Learning a few or more words of a native language enhances your trip in so many intrinsic ways. Sadly Americans are woefully inadequate in multiple languages, almost every European one meets, speaks at least three languages. Despite the prevalence of English, speaking the local language, even if just a few words, enhances a visit to a foreign country.
Every local you encounter will appreciate your effort, and in fact, you may receive slightly better treatment than you would otherwise. Travel is simply more rewarding and much more fun when you speak the language. It’s all part of the adventure. Learning the customs of the country, understanding the people and the culture will expand your horizons and provide you a greater appreciation of your environment.
High school or college language skills may have vanished; if so, Stanford and community colleges offer language classes. Berlitz may be the next best thing. Rosetta Stone has terrific language software. Myngle is an Internet based service, which offers real time instruction in 50 different languages. Many of our phones offer apps with phrases or translations aids, but knowing a handful or more words of a local language without a handheld device will add value to your journey. For the seriously difficult languages not based on the Roman alphabet, such as Chinese or Japanese, when sounding out the characters is absolutely impossible, purchase Me No Speak: China-Japan or Thai. Great guidebooks or IPhone apps, with illustrations of objects – point to an object and let the little book speak for you.
Focus on the country you will be visiting- when a client initiates a trip with me, I instantly send a guidebook and a recommended reading list. Study national authors, examine their history, and pore over maps. Use the long flight time traveling to your destination as a study period.
I frequently make a handful of flash cards to practice basic phrases and keep a few of these in my travel journal. In Marbella, my driver, who had taken one English class and I chatted for 45 minutes- me in my broken Spanish – he pronounced us ‘simpatico’ by the time I reached my destination! I was thrilled to interact with a local and understand his perspective on his country and answer his questions about America!
A smile is universal, understood everywhere – combined with a few words and some English, one can usually master any difficulty. My goal prior to my first trip to Italy was to win an argument in Italian- I didn’t accomplish this feat, but I did meet locals and felt my efforts were truly appreciated by my hosts in Milan.
Master basic phrases: learn 50 to100 words in the language of the country; key phrases: thank you, please, I’m sorry I don’t speak…very well. Where is…What is the cost of?
Dine at local restaurants. Avoid restaurants with menus in many languages- they are for tourists, you must dine like a local! My first trip to France, I had a cheat sheet, which I timidly kept under the table and roughly translated a dish in a very fine restaurant as Foie gras wrapped in a wet dish towel-not good!
Most of all, enjoy and don’t be timid in your efforts, your language attempts will be appreciated.
Captain, permission to board?
Join your yacht in Athens, unpack and relax as you begin your cruise to Kea, a 40-mile steam. The exceptionally picturesque island of Kea lies 15 miles from the southeast coast of Attica. The mountain masses, which are encountered in most of the Cyclades, are broken up by small valleys sparsely planted with vines and fruit-trees and run right down to the sea, opening out into pretty little bays.
Visit one of the island’s peaceful beaches at Pisses, Korissia, and Koundouros. Cruise to the western side of the island into Agios Nikolaos Bay and deep within it to the port of Korissia, which is considered to be one of the safest natural harbors in the Mediterranean.
Enjoy breakfast before cruising to Tinos, the “Holy Island of the Cyclades.” The island is the site of the Church of Evangelistria, which houses an icon of the Annunciation that draws thousands of Orthodox Christians on the feast day of August 15th.
There are plenty of good beaches, too, notably at Agios Fokas near the town, Kionia, Porto, Panormos Bay, Kolimbithra, Agios Sostis and Pahia Amos.
The lunar-type landscape at the spot known as ‘Volax’, with its peculiar boulders, is extremely unique and well worth a visit. No one should leave the island without having purchased, or at least tasted, high-grade cheeses like “kopanisti” and “Mitzithra”, which are made locally.
LITTLE VENICE, CHORA, MYKONOS
One of the most cosmopolitan of all the Greek islands, Mykonos, has an international reputation and quite justifiably attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world. The capital Chora, with its colorful harbor in which little fishing boats nest happily side by side with luxury yachts, presents quite a different picture from that of the majority of Aegean island towns.
One of the most charming districts of Chora is Little Venice with the picturesque houses of the island’s sea captains, built right on the rocks lashed on by the sea. The mascot of the Island is a Pelican, called Petros, which can be seen trying to bite tourists at the port.
Delos was the religious capital of the Ionians in 1,000 BC. Greek mythology recounts how Leto, one of Zeus’s lovers, gave birth to Apollo on Delos, god of physical beauty and the fine arts. By 454 BC the Athenians had overtaken the Ionians, forcing Delos to pay taxes and provide ships to Athens. Delos’ greatest period was in the third to fourth century BC, when the tiny island had a population of 20,000 and was the chief financial center and slave market in the Mediterranean. Foreigners from Rome, Syria and Egypt built homes and coexisted tolerantly, despite the variety of religious beliefs.
Visit the excavated ruins, such as the Avenue of the Lions, the theater, and many one and two-story houses with mosaic floors, like the House of the Trident. A flight of steps ascends the island’s summit, Mt. Kynthos, the birthplace of Apollo. As a visitor you can admire most of these finds wandering around Delos sanctum and visiting the islands archaeological museum.
Paros is the third largest of the Cyclades after Naxos and Andros and has developed into an important center of tourism in recent years. Gently rolling hills surround the center and southeast of the island, which is occupied by endless vineyards.
The Monastery of Katapyliani is located in a wooded park just up the road from the harbor. Its name means “Church of a Hundred Gates” and is one of the most important Christian monuments in Greece. Paroikia (or Paros), the island’s capital and port, stands on the site of an ancient city. There is a picturesque and ruinous Venetian castle and the courtyards of the houses of the town – all of them painted white – are full of hanging pots of basil, jasmine and honeysuckle.
Among the beaches near Naoussa, special attention should be made of Kolibithres where huge rocks eroded into strange shapes reminding the visitor of sculptures embedded in the sand.
Anchor off Langeri, a secluded sandy beach, or Drios beach, which happens to have a fabulous fish taverna where you may want to have lunch.
Ios, which is locally called Nios, is an island whose history goes back to prehistoric times. According to Herodotus, the “poet of poet’s”, the ‘godlike’ Homer was buried at Plakotos, in the north of the island and Pausanias tells us that there was an inscription at Delphi confirming the poet’s interment on Ios. The sites of Ios include a Hellenistic tower and the remains of an ancient aqueduct at Agia Theodoti, traces of an ancient temple at Psathi, a ruinous Venitian castle at the spot known as Paleokastro, and the Hellenistic tower of Plakotos.
Exploring Chora means, first of all, walking. Set off from your yacht in the cool of morning, wear your most comfortable shoes and get ready to set off. One hour is enough for the ones who just want to have a look at this whitewashed village, perched on the slope of the hill between the port and Mylopotas. The more demanding ones will need the whole morning to discover the hidden beauty of Chora.
This island has superb beaches. Anchor off the long sandy beach of Kalamos, a natural reserve on the eastern coast of the island. It is usually very quiet and very often one has the chance to enjoy it alone. South of Kalamos lays the beach of Papa. Only a short way lays Manganari. These are four of the most beautiful beaches in the Aegean.
As you approach Santorini, it’s easy to imagine the cataclysm that gave birth to this astonishing Greek Island that has become such a popular tourist destination. Your yacht edges between bare islands of volcanic rock and the crescent shaped remains of the volcano. Santorini, with its sheer black cliffs rising 200 meters out of the sea, actually consists of three islands: Thira, Thirasia and Aspronisi.
Between Skala (the main port), at the base of the cliff, and Thera (the main town), a narrow path has been etched into the cliff-face in a series of zigzags. To the left of the path there are the prosaic lines of a cable car, the first hint of the island’s connection with the twentieth century and tourism. There are three ways to get from Skala to Thera – mule, foot or cable car. The most popular, is by mule.
Besides the interesting architecture of the houses in Thera, it is worth visiting the two cathedrals (the Orthodox and the Catholic) and the Monastery of the Dominican nuns. The Catholic monastery of Panagia of Rodari, which was built in the area of Skaros where the medieval capital of the island used to lie surrounded by a strong fortress on the edge of a steep hill, and the Venetian building Gizi are worth a visit.
From the gulf of Thera boats can take you to Nea Kammeni. There you can see the volcano’s crater where hot air and sulphuric steam still rises. The land is warm and you should wear athletic shoes and have plenty of water. Hot springs exist at the nearby Palia Kammeni where the sea is sulphur-blue.
Sifnos is a mountainous island with fertile valleys, beautiful beaches and several towns. It has a long history and has been inhabited since 3000 BC. Apollonia is the capital of Sifnos and is actually a collection of villages of which Apollonia is one.
The first inhabitants of Sifnos were the Kareans and the Phoenicians. The island was famous in ancient times for the wealth, which came from its gold and silver mines and the quarries of Sifnos stone. It enjoyed great prosperity in Classical times, as can be seen from its Treasury, dedicated to Apollo at Delphi.
Kastro, (3 Km from Apollonia), Sifnos’ capital from the 14th to the 19th century, retains some of its medieval character. It is built on a rocky outcrop with an almost sheer drop to the sea on three sides. There are Venetian coats of arms and ancient wall fragments in some of the older dwellings. There is also a small Archaeological Museum, which exhibits a collection of Archaic and Hellenistic sculpture of ceramics to the Byzantine era.
There are clean and attractive beaches all over the island. Platygialos is a large sheltered beach, Vathi is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece with fine sand and Apokofto is a sandy beach with a rocky shelf near Chrysopigi. Herronissos is another traditional fish village situated on the north part of the island. Herronissos is well known for the handmade ceramics, which are produced there.
As your vessel glides into the port of Livadi you’ll catch your first glimpse of the towering hills of Serifos flecked with the white, sugar-cube houses of Chora! The curious rock formations resemble human figures, which call to mind the myth of Danae, Perseus and Medusa, as if these prehistoric inhabitants of the island had been turned to stone. Perseus, the mythological hero that killed the medusa, the terrible monster with a woman’s face and hair as serpents was born on this island.
The fortress-like monastery Moni Taxiarchon near the village of Galani, which houses some fine wall paintings and important books and manuscripts, is of special interest. The village of Panagia commands a panoramic view of the whole island.
The greatest attraction of Serifos is its magnificent beaches. The beach of Psilli Ammos, which lies about 2 km to the east of Livadi, beckons with the softest and whitest sand. Close to the monastery of Moni Taxiarchon, there is a small village on the north coast named Platis Gialos with Platis Gialos bay, which consists of about three rather small beaches.
Koutalas is a nice village with a beautiful bay and lovely beach, secluded from the winds. It is also the site of the old mine delivery cranes, rusted remnants of which are found on the left side.
Kithnos inherited its name from Kithno, king of its first settlers, the Dryopians. Thermia is its second name, which has to do with the thermal springs of Loutra, and is used mostly of the locals.
The small island of Kithnos is mainly mountainous but full of pretty little bays. Chora or Messaria is the island’s capital noted for the beautiful churches with their fine wood-carved, sanctuary screens and icons. At the south of the island lies the island’s former capital Driopida and in the northeastern lies Loutra, a resort with warm sulphurous spa-waters with its curative qualities.
Sightseeing on Kithnos involves the Church of Panagia Flambouriani, which stands in the village of Flambouria, southwest of the town of Kithnos. According to tradition, there are traces from the steps of the Virgin all the way from the beach to the church. In summer, lilies blooming in the area give off their sweet smell. In the souvenir shops, one can find beautiful folk art objects, shells, leather products, ceramics and wood-carved objects, as well as woven fabrics with beautiful designs, in vivid colors.
50-mile steams back to Athens from Kithnos where you’ll disembark.