Category Archives: Greece

Seven Deadly Sins: A Travellers Guide to national firewaters

As seasoned travellers we are always willing to try new things, be it leaping off of bridges with a bit of stretchy cable lassoed around your ankles or jumping out of a perfectly sound airplane, even being chased by bulls through the streets of Pamplona seems to be okay for some. However one thing that makes me shiver with dread is the after dinner shot that is often served up by well meaning waiters, usually in a plain container with no reference to its origin and strength, or the hooch that is passed around as a local specialty and ends up giving me the mother of all hangovers.

I am currently in Crete dealing with Raki but have endured some equally throat constricting liquors through my travels around the world. What follows is a short guide to some of the more popular firewaters and their origins.

1. Raki /Tsikoudia: Greece, mostly Crete
This awesome kicker is made from the waste products of winemaking and is very strong, served often in little decanters it will give you a good throat burn so is best drunk with the melon or other fruits that accompany it. The Greek/Cretan Raki is different to the Turkish one as it is colourless and has no anise added. It seems that this drink has been drunk in the region though the ages in some form or other which would explain a lot!
Pain factor: 9/10

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The new Acropolis Museum

When I first visited Athens in the heat of a summer many years ago my travel partner insisted we climbed to the top of the rock in the scorching heat of a July afternoon, with temperatures in the mid thirties I was gradually melting onto the slopes of that famous hill. The sanctuary of the small museum at the summit was little comfort, masses of tourists packed into a claustrophobic anteroom afforded little ventilation and it was more of a relief to exit. I still recall the descent to Monastriaki and a refreshingly cold beer at the end of the walk as a wonderful finale to a day at the furnace.

2009 and it’s all changed, the Greek government have ploughed millions of Euros into a fitting temple of antiquities that is the New Acropolis Museum. Gone are the memories of dust and dankness and a big welcome to a bright, airy and spectacular museum that befits the 21st century. Unusually, for such a new exhibition, the entrance price has been set at just one Euro, allowing almost everyone access to the exhibits and a piece of Athens history.

new acropolis museum

Tradition, it seems, has to be followed and the Museum is reached at the bottom of the hill best suited after a tour of the Parthenon and the other temples and a time to reflect upon the beauty and timeless architecture of the Acropolis. The day I arrived the queue was about twenty minutes long but strategically placed well in the shade so no harm done, security was brisk and offering up a Euro seemed fair to say the least.

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Walking in Plakias, Crete

I have to start with a confession, I am a little hung over and am writing this in the shade of an olive grove with absolutely no intention of walking today, that being said my friends have completed an arduous river walk yesterday and have set their mind to cliff jumping today. For my part it is rehydration therapy and a chance to put to paper and try to capture the atmosphere and conviviality of this secluded part of Crete that is Plakias.

Many travellers will have read about the beauty of Crete already and some of you may be familiar with the brash resorts on the north coast such as Malia, our journey takes us to the more laid back and personable resort of Plakias, home to the famous youth hostel and its legendary manager Chris. Bearing in mind the maxim that some of the best places are the hardest to get to Plakias makes a big effort to stay off the beaten track.

plakias youth hostel

There are several options when it comes to getting to the island, a quick browse on will provide the best price for a flight however a large number of visitors seem to arrive by ferry from either Athens or Santorini. Whichever method is used you will need to get to Rethymnon on the north of the island to pick up the bus to Plakias, arriving on a Sunday, a national holiday or late at night may require an overnight stay.

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