For the last week we have been out of lockdown and have been lucky enough to go to the beach and outside archaeological sites in Athens. However, as each country debates how and when to let tourist in it is clear from the reaction we get from locals that they don’t want tourists from England just yet.
Pretty much every person we greet quickly learns that we are not local and are in fact English. On learning this, you see panic and confusion cross their faces. They imminently ask: “where are you from”, we confirm that we are English. You can again see them wanting to get the recommended two meters away and hand sanitise as soon as it wouldn’t be insulting. I have now learnt to say to people we meet as soon as possible that we have been here since September and are no more a threat than any other Greek. At this, they automatically ease and try and cover up their natural fear embedded by all the headlines of the thousands dying in Britain due to Covid-19.
We have seen this week that Britain is not included in the first wave of countries being allowed to holiday in Greece this summer. From our experience, it is clear that many Greeks would be terrified to have anyone from Britain flying over anytime soon, and it’s understandable. At writing this, Greece has only had 168 deaths, and the UK has had 36,393. There is lots of debate to why Greece has been relatively unscathed by the virus in comparison to the UK. Still, one thing is for sure, Greece receives over 30 million tourists each year and only has a population of under 11 million. The tourists from all over the world would outnumber the Greeks 3/1 and could quickly spread the virus across Greece, overwhelming the Greek health care, especially on the islands that do not have hospitals close by. The arrival of tourists would reboot the economy, but the loss of life could be equally devastating.
Greece will have to balance the damage to the economy with the strain on their health service and loss of life. If you are planning a holiday to Greece very soon, I would consider the risk to both yourself and those around you. It is essential to understand that you might be escaping the long months of lockdown you have endured, but to Greece, you will be a genuine threat.
Written & Published by Alex Hood
Nafplio or Nafplion was the first capital of Greece through the years 1828- 1833 and provides an island type of life just two hours drive from Athens, so we decided this would be an ideal place to travel to after the easing of lockdown.
The trip to Nafplio provide to be a little harder that we had anticipated. On arriving at the bus terminal, we soon found we were at Terminal B when we needed to be at Terminal A. After we had sorted this out and found our way to Terminal A, in which we had to get a Beat (taxi) to as it is about 15 minutes away, we were able to find the correct office to buy our coach tickets. Due to the Covid outbreak they are only working at around 50% capacity meaning the coach we were aiming to get at 2pm was already full so we had to compromise and get the next coach at 6pm meaning we would get to our destination at around 8pm. The two- hour bus journey was the easy part, it stops in a couple places one being the town Argos, which is a 15-minute drive away from Nafplio.
For the bus tickets we paid 10-euro 80 cent each, this was with the student discount on providing out Athens university student card.
On arriving in Nafplio we walked to our Airbnb that we had booked prior to arriving. Hotels do not open until the 15th June 2020 in Greece, but Airbnb have continued to be open throughout the pandemic. Out Airbnb was called ‘Home sweet Home’ it was basic but perfect for two people looking to explore the surrounding area. Located in the old town of Nafplio it had an amazing view from the balcony and allowed us to pinpoint all the surrounding landmarks.
Although the restaurants were still shut on our arrival, we found a couple restaurants that were open for takeaway, so we were able to get a souvlaki/ gyro. Although we had to eat this on the steps or benches in the streets it didn’t matter to us too much as the views and the heat made it an enjoyable experience.
We woke up this morning ready to explore!
Our first stop was the Palamidi fortress, this is hard to miss as it stands tall on the edge of the town. Like the Acropolis you will be able to see it from wherever you are staying within Nafplio. Although it is around a 30 minute walk up and 30 minutes down (depending on how fast you walk) the views are worth every step. If you are under 25 and bring along your passport you will be granted free entrance to this fort however, if not the price is no more than 10 euros and it is open from 8am till 8pm during the summer months, meaning you don't have to walk up in the highest heat of the day. Normally there is the ability to walk around all parts of the fortress however, due to Covid-19 some parts were cut off for us due to there not being as many staff on because of the lack of tourists. This is a must see, the fortress still stands in excellent condition and shows off its Venetian fortification architecture with a total of eight bastions that are contained within the walls. But remember your sun cream as we both ended up with some sunburn from the walk up there!
Following this we went to a beautiful little beach which can be viewed from the fortress. The beach sits behind the fort and offers parking as well as a beach front restaurant. ‘Paralia Arvanitias’ can be reach by walking from the port along the seafront under a cave and round to the beach or through the car park that is situated in-between the palace and the fortress. It offers beautiful clear waters although when it is windy it proves a bit rough but still very scenic.
After relaxing on the beach and soaking up the sun we decided to head to one of the other attractions that you can see rising above the town. The castle walls and clock tower. This walk isn’t as strenuous as the fortress and still offers views of the town below. Although the castle is no longer there you can still walk along the walls and imagine the whole town once living within them.
That evening we managed to get some food from a takeaway restaurant called “Art Meat”. This food was amazing, and they offered a good range of different dishes.
Today we spent around 5 hours walking around however, it was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever been on. This walk is east of Nafplio and leads along the coast to Karathona beach. This is a sandy long stretch of beach but the walk itself even offered rocky beaches down from the path. This walk is incredibly popular with the locals as we came across many people walking along this path to the little coves and the longer beach. Once we came to the beach after around an hour walk we stopped off for a coffee and to reapply sun cream. The beach here was busy but it was also big enough to provide room for everyone. Not only were people swimming and enjoying the sunshine, there were also people windsurfing. After our pit stop we decided to continue down past Saint Nicholas church and along the cliff side, this was along a provided path around 300 meters towards the Church Agios Nikolaos Krasoktistos. This was a beautiful little chapel on the edge of the cliff with steps leading down to the water. It was truly something out of a Mamma Mia film. It was so well looked after and was the perfect spot for some pictures and to relax. If given the opportunity this should be on your list to see while visiting Nafplio. Not only with a beautiful scenic walk but also with amazing landmarks it is not to be missed.
After walking there and back we were incredibly hungry so we headed home for a quick shower and then decided to head out and grab some food.
We found this amazing Lebanese street food restaurant called 'Mandaloun' and the food was to die for! With amazing hospitality from the people working there including, offering us a free falafel dipped in hummus to suppress our hungry that bit longer until our food was ready added to the whole experience.
We ate this on the amphitheatre that had become our little restaurant the last couple of nights and enjoyed our last evening in Nafplio.
Unlike Athens on a Sunday the shops were buzzing as they await the reopening of restaurants and bars on the 25th May.
You could truly feel the excitement and anticipation in the air which we could relate to a lot.
Our final day:
With our coach not leaving till 5pm we still had a bit of time to enjoy the atmosphere of Nafplio with its restaurants opening their doors to customers once again. For our first restaurant experience we headed to one of the cafes along the seafront with a view of the castle that lives on its own island within the port. It seemed that everyone had the same idea as the Cafes overflowed with life as customers sipped on their first coffee after the hardship of the two months of lockdown.
The remainder of the day we spent on the beach or looking around the little streets that are lined with small shops and cafés.
This town although not far from Athens holds an atmosphere mostly only found on the islands. For a relaxing couple of days without the long ferry rides, Nafplion is the perfect place.
We are three Brighton University students who have been given the opportunity to study at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. This blog will be our way of sharing our experiences of living and studying in Greece, plus will include tips and advice for those also looking to study abroad or even just visit Athens.
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