Greece

CORFU DREAMS

Greece has thousands of islands and each of them has its own identity, even those that belong to the same archipelago. In this highly competitive crowd, however, Corfu – or Kerkyra – stands out.

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FAR FROM SUMMER CROWDS IN GREECE

While you speed westwards on the Egnatia Odos highway in Greece towards the port of Igoumenitsa with its ferries, you are passing by places that deserve more than just reading their names on the roadsigns and then forgetting them.

North of the highway you will find several towns deserving of a detour because of their situation and interesting history.

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FROM VENDETTAS TO HEAVEN

Bees are buzzing around the dragon flowers sprouting from the stone walls of a three-storey tower. Old and weathered, the tower rises amid quiet lanes scorched by the sun. A couple of elderly men are eyeing us from the shadows of the nearby tavern.

"Orea," say the men.

"Einai para poli orea," we answer. Indeed, the tower is beautiful. There are several more around, remains from the days when exploring the Mani, the middle leg of the Peloponnese Peninsula, was not that easy.

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ATHENS NEVER CEASES TO AWE

It is a place of ancient monuments and of drab, unremarkable post-1940s streets with white houses and greying apartment buildings, with bustling street traffic and elderly people slowly strolling along. There are tourist traps and tavernas that seem unchanged since  the 1960s, intelligent graffiti and classical monuments which laid the foundation of Western art, among the pestering pigeons and of the pageantry of the Evzones national guard.

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GO GREECE, FOR THE SUMMER

Only 190-kilometre drive separate Sofia from Kulata, the most popular border crossing with Greece. The country is blessed with Mediterranean climate. The summer is hot, sunny and dry, and it is more than guaranteed that the weather will not suddenly turn bad for several days in a row during your vacation – the average number of sunny days in the country is 250. As a result of concurrence of geographical and historical circumstances, Greece has a coastline of 13,676 km – incomparably more than Bulgaria's 354-kilometre Black Sea coast.

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THE NAME OF THE SUMMER

Greece is a great place to spend your holidays, and this is not news, as show the queues of Bulgarian-plated cars that consistently and predictably form at the border crossings with this country each long weekend and each summer. Each of the persons in these cars will give you his or her own reason for his or her choice of vacation destination. Some say it is the clean sea, others – the calmness and the lack of stress, and third are in love with the quality of service and food. All of these are true, and there are many more.

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THESSALONIKI NOW

Even Bulgarians who love winter will admit this: if you are not on the ski slopes or beside the blazing fire of a traditional guesthouse or restaurant somewhere in the country, the year's coldest season is quite depressing in the big cities. The ice. The slush. The slippery pavements and the chore of clearing frost and snow from your car. The dark clothes Bulgarians unanimously wear. The murky shadows of the side streets at night.

Bulgarians from the big cities have long found a quick solution to the winter blues: Thessaloniki.

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KEFALONIA: INCREDIBLE PART OF GREECE

Arguably, Kefalonia is one of the best places in Greece to spend your summer vacation. The largest of the Ionian islands, complete with picturesque and idyllic villages such as Fiscardo and Assos, stunning beaches like Myrtos, Antisamos and Xi, and its capital, Argostoli, situated by a picturesque lagoon. Argostoli is also a place of calm central streets and a curiosity, the 19th Century Drapano stone bridge. The island's most imposing historical site is St George's castle, a Byzantine stronghold rebuilt by the Venetians in 1545, which offers amazing vistas of its surroundings.

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TOP 5 BEACHES

In Greece, the beaches are so many and diverse, that the sheer idea to single out only five of them sounds like a recipe for disaster. Especially if you are the sort of person who has happened to travel in Greece, dividing your attention between the narrow winding road and the golden beaches in coves which appear and disappear with each bend. And yet, some of Greece's beaches deserve special attention. We offer you some of them, in an incredibly subjective selection.

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GO GREECE!

We are interested in all aspects of Greece, from its incredible cultural heritage to its fantastic beaches; from its extraordinary island sunsets to its seaside taverns; from its Ottoman bridges in the north to its bizarre volcanic formations in the south. From Crete to Samothrace and from Athens to Thessaloniki – by way of Ioannina, Kastoria and Grevena.

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HOLY MOUNTAIN

Many means of reliving the past – historical reenactments, books or movies – rely on the strength of your imagination, but there is a place where an almost complete immersion in the Middle Ages is still possible.

This place is the monastic republic of Agion Oros, or Holy Mountain, in Greece. The lifestyle has hardly changed in the past 10 centuries, when the entry of women and female animals onto its territory was forbidden. Situated on the easternmost tip of the Chalkidiki peninsula, the monastic community is an easy one-day trip from Bulgaria.

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CHALKIDIKI FOREVER

Crisis or no crisis, the results of an informal survey among friends, relatives and people overheard in cafés, bars and the Sofia metro on how they plan to spend their summer holiday are clear. The overwhelming majority will head to Chalkidiki in Greece.

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BEST OF ATHENS

Athens has been on the tourist map for so long that it has lost the air of discovery. In high season, you have to fight with the international crowds to climb up the Propylaea, take a snapshot of the national guard or find a table in a proper restaurant. But Athens is still one of the world cities worth visiting and revisiting – here is a list of some of the places and things which make it what it is. And we won't even mention the evzones.

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM

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NEW ACROPOLIS MUSEUM

A class of school-children are sitting on the floor. They are silent, attentively listening to their teacher. Their eyes are fixed on the long marble frieze in front of them. On its white surface, a solemn procession of men and women, of riders and kids, head towards an unknown destination. The figures are 2,400 years old, yet they look as alive as the schoolchildren watching them.

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CHALKIDIKI TOP 5

There was a time when, if someone from Sofia wanted to meet up with their friends in the summer, they would head east to the Bulgarian seaside, where half of the capital was spending its vacation. For several years now, however, the tide has turned. Today, if you really miss your friends in summer deserted Sofia, head south to the Greek border, and then on to Chalkidiki.

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KAVALA

"Then suddenly the sea appeared – immense quiet blue space, an abyss of water and sky united behind the tall silhouette of the island of Thassos, it, too, bathed in transparent blue. To the right, the barely visible outlines of Mount Athos were fading away. To the left were the swampy valleys of Sarıbaşan and the marshes of the Mesta River, absorbed by haze, and the dark spots of the Keramoti greenery. In the middle, at the foot of the hill, Kavala was spreading, a giant amphitheatre of white tightly-packed houses looming in a blinding contrast with the inky blue of the sea.

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SUNSET HUNTERS

The hotel guests the English writer Dame Rebecca West described in her 1941 classic Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, were of two kinds: they had seemed as though they had been on a honeymoon, or had been making up for the one they had never had.

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HIDDEN SALONIKA

Thessaloniki is easy to describe. Even in a year of economic instability and rising prices, visiting it remains the quickest, easiest and undeniably the most pleasurable way of buying new clothes and overeating on excellent fish or meat. For centuries the busy port city has been one of the most cosmopolitan places in the Balkans; and where there is a diverse population, many and various stories invariably arise.

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