Traveling to Greece was a once in a life time opportunity, and I absolutely loved every minute of it. It was interesting and exciting to experience another culture, especially one that is so different from the United States.
The place that impacted me the most and the one that I enjoyed the most was the Greek island Agistri. Agistri is a small island that not many tourists know of and it is probably one that is not visited as frequently. However, I loved it as well as the ferry ride to get there. I had never been on a ferry ride and my preconceived notions of it made me think that it was going to be terrible and miserable. This was not the case at all. We each had our own seats and we were lucky enough to sit in a secluded area with just enough seats for our group. I had so much fun sailing pass several of the islands and taking in all of the scenery. Taking the ferry was definitely an experience of its own.
When we reached Agistri the first thing that I noticed was how clear and clean the water was. At first the island seemed deserted because we hardly passed anyone as we walked through the streets. However, after talking with a local I learned how small the island and population really was. I was told that there was only about ten cafes and ten restaurants on the whole island; you could practically see all the way across the island no matter where you are. What I learned was not to let the size of the island impact how great my experience would be. Although Agistri did not have as many historical or tourist attractions as other islands did, the island was still beautiful and was exactly what I was looking for. I got to enjoy lunch right next to the beach, and after that I got to relax on the beach. The beach was so different from the ones that I have visited in the United States. The sand was clean, the water was extremely clean, clear, and cool, and there were not a lot of people on the beach. It was so peaceful and calm. It was relaxing to just sit there and listen to the waves. There was something about that island, and I don’t know what it was, but I left feeling so refreshed and relaxed. I was happy with my decision to spend the day on Agistri Island.
One characteristic seemed to be consistent with several local Greeks that I encountered, and that was friendliness. I honestly was a little scared of interacting with local Greeks, but the ones that I got to talk to were really friendly and loved talking. They were so willing and in fact excited to exchange stories and experiences between our different cultures. On different occasions I noticed that the locals that we had encountered were really excited to see us multiple times. During my stay in Athens we went to one restaurant called Maidrano’s at least four different times and each time the seating host was so excited to see us. He would always ask how we were and how our day was. On the outside looking in it would seem as if we were long-time friends, but that was just his personality and he was like that with all of his customers. His personality was part of the reason why we kept going back.
While souvenir shopping we came across this small shop full of figurines and small gifts, which was run by a family. They were so friendly and helpful with everything that I needed. What really shocked me was when it was time to pay for my souvenirs I needed one more euro than I had, and instead of making a big deal about it one of the older owners just said that the amount that I had was okay. Nowhere else have I experience this, not even in the United States. The total is usually the total and if you can’t afford it then too bad. This wasn’t the case though, and even today I’m still shocked. The older owner was so nice, and everyone in the store had some type of conversation with me. I was so pleased with the prices and the customer service that I went back again the following day, and once the older owner saw us she got the biggest smile on her face and yelled, “My friends! You came back!” I can’t describe it but being welcomed like that, especially in a foreign country, made me feel so welcomed.
The friendliest Greek that I met was our tour guide Christina. I can honestly say that my trip would not have been the same without her. All of my great experiences were because of her and I am so thankful. One night I got lost in Gazi along with a few friends and she came and helped us out even though she was getting ready for bed. She always went out of her way throughout our whole trip to make sure that we had a good time. I loved talking with her and not only exchanging stories with her, but getting to know her as well. She is someone that makes strong bonds with others, and it was hard to say goodbye. I miss her already and hope to see her again one day.
The activity that I loved that most was hanging out with everyone and eating meals, specifically in the night. Eating dinner or any other meal in Greece is definitely an experience of its own. Eating meals in Greece is so different from eating meals in the United States, and it was something that I noticed on the first night. Greeks value their time together, and even if their day is busy and hectic they always make times for others at dinner time. Greeks spend their time eating dinner together and can even spend up to several hours sitting at one restaurant just talking and eating. This was hard for me to get accustomed to, especially in restaurants. In the United States it is expected that one eats their meal and leaves within a timely manner, especially since the amount of time spent at a restaurant correlates with the amount of tip that is given to the waiter/waitress. Waiters/waitress’ paychecks depend on the amount of people that they get in and out per shift as well as the tips they get so it makes sense that they don’t want you to be sitting around for hours at a time. This is the opposite in Greece. People can spend as much time as they want at a restaurant, and it’s actually expected that you spend a while there eating and talking. I wasn’t used to this so I was actually worried on the first night that we were being rude and inconsiderate, and kept looking around to see if anyone would say anything. No one ever said anything.
The waiters/waitresses are also different in Greece compared to the United States because they aren’t constantly checking up on you; in fact they leave you alone and usually come to you only when you ask for them. This is because they don’t want to interrupt your meal nor the socializing that is going on. I really liked this and felt that this was better because I didn’t feel rushed and the waiter/waitress didn’t waste their time checking up on me when I didn’t need anything.
The most important factor about dinner is the food, and I loved the food in Greece! Everything was so fresh and delicious; the different flavors were unbelievable. I was open to trying new things and I’m glad that I was.
I loved my time in Greece, and I will never forget the experiences that I had or the bonds and friends that I made. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I hope to go back some day.
– Jazmin Willie