Greece - The Bookend Trip

Clara Gonzales

Mount Pleasant, SC
Leisure and Luxury Travel Consultant

We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.

A new journey changes you and leaves you transformed in mind, body and spirit. Whether you are visiting on a vineyard in Pinhao along the Duoro River, walking the grand rooms of Sc...

Greece 2015 - Clara and Ruby

Greece - The Bookend Trip

On the morning of June 18th, 2015 my daughter Ruby and I were getting ready to travel to the Charleston Airport when we heard on the news that nine people were shot and killed during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church the night before. 

As we stood spellbound in front of the TV - we did not know what to do. This was our hometown. How could this be? What would happen? How soon would riots start? My husband ushered us out the door with the knowledge that there wasn’t anything we could do and that he would keep us informed on the day to day happenings.

As we boarded our flight with heavy, helpless hearts, we prayed for the community we were leaving behind for the next 10 days. 

Our heavy hearts would start out with 3 days in the city of Athens, taking in some of the most amazing sites in human history. From  the only stadium in the world built entirely out of marble, the Panathenaic Stadium - home to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896,  to the naturally fortified site of The Acropolis - we truly were in another world.  One of the most famous and influential landmarks in history and the birthplace of democracy - this is exactly what we needed to ease our spirits.The Acropolis Museum was one of my favorite trips. It officially opened in 2009, has been consistently rated as one of the best museums in the world. Devoted to the Parthenon and its surrounding temples, it is cleverly perched above Athens like a luminous box and the perfect sanctuary for the ancient artefacts that were found in and around the Acropolis.

As we said goodbye to Athens for a few days we boarded Celestyal Cruises for a  5 day spin around the Greek Isles. 

We started out in Mykonos where a fascinating world of glamour meets simplicity. On Mykonos celebrities, college students and families mingle together to celebrate the Greek summer. Whether you are an entertainment junkie out for a real good time, or a visitor who wishes to explore the island’s history and tradition, Mykonos was the place to be. Strolling around its narrow marble streets and admiring the whitewashed houses with colourful doors and window frames was magical.

On the island of Rhodes we discovered why they are famous for their chick pea dishes. In Sifnos, the local specialty is a slow-cooked, clay-baked chick pea soup that simmers all night in wood-burning ovens and chick-pea fritters (revythokeftedes) spiced with cumin are a local treat - so yummy!

Patmos Island is known worldwide as a sacred island for it is the place where Saint John wrote the Book of Revelation. It’s also an ideal destination for nature lovers thanks to its lace-like coastline, sheer cliffs and volcanic soil.

We then headed south to Crete for a visit to the castles of Gramvousa, Frangokastelo, Rethymnon, Herakleion, Fodele and the famous Spinalonga Island which was a leper community in the past. We also satisfied our sweet tooth with kalitsounia, a little tart-like pastry filled with local Cretan sweet myzithra cheese and dusted with cinnamon. 

Our final stop through the islands was Santorini. After a rather harrowing donkey ride to the top of the cliff we relaxed in a lovely restaurant overlooking the Aegean Sea. Here large clusters of whitewashed buildings nest at dizzying heights, spilling down cliff sides and offering gasp-inducing views. The quintessential Greek Isle!

And so now you are curious as to the Bookend of this trip, aren’t you? Well here you go!

After our ship docked and returned to our hotel for a final evening in Athens we began to notice  very long lines at Bank ATM machines along the sidewalk. After a slightly panicked check on the news with CNN, it was confirmed that Greece was indeed gearing up for unrest. The country had just rejected further austerity measures and the population feared bank closures. Days later Greece became the first developed country to fail to make IMF loan repayments on time and banks indeed closed days later all across the country for several weeks. Upon return to Charleston, we watched the rioting that ensued all across Greece for days on end, a country that became near and dear to our hearts. We entered Greece with heavy hearts and left with prayers for a magical place, that was once again the center of the world’s stage.

The City of Charleston, South Carolina handled it's grief with the dignity and grace befitting Grand City of the South and we were proud to be a community that heals together.

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