No, that title’s not a typo. Before I begin sharing my adventures in Norway, I thought I’d offer a quick reflection on my time in Greece. Here are my top five Top Five lists!
By the way, these lists are in no particular order. That would be too much for my travel-addled brain to handle.
Top Five Places/Things to See
1. The view from the Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar in Santorini. Comes with charming waiters, pashminas in case it gets chilly, and a truly great “Hungarian” coffee.
2. The Saturday farmers’ market in Chania. What can I say? Vibrant, fun and fascinating.
3. The Vavrona wetlands outside of Athens. A place where wild and managed Greek landscape comes together. Birds, trees and plants abound, in a peaceful setting that belies its nearness to Athens.
4. The Santorini volcano. I stood on a steaming volcano, ok? Nuff said.
5. The aqua-blue water everywhere:
Top Five Most-Used Items From My Lightly-Packed Suitcase
1. Sturdy Keen walking/hiking shoes and appropriate socks. Lots of walking. Lots of steps going up, and steps going down. Looooots of uneven terrain, including in the cities.
2. Gel face moisturizer (Simple brand). It provided needed moisture without gross stickiness or oil. Big win!
3. Light fleece jacket. On again, off again, on again … especially at night and on the water. I even wore my shell on the evening of the rainy day in Santorini.
4. Linen pants. They keep things easy breezy!
5. Hat and sunglasses (that sun!). Two absolute necessities.
Top Five Items I Wish I’d Brought
1. More than one pair of shorts. Did I mention that it was sunny? And hot.
2. A “nice” outfit. For the wine tastings, olive oil tasting and Cretan Night, this would have been handy.
3. Flip flops. For the beach. Duh. My Birkenstocks worked OK, but the salt water didn’t do their footbeds any favors.
4. A European power adaptor. I own one, but I brought my UK one instead. Rookie mistake! Now I own two, because I had to buy one at the Athens airport.
5. Dry-spray sunscreen. The sunscreen I brought was sticky and I was sweating all the time; it made me crazy. So instead of being smart and using it, I chose instead to seek the shade whenever possible.
Nope – no need for sunscreen on a day like today. None at all. (Note Poseidon’s temple up on the hill.)
Top Five Cultural Experiences
1. People, people everywhere. While I was uncomfortable sometimes, over half of the worldwide population lives in cities, and it was good to experience urban living’s more intimate human proximity.
2. Slow Food. We eat really quickly in the U.S. In Greece, the norm is to linger over meals (and coffee), chatting and relaxing. This is something we should emulate (check out slowfood.com if you’re interested).
3. Multi-linguality. Many people were not only bilingual, but trilingual or more. Language instruction begins in primary or even pre-school. Come on, U.S., we can try harder to learn some more languages!
4. The old and the new, all tangled up. The Acropolis and the frozen lemonade vendor. The 2000-year-old olive tree and this season’s garden. The archeological dig and the Metro. It was everywhere, and it was wonderful.
5. The spirit of the Greek people. Greece was hit so hard by the crisis in 2008. Those who kept their jobs lost 30, 50, even 65% of their pay. People began to be hungry. But, as one interviewee said, no one began shooting each other in the streets. They remained peaceful and productive, putting their effort into new cooperative projects like BOROUME and SYNZO, helping each other. I admire and respect their resilience.
Top Five Foods (of course!)
1. Obviously, greek salad. Simple: tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, olive oil, oregano. Done.
2. Coffee – even though I’m not a coffee person. Dark, strong, and bound to keep you up all night long. And a true social phenomenon in Greece.
3. Our fresh seafood meal on the cliff-top restaurant near Poseidon’s temple. Octopus, mussels, shrimp, calamari, even fish-egg spread. It was insane, but a wonderful experience.
4. Fava beans! Add feta, greek salad and pita, and it’s perfect.
5. Freshest fruits and vegetables ever. Tomatoes, cooked every way imaginable. Oranges, sweeter and juicier than I’ve ever had in my life. Cherries and strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just fantastic.
All told, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m happy to be able to repeat next year! How lucky am I? Doctoral studies shouldn’t be all long nights over a dimly lit keyboard. Being a part of life in Greece for this short time was definitely a part of my education.