My holiday in Greece is coming to an end. Tomorrow I will fly back home to my wonderful family in Stockholm. Presents are bought and packed. I have one more day of exploration in Thessaloniki with Oskar and Aki, talking about life. About travelling out into foreign lands and creating a life of your own. Oskar moving to Greece with his wife last year was the spark that set this thing in motion. I am lucky to have the means and opportunity to go on such an adventure. It has been fun to travel alone again. To explore and learn. It is also fun travelling with your family or with friends, these are different experiences.
Travelling in Greece today
Travelling today is easy, especially within EU. No visa applications, no roaming fees. Pay with credit cards everywhere. Book and access tickets, car rentals, and accommodation online on the smartphone. Stay in touch with those back home. Share pictures and moments.
Most information is available in English though not all signs are in English. It’s fun to practice reading the Greek letters, but with easy access to maps and translations on the smartphone, it is not really necessary. In most shops you will find some who speak English. Prices range from half price to normal Stockholm prices. Most expensive was car rental, but given the recent train accident near Larissa and my desire to go to Meteora, public transportation was not a good option.
Covid is still a thing in Greece. Wearing mask is mandatory in public transportation and in public museums. Compliance is not high. As for parking rules.
From Athens to Thessaloniki
My journey started in Athens where I visited Acropolis, the plateau in the center of the city with temples to Athena and Poseidon. As Christianity took hold in Greece, the temples were neglected, destroyed or converted into cathedrals. Then I drove to Meteora and explored the landscape and the monasteries constructed in 14th century as religious refuge during times of trouble with the crumbling of the Byzantium empire. Driving through the mountains on winding mountain rods, I see a ski resort taking over Olympus, the seat of the Ancient Greek Gods. I drive along three lane freeways to Thessaloniki and find a modern city bustling with culture and commerce built on top of crumbling ruins from its long history.
Past and present
I’ve learned a lot about Ancient Greece these last days, but also about modern Greece. Modern Greece was created by active conquest of territories from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. From the Greek Independence War 1821 over the First Balkan War 1912-1913. The assaults in Second World War first by Italy then by Germany. Cyprus. Greece has a history of conflicts between elected leaders and royalists. It’s complicated. Let us appreciate the peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to the next. No government is flawless and those that promise easy solutions rarely delivers. Let us hold dear the right to speak up and demand more from our elected leaders and our right to hold them accountable.
The monuments we have left from our ancestors. The ruins we chose to neglect and those we chose to restore. They say much about us, not just about those who came before. The monument to Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki was created by the conservative military dictatorship in 1973. Parthenon in Athens is restored with support from EU. The buildings that has survived best are those that transitioned from temples to churches to mosques to museums.
I’m thinking that having such a rich past must be intimidating for young people living in Greece today. Young Greeks need to find a balance between respect for the past and ignorance in order to create something of their own. You can be proud of the shared past. You can stand on the shoulders of giants. But you cannot live in the past. Each generation will create something of their own before passing on this place to those who come after. And so they do in Greece.