Greece is great

This item appears on page 45 of the April 2013 issue.

The subject was “Greece is great,” a number of essays were submitted by subscribers, and the judging has been completed. Two essays stood out above the rest this time, and they were written by LORNA TJADEN of New Hope, Minnesota, and LAURIE FRIEDMAN of Davis, California. Each will receive a 50-dollar gift certificate from Magellan’s Travel Supplies (800/962-4943). Their essays are printed below.

The essay contest currently in play for ITN subscribers is titled “I’m At Home in Stockholm.” If you have been there, in no more than 300 words (note, 300 words), write on Stockholm and what you found interesting about it and send your essay to ITN, 2120 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or email Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is April 30, 2013. The writer of any winning entry will receive a prize.

Greece IS great! As one of the birthplaces of Western civilization, Greece is a fascinating and beautiful country to visit. Also, it’s less expensive than many other European countries so is easy on the budget.

The capital, Athens, is a delightful city with amazing historical sites, such as the Parthenon and the charming, downtown Plaka district, with picturesque, narrow streets to wander. Mainland Greece is worth seeing, taking trips through the olive-treed countryside to see the ancient cities of Corinth and Mycenae or perhaps to consult the Oracle of Delphi.

But the best is yet to come. As a photographer, to me the highlight of Greece is visiting the Greek islands. They’re easy to get to on the inexpensive ferries that leave from the Piraeus port near Athens and travel regularly between the many islands. You can take a tour or visit them on your own, carefully avoiding the June-to-August tourist season.

Finding lodging is easy, and, not speaking Greek, one of my favorite dining experiences is being invited into the restaurant kitchen to choose my entrée from the simmering pots, all for a few dollars. I swore to eat Greek salads the rest of my life!

Santorini is one of the most beautiful islands, with white buildings cresting the top of the island and with the white domes of the churches set against the turquoise blue, blue sea. But don’t stop at Santorini; many of the islands are beautiful, offering winding steps climbing between whitewashed houses with color accents, such as blue window frames or pink flowerpots.

Once, I was at the top of the steps looking down, thinking the scene needed a center of interest, when along came an older woman dressed in black leading a donkey. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Laurie Friedman
Davis, CA

I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful land of Greece in May 2002. I found a country haunted by more than 3,000 years of history, legend and myth. And, for me, it was appropriate to be exploring the Pelion Peninsula on horseback, since this land is the home of the centaur. On sturdy native horses, I was able to absorb the Pelion’s beauty and serenity and ride through traditional stone villages, which were perched in the pine-covered mountains.

A picnic in an olive grove forest, lunch in the center plaza of a small village, and evening meals in local tavernas are memories to remember.

A special treat was participating in an Orthodox Easter. This is a time to visit with family and friends, and an Easter feast is shared with every guest. The main dish at the Easter table is whole spiced lamb roasted over a charcoal fire, with Greek Easter breads such as tsoureki served with ouzo and retsina (Greek wine). Candles are burned to symbolize the light returning to the world.

Celebrations continue with the cracking of eggs. The dyed red Easter eggs become pieces of a traditional game. Each person takes an egg, and challengers attempt to crack each others’ eggs. The breaking of the eggs is meant to symbolize Christ’s breaking from the tomb. The person whose egg lasts the longest is assured good luck for the rest of the year.

Indeed, Greece is great — and, for me, a land of many memories!

Lorna Tjaden
New Hope, MN