The Most Beautiful Sight in the World

Wait!

What?

I know what you are thinking. You read the title of this post and then looked at the accompanying picture. There is no way that a dreary picture of some random street with a near empty parking lot is the most beautiful sight in the world, but you need to put it in perspective.

This was the first sight I was given when I opened my window this morning after catching a few hours of sleep after a night flight, and what I see is not an empty street on a Sunday morning. What I see is the start of an adventure in a far away country.

Let me give you some context.

I spent yesterday in airports and on airplanes as I traveled from Amman, Jordan to Reykjavik, Iceland. It didn’t seem like a long day at the time. The two four-flights broken up with a quick layover in Vienna made it seem barely an inconvenience. But by the time I arrived at the airport on this cold island in the middle of the Atlantic, I could feel a change in climate and attitude. I was whisked away in a van to our hotel for the night, and barely registered what was going on because my mind was still lost in what it thought was 3 o’clock in the morning, the time I was usually in a deep sleep.

So to wake up to this sight this morning after a good night’s sleep had all the potential of what lay in store for me for the next couple of weeks. I know that I could have paid attention to it last night, and it could have had the same effect that it had on me this morning, but there were a lot of factors working against it. First, though I could still make out the terrain at midnight last night because the sun doesn’t really go down at night this far north, it was still dim enough that I could not really make out anything exciting. Also, I had just woken up from a series of ten minute naps as I tried to keep my wits about me as I was being driven to the hotel, so I wasn’t really in the mood to marvel at what lay before me. Last, my brain was in the place where it would usually be deep in R.E.M. sleep and I would be lost in a dream; how was I to know this unusual landscape wasn’t actually a dream in itself.

I needed that good night’s sleep so I could open the window this morning, and witness this picture. My heart beat faster in the excitement that I soon found myself wrapped up. There was an adventure to be had, and these was the starting point of that adventure. How could this not be the most beautiful sight in the world? Of course, there will be more spectacular sights to see along the way, but you never forget the beginning and the potential that it holds. So don’t look at this sight as something to skip over easily, but as the emotion is sparks up in the beholder, and you will find that the simplest of sights can be the most beautiful for you as well.

To those adventures we will all have this summer, and those first sights that bring them to us before we venture out on them. Keep on finding those experiences.

A Summer of Adventure

The two favorite words of teachers and children have been uttered numerous times over the last couple of weeks, Summer Break. It has been a rough couple of years with the ever-changing landscape of school due to the conditions of the world, but we have finally emerged from that to a new world of possibilities. There are still a few lingering effects of the pandemic, such as the need to wear masks on international flights, and the occasional PCR test to make sure that you are not carrying the disease to strange and remote parts of the world. Still, every day, a new restriction is being lifted, and it looks like it will be the perfect opportunity to travel the world again.

I woke up this morning on my second full day of Summer Break knowing that I will spend the majority of it moving from place to place. I will traveling to many different parts of the United States, sometimes for family, sometimes for friends, and sometimes for business. I will also start my adventure with a three week trek across Iceland. It is a promise for something I have not gotten to experience for a long time, and though I am a little nervous about traveling this way again, I am also really excited for the adventure to begin.

I am sure this is the same for many of you out there. If there is one thing that living this pandemic has taught us is that life is meant to be lived, and we should not put off those things that we have always wanted to experience in our lives. These opportunities can easily be taken away from us for financial reasons, war, or in the case of the last few years, a pandemic. Now that things have opened up again, I am going to take advantage of it. I hope you join me during the next couple of months on my journey, or more importantly, I hope that you take advantage of your opportunities yourself to go out and see those things that you have always wanted to see. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross while out there and we can make a part of our story together.

Lost Statue

I would like to pay a little tribute
To a god that I find most important.
Though Apollo may wish I remain mute
The beating of my heart tells me I can’t.

I must mold and shape this slab of marble
‘Til I reveal the beauty of your face
For I find it more than admirable
While I chisel away at this stone base.

For it will reveal your grandeur of form
Of a deity who enjoys the grape,
And within it who created the norm
Whose bright mindset lowered the theater’s drape.

Did your image bring this fate on to us
For it’s in tribute to Dionysus.

Maria’s Place

It must be nice waking up being you
With the joy that you greet each single day.
Your sky must always be a crystal blue,
Another opportunity for play.
To all you meet, there is an infection
That gives them the same happiness to spread.
They will see the morning introduction
Soaking up the cheerfulness that was said.
You are not able to leave your hotel
Because of the arrival of new guests,
But it is not a bed that you will sell,
Rather a relief from life’s harsh duress.
The holiday here was comfortable
Only because you were personable.

Santorini

We are reminded by the white facade
That hangs on the edge of the caldera
Of the nature of the volcano god
Whose might destroyed an earlier era.

But now we climb up to the highest peak
To nestle within our homes among the ash.
The color of our walls remind the meek
That we would lose in any future clash.

World wearied travelers come to our ring
To marvel at the beauty of our town,
But they don’t understand how much we cling
To our modesty that could be blown down.

Our survival lies in tectonic fate,
Hoping the fickle god won’t get irrate.

The Olive Tree

In the courtyard live an old olive tree
Who has witnessed the change of the island.
From the ancient ships from across the sea
To battles fought on the beach’s sand,
It has stood watching ages come and go.
For its majesty, they built a courtyard
To shelter its branches from Winter’s blow.
The shade its leaves provide will act as guard
For this simple table where we will dine
On this culture’s culinary delights.
We will toast her with our glasses of wine
On how her, here now, makes the perfect night.
I don’t know if this was our destiny,
The pairing of us and our olive tree.

Two Greek Islands – Santorini and Naxos

Greece has always been a series of islands off of a the mainland to Europe. They were tied together by a collection of gods though their ideals based on these deities might be viewed by the different cities. Back in ancient days, these small individual communities had a common enemy to the east called the Persians which eventually united them under a common cause, but before then they were loosely tied together through trade and location.

It is hard to travel through these islands and not think about their old way of life. It is hard to think that at one time, to the Greeks, this was the whole world, even though we look at it now as just a small little corner of the Earth. When you stand on top of one of these islands and look across the Aegean Sea to another island, we think of it as something just a short ferry ride or airplane trip between them, but if you think about how they viewed those other islands, it would have been a different community and would take a day to get from one island to the next closest one.

Though we can take this simplicity of life for granted, and think of those people who lived so long ago as being disadvantaged, it probably was not the case. The people still had art that is admired to this day, and they used that art to beautify their communities, much like we do today. People would still bustle around their cities, making sure that their daily chores were done and try to carve out a life for themselves, much like we do today. They would see outsiders with a cautious eye even though when they got to know them, they would realize that they are not much different than they were, much like we do. They would have friends, and families. They would work during the day. They would look to their loved ones to enjoy their evenings. All of this much like we do.

Though we would look back at those times as a time when life was made more difficult do to their lack of technology, they would not have seen it that way. They would have looked at themselves as the height of civilization, and would have lived a life of comfort. Yes, they would have a hard time if they were transported to this age just as we would if we found ourselves back in that age, but in reality, things would not have been that different.

In reality, nothing much has really changed. The traditions may have changed, and we may no longer look to the ancient gods for guidance to our ideology, but if you stripped away all of these cultural differences, you would still see a group of people, who at the heart of it all, still had the same major concerns that each of us as individuals also have. We are a group of people who find commonality with each other to make those strong connections that build up over a lifetime so that we can create the memories that give us a fulfilling life.

As I look back at my recent trip to Greece and the two islands that I got to visit, Santorini and Naxos, I can’t help to think about how much I owe to this ancient culture. But it is not just this culture that I should give tribute to. It is every culture that I have been lucky to have made contact to. It is this collective whole that makes up now just me, but every person who has ever lived on this planet. There is so much that we all have in common that if look past the superficial, we will be able to see it. Thank you Greece for helping me see this, and I hope that I can bring this attitude with me to every other place I get to visit in this world.

Until next time, keep traveling, and keep enjoying making those greater connections.

Akrotiri Ruins – Santorini, Greece

It is easy to forget the Santorini is a Greek island with a lot of history and archeological sights on it. There are so many other things to do on this island that this sometimes gets brushed under the rug to be forgotten about, but one of the must-do sights on the island should not be treated this way, the Akrotiri Ruins on the southern edge of the island.

Before the volcano of Santorini exploded leaving only a caldera behind, Akrotiri used to be the prominent city on the island and a major trading center in the Aegean Sea. Despite its growth, it eventually fell victim to the volcano and was buried under hot magma to preserved for ages. It has since been rediscovered and archeologists are slowly digging it out giving it a feel very much like Pompeii in Italy. The biggest differences being that this sight is centuries older than the preservation next to Mount Vesuvius, and they have only uncovered about three percent on this vast city.

They have already found some amazing art and vases that have been left behind. Because this is an active archeological sight, many of these priceless artifacts are brought to the museum in town to be put on display so they can finish uncovering more of the town. Despite this, there are still a lot of pieces that are there to look at, and add to the flavor of making the trip out there.

The real draw though is the opportunity to visit an actual archeological sight and look at the architecture from a period of time when it was still being developed. You also have the opportunity to walk through the ruins and feel what it would be like to live in this city so many centuries ago. There is actually a lot to see for them only uncovering such a little bit of the town, and you can see why this was one of the major trading posts in this part of the world.

So, if you make your way out to Santorini island and have a few days out here, the Akrotiri archeological dig should be one of the sights that you make time to see. It might take away from the wine tasting, walking the caldera, and eating amazing food in one of the most dramatic cities in the world, but it is worth the trip. It is only a half an hour bus ride from Firi, and they will be back to pick you up right around the time you finish your exploration, so there is no reason that you shouldn’t go.

A Drive on an Island – Naxos, Greece

I knew that a large portion of Greece was a collection of islands, but I did not know that each island had its own flavor and character. I know that it does not take a huge leap of logic to figure that out, but it is not something that most people would think about until they find themselves traveling between them. I also thought that I would spend my time on the coast of these islands hanging out on the beaches, but when I got to Naxos, I realized that it would be great to spend a day on the interior of the island and explore what it had to offer.

There are many small towns in the interior part of the island with two of the more exciting ones being Chalki and Apiranthos. Both of these towns have their own charm, and are fun to wander through. Chalki was a town that was inhabited by Crete refugees many years ago, and they brought their knowledge of marble working with them. The town is basically made of this marble, and it makes for an enjoyable day to walk through the town and marvel at the architecture.

Apiranthos is more built up than Chaki and sits in a valley floor. At first look, it might appear to be like any other small town in Europe, but its real charm comes in the old downtown area. There are great walking streets with nice restaurants, galleries and shops. But the real appeal of this town is getting out of it. There is a hiking loop that goes for six-and-a-half kilometers. On it, you will be able to find some historic places that you would expect to find on a Greek island though most of them a Greek Orthodox in nature and not the more historic Greek gods that first come to mind when thinking about this country.

That does not mean that there are not plenty of these features left from Ancient Greece on the island. There is the Temple of Demetrius which has been turned into a museum. If you want to go there make sure that you go earlier in the day because they do close up early in the afternoon. We had made it there at 4 o’clock after touring around the interior of the island and they were locking up, but looking at for a distance it looked like a place worth visiting. If you want to look for something free, there is the unfinished statue of Dionysus. It sits in the same place where they were working on it and it is a huge piece of marble that weighs over 60 tons. It is not hard to find and sit only fifty feet off of the side of the road.

Basically, anywhere you go in the interior of Naxos island will surprise you. It is worth renting a car for a day or two if you are out here and checking out all this island has to offer. It is not just beaches and a big city on the edge of an island. The island is filled with culture just waiting for you to voyage out to find it.

Sunset in Naxos – Naxos, Greece

One of the greatest appeals of the island of Naxos is the fact that the major city on the island faces to the west, giving people who visit the perfect opportunity to watch the sun set every evening. For those of you who followed my blog during the time I was trapped in Thailand knew that I spent a lot of my time out there searching for the perfect sunset. So now that I am on another island that offers the same feature, of course I would take advantage of it.

The perches that a person can find in this city are countless and each one gives its unique perspective. I was lucky enough to have found one in the little apartment that we rented while we were out here. It has a beautiful roof patio that gives that perfect view over the ocean. There are a couple of buildings in the way, but it still made for the perfect opportunity for pictures.

Most visitors like to head out to the peninsula at the tip of the island to get the perfect picture there. Not only does it get you away from all of the modern buildings, but it also offers the perfect structure to take the pictures with, Apollo’s Temple.

Of course the perfect shot that everybody tries to obtain is the sun sinking below the horizon while being framed by the forgotten door way. I don’t know what this is like during the height of tourist season, but I suspect that you will need to get out there early if you wish to position yourself for the perfect spot to get that picture. I was lucky enough to be out here during the offseason, and did not have to fight for that spot, but the wind still likes to whip over this little plot of land and makes it really cold. If you find yourself out here during the same time, I highly recommend dressing in warm clothes because you will need them while you are watching the sun set.

Some people still find the perfect spot along the coast for their picture. There a lot of those little spots as well. No matter where you go to get that picture, you will not be disappointed because Naxos has plenty of great places to get that amazing sunset snapshot.