Lapped by the azure Ionian and Aegean seas, Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization. From art to science and democracy to philosophy, the accomplishments of the ancient Greeks have shaped the foundations of Western civilizations. Meanwhile, both the Greek mainland and its 6,000 islands enchant with their unique beauty, archaeological treasures and the glittering aquamarine seas that surround them.
The Splendor of Athens
"The glory that was Greece" is perhaps best symbolized by the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. This ancient structure overlooks Athens, a city full of history and mythology, worshiped by gods and by people as the center of learning, democracy, and power. Athens is considered the birthplace of Western civilization as it is the home of many scholars and philosophers of the antiquity. The most important civilization of the ancient world flourished here and its symbols can still be seen in some of the world's most recognizable sights. The crown jewel is the Acropolis, the "Sacred Rock" and its Parthenon.
Santorini, or Thera, is a tiny Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Its crescent shape almost surrounds the crater (caldera) of an ancient volcano. Santorini and its islets are pieces broken off a volcano's rim, forming a multicolored circle around a seemingly bottomless blue lagoon. The cliff-faced island is one of the most spectacular sights in the world, and entering the bay of Santorini by boat is one of the most memorable travel experiences.The Santorini sunsets, considered the best in the world, add to the unsurpassed magic of the island. They are best viewed from the caldera with the stunning background of the volcano and the neighboring islands and over the miles of black and red sand or pebbled beaches.
Atlantis - the oldest myth of mankind, the story about a prosperous land that disappeared without trace, sunk into the sea by the anger of gods - stands for the dream of the lost paradise. There is sufficient evidence to believe the connection between Santorini and the Atlantis myth. This speculation as well as Plato's description of Atlantis from 360 BCE was popularized by the History Channel's "Lost Worlds" series. According to Plato, Atlantis was a circular island inhabited by an immensely gifted, highly civilized, prosperous people. According to the legend, the island disappeared in one single night of destruction and mayhem caused by a terrible earthquake followed by a deluge.
Crete, the largest island in Greece, is one of the most popular travel and vacation destinations. This southernmost island in Europe has a variety of natural features and historically significant sites. There are mountain villages, long sandy beaches, rocky bays, the fabled remains of the Minoan culture, old Venetian towns, quaint villages tucked in the foothills and the spectacular rugged mountains, plateaus and gorges. Crete is bathed in clear sunlight much of the year, and its climate is mild and pleasant. With its supreme quality of the light and the sharp rugged mountains meeting with clear seas, Crete has a magic radiance.
Palace of Knossos
Knossos was undeniably the capital of Minoan Crete. It is grander, more complex, and more flamboyant than any of the other palaces known to us, and it is located about twenty minutes south of the modern port town of Iraklio. Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, beginning with a neolithic settlement sometime in the seventh millennium BCE, and was abandoned after its destruction in 1375 BCE which marked the end of Minoan civilization. The first palace on the low hill beside the Krairatos river was built around 1900 BCE on the ruins of previous settlements.
The Myth of King Minos
5,000 years ago, around 3,000 BCE, people living on Crete developed an illustrious civilization which left the longest lasting influence on the character of the island: the Minoan Civilization. Named after the legendary King Minos, this was the first advanced civilization to emerge in Europe. According to Greek mythology, Minos was the son of Zeus and Europa and attained the throne with the help of Poseidon. By his wife, Pasiphae, he fathered Ariadne, Androgeus, Deucalion, Phaedra, Glaucus, Catreus, Acacallis, and other children. He was the grandfather of King Idomeneus, who led the Cretans to the Trojan War.
Santorini's arid, rocky soil has always produced excellent grapes, and the local wines are among the finest in Greece. The local wineries are especially proud of their Vinsanto, a wine which is named after the island: vino santo or wine of Santorini, although some believe that the name means "holy wine". Vinsanto is naturally sweet, with an unusual aroma dominated by aging, spices, honey, raisins and the lemon flower. The traditionally sweet taste is intense but balanced with acidity. The island also produces the unique, tiny Santorini tomatoes, white eggplants and the unusually large and zesty capers.
The Good Oil
The pungent smell of wild mountain herbs and the satisfying smell of olive oil are the ones that visitors to the island never forget. Herbs and oil have been a part of life in the eastern Mediterranean since the beginning of civilization, and olive cultivation can be traced back 6,000 years. While we tend to think of olive oil as being just cooking oil, to the people of ancient civilizations it was almost inseparable from civilized life itself. It was used not only as food, but also in lamps to provide light, in tools for lubrication and for blending with herbs and essences to make fragrant oils.
Cuisine is one of the highlights of visiting Greece. The Greek Mediterranean cuisine is based on olive oil, feta cheese, seafood, vegetables, and herbs that give the Greek cuisine its unique taste. The Greek climate is ideal for the local produce, including many colorful fruit. Many regions of Greece serve traditional foods and meals that are unique to those particular regions, and cannot be found anywhere else. Some of the unique Greek dishes are: Souvlaki made with pork meat, tzatziki, tomato and onions; Mousakas made with eggplants, potatoes, mince meat and besamel sauce; Pastitsio made with pasta, ground meat, cheese and besamel sauce...