Nothing but blue skies

It was with huge excitement that my wife Kimberly and I began to realize that a summer vacation this year was beginning to look more and more possible.  Given the overseas deployment coming up soon and a tight training schedule, we were willing to accept that there would be no time for leave, and that we might have to forego a vacation to Greece for yet another year.

When summer leave was granted and we realized that ticket prices hadn’t yet skyrocketed, we quickly decided that going to this beautiful Mediterranean corner of the earth that I call my childhood home was going to be the trip of a lifetime.  It absolutely was, and I could never have predicted to what degree it would be a beautiful trip.  Getting the chance to show Kimberly my birthplace has been something I’ve been longing for; she as well.  Not only that, but I haven’t been to Greece for at least 4 years and I had been feeling the pull for a while now to go feel the dry heat and swim in the salty sea.

We spent half a day in downtown Athens which is a necessity for any first-time visitor to Greece.  As hot, congested, and smog-filled as it is, there is nothing that compares to the history and architecture that pack this metropolis.  It leaves you in awe imagining a different age when people walked around here many centuries before the birth of Christ, going about their daily routine.  Although I’ve been to the Acropolis about a dozen times, it never gets old and I love going back.

I could go on at length about Athens, my childhood playground (Petroupoli specifically is where I lived.)  My deeper family roots extend to the magical island of Santorini, where my father escaped as a 4-year-old in the last major earthquake, and my grandparents owned several shops.  This island seems to host just about everything you could imagine for such a small place.  That includes beautiful beaches, ancient cities, good people, and rich flavorful food.

It’s hard to describe, but there seems to be a richness to most meats, fruits, and vegetables that is sometimes attributed to the dry volcanic soil on the island.  The wines are another story and are unfortunately hard to find outside the island.  I wish I could have imported about a dozen bottles of Nykteri, and maybe another dozen bottles of Vin Santo(desert wine sweetened with honey.)  I’ve taken much away from this culinary inspiration and hope to try and cook more island-inspired foods at home for Kimberly.

Besides our week long trip to Santorini as tourists, we managed to dig into my family history a little.  I took a rare opportunity to ask the owner of a small bakery in Perissa whether or not he knew my great grandfather. After looking at a picture on the wall showing the bakery in 1935, I figured it was impossible that he wouldn’t have, as my great grandfather was well known in the area and had a house where he lived into the 1980s.  The kind old man at the bakery shared all kinds of stories, but the most profound thing was how he described our family relations and the fact that dating several generations back, our families are linked.  So now the nice lady from whom I bought frozen freddoccino (like an Iced Cap) every morning became my cousin.

It was fascinating and I could have spent many more days researching archives at the local municipal office, church records, and asking more locals about the family history, but I decided that one day I will make this a more in depth project.  I sincerely hope to do it one day and to be able to share it with my other relatives.
A popular thing in Santorini is the sunset, and almost anyone who has traveled there has set aside at least one evening to have a meal, drinks, or both on the cliff-side restaurants in Fira, the island’s capital.  It is breathtaking and beautiful and deserves all of the credit it gets from travelers.
What we found to be very underrated was the equally beautiful sunrise.  Kimberly and I decided to take an early morning walk to the beach where not a person could yet be seen, and the famously hot black sand was still cool from the night.  As I had hoped, the sun rose from the northern edge of Perissa beach and added to the natural beauty this island exudes.
Forget the economic crisis, and the politics that splash the international headlines.  The impressions that I was affraid I would get with bad attitudes and hurting public services were absolutely not there.  I can’t overstate the genuine kindness that I saw in every person I met there and have a new found hope that Greece will soon come away from their economic and political problems with a young generation able to contribute the skills and knowledge they have.
A small piece of my heart stays in Greece, and soon I hope Kimberly and I will go back and see it all over again.  With the deployment deadline looming, this trip was special not only for the beauty of what is Greece, but for the priceless time spent with Kimberly.



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