OUR HOMELAND OFFERS A QUENCHING OF CULTURAL THIRST AND REKINDLING OF OUR SOULS
It is truly a privilege to come from the unique place of beauty like Greece, which the gods placed in crystal clear blue waters, between three continents, and to be the crossroads of civilizations from the depths of the centuries.
Crete in particular, the place of my birth, is a precious and idiosyncratic part of Greece, a unique place, where you discover the codes and the cultural values that it carries from the depths of the centuries. A place bathed in sunlight, with kind-hearted and proud people, who through their history have generously tasted both glory and death. It is the aroma and taste of tsikoudia, the sound of the lyre, the leventia of the Cretan, and the pride of Crete.
Crete is the source that quenches our thirst with the “water” of its culture, with the tsikoudia of its humanity, it is the mother who gives us measure and time to synchronize our way of life in the countries we live in. From Crete we draw our strength, our musical notes, our thoughts, and our patience. Our Crete, as we know it, as we remember it, has become our experience. An experience that we must always keep relevant to our lives and transmit to our children and grandchildren intact and whole. And this precious Crete, the older we get, the older it grows and reaps within us, to all of us who live far from it. Maybe because we now understand that there is no better place, and no matter how hard we look for it, we will never find it.
Thus, one of the primary and most significant benefits that we Hellenes who live abroad partake when we visit our homeland is its CULTURE! Culture exists abundantly everywhere you look, everywhere you step on, everywhere you visit! It’s commingled with the everyday life here in Greece/Crete, but one has to look for it and absorb it!
Walking the streets, one sees the ruins of previous civilizations which flourished on this land, in the form of statues, buildings, etc, and which can offer a valuable history lesson for the uninitiated! Entering a shop, like the Bougatsa place of Kirkor, at Lions square in downtown Heraklion, suddenly awakens your childhood senses with its tantalizing aromas and tastes!
The sounds and smells in the busy market, with its vendors loudly advertising their wares and other merchandise, tickles your mind, as you try to understand their local slang and forces you to desperately search the inner folds of your own brain for those words, stored in a bygone era of your childhood years, to help understand them!
Going to a Panigiri at your ancestral village, can be an exhilarating experience in many different ways and fronts! The sounds of local music Emin sting from the vibranting strings of the Lyra and Layouto, the vibrant dance steps of a young lad, or even the rhythmic movements of an older person, the friends and acquaintances, the food, all put together awaken your instincts, elate your heart and satisfy your soul and mind!
The other night, we were walking along the Venetian Walls of Heraklion with some friends. Our destination was a traditional restaurant near the famous Martinego where the great Cretan Nikos Kazantzakis is buried, for some local specialty of Antikristo barbecue meat and much more! Along the way, we encountered the sounds of music coming from inside the cavities of the Venetian wall interior terraces. As we approached closer, we realized that a greek music concert was in progress! Our plans changed in an instant! After all, how could we miss such an opportunity! We walked right in, and sat for the duration of the live music concert featuring music compositions and songs of the greatest Greek Composers Manos Hatzidakis and Mikis Theodorakis, which went on late into the night! Afterwards, even though it was past midnight, we still made it to our restaurant and completely the night with a feast!
And these are rather small samplings of the everyday life in my hometown of Heraklion, Crete. No much planning is necessary in order to participate in it, as long as there is the will and some flexibility along the way! And when you manage that, not only the time flies, but your heart, soul and senses are filled with Culture and your batteries are being recharged for the long winter ahead when you return back home!
I urge you to visit Greece/Crete soon! You will not regret it, even for a single moment and your senses will appreciate it too!