

“Travel through the blue sky and sea, the taste and history, unique landscapes, art and tradition of Greece,” the video summary states.

It delivers as promised — I developed an immense craving for Greek food and wanted to book a flight to Athens immediately after watching the video!

A church in the Naxos countryside

a church on Naxos

A dirt road leads to an impressive white church in the Naxos countryside, roughly midway between Agia Anna and Arsenios. We saw the chapel while cycling along the west coast of Naxos two weeks ago.

 

Footsteps in Filoti

Filoti village on Naxos

A view of Filoti village, captured from a video I shot while we were riding a bus on Naxos last October. Click the image to see a larger-size photo.

 

 

Filoti on foot: There are more than 30 different mountain villages on Naxos, but Filoti makes a bigger and more memorable impression than most when you approach by bus, by car or on foot.

That’s not just because Filoti is the largest village on the island, but because of its dramatic amphitheatrical layout across the lower slopes of Mount Zas, the tallest mountain in the Cyclades.

The village looks quite impressive when it first comes into view as you approach on the road from Chalki. The first time I caught a glimpse of Filoti eight years ago, I was so fascinated by the sight that I had to stop the car so I could get out and take a better look.  Seeing it for the second time last October, while walking there from Chalki, was equally as breathtaking.

 

Mountain road offers spectacular views of the village

But the village is even more spectacular to see from numerous vantage points on the road that climbs the mountainside high above Filoti en route to Apeiranthos and other hamlets to the northeast. If you’re driving a vehicle, there are a few lookout points where you can pull over and get good views of Filoti. But if you’re riding on a bus, you’ll get to see the village much better and for longer periods of time. We saw Filoti on four bus rides to and from Apeiranthos and Koronos last fall, and I was blown away by the views each time.

Although Filoti is a predominantly residential area, the road that runs through it is lined with taverna and cafés, a few shops and fruit markets, banks, a post office and various local businesses and municipal service offices. Top tourist attractions include the Panagia Filotitissa (Our Lady Filotitissa Church) and the Venetian-era Barotsi Tower, as well as a café-lined main square shaded by a giant plane tree.

 

Panagia Filotitissa  on naxos

Panagia Filotitissa, the Our Lady of Filotitissa Church in Filoti

 

 

A memorable visit to Panagia Filotitissa

Our favourite moment in Filoti occurred while we were taking photos outside Panagia Filotitissa. As I was snapping a picture of the church’s beautiful belltower, an elderly woman, dressed head-to-toe in black, quietly emerged from one of the church’s front doors and beckoned us to approach. She could speak only a few words of English, and I could understand even less of her Greek, but her gestures made it clear we were being welcomed to the church and urged to take a look inside. The interior is marvellous … if you ever get to Filoti, be sure to have a look inside the Panagia if the church is open.

There are a few photos of the church interior, along with more than 200 pictures of the town, in my Filoti Village album on the MyGreeceTravelBlog Flickr page.

Below is a video I filmed while we were walking through the village. The first minute of the clip shows the narrow lane that leads to Panagia Filotitissa, while the second half of the video shows part of a residential area we explored near the opposite end of the village. Although restaurants and shops are located along the flat (but slightly sloped) main road, the rest of the village is built on hillsides. That means you’ll have to do a lot of stair climbing if you want to wander around Filoti!

 

The first minute of this clip shows the walk to Panagia Filotitissa. The rest of the video shows some residential “streets” on the opposite side of the village.

 

Promotional videos mark a travel milestone — a full century of organized tourism in Greece

The English-narrated video Greek Tourism. An eternal journey features stunning views of some of the most beautiful and famous sights and attractions in Greece

 

 

Significant Century:  With its long and storied history, Greece has been associated with tourism for what seems like an eternity. Not surprisingly, tourism is the country’s oldest industry.

“The Greek passion for travelling, for both knowledge and adventure, began long ago with Odysseus, the paradigm of the eternal traveller; with Herodotus, the first tourist and most famous story teller; and with Pausaniuas, who wrote the first travel guide 2,000 years ago,” narrator Donald Morgan Nielson notes in the promotional video Greek Tourism: An eternal journey

The five and a half minute film features utterly splendid video photography of spectacular scenery from the Greek mainland and some of the Greek islands, and is accompanied by soaring, uplifting music by Dimitris Papadimitriou. With a script directed by Andonis Theocharis Kioukas, the video was produced by QKas Productions for the Greece National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), and has been posted on the GNTO’s Visit Greece YouTube page.

 

From 10,000 tourists in 1914 to over 17 million in 2014

The video celebrates the 100th anniversary of officially-organized tourism in Greece. Back in 1914, respected Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos founded the first national service to oversee Greek tourism. That same year, 10,000 tourists visited the country, and the numbers just kept on growing from theret. They reached record proportions last year, when more than 17 million people visited the country — an all-time high. And even though it’s still early in 2014 and the main summer tourist season hasn’t even begun, Greece appears on track for another banner year.

There was an 8.4% increases in the number of international arrivals at Greek airports in January, February and March compared to the same quarter last year, while travel officials report that summer bookings from major markets like Germany and the USA have risen substantially. And with more than 150 new airline routes operating to Athens this season, along with numerous new international direct flights to Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and other islands, Greece appears likely to top its target of 18 million visitors by the end of the year.

Frankly, I’m surprised the number of visitors isn’t considerably higher. But once more people get to view Greek Tourism: An eternal journey, I’m sure they’ll consider planning trips to see the amazing sights and attractions for themselves.

Below is a slightly shorter version of the video which will let you enjoy Dimitris Papadimitriou’s inspiring music without the narration. Turn up the volume, sit back, and enjoy the 4-minute journey to “Greece … a small piece of heaven on earth.”

 

 

 

Marvellous winter moments on Mykonos

Mykonos Island “when no one’s watching” from Andreas Bekas on Vimeo.

 

Mention Mykonos, and most people instantly imagine sun-scorched rocky hills; crescent-shaped beaches packed end-to-end with people partying under searing sunshine; throngs of tourists swarming the iconic windmills on the hill near Little Venice; gigantic cruise ships docking at both of the island’s ports; and luxurious private yachts dropping anchor in almost every bay. That’s a fairly accurate image of what the island is like during the peak travel months of July and August.

But Mykonos has a completely different look during winter when the island’s 10,000 residents have the beaches and monuments entirely to themselves. The hillsides are verdant with winter flowers and greenery; the quiet beaches are empty of people, lounge chairs and umbrellas; and there’s nary a soul to be seen near the windmills or on the seaside at Little Venice.

 

Spectacular video by Andreas Bekas

In his spectacular time-lapse video Mykonos Island: When no one’s watching, photographer Andreas Bekas captures the Mykonos landscape in moments of peace, quiet, solitude and colour that few tourists ever get to see.

The 2.5-minute video opens with striking sunrise views of the Agios Iakovos chapel near Agios Sostis (which I profiled in a June 10 2013 post), and features scenes including: the five windmills at Alefkandra; the Armenistis lighthouse; the Bonis windmill on the hill above Mykonos Town; vast expanses of green countryside; the blissfully empty beaches at Paraga, Kalfatis and Panormos; the remarkable Paraportiani Church; and a moody view of the Little Venice seafront. The clip concludes with an aerial view of an eerily quiet Mykonos Town and harbourfront at sunset; a star-filled sky above a rustic dovecoat; and tall green grass rustling in wind.

Makes me wish I could take a winter trip to Mykonos!

 

Sunset glow on a Patmos chapel

a chapel on Patmos

A private chapel at Sapsila Bay catches the warm glow of the evening sun

 

 

A little white church in the valley below Lagada

Stormclouds pass above Lagada village and a little white church on Amorgos island

Dark grey stormclouds swirl above Lagada village as a spring storm moves across Amorgos. Although the weather looked bleak the morning we arrived on the island, the clouds cleared away during the afternoon and left us with sunny skies for the rest of our visit. Click the image to view a full-size photo.

 

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