All posts tagged: traveling

5 Things to do in Crete

Of the thousands of Greek islands, one holds a very special place in my heart—Crete. With sandy shores, rugged terrain, bustling nightlife, ancient treasures, and world-renowned gastronomy, Crete is a feast for the senses. Everyone agrees Greek hospitality rates a ten on a scale of ten. However, Cretan hospitality rates a 20. Cretans robustly share their traditions with friends and strangers over endless drinks and abundant food, providing an experience like nowhere else in the world. But that’s only half of it. My Greek roots span much of mainland Greece, but my Cretan roots are what I am most proud of. My yiayia and other Cretan women have taught me the most about cooking, and I’ve danced in Cretan groups my whole life. Whenever I step foot on Cretan soil, a feeling of pride and excitement rushes through me. Crete is the largest and most populated island in Greece, making it impossible to get the full feel of Crete in anything less than one week or just one trip. But let’s try. Let’s pack our …

Agia Lavra and Mega Spileo Monastery

“EIPHNH”—Peace. “OXI PIA POLEMOI”—No more war.  I pause, frozen, for what seems like eternity whenever I stare at these words cast in huge white letters on a quiet hillside in the Northern Peloponnese region of Greece. At the top of the hill, a large cross overlooks the city below, and a date reads 13-12-43. All serve as messages of peace and symbols of the martyrdoms that took place there.   On December 13, 1943, Kalavryta experienced one of the worst atrocities of World War II. On that day, Nazi soldiers locked women and children in the town’s school and set it on fire. Soldiers took over 500 males from Kalavryta and surrounding villages to that quiet hillside. German soldiers lay in wait in the surrounding brush. On command, the soldiers fired at the unarmed mass of men, killing all but 13.  Today, a stone monument stands tall in memoriam and lists the names and ages of the dead. The first time I visited Kalavryta with my family, both my brothers wept as they stared up at the monument, seeing …

Holy Trinity Monastery, Aegina

Saint Nektarios, the patron saint of Aegina, was recognized as a saint in 1961, making him one of the most recently canonized saints in the Greek Orthodox church. A philosopher and writer, Saint Nektarios became widely known as a healer and was particularly sought out by persons suffering from heart disease and cancer. Having lost my own Yiayia (grandmother) Metos to cancer in 1996, visiting this monastery has always held special meaning for me. Saint Nektarios is now considered a “walking saint,” meaning a saint who appears regularly to the faithful in dreams or visions, and continues to do so today. Until his death in 1920, Saint Nektarios lived in the Holy Trinity Monastery, which he established, and where many nuns continue to reside today. The monastery sits high on a hill, overlooking the more modern Saint Nektarios church at the base of that hill. The panoramic views from Holy Trinity Monastery stretch all the way to the sea. Start your visit at the monastery, where you can explore the very room where Saint Nektarios …