Heaven On Earth

It’s easy to understand why Homer’s Odysseus always wanted to return home to Greece

2/2/2016 2:16:21 PM
written By : Shobha Tsering Bhalla Print

Greece, like wisdom, came to me late in life but, unlike cruelly elusive profundity, that magical land in the turquoise Aegean is mercifully within reach when I long for it.

Because that is what I feel for Greece now that I’ve tasted a bit of its legendary attractions. Within my first hour in Athens and one awe-struck glance from my sitting room window at the sacred Parthenon and I was hooked. Now, barely two months after my return I am already planning my next trip.

While I have been on many memorable trips to various parts of Europe nothing comes close to the extraordinary culture and beauty of Greece and its magical islands. Perhaps my enjoyment was heightened by the fact that I was travelling with two like-minded companions - my older sister, who’s a Greek history buff, and my musician daughter who even chose a concert pianist’s heritage home as our B&B in the hope of attending a classical soiree or two with her! If only Maria Callas had still been around!

While we didn’t get to enjoy the Athens Symphony Orchestra live, we did get to walk down Adrianou Street a few times to the Theatre of Dionysius where the great dramatists of the 5th century BC competed for prizes with their plays. To stand on the spot where Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides put themselves to the test more than 2,500 years ago is as awe-inspiring as climbing the Acropolis and standing in mute respect and wonder before the 4,000 year-old Parthenon. 

In Greece as in India, culture, tradition and heritage are counted not in centuries but in millenia and people carry their heritage proudly like all ancient peoples but without any hubris. Indeed, Greece’s heroic and noble history is writ large everywhere, cheek-by-jowl seamlessly with all the brash symbols of the 21st century. We were fortunate to be staying within a 10-minute walk to the immortal Acropolis and thus able to immerse ourselves in the timeless aura of the place. 

We had chosen an excellent time – early November just before Diwali – to visit Greece. The tourist crowds had thinned and the summer sun had mellowed to a warm, balmy caress with only an invigorating nip in the air in the early mornings and late evenings. Nothing that a chilled glass or two of Assyrtiko – also described as Chablis on steroids - couldn’t remedy. 

Santorini – that magical isle in the Southern Aegean - is where this classic Greek wine was first developed a millenia ago and is at its finest and possibly least expensive – € 4 for a bottle! It felt almost sacrilegeous to pay so little for such a fine wine. Then again, everything and everyone are at their finest in this enchanted jewel of the Aegean.

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