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My Greek Odyssey

Updated on August 2, 2013

Greece: A Magical Country, Wonderful People.

Greece is the birth place of much of what we consider to be Western Civilization. The Roman God's are shadows of the Greek Pantheon; Paul did much of his early Christian ministry in Greece. Every where you go and every where you look there are physical reminders of those pasts.

But that is for others to talk about, people with more knowledge than I. I am here to talk about the spirit of Greece, the people today and the ancient spirit that is still discernable.

The people of Greece never failed to delight. My experience with money was a wonderful example. They still used Drachmas in 2000. Too complicated for me. I would go to a cafe owner and hold out money. He would give me back my change. I know I was never cheated.

I went with Bob and Mary Ann Haden of the Haden Institute and an interesting group of people. Married couples, married and single women traveling alone, a father with his daughter. We went for different reasons, but each looking for a spiritual experience and a lot of fun! Both were accomplished by all.

Each of these people added to the experience and I thank them also.

Traveling with the Haden Institute

Bob Haden, of the Haden Institute and his lovely wife, Mary Ann, are great travelers. Their traveling skills are finely honed. They do a beautiful job of blending the sacred and the fun.

Panoramic view of the Greek theatre at Epidaurus. When You Sit on Top Row, You Can Hear People Talk, Normally, on the Stage.

Panoramic view of the Greek theatre at Epidaurus. When You Sit on Top Row, You Can Hear People Talk, Normally,  on the Stage.
Panoramic view of the Greek theatre at Epidaurus. When You Sit on Top Row, You Can Hear People Talk, Normally, on the Stage.

We Went Backward in Ancient History

An Interesting an Wonderful Choice.

Bob chose to literally go back in history. We started in Athens, where male dominance was the norm, even though the city was named for a Goddess and ended up seeing ruins on Crete that were millennia older, and while they honored the feminine more, was the mythical birthplace of Zeus.

This picture shows an ancient outdoor theater at Epidaurus,outside of Athens. While we were there we saw a troop rehearsing a play, as the citizens of Athens are able to enjoy performances there to this day. The acoustics were unbelievable. Even though the theater was thousands of years old, and was outside, we took the hike to the top seats where we could hear people on the 'stage' talking quietly and heard a coin drop to the earth.

The Greek Rosary: Spirit and Defiance

I Love the Greeks

The beads shown here are ubiquitous in Greek stores. The legend is that many years ago Greece was taken over by a Catholic nation. The Rosary, something the Greek Orthodox Church hadn't used was forced on them. In defiance they developed something that was close enough to fool the oppressors, but different enough to buoy their spirits.

Greek men used these, with a special wrist movement, to show their independence under the noses of the bad guys.

Its the Little Personal Things

My Favorite Story

Greece closes down for a couple of hours around noon. Very smart and very civilized. Except that Americans aren't very good at it. One day, in some little town, I took a walk. There was a convenience type store open and I bought a coke and went on. I found a book store that was also open.

There were tons of books, all in Greek and many of the ubiquitous icons; religious prints on wood. I had hoped to find one of a female image that wasn't the Virgin Mary. Not so easy.

It appeared to be a family store and I seemed to have found the only place in Greece where no one spoke English. There was a young man who spoke scant English, and he was not only able to understand my desire, but found me the icon of Sophia (Wisdom) and her three daughters, Faith, Hope and Charity. Eureka!

In the process of the search I had finished my coke and asked for a wastebasket. Behind the counter was a wizened old Greek woman, covered in black Greek mourning robes. While she represented a stereotype I hadn't seen anyone like her anywhere.

She had been so quiet as to almost disappear until she got agitated, very agitated, waving her arms and excitedly shouting something.

Oh, my, I could only think that I had made some faux pas by using their wastebasket.

Then the young man rushed up, handed her a cold glass of water, which she then handed to me, with a smile.

I will never forget her.

Emilio, Thanks! Greece was great, but your expertise, discipline and good humor made it perfect!

Greece: Where Tour Guiding is a Profession

And we all loved Emilio!

We quickly bonded with our tour guide, Emilio. He seemed to enjoy us also.

Tour guides in Greece have to be college educated, trained and licensed. Greece is very proud of its history and antiquities and will only allow the best to teach it, even to tourists.

Emilio was a premiere example of this. His knowledge was astounding and while he could be a lot of fun, he tolerated no messing around with his wonderful heritage.

Yet, we had a fellow traveler, Elizabeth, who had been several times, studied that country and also knew a lot. Instead of being threatened by this, he embraced it and incorporated her into his talks.

One day he disappeared at lunch. He showed up later for one of our private meetings with a poem, one he thought we would love, and we did! He was gone so long trying to find an English version. He finally found one at an aquaintance's house,

I had bought some antiques that I had shipped. It took longer than I expected, so I e-mailed him. The next thing I knew he called me from Greece, to assure me he would look into it. I had been too impatient as they arrived the next day, but I was so touched that weeks after the trip he still could care of us.

Then there was the day he got so angry at some German kids. They were dressed scantily and being rowdy in a church. Now he was an atheist and this wasn't an ancient church (well not for Greece) but he was so offended by the way they acted. "We wouldn't do that in their country"

Emilio, thanks so much for enhancing our trip. I still think of you!

Here is the poem he wanted to share with us. It was also read at Jackie Kennedy Onasis' funeral.

Ithaca-- Constatine Cavafy

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,

then pray that the road is long,

full of adventure, full of knowledge.

Do not fear the Lestrygonians

and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.

You will never meet such as these on your path,

if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine

emotion touches your body and your spirit.

You will never meet the Lestrygonians,

the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,

if you do not carry them within your soul,

if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.

That the summer mornings are many,

that you will enter ports seen for the first time

with such pleasure, with such joy!

Stop at Phoenician markets,

and purchase fine merchandise,

mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,

and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,

buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;

visit hosts of Egyptian cities,

to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.

To arrive there is your ultimate goal.

But do not hurry the voyage at all.

It is better to let it last for long years;

and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,

rich with all that you have gained on the way,

not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.

Without her you would never have taken the road.

But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.

With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,

you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

-- 1911, transl. Rae Dalven

Reverence...

We Visit Corinth on Pentecost Sunday

What a thrill to be in Corinth on Pentecost Sunday where we enjoyed a Communion lead by Bob. We sat under a tree that existed when Paul was ministering there and imagined that he might have used that same tree as shelter for his services.

History....

To the Market Place

Emilio painted such a colorful picture of the market place that we could almost hear the excited voices, and feel the horse hooves pounding as the rich kids staged drag races.

He showed us the public toilets that you see here. They had walls then, but since women weren't allowed in the market, there were no women's facilities.

And Irreverence!

We Did It All.

Just as Paul may have sat under our Communion Tree, he likely used these toilets. We were even in awe of that. Well, we were also annoyed that the market place and the facilities weren't open to women, so we irreverently righted that ancient wrong. Well, symbolically anyway!

The Delphi Butterfly

The Oracle Says I Will Go Back

The legend says that if you drink of the waters of the famous Oracle at Delphi, you will return 3 times. I hope that is true, I drank lots and will drink more every time I go back.

I looked forward to seeing this place that was the scene of much of my school reading about the ancient Gods and Goddesses. However, the trip up to Delphi was harrowing as our bus wound through hair pin turns at an ever increasing height. But the town was one of the most magical I have ever seen. Don't let the mountains keep you away, but you might want a professional driver.

As I was entering the bus to leave, I noticed a butterfly on the ground, its wings barely flapping. Even though butterflies are short lived, and this one seemed ready to expire, I thought being in the street would speed that up. So I picked it up, brought it inside and set it on a book until its wings were stilled forever.

I still have it, as a symbol of the spirit of Delphi

Zorba the Greek: on Crete

I found a copy of Zorba the Greek on the Mainland and started reading on the plane ride to Crete. When we arrived I was about to the place where the hero's ship landed at the harbor at Heraklion. I took my book, sat outside a cafe, much like the ones he would have seen, looked out at the water and the boats and read about his arrival. Wow!

On Crete, we visited the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis. The stone read: "I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.".

We danced on his grave, knowing that he would not see this as an insult but rather share the joy!

Greece: Haven for Dogs and the People Who Love Them.

These People Know How to Do It

And no, the dogs in the picture aren't Greek, they are American, they are mine. Zoe (the little one with the big spots) and Leo (the big one with the little spots) are oppressed. They are subjected to oppressive American leash laws.

I confess that sometimes in the early morning (5 am) after they have emptied and I have cleaned up after them, I just let them go to run. They run until they can't run any more and come home.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with Greece? Everything!

They have no leash laws. Yea! What? you might be saying. It must be chaos, dogs attacking people, everybody stepping in dog messes! But no. I saw dogs all over the place and nary an attack, a dog fight or even a mess.

Apparently, they know how to train their strays. Or maybe dogs left alone don't get so crazy when loose.

Emilio, our tour guide had a dog. When he was away, for days at a time, he just let his neighbors know and they made sure that Rex was fed.

Stroll through a town on a Saturday night and you see sidewalk cafe's, open shops and lots of dogs, just minding their own business, as was everyone else.

But... but... that may be ok for the country or small towns, you might say, but what about cities, can't ever do that in cities!

Au contraire, or whatever the Greek word is.

Downtown Athens has feeding stations. They ask for donations to feed the strays. No fuss, no muss.

Athens airport is an international airport in a cosmopolitan city. While waiting to board our plane home, a couple of us went upstairs to change our drachmas into dollars. There in the middle of the marble floor, enjoying a nap on the cool surface, was a huge German Shepherd! Busy, sophisticated passengers walked around him, barely noticing.

I started to look around, in corners and large flower pots were dogs of all sizes and colors. I saw maybe 8 all together. Just napping like they were home.

And I as I was looking forward to heading home, I felt bad that Zoe and Leo would never know this life that they would have loved.

A Noble History

This is a novel, it is fiction, it is about someone born with ambiguous genitals.

However, within this story is also a history of the Greeks and how the people suffered from invaders in recent history. It also portrays the story of coming to America to escape oppression. The author is Greek, his research was well done. I would recommend this book for many reasons, but the less talked about one is the wonderful story of the Greek people.

Olympics in Ancient and Modern Greece - Ancient and New

We were there in 2000 and the people were already excited about the 2004 Athens Olympics. It was a natural that they should be there as natural as Greece is the birthplace of the ancient games.

I remember speculation that Greece didn't have the wear-withall to be able to pull this off. However, the 2004 Olympics were some of the most successful games in modern times. I vote for having them there permanently!

We were able to visit the site of the original games. Don 't miss it if you are there. You will get to run the track that the very first Olympians ran and see the wall of shame were the images of ancient cheaters were displayed. Perhaps we need one of those for modern sports.

Any Purchase Here Will Contribute to Heifer International: The Pay It Forward Entrepreneurial Charity

Is Greece on Your Bucket List?

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Have You Been to Europe?

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If you have been to Greece I would love to hear your stories, if not, well, you know we always like to hear feedback about our lenses!

I Wish You Could Have Been With Us - But You Can Join in Here

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    • jolou profile image

      jolou 6 years ago

      I'd love to see Greece one day.

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 6 years ago

      I want to go back to Europe and visit more. I love it.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Came back for the quizzes. Thanks.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Lovely lens - lensrolled to my 'Quiz - Greece'.

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 6 years ago

      Love your lens and how you talk about Greece. Sophia, mother of the 3 girls, faith, hope, charity. I always had tiny (charms?) symbols, cross-anchor-heart. This story is delightfully new to me, thanks.

    • profile image

      7Suze7 6 years ago

      Sounds like fun

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      After reading this lens, I do want to travel to Greece.

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      I went to Greece several times as a student and shortly after leaving university, but I haven't been recently. I must go back. There is so much to see and do. As a student, backpacking around Europe we often spent less than $2 per night for accommodation in Greece. One night we paid about $1 to sleep on someone's roof, with their donkey (I'm nor sure how the donkey got up there)

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I had a friend in college who was from Greece. She was always sharing stories and pictures about it. Sounds wonderful! =D

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      My son is going to Greece in the spring so we were quite interested in reading your lens. Thanks for the information!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Some day I'd love to be able to travel to places like this. Great lens!

    • isabella lm profile image

      isabella lm 8 years ago

      Thank you for adding this magnificent lens to the headquarters of Greece!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I LOVE to see a quote from Cavafy! Especially his 'Ithaka'. 5* just for that excerpt :) But seriously, a lens with a bit of everything, well done.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 8 years ago

      I have traveled to Greece a number of times and am planning to go back soon. I now have a Greek sister in law so I have a great reason to visit!

      A very well crafted lens. Squid Angel Blessed

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      I remember seeing lots of stray cats in Greece, but they were treated kindly and fed by locals. What a great world it would be if more people adopted this attitude. Welcome to All Things Travel. Squid Angel Blessed!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 9 years ago

      Ah, Greece -- that we could find a timeshare there for an exchange; we'd certainly visit. Didn't know that tour guides required college education -- another compelling reason to visit this beautiful and majestic country. 5*****

    • ina mar profile image

      ina mar 9 years ago

      Thanks a lot for this lens! Thanks for sharing all those wonderful personal experiences - that's what makes the web interesting: those small stories and details that you can't find in any encyclopedia!

      PS. Please include my Santorini poster, Amazon ASIN Nr. B000BSR2VG

    • unsinkablewoman profile image

      unsinkablewoman 9 years ago

      Hey I can only Dream about such a trip

      But its sounds wonderful, I hope you get to enjoy many more like this one, Thanks for telling your story,Your Friend Dalene