During my first visit to Greece in the 70s, the country was under martial law. I recall my discomfort at feeling watched over by the soldiers who seemed to be everywhere.
After I returned home, I read with more than passing interest how the citizens, through unyielding, but non-violent determination, returned Greece to a democratically-elected government.
I was a young man then, but that experience instilled in me a deep appreciation for the freedoms we have, as well as an understanding of how fragile they can be at times.
As our guide narrated, I recognize that the land on which I am standing in Corinth represents the beginning of freedom as we know it. It was the Seventh Century B.C. leader Periander, known as one of the seven sages of antiquity, who is credited with the expression “Democracy is better than tyranny”.
Under his direction, slavery was banned, the poor were helped, and his Corinth would become the major intellectual and cultural centre of the period.
We spent a few additional days exploring Greece’s rich history of antiquity treasures, which are still being unearthed to this day.
The extent of its antiquities can perhaps best be appreciated when considering the cost of the Athens rapid transit system.
Athens may have one of the best, and most expensive, underground subway systems in the world. Its budget kept expanding as a direct result of a Greek law which stipulates construction must not destroy antiquities which are unearthed in the construction process.
Several years, and millions of dollars in overruns later, the route keeps intact several important findings, which will attract archeologists and tourists for generations to come.
Even the recently opened Acropolis museum is raised above the ground because it is built over newly discovered ruins, which visitors observe through a translucent floor they walk over inside the building and on the pathways leading to it.
On numerous occasions in the past I have visited important places of antiquity on my own, counting on a guidebook, or the notations provided at these locations, to gain the relevant information about what I was seeing.
I don’t know if I can ever do that again. We chose to travel with a guided group every day on this trip. It made a difference in the experience, and it created a change in me.
Without them, the windmills of Mykonos would have represented not much more than a digital photo opportunity. Our guide helped us appreciate how the usually strong and consistent winds of the island created leaders in agricultural processing for the entire region.
Santorini would perhaps, be no more than one of the majestic paintings of its spectacular scenery we purchase in one of the shops that line the streets. Our guide made us feel the presence of a still-active volcano which issued its first eruption almost 4,000 years ago.
The excruciating climb to the peak of Mycenae would trigger only a memory of an outdoor sweat lodge for me, but for the vision, excitedly painted in words, of love and betrayal in the murder of the Greek leader Agamemnon, by his angry wife and lover.
For all that, I am grateful to each and every one of the guides who shared their knowledge and pride in the country they call home.
But Greece and Athens are so much more than their antiquities. There are not many countries that have more amazing scenery.
The islands are always highly rated cruise stops.
Athens is a fun city and the food quality and service in Athens and the islands is superb.
Make it your priority and you will return more peaceful and relaxed than perhaps you ever have in coming back from a vacation.
For a wide selection of travel accessories you may be interested in click on this link to Amazon.