by Katherine Poseidon
Thanksgiving is definitely an American holiday, not a Greek one. BUT hear us out – these days it’s easy to feel discouraged and gloomy about the state of the world. Sometimes we catch ourselves letting negative thoughts get the better of us, so we decided to embrace a Greek Thanksgiving just in time for a quick and easy attitude adjustment.
Inspired by US President Barack Obama, who visited Athens as part of his final overseas tour and delivered an incredible speech that gave us goosebumps (watch it here!). Here in the birthplace of democracy, there are a lot of reasons we, who are lucky enough to call Greece
home, could find to be thankful – and just as many reasons, if not more, why Greece is such a wonderful place to be. In no particular order, here are some of our top reasons to be thankful this season, complemented by local attractions to keep both locals and tourists busy exploring our bright corner of the world.
#1 The Sea and the Greek Islands
First things first - it’s hard to think of Greece without its incredible blue sea, so this might have to be at the top of the list. Greece has been blessed with 13,676 km of coastline and nearly 6,000 islands, which are ripe for exploring at any time. You can island hop ‘til you drop – there are always new islands to explore! – or enjoy the tried and true classic beaches near Athens. Athenians sometimes forget this is one of the best things to do in Greece – and it’s right on our doorstep; in what other major city can you find world class beaches less than an hour’s drive away? (Plus we don’t have any sharks!)
#2 The Greek Sun
We can’t mention the Greek sea without the Greek sun. The summer ‘high season’ may get a bad rap from locals, who can get sick of the heatwaves (though most people know at least some of our secrets for surviving in August!), but the Greek sun keeps us warm and toasty for much of the year, easily extending the swimming season from May until October. The season doesn’t end there – learn how to SUP or windsurf even into November or December! Water sports aside, one of the most unique experiences in Greece can’t be captured easily – the light of the Greek sun is unlike anywhere else in the world. Visitors and locals know exactly what I mean – sometimes it’s enough to take your breath away, even when you’re having a bad day.
#3 The History
Sometimes all it takes to soothe a bad mood is a little perspective, and Greek history is full of it. As the birthplace of democracy, there is a lot for Greeks to be proud of – and some of the most well-known landmarks in Greece are definitely not just for tourists. One of the best things to do in Athens to press the ‘reset’ button is to escape to Philopappou Hill – one of our favourite green spaces in the city (though not the only one!). Breathe in the fresh air and allow yourself to channel the ancients (don’t forget, our guide to Ancient Time Travel is not just for the tourists!). Plus, there is always the Acropolis – be honest, when was the last time you went up to marvel at the Parthenon? It’s bound to give you chills every time.
#4 The Traditions
Exploring diverse traditions is one of the best parts about travelling, but locals may sometimes forget how rich the Greek cultural tradition is, since it’s such an ingrained part of everyday life. From simple things like the celebration of ‘name days’ to the elaborate week-long Easter festivities, this little country packs a big traditional punch. Little villages scattered across Greecepreserve the diverse and unique local past, and make incredible places to visit. Plus, traditional craftsmanship is alive and well – from leather to wool to marble carving, high-quality, handmade goods are almost so easy to find that we don’t realise how valuable they really are! Have you checked out Melissinos the sandal maker in Monastiraki for a custom made pair? Perfect retail therapy at one of the best places for shopping in Athens!
#5 The Creativity
Despite a great number of stereotypes pigeon-holing Greeks as lazy coffee drinkers wiling away their time at the cafés, we know that that is far from the reality. Even in the crisis-stricken current environment, the start-up scene is booming (Hello to theTravelPorter!) and we are inspired every day by new social enterprises that are popping up, which seek to constructively contribute to a stronger and safer community for everyone. This environment has inspired us to work with local initiatives allowing you to ‘join the neighbourhood’ every time you book one of our activities – select one of a few choices, and you automatically support the community you’re visiting. Another example of Greek innovation and perseverance is the shipping industry, which Greece has consistently dominated for much of world history. With the important role of the sea in this country, it may come as no surprise, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be impressed!
#6 The Visitors
The waves of tourists that arrive in Greece every year are of course a huge part of the Greek economy, for which we should definitely be grateful. Beyond that though, they bring with them a diversity of perspectives that truly enriches the country. By searching for the most unique things to do, visitors help us discover that Greek tourist attractions are not just for tourists. Leonard Cohen had a house on the island of Hydra (a great-day trip from Athens, among others), while A-listers the world over stop in Greece again and again. When Barack Obama says he has always wanted to visit Greece, you have to admit we’ve got a good thing here.
#7 The People
The visitors who make Greece their destination certainly contribute a lot to this country, but we shouldn’t discount our fellow Greeks. First of all, the legendary Greek hospitality makes everyone feel welcome – recently Aegean islanders have been commended for doing their utmost to help the refugees arriving on their shores, and there are innumerable ongoing solidarity efforts throughout the country. The strong emphasis Greeks place on family is something else we should be grateful for - they may drive us crazy sometimes, but change up the family vibe by trying a new activity. Live the spirit of the season by exploring our best things to do in Athens in the fall list - and let us know if our suggestions pass the family test!
#8 Greek Food
If you’ve been following our blog, you know by now that we love exploring food in Athens and beyond. Whatever you’re craving, we know you can find something to satisfy you (and we even wrote a guide to how to eat healthy in Greece). Though we’ve been known to complain that it may be hard to find some ingredients in Greece, on the flip side we have an abundance of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables that put imported supermarket food to shame. The great Greek institution of the ‘laiki agora’ – a weekly open-air neighbourhood farmers’ market is an underrated blessing, not to mention the many other national treasures of olive oil, wine, seafood… plenty of Greek food you have to try before you die! Skip the turkey and set up a Thanksgiving table with the best of Greek cuisine. And make sure you bring some of the best edible souvenirs (from our list here!) to your friends abroad, and convince them of why to come to Greece!
#9 Greek Culture
Greece’s vibrant cultural scene sets it apart as a European capital with a lot to offer. Locals have a distinct advantage here though – there are way too many things to see and enjoy for a visitor to take it all in in one go. It may be easy to take our world class museums for granted (though of course you shouldn't!) – but there are always a number of new and travelling exhibits to see (these are our picks for this fall). It’s hard for us to gather a list of, for example, the best bars in Athens for tourists, since inevitably they won’t have time to explore our top picks. But if you live in Athens, count your blessings and check out either (or both!) the best rooftop bars, or the best hidden bars in Athens or try the ultimate bar crawl on the Athens metro! – just make sure you don’t lose count of your drinks!
#10 The Greek Language
When you speak Greek everyday, you may be forgiven for not considering it something to be grateful for, but trust us, it is! Struggling through Ancient Greek at school, and battling with weird spelling can be a pain for sure, but we can also unlock the secrets of the Ancients in their original tongue. Another bonus is that we have a head start on most medical/scientific vocabulary, and on a huge percentage of English words that are derived from Greek. Plus, it's a pretty safe bet that when we're travelling no one will understand us - unless they've checked out our cheeky guide to a few 'must-know' Greek words!
#11 The Location
Greece's geographic location has, historically, been both a blessing and a curse, but we choose to think of it as a blessing. Beyond the purely unique blend of east and west that you can find here, we are just a hop, skip and a jump away from a variety of some of the world's top destinations. Truly in the middle of it all, you can hop on a cruise, jet to Paris, Berlin & London in a few hours, or hop over to Istanbul or Dubai. Although we think it's hard to get bored when there are so many things to do in Greece, we all need a change of scene once in a while, and we're ideally situated for further adventures!
Wherever you are in the world, we send warm wishes for the coming season. No matter what holidays you celebrate, it’s always a good time to celebrate the good things in your life. For Thanksgiving in Greece, grab your partner and explore a new romantic spot in Athens using our guide, or try out one of our favourite burger joints and souvlaki places. Overall, make sure you celebrate autumn in Greece - it truly is a gift, and just one of the many things we have to be thankful for!
Tell us why you're thankful for being Greek or living in Greece and inspire visitors from around the world!
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