Alpha and Omega
My trip to Greece began with my arrival on the island of Crete where I stayed at the home of my dear friend, Theodore Papaloizos and his family. Theodore’s life has been centered around education, primarily teaching children and adults the Greek language. He has authored hundreds of Greek education books and his company, Papaloizos Publications, services Greek schools and churches worldwide. For two years, I worked with Theodore as a co-author to write and prepare his autobiography for publication, and we rejoiced when the book was published this summer.
Spending a few days in beautiful Crete was a delightful way to segue from American to Greek life and culture. Theodore’s stately and spacious home sits atop a mountain, overlooking a cove, and the peace and beauty of the area washed over me as I relished the view from the veranda.
Crete is a lovely island, infused with rich culture and quaint ambiance. I loved the fruit and vegetable stands that line every main road. The produce comes straight from the fields, untouched by conveyor belts, refrigerated trucks, or supermarket coolers. Each stand had a tiny room built into the back which held a bed and a refrigerator — the requisite necessities for family members to stay there during the busy summer months. This eliminates the need to put out and take in the produce every day, and allows the family to sell its goods far into the night.
This was the perfect way to prepare both mentally and physically for the rest of my trip. After three days in Crete, I flew to Athens where I met Kathy, Elizabeth and Christine to begin our personal Greek odyssey. You can follow our travels here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Omega — Endings
The final days of my journey ended in Patras as the guest of the family of Gregory Kontos, my researcher, friend, and guide. Patras is an ancient port city that commands charming views of the Gulf of Patras. The lovely Kontos home has a stunning view of the water.
We took a day trip to Ancient Olympia, home of the Olympic Games which began there in 776 BC (yes, over seven hundred years before the birth of Christ!) Gregory’s father, Pavlos, and his mother, Despoina, were perfect teachers (which is their profession) and we learned much more from them than any tour guide could share.
There is so much to see and contemplate. Touching the ruins and seeing pre-Biblical Greek letters carved into stone is living ancient history. Your imagination soars when considering the thousands of athletes who competed at this very site: their training, stamina, honor and faith.
Hours pass quickly when viewing the multitude of artifacts in the museum at Olympia. Treasures unearthed through the millennia are amazing to behold; each tells a unique story, many of which are sadly now lost.
I was surprised (and thrilled) to see that archaeological digs continue today. A dig is not begun unless there is sufficient funding for the entire project, from start to finish. Archaeologists believe it is safer for ancient ruins and artifacts to remain buried underground, than to unearthed them, if they cannot be immediately preserved in the proper environment.
The Kontos family also took us to the beautiful city of Nafpatkos on the Greek mainland. To get there, we drove over the Rio-Antirrio or Charilaos Trikoupis bridge, which is the longest fully suspended bridge in the world and a wonder in itself.
Nafpatkos is charming and picturesque, built into the side of a mountain, with a castle at the top and a wall surrounding the city. The town nestles around the harbor, providing residents with access to the Gulf of Corinth and a beautiful setting to enjoy every day.
Leaving Greece was difficult — much more so than I anticipated when I first arrived. My travels through the Peloponnese left me with feelings of belonging, rootedness, and pride in my heritage. I more fully appreciate the sacrifices of my great-grandmothers who knew, as their children left villages in Sparta for cities in America, that they may not see them again in mortality. I saw firsthand the blending of the old with the new: a woman herding goats while talking on a cell phone; computers in stone-walled homes that were built in the 1850’s; centuries-old buildings now resurrected as modern cafes.
Greeks are rugged, resilient, loyal, and loving people. They are survivors. Despite a history of enemy invasions and occupations, they clung to their faith and resourcefully triumphed. This is their legacy to me, and one which I proudly pass to my posterity.