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GREECE Fall 1997 (3)

Delphi, Arahova, Galaxidi and Chrisso

Athens1 | Skiathos | Athens2 | Delphi | Arahova | Galaxidi |
Chrisso | Athens3 | Thessaloniki | Edessa and Naoussa

The Liossion bus terminal is about a half hour taxi ride from Syntagma Square, if the traffic allows you to escape the center in reasonable time. The bus station is a dump as is the adjoining cafe. The fare to Delphi was 2700 dr. and we left on time at 13:00.

The bus was in good shape and the driver was careful. It was a warm hazy day and the drive through cotton fields, olive groves and winding up the mountains of Parnassos was very pleasant. As we passed through the town of Arahova, we made a note to return and explore the quaint mountain town so close to Delphi.

In the Spring of 1988, we met a lady from Delphi on our flight from London to Athens. At the Athens airport, while helping her with her luggage, we met her husband who had come to meet her. Assa and Kostas have been our good friends since that day.

During our driving trip that year, the gas stations went on strike and we found ourselves in Olympia, Peloponnese with a very low tank. A call to Assa and Kostas produced magic. My lips are sealed, but suffice it to say that they saved us from what would have been a disastrous trip. We usually visit them every two or three years, and happily here we were. Assa was waiting at the bus station to greet us.

Delphi stands on the foothills of Mount Parnassos, above the Phaidriades Valley. From our balcony at the Hotel Hermes, we gazed down over the thick olive groves of the village of Chrisso, and all the way down to the sparkling Itea Bay. Each time we have done this, we've gasped with pleasure at this spectacular view.

The reason so many visitors from around the world come to Delphi is to see the ancient archaeological site and the museum which is a must as part of any visit to the country. There are frequent bus tours of all types from Athens, if you are not driving, or you can go it alone as we did.

But the most important reason to visit Delphi, is to stop in at the Greka Gift Shop and say hello to Assa and Kostas! Just kidding - but don't be surprised if you find yourself unable to leave without buying something from their wonderful collection of exclusively designed jewelry and their vast array of wonderful souvenirs.

Our friends made arrangements for us to stay at the Hotel Hermes. The owner, Antonio Droseros, makes you feel right at home. The small spotless lobby and its furnishings and the t.v. bar and lounge invite you to relax, have an ouzo, and indulge in some small talk. The breakfast room and patio are at the rear overlooking the valley. The rooms are bare-bones basic and the housekeeping is excellent. All in all, a good value three-star, particularly when sitting on the balcony and breathing in the clean, crisp mountain air and enjoying the fabulous scenery below.

We had coffee with our friends at their shop and window shopped the town before resting a bit before heading out for dinner at a fashionable 22:00, when they closed their store. There is not a soul, place, taverna or hotel in this part of the country that Assa and Kostas do not know. They grew up in this area.

This evening we headed to Arahova and the Taverna Kaplanis. Kostas consulted with the staff and the feast began. When you steadily consume the delicious local red wine, it is easy to relax and slowly do justice to the unending flow of courses; eggplant salad, spinach pie, stuffed grape leaves, a special treat of fromila which is a barbecued cheese from only this area, horiatiki, grilled chicken and lamb chops. We finished off with an amazing fresh fruit plate, sliced crunchy apples with honey, plump grapes bursting with flavor and sweet and juicy melon.

What makes this simple cuisine so special is the wonderful olive oil, the knowledgeable use of herbs and spices, and the freshness of the ingredients. This is the only country (Italy is second best) from which I can return and find my cholesterol as low as it ever gets. Olive oil is good stuff.

After a breakfast of juice, coffee and honey cake, we headed out with Assa for a memorable day. Our destination was Galaxidi. As we twisted and turned down the mountain, we came to the elegant village of Chrisso, surrounded by olive groves which provide a rewarding livelihood to the townspeople. The groves, the lovely homes and the gardens combine to make an excellent environment for living.

Galaxidi GreeceGalaxidi, a peninsula in the Bay of Itea, once knew great prosperity from shipping and shipbuilding. Today it is a popular holiday spot both summer and winter. Tourists sail into the picturesque port in the summer and Grecians come in the winter when it is still mild and the tourists have gone. Whenever you come, it is a beauty. It's like being on an island, but easier to access. Handy to both Athens and Delphi, it should be included when touring the area.

Across from the port is a lovely pine forest and around the port are tavernas and hotels. There are always boats tied up in the clear, inviting waters. The museum of Galaxidi has a splendid collection of artifacts from the area. Particularly interesting are the paintings of ships that sailed from here, models and equipment of and from the top of page
Assa and Kostas' good friend Manolo owns the Hotel Galaxa, which oozes his bright, cheerful, gregarious personality. It's housed in a transformed, lovely traditional Greek home and designed in white and blue inside and out. It's open year round and is quite unique. The rooms are spacious with wonderful sea views. The rooms have private bathrooms and air conditioning, the beds are thick, firm foam mattresses on cement platforms.

Across from the main entrance is a large garden/cafe/snack bar overlooking the bay and this is where we met the affable Manolo. With the sun glistening on the bay below, the air clear and a comfortable temperature, we snacked on the best olives, feta, tomatoes and bread we've ever had the good fortune to encounter. The olives, of course, come from the local groves - greenish, reddish, brownish - plump, juicy and just full of flavor. Add a little ouzo and all's right with the world.

As we walked and drove around, we enjoyed and appreciated the relaxed feeling that this vacation paradise exudes. Assa took us to Taverna Sofia Kourti on the pine tree side of the port for lunch. (What we ate at the Hotel Galaxa was just an appetizer!) It is wonderful what the salt air does for the appetite. This is a very unpretentious taverna with the major seating outdoors, overlooking the port. Tender, sweet fried calamari, octopus, and koutsomoura (small fish) after a little fried cheese and salad. Horta and salad went nicely with the seafood.

On the way back we stopped at Itea, another important summer resort and commercial harbor. There is a wide boulevard along the man-made waterfront lined with cafes and shops. This is a newer, more commercially-developed town that lacks the old-world charm of Galaxidi.

Back at the hotel late afternoon to enjoy some basketball on television - Athens vs. Bologna - catch up on my notes and catch some sleep until our late dinner date.

Chrisso at night has a special aroma from what they call the Night Flower. It just permeates the air. It brought an added dimension to the outdoor barbecue, Taverna Brauzos. The family Brouzos has been here for years tending the large outdoor grill specializing in lamb, both baby and mother (provatina), wonderfully tender and tasty. The garlic bread earned it's name and along with the tzatziki (yogurt, cuke, garlic and dill) was long with us. Lightly fried zucchini and eggplant and fried potatoes were served with the lamb. One more time Kostas kept pouring the wine. All I could think of was climbing the winding, narrow dark road back to Delphi.

The next day was to be a "food is not important" day. Assa was driving to Arahova to attend a funeral and we caught a ride with her to explore the town on our own. Built on the side of the mountain, the sturdy stone homes and narrow cobblestone lanes seem to be carved out of the mountain. We climbed to the church on high and worked our way down. Both winter and summer seasons are busy here as the town is the home base for skiers, hikers and mountain climbers. As it was between seasons, we had the streets to ourselves. We've been really lucky with the weather and this day was no exception. There were lovely clear views in all directions.

Assa was driving into Athens for the week-end so we sadly said good-bye to Kostas and away we went. Her home in Athens is a bit out of the city center and we didn't want her to get caught in the traffic by taking us to the Electra Palace. We had her drop us off at the station in Kifissia. We kissed good-bye and took the metro to Monastiraki and walked ten minutes to our top of page
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or JUMP to any city on the trip:
Athens1 | Skiathos | Athens2 | Delphi | Arahova | Galaxidi |
Chrisso | Athens3 | Thessaloniki | Edessa and Naoussa

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