If you begin traveling on a road in Athens towards the direction of Patras, you will soon find yourself in the small town of Glyfa, where the Ionian Village Summer Travel Camp is held. It may not look like much to an ordinary person, but to an alumnus of this camp, it is quite possibly the most amazing place in the entire world. It is your home for three weeks. It is a place where you are able to make lifelong friends within a day. It is a place where judgments are gone and where everyone loves everyone. It is the real world—or rather, what the real world should strive to become.
This camp allowed us to travel to numerous places throughout the Peleponnese and Central Greece. In my opinion, one of the most incredible things about Greece is its historical significance. Everywhere we went contained some piece of history special to that region. For example, Ancient Olympia, a place thousands of years old, still has columns standing. As you continue to explore Olympia, you will find yourself on the field where the first Olympics were held, feeling what it was like to be an athlete on that same field thousands of years ago. This is not something that you can experience everyday. Then there is the village of Kalavrita. During World War II, the Nazis invaded this town and left a scar that is still healing today. In this town, the Nazis viciously captured the monastery of Mega Spileon and took the monks to the top of the mountain where they fell to their death. As a Greek-American, this was by far my saddest day in Greece, but it was also one of my best because it left me with a much deeper sense of pride and appreciation for my country.
Greece is known for its beauty, but to be honest, beauty doesn’t even begin to describe it. There are no words to describe the feeling you get when traveling up a mountain in a bus and looking down seeing the clear blue water hundreds of feet below; or when traveling through the hills of Greece and looking down to see thousands of olive trees filling the valleys. There are no words to describe the view after climbing Delphi all the way to the stadium at the highest tourist point. There are no words to describe the sight of St. Dionysios’ body miraculously preserved over hundreds of years with the flesh still in tact. Riding on the ferry to Aegina, there are no words to describe the peace you feel looking out over the water with the wind in your face. There are no words to describe the experience of lying out on the Ionian Village beach at night, talking with the girls in my cabin, and looking out at the reflection of the moon on the water. To say Greece is beautiful is an understatement. Greece is breathtaking.
There is no question that Greece is a beautiful country full of historical significance, but to me, it was the people I met that were the most amazing thing of all. The girls in my cabin are indescribable. They constantly exude love and genuinely care for one another. They are outgoing and make it easy for you to be yourself. So, yes, when people ask me about Greece, it is easy to talk about the beauty and history of the country, but in reality, it was the people at Ionian Village and the girls of the cabin Olympia that truly made this the greatest summer of my life.
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