Last time I was “back home” was exactly four years ago and in that time a lot has happened.
Aside from advancing in school and nearly finishing my program Greece has been going through a lot of economic and political turmoil. More recently riots broke out at Syntagma square, near downtown Athens where people were injured and lots of public property was destroyed. A couple of friends were apprehensive when I was telling them I was leaving for a month and I simply told them “I will be on an Island, nothing ever happens there.” I was right but besides the point, riots have stopped, for the time being.
A common sight in Kos Town(located in Kos island) has always been people shopping which makes sense because the town used to be one of the biggest hubs for trade in the ancient years. In fact a lot of the old market architecture is still standing. Times have changed however and not for the better. Shops have closed down, locals have moved away and drinking establishments are not full of people. A sight that has become more common now are store owners sitting outside their shops playing with their komboloi (I have two of those by the way).
I’ll put the journalist in me aside and I’ll tell you about the good things.
I can’t complain about the people, everyone was nice. Didn’t see any American tourists, it was mostly Italians and Scandinavians. I found the Scandinavian tourists were friendly, polite and had a good sense of humor, one day I saw a guy wearing a watermelon shell on his head with “Magneto” carved on it. You could tell who the Swedish tourists were since most of them wore WeSC, an urban clothing brand from Sweden, some also wore “I <3 Swedish House Mafia” t-shirts so you knew they were on party mode.
The island has a party vibe to it, no doubt. My dad has actually renovated some of the clubs on that island and he told me how crazy it was back when we were living there (I was young so I don’t remember much), having said all that I didn’t party much at all, I decided to take things easy and really wind down and truly get away from the city life, I left my cellphone in the drawer of my desk and I can’t say I missed it while I was gone. Aside from my camera, my iPod was the only thing I would carry with me. Sunlounger I think was the most fitting.
I can’t say a whole lot about the food, other than it was very well priced. For about 8 EU I was able to get a big plate full of gyro meat, salad, pita, fries and zatziki sauce. Also my favourite crepe shop there was still in business, thankfully, I bought myself a breakfast crepe and enjoyed a sunburn with it because I skipped on the sunblock that morning.
While on the island, my days were mostly spent on the beach with my brother and mom, it doesn’t seem exciting but to me it was an opportunity to really slow down and get away from the stress that stuck with me from my winter semester. I also checked out some of the historic sights that are very easily accessible and for the most part, free to look at. I don’t know a whole lot of history about Kos but it used to be a large trading hub and that it is the home of Hippocrates, a very important person in the history of medicine. I always love going to historical sites.
My birthday happened to fall while I was in Kos and turns out I shared it with my brother’s god sister. She got her friends and we all went to a bar lounge called Cavo Paradiso. It wasn’t busy, which was a good change of scene since I am used to the Guvernment where there are thousands of people crowding the place. Cavo Paradiso was nice; it had the beach right outside of it, nice place to sit while enjoying drinks with company, stray cats were roaming the lounge area which added to the overall aesthetic of the place. Don’t worry they are just looking for mice!
My mom was always curious about Turkey so we took a ferry across. It was only 25 EU and the ride there was only half an hour. I can’t say I enjoyed it, even though it was only a short distance away for some reason the weather got even hotter. The shops there were filled with counterfeit and the waiters hover over you while you eat. But there was something inviting about Turkey, it felt like Albania and Greece mixed together. We spent about a day there and we came back to Kos.
After about two weeks, we went back to Athens and on the same day we left for Albania.
Albania hasn’t changed a whole lot since last time I was there but more buildings were being built and they have started major construction on some roads, this obviously shows that Albania is headed somewhere. I didn’t get to do a whole lot in Albania for I was simply spending time with my grandparents and other family. I did however explore some ancient sights and really get in touch with Albanian history since I left the country so young and didn’t have the opportunity to learn about Albania.
My uncle took me to the city of Berat, which is right beside a series of mountains and a river. It was a beautiful town where most of the houses are very old and on top of the cliff there is a castle that has a community within and there are inhabitants within, the view is also breathtaking. A villager was strolling through with his horse and he let me get on it to get my picture taken! This made me think about the time I went to a village where my great grandparents lived and one of my uncles helped me up on a horse. The other area I visited in Albania was Apollonia which is a very famous archeological site. I saw a lot of Italian tourists there probably because there were a lot of Ancient Roman artifacts in the museum. It was a great place to visit because you get a nice hike out of it to and obviously the view is great because you see all the mountains and farm land that spans around the sight.
After about a week in Albania, I returned to Athens where I spent a lot of time hanging out with my cousins. I also visited my old neighborhood which was a great experience. It felt weird walking past the places where I used to live, a big sense of nostalgia as I was showing my cousin the areas I played soccer at and just how I would spend my days in that area. I checked out the entertainment district of Gazi where there is a big gay community expanding but there are a lot of regular night clubs in there and the one I went to was called “Why Sleep?” which was a pretty cool name I thought, it was also one of my cousins favourite spots and I wasn’t doubting her taste. I liked that they had actual wait staff going around getting drinks unlike clubs in Toronto where you have to go the bar if you wanna buy drinks.
When I was living in Athens I never got to see the Parthenon even though I have gone to all the major museums and stadiums in Athens. It was a great experience even though I had to hike up a long hill and walk around the streets in the hot weather. The view once you get up there is beautiful; you see the entire city of Athens and also ancient temples situated on top of hills.
All in all it was a great trip that I am glad I took. It gave me an opportunity to re-connect with my family and it was great to know that my cousins are like minded, I felt very close and connected with them even though there was a slight language barrier. Additionally I was able to space out and really think a lot of things that were bothering me through. I will definitely visit both countries again and maybe next time I will spend more time in Turkey!
More Photos: http://www.panoramio.com/user/2614375
Thanks for reading, I know it was a long one but it should give you some insight on where I am from and also some tips in case you are interested in visiting, if you need further suggestions or have any questions please leave a comment bellow.