Although I was born in Canada and have lived in Ottawa most of my life, I lived in Greece when I was a toddler, for over one year. I don't remember much about living in Greece, but my family and I would spend our summer vacations in Greece, every two years, so it certainly feels like my second home. It's where my roots are. My parents were born in Greece, and my husband's parents, too.
Greece is a breathtakingly beautiful country, rich in history and culture. You really have to experience it yourself–to see the marvel that it is. I remember the first time I went to Santorini, I was amazed. I never believed an island so stunning actually existed. I thought all the postcards I had seen were fabricated, not real. But it is real, and it feels heavenly to be there.
Most hotels in Santorini are build off the side of a mountain. When you're in Santorini, you do a lot of walking up and down uneven steps, in the heat, but it's well worth it. There is nothing like waking up to a view of a stunning volcanic mountain, surrounded by a never-ending sea. I am always in my best shape ever when I'm in Greece, because of all the walking we do all day long.
At night, sitting on your balcony, you get a very clear view of the billions of stars in the sky... and if you look up, hundreds of tourists are snapping pictures of the view they're seeing for the first time. It really is an island like no other.
Other beautiful islands worth visiting when you're in Greece? Zakynthos and Kefalonia. Both islands are favourites of mine, along with the city my dad is from, Patras, and my mom's city, Tripoli.
Of course, you have to spend a few days exploring the wonders of Athens, and seeing the Parthenon up close and personal. It really is a sight to behold!
One of things I love most about Greece is the history and the culture. The Olympics, which originated in Greece, began as a 'festival' or sorts, and they were held every four years to honour the King of their Gods, Zeus. Just like the Olympics of today, athletes traveled from far and wide to compete in the games. I've walked on the grounds of Olympia, and it was truly an amazing experience, to see all the ancient ruins from so long ago, still making such a huge impact on the world today.
Of course, we are all familiar with the brilliant Aristotle - the Greek philosopher who was the student of Plato, and teacher to Alexander the Great. He wrote about physics, poetry, music, politics and government. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates - Plato's teacher - were the founders of what we now call Western Civilization. (Thanks, guys!)
Apparently, Socrates never really held a 'real' job - instead, he spent his days talking about philosophy with other people. Greeks today like doing the same thing - we love sitting in coffee shops, discussing various topics. And by discussing, I mean having heated arguments about things like politics and sports. What can I say? We are a passionate group of people - we love food, wine, the beauty of the world, and always getting our way, damn it!
Let's talk about food now. Greeks love to eat. We love our food. We celebrate every occassion with huge feasts. In fact, every night, we eat a dinner that can easily be compared to what other people eat on special occassions like Thanksgiving. Meat is our main food group. Pork souvlaki and lamb are enjoyed by everyone. Eating lamb at Easter is like, THE highlight of everyone's day. I love pulling off the tender meat as it's being slowly cooked on the spit outside... mmm... mmm!
In summary, here's a list of the things I love the most about Greece:
1. The food. The smell of souvlaki on almost every street corner. Eating souvlaki after a night out partying really hits the spot. (FYI: A night out in Greece usually starts at midnight and ends around 5 a.m.)
2. Did I mention the food? Eating spaghetti with fresh Greek cheese on top. Eating my grandmother's homemade food, like meatballs and pastitso and yemista - even eating pizza with zambon. And tzatziki and Greek salad. (FYI: Greek salad? Does NOT include lettuce!)
3. The drinks. And by drinks I mean frappe. Iced coffee, gliko me yala. (With milk and sugar!) I can have like, a dozen of these iced coffees every day when I'm in Greece. They are SO good and I've yet to have an iced coffee anywhere else on earth that tastes as good!
4. Ice cream from the periptero.
A periptero is basically a big outdoor convenient store. I remember I always used to buy Mickey Mouse comic books from the periptero when I was a little girl, and always, ice cream. As I got older, I traded my comic books for Silk Cut cigarettes, which were, of course, purchased at the periptero. Along with my ice cream, of course!
5. Orange Fanta. Not to be mistaken by the Fanta that is sold in the USA and Canada today. European Fanta is so much better - I'm dying for one right now!
6. The carefree lifestyle. Although almost everyone in Greece (okay, not everyone...) smokes, they live LONG, healthy lives. Why? Because they have mastered living the stress-free life. They will go home and take a nap whenever they can. Stores will close for siesta. They will sleep in. They take lots of vacations to pretty islands, and they have lots of sex. (I'm pretty sure they do, since even the commercials advertising ice cream show topless women emerging from the sea licking ice cream cones!) Greeks also eat well. Their diet is filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil and wine. And bread. Of course, the bread.
7. The dancing and the music. I'm not usually a huge fan of Greek music, unless I'm in Greece - then the bouziki bitch in me comes out, a little. (With some help from a little Ouzo first - Opa!)
8. The shopping. The shopping in Greece is amazing! Everyone is very well dressed in Greece. People take care of their appearances.
9. The Greek flag. I love seeing this beautiful blue and white flag flying when I'm in Greece. I happen to think it is one of the most beautiful flags in the world. My 4 year old knows the Greek national anthem by heart, which makes his grandparents very proud. And his mommy, too!
10. The people. Even though I have more than a dozen stories worth telling about rude taxi drivers in Greece, and about mean salespeople, I have to say, even those experiences make my vacations to Greece all the more funny! What good is a vacation if you don't have ridiculous stories to bring back home, right?
11. The closeness of the family unit. There is nothing more important than family, and I think that's such an awesome thing.
Sigh. Would you believe I'm totally craving a trip overseas right now? I wish I was on the beach on a beautiful Greek island, soaking up the rays and having a frappe!