Heritage Greece 2017

At the heart of the city

When someone says London or Paris, what immediately comes to mind? The Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. For Athens? The Parthenon. Situated right in the heart of Athens (some would argue that it IS the heart), the Parthenon sits atop the Athenian Acropolis giving an amazing 360-degree view of the city. Words such as “Democracy”, “Freedom” and “Liberty” were words coined and ushered here, words that stay with us as a foundation of our society, even today. Two of the participants, Paraskevi Kakares and Niko Dandalos were especially taken aback.
Paraskevi was most thrilled by the Acropolis and the Parthenon: “Seeing the Parthenon was one of the most amazing experiences. To witness something you have been learning about for years through textbooks is an incredible thing. Greece’s history is so rich and seeing the Parthenon really made me understand that and makes me even more proud of my Greek culture.”
Niko on the other hand found the museum fascinating. As a place of unparalleled beauty and a marvel of modern architecture, which blends new with old, he told us: “The museum was amazing and exciting. It held a lot of history I had never ever seen. One day I really wish to come back for more. I enjoy the heritage Greece program and thank it for showing me these wonderful things.”

We then made our way to the building of ELLET, Elliniki Etairia, in the traditional area of Plaka. After our initial meeting in Schinias, we now fully realized the extent in which it operates all throughout Greece and the efforts it makes to preserve nature and culture. They prepared a wonderful meal for us consisting of traditional foods and then showcased some of their activities. Vasilis Fuerst was thoroughly impressed: “It was incredible to witness what an influence the natural environment has on such a small country like Greece. The initiatives that the Elliniki Etairia have implemented are crucial to the protection of the natural environment that attract so many tourists to Greece and that stimulate the economy. I think it is extremely important that all countries have a similar mentality to continually work together for the protection and preservation of the world we all inhabit.”

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The New Acropolis Museum houses some unique exhibits.

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Nothing more beautiful than excited young faces against an amazing backdrop.

Blog editor and photographer: James (Dimitris) Voutsas

The town, the beach and the Temple

What an action-packed and high-speed day it was! We visited two of the most luxurious areas in Athens, Vouliagmeni and Glyfada! Situated at the South end of Athens, they’re both wealthy areas, both in heritage and prestige. We managed to see these two areas in a totally different and alternative way, thanks to Scooterise! We zipped along the coast, learning both of Glyfada and Vouliagmeni, being enchanted up to the very end with their beauty, both natural and of human origin. Julia Keahey was really excited about the ride! “At first the scooter ride was mildly terrifying, but as soon the wind blew through my hair, it was empowering; then you looked around at the scenery and it was a really joyful experience. I just wanted to say “Kalimera” to everyone!”

Of course, talking of natural and human beauty, one cannot but think of cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon. After Vouliagmeni and Glyfada we found ourselves there, bathing under it’s shadow. Amazed by the sea, Maddie Schindele thought “it was really cool to swim in the sea with the Temple of Poseidon watching over us. Cause you know, he’s the guy who keeps the water calm.”

After a fun time on the beach, it was time to head up to the temple. Nothing prepares you for the sight of the temple sitting at the edge of the cliff. We were lost for words. We were dumbstruck by the sheer beauty of the landscape and the temple of Poseidon which gazes over the magnificent dark blue of the Aegean, a sight which has inspired tales and myths for thousands of years. Especially emotional about our visit to Sounio, Maddie shared some very touching sentiments: “This being my first time in Greece, the moment I saw the temple I knew that this was home. My family being from Nisyros, I imagined that this was the sea that my great-yiayia once dipped her toes in.”

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Exploring the beautiful Southern coast of Athens, in Glyfada and Vouliagmeni

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Sounio, as imposing as ever.

Blog editor and photographer: James (Dimitris) Voutsas

A trek by the beach

With everyone settled in and fresh from the weekend extravaganza, it was time to start learning some Greek! After classes and with brand new Greek words fresh in their minds, we set off to one of the most important locations in Attica, Marathon.

Location to one of the most, if not the most, influential battles of Ancient Greece, it is a place that has inspired for thousands of years, a place where legends were born and history was written. We were taken on a trail of discovery along the wonderful beach of Schinias. Planned and organized by ELLET, Elliniki Etairia, the Society for the Environment & Cultural Heritage, we ventured along paths dating back thousands of years which connected the local villages, giving us the chance to experience an “insider’s” view of the Greek landscapes. They explained to us the conservation efforts they are undertaking, which fascinated us! Roxane Gardner most of all, whose field of study is so close! “As an environmental biology major, it was a perfect way to see my two passions, the environment and Greece. It was fascinating to learn about the extensive conservation programs that exist to preserve the amazing natural beauty of this country!”

To top it all off, these trails led us to Moraitis Beach, where we bathed and ate amazing food with the beautiful sea and sunset as a backdrop! Stepanie Plakas was especially taken aback: “The beaches of Greece are like no other. The view is breathtaking and I was stunned when I saw it. I can’t compare it to any in the States and I know it’s the highlight of my Greece experience.”

Boy is she in for a treat later on!

No better way to appreciate nature than to see it for yourself.

No better way to appreciate nature than to see it for yourself.

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The first ‘mpanio’ or swim in the sea, is an important event of any Greek.

Blog editor and photographer: James (Dimitris) Voutsas

The Journey begins…

Welcome to the Heritage Greece blog of 2017! Here we’ll be documenting the wonderful two week journey that sixty-two young Greek – Americans will embark on, discovering more about their roots and ancestry, whilst getting a firsthand experience of what Greece is really about! Let’s get to it!

The participants’ first exciting experience was that of flying over the beautiful Greek landscape, eagerly anticipating what was to come. Two of the participants, Gabrielle Reerra and Niki Tingas, lent us a word or two!

For Gabrielle,“[…] It was my first time traveling to Greece, and I felt that people have been telling me “you must go to Greece” my entire life. So, I was extremely excited to get on the flight to Munich and actually begin the trip.”

For Niki it was a much of the same feelings but she shared what she expected from the trip: “[…] From this journey I am expecting to connect with the culture I have always identified with, but that of which I have only heard of by word of mouth and never experienced firsthand.”

With everyone safely landed, we warmly welcomed them to Deree’s wonderful neighborhood of Agia Paraskevi, where we had a casual buffet dinner at Arteon Garden! We got to know each other a bit better and have some traditional Greek food while at it!

The day that followed was one of cautious apprehension as everything seems so familiar, yet so foreign.

As Demos Eftathiou put it,
“[…] Yesterday getting here was almost like a culture shock, but today I’m kind of getting used to the Greek way of life. Definitely different than the United States in a way that had been explained to me before, but that I understand more now that I’m here.”

But this was swiftly brushed aside as they didn’t have much time to contemplate, since the activities started almost immediately. We toured around the beautifully green suburb the College is situated in, Agia Paraskevi, but something amazing was in store for us! The Deree Open Fest, the first of its kind! Ranging from a technology fair and wellness sessions, to street food stands and sports tournaments, it truly had everything! Something akin to a great summer party to start it all off! We were treated to a wonderful Greek Dancing workshop by Cindy Trent and an amazingly informative Greek cooking Masterclass with Diane Kochillas!

Gabrielle noted about the festival, “[…] The dancing reminded me of being at family weddings and church functions back at home, and it was interesting to learn that other Americans grew up Greek Dancing. The cooking class was also interesting because I learned more about the background of Greek cuisine”.
Niki cheerfully told us, “[…] Seeing everyone come together in such a fun way really facilitated bonding throughout the group so early on in the trip. It made me feel more connected to Greek culture, as well as to the other participants. […]”

To end it all off on a positive note, Nicholas Staviski had these kind words to say “I feel closer in 2 days to y’all than I do to friends I’ve had for 5+ years back home.”

Our very first dinner together!

Our very first dinner together!

The first of many group photos to come! Welcome to all!

The first of many group photos to come! Welcome to all!

Blog editor and photographer: James (Dimitris) Voutsas

Heritage Greece 2017

Welcome to our amazing adventure in Greece. Follow us on the Heritage Greece Blog and experience the program through out eyes!

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