#957. Greece as an uncrowded uberdestination

By Pascal Ollier | Travel Photography

Jan 24

A relative of mine wanted to see contrast. He currently lives in the UK, thus wanted to see some good (or better) weather that what he usually faces (no offence to our British readers) over the Xmas period.

Having started to look late, there was not much choice left until I came across availability both in terms of lodging and transport at a überdestination that would be in the reachable south, Athens.

Would it be übercrowded? Would the weather deliver?

After a quick round on the internet, the forecast looked promising, the room offering seemed to indicate that we would be able to get around reasonably peacefully, away from the monumental summer crowds. And having available contrast was not something I was afraid as a junior DS contributor.

Athens evidently promised to also deliver on sights and this was the first contrast we were confronted with.

The old.


But also the new, with the recent Stavros Niarchos Cultural center which among other things houses the Athens opera and a library.

Sony A7M3 Zeiss 25 mm (aka Julia) ƒ/7.1 1/400 100 ISO
Sony A7M3 CV 12 mm ƒ/8 1/400 100 ISO

We could not but visit Syntagma square where quite a few demonstrations took place. We were fortunate to be there right on the hour when the famous Evzones soldiers are relieved.

It was fun to see them walking around with their special costumes.

Zeiss 25 mm ƒ/5 1/500 100 ISO
Zeiss 25 mm ƒ/5 1/200 100 ISO

Since the weather was getting somewhat bad in Athens, we thought we should move around. First day trip was to Mycenae and took a shot of the famous Lion’s door. Just one tourist bus.

Zeiss 25mm but no Exif because the lens was not well seated

And we stopped at a special cape called Heraion Perahora on the way back, just in time for sunset. Just one family, I could take some pictures, change lenses etc. at leisure.

CV 12mm ƒ/8 1/30 100 ISO
Zeiss 25mm ƒ/7.1 1/30 200 ISO
CV12 ƒ/5.6 1/30 100 ISO

Back in Athens, we went to the most visited sight, the Acropolis, which demonstrated that you can visit this überdestination in acceptable weather without übercrowds.

CV 21 mm ƒ/11 1/125 100 ISO
CV 12 mm ƒ/8 1/200 100 ISO I confess I do like sunstars

And the night shot was taken from a special restaurant located at the foot of the Acropolis.

Sony 100-400 @ 156mm ƒ/5 1/50 2000 ISO

The second day trip was amazing.

Weather was due to be foul in Athens with rain the whole day whereas up North it would be good. We thus rented a car to go up to Delphi and possibly get first hand information about 2020 from the oracle ;-).


The trip, normally two and a half hour long, was very tiring. We encountered rain, hail and snow….until thirty minutes before reaching our destination.

Contrast number three.

The skies opened and we had beautiful sun awaiting us (if cold and windy though) but most definitely better than what we had left in Athens. The drive back was just as painful, but we had been fortunate with the site visit.

As you will see (or rather not see), there are very few people around to take pictures. One lady with her bright red anorak would not get out of the way. Capture one took take of that one pronto.

This exemplifies both the good weather we enjoyed but more importantly the colossal amount of work that was accomplished to build this site, twenty-five centuries ago.

Zeiss 25mm ƒ/7.1 1/250 100 ISO
Zeiss 85mm ƒ/11 1/100 160 ISO

So yes this trip was full of contrast. We expected good weather, and we got some, but not only.

We thought we would see some old stones, we did, but not only.

And we hoped not to have to elbow our way through during our visits and that again was proven true. This was not insignificant as I decided to lug around quite a number of lenses, which I eventually all used, and there is nothing more painful than changing lenses with people pressing around.

Food for thought for some DS readers?


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  • Dan says:

    Very inspirational

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Thanks for this post, Pascal.

    As a child – and ever since! – I have been passionately devoted to animals and wildlife, so – as a child, and again several times since! – I have devoured Gerald Durrell’s “My Family and Other Animals”, and most of his other books. So I grew up with Corfu wedged in my brain, and it kind of spread to mainland Greece, and various other Greek islands.

    Which makes me very grateful to you, for sharing some of your photos and insights of Greece.

    Weather has never been a controllable, especially when you’re on a holiday. The Bretons have the answer, though – they can tell when it’s summer, because the rain is warmer. I’ve been to England any number of times, and only once was it foggy and overcast. I’m told it normally rains 365 days of the year, but I’ve never seen any sign of it. France, yes – Italy, too (I had to bolt up a long street there, to escape a torrential downpour – the only shelter available was a cinema, half way up the street – and I was treated to an amazing experience, a film they called “La Stangata”, which means “The Sting” in English, starring Robert Redford and various other American actors, all speaking Italian with a Chicago-American accent, which made it hugely funny). So I generally have a few undestinations up my sleeve, to cover for wet weather – museums, for example.

    Again, having available contrast is something I’m totally used to. Too much so, perhaps – the thin contrast I associate with clouded over days in winters in Europe hasn’t enough “punch” to make a decent photograph, when you’re used to the opposite month after month.

    And making one of Earth’s terrestrial paradises an “undestination” by flipping the timetable – going at Christmas time instead of midsummer – works equally well elsewhere. I’ve done it before, in London – Lisbon & Madrid – and also Paris. Empty sidewalks – no entry queues – a certain peaceful calm settling over the surroundings. Waiters and shop assistants falling over themselves to provide service. Curious locals asking if they can provide any helpful advice. Just watch out for black ice!

    The spectacle of the Evzones soldiers is a “must see”. They’ve always struck me as looking riotously funny – but I imagine it would be unwise to tell them so – they could probably snap your legs in half for less.

    Every time I see images of the ruins in Athens I start wondering when the English are going to return what they so flippantly describe as the “Elgin Marbles”. Since WW2, museums around the world have been doing a steady traffic in returning stolen items to the countries they belong to. With international travel at its cheapest (at least in terms of fares), there is little to justify holding out – it’s not really all that much more expensive to see such things in Athens, and besides most of the people who do see them in London are tourists themselves – coming to England from all over the world – who in many cases would not be inconvenienced in the slightest if they saw them in Athens instead.

    Not something I’ve suddenly thought – in fact it whacked me in the face like a wet cloth, back in 1974, while I was strolling through the Vatican Museum and came across a room filled with Egyptian sarcophagi. And instantly found myself thinking this was ridiculous, because there couldn’t possibly be a connection between ancient Egypt and the catholic version of the Christian religion.

    One final point – if you ARE going to lug a huge amount of gear around with you, off season is definitely safer. Even in the two shoulder seasons, pickpocket and thieves are all over the place, in many parts of the world. And who needs something like that, to spice up their holidays?

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you, Pete.

      As for British weather, the Scots have a good joke: if Summer falls on a Sunday, we’ll have a picnic ^^.

  • Alan says:

    Time is the fourth dimension of undestinationalism. Nice!

  • Dallas Thomas says:

    Pascal, great article and shots, as other have said inspirational, it looks like Greece should be placed on everyones bucket list, mine included.

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