By: Catherine Tsounis, Contributor
How does a traveler avoid taxi and tour group expenses? Pick a hotel the locals stay at in the heart of a city. I followed the example of English tourists, taking buses in Heraklion Crete. I went to a young professional, Maria of Kapogiannis Tours in Tripoli, Greece. She arranged a budget stay for me in Crete at the El Greco Hotel. It is in the heart of Heraklion close to all attractions. I accidentally missed my flight to Crete. Maria and Kostoula arranged a new flight, contacting the hotel that I would be late.
The custodial, cafeteria and reception staff gave me great advice on traveling around Heraklion. Everything on their website is accurate.1 Basically, the staff became my family, helping me in all my travelling. The hotel guests were international and local. A pleasant breakfast was served. This cost me only 35 euros. The air conditioning and television channels were great. I watched the “Final Farewell”, a national funeral of former Prime Minister of Greece Constantine Mitstotakis, with a Cretan folk costume procession. The local Cretan staff kept the rooms were very clean. I saved at least 250 to 400 euros on transportation to sites and airport by using public transportation. Situated in the center of the city, it is the best way to visit Heraklion sites. Everything is located around the hotel. I was able to get rice and grilled chicken at restaurant sites. I walked to the Archaeological Museum, Saint Markus ‘basilica, and the Venetian Port with Castle.
My major economical saving was going to the archaeological site of Knossos. The bus #2 stop to Knossos Palace was next to the hotel. I spent only 1.25 euros each way compared to a $56 travel tour. I was not interested in seeing the ocean. I wanted to go sightseeing on my own in safety. Traveling on the Knossos bus showed me
At the bus stop in Knossos, I came across a gracious souvenir owner and his staff. The Vergina Sun Souvenir store completed my sightseeing Knossos tour. The warmth, hospitality at Vergina Sun opposite the bus stop was unbelievable. A lovely Cretan lady, Aristea, with charm and personality, showed me various souvenirs. She displayed off the shoulder Grecian dresses, gold and silver jewelry of the Phaistos disk and Minoan designs. I bought a royal blue dress. The owner, John Voulgarakis, “Let’s have a lemon raki that I make in my home.” said John. Its amazing how great you feel after a few Cretan drinks! John said “I am giving you a small bottle of raki as a souvenir.” Unfotunately, it was confiscated at Heraklion airport.
Aristea walked me to the bus stop. She made sure I was safely aboard. Greece is famous as the cradle of modern civilization and country with numerous historical sites and beautiful nature. But, the very first thing you are greeted with once you cross the Greek border is Greek hospitality. The foundations of the Greek hospitality are as old as the legacies of an ancient Greek civilization, and it is equally good as the “old wine”. Such a commendable trait is common to all Greeks, and the traveler is welcomed with a warm smile and kindness worthy of a good old friend regardless of the town or region in Greece.3
That is an advantage in travelling on local transportation. A tourist gets to pick sites that are not tourist traps. The warmth at Vergina Sun made up for the coldness of the staff at the Knossos Archaeological site. Stop by. You will feel happy, especially after a few alcoholic drinks.