100 Places Greece_front cover webDiscover Greece’s Best Places for Women

With style, intelligence, and personal anecdotes gleaned from years of working in Greece, archaeologist and award-winning writer Amanda Summer is your personal guide to the best of Greece. In crisp and often humorous storytelling she introduces you to the temples, shrines, grottoes, and churches of this magnificent country, intricately weaving in stories of the women—from goddesses of mythology Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite to goddesses of cinema and the arts Melina Mercouri, Irini Papas, and Maria Callas—who have molded the history and culture of Greece itself.

Come along on a Greek odyssey to uncover the unexpected charms of Athens, float down the real River Styx, and travel to the holy sites of Kefalonia, Tinos, and Mount Olympus to learn of miraculous healing involving snakes, saintly relics, and women’s underwear. Find out why Corinth’s ancient temple prostitution gives new meaning to the term Sex and the City and discover an ancient mystery cult on Lesbos that rivals “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Sail to Leros, birthplace of Artemis and an island known as a destination for the insane, and make a stop on Skopelos to see that fantastic cliff top church where Meryl Streep belted out Abba tunes in the hit film Mamma Mia.

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“Oh my gods! Amanda Summer lights up the country with magic, history, power, and mystery. Do not go to Greece without this book.”
—Rita Golden Gelman, author of Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

“This book makes a perfect traveling companion for any woman discovering Greece…get ready for a fresh perspective, interesting insight or useful information—everything you’d want from a buddy joining you on your odyssey.”
—Eleni Gage, author of North of Ithaka, The Ladies of Managua, and Other Waters

“…a captivating account of thousands of years of female experience in one of the most enchanting places of the world…. Amanda Summer’s lively, powerful, and intimate writing brings to life not only the ruins, the landscape, and the culture of Greece, but also the connection between the past and the present.”
—Professor Michael Cosmopoulos, author of Bronze Age Eleusis and the Origins of the Eleusinian Mysteries

The first time I set foot on Greek soil, I was an eleven-year-old child on a family vacation. I can still remember the fierceness of the sun, the surreal turquoise sea, and the smell of pines marinating an atmosphere that seemed infused with mystery. I can also remember being mesmerized by the cute Greek waiter who flirted with my older sister at a seaside family dinner one night, and recall that, even at an early age, the tumbled column drums and foundation stones of ancient temples really did seem to speak to me.

As a college student, years later, I felt compelled to return to Greece on a study abroad program. After living in rural Crete with a family to learn the language, I returned to Athens and had an experience one afternoon in a restaurant basement that changed my life. After imbibing my share of golden retsina with a group of girlfriends, I inquired as to the location of the ladies room, and was directed down a spiral staircase that seemed to penetrate the earth itself. Wandering down a dark passageway, my hands fumbling along the damp stone walls for purchase, I heard a voice in the distance. “Do you want to see something interesting?” it asked. As I drew nearer I saw a figure looming in the distance; upon closer inspection I could make out that it was our waiter. “Uh, sure,” I answered, not sure at all. In fact, I felt like Persephone, perched at the edge of an abyss, about to be abducted by a real life Hades into the Underworld. “You will like it,” he grinned, his teeth shining white in the darkness. “Come and see,” he said, grabbing my hand and pulling me deeper into the cellar. A riot of emotions surged through my body: just as I felt I was about to be kidnapped and no one would know where to find me, we entered into a clearing. My Hades raised his arm and pointed—there in the distance, a slender, white rectangle of marble erupted from the earth. Upon closer inspection, I could see inscriptions engraved onto the face of the stone. Hades spoke, his teeth once again gleaming through the flannel light. “You see,” he said in a hushed and reverent tone, “that is a grave.” He paused for a moment, and then released a sentence with the veneration of a priest giving an Easter Sunday benediction, “and we are standing in a cemetery.”

I stood, silent and awestruck. Hades waited a few moments before interrupting my reverie. “You like?” he asked, innocently, wondering if my silence meant I was disappointed. Here I was, thirty feet below the modern Athenian street level, cars and buses rumbling above me, knocking dust off the rafters that floated onto my hair in a gritty benediction. “Did I like?” I was standing in an ancient Roman graveyard! Somewhere in this hazy intersection between ancient and modern, past and present, lay my future. Right then and there, I made up my mind: I wanted to become an archaeologist. Hades was no abductor; in fact, I had to thank him, for he had unlocked the key to my future. I took in a breath and gave him my answer. “I like,” I said quietly, “I like very much.”

Ever since that transformational moment in an Athenian restaurant basement, I have been mesmerized, maddened and emboldened by the ancient landscape of Greece. Every time I return, I find a way to channel my inner goddesses. Feeling independent? Artemis is your gal. Ready to take on the big boys and own your feminine power? Let the supremacy of Athena course through your blood. In a sexy mood? Aphrodite is never far away in this sensual and passionate country. Ready to take a plunge into the depths? Allow Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, to guide your way. Remember, the world’s most potent modern divas were born with Greek fire in their blood: Maria Callas, Melina Mercouri, and Irene Papas, and other screen goddesses have tested their artistic chops on this magnificent soil: Meryl Streep, Pauline Collins, Daryl Hannah, Alexis Bledel, and Jacqueline Bisset to name a few. Yet another famous Jacqueline—Jackie O—put Greece on the map after marrying the country’s richest and most infamous shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis.

There is a sense of chaos (a Greek word!) and dirt-under-the-fingernails quality to this country that makes it real. Greeks say what they feel, don’t hide their emotions and live life to the max. They will gladly give you everything they have, for the obligation to filotimo—respect for oneself and others—is a real and undeniable one. Because they want to please, Greeks will give you directions, even if they don’t know the way, for not to offer you something is considered rude. Greeks love to help, love it when you try to speak their language, and will tell you stories with a zest, passion, and kefi worthy of Homer. Aphrodite lives in their soul, for Greeks worship beauty. You will find it in the line of the columns of the Parthenon, on every beach where the sea caresses the pine-laden shore, in the precise placement of cloves burrowed into diamonds of rich, flaky baklava, and in the wrapping of gifts you bring home to loved ones, painstakingly and lovingly cradled in tissue, bagged or boxed, and tied with an exquisite medallion or bow.

Alexandra Fiada in her book, The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Greeks, accurately captures the boundlessly passionate essence of the Greek sensibility, “Self-control—although invented by the ancient Spartans—is not only unknown but also incomprehensible to the modern Greek. They are eager in everything: their joys, their sorrows, have no moderation. They shout, they yell, they rant and rave for important and unimportant issues alike, in happiness and in sorrow. No emotion is considered private enough to remain unexpressed and their excitement knows no bounds.”

I will leave you with another quote, from Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell, a memoir of the author’s life on the Ionian island of Corfu. In my humble opinion, Durrell managed to sum up the joyous and mysterious nature of his adopted homeland when he wrote: “Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape; Greece offers you something harder—the discovery of yourself.”

May the following pages offer you a peek into this powerful and ancient place, and the opportunity to discover many things about its manners, lore, landscape, and sites, both ancient and modern. But more evocatively, as you explore this collection of beloved, handpicked places dedicated to the feminine, may you ultimately unearth the most cherished treasure of all: your inner goddess!

Amanda Summer
Saint Louis, Missouri

I. Goddesses of Mythology and Antiquity
1. The Acropolis
The Parthenon, Erechtheion, and The Temple of Athena Nike
2. Hills of the Muses, the Pnyx and the Nymphs
Daughters of the Arts Dwell Amidst the Fathers of Democracy
3. Lykavittos Hill
Athena Drops a Rock
4. Tower of the Winds
An Ancient Water Clock in Athens’s Roman Agora
5. Hadrian’s Library
Statue of Nike
6. Mighty Aphrodite—Paphos, Cyprus
Petra tou Romiou: Birthplace of the Goddess of Love and Beauty
7. Eleusis
Where Persephone Descended into the Underworld
8. Samos
Birthplace of Hera
9. Mycenae
Iphigenia and the Face That Launched a Thousand Ships: Helen of Troy
10. Mad for Leros
Island of the Moon Goddess and a Notorious Asylum
11. Aegina
Temple of a Vanishing Goddess
12. Kos Nymphaeum
The House of Europa and the Birthplace of Leto
13. Delos
Leto’s Sacred Twins and the Temple of Isis
14. Naxos
Island of Strauss’s Ariadne, Semele’s Unborn Child, and an Unforgettable Saints’ Day Festival
15. Melissani and the Nymphs
The Underground Lake of Melissani and Drogarati Cave

II. Goddesses of Cinema, History, and the Arts
16. The Acropolis Museum, The Caryatids, and Melina Mercouri
Women Holding Up the World
17. Men in Tights
The Royal Guards at the National Palace and Queen Amalia of Bavaria
18. The Herodes Atticus Theater
Maria Callas and Other Stars Performing Under the Stars
19. Dora Stratou Theater
A Living Monument to Dance
20. Cycladic Museum
Dolly Goulandris and Cycladic Figurines
21. Benaki Museum
Penelope Benakis Delta
22. Heinrich Schliemann’s House
Sophia Schliemann, Rich in Gold
23. Rebetika
Roza Eskenazi: From The Canary to Quentin Tarantino
24. Mani-Sonnenlink
A Meditation and Arts Eco-Retreat With a View of the Sea
25. Spetses
The Legend of Laskarina Bouboulina
26. Mykonos
Shirley Valentine and Manto Mavrogenous
27. Skopelos
Mamma Mia, Iron Chef Cat Cora, and a Matrilineal Society
28. Santorini
Island of Summer Lovers, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Saint Irene
29. Kefalonia
Penelope Cruz and the Island of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
30. Corfu and Sissi’s Palace
An Austrian Princess’s Mediterranean Retreat
31. Crete and the Palace of Knossos
Minoan Snake Goddesses, Bull Leapers, and Hayley Mills
32. The Caves of Matala
Joni Mitchell and the Cave-Dwelling Flower Children
33. Lesbos
Sappho and the Thesmophoria
34. Ithaka
The Odyssey, Penelope, and Sylvia Benton
35. Olympia
The Temple of Hera and Kallipateira
36. Pylos
Gray-Eyed Athena and Rosy-Fingered Dawn
37. Delphi
Oracles and the Omphalos of the World
38. The Asklepeion of Epidaurus
An Ancient Spa Where You Sleep with Snakes
39. The Temple of Artemis at Brauron
Dance of the Bear Maidens and the Sacrifice of Iphigenia
40. The Two Elenis
her’s and Granddaughter’s Lives Intertwine in a War-Torn Greek Village
41. Kassope Monument
Dancing to the Edge of Death

III. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Saints, Sinners, and Mysterious Places of Healing
42. The Snakes of Kefalonia
Of Healing Serpents and Mummified Saints
43. Tinos
Crawling on Hands and Knees to Kiss a Mysterious Icon
44. Rhodes
Jacqueline Bisset, Rhode the Oceanid, and a Bleeding Icon of the BVM
45. The Athenian Agora
Foreigner, Slut, Intellectual: Aspasia of Miletus
46. Agia Marina Theseiou
Sliding Down a Rock for Pregnancy
47. Mikri Mitropoli Church and the Metropolitan Cathedral
Eleithyia, Saint Filothei, and the Virgin Mary Who Answers Prayers Quickly
48. Agia Irini Square
The Church of Saint Irene
49. Temple Prostitution at Ancient Corinth
Sex and the City
50. Agia Kore
Bring Offerings of Underpants and Brassieres
51. Lefkas
Sappho’s Leap, Saint Maura, and Agnes Baltsa
52. Saint Theodora’s Chapel
The Miracle of the Rooftop Trees

IV. Favorite Haunts in Athens Neighborhoods
53. The Plaka
Athens’s Oldest District
54. Kolonaki
Where Athens’s Elite Lives, Shops, and Dines
55. Gazi
Athens’s Clubbing and Arts District
56. Avissinias Square
Athens’s Other Flea Market

57. Syntagma Square
Athens’s Main Plaza Is Formerly the Queen’s Personal Garden
58. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates
A Trophy to End all Trophies
59. Temple of Olympian Zeus
A Colossal Temple Fit for a God of Enormous Appetites
60. Kerameikos Cemetery and Museum
City of the Dead
61. National Archaeological Museum
Lovely Ladies in Stone, Fresco, and Gold
62. The Athens Metro
Archaeological Site and Subterranean Museum
63. Athens’s Pedestrian Walkway
Archaeological Unification Project and Open-Air Museum
64. The Panathenaic Olympic Stadium
Female Athletes Not Allowed
65. The Grande Bretagne
The Grand Old Dame of Athens
66. Greek Shadow Puppetry and Karaghiozis
Figoures and Koukles and Haridimos Workshop and Museum
67. Athens Graffiti Tours
One Person’s Scribble is Another’s Art
68. Outdoor Cinemas
Where Ouzo and Popcorn Meet Hollywood
69. Doctor Fish, Hammam, and the Grande Bretagne Spa
Places to Get Pampered in Athens

70. Street Food of Athens
Koulourakia, Salep, and Roasted Chestnuts
71. Bairaktaris
Best Gyro in Town—Just Ask Naomi Campbell!
72. Pass the Pastitsio
Experience Home-Cooked Meals in Athens
73. Brettos Ouzo Bar
The Most Colorful Bar in Athens
74. Athens’s Central Market
Produce, Fish, Spices, and a Whole Lot of Meat

75. Church Things
A Mysterious Icon Vendor in the Plaka
76. Melissanos the Poet Sandal Maker
Where the Stars Buy Their One-of-a-Kind Greek Sandals

V. Active and Cultural Adventures
77. Sailing Holidays
Exploring Greece from the Wine Dark Seas
78. Hiking in Greece
Following in the Footsteps of the Goddesses
79. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Explore Greece’s Underwater Wonders
80. The Necromanteion of Ephyra
A Real Life Underworld Where Ancients Spoke with the Dead
81. Music and Arts Festivals
Modern Greek Culture in an Ancient Land
82. Writer’s Workshops
Literary Retreats in the Land of Homer
83. Language Classes
It’s All Greek to Me
84. Getting Married in Greece
Saying “I Do” in the Land of the Goddess
85. Skiing in Greece
Schuss Down Slopes Named Antigone and Aphrodite

VI. CookingSchools, Olive Oil Production, Agritourism, Beekeeping
86. Melissae and The Bee Priestesses
Goddesses and Bees in the Peloponnese
87. Olive Oil Harvest
Greek Liquid Gold
88. Cooking Schools and Agritourism
Moussaka, Baklava, Mastic and More

VII. Additional Islands, Beaches, Resortsand Goddess-Worthy Sights
89. Skyros
Where Thetis Gave Birth to Achilles
90. Sifnos
The Golden Island
91. Nafplion
Hera’s Virginity Restoring Spring
92. Sounion
Where Lord Byron Left His Mark
93. The Mani
Where Women and Men Fought Side by Side
94. Meteora
Where Bond Girl Carole Bouquet Hangs from a Cliff
95. Mount Olympus
Home of the Mythological Gods and Goddesses
96. Kosmas
A Peloponnesian Village Above the Clouds
97. Zakynthos and Shipwreck Beach
One of Greece’s Most Stunning Shores
98. Costa Navarino
An Ecologically Friendly Luxury Resort in Messenia
99. Kandylakia of Greece
Roadside Shrines and the Goddesses Who Tend Them

VIII. A Great Scenic Drive
100. A Drive to Remember on Ithaka
From Vathy to Kioni on Odysseus’s Island

Books for Further Reading
About the Author

Chapter 4
Tower of the Winds
An Ancient Water Clock in Athens’s Roman Agora

As you wander through the Plaka neighborhood of Athens, you will eventually turn a corner and come across an ancient, four-story, eight-sided edifice that will immediately capture your attention. Not a temple or a statue base, this elegant, octagonal structure will stop you in your tracks with its sheer beauty and make you wonder, what was it used for? Located in the Roman Agora, this creamy white marble confection was properly known as the horologion Andronikus—but more simply, it is a clock. Today we rely upon our watches, or more likely our smart phones, to tell the time, but in ancient Greece, shoppers, politicians, and all Athenian citizens used this splendid timepiece.

Made with the same Pentelic marble that fashioned the Parthenon, this elegant structure was designed by the Greek astronomer Andronikus of Cyrrhus in 50 b.c. The octagonal tower stands on a base of three steps and has a pyramidal roof made of marble slabs fixed with a circular keystone.

Standing forty-two feet high and twenty-six feet in diameter, each of the structure’s eight faces is decorated with a frieze depict­ing the winds that blow from that direction. Boreas, or north, blows into a twisted shell and wears a sleeved coat with billowing folds; Kaikias, northeast, carries a shield full of hailstones. Apeliotes, or east, is shown as a young man bearing flowers and fruit; Evros, or southeast, is an old man wrapped tightly in a coat fending off a hur­ricane. Notos, or south, is a man emptying an urn and producing a shower of water, while Lips, southwest, is depicted as a boy driving the stern of a ship and promising good sailing weather. Zephyros, or west, is a youth throwing a lapful of flowers into the air, whereas Skiron, or northwest, shows a bearded man carrying a bronze vessel of charcoal in his hands, which he uses to dry up rivers.

While all the wind gods are male, known as anemoi, the aurai, or winged nymphs of the breezes, are feminine. Romans believed the direction that the wind was blowing could foretell the future and the aurai often brought news from far away. From Quintus Smyrnaeus’s Fall of Troy,

The Breezes brought Ares news of the death of his daughter Penthesilea in the war of Troy: For the Aurai, Boreas’s fleet-winged daughters, bare to him, as through the wide halls of the sky he strode.

The Tower was a multi-tasking feat of engineering, offering the triple information of being a sundial, a weather vane, and a clock. A sundial was used to tell the time during daylights hours, but to mark the time at night a water clock was employed; known as a clepsydra, it functioned with water that flowed down from the Acropolis hill. The Roman architect, Vitruvius, who visited Athens in the 1st century b.c., described a revolving bronze weather vane atop the building, depicting Triton holding a wand, which pointed to the corresponding face of the prevailing wind.

Vitruvius was so captivated by the tower that he drew the structure, influencing later architects such as Christopher Wren in the 17th century, who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The structure has inspired designs of other similar clock towers around the world, including Sevastopol, Russia and Livorno, Italy.

The Tower was not only replicated throughout the world, its space was used by a variety of different cultures and purposes throughout the ages. The Christians converted the building into a bell tower for a Byzantine church. During the Ottoman period when the city was under Turkish domination, the building was used as a tekke, or spiritual lodge for Sufi worshippers. The interior space became a meeting space and venue for the famous whirling dervishes to perform their sacred dance.

As you stand and look at this delicate, yet enduring edifice, recall the layers of history this small building has seen. Conceived as a scientific tool, it’s fascinating to imagine its transformation from functional object into a Christian house of worship and later a place for Sufi rituals. The light streaming in through the cuts in the walls has shone upon the golden age of rationality, gold cru­cifixes of Byzantium, and ultimately, mystical Sufi priests in their flowing gowns and white turbans, performing their sacred whirling dance to a frenzied mix of voices and drums.

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Amanda Summer author photo

Amanda Summer is an archaeologist and award-winning writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Islands, Archaeology, Odyssey, and The Best Travel Writing. For the past thirty years she has returned to the Greek island of Ithaka, where she searched for the palace of Odysseus starting in 1984 with a team from Washington University in St. Louis. Currently she is on staff with the Iklaina Archaeological Project in Pylos, Greece. Even though she has traced the odyssey of history’s most famous male adventurer, she has a passion for stories about women who have found transformation through travel.