Visiting The Palace of Knossos on Crete, Greece

Guest Post By: Maria Papadopoulou


Guest Post By: Maria Papadopoulou

An April night several years ago, I took the overnight ferry from Athens to Crete in order to explore the Palace of Knossos, well-known as the heart of the ancient Minoan civilization. This is a trip I always wanted to take, and I was very happy I was finally able to do so.

 I stayed at Hotel Castro, a very nice hotel, very close to the town center, ideal to explore the archeological sites in Heraklion.

Knossos Palace at Crete Island in GreeceThe Palace of Knossos is only five kilometers southeast of Heraklion, the capital of Crete. I took a bus from the town center to get to the Palace, it took approximately 20 minutes. I chose to take a private tour that lasted about 2 hours (the cost was only $10) because as a detail-oriented person, I wanted to be informed as much as possible. A good alternative if you don’t want to take a private tour is the informative guide book that you can purchase in the entrance, which costs almost the same as the tour. The ticket costs only $3 and you can stay up to 3 hours to admire every little detail.

Also well-known as the Minoan Palace, Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archeological site on the island of Crete. Spanning six acres, it was built between 1700 and 1400 BC and boasts 1,300 rooms in an impressive labyrinthine layout. It was destroyed by fire in 1350 BC, and was never inhabited after that; however, the environs of the palace were beautifully transformed into a sacred grove of Goddess Rhea. In 1900, it was restored by Arthur Evans, with a technique called concrete.

The palace is remarkably well preserved, with several buildings still intact. Various urns dot the vast complex, giving a feel of what life was all about those centuries ago. The walls are covered in beautiful murals and the famous bull horns, well-known as the symbol of Knossos, are apparent everywhere. Most of the exquisite photos that are exhibited are replicas, as the originals are kept in a museum.

What impressed me the most was learning how the Palace was built, with 2 floors built underground and 3 floors built above ground, as well as the story about Athenians being forced to deliver seven youths and seven maidens to the Minotaur, as prey to his labyrinth, every 9 years. One year, Prince Theseus volunteered to be one of the seven youths, in an attempt to kill the Minotaur and end the senseless tragedy. He was successful and managed to escape from the labyrinth with the help of Ariadne, Minoa’s daughter. Unfortunately, he forgot to replace the ship’s black sails with the white ones that were the symbol of his success, and as a result, everyone thought he had failed. Seeing the black sails, King Aegean committed suicide by jumping into the sea that was later named after him.

If you are looking for a chance to be educated during your Greece vacation, the Palace of Knossos in Crete is the perfect place.

Guest Post By: Maria Papadopoulou


One Of My Favorite Islands, Symi Greece

Guest Post By: Maria Papadopoulou

One of my favorite islands to visit during summer months is Symi, Greece. Accessible by ferries from Piraeus Port in Athens, as well as the Port in Rhodes, Symi is part of the Dodecanese island chain.  Because Symi is inhabited by only 3,000 people, it is the ideal place for quiet, quality time alone, as well as romantic getaways for couples. The romantic horse drawn carriage that is offered will certainly be highly appreciated by all couples!

The Knights of Saint John Kastro and the Church of Megali Panagia are magical places that visitors should definitely not miss at the little town of  Herio, in Symi.  Symi Island, Greece

The famous monastery of Moni Tahiarxou Mihail Panommiti, famous for its miracles, was built during the 18h century and provides plenty of iconography of Saint Michael, who is said to have appeared there. It is important to note that tourists are not allowed to take photos in the monastery though, except on special occasions, and even then, without flash.  Furthermore, as there are strict clothing rules, tourists should know that T-shirts, mini dresses and mini skirts are now allowed inside the monastery.  If shoulders and knees are not covered, tourists will be offered scarfs and jackets to wear before entering.

I love shopping beautiful sea sponges from the tourist shops both for me and for friends. What makes those sea sponges so special is that they are brought up from the sea by local divers as well as the fact that they are incredibly soft!  Olive oil products of high quality are also offered in a big variety in the tourist shops.

As the bay offers a magnificent view, it is recommended to enjoy a nice cup of Greek coffee at one of the lovely cafes nearby.  Several of the houses in Symi carry an Italian architectural style, which creates a mysterious and noir atmosphere, another thing that couples visiting Symi will definitely enjoy tremendously.


Seafood lovers will especially enjoy the exceptional seafood offered in Symi. One of the specialties is the famous ‘’Symiaco Garidaki’’, little shrimps that are offered as appetizers.  Octopus, my personal favorite, is a great choice both as an appetizer and as main course.


One of the cleanest and less crowded beaches in Symi is Nos beach. Because of its location, Nos beach is protected from strong winds and as it offers mild temperatures, it can be visited even during the fall.  Pedi beach  is recommended for those who want to visit Emborio, Nanou and Marathoundas via motor boats, as well as for those who love water sports.

Loners and couples who want privacy need to search no more. Symi, Greece, is the ideal travel destination for them.

Maria Papadopoulou  is a freelance writer at as well as a translator and a proofreader.


Athens:From Panic To Peace

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

On the afternoon of my first day in Athens, we visited the Acropolis. Up there above the city, the warm wind whips around you and Athens is laid at your feet like a present from the ancients. On the ruins themselves a park employee sat eating her lunch; staring into space with a bored expression. For a moment I tried to imagine I had her life: one so filled with excitement that sitting on the ruins of the Acropolis bored me, but I couldn’t imagine it.

Athens, GreeceI had been blown away by Athens since the wild taxi ride that gave me my first glimpse of the city around 4a.m. that morning. Red lights had no meaning to our driver. Red, Yellow, Green, no matter… He would just lay on the horn and the gas simultaneously and keep on going.

This is a different airport experience than someone headed to Athens today would likely have since my first trip to Athens was before the most recent Olympics, so their clean and shiny new airport and simple public transportation system was in the future. Instead our plane arrived on the dark deserted tarmac and had a set of stairs rolled up to us, just like in some movie from the fifties.

When we did enter the airport itself, it was completely empty except for the passengers of our flight. No restaurant was open; no postcard shop. I was definitely starting to get a bit nervous that we may have to stay there until morning when I saw the line of cars painted taxi yellow through the Baggage Claim doors.

We went out to the 1st car in the line and told him the name of our hotel but not much else and like taxi drivers everywhere he assured us he knew exactly where we were going- then! It wasn’t until we started hurtling down streets like one of us was in labor and the hospital was on the other side of town, that he mentioned he actually hadn’t heard of the place, but at that point wouldn’t stop to let us get the paperwork out of our luggage.

Still in a short time we and way too much luggage showed up at our hotel. After a brief argument with the desk clerk we were able to convince him that we were willing to pay for the whole night even though we arrived at 4:45am. It took a few trips in the tiny elevator to get us and all our bags upstairs to a room that looked nothing like the pictures online had.

Ancient Temple Of Zeus, Athens, GreeceI knew I was near a panic. I had been traveling for at 38 hours and I was in a hotel in a country I knew nothing about, as far away from the world I knew as I had ever been. I walked across the room, opened the bamboo doors and stepped out onto the balcony. The view took my breath away. There in front of me lit only by moonlight was the Temple of Zeus. All the panic slid away and I felt a sense of peace, I had arrived. I took a few moments every night to examine that view no matter how late I came in and it always gave me that same sense of wonder. And this was only minor ruins. So how I could I ever be bored by the Acropolis?

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly



Dreaming of A Life In Santorini, Greece

Santorini Island, GreeceGuest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

I spent less than 12 hours on Santorini and yet it still feels as though it is a place burned into my soul. From the moment I stepped off the launch I thought to myself ‘I could live here’. There was some sense of coming home as though it was where I was supposed to be. Of course, that may have had something to do with the fact I didn’t have to take a mule up or walk the 580 steps from the harbor where the ships usually drop visitors. Since I was going to Akrotiri the archeological site some say might be the mythical Atlantis.  I was dropped off elsewhere on the island and was whisked onto an air conditioned bus.

Santorini and all the Greek Islands are home to some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen. The bright blue domes on the white churches and other buildings make them appear at once stark while still exuding a sense of calm. I’ve tried to find out how many churches there are on Santorini, but the closest I can come is that it’s been said there are more churches on Santorini than there are days of the year. I also read somewhere that some of the churches are only opened on the Saint’s feast day.

It’s possible my original desire to visit Santorini was based on nothing more than the Disney movie the Moonspinners and later the book of the same name by Mary Stewart although of course the book came first, just not to me.  The stories made Santorini   seem like a place of mystery to me. A place where excitement happened and dreams could come true even if, like me, you had no idea what your dream was

Church in Oia Santorini, GreeceBack then and I must admit age hasn’t made me any more realistic; I longed to live on the island. Just to set up a home and to see what life is like there. Maybe that’s just the dreamer talking, but I like and admirer the dreamer in me who believes in what she wants rather than finding a million reasons why it wouldn’t work. Oh to give the dreamer free rein and hold back the worrier for once.
To go back to beautiful Santorini and get a home for six months. Something cheap but hopefully still with a view of the caldera and spend my days traipsing back and forth across the island counting and taking pictures of all those churches.  Finding out why and when they were built, what was their history, how could such a small island support so many churches?    When did they stop being needed these churches what about the Saint were they named to honor?

I promise myself this one day. I will take that journey. Of course the worrier insists that would be a huge mistake. Still what would life be like if the dreamer ruled and the worrier only handled things like online banking? I think it may be just about time for me to find out.

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly


An Outdoor Movie in Athens

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

I would probably have never seen Gladiator; it just wasn’t my kind of movie. But there I sat, with an occasional glance up at the Acropolis, watching a movie about the ancient Roman Empire. I heard a dog bark in the background and then a few neighbors in the surrounding buildings squabbled with each other over what sounded to be longstanding grievances.

Acropolis of Athens GreeceOther tenants leaned out of the windows in said buildings, for a chance to see the latest movie for free. Assuming they could speak English or read subtitles at 35 feet. I found myself planning my new life as a tenant of one of the buildings and a waitress at Cine Paris. Then the lights of the night Acropolis distracted me and yet another major life change based on a travel whim was forgotten.

The evening air was warm, but not hot. The sweltering heat of earlier in the day had given way to the temperature of a well heated swimming pool. Holding a sweater I didn’t need, since that’s what I do, I sat next to my friends on the un-movie theater like seats of Cine Paris. Every few feet there was a table for the refreshments they served along with the movie. Having just eaten way more than I should have I didn’t even glance at the refreshment offerings.

It is a little known fact, or at least was little known to me, that in Greece a movie shown in a theater will likely be shown in it’s native language with Greek subtitles instead of translated into Greek. This is also done on TV which was a Godsend to me when I arrived at 4am after 28 hours of travel feeling hungry and unbelievably homesick. Let me tell you, nothing fixes that right up like back to back episodes of Cheers.

As I settled back into my seat to watch the movie, I took a moment to let it all sink in. I was in Athens, in Greece! About to watch Gladiator, which was a story about something that had taken place for real, not that far from where I was. I wanted to make a memory, so I closed my eyes, felt the warm air and listed to the voices around me. Mostly though, I just though about how amazing it all was and how incredible it felt to just be there.

There are truly lots of things to do in Athens, even at night. There are restaurants and shopping and of course the bar or club scene. Still I’m of the opinion that a bar or a club tends to be mostly the same everywhere; loud music, people on the prowl.  So when I had the opportunity to visit Cine Paris in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens I jumped at it. After all isn’t the whole point of travel to have a new experience you couldn’t have anywhere else. And the best part of all was that this was only the beginning.

If you want to find out more about Cine Paris, which was built in the early 20’s by a Greek hairdresser who had spent some time in Paris, thus the name.  You can visit their website at

This is located in the Plaka shopping area and you can find info on that area here


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