Some random facts about Greece

The article below is a translation of an old article about Greece that I have deep down inside my memories chest, considering it’s still one of my most viewed articles in Portuguese, I decided to translate it to English and share it with everyone! I tried to keep the same voice as the original version, in Portuguese, but some of these “facts” were mostly my perception of things when I was living there.

Some random facts about Greece

I think I will have a diabetic seizure soon, these traditions are killing me! Here in Greece it is tradition to give sweets to friends/work-mates when it’s someone’s birthday. Nothing strange to us, Portuguese people, because we do something alike…, and if we don’t bring anything to share, we all have that one friend who will force us to pay a few beers at any pub (preferably at an expensive one 😛 ) Well, considering this, the last two days we had 3 birthdays here at the office, which means, this is my third morning sweet :X

Another tradition around here, that I just got to hear about, is that when someone buys a new car that person also should give sweets to their friends/work-mates, so try to guess what I have here right now between my keyboard and belly? That it! What’s left of another morning sweet! This is my second one today…

Crystal clear waters in Skiathos
Crystal clear waters in Skiathos

Regarding the birthdays story, that’s something I still didn’t get properly, according to some touristic books, Greeks only commemorate their birthdays until their 12th birthday, but I’ve seen a few birthdays around here as well…, maybe just because yesterday I had two sweets as well :X And in theory, after their 12th birthday they only commemorate their “Name Day“. Almost all Greek names are based on some Saint (which has a day for them), and in that Saint’s day they commemorate something alike a birthday…, and just by coincidence, while I was writing this article another guy came up here with more sweets! I asked if it was his birthday, and his answer was “Name Day“, I will really become a diabetic if I stay here much longer… I am starting to think this is just an excuse for them to eat sweets for any random reason…

More random facts about Greece, not counting with their really complex and interesting history, but there are a few really odd things still today, one of them that comes from almost 2000 years ago…, the Mount Athos which I am eager to visit one day…, but not during this internship. Check the link that points to Mount Athos, that peninsula is “independent” for almost 2000 years, it survived wars, empires and even Governments…, all because this peninsula is ruled by the church! Alike Vaticano, but on a bigger scale…

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From my perspective, this is really absurd and very closed minded, it is a peninsula restricted from women and female animals, but only the domestic kind. Yes, that’s right, women are RESTRICTED from that peninsula! How on Earth does this still happen on XXI century? And from the images I see online, it is a place of an amazing beauty…, at least they kept it unspoiled and they didn’t let it become another touristic place filled with hotels and resorts…

Breaking news -> I just got offered another sweet! This is my third one today, if I am not mistaken :X And this one is definitely a birthday sweet 😛

Some random facts about Greece
Some random facts about Greece

And proceeding with the random facts about Greece…

Another protected area is Hydra island, which I plan to visit one day, if I have better luck with the stupid boat tickets…, it is an island restricted from all motorized vehicles and with a very specific urban plan, all of this to keep the typical architecture of the island intact! You might find many things to complain about the greeks, but in regarding their heritage they know what they’re doing…

Monemvasia is another place like this, a town I am planning to visit in June’s long weekend. It is a medieval town, also restricted from all motorized vehicles, and again, to keep the town/isle intact!

However, you can also find terrible examples of how not to do things, like what they did in Athens… Between the Temple of Olympian Zeus and one of the most typical districts in Athens, of which it’s history and mythology are so tied up, they created a wide and busy avenue…, which means, the Temple and the historical district are split apart by a busy avenue…, this is the price of “process” when people don’t plan properly.

This weekend I will try to visit Meteora, I had other plans, but I guess I really will go to Meteora, I’ll try to book a bedroom today (but first I’ll make sure I can get the train tickets), and I think this time I will finally visit this place. This area, according to everybody, it is absolutely breathtaking…, whoever saw the movie 300 probably remember  that Monastery that was on the top of a cliff…, these monasteries exist, and they are all in Meteora!

Another curiosity, is how precise these old people did things, apparently there are three temples that form a perfect triangle, and they are quite far away from the other ones, being one of them in one island… How on Earth did they do this? Based on stars only? I already visited these three temples, Parthenon, Temple of Poseidon in Sounio and Temple of Aphaea in Egina (the first, and so far only, island I visited in Greece).

And I think it’s enough of random facts, it’s your turn now and come to Greece and explore it 🙂 Even if it seems they don’t care much about the tourism, they have loads of amazing things for you to see 🙂

Now some proper facts about Greece!

As the excerpt above was from a younger Gil, I decided to add a few more things to this article, and some proper facts about Greece that might be unknown to some.

Fact #1

The modern borders of Greece, as we know it today, only has 70 years! Less than a century! Yes, it’s more than known that greeks are the pillars of modern society, democracy, philosophy, arts and much more. We all heard about Ancient Greece, and how important that period was and how that affected, in a positive way, the rest of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. But, what probably you haven’t noticed yet, is that Greece is located in a very very strategic region. Several wanted that part of Europe, Venetians had part of today’s Greece, then Italians, also the Ottomans, Bulgarians, and other folks. The greeks suffered a lot across times, though their identify as a people prevailed.

Fact #2

Greece, for us is Greece, for them is Hellas! Confusing? I couldn’t find exact information of why this is so different, but for what I could understand it started with the Romans, they called the people living in the area that is now Greece the “Graeci”, while those people used to call themselves Hellenes. Maybe we all should start calling that country by Hellas?

Fact #3

Besides Greece and Cyprus, greek language is base for several dialects in Turkey and Italy, some even closer to Ancient Greek than Modern Greek!

Cats are everywhere in Hydra island
Cats are everywhere in Hydra island

Fact #4

The greek flag has 9 stripes, 5 blue and 4 white. According to popular saying, each strip is for one syllable of their motto, Freedom or Death (Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος), it’s also said that the nine strips are one for each letter of the word Freedom (Ελευθερία). The blue cross, I think than one it is easy to guess 🙂

Fact #5

Greek coffee, Turkish coffee, Arabic coffee. They are all the same. But don’t tell this to a greek, or a turk or an arab, most likely they won’t like it. But you should try and drink it! Don’t drink it as an espresso, let it settle down and take your time to drink it. And unless you want to hate that coffee for life, don’t drink the very last part of it… Just take your time to drink it, and all will be fine. Patience is the trick to drink this special coffee.


My route through the Balkans, from Zagreb to Athens

Being back from an adventure through the Balkans, it’s time to start writing about it. My first article of this series is about the route I took from Zagreb to Athens, the places I passed through and the reasons why.

Asia Reviews

2013 Review and 2014 Goals

I have done these reviews and goals for a while, it is nice as a self-slap in the face and / or to see how things went good. Not that I try to follow my goals religiously, but I like to think of them as a path to follow, that some times it decides to take one or two unexpected turns. So, refreshing my last year’s post, these were my goals for 2013:

Europe Reviews South America

2012 Review and 2013 Goals

I don’t write for a while…, a long while…, and this has to change. So, first goal for 2013: get my blog back to life!

I am doing this “reviews” for the past years, and reading my last review and goals, I surely need to do more and planning is not one of them. I think I still plan too much considering the amount of things I (don’t) do.

About 2012, I still want to learn or do something that pay me the bills, or at least let me travel and pay for my travel addictions. It’s easy to say “freelancing”, but harder to do it. I love my current job, and now that I have more free time I should invest it in other ways rather than pubs 🙂

FAIL! However, I don’t regret failing with this because the reason was not only the pubs, but the people I’ve met! Thank to these new friends that were such an important part of this year.

But I am going to get this “old” goal back to life, so second goal for 2013: Learn or do something that pays for my travel bills.

About the volunteering, I won’t do it in 2012 for sure, probably small projects or campaigns like the Movember one. Volunteering is still a life goal, but I am sure that I won’t be able to do it properly in 2012, I want to take 4 or 5 months off for that and since I just got a new job that I really like, I’ll postpone it a while. Probably I’ll do it in 2013, who knows?

I knew I couldn’t do it in 2012, and I didn’t. Movember is still Movember, and I can only support this cause (maybe I should also consider taking my health more seriously). This year wasn’t half the fun, and probably in 2013 I’ll collaborate differently (but still with the mustache).

Learning Spanish! I don’t know why I never did this before in a very serious way! I know some Portuñol, I have the advantage that the Portuguese grammar and vocabulary are really quite similar with the Spanish one, and with a good level of Spanish I’ll have almost half of the world as an easy “target” to conquer!

FAIL! Damn it! I am getting depressed now! However, due to my new (and great) friends, I am getting better with understanding French. Maybe I should invest in french instead of spanish, no? I am not going to make a goal of this this time…

Travel! That’s not a goal, it’s rather a lifestyle 😀 Until now I only have one big trip planned, to Peru, but I am looking forward for bigger days in Ireland because I want to explore deeper that country. I don’t believe I’ll do another big trip in 2012, maybe to Greece with my parents (if I manage to convince them…), but nothing more than that. But well…, already thinking about 2013 😀 Planing travels is really addictive 😀

Ahhh, another big fail! Regarding Ireland, not about traveling.

Peru was awesome, and I need to get back to describe the rest of the travel on this blog. I also went to Greece, last-minute decision and extremely spontaneous! It was great to decided, ask for days off and book flights in just two hours! 5 days in Greece was sooooo few, and I knew it way before hand 🙁 Greece and the friends I made there have a very special place in my heart! I don’t know when, but I’ll go back to visit you guys again 🙂

I also been to London, for the first time, to visit a friend. I am actually going back to London in three weeks, weekends are not enough to enjoy that city properly, most probably I’ll go there more times (it is so easy to go from Cork).

And Portugal, this year just for weddings, three! What’s wrong with people, everyone getting wed now??? Well, still great to come back to Portugal and this time I managed to travel a little bit with my family as well, and see long time friends 🙂

However, this Christmas I stayed in Cork…, not alone though, I brought my parents here for the first time 🙂 My mom’s first flight! I didn’t take them to Greece, but I did it to Ireland. It was great to have them here and comforting at the same time, because now they know that I am actually really well here.

Sports, I need to do more sports…, I started with the gym a few months ago, but I’d rather do more outdoors. After March I might apply to kayak lessons, and keep doing hiking. I’ll try to organize one or two hiking trips, Ireland is quite nice for that.

Oh, no…, another huge fail! I actually kept going to the gym, this year I even changed gym twice…, but I also managed to “recover” those 8-9kgs I lost the year before…, this is definitely a goal to 2013! And I am going to go even further, I might even consider to attend to the Cork half marathon! (This is not a goal)

And I think that’s enough for goals, few but possible to achieve! Everything else is bonus 😀

Ah, so funny….

Well, goals are just good to keep us motivated, not to make us feel frustrated if we can’t achieve them. This year ended up to be one, if not the one, of the best years of my life! I achieved so many things that make me feel so good that I wouldn’t dare to write it down. For the first time on my life, I could do “magic” helping my parents and give them exactly what they were needing and they couldn’t do, money wise speaking. I traveled to a new continent. I did my first transatlantic flight. I went back to Greece, after several years just “thinking about that”. And much more other stuff. But regardless everything, the best was and it still is, the friends I met on this road.

I failed all my 2012 goals, but I achieved all those lifetime unwritten goals. Who cares about goals, if life can be so great anyway? I didn’t fail anything, I just didn’t do it yet 🙂


A weekend spent in the Greek Island of Syros

One of my plans was to visit one of the Cyclades islands, so I thought, why not the capital island? That’s how I decided over Syros, though I almost stayed in Athens… Thankfully it seems I am blessed with luck, and that led to acquiring a new nickname, Big Ass!