Categories
Europe Journal

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.

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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.

Categories
Europe Journal

My route through the Balkans

Being back from an adventure through some of the Balkan countries, 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.

Croatia

The decision to pass by Croatia was quite easy, I flew to Zagreb to meet with a friend from there, and that was my plan. She’s from there, so she knows better what to visit, being my first time there, anything would be new and interesting to me . I didn’t spend enough time in Zagreb though, our destination was the Dalmatian coast, mostly Šibenik area. We went several times to the beach, actually our house was literally across the road from the sea, and it wasn’t busy at all. We also went to Krka National Park for a day trip, just amazing 🙂

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Going to Bosnia was a mix of a “mistake” and “will“. Part of my plans was to go to Mostar for its famous bridge, however the real reason why I decided by Bosnia was due the cultural impact I was expecting to face, which indeed surprised me a lot. I still don’t know if it was a mistake not passing through Sarajevo, a lot of people tell me I should have included it in my plans… but just Mostar is a great place to visit, totally worth it, beautiful and full of history.

Montenegro

Of all the countries I passed through during this trip, this one was the one that I actually felt like visiting it and also the one I enjoyed it the most. Even though they are not part of European Union, the currency they actually use euros, a very cleaver way to avoid dealing with currency drops in case of a national crisis. In a few days I visited several national parks, in a so small country, and I spent most of my time in the charming town of Kotor.

Rota pelos Balcãs
Rota pelos Balcãs

Albania

Albania was one of the improvised stops of this trip, initially it wasn’t part of my plans to stop, but I had to cross it nonetheless to get to Macedonia (FYROM). The plan was to go from Kotor to Ohrid on a night bus, but when in Kotor I realized it would be way more interesting to at least cross the country during the day and see something, so I spent that night in Tirana and the next morning I headed up to Ohrid. It was a great decision, the trip was way more relaxed and I saw a few interesting things on the way 🙂

Macedonia (FYROM)

Macedonia, with official name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and where I stayed for two nights at the ancient capital Ohrid, by the lake with the same name. As one would expect, you can breathe history in each corner of the old city, with monuments everywhere that easily you can spot the different historical eras that passed through that city. There I decided to take my time to relax, with a full day dedicated to spend time at the lake sunbathing and swimming 🙂 I only regret not staying in a hostel, besides history, that city is also full of life. Day and night. And being alone, a hostel would be a great way to meet new people.

Greece

And back to my beloved Greece! Not much to stay about this country that I love so much, you can find plenty of articles in this blog detailing experiences I had while living there. I spend one night in the north of Greece, as a strategical stop so that I could take a rest before arriving in Athens, and another night in Athens to meet with some friends only. And as expected, it was totally worth it 🙂


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My route through the Balkans

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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:

Learn or do something that pays for my travel bills.

 

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)

Yep, just two goals! One of my last year’s goals was not to make goals, and I guess I didn’t, so let’s review these two a bit.

Learn or do something that pays for my travel bills.

Nope, I didn’t. However I figured out what I really want to do, and what I am going to invest to make this become true. It will be damn hard to achieve, not a goal for 2014 definitely, but a life-term work in progress. I do love writing, I do love traveling, and I definitely do love to share my experiences with my peculiar sarcastic style, and with a bit of humor (some times). I want to become a travel writer, so I decided to make a big change on my blog.

I archived all my personal posts, they all are visible for those that have a registered account here, but I thought that would be nice to keep the blog clean as a travel blog. I also changed the template (I still need to tweak it a bit), I reorganized all the posts by new categories and new tags, and well…, a lot still to be done.

As for the income, not that is going to help much, but I added a small ads banner, not intrusive but might help in some way (or not).

Recover those 8-9Kgs I lost the year before

Ups! Nope, I didn’t…, but this was not a fail, au contraire, I bought a bike last May and I meant to use it only for weekend escapes, but I ended up surprising myself a lot, this last Summer was the best of the last 15 years in Ireland! I bike to work every single day for four months in a row! I saved money, I did a lot of exercise and I did a few detours outside Cork! I quit the gym though, with the bike I felt less motivated to go to an indoor area…

Overview of 2013

These reviews are very important for me, because I get a better perspective of how my life is changing reading my own words. The impact is unbelievable, reading old posts, written by me, and realizing that my life is changing so fast and though I can’t notice that unless I look back, it is kind of fascinating!

I wrote this for last year’s review:

This year ended up to be one, if not the one, of the best years of my life!

I could write the same for this year, but now I truly believe that hardly I’ll have such a big year! On a personal matter, so many things happened that I can’t still believe it, though most of them nor sharable on a public blog, sorry folks. But trying to sum a bit the things I can share: I did my first tattoo which, not surprisingly, it is related to my travels, I a greek meander; I bought my bike, and that really changed my routine! I went to Asia for the first time, publishing now my posts about Japan;

And though, this doesn’t sound “better than 2012”, the things that I won’t share beat any kind of event you can think of! I turned 30 this year, and this year also means a new beginning for me, I have a new birthday date to commemorate from now on 🙂

Goals for 2014

Writing and speaking English is not an issue for me, but I want to take this travel writer thing really serious, and for that I decided to attend for some Advanced English classes which I’ll pay a bit for… but I see it as an investment.

I plan to visit another continent, I postponed Africa so or I’ll go to North America or Oceania, I might pick North America first…

By the end of 2014 I plan to be away from Ireland or being preparing my move. I learned to like this country, though I feel that I need another life changing event soon.

Still about Ireland, I am going to buy a car soon which I intend to use almost every weekend to discover new places in Ireland and share with you all my experiences!

As for the blog, I want to post at least once a week and avoid long posts (like this one).

And I think this is more than enough, and a lot of responsibility for one year already! Bring it on 2014, I challenge you to become better than 2013, like 2013 did with 2012 😀


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2013 Review and 2014 Goals

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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 🙂

Categories
Europe Journal

Big Ass!

Why such an awful blog title? Well, obviously there is a really good reason for that, actually, a few good stories to share, so let’s start by the Genesis. One friend of mine (Natalie) told me that Greek people have an expression to describe someone that has too much luck, as we (Portuguese people) say “You borned with your ass pointed to the moon” (or something alike, it’s hard to translate expressions), Greek people take things easier, they just say “You have a Big Ass“, what for some people could be a compliment…, but whatever…

I could share with you a few situations that would prove how big my ass is, but this story, definitely, the best one!

I, Gil Sousa, hereby declare that I have the biggest ass in the whole world! Quote this, please!

Friday night I went to a party with some friends, a great party on a terrace (yeah, yeah, it’s already hot in Greece :P), and…, I got drunk…, no comments about this, please… The problem here, is, that I had bought tickets to Syros for the next DAWN (7:35 is still dawn for me)…

I got at home at 3:00, I looked at the time when I was changing my alarm settings to 6am. Usually, 30 minutes is enough to get to the boats, but on weekends the metro line that goes to Piraeus has some interruptions in some parts of the path for maintenance, so I thought that 1:30 before should be safer…, if I didn’t get drunk on that night…

Me in Galissas
Me in Galissas

At 6am I woke up with the alarm (is so sad that I remember so many details…), and I changed the alarm to 6:15…, but…, I don’t remember to wake up with the new alarm…

At 7:05 I woke up, again…, I looked at my phone and I saw the time! I only had 30 minutes to get to the boats!!! I was SO SCREWED!!! I don’t know how fast I go dressed and I got to the street! Thankfully I had already everything packed (sometimes it’s nice to be psychotic :P)!

Usually, I never see taxis passing in my street, but that morning I saw 2, the first one was booked, the second one was my (crazy) driver! And in that precise moment, I realized that I need some diet…, my ass is growing day after day…, I told the guy that I only had 20 minutes to get to Piraeus, apparently, he thought he had enough time to stop and try to get an extra passenger into the taxi. I don’t know…, but I barely manage myself not to kill him in that precise moment! Him and Nikos, who cursed me about the weekend 😛 Jealousy is such a bad thing 😛

At 7:35, I was inside the ferry 😛 After this…, I think I already spent all my lucky credits at once! For whom that doesn’t know Athens, this doesn’t sound “amazing”, but believe me, it was! Nobody has so much luck! I am agnostic, but after this it isn’t hard to believe in something powerful “up there”…

Now…, my trip 😀 The “I want to make you jealous” part 😀 First things first, what I really needed there? A BIKE!!! I rent one amazing bike which has the speed control panel broken 😀 The island isn’t big, but big enough to take a couple of baths at different beaches 😀 I have photos 😀 I don’t want to describe everything, it’s boring for you to read how amazing was my weekend was, so let’s make it shorter 😛

I bought a camping tent for the islands, it’s cheaper and I love to camp! But it was even cheaper than I was counting on (and with this, my ass grew a little bit more…). When I’ve got to the camping park, the reception was closed…, I just thought I had to do free camping, and I did…, inside the camping park! 😀 And with authorization, one old man who was there and told me that I could camp for free inside of the park 😀 I could tell you about the detail that I tried to mount my tent on a bees’ nest, but it is too boring to do this without Ouso 😛 That story is really juicy with Ouso’s inspiration 😛 I tell you later 🙂

Old broken pier
Old broken pier

Despite what I initially though, I wasn’t alone in that park. We were 2, but I was the only one with a camping tent, the woman was sleeping inside of a camping-“dorm” or something alike. Strange “room” 😡 We spoke a lot after dinner, then I had to sleep…, there were no lights on the park…

The next day, yesterday, I woke up at 7:30, I packed all my things and I went to another beach 😀 (Am I close of getting you upset with this? :D) Then…, Ermoupoli, the Cyclades‘ capital! It isn’t that beautiful when you see it from the boat…, but it get’s really amazing when you walk through city! Ahh, and I spent a couple of hours on another beach until I went back to the port 😀

Ok, this is the short version of my weekend 😛 Pretty amusing, no? 😀

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