I love Greece! I have had the opportunity to visit twice and would love to go again. What a difference the intervening years made. In 1999, Greece was a happy country but in the year 2013, plagued by economic woes Greece had lost it smile.
It is a subtle thing because people were still friendly and jovial yet, once away from the city few tour buses could be seen. The loss of tourism hit the economy hard and the people were struggling daily to keep body and soul together.
One of our last nights on the road was a stop in Thessaloniki, an ancient port city that has a long and illustrious history. It is also the second most populated city in Greece, after Athens.
Coming down to dinner in the luxurious hotel restaurant was a little shocking. No one else was there, not one single tourist or even patron, just us. The wait staff was cordial but reserved, until …
Renny loves to play the piano and thus the empty bar piano was a great opportunity to liven up the place. It wasn’t long before we were all singing these moldy-oldie songs culminating in Let There Be Peace On Earth, a song we sing every Sunday at the end of our worship service.
It was obvious we had struck a chord with the people attending to us; we had reached across a barrier of culture, language and life experience to say, in effect, thank you for being so gracious to us when we can only “understand” your struggle to survive.
A bond was formed, the atmosphere changed to a dynamic and spontaneous celebration. In true Greek style, we danced and drank and sang.
Opa! – To the Greek language, the word has many meanings but to us that night it meant a celebration of life, of kinship and deep gratitude for the many blessings, especially the friends and memories that will forever live among our souvenirs.