One of my favorite parts of being in Greece, specifically in Athens, is the café culture. The first time I visited this country, I didn’t spend much time lounging, chatting, and sipping, probably because I was twelve and went everywhere with my mother (who doesn’t drink coffee.) In Athens, you can find a dozen cafes on any street. Each one is different in layout and clientele, but each embodies the Greek appreciation for sociability, relaxation, and caffeination. I have gone many times with my family for a ‘volta’ to a café somewhere in the city, where we sit for a couple hours drinking coffee and water and just chatting. The best parts of the Greek style of enjoying coffee at the café are 1) there is no rush to finish your drink and leave, and 2) there is no discomfort with a short period of silence as one topic ends and another starts. It is as if the Greeks never worry that they will run out of things to talk about. Conversation literally flows, and never seems manufactured. Also, when it is time to go, everyone just knows. The conversation doesn’t taper off or become strained, the coffee doesn’t run out too soon – everyone just seems to feel that it is time to continue the day. There is confidence that there will always be another time, another ‘volta.’ I find it comfortable and reassuring. It is hard for me to pinpoint the roots of this mindset and atmosphere. Is it the decadence of the coffee that puts everyone in a social mood? The freshness of a shaded table outside one’s own small apartment? The comforting feeling of being physically and emotionally in the embrace of civilization, engaging with a beloved city? I have never experienced café culture like this before, but I do have a similar feeling when relaxing in my Papou and Yiayia’s house with snacks. I think the commonality comes from something in the Greek heritage, an innate understanding that everyone you care about is family, and when you’re with family, there is nowhere else you need to be. Everything good and fulfilling is right across the table, sharing a cup of coffee and a story.
Well, the semester is reaching it’s end, and a week sooner for me than the rest of my classmates! I unfortunately have a class at my home school to take so I must be back sooner! But I was glad to do a lot of traveling for spring break to see some of the famous islands that people often think of when they picture Greece!
We made our way down to Santorini on a 6am flight! While there we visited Kamari, a black sand beach, Perissa, a white sand beach and the Red Sand Beach in Akrotiri. We rented 4 wheelers to get around the island, we ate until we couldn’t eat anymore! My friends enjoy Greek wine so we went to Santo Winery and did a wine tasting…18 of them! I sipped my tiny bird sips for most of them and that was more than enough to get a headache! We visited the archaeological site of Akrotiri and the Volcano/ Hot Springs! We even jumped off the boat and swam into the hot springs. On our last night there we visited Oia, and the sun even poked through the clouds enough to give us a beautiful sunset!
Our ship to the Volcano!
Red Sand Beach
From there we took a ferry to Naxos. We arrived and made our way to the port for the sunset. After a cheap and delicious taverna dinner, we hit the hay for the following day. In the morning we got breakfast, explored the old market, followed up with a gyro for a snack! Two of my friends decided to go Horseback Riding on the beach..well after a little mishap with that we spent the rest of the night in the hospital, and the following day keeping our very sore friend in bed and resting. It was quite rainy but we were very disappointed to have missed some the big Kouros statues.
Sanctuary of Apollo
Last but not least, we left for Mykonos on Good Friday. We saw the beautiful windmills while we were there, we got to experience their Easter celebration which consisted of many fire crackers, candles and some delicious roast lamb. Our last view days were spent shopping, relaxing, eating and enjoying the sun. We visited Paradise Beach and got one last day of tanning in. By the time Monday came, we were elated to be back in Athens..we had come home!
So as my semester abroad is coming to a close, I’m exhausted and trying to reflect on all of the places that I’ve seen. I’d like to come up with some sort of all encompassing sentence that could sum up how I feel about my time here, but I’m not sure I can. It’s been fun, challenging, eye opening, scary, exciting, but most of all it has grown me. As I continue to get older I begin to really carve out the details of who I am and this has helped me further that.
So in 17 days, I will give my final thoughts, I will say my goodbyes to everything I’ve come to know and love. But for now I will relish in my time left in Athens. For now I will eat until I pop to soak in the yummy Greek cuisine, I will experience as much of this culture. So I will say see you later, and on May 9th, as I fly out at 6am, I will give my farewells.
At College Year in Athens/DIKEMES’ main building getting the keys to my flat and my orientation packet! Air Canada left my luggage in Montreal, so for my first 48 hours in Greece I was without toiletries or clean clothes… It was rather upsetting. BUT I didn’t really care because I’M IN GREECE.
Eidolon: Since the crisis in Greece began, symbols of classical antiquity have framed the dialogue about it. The overplayed concept of the crisis as a long-running “Greek tragedy” was even the topic of a recent “Bad Metaphor Watch” column at foreignpolicy.com. While I understand the appeal of these references to the classical Greek past, they are often deployed in a way that is misinformed, paternalistic, and condescending — even by professional classicists, who ought to know better.
I’m not saying that antiquity has no place at all in the conversation: my heart has certainly leapt at seeing graffiti and banners in Athens calling for debt cancellation under the Solonic slogan of seisachtheia. But given the current circumstances, it is surely classicists who must better inform themselves and the public about the history of their field, the legacy of Romantic Philhellenism, and the consequences that the construct of the ‘Hellenic Ideal’ had for the branding of modern Greece (on these issues see e.g. the accounts of Calotychos and Leontis). For centuries, outsiders looking into Greece have lamented the observable decline of the culture and people with respect to glorious antiquity. The cheeky cartoons and turns of phrase that today package the disaster in cheery shades of ignorance are thus really heirs to a long tradition — a tradition at the foundations of both the academic discipline of Classics and the Greek nation state.
But you don’t have something insightful to say about the Greek crisis just because you can conjugate the ancient verb κρίνω.
Ekathimerini: The difficult task of preserving cultural heritage while at the same time giving it new life is being quietly achieved by people and organizations all around Greece, and three such initiatives were recognized by the European Commission and the Europa Nostra Pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage during its annual awards ceremony this year.
Greece received three awards: for the Antouaniko Mansion on the island of Chios in the Conservation category, and for the restoration of Lasithi Plateau’s windmills with perforated sails on Crete and the Hermes: Hermoupolis Digital Heritage Management project on the island of Syros in the Research and Digitization category. The three projects were among a total of 28 winners from 263 applications submitted by individuals and organizations from 29 countries.
The Antouaniko Mansion is located in the area of Kambos on Chios, in the northeastern Aegean Sea, among vast citrus orchards and tall stone walls. It is a beautiful estate, with the main building, the mansion itself, dating to 1893. The work at Antouaniko included structural repairs, conservation of the main house and conversion of auxiliary buildings into residential spaces, mostly for holiday use, as well as restoration work on the irrigation system. According to the Europa Nostra announcement, the judges appreciated “the high quality of the restoration work, which comprised the recovery of traditional building techniques and pre-industrial agricultural systems, the employment and enhancement of local craftsmanship, as well as the renewal of the original relationship between built and natural environment.”
The Europa Nostra awards committee also expressed admiration for the “ingenious idea” of mechanical engineer Giorgos Hatzakis to bring back to life a “forest” of windmills on the Lasithi Plateau. More than 10,000 windmills were erected in the area between 1910 and 1950 to help irrigate the shallow soil, though most have fallen into a state of disrepair due to lack of maintenance. Hatzakis has revived about 20 of these windmills by making small holes in their sails so that they can operate in low winds. The holes grow in high winds, reducing the drag on the sails and the machinery.
“It is clear that the renewed use of these windmills, spinning round across the landscape, would not only improve local agriculture and aesthetic, but also provide an ecologically sound technique for mill restoration and reuse elsewhere in Europe,” the experts concluded.
Lastly, the Europe Nostra jury distinguished the Hermes digitization project in the town of Hermoupolis (Ermoupoli) on Syros. The town is some 200 years old and unique due to the fact that almost its entire stock of more than 1,000 buildings has remained intact from its foundation to the present day. The project has developed a model for the assessment and monitoring of nearly all these buildings, recording data in up to 192 fields in each building, creating multiple dimensions for extracting, and then understanding and interpreting, a building’s history, location, condition, present and past purpose, ownership, pathology and architectural quality.
“The project is a model to promulgate the value of digitization in the collection and maintenance of intelligence about Europe’s architectural heritage, and ways in which our understanding of the complexity of the past and our response to it in future can be developed and become a basis for action,” the jury noted.
“Greek Skies”, a time-lapse video by #Greek photographer Panagiotis Filippou (Panos Photographia ) has been included in the December Official Selection of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards! Congrats Panagiotis!