I get off a nine-hour flight of horrible airplane food and freezing temperatures into sweltering forty degree (Celsius) heat in long pants. The family is piled into a van with no air conditioning because when the AC is blasting, the person sitting the farthest back is blasted with heating. We’re sweating more than we ever have in our lives.
The apartment is up a couple flights of stairs, it is beautiful the view we get here in Athens, I wish I could enjoy it more. My skin feels like its burning right off of my bones. A second-aunt or a half-cousin–I honestly forget–hands us the keys and laughs a little bit at our comments about the heat. The apartment is sweltering even when we open up all the windows and doors… the AC unit in the small space barely stirs the air and the air it does stir is about room temp and not very cool at all. This first day is so long and so grating we’re sure it’ll never end.
But in the evening I walk with my Dad to scope out the locals, buy up some medication for my mom’s jet-lag, buy some groceries… and … goodness the bakery. We stumble into the most beautiful little bakery I have ever set my eyes on. They have pastries of every shape and sort, bread and treats. The smell in this place is incredible.
That night we also eat the first of many very delicious and extremely cheap gyros. The food in this country is absolutely out of this world. If there’s anything I really miss its this.
What I don’t miss is the heat. The first night I spend hours with my sister, jet-lagged on the stunning apartment balcony listening to the voices of the locals gathered in the town square enjoying the cool(er) breeze of the evening and chatting away. We learn quickly that the locals eat much later than our dedicated suppertime of 6-7pm in the west. The days are so hot here it’s difficult to want to get together in the middle of the day at the heat’s highest point. So, in the evenings, the locals gather in the town squares to socialize and I honestly grew to really love the atmosphere of kids playing soccer and the boisterous laughs as people cheered on teams or the muffled whispers of shared secrets.
But the thing I truly and vividly miss about Greece is the scenery and the history it brings. Having a tempered struggle with my own identity and connection to this culture that’s a half of me, this trip really struck me with the need to try and connect with it even more.
This is where my photo journey starts. I honestly took more video of this trip than photo and I am sincerely hoping to finally edit all of my footage together and to really outline my whole experience of it all… τζίτζικας included. But for now here is a taste of the wonderful things we got to see…
We started our trip visiting the Acropolis right in Athens.
We are foolish, going to see the impressive and imposing structure that is the Parthenon. It has hardly been 12 hours since we landed, we hardly got more than a scattered 3-4 hours of sleep. We took public transit right to the Athens’ market downtown in even sweatier and more sweltering temperatures than the day before (or so it feels like it at this point). We make our way up to the Acropolis, stumbling into pockets of shade and trying to avoid other tourists who are from countries far hotter than ours ever get even in the summer months. When my sister and I order some lemonade, at the nearest stand, the seller asks us where we’re from.
“Montreal.” He gives us a knowing look and a little chuckle as he hands us 5 lemonades. We sit under trees for some solace in the shade. Luckily for us, in this dry heat the sun is forgiving when you’re not under his gaze. We rest for a few moments, my mom who is struggling with a migraine elects to stay put while the rest of us continue our journey on the last stretch to the Acropolis.
I am not feeling the greatest, my camera is overheating in my hand and it has hardly even been turned on but I tell myself that I will regret it if I come all this way without making the last stretch of the trip.
For our first location, the sheer size of the Parthenon, Zeus’ temple and the Theatre of Dionysus (don’t quote me on this one) are impressive and in the same instance, a little personally disappointing. There is a lot more construction and scaffolding surrounding a lot of these mythical structures. I take photos but they don’t have the same impact as the real thing standing so tall before me.
We don’t spend very long up here and this is when I worry for the future tourist destinations we have planned for our stay. This place is packed with bodies and the heat seems to close in from everywhere. My sister and I leave my dad and my brother behind to experience the Acropolis to their heart’s content but the two of us descend before my camera can die and the sun can stop burning the tops of our feet.
When we regroup again, we get food in our bellies and spend the rest of the day resting in the apartment and deciding we are all a little bit nuts for doing what we did and not simply choosing to stay home that day. We take this evening to relax.
We depart on our 3 hour road trip to Delphi in the morning.
Delphi is a completely different experience.
The road trip is spent reading and laughing and breathing a little easier. Its still hot but the overcast skies provide just enough reprieve we aren’t exactly baking away in the sun. We spend a lot of time winding up mountain roads that make us a little nervous at the novelty and the narrow precariousness of it all. But when we reach our destination we are met with views unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Delphi is a location that plays an important role in mythos. It is the location of a prominent oracle and of a temple of Apollo. Fitting as not only is he the god of the sun but of prophecy as well. Around this place feels like there is nothing but wonderful luscious wilderness. It’s hard not to imagine his twin all around us. Artemis kisses the scenery with green and cicadas hiss about in the heat all around us. We make it to the top, the experience is littered with pit-stops but on our way down from the summit the thick heat breaks enough to sprinkle some rain and relieve us of the beaming temperature.
But as the rain sets in we find ourselves rethinking our plans. Instead of continuing our journey to Dotsiko today and the Meteora the day after, we decide to go back to the apartment and take the trip tomorrow during the crummy weather instead.
This next destination… is less about it’s ancient history so much as it is just weighted in my own history.
Dotsiko is a small town in the Greek mountains (roughly) 8 hours out of Athens. It’s got a population of about 35 and a stunningly beautiful inn. The people are sweet and kind and excited to have visitors to talk to and learn about. It turns out we learn a lot from them too. We specifically took the trip out this far because our family in Canada told us that my παππού (pappou) had family here once, long enough to found this particular village. My dad speaks to the locals a lot about this though he doesn’t translate very much…
This is the home one of my ancestors built when he founded this village. From what I know this building still belongs to us to some degree though it is in terrible shape but has great character for photos. There’s something about it I really love. But I am also a sucker for things with history we might never truly know about. It might be worth turning it into a writing throught-piece of some sort down the line but for now I get to admire its looks and charm and the pieces of the story I have to hold on to.
While the temperature is cold today, the inn is a nice warm place to set up for the night. The sound out here is near-silent when we sleep.
Tomorrow our trip takes us to the monasteries and it is still a few hours drive to get there before we will make our way back to the apartment… Unfortunately we don’t stop by Mt Olympus and climb it to meet Zeus so I can kick his ass so he escapes me… for now.
My dad can’t help but stop the car a few times on this drive. The scenery taking us to the Meteora is some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve witnessed with my own two eyes. These are the images my mind is filled with when we head home. These are images that inspire Myth Retold. It’s hard not to want to let your imagination run wild to visions of what could only be described as fantastical.
And even when we reach the Meteora… the monasteries don’t disappoint. It’s hard to believe the following photo was taken by my own two hands.
This part of the trip leaves me emotional. I wonder a little how I can leave this place without having it follow me around for the rest of my life. I realize now, in writing this, that it never has really. Some of these moments stick so strongly in my memory I feel like I’m right there again.
A couple(?) days later we take a trip all the way out to Olympia. This is another Big Drive that we make. We get a little turned around and only make it there by late-afternoon… which honestly worked for a lot of my photos, the lighting was extremely rich and dramatic!
This location probably has the most melancholic feeling for me. Unlike a lot of the other sites that have been updated and maintained over time to keep their preservation, a lot of things happened to Olympia, the ruins here are in true fashion, ruined. Between the country’s earthquakes and the effects of multiple wars taking part in also defacing historical landmarks, there is not much that is left here but an outline, a shade of what once was.
There is a kind of beautiful sadness here. I feel like this place has more layers of history than the ancient history we know the best. This is where the first Olympic games were held. I can imagine ancients partaking in them. I read plaques about wrestling arenas, racing domes and the more intimate changing rooms.
But I also see army men using old artwork as target practice and an environment so unforgiving it topples the greatest structures here.
While we’re visiting, an archaeologist emerges from an underground-someplace and dusts off their latest finds and I’m sad I don’t know the language enough to head over and ask what they think they’ve found.
We have our fun here, but I feel the reflection among our whole group as we sip on our lemonades and consider all that we’ve seen on this trip and how this place I probably the most heartbreaking.
Mykonos… Mykonos… Mykonos…
Oh is this ever the adventure of our trip. To take in these photos without taking in the sheer turmoil behind them would simply not do them justice. The last four days of this trip were supposed to be spent here, enjoying the lap of luxury and relaxing to the true vacation part of this trip. We selected an island with only a short ferry ride. It had a few iconic landmarks we could take our time exploring and beaches like no other (supposedly…)
This is what really happened:
We wake up so early it isn’t even bright out yet. We find our way to the ferry and snooze on board. Its packed with quite a lot of people, we get through the very distressing experience of disembarking as a crowd of people mixed in with our vehicles trying to crawl their way out. Its absolute mayhem these moments.
But this is still nothing as we spend the next few hours locating our airbnb… only to find that it is absolutely nothing like the images provided, it is the farthest walk from any beach on the island and our van cannot make the steep uphill climb… at all. With all of us packed in, the van nearly rolls off the side of the cliff before my dad can manage to put the breaks on. We all scramble out, he somehow gets it up the hill.
We spend time arguing with the guy who rented us the place, he refuses the refund, airbnb refuses the refund, we leave figuring we will find another place somewhere on the island, surely there has to be a room elsewhere…
Except this is also a holiday weekend in Greece and where do the folks from the mainland go for a vacation getaway? The islands. The hotels are booked, packed with people. We spend the whole day trying to find anything, anything at all before we finally come to the conclusion that we are going to have to go back to the apartment in Athens. We locate the ferry ticket booth (walking all around the island this time as if we aren’t tired enough), and the earliest ferry leaving the island is at 10pm…. we… sure have a lot of time to kill.
We eventually settle to enjoy ourselves in town. We walk through the city, buy a couple of souvenirs. I take these photos and I wonder sometimes if they aren’t the best ones I took all trip long!
We at least leave Mykonos having been able to say we visited an island and having the images to prove it, despite our turbulent day. We sleep like rocks in the apartment when we get home at 3am.
So we spend the last three days of our trip in Athens.
Ναός του Ποσειδώνα
We take the last few days easy. We visit the beach/cove in Vouliagmeni and swim one day, and in the evening we were told to visit the Temple of Poseidon, both by locals and family who told us we absolutely had to visit during sunset. So we go, its a nice little drive, the first time we spend a while with the structure waiting for the sun to set.
The first image is before the sun began to set, the second was the temple catching the orange glow as it descended from the sky. I think the image turned out lovely, but during our escapades across the country we had seen a few lovelier setting suns. The sky may have been a bit too clear so the setting rays didn’t have any clouds to catch on and really paint the sky for us.
The rest of the trip we take it easy. We spend another day at the beach, and one scoping out a local mall to escape the burning sun… and then we go home.
And I sleep for a solid week– kidding, but I sure needed a nap after everything. I wound up having a horrible migraine on the way home, strong enough I almost lost all my airplane meals before we stepped through the front door of the house.
And despite all of these ups and downs, I’d do it all again.
[For the sake of clarity and confirmation, all these photos were taken by me!]