Enamored with Classical myths and legends, our member shares what it was like to experience their settings firsthand during a trip through Greece.
Andrew Harper Staff (AHS): What was the inspiration for your recent trip to Greece?
Thomas Oxman (TO): My wife is a docent at a college museum. The museum had an exhibit called “Poseidon and the Sea.” After learning about this exhibit and giving tours, she fell in love with Greece and we had to go.
AHS: Did you encounter any “mythic moments” of your own, or any lingering relics of an ancient world?
TO: Having always viewed the "Iliad and the Odyssey" as more or less myths, going to the Peloponnese and actually seeing the palace of Agamemnon and his father’s tomb and hearing other possible causes for a real Trojan War, made the reality of the "Iliad" suddenly come to life.
Also seeing the ancient town of Akrotiri on Santorini revealed not one, but probably three ancient civilizations, the last of which disappeared 4,000 years ago, right before a volcanic eruption. The ceramics, wall paintings and indoor plumbing(!) left behind and covered by the volcanic eruption are truly amazing.
AHS: How did the destination compare to the myths and artifacts that sparked the journey?
TO: [They were] even more impressive because we saw the beauty of the country around the artifacts, and the guides made the myths and artifacts come to life.
This trip that began with the god of the sea, Poseidon, ended with him as well. The Parthenon was a temple to Athena, goddess of wisdom, who defeated Poseidon in a contest. The statues on the east pediment of the roof display the story.
AHS: Were there any standout experiences regarding your accommodations?
TO: Amanzo’e is a modern version of the Parthenon that made us feel like gods. The rooms are palatial in size, each with a plunge pool and a view. At the end of the off season we hardly saw anybody. But if we looked at all lost or in need, someone suddenly and magically appeared and asked if they could assist us. The staff wanted us to feel like “part of the Aman family forever.”
The Hotel Grande Bretagne is a grand dame of a hotel with a terrific location. The rooftop restaurant at the hotel allowed us to see the Acropolis each morning at breakfast and romantically lit up for cocktails and dinner. We could see the changing of the guards at the unknown soldier’s tomb from our room.
AHS: Did you have any exceptional dining experiences?
TO: Every single meal was exceptional! The Greek version of a Mediterranean diet including fresh fish, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese was something we loved every day, often with a great Santorini wine. Perhaps the most exceptional dining experience was the private meal prepared at the Tsitouras Collection for just the two of us at the rooftop infinity pool.
AHS: What item or experience was worth every penny?
TO: The accommodations, and the drivers supplied by Amanzo’e (to and from Athens, to Mycenae, Nafplio and Epidaurus).
AHS: In a region with many remarkable sights, what was the highlight for you?
TO: Mycenae and Epidaurus with our guide, Theo. [He] brought to life the miraculous find of Mycenae where the myths of Homer’s Iliad meet the historical reality of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War.
AHS: How did bustling Athens compare to the other ancient spots you visited?
TO: Our final stop, Athens was exciting and vibrant. After the prehistoric civilizations of the Peloponnese and Santorini, the Acropolis almost seemed like modern history.
A Segway tour around the Acropolis and the streets of the Plaka neighborhood was an exhilarating introduction to the city. The next day we hiked up to the Parthenon and went to the superb new Acropolis Museum and the National Archeological Museum (primarily to see the artifacts from Mycenae).
AHS: What was your impression of Greece in light of the economic turbulence that’s been surrounding the country?
TO: Particularly outside of Athens, it was noticeable how many stores and businesses had closed. If you talked to people working at the hotels, you could hear stories about retirement being postponed if not eliminated. There were protests in the park outside of Parliament and our hotel in Athens, but they were more festive than frightening. Overall, the people seemed to be carrying on with their lives and certainly friendly to us and happy to have visitors.