With rugged terrain, incredible landscapes, and some of the friendliest people on the planet, Greece is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations.
Oh, and the food…
Oh. My. GAWD. The FOOD!
It’s absolutely delicious!
Rumors, Fears, and Language Barriers
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect traveling to Greece. It’s no secret the country is going through tough economic times. Bite-sized stories of political upheaval litter the news without providing any background or context. And, there are rumors that the language barrier is impossible to navigate.
What I found is a welcoming country, home to a people who are proud of their heritage and extremely happy that you are there. Sure, it’s different from visiting sites inside the U.S., but that’s why we travel, right? If I didn’t want to experience new places and cultures, I’d just stay home… and I’d miss out on some of the best things this world has to offer.
Yes, if you are traveling alone and outside of Athens, some of the signage can be difficult to read. But, don’t worry; most road signs sport both Greek and English translations to lead the way. All of the signage at historic sites includes an English version, and the vast majority of Greeks I communicated with spoke our language excellently. Those who didn’t knew enough to help me get by. And since I don’t speak a lick of Greek, I certainly appreciated that!
How Traveling to Greece Surprised Me
What I didn’t expect was the striking topography. For most people, Greece’s beauty is an afterthought. The country is known far more for its historical sites than its landscapes. Even in it’s own country, the beauty of mainland Greece and the Peloponnese plays second fiddle to the Greek Islands.
Quite frankly, Greece is severely underrated. When thinking of beautiful places, Italy, the Swiss Alps, and even the Caribbean might come to mind. But with incredible ocean vistas, endless olive groves, and towering mountains as high and as far as the eye can see, the landscapes in Greece are second to none. In my opinion, you should come for the history and stay for the beauty. Even if history isn’t your cup of tea, traveling to Greece is worth it for the views alone.
A History Lover’s Paradise
Speaking of history, any history buff will fall in love with this place. Greece is the birthplace of Western Civilization. Art, philosophy, architecture – everything starts here. Really, the history of the Greeks is the history of all of us (well, those of us who’ve grown up in Western cultures anyway). Our culture can be traced directly to these incredibly complex and intelligent ancients who lived over two-thousand years ago.
This is something I’ve known intellectually for a long time. During my youth, I’d casually perused stories of Greek mythology. Throughout elementary school, my hometown mascot was even a Spartan. And in my college days, I was proud to call myself a “thespian,” studying how the Greeks invented modern theatre and laid the foundation for the entertainment we enjoy even today. Heck, our school even performed a rendition of Medea, complete with masks and everything. (I was in the chorus, BTW.)
I’d read a little about the ancient battles between the Greeks and Persians, the Athenians and the Spartans, and the rise of a young conqueror in the north named Alexander. Throughout most of its history, I knew that Ancient Greece was really a conglomeration of small city-states scattered across the land. It wasn’t until I actually visited Greece that I understood why.
The great thinkers and warriors aren’t the only things that shaped this country’s ancient history. Greek mythology, the city-state system, and the Ancient Greek culture are hard to truly grasp until you’ve experienced the land itself. For once I gazed at the great mountains of the Peloponnese and continental Greece, everything became clearer. More relatable. More understandable.
While it may seem foreign, the history of Greece is the history of all Westerners. That’s why I’m excited to share what I’ve learned and where I’ve been in this new series. Over the coming weeks, I hope to blend some of this land’s incredible history with the most important travel destinations I’ve visited. We’ll also talk about delicious food, where to stay, and other Greek travel tips as well.
Please enjoy, and I’d love to hear your thoughts below!