I have yet to write a goodbye letter to a country, but for you, I will do just about anything.
When we began our planning for this big adventure, YOU were the place I longed to see. YOU were the place I wanted to experience. YOU were the place I wanted to love. And, oh Greece, YOU did not disappoint. Not one bit.
We began our adventure with you in Athens where democracy literally began. We saw your ancient ruins and temples to the Greek Gods, and although your temples did not compare to Egypt, the sights were still breathtaking. How lucky we are that we have now seen how the Egyptians, the Romans AND the Greeks used to live their lives and build their cities.
After Athens, we took a three-hour ferry ride to the island of Paros, Greece. Paros is literally what you pin on your Pinterest boards. It’s the dream you have when you plan for your beach vacations. It’s magic.
Your white houses and your colored doors; your white sand, your water that is so blue it *almost* hurt my eyes, your fresh veggies and fruit stands, your kind locals, the relaxed way about you. The ouzo. The fish. The sunsets. The windy cobblestoned streets. Your little boutiques. Your happy hours. Swimsuits all day.
Thank you for being exactly who you are. Beautiful but approachable. Loud, yet content. Fresh, yet simple.
If I could claim myself as Greek, I would in a heartbeat. In fact, we were told by another couple that we almost passed for a Greek family, “until the mom opened her mouth and started talking.” Haha!
Some of the places we visit, I know for certain I will never return. But it’s different with you. I know for certain I will return again and again and again.
– Lee Anne
Opa! Your expression is a lot of fun to say. I’m encouraging any of my friends reading this to try it. If shy, find a quiet, out-of-the-way place to practice. Say it out loud with some gusto. OPA! Again…OPA! Now for the guys out there, twirl around in the traditional fustanella and stomp your feet on the floor (Okay okay, I’ve taken it too far…).
See, it is a lot of fun to be Greek. But you already know that. A high compliment to you is we may have found our favorite down-to-earth, normal kind of place. Life is simple in Greece, especially on the islands, and a simple life ain’t a bad life.
Before explaining more about the simple life, I want people to know about your glorious past that surrounds us every day. To know Greece, you must start with the history. There is not enough time, but we learned all about the birthplace of democracy, the mythology of the gods, the origins of the Holy Trinity (note: Christianity didn’t start the idea of a sacred trinity), the ancient and modern Olympics, Paul’s journey throughout your lands, the Stoics (more below), Homer, Plato, Aristotle and of course Socrates. In modern times, you claim to be the first in a lot of areas, like medicine, but we know the ancient Egyptians taught you most of what you claim. You just made it better. That’s OK, you have made more than enough contributions to our modern world. Off the top of my head, our debates, geometry, justice (trial by jury), astrology, biology and lighthouses are just a few of your legacies that live on with the same truth today as in your past. Your ancient civilization proves that when times are good and peace is lasting (at least near home) you can dream and grow and flourish. Why is this concept so hard to accept for so much of this big world?
The second part of our Greek adventure was spent in the lovely Paros, one of 6,000 islands in total. I’m not sure which island is best since we only experienced one on advice from a friend. I’m sure Mykonos and Santorini are also spectacular. Note to self: next trip.
The beauty of Paros is off the charts. I had an expectation before I arrived since you’ve been on my list to visit for most of the past twenty years. In my mind, I envisioned narrow cobblestone streets surrounded by blue doors and white buildings with great cafes, easy-going people and a relaxed environment. Your feta, souvlaki, meatballs, bread, tomatoes, saganaki and tzatziki were off the charts. Same with the Ouzo (the perfect digestif!). You were exactly as I imagined. The beaches were white, warm and water came only slightly above my knee for hundreds of meters. The weather was perfect. Your reputation for arguing among friends proved true, however, I never thought anyone was truly angry. There seems to be an occasional friendly misunderstanding that involves shouting.
The grind of travel was real and after 18 days in Egypt, Israel and sightseeing in Athens, so the downtime in Paros was good for relaxation and reflection (the former is especially difficult for me to achieve). I read two books, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. Both were profound in their content and timeliness. Holiday’s book is about stoic wisdom and is worth the read if you have any interest. Currently, I’m practicing what the Greeks call apatheia. It’s hard, just like this journey, but it is the journey and change that makes all of this worth it.