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Postcard from Greece

Greece has been in the news a lot lately, for all the wrong reasons.  Having travelled through Greece on my way back to New Zealand, I felt compelled to add a personal (and more positive) spin on Greece’s fortunes.

My first few days were spent in Kalamata, where I spent much of the time huddled beneath an umbrella trying unsuccessfully to avoid the blazing sun, while playing backgammon and sipping on iced coffees. The view from my office window is shown below.After spending over 12 monhs in frigid Northern Europe, Greece’s beach culture was refreshing – and somewhat reminiscent of New Zealand.  The beach is for hanging out and having fun in whatever way you can.

At one dance party on the beach I witnessed a charming tradition:  Paraffin kites would be lit and allowed to fill with hot air, before then being released to sail off over the ocean.  The kites would travel for miles, lighting up the night sky like slow moving shooting stars.   It was, so I was told, a modern-day salute to the fabled, but ill-fated, attempt by Icarus to fly to the sun on his wax wings.

Putting relaxation, revelry, and tradition to one side, there is no doubt that Greece is a charming place.  There’s any number of small coastal villages to visit and while away the hours.  The photo below shows the town of Methoni, where an ancient fort overlooks the town and beach.

Thoughts about transport did not cross my mind so much during my week in Greece; there were too many other interesting things going on.  I can, however, recommend the long distance buses, even if the KTEL bus terminal in Athens is dire and not easily navigated by the faint-hearted.

I was particularly impressed by the metro in Athens.  My favourite example is Monasteraki Station, shown below (yellow building to left), which blends in seamlessly with what is a wonderfully historic square.  Many metro stations have in-built displays to show the artefacts that were discovered during excavations for the tunnels and stations. By tastefully blending transport with culture the metro is definitely a winner.

The Old Town in Athens is an absolute urban delight; all those who love cities should wander and savour it’s ancient atmosphere.

All in all I had a wonderful time in Greece. Looking forward I hope Greece can sort through it’s economic challenges and so devote more time and energy to the important business of enjoying life, albeit perhaps now with a chastened awareness of fiscal/economic constraints.  I left Greece wanting to see more, which is always a good sign.

*** This post is dedicated to my fantastic hosts: Voula Adamopolous, her family, and friends ***

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