Friday, July 31, 2009

Greece: Cinema

Sit back and enjoy the show... But you have to make your own pop-corn.

1906 is considered the birth year of Greek cinema. It is best symbolized as when Macedonia was being filmed by the Manakia brothers, John and Mitiades. One year later the first theatre of Athens opened.

Comedy was one of the first genres to attempt the big screen. Comedic short movies produced by Spiros Dimitrakopoulos, for example, were popular from 1910-1911. Eventually, in 1914 the Asty Film Company was founded and the production of long films began. Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, four major film companies – Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO and Columbia had actual studios up and running; as did several minor companies and rental studios.

Golfo, a well known traditional love story, was the first Greek movie of feature length. Several years later in the 1930’s, Olympic Film made its first speaking movie in which the music had to be played by gramophone behind the screen. The movie was called The Loving Shepherdess and it was one of the most famous early movies in Greek cinema. Stella and Zorba the Greek both directed by Michael Cacoyannis by are also famous movies from Greek cinema that came out in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Flash forward to 1999 where two TV series writers made the sexy comedy Safe Sex. Acted out by famous actors, this movie proved to be the most successful movie of the later year. It was considered the movie that signaled a return of the Golden Age of Greek cinema. The movie was then translated into many languages.

Today, many movies relating to Greek culture are Americanized versions of Greece. For example: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Much of Greek cinema is often only shown in Greece.

What is your favorite Greek movie? Americanized or otherwise!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Greece: Olympian and Titan Gods

Greek Mythology is full of awesome stories that have been passed down from the ages. Let’s look at some really cool stories.

Olympian Gods


ATHENE (or Athena) was the great Olympian goddess of wise counsel, war, the defense of towns, heroic endeavor, weaving, pottery and other crafts. She was depicted crowned with a crested helm, armed with shield and spear, and wearing the snake-trimmed aegis cloak wrapped around her breast and arm, adorned with the monstrous head of the Gorgon.

ZEUS was the king of the gods, the god of sky and weather, law, order and fate. He was depicted as a regal man, mature with sturdy figure and dark beard. His usual attributes were a lightning bolt, royal scepter and eagle.

Titan God


ATLAS was one of the second-generation Titans. He personified the quality of endurance (atlaô). In one tradition, Atlas led the Titans in a rebellion against Zeus and was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders. In another, he was said to have been appointed guardian of the pillars which held earth and sky asunder. He was also the god who instructed mankind in the art of astronomy, a tool which was used by sailors in navigation and farmers in measuring the seasons. These roles were often combined and Atlas becomes the god who turns the heaven on their axis, causing the stars to revolve.

If you would like to know more? You can spend a rainy afternoon learning all about Greek Mythology here. Try it, because it is very exciting.

Who is your favorite Greek Mythological god, spirit, or creature?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Greece: A Letter From Maria

Below is an article submitted to us by a true expert on Greece, from Greece, Maria Athanasopoulou !

Why would somebody want to have vacations in Greece?

To visit the New Acropolis Museum and understand better the universal claim of the people who know and respect history to return The Marbles of Parthenon home.

To visit also Ancient Olympia, the Epidauros Theatre, Delphi, Knossos, Mycenes, Ancient Pella and Vergina and the Temple of Apollo Epicureus at Phygaleia (near Andritsena).

To walk on eternal crossroads of culture and civilization

To see many and interesting museums

To observe the deep blue of the Aegean Sea and bring peace and serenity to his soul.

To swim in fabulus seas, whose water shines under the glorious sunshine.

To taste authentic traditional cooking recipes and realise that the Mediterranean way of nutrition offers health and … much of taste!

To see with his own eyes the Greeks, who have learned to enjoy each day the joy of life.

To enjoy the dew of the Ionian Sea, diving in it’s green water.

To see unique locations, like the Santorini’s Volkano, the Elafonissos of Laconia, the forest of Sigri in Lesvos,.which trees have tumed in to stone, Mani, Nafplio, the extraordinary landscape of Melos, the old city of Rhodes, the famous Kerkira (Corfu) and Paleochora beach at Crete.

To see beautiful places, even if decides not to go to any of the above places, but to explore…

To see mount Olympus, the mountain which was “carrying” the 12 ancient greek Gods.

To know how is for somebody to live at a place where people still look in the eye
and tell “goodmorning”.

To remember, even for a few days, that a human being doesn’t need much to feel happy. A beautiful landscape which you share with people who you love, is able to make you realise the true meaning of life!

Thanks Maria! What a wonderful and refreshing view. Thank you to Katerina Magounaki & Artemis for the beautiful pictures.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Greece: Best Kept Secrets

Due to the rich and lengthy cultural history of Greece, there are bound to be MANY amazing secrets. We filtered through many of them and with the help of some new found Greek friends, we narrowed it down! Check it out!

Folegandros: A small island of Greece located in the south west edge of the Cyclade Islands. This 12 square foot, rugged island is like a dot in the Aegean Sea. Barely populated with 600 people inhabiting the island, this little piece of heaven is the island to be if you are looking for quiet romance, peace and spectacular scenery.

Folegandros used to be a place of exile. It was considered the Aegean Alcatraz. The small missed the tourism boom, but couldn’t be happier. The town is picturesque consisting of the traditional picture we form in our heads when we think of Greece; the tall cliff housing in blue and white. No building is greater than two stories high. The island only contains one taxi and one bus as forms of public transportation. Every sign in the town is hand painted as well! There is something to be said for a quiet society.

It is not easy to get to this little secluded island. Supplies are brought to the island by boat from Athens. One of the only islands that brings passengers to Folegandros is Santorini. There is no real schedule for the ferry headed to Folegandros so don’t expect to follow the schedule or expect the ferry to leave on days it is suppose to leave. At least you know when you get there you truly will be on an exclusive island!

Some activities you must look into are cave exploration by row boat. Snorkeling around the open cave area is beautiful. The best beaches in Foleganros are Agios Nikolaos and Angali. Additionally, the sunrise is something that must not be missed. One Folegandros local said "One thousand sunsets equals one of our sunrises”. You should watch the sunset over the Panaghia Church which is at the highest peak of the island. The local was also quoted as saying, “When you see the sun over Panaghia Church, you will not need to recharge your batteries for the next twenty years."

Corfu: Corfu is also known as Kerkya and is said to be the greenest and most beautiful island in the country of Greece, if not the world. The eastern side of the island has long beaches and bays while the western side of the island is drastically different as it is steep and rocky with deep coves and beaches.

Corfu has a few secluded beaches but can be very touristy during travel season. There are plenty of spots to relax and a lot of night life for those who are looking for entertainment.

The weather is ideal for outdoor water sports and other beach activities. Rocky coves are ideal for great snorkeling and scuba diving. In the summer, the weather is dry, sunny and warm. It can be cool at night so bringing a light sweater is recommended. The weather is very different from other regions of Greece as it tends to be cooler. The winter months are actually rainy and humid; quite mild.

Corfu has a lot of vegetation due to the rainy winter months and its olives growing season lasts much longer than anywhere else is Greece. The Mediterranean island has 3 million olive trees!

Do you have a secret to share with us about Greece?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Greece: recipes

When experiencing Greek culture, it is hard to pass up on the food. Some Greek recipes can have lots of ingredients and directions; however these recipes are for anyone who wants to take a try at some great food! Here are some recipes so you can experience the beautiful array of Greek culture without leaving your home!

These are always served before a meal, and are generally more salty and spicy to bring more appetite.

Potato balls from Lesvos

1 kg potatoes, boiled and pureed
4 - 5 eggs
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1, 5 cup grated dried mitzithra cheese
Olive oil for frying

Mix in a bowl the mashed potatoes with the eggs. See how tight the mixture is. If it becomes to watery do not add all the eggs. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Use plenty of parsley. Work the mixture with your hands and shape it into small round balls. Coat them with flour and fry on all sides until golden brown. Do not burn the oil because this way the potato balls might burn on the outside and remain uncooked on the inside. When ready remove from frying pan place them on a platter on top of an absorbent paper and serve.

Main Course
Greeks mostly consume pork and lamb for their main course. The picture below is Souvlaki with fried garlic bread and lemons. You can also use the meat with pita bread, tomatoes, and onions.


1.5 kg tender pork or beef
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon thyme
Salt and pepper

Rinse the meat and bone and clear it of any hard gristle or muscle or fat. Cube it in large portions (approximately 2 cm x 5 cm x 5 cm), season it and thread it on skewers. Pour the olive oil over the meat.
You can cook them under a hot grill for about 3 minutes on each side, basting them often and turning them once. The best results are achieved by barbecuing on charcoal. They take a little longer to cook, about 15 minutes, depending on the strength of the fire, but it's worth it!
Before serving, pour the lemon juice over the cooked meat. Enjoy, and be sure to save room for Dessert!!


Baklava Rolls

1/2 lb Walnuts, finely chopped
2 1/2 tb Sugar
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/8 ts Ground Cloves
1 lb phyllo Dough
3/4 lb Unsalted Butter, melted

1 1/2 c Water
1 cinnamon Stick
1 1/2 c Sugar
2 ts lemon Juice
1/2 c Honey

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves together for filling. Combine syrup ingredients and cook until sugar dissolves and mixture turns the consistency of syrup. Set aside to cool. Remove cinnamon stick before using.

Unfold phyllo. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut phyllo sheets crosswise, into thirds. Cover phyllo not being used with a barely damp towel. Using two pieces of phyllo - phyllo sheets are so thin they must be doubled - and keeping narrow ends towards you, brush with butter. Place 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons filling 1/4 inch from end nearest you, to within 1/4 inch of sides. Fold long sides in 1/4 inch. Fold over bottom to cover filling. Place a clean pencil on top of fold and roll into a cigar-like cylinder. Push both ends toward center and remove pencil. Place roll on cookie sheet and generously brush with butter. Repeat with remaining filling and phyllo. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Dip hot rolls into cooled syrup - kitchen tongs work well for this. Place onto a platter to cool. Cover and refrigerate. It can be frozen.

What's your favorite Greek Dish? Do you have a preference out of these three? How about a recipe to share?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Greece: How to get around

Kalos eerthate (Welcome) to Greece! Now let’s find a way to get around…

Car- Renting a car is an easy and inexpensive way for tourists to get around within the country. Rental car pricing can range anywhere from $100-$200/week. Thankfully Greeks drive on the right hand side of the road, so it won't be too much of a learning curve for us westerners. Greece has a high accident rate so buckling up is a must!

Moped- Moped rentals are the most popular way for visitors to get around. It can cost as little as 10E/day. A driver’s license is necessary to rent and drive a moped. Some rental places require tourists to leave their passport as collateral to make sure they get the moped back. However, we suggest finding a way to get around leaving your passport with someone you just met. It is never a good idea to leave your passport with a foreign person you do not know in a foreign country.

Bus- The intercity bus system is very efficient and can get you almost anywhere on the mainland of Greece if you plan your route correctly.

Ferries and Boats- The best way to get to the islands of Greece is via ferry; although, some people choose to take a connecting flight into their island which can be quicker. A boat called the “flying dolphin” can get you to your island very quickly and efficiently, however, you lose the charm of seafaring that you get while riding the ferries.

Airplanes- Greece has 16 international airports, but only Athens and Thessaloniki receive regular international flights. The Greek carrier plane Olympic Airways is the major airline in Greece.

Metro- The metro in Athens is relatively newly built and said to be the most beautiful system in the world. Reviewers of the metro claim it is easy, clean and has a fairly extensive service. Reviewers also agreed the system was extremely beautiful and well kept.

Taxi- One of the best ways to get around within Greece is by foot, however, the taxi system is another form of transportation. In Athens and other large cities, taxis are very hard to flag down. They only pick up passengers who are headed in their general direction even though this is illegal. Don’t waste your time or effort arguing with how the taxi system works. Also, be aware that taxis will keep picking up passengers until the cab is full. If there is an extra seat, you might have company coming! All passengers only pay for their fare so take note of the meter when entering a taxi that currently has other travellers riding. Don’t expect to leave a tip.

When you flag down a taxi, raise your arm in the direction you are heading and stare the driver in the eyes until he stops. Make sure you get in the cab before telling the driver your destination. Don’t make the mistake of telling him your destination before you enter the cab as he may decide taking you to your requested destination is not worth it.

Smaller towns have specific taxi stations so you must go to the station to pick up a cab. The cabs in these small towns do not have taxis floating around looking to pick up travelers.

Donkeys- Donkeys are used on many islands for rides or for taking tourists on strolls around town. In Santorini you can climb up the town from the harbor by donkey. Small Islands often use donkeys as their main mode of transportation as they are efficient on steep, narrow streets.

However you decide to get around Greece, just know the main forms of transportation in the areas you are thinking of traveling. Knowledge is power and knowing is half the battle of travel bloopers!

Speak with your Passport Health travel medicine specialist during your travel consultation about the safety risks for the area to which you are planning to travel. The nurse may have some valuable, updated information that could affect your transportation plans. Additionally, pick up a phrase book. It could really help you communicate better with the local transportation providers and give you a smoother ride.

What do you suggest is the best mode of transportation in Greece? What advice can you give future travelers in terms of planning their trip regarding transportation?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Greece: Staying Long Term

Attention: Males of Greek heritage between the ages of 20 and 45

In addition to being subject to all Greek laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Greek citizens. Greek males between the ages of 20 and 45 are required by Greek law to perform military service. This applies to any individual whom the Greek authorities consider to be Greek, regardless of whether or not the individual considers himself Greek, has foreign citizenship and passport, or was born or lives outside of Greece.

If remaining in Greece for more than the 90-day period permitted for tourism or business, men of Greek descent may be prevented from leaving Greece until they have completed their military obligations. Generally, obligatory non-voluntary military service in Greece will not affect US citizenship. Specific questions on this subject should be addressed to the citizenship section of the US Embassy in Athens. For additional information, see our information on Citizenship and Nationality. For additional information regarding military service requirements, contact the nearest Greek embassy.

This kind of knowledge is completely necessary to have before going to any country. There are laws that may be very different than the United States, so it pays to know this kind of information. The more you know, the better, and at Passport Health you will receive this very knowledge to make sure you stay safe and nothing unfortunate happens.

According to, all electronic games are banned. The reasoning is that it was an attempt to stop illegal gambling. All games were banned because the government could not distinguish between harmless Internet chess and other games it deemed illegal.

Have you ever traveled to a country and realized there was a weird law that you had no idea of?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Greece: Food

Greek food has historical influences of other countries from its long cultural past. The food is typically Mediterranean cuisine using olive oil, vegetables, herbs, grains and breads, wine, fish and meats.

Typical ingredients include lamb, pork, olives, cheeses, eggplant, zucchini and yogurt (tzatziki). Feta cheese in particular is what most people think of when they recall Greek or Mediterranean cuisine, especially the popular Greek salad. Souvlaki (kebabs) are another popular way of eating food. Greeks have long loved skewering their meats. Gyros and pitas are also among the well known foods of Greece.

Moussaka is a traditional Greek dish. The bottom layer consists of eggplant slices sautéed in olive oil. The middle layer is comprised of chopped up lamb bits mixed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and spices. The top layer is a white sauce or egg custard. Each layer is cooked individually and laid in a lightly buttered pan and baked until the top layer turns brown. As with many recipes, there are always changes dependent upon the chef's or consumers' desires so you may find that everyone makes this dish a little differently.

Other traditional Greek cuisine includes: giouvarlakia (meatballs with rice in a white egg and lemon sauce), many meat dishes made with lamb, pork and veal, and spaghetti bolognese. Fish dishes are extremely popular along the coast and on the islands.

Greek food uses a lot of sweet spices such as cinnamon and citrus flavors. Desserts are mostly nut and honey based with the honey coming from fruit nectar such as a lemon, orange, pine or thyme tree.

What is your favorite Greek food? We are not opposed to anyone sharing their recipe with us! ☺

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Greece: A local's perspective

If you are a couple trying to escape the touristy spots in Greece, here are some places to “get away”. These places are suggested by a wonderful local named Sufidreamer, from Sparti, Greece, so it may be good to listen to what he has to say. A lot of tourist traps can cost lots of money, and you may not get the feel of Greece that you want.

Visit the Peloponnese Peninsula where there are quiet fishing villages and white beaches full of rich history and vibrant culture. These are the top five places that you can visit to fill your heart and soul with an everlasting peace.

The Mani-
The Mani Peninsula is the central “digit” hanging down from the Peloponnese. Maniot villages are walled citadels with mountain sides and tower houses that were built in medieval times. Tourists like Mani, however there are ways to be alone. Try to stay away from Stoupa and you are likely to find open beaches for some privacy. Try and visit Kardamyli which is a beautiful quiet fishing village.

Once the port of Ancient Sparta, Gythio is never too crowded. Visit Marathonisi islet for a great view and fresh sea-food. South of Gythio is the Diros caverns, where you will be ferried through a stunning picturesque waterway underground. The Diros bay is close by where you can enjoy a tranquil swim in the blue waters of the bay.

The top of the islet is covered with the ruins of a Byzantine castle and some amazing Orthodox churches to see. There are coarse cobbled streets you can walk through, and there are plenty of shops and tavernas to visit as well.

In the northern mountains is the village of Trikala. In the summer months there is a crisp and cool climate, and in the winter it is a great place to ski and snowboard. The name of this village means “Three Goods”, referring to the pure water, clean air, and breathtaking scenery. You can go hiking in the countryside and check out the stars during night time to receive a view that you will never forget.

There are three castles and astonishing architecture in Nafplio. If you want to get a historical feel of Greece, this may be the place to visit. There is the Evidavros Theatre that has regular performances in Ancient Greek.

These are some wonderful suggestions, and sometimes it is hard to make a decision on where to go. Which place would you prefer to go?

Thanks again Sufidreamer!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Greece: Hotels and Hostels

Let’s talk accommodations:

Classical King George Palace- Just walking distance from all the major attractions, this fairly, reasonably priced 5 star hotel includes a spa, gym, health facilities, restaurants with bars and lounges, airport transportation, internet access, DVD players, satellite TVs and fireplaces in the rooms. You’ll live like a king!

Hotel Grande Bretagne- Another 5 star hotel with incredible butler service known to dry your shoes after being in the rain! This hotel includes: a spa, health club, gym, beauty treatments, rooftop pool and ground swimming pool, internet access, mini bar and business center. Known as the height of luxury, it’s possible you might run into a celebrity. After all, in addition to its great amenities, the location isn’t bad either; and by that I mean the views are incredible!

Athenstyle Hostel- This hostel is known as Europe’s most famous hostel! Receiving rave reviews by its guests, it just opened in June 2008. It is home to a rooftop bar deck with a view of the Acropolis that is loved by all backpacking guests. Private rooms include a kitchenette and balcony with Acropolis views. Breakfast is included as are gaming on the pool table, internet access and lockers.

El Greco- This 4 star hotel is located in the capital town of Fira. Its beaches are nearest to the largest beach in Santorini, Periss, and the black sand beaches of Kamari. Satellite TV, 2 outdoor pools, internet access, babysitting upon request, pool bar, Jacuzzi and a buffet breakfast make this hotel family friendly yet private. A doctor is always on call at this very affordable and elegant hotel which also has close proximity to restaurants, nightlife and shops. It is home to a spa, saunas and 24 hour reception!

Porto Fira- This 4 star resort was built in the 14th century and is a Venetian Mansion located in the most exclusive part of Santorini. Perched on a cliff, this hotel has panoramic views of the spectacular bay of Fira. Just minutes from the main city where shops, cafes, restaurants and nightlife are found, it welcomes guests with its exquisite décor which includes marble bathrooms, private terraces, a lagoon pool, beach access, snack bar, pool bar, Jacuzzi, top notch restaurants and satellite TV.

Pension George- Recommended by 6 independent travel guides, this hostel is well known for it’s incredibly, friendly staff. Reviewers rated this hostel a 10! The nightly rate is extremely affordable with free airport transportation, clean, big rooms, and short walking distance to the beach, capital and shops and restaurants. This hostel earns a 10 from Passport Health as well!

Aldemar Royal Mare and Village- Welcome gift included, this hotel offers 6 restaurants on site, nearby bars, lounges and nightlife, satellite TV and internet access. In addition to the amenities, tours, babysitting services and water sports are offered as well. Turkish baths, spas, gym facilities and saunas are also part of what makes this hotel a luxury hotel.

Casa Delfino- A Veneitian Mansion turned hotel located in the heart of the old city just steps from the Venetian Harbor. This old Mansion includes a buffet breakfast, satellite TV, DVD players, mini bar and safes in every room. Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry, this hotel is affordable if you budget correctly!

Youth Hostel Plakias- The southern most hostel in Europe, The Plakias is more appropriate for relaxing. Chris, the hostel host, is raved by guests as being “amazing”. With an open terrace, internet access, clean rooms, library of books and music and a location minutes from the nightlife, it’s no wonder Lonely Planet called this hostel “excellent”.

Is there a favorite hotel or hostel in Greece you loved that we and other bloggers should know about? Don’t keep it a secret, let us know!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Greece: Currency

Euro has been the official currency of Greece since January 1st 2002. Greece is one of the 12 members of the Economic Monetary Union (EMU), which introduced Euro as their common currency (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain).

Tourists can obtain Euros, or exchange their home currency with Euro through any bank, ATM machines or exchange offices. You can check the current exchange rate here, but be sure to check back closer to your departure date because the rates can change often. Most American ATM and credit cards will work fine in Greece, however most American banks will charge a conversion fee for each transaction and those can get pretty pricey after a few transactions. Travelers' cheques may be the way to go!

Do you think it would be easier for travel and international businesses if all countries converted to the Euro? Why or why not?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Greece: Language

The Greek language is a beautiful language that has been in some of the greatest stories, poetry, plays, history writing, and philosophical dialogues. Over 15 million people speak the official Greek language. According to the CDC 99% of citizens of Greece speak Greek. When visiting Greece, it may be a good idea to learn a few phrases. There is a website that is trying to promote the Greek language, and the information they have provided is greatly appreciated.

When walking around in Greece
Excuse me -- Signomi
Thank you -- Efharisto (in a restaurant or café thank you is better: Efharistoomay)
Do you speak English? -- Milatay Ag-glika? Spanish? Hispanika
How far is it? -- Posso makria eenay?
Excuse me, where is…? -- Signomi, poo eenay…?

If you are at a restaurant:
How much is this? -- Posso Kanay Afto?
Do you have a toilet? -- Eheeyete Too-aletta?
Can we see a menu? – Boroomay na doomay enna menoo?
Can we pay the bill? – Booroomay na plirosoomay?
Too expensive – Polee akrivo
For me – Ya menna
That’s fine – Andaxi
OK – Andaxi (but remember what hand gesture NOT to use!)
It’s good (food, anything) – Oraya

Introducing yourself:
Good morning/good day (until about 13:00 or so) – Kalimera
Good Afternoon or Good evening – Kalispera
Good night -- Kalinihxta
See you/Hello/Hi -- Yassas ("Yassoo" is usually used for those you know or people much younger than you)
How are you – Ti-kanis
Well/good – Kala
I do not understand – Den katalave’no
What is your name? – Pos se le’ne?
Nice to meet you – He’ro poli’
How are you? -- Ti ka'nete?

How much does this cost? -- Po'so ka'ni afto'
What is this? -- Ti' i'ne afto'
I'll buy it -- Tha to agora'so
I would like to buy -- Tha I'thela na agora'so
Do you have -- 'Ehete
Do you accept credit cards? -- Pe'rnete pistotike's ka'rtes

Traveling and directions:
Are there any vacancies for tonight? -- e'hete e'na doma'tio gia' apo'pse
Where is ...? -- pou i'ne
How much is the fare? -- Po'so ka'ni to isiti'rio
One ticket to ..., please -- E'na isiti'rio gia..., parakalo'
Where are you going? -- Pou' pa'te
Where do you live? -- Pou' me'nis

English is the most widely studied and understood of foreign languages in Greece. All personnel in the tourism industry should have basic knowledge of English, as well as any person under 40.

Have you ever said anything to anyone in another language, and find out it meant something totally different?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Greece: Etiquette

When traveling to Greece, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind regarding your etiquette. It is always a good idea to be on your best behavior while traveling abroad not only for your safety, but also out of courtesy to the country in which you are traveling.

Here are a few pointers in particular to keep in mind when traveling to Greece specifically:

When greeting a Greek:
  • When meeting for the first time, it is appropriate to shake hands.
  • When meeting a familiar Greek face, it is appropriate for women to kiss on the cheek and embrace. Men usually pat each other on the shoulder. *Remember although Greeks are extremely warm and hospitable people, this is the greeting of friends.

  • The oldest person at the table is always served first.
  • It is appropriate to hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand.
  • Meals are considered a socializing time so start your motor… mouth that is!
  • It is actually considered polite to soak up gravy or sauce with a piece of bread, so dip away!
  • Tipping is considered optional as service fees are included in the price of the food. 16% is usually standard. However, people usually add a small addition of money to the bill to round off the total and make it even. EX: 18,60E bill could be paid with 20E to make it a nice easy number. Waiters and waitresses rely on these bits of change so a little extra is always nice. It can be considered offensive to tip using the traditional U.S. tipping methods, so try to avoid tipping 10%-20% like you might be used to.

  • The “okay” symbol commonly signed in the U.S. as the forefinger and thumb making an “O” shape is considered a vulgar gesture in Greece so DO NOT use this symbol. Instead give the thumbs to signal “okay”.
  • Nodding your head to mean “yes” or “no” is different in Greece as well. A slight downward nod means “yes” while a slight upward nod means “no”.
  • The gesture known as “moutza” in Greek is the most traditional gesture of insult in Greece. It is when you show the palm of your hand with your fingers spread, almost like the “talk to the hand” gesture in the U.S. and is usually followed with a spoken “va” meaning “take that!” This gesture dates back to the time of the Byzantine Empire. Criminals were paraded around the streets of Greece with their faces painted black. If they were lucky it was simply coal that was used to blacken the face, if they were unlucky, it was something much, much worse that was used…

As you can see, very simple, everyday, non-verbal communication in your home country can mean very different things in another. Even if fitting in like a local is not on your list of priorities, your safety should be reason enough to check the appropriate etiquette. For more helpful hints on traveling smart and safe, check out The Safe Travel Book by Peter Savage, available at all Passport Health locations.

Was there an experience abroad where you found etiquette or communicating with the locals difficult? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Greece: Travel Safely

Planning how to stay safe and secure while you travel is a very important part of your trip. Below I have included some information and a few tips on how to ensure you and your loved ones have an "incident-free" trip.

  • The Greek Government has confirmed a number of cases of Swine Flu in Greece. Maintain the same precautions that you do anywhere else for this global pandemic. Practice good hygiene, wash your hands frequently with hot water and soap for at least 30 seconds, cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve, not your hands, stay home if you are feeling flu-like symptoms and avoid large crowds where others are symptomatic.

  • If you need to contact the emergency services in Greece call 112.

  • Around three million British people visit Greece (and its islands) every year (Source: Civil Aviation Authority). Most visits are trouble-free but you should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as you would in any other city.

  • You should maintain high standards of public behavior in Greece. The Greek police will not accept rowdy or indecent behavior, especially where excessive alcohol consumption is involved. Greek courts impose heavy fines or prison sentences on people who behave indecently.

  • Most visits to Greece are trouble-free, but you should be aware that the tourist season attracts an increase in incidents of theft of wallets, handbags etc. particularly in areas and events where crowds gather. You should leave valuables in safe custody at your hotel or apartment.
Keep these few tips in mind and have a wonderful trip! Have you ever been the victim of theft when traveling? What happened and what did you do?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Greece: Top Ten Greek Islands

With 227 inhabited islands, surrounded by crystal clear waters and offering world class beaches and landscapes, it is only natural that Greece was one of the first holiday destinations when mass tourism started a few decades ago.

Some islands became so popular that their entire economies are now centered on the tourist trade. However, there are others that have only been ‘discovered’ as holiday destinations - even by the Greeks - in recent years.

Breathtaking volcanic views and one of the best sunsets in the world consistently place it at the top of any Greek islands list. Its beaches are very peculiar (and do not appeal to everyone) due to the black and red volcanic sand. more

The largest Greek island, Crete has a distinct local culture and will satisfy whatever it is you’re looking for. Busy touristy resorts, amazing deserted beaches even in August (especialy on the south coast), unspoiled mountain villages with people untouched by the tourism ‘gold fever’, and the best food by far among all Greek islands. more

Mykonos boasts of the best beaches in the country, the craziest nightlife and the most ridiculous prices you’ll pay in Greece. Bring along the best pieces of your wardrobe (preferably white), all your energy and credit cards. more

Hydra is one of the prettiest Greek islands with a unique architecture that has been preserved due to a strict development policy. Large houses belonging to historic figures loom on the hills on both sides of the picturesque harbor and there is a total car and motorbike ban on the island. Instead, mules lining up with their owners undertake all the transportation burdens of locals and visitors. more

Louis De Bernières has done for Cephalonia what the best PR consultant wouldn’t even begin to imagine with his wonderful novel and worldwide best seller ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ (Amazon £5.99) which is set on the island. And when the film came out a few years later the natural beauty and the sapphire waters of Cephalonia were advertised on screen too and its tourism fortunes were turned upside down overnight. more


The beaches, the nightlife and the accommodation choice are all above average and many holiday makers return year after year. Regular international windsurfing competitions are held at noisy Chrysi Akti beach but you can easily find quiet and isolated beaches if all you want is to relax and enjoy the blue waters. And if really quiet holidays are more up your street, Antiparos is the tiny and alternative neighbor just minutes away on a local boat. more

Fine beaches with freezing cold waters on the eastern side attract thousands of visitors every summer and as in every large tourism-orientated Greek island the range of holidays one can enjoy is vast. more


Skiathos is flooded with pine trees that reach the sea and surround its numerous sandy beaches. An ideal destination for families and those not attracted by the harsh and rocky natural beauty of the islands of southern Aegean. more

Once home to one of the seven wonders of the world the ‘Colossus’, Rhodes is one of the earliest holiday destinations in the country. There is a good choice of resorts on the island. There is plenty of sightseeing to do, and a number of museums to give you that cultural alibi between your long days on the fine beaches and the long nights out. more

Its beaches are at par with the best in Cyclades and indeed the whole country. If you suddenly feel too old for the exhausting pace of the place, you are only a short ferry ride away from Santorini. more

What's your preference for island living? Socialization and parties til the wee hours, or a quiet, tranquil existence with nature?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Greece: History

The trifecta of Greek philosophy was Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who have influenced all of Western society. One of them was killed for his ideals, and some fought for the right to freely think and observe. These men can be defined as the leading thinkers of Greece.

“I know that I know nothing” was a famous quote from Socrates stating that all wisdom begins with wondering, thus one must begin with admitting one’s ignorance. Socrates laid down the fundamentals of modern Western philosophy. He is known for Socratic Method, which clarified the concepts of Good and Justice. He is considered the father of political and moral philosophy and a leader in mainstream Western philosophy. He was on trial for corrupting the mind of young Athenians by telling them that they should be concerned about the welfare of their souls over their families and careers. He had a choice to change his beliefs or die, and he chose death. Being sentenced to death, his friend Crito found a way for him to escape. He was reluctant to the plea, and found that his death was the only way to live by his ideals, and if he were to escape, he would be letting down his family and friends.

This Greek philosopher was a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle. He helped lay the fundamentals of Western philosophy. Being a mathematician and philosopher, he was also a founder of an Academy in Athens, which was the first institution which offered higher end education to students. Plato wrote the Apology of Socrates which defined what Socrates did and believed in.
He was a student of Plato, and a teacher of Alexander the Great. He wrote on many subjects including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology. Aristotle came up with the five elements which in fire, earth, air, water, and aether, which was the divine substance that makes up the heavenly spheres and heavenly bodies (stars and planets)

Without these three men, our history and present could have been completely different. If you’re traveling to Greece, it may be a good idea to see Athens. Here is a guide to traveling in Athens where you will be able to see history first hand!

When traveling to Athens, a traveler must be aware of protesters that can be engaged in violent confrontations. These confrontations may include destructive vandalism and rioting in localized areas, sometimes where tourists may reside. Visitors should be aware of and avoid places where demonstrators frequently congregate, such as Polytechnic University area, Exharchia, Omonia, and Syntagma Squares in Athens, and Aristotle Square in Thessaloniki. It is wise to avoid these areas between 9 pm and dawn. If you are traveling to Greece and want to know more, you can always contact Passport Health to set up a consultation where you will get a detailed itinerary that includes advice on having a safe trip to Greece.

“I know that I know nothing,” is a quote that has been interpreted in many different ways. What do you think the quote that started philosophy means?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Greece: Documents Needed for Entry


According to the U.S. Department of State, Greece is a party to the Schengen Agreement. With the agreement, U.S citizens may enter Greece for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.

For other entry requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of Greece in Washington, DC (telephone (202) 939-5800), or Greek consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Tampa, New York, and San Francisco, and Greek embassies and consulates around the world.

Holders of official or diplomatic passports visiting Greece as tourists must obtain visas prior to arrival.

What are your major concerns about entering Greece?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Greece: What to Pack!

Ah, the country of Greece. This Mediterranean climate is suitable for wearing light, breezy clothing. The basic rule for packing for travel is usually to pack clothes that are “comfortable and casual”. Save the dressier clothes for nice dinners and going out.

Sandals are a great footwear accessory as the climate calls for them. The sandy beaches require sandals as the sand can be extremely hot and sea creatures, pebbles, etc live on the sand! However, it is important to remember that many touristy sights in Greece are at the top of hills and mountains so sneakers are a must for sight-seeing days!

Some, but minimal, long sleeved clothing and sweatshirts are great to have at night as the weather can be cool on the Greek Islands and mountainous areas when the sun goes down. Also, sight-seeing in museums, churches and other buildings with air conditioning can be chilly. If you do happen to be traveling to one of the thousand islands of Greece, don’t forget your swimsuit!

Something else to keep in mind when packing for vacation activities in Greece is that many mosques and churches do not allow tourists with bare legs and arms inside the building. It has been recommended by tourists to carry a sarong style scarf with you, which can easily be used to tie around your legs or drape over your shoulders. The sarong can even double as a beach cover-up. This is obviously a very popular trend because sarongs are sold almost everywhere in Greece. This fashion accessory is light enough to carry around all day and doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase either!

Additionally, here are some key items that should be on your Checklist:
  • plenty of sunscreen
  • sun hat or other covering
  • sunglasses
  • filtered water bottle (staying hydrated is important on your trip)
  • power adapters (make sure your electronics are compatible)
  • traveler guides/ maps/ phrasebook
  • a camera/ batteries
  • insect repellent (mosquitoes can be a problem in some areas of Greece)

Lastly, in regards to the universal plug or converter, remember that Greece uses 220V. Many of today’s electronics are dual voltage 110V and 220V so make sure you only need a plug adaptor and not a full converter. Knowing this little fact could save you time, money and space in your suitcase/carry on!

… And don’t forget to stop at your Passport Health location to pick up a malaria kit which includes appropriate repellents containing DEET, as well as a kit for traveler’s diarrhea including antibiotics and re-hydration powders, just in case you need it.

When you get to Greece, what is the FIRST thing you want to do?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Greece: A Few Facts

Culture & History:
Ancient Greece dates back to 6000 B.C. Greece is full of famous people, events, and stories that have influenced our very lifestyle today. Greek mythology is also a major part of Greece’s history, which will also be discussed in more depth later, so stay tuned for some exiting posts!


Guide to Athens

Government: Parliamentary Republic

The Greeks held the Olympics to honor their gods. One of seven of the ancient wonders of the world was a statue of Zeus at Olympia. It was made of gold and ivory by the Greek sculptor, Pheidias. This 42 foot statue was placed inside a temple at which people worshiped and prayed.

What would you like to learn more about from Greece?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Greece: Bet you didnt know this about the Octopus!

The Octopus is an amazing sea animal that calls Greece its home. Sometimes known as the devil-fish, the octopus was at first thought to be a fearsome creature which lurked in the inky depths, waiting to drag any hapless mariner it could lay its tentacles on to their watery doom. (It certainly kept certain Hollywood pirates on their toes!) In fact, of course, the common octopus ( octopus vulgaris ) is not a fish at all, but a mollusk which seems to have lost its shell along the way. As for its terrible reputation, the octopus is, indeed, a hunter - but tends to avoid creatures as large as ourselves, and it certainly poses no threat to us. (One less thing to send us to Davey Jones' locker! What a relief!)

Did you know that the octopus has the ability to change its color and texture to blend better with surroundings and to show emotion? That's right, it has been observed to go white with fear and red with anger! An emotional color change would be pointless if it couldn't be seen, so that's why the octopus has eyes much like a human's, capable of color perception.

The octopus for the most part gathers shellfish, extracts the flesh, and feeds on that; in fact, fishermen recognize their holes by the number of shells lying about.

I found this video about Octopus Love in Greece and it was too great to pass up posting it here. Hope you enjoy!

Octopus is also served as a tasty dish in Greece. Have any good recipes?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Greece: Stay Healthy on Vacation!

Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you’re are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing Greece from the hotel or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in Greece and get vaccinated.

For travel to Greece, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:
Hepatitis A and B
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
• PPD Test
Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in Greece. A booster shot might be needed!

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases(Dengue Fever, Malaria, African Sleeping Sickness, Leishmaniasis, Typhus/Rickettsial infections, etc): use appropriate repellents containing DEET, and prescribed Malaria medication.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance
Don't let the possibility of getting sick in Greece deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Have you made an appointment for you and your family to speak with a Travel Medicine Specialist yet?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Greece: Know When to go!

What is the best time to travel to Greece?

Travel Greece in mid-summer and you will be almost guaranteed consistently warm, dry weather. But at that time of year, the crowds and prices can be overwhelming. Travel Greece in the off-season and you will avoid the crowds but may find that resources such as hotels, restaurants and transportation scarce and the weather unpredictable.

The best time to Travel is Mid-September to Mid-October. During this period the weather is generally pleasant and the tourist population has begun to decline. The next best time to come is June, before the massive tourist invasion has begun, but then the sea waters can be quite cold.

Greece is a traveler’s paradise. The weather is temperate. The people are very friendly and outgoing. The food is very different than you find in other countries, but easy to adapt to and enjoy. The roots of western civilization are deep here and one can spend hours in museums and historic centers. There is an endless variety of natural beauty. All of this makes Greece one of the most beloved travel destinations in Europe and possibly the world.

What is your choice of when to travel to Greece: during peak tourist season to soak up the sun and warm water yet pay more and deal with crowds, or go in the off-season and suffer unpredictable weather?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Country of the Month: Greece!

For the month of July we will be exploring Greece. Greece has an abundance of resources that tourists with ecological and cultural interests will find attractive. Its beauty and rich history are what keep travelers coming back for more!

Why visit Greece?

The scenery!

The History!

The Culture!

The Food!

We will delve further into all the above subjects and much more as the month progresses. We just wanted to give you a "taste" of what is to come. Stay tuned!

What is the most interesting place you have ever visited and why?