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Panchhi Banoon... Udti Phiroon... - Girls trip in Greece

10 mins. read

Published in the Navbharat Times - Page No. 3 on 16 December, 2023

We must be the luckiest women on earth, Maha said to me as we stared at the deep blue sea in front of us. We were basking in the pool attached to our hotel room, soaking in the sun and nibbling on the delicious Kourabiedes, buttery shortbread cookies, made with almonds and dusted with powdered sugar. It was a surreal moment, the ocean was spread out below us and we could see the entire caldera. The supremely serene surroundings had cast a spell on us, and we felt completely relaxed and utterly intoxicated by nature. We were admiring the village, renowned for its iconic cliffside homes, meticulously designed in the traditional Cycladic style. Whitewashed exteriors, rounded edges, and blue-domed churches created a harmonious blend that seamlessly integrated with the natural beauty of the surroundings. The buildings seem to cascade down the rugged cliffs, offering breathtaking views of the volcanic caldera. We were in our hotel in the village of Oia, (pronounced EE aa), a true testament to the architectural brilliance that has made Santorini world-renowned. Yes, we were so lucky to be here!

Every year, I and two of my school friends, Maha and Ruchee, embark on an annual holiday that has become a cherished ritual, a testament to the enduring strength of our friendship. This was our undisturbed me-time, a sanctuary, a pause button in the hectic rhythm of life. It's a time when we shed the roles of grown up women, mothers, professionals, and simply become the three musketeers navigating new adventures. Actually, just like us many women have the same wish to travel but are often unable to find the right resources to go explore the world on their own. Taking this need into cognisance, we at Veena World have created a world exclusively for women, where they can let their hair down and truly enjoy a tour minus the responsibilities. Veena World’s Women’s special tours offer exactly all this and so much more with a wide choice of destinations all across the world.

I and my friends deliberated on this year's destination, with our wishlist ranging from a thirst for cultural immersion, a dose of history to a longing for breathtaking natural beauty, the allure of swimming in crystal-clear blue seas, and relishing the rich diversity of local cuisine.I put this task to Veena World’s customised holidays division, to come up with a destination that would seamlessly encapsulate all our criteria. After careful consideration and exploration, Greece emerged as the unequivocal winner. Along with Athens, a visit to the Greek islands was of course on top of the list. But this was easier said than done as the most difficult task was to choose which island to visit? Greece boasts over 6,000 islands, each with its own distinct personality. Scattered like gems across the cerulean waters of the Aegean and Ionian Seas, the Greek islands form a mosaic of unparalleled beauty and historical significance. From the iconic Santorini with its breathtaking sunsets to the verdant landscapes of Corfu, the islands offer a diverse range of experiences. Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, seamlessly intertwines historical grandeur with natural splendor, boasting a UNESCO-listed Old Town and pristine beaches. Nearby Symi enchants with its pastel-hued houses and Aegean charm. Syros, a lesser-known gem, captivates with its neoclassical architecture and authentic island allure. Meanwhile, Mykonos, the vibrant heart of the Cyclades, showcases lively nightlife, iconic white-washed architecture, and sun-soaked beaches.
We chose to visit at least one Iconic island and then topic up with a lesser known island.We chose Paros and then from Paros we took a ferry to the island of Anti-Paros for a day trip. Island hopping in Greece is one of the best ways to discover the islands whether you choose from the combinations of Syros-Mykonos, Rhodes-Symi or the other islands. Walking through the cobbled stone alleys lined with bougainvillea blooms in a riot of colours was like a dream! The dark pink bougainvilleas stood out on stark contrast against the white washed homes. Add to that the blue pottery of the plant pots and the deep blue ocean in the background and you have a picture perfect postcard right in front of your eyes!We stopped by a small taverna and ordered our umpteenth Moussaka! Somehow, we just didn’t seem to have enough of this dish, layered with aubergines, meat and sauce. Greek food somehow manages to combine the aromatic flavours of the fresh produce with amazing recipes to create absolutely delicious dishes which are healthy too! We would often finish the day with a strong shot of Greek coffee brewed in the traditional way ,served unfiltered, often in a small cup, accompanied by the grounds that settle at the bottom.

Every day in Greece was like a dream come true and we found ourselves wishing that this holiday would never end. The sunsets in Oia, Santorini are unparalleled and we couldn’t have enough of it. A highlight of our Santorini trip was the yacht cruise around the caldera. The cruise revealed hidden coves, volcanic hot springs, and pristine beaches. In a particularly serene area, I was ready to dive into the crystal-clear waters, silently thanking my mother for insisting on teaching me to swim at a young age. I witnessed my friend Ruchee, nervous yet brave, edging towards the boat's edge, ready to jump into the open sea for the first time, promising herself she would learn to swim. Even for non-swimmers or those barely getting their feet wet, the cruise offered an unparalleled experience. The rest of our time in Santorini was filled with delightful wine tastings of local varieties, leisurely walks through charming boutiques, and admiration for local artists painting the island's beautiful landscape. What I loved about the shops in Santorini was the local craftsmanship evident in handmade jewelry shops, textiles, and art galleries. These establishments often remained open until midnight, providing the perfect setting for a gentle stroll after dinner. We truly left our hearts in Santorini.

Our next stop took us to Athens, a city steeped in history and mythology. Getting there proved to be as much fun as the city itself. Travelling from one city to another in Greece is a lot of fun with the efficient ferries that ply across islands. Here, we met our guide Angela, who was enthusiastic and fun and brought the stories to life! Dominating the skyline is the Acropolis, an ancient citadel perched on a rocky outcrop with the Parthenon on top. Angela was describing the significance of the Parthenon, a UNESCO world heritage site which was erected in the 5th century BCE, a Doric temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare. She informed us that the Parthenon not only served as a religious sanctuary but also symbolized the democratic ideals of Athens. The construction of this grand temple coincided with the city's Golden Age, marked by advancements in philosophy, literature, and governance.

I was always fascinated by Greek mythology and the story of how Athens was named is one of my favourites. According to the myth, Athens was in need of a patron deity, and two Olympian gods, Athena and Poseidon, vied for the honor. Poseidon, the god of the sea, struck the ground with his mighty trident, causing a spring of water to gush forth. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, took a different approach. Instead of displaying brute force, she planted an olive tree on the Acropolis, signifying growth, prosperity, and peace.When the citizens witnessed Athena's gift, they were captivated by the symbolism and utility of the olive tree and Athena was officially recognized as the patron goddess of Athens. The city was named in her honor, and the olive tree became a sacred symbol associated with Athena and Athens. After listening to this story, I just couldn’t help buying a statue of Athena to take back home with me!

In the heart of Athens lies the Plaka, a charming neighborhood with narrow alleys and neoclassical houses. We walked with Angela through the electrifying atmosphere, exploring local shops, street markets, and traditional tavernas. That night as we sat at a cafe overlooking the Acropolis, and the illuminated Acropolis was a sight to behold! We simply couldn’t take our eyes off it! That’s when Angela said, 'I could never be lost in Athens. The Acropolis is like an anchor for the entire city, and you could always orient yourself with one look at the Acropolis!' We all agreed that just like the Acropolis, Athens is the compass that guides us all, as Greece has always shown the way to the world in the fields of intelligence, bravery, medicine, philosophy, and set the ideals of democracy!

As we reached for our last Greek coffee we were reminded that friendships are not measured in years but in the precious moments we choose to share. We bid goodbye to Athens with a heavy heart but promised ourselves we would be back here, for one trip is just not sufficient to capture the beauty of Greece!

December 16, 2023

Author

Sunila Patil
Sunila Patil

Sunila Patil, the founder and Chief Product Officer at Veena World, holds a master's degree in physiotherapy. She proudly served as India's first and only Aussie Specialist Ambassador, bringing her extensive expertise to the realm of travel. With a remarkable journey, she has explored all seven continents, including Antarctica, spanning over 80 countries. Here's sharing the best moments from her extensive travels. Through her insightful writing, she gives readers a fascinating look into her experiences.

More Blogs by Sunila Patil

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