Saturday, 3 October 2015

In Greece, a Little Goes a Long Way

Marilyn Harding



"A little goes a long way" is usually the mantra of the travel companies encouraging clients to take advantage of Greece, this economically-beleaguered but scenic and hospitable country. I notice here on Aegina Island that huge tourist coaches are on the increase. They careen these mountain roads on a race to the sites before returning to the ferry for the dash to the next island of their one-day tour.
But this is not what I am talking about. Not about bargain holidays or stretching a travel budget. I am talking about how in Greece right now we can give a little and have it return a great deal more.
Every country is known primarily by its collective cultural persona. The national character is perceived by the behavior of politicians, bureaucrats and the effect of its economic skill and power in the global game. And when a country is disadvantaged by these standards, the world rushes in to take advantage. Or so it seems.
I despair when I hear what others say of Greece outside of the country, "the people brought it on themselves," "'they're lazy" "they're looking for a handout." But I know a different reality. In fact I am an active participant in a different reality. And here it is.
Underneath the skin of the collective national persona are 11 million plus stories. I am one of them. I am Philhellene. I chose to come here from a more "advantaged" country because there is a pulse to this land that is hard to measure by our material standards. It is beguilingly beautiful from north to south and east to west including its hundreds of islands with such diversity of ancient mountains, teal blue seas and rich arable lands. In the still-wild mountains, herbs and wildflowers grow in unmolested natural abundance. Six thousand species of flora and 200 species of olive trees offer up a precious pharmacopeia unmatched in most other lands.

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