Monthly Archives: March 2010

Athens – where it all began…

I am Greek. I was born in Greece by Greek parents. When I came back to my country after 35 years of living overseas (even though I visited my parents almost every year) it was a completion of the circle of sorts. I came back to the place I was born… the place where it all started. For me it was always a philosophical journey rather than simply a sentimental one. Being in Greece today is not easy nor simple… nor is it as romantic as people may think. It takes effort, patience (read: loooooots of patience) and most of all… understanding. Understanding… as in consideration. Consideration… as in respect. Respect… as in mindfulness. You have to be mentally ready… you have to be comfortable in your own skin… you have to see Greece as something beyond a small country with big (current) troubles… you have to be aware and sensitive to what this tiny little country represents in the global sense.

It is so damn easy to be cynical. To be coy and clever and loud and full of bravado. To be arrogant and “knowing” in condemning  Greece for the current state it finds itself in. It is easy to be judgmental of all things wrong with the country today… I have been guilty of it myself. But lets just pause for a few minutes…

I came into Athens a couple of days ago on business and on a Sunday morning I got up early so that I can indulge into my favourite pass time in this ancient city. Like all large cities… if you really want to “see” them… if you really want the city to “speak” to you… you have to walk around early. You have to walk around when nobody else is around. You have to put yourself in places where the city can tell you it’s secrets…. speak to you… show you it’s history… it’s heritage… it’s tradition, it’s legacy, it’s pedigree.

In Athens there is only one place to do that in my opinion… the heights of Plaka, beneath the grand majesty of the Acropolis. This is where you see the ancient and the “merely” old… the elegance, the artful, yet exquisite simplicity of design. The glory of the ancient capital of the world. The place… where it all began.

There is not enough space on this blog…nor do you have the time for me to explain to you all the things that begun here. Needless to say all the things you consider as the very essence of western civilisation… all started here. Theatre, philosophy, science, medicine and a catchy little concept called “democracy”…. all started here. Physics and botany… zoology and biology… all started here. Almost everything that shapes western societies today… started here. The “Arts” as we know them… started here. Entertainment…comedy and tragedy… started here. The way you read, talk, calculate and apply logic, it all started HERE !

So as you join me for this extra special little walk… I would like you to think about where we are. This is not “just” a city. This is NOT my city… or yours… or just a Greek city. This is the where it all begun for all of us… you and me. All of the western world. This is where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked. This really is the place where it all began… in so many ways.

The higher up you walk towards the foothills of the Acropolis… the further back in history you go. It’s like a time-tunnel. When you get to the top of Plaka you look up… and all you can see is the imposing majesty of the Acropolis. It’s hard to comprehend that something so incredibly beautiful would’ve been built more than two thousand years ago. That’s two “thousand” years…
To this day there is nothing that comes even close !

as you look up you can see where the city began

the foothills of history…

every lane..every cafe…every taverna is hundreds of years old…

a lot of these old building have been lovingly restored… and the architectural
detail is exquisite

this is the charm of Athens from two centuries ago… in the foothills of the city of
two thousand years ago…

a lane built for carriages…

you tend to get lost in the details of present day architecture…
but then you look up, and you remember where you are…

how exquisite it must have been to walk around in those days…
how intimidating and/or thrilling it must have been if you were a visitor…

the foothills of the Acropolis are of course sprinkled with other ancient sites…
and yet, some say, only a tiny percentage of the ruins
have been excavated

the most famous building in the world still stands…
a fraction of it’s former glory… but still an exquisite
piece of architecture. Arguably the benchmark for every
other significant building project undertaken ever since…

and now there is a worthy museum to compliment the ancient Acropolis…
and just like the Athens Metro stations… its been built with care, taste and
and style that is complimentary to the sacred site

the size of the museum is impressive… although there is no doubt that a museum
twenty times as large is needed to house even a fraction of the ancient treasures
in storage around Athens…let alone the rest of Greece…

below the actual museum there are excavated parts of the old City… exposing
the advanced infrastructure that serviced ancient Athens

inside… the museum is a wonderful combination of the high-tech and ancient treasures…
all displayed in a typically Greek elegant simplicity

Alas… it was at this point, to my great disappointment – and I’m sure yours too, that I was pounced upon by the museum’s security staff. It was politely, but firmly, explained to me that photographs were NOT allowed within the museum itself. Quite frankly I am not surprised… nor do I blame them. There are already countless Greek treasures that were stolen and are now displayed – “for safe keeping” – in foreign museums… the last thing we want is the reproduction of the many priceless treasures this museum has on display. I know it’s a disappointment to many of you… but it just means you will have to visit for yourselves. Believe me you will be overwhelmed (hint: allow yourselves the time to enjoy it all… do NOT come to this place expecting to be out in an hour… there is far too much treasure to see).

the one thing I can show you… captured just prior to being surrounded by security,
is that below your feet (at ground level) is clear glass… through which
you can see the ancient city ruins below. Quite surreal !

the ruins below are the ancient outskirts of Athens.. clearly showing
the city’s advanced levels of planning and building  sophistication

Beyond the ancient ruins… Athens is now a very large city (four-five million officially… more than likely six-seven million+ with all illegals). It extends as far as the eye can see when gazing out from the Acropolis. Yet… standing on the foothills of the Acropolis on a Sunday morning… you can still get the feeling of what it must have been like all those centuries ago. At the time the world was different… and this city… Athens… was the centre of the known universe. What was being developed /debated/created here would have such an unbelievably profound impact on the rest of the world… in so many ways.

Athens is the capital of Greece… but it’s so much more than that. It belongs to all of us… because for all of us in the western world, this… is where it all began !

It’s a beautiful day !

“Tis the season to get ready” so to speak. The calm before the storm…or the madness before the madness. Which ever way you want to describe early spring on Santorini… it is the “busy” season. This is when everything happens in preparation for the season ahead. Almost every shop, every house, hotel and restaurant is either being repaired, re-build or repainted. The tradesmen are frantic and the owners are pacing up and down as they watch the slow progress being made on their properties (smoking countless packets of cigarettes in the process – they still haven’t quite worked out that it doesn’t make the work faster or better or even reduce the stress they are obviously experiencing).

But it’s spring… and spring everywhere means beauty in nature. On Santorini… well on Santorini this whole concept is taken to another level. A level that most of you can not even imagine unless you have been to this island…especially during spring. The cliffs are alive with colour… and the blue of the caldera is bluer and more seductive than ever. It’s as if the deep blue water is somehow filtered all through winter… and come spring it has been replaced with a brilliant, crystal clear body of the deepest Aegean blue water you have ever seen. When you stand on top of it…as you do when on the cliffs of Santorini…. you are looking down at one of the world’s natural wonders, an image so sublime your mind doesn’t know how to deal with it.

This morning it is a crystal clear sunny day… with the caldera in all it’s glory stretched out below me. Take a look and see what I saw with my morning coffee:

Looking in towards Fira the blue was blinding. No words necessary… you
just sit and enjoy your coffee… and you gaze…

Later in the morning I went into Fira where the good lady Venus was basking
in the spring sunshine.

On the way back I stopped at a friend’s hotel… this is the view from his office.
Beats the corner office in a big city highrise…which is where he used spend his time.

Off to Athens at around 3.30pm today… a boat ride in the sunshine for a change. Lot’s of photos to be taken along the way and even more in Athens after my meetings. I have wanted to photograph the new Acropolis museum for you since it opened… I’m finally going to do it. Look out for a spacial photographic tour of this unique building later this week. I can’t wait…

Have a great week till then ;-)

think different…

The case for seeking to live an inspired life !

My argument is simple. YOU and I are snowflakes. We are 1 in 6 billion. SIX BILLION. We are… each of us, totally unique. We are (depending on your beliefs) the result of billions of years of evolution. We are the rulers of our planet. We are capable of the most amazing creativity… the most incredible ingenuity, the most remarkable innovation. We are capable of passion, compassion, vision and reason. We have the unique capability to think unlike any other creature on this planet….

read more:  http://oiasantorini.com/think-different/

the cool verse > Goo Goo Dolls “Iris”  http://oiasantorini.com/the-cool-verse/

Let the new season begin !

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for a week… been travelling on the mainland and it’s been a bit hectic. But I’m back on my island and it is buzzing with activity. Everyone is getting ready for the new season which officially begins at end of this month (Greek Easter is early this year – 4th April… so it will be an early start to Santorini’s season).

Today’s post is a bit of a recap on last week… as well as a glimpse of some things happening on the island as people get ready for the new season. They say the Queen thinks that the whole world smells of fresh paint… and it’s a bit like that here at the moment. Everyone is getting their properties/businesses ready for the new season… which means there is a lot of fresh paint, cleaning and furniture deliveries. The island is a hive of activity… probably largely invisible to the few tourists here already, but it’s all happening. The new season has begun and in case we needed a reminder of the fact we woke up to this:

Yep…she is the first for the year, sitting there all alone looking splendid. Soon
there will be at least 7-8 every day… fighting for the best spots in the caldera.
It was a fantastic sight… a welcome sight !

There are hundreds of people working to get the hotels ready… clean up and paint. Pools being cleaned and filled, new furniture arriving, new linen, new plants, new everything. Well… “almost” new everything. Some things do get a coat of paint to make them look like they are new again. This young guy was doing some work at Volcano View hotel – let me ask you…have you ever seen a person spraying varnish with a better view in the background ???

If you’re going to do some varnishing… you may as well do it in style.
Santorini style!

My trip, as always, was by slow boat and of course “at night”. Love boat trips at night… especially in winter. As usual I had the deck to myself and managed to get a couple of pics before going to sleep in the cabin. Here are some of my faves from this trip.

1am and all is well on the quiet deck.

The good ship “PREVELI” is my favourite of the old boats
on the Cyclades route.

No…it’s not a pool, it’s the stairs to the deck below. It’s a night shot
I have wanted to take for a long time !

Two of the chefs gazing out after finishing their shift. These guys
can be at sea for up to four months at a time.

Aegean sunrise… with Athens in the background.

On this trip my travels took me far… driving for a few days and seeing various people all over Greece. Much to do for the new season (more on that soon). The scenery throughout Greece is sublime and I have to tell you that it’s largely undiscovered. Every time I travel in this tiny country my mind fills with ideas about what they “could” and “should” be doing to promote the incredible beauty of this ancient land. The world is mostly oblivious to what there is to be seen and experienced in this mythical country… but we’ll change that, one step at a time.

But no matter where I go or what I see… there is always a view that makes me feel glad to be home. There is a certain spot from where I can see my tiny little village hanging on the edge of the cliff… and it’s always a welcoming sight!

home…sweet home !

it’s the DASH that matters…

Went for my early walk this morning. Far too early for anybody else to be around…so I had the pleasure of having the entire village and it’s glorious views all to myself.

It was a beautiful spring morning… warm, clear and almost perfectly still. The views were incredible… even for someone that lives here. To make it even more poignant there wasn’t a sign of another human anywhere to be seen. Just me and my stray dog Woolfie…and the whole miracle of nature that is the Santorini caldera. A rare privilege indeed… one that makes you reflective and appreciative. Along with many other things in life I was indeed very pleased to be right there at that very moment.

So many thoughts came to mind. In particular, I thought about a line that is old… but so very true ~ It’s  not your birth date or the date of your death that matters on your tombstone… its what you managed to fit into the “dash” between !

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There is an elegant lady in Spain with whom I travel a lot… she takes me to all kinds of places…
Venice, Provence, Portofino just to name a few. She has an eye for beauty, is a great photographer
and a very stylish tour guide.

You can join me and travel all over the world with her too…
simply by visiting her wonderful blog here:

http://toiledejouy.blogspot.com/

Thank you Berta ;-)