Travels in Greece, Part III: Why It Matters

So why go on about my trip? What purpose does this have beyond sharing some photos and stories of a voyage to one of the most interesting countries in the world?

I think travel is good. It’s beneficial to anywhere new to you. It is especially good to get off of Planet America once in a while, not to bash the USA, but just to get some perspective about how people in other parts of the world live, act, and think.

See, America is a huge country. Which is great! And while there are regional differences–think New Hampshire versus Kentucky versus California (in a three-way fist-fight, my money is on the Bluegrass State), there is much more similarity between the states than there is between the U.S. and other countries.

Okay, you can argue that Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia are all quite similar, but you get my point.

Spending a length of time in another country makes you think about your home. I had some particularly interesting thoughts and feelings, given that I and my entire family is Greek, and so is my wife’s. I’ve written about the changing nature of America and what being an “American” even means anymore, This was underscored in Greece, which has a cultural cohesion we just don’t have in the United States.

It’s interesting, because the United States has historically been billed as “A Nation of Immigrants.”

Or has it? This is actually more of a modern conception. The first few great waves of immigration, including the one my family came to these shores during a century ago, were actually tightly controlled affairs. And the integration was not as smooth as we’re lead to believe.

And of course you have the African-American population, who were brought here as slaves and then, even after the abolition of the slave trade and then, finally, the institution of slavery, had difficulty integrating into the wider white-dominated society. And they were here from the founding!

So going to any monoethnic, monocultural nation is a bit of an eye opener.

And it was kind of nice! Being Greek in America, you don’t exactly stick out like a sore thumb, at least from a visual standpoint (though most people guess my ethnicity on the first or second try). But there are only about a million of us here, we are a minority religious denomination, and not everybody understands the glory of moussaka, souvalki, roasting lamb, pig, or goat on a spin, spanakopitabalkava, or bougatsa.

People in America do get gyros. But I digress.

Anyway, I liked being around people who got the food, the music, the dancing, the religious traditions, and all of the other cultural touchstones.

And it got me thinking . . . it’s good to keep places what makes them unique, that keep Greece Greek, Japan Japanese, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Egyptian, Brazil Brazilian, and so on.

We see this sentiment to a degree here among the states as well. “Keep Austin Weird” comes to mind. Or how New Yorkers want to keen New York NEW YORK. The South doesn’t like the Damn Yankees moving there. Some in Oregon and Washington claim that Californians irrevocably changed their states. Hell, people in New Hampshire get pissy when Massachusetts residents pack up shop and move to the Granite State.

How do you preserve these state cultures then? Discourage people from moving there? How?

It’s a weird thing, but it really makes you wonder. We like to believe in freedom of movement, but there are also issues of national sovereignty. Obviously, nations can do things that U.S. states cannot. But do they? Should they?

Tough questions, and interesting ones. Do I have any answers. Absolutely not. But travel just makes a guy think about these things.

Anyway, that’s why this whole experience is important. Not my experience. Just travel in general. I highly recommend that if you have a chance to visit a foreign country, you take it.

In my life I have been to Canada, England, Greece, Austria, Germany, and South Africa. Each have offered insights into not only my life, but my homeland of the United States. Each have been worthy experiences. I only wish I had the time and the resources to travel more.

Where would I like to go next? That’s an interesting question. There are places in the U.S. I am yet to see. I’ve spent time in most of the coastal South and parts of the Midwest. But I’ve never been to California outside of L.A., never seen the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or the rest of the mountain west.

As far as other countries, I definitely have a bucket list: Italy, Hungary, France, China, Japan, Australia, India, Egypt, Israel, and Russia come to mind. As you can see, I’m into places that have a lot of ancient history. Maybe I’ll make it to these places someday. And maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

But what I do know is that I’d love to go back to Greece again, and soon.

So now a little fun: Some of my favorite things about Ellada–that’s Greece in Greek-talk–and some things that I find a little . . . less-than stellar. Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part III: Why It Matters”

Travels in Greece, Part II: History Abounds

The Lion of Amphipolis.

When traveling, some people like to do nothing more than do nothing. 

I am not one of those people.

Yet despite my proclivities, the rather loose structure of our stay in Greece, coupled with the need to do things four-year-old appropriate, resulted in many days spent visiting, drinking coffee, and wandering around. 

Which, coupled with the lack of Internet during the duration of the trip, was kind of nice. 

But we did manage to sneak a few forays into some interesting parts of the old country. Here are a few of them. 

Amphipolis

Amphipolis is an ancient city in northern Greece, in the Macedonia and Thrace regions. The city played a pivotal role during the Peloponnesian War, acting as the center of the Athenian’s presence in Thrace. It’s strategic importance was due, in large part, to its position by the River Strymon, which opens up into the Strymonian Gulf and the Aegean Sea beyond.

And speaking of the Aegean Sea, did you know that its name comes from King Aegeus?  Father of the mythological hero Theseus, King Aegeas threw himself into the sea when Theseus failed to return from his quest to vanquish the Minotaur in the labyrinth of the Cretan king Minos. 

Oh wait! Theseus lived! So what happened?  Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part II: History Abounds”

Travels in Greece, Part I: Setting the Scene

Travel has a way of putting things into perspective. There’s something about getting away from home for a while that allows one to look at home in a different way. 

I spent two weeks in Greece for a family wedding and some rest and relaxation. I didn’t even have Internet for that time, which let me tell you can reorient your thinking (in a good way).

Yet I know a lot of people enjoy it when returning travelers share photographs and all of that jazz. I’ve posted some photos on Instagram, so you can check that out if you’d like. What I can do here is provide a little more insight and hit some of the highlights of the trip. Later, I’ll write up more of an analysis, but for now, enjoy the pics. 

The Place

Village road. Mountains in the background.

We went to the small village in northern Greece where my wife’s parents are from. It’s idyllic, if a bit empty. This is because, given the lack of economic opportunity in Greece, so many have left for England, Germany, Australia, Canada, and yes, the United States, mostly LA or central Massachusetts. 

It’s a gorgeous spot near a massive lake called Kerkini. The lake stretches far and wide through the northwest section of the state of Serron; here, it’s ringed by olive tree groves planted along the mountainside. 

A stretch of Lake Kerkini.

The northern mountains mark the border with Bulgaria. There are some that are snowcapped year round, which is a rather majestic sight. 

The village is close to other, larger towns that have managed to avoid the depopulation blues plaguing it. One such village, where we have some family, could even be classified as “bustling”: There are coffee shops, restaurants, retailers, travel agents, attorneys, pharmacies, and an open-aid bazaar every Friday. 

A small part of the Friday bazaar.

And about a half-hour’s drive is the city of Serres, the capital of this particular state. Series is a sprawling city with no buildings taller than about six stories, but full of shops and restaurants and food merchants and lovely pedestrian-only areas; it’s very easy to spend the day just walking around with no particular plan. 


We spent a lot of time in the bigger towns and cities, as you can imagine, but the village, though empty, proved to be my son’s favorite place. 

Why? It had a playground. And even better, there tended to be kids there quite often. After siesta time, sure, but from 4:00 to 8:00, there were usually a dozen or so friendly children ready to play with my son, even though they spoke spotty English and him (and me) spotty Greek. 

There’s Nothing More Sad than a Run-down Playground  Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part I: Setting the Scene”

Travel Time and a Brief Hiatus

What’s up everyone? Just a quick post to let you all know that the family and I am traveling internationally for a couple of weeks and, as such, I won’t be posting much, if at all. I was hoping to have some guest posts lined up, but alas that did not work out as planned. 

(That said, my man Avtomat Khan of Hidden Dominion was game enough to submit a guest post a few weeks ago that you can read here, and my reflections on it are here.)

Anyway, I’ll try posting when I can, but in all likelihood I won’t see you crazy people until May. 

In the meantime…

…check out Sword & Flower by my friend Rawle Nyanzi.
…listen to some Frank Zappa.

…stop by my friend Dylan Cornelius’ new blog.

…sign up for Alexander Cortes‘ mailing list if you’re into fitness

put down the devices and spend time with your kids like my man Neil White suggests. 

And in general, be excellent to each other. 

Take care. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here