Thousands of tourists visit Greece every summer – most heading for the bright lights of Athens center or popular Cycladic islands and beaches. But this summer two very special groups of US visitors began their unique journey at the American Farm School… and all took a big piece of Greece back home with them.
They came from Oregon, Texas, Iowa, Florida, from all over the USA …but they were not like any other group visiting Greece! These explorers of Greece were Road Scholar participants (roadscholar.org) with the American Farm School guiding their way to discovery. The groups were made up of grandparents and grandchildren coming for more than common sightseeing - they came to have a special adventure with one another and to learn about REAL Greek people and culture.
Grandparents and grandchildren lived in Perrotis Residence Hall while exploring our campus, farm life, and Greek culture. They tasted olive oil from the trees outside their windows and learned how to tell fine olive oil from poor. They learned to cook many Greek dishes (and have been sending us letters from their homes telling us that they continue to cook pitta, Greek salads, and lots of tzaziki). They learned to dance hasapiko and kicked their heels all over the country! They met the most famous archaeological photographer in Greece and with an art historian followed the story of Greek wine through ancient art to the vineyards our students tend.
Not common tourists, their “tour” was hands-on from dawn to dusk. They walked, danced, and cooked - initially staying on a working educational farm then climbing Mt Olympus for a day with the gods - then staying in a very small mountain village hardly noted on a Michelin map. They traveled to lesser known islands in the heart of the Greek National Marine Park, there visitingMOMAand some adopted orphaned seals, then had another cooking class in the hotel which had hosted the main actors from Mama Mia when filming there!
And everywhere they stayed they met local Greeks and shared their lives.
They did finally visit the acropolis as all visitors to Greece must – but the children saw it first on their bicycle tour through ancient Athens and one group had their introduction to the famous Acropolis Museum by Dr. Pandermalis, the renowned archaeologist and President of the award-winning museum.
Insider’s experiences galore – they met Greek students of the same age who shared their lives and stories with the US grandchildren, small groups of grandparents shared meals in the homes of local families, even an intimate private tour for all at the Benaki museum after hours …their own “Night in the Museum.” Everything about their experience was unique, their own life-changing Odyssey.
They experienced a face of Greece that few visitors see.
The core of Greek culture is family – and the heart of every Greek family is founded on grandparents and their essential role with their children’s children. Greek Grandparents are truly the Homers of today - continuing our culture through stories of our past.
Greek hosts at every stop were thrilled to meet these unique guests who embodied the very core of what we proudly claim as the best of Greece – family and passion for life!
A few comments from Road Scholar grandparents:
A heartfelt thank you for an unforgettable experience. In spite of having been to Greece two times before, I feel I saw it in a new light. All of you were amazing hosts and guides. You make your country proud. I loved the combination of food, culture, and place. There are so many highlights that it is hard for me to focus on a couple. Nonetheless, I will try. I loved the Acropolis and the Museum. I felt I was seeing it for the first time. My talks with you helped me understand Greek family life, food, and current events. I loved my time in nature at the Farm School and on the islands. I could go on and on! Most of all I loved how you handled grandparent/grandchild interaction. You emphasized love, connection, and respect. I left feeling a deeper bond with Natalia and for that I am forever grateful.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed meeting everyone, especially our five wonderful Greek hosts. I do feel like I could return any time and reconnect for a delightful evening of great food and stimulating stories. I greatly appreciate the way our trip was made so perfect, even small bumps turned into additional elements of interest that heightened my appreciation for our visit and our hosts. Thank you all for all. Everyone on the trip was an integral part of the superb nature of the whole.
Experiencing Greece was wonderful, especially because it was well planned for both age groups and our leaders were perfect. And the trip reinforced what we all know -- that many grandparents have wonderful grandchildren.