Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From Athena to Zorba

I have concentrated, for the most part, on recounting tales of our vacation in Greece by focusing on the ancient aspects of this lovely land. But, of course, today, you do not see Greece as an ancient civilization. It is obviously a modern European country.

Here are some quick bits of information we gleaned about Greece. We learned that the top industry in Greece is shipping, followed by tourism. The number 3 industry--minerals. One day on our travels, we passed a bauxite mining facility (bauxite is the primary mineral in aluminum production).

Greece is made up of the mainland, and many islands--some 2,000 of them. There is little rain fall throughout much of Greece--about 12 inches a year on average. So the vegetation is not lush, more scrub-like. Of the some 10 million citizens in Greece, about half live in and around Athens.

One of the most ubiquitous identities we found touted in Greece was the fictional Zorba the Greek. Bouzouki music played many places, and you almost expected to see Anthony Quinn step around the corner. When I asked one of our guides what a typical Greek is like (I know, it is a dreadfully unfair question), she readily said--Zorba the Greek. I was frankly surprised. In fact, I asked--doesn't it bother you that Americans and other visitors automatically assume that Zorba is an apt surrogate for national character. Oh, no, she replied--we are a carefree people; we live fully today because that is what we have.

Well, I mulled over the implications--going from the tales of Homer--the heroic battles of the Iliad, the incredible bravery exhibited there, the manly camaraderie; the wanderings and longing of Odysseus who seeks to return home--to the carefree Zorba. I considered the Greek tragedies, epitomized by heroes such as Oedipus who simply must KNOW even if it means his downfall, and heroines such as Antigone who STUBBORNLY struggles to have her brother receive a decent burial. And then considered Zorba or Ilya, the prostitute in Never on a Sunday. Both of these characters are earthy, living in the moment.

It is fraught with folly to assume that in the space of a short visit, you can capture all you need to know about a country. And I won't try. I will say--we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. The Greeks that we met were welcoming. There was no undercurrent of resentment at Americans. (Remember note above--tourism is the # 2 industry.) Resentment against Americans is something that we have encountered occasionally on other trips (e.g. France and one mean woman in Rome).

Is Greece on your list of places to see? Do go!


JeanMac said...

I'd love to go someday!

NCmountainwoman said...

I do hope to go to Greece someday and I have thoroughly enjoyed your visit. I thought of you when I saw the Solstice Moonrise on Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Here's the address in case you didn't see it: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap080620.html

Femail doc said...

Greece is actually the ONLY place I've been in Europe. I arrived in Athens and stayed on an island in the Aegean called Skopelos. Fabulous. Your posting makes me want to go back.

mon@rch said...

Greece looks like a photographers dream to visit! Keep up with the great post! Been enjoying learning about the area!

Laurie said...

I have always wanted to go to Greece. Thanks for letting us come along on your tour.


RuthieJ said...

I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip Donna. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.