The Dodecanese islands, a chain of 12 larger islands (Rhodes is the best known of them) and lots of little ones, are all these clichés and more. For a real taste of Greek life, the volcanic island of Nisyros is wonderfully welcoming and a haven for artists. Probably the simplest way is to take the Eurostar to Paris, followed by a TGV to Munich (seven hours), and from here the overnight Lisinski sleeper train to Zagreb. Next day, take a train to Belgrade (seven hours), and spend a night and day in the Serbian capital. An overnight train will then take you to Thessaloniki, from where you can enjoy a very scenic journey on an InterCity train to Athens (four hours).