Upon traveling to Greece, you will be seeing an entirely new culture. You will witness things that here in America would seem absolutely ridiculous. At around three o’clock in the afternoon in Greece, everything is quiet because everyone goes home to eat a big lunch and then take a nap. But when nighttime arrives, it comes alive again. Mary Pappas, the Greek restaurant owner of the Athens Market Taverna in downtown San Diego says that, “Greeks work to live, they don’t live to work.”
Greece is an amazing place for all ages, but teenagers will be able to experience things that will remain in their memory for years to come. Athens is an excellent place to start out. Teens can easily get around because of the subway system known as the Metro. It is everything the New York subway isn’t: safe, clean, and easy to follow.
Make sure to pay a visit to the Acropolis, but don’t stay too long because it is hot over the summer and the ruins lose their excitement quickly. Near the Acropolis is a shopping haven known as the Plaka. Items are moderately priced and can be negotiated down even further, so you will find some great bargains and be able to play a game with the shop owners (teenage girls especially can get the lowest prices from the Greek men who own the shops).
A five to ten minute walk from the Plaka is the Monastiraki, which is a complete cultural experience. The Monastiraki is an authentic Greek market where the locals go to get their food and other necessities. There are entire skinned pigs hanging upside down, whole plucked chickens, cow parts, fish, and inevitably flies. The smell is atrocious but don’t shy away because something like this can never be seen in America.
The nightlife in Athens will spark any teenager’s interest. There are places called Discos that have music and dancing all night long. Mary Pappas says that “Athens is alive twenty-four hours a day”, so one can always get the true taste of the city. The drinking age is eighteen in Greece, and they never ask anyone’s age, so even those younger than eighteen can have a drink if desired. If you are going to try an alcoholic beverage in Greece, try the Ouzo because it is liquor specific to the country and tastes like black licorice.
Coffee drinkers will love a frappe, which is coffee, water, milk and sugar whipped together, and then poured over ice in a glass. The top becomes frothy and people typically drink the frappe through a straw. Gyros (pronounced yur-ohs) are a popular dish consisting of pita bread filled with a choice of lamb, pork or chicken, a cucumber-yogurt sauce called tzaziki, and believe it or not, a few French fries. Some gyros come with tomatoes and onions in them as well. There are stands everywhere on the street corners, and the dirtier the place looks, the better the gyros are. Gyros are known as the fast food of Greece, and they are also considered to be peasant food, so they are cheap but still taste amazing.
One travel package example from “Poway Travel/Pro Travel”, located in Poway and San Diego is called “Classical Greece”. It is $2,371 per person including air travel for a total of nine days in the month of June. With this package, you fly into Athens, then go to Delphi, Olympia, Nauplia, and then return back to Athens. The price includes all hotels, seven breakfasts, and four dinners, which is convenient for teenagers since everything is planned out already.
To get a taste of more of the local scene, Mary Pappas says to “Go into the villages and see how the real Greeks live. Go to the tavernas and little cafes to experience the Greeks unaffected by the tourism.” These villages are everywhere, but can be found in abundance on the island of Crete and in the Peloponnese. Pappas says that you will always find “Greek men sitting in the coffee houses playing backgammon and card games similar to bridge, drinking coffee all day long.” Teens can join in and play if they know how, or there are plenty of Greek boys willing to teach the American girls.
Greek dancing occurs everywhere in Greece, and the American teenagers do not need to know what they are doing to participate and have a great time. The Greeks are in a circle holding hands and dancing around, and after five minutes teens will pick up the pattern of steps.
You cannot travel to Greece without visiting a few of the islands. Santorini is a unique island because it is on top of a cliff, and the only way to get to the top is by a bus ride winding all the way up inches from the cliffs, a tram, or for a complete cultural experience, a donkey. Santorini has a half-moon shape because thousands of years ago, a volcano erupted on the island tossing half of it into the sea. The volcano is still active today. This is one of the possible locations for the lost city of Atlantis.
Mykonos, Hydra, and Rhodes are other interesting islands to visit. However, do not stay more than a day because the islands are small and the things to do run out fast. These islands are rocky and do not have great beaches. For the pristine beaches, islands such as Crete and Cephalonia have beautiful ones with warm, turquoise water. You are able to tell who the fellow Americans are because they are the ones with their bathing suit tops on. Teens can stay at these islands for longer because they are larger and have more attractions.
Teenagers can easily get around to visit many islands on a cruise. The travel package “Aegean Discovery” is $2,521 per person for nine days and includes air travel. The trip starts in Athens, includes a one-night stay in Athens, and then a cruise ship leaves right from Athens to go to the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, Patmos, and Kusadasi. The cruise ship then returns back to Athens and the package includes two more nights there. Cruises are a smart way to travel, especially for a group of teens, because they can leave all of their luggage on the ship while touring the islands.
Teenagers visiting Greece will no doubt have an unforgettable experience while submerged in another type of culture. Greece offers a mix of history, shopping, partying, touring and tanning; all things that will provide for a great summer vacation.