Call it ‘complications’, ‘technical difficulties’, ‘unsurpassable obstacles’. For anyone in communications, it’s the simplest way of not naming a problem: just give it a vague definition.
We tend to do this with life itself. Things come our way that we do not really know how to handle or deal with – at least not at first. We find ourselves drowning in our sea of problems, of stomach-churning troubles, of migraine-inciting predicaments, we have no idea of how to solve.
Yet if we calm down just a bit; if we talk to someone just to get a clearer view, we realise that there are no real complications. In fact, we ourselves are causing the complexity to begin with.
There are only two ways to move ahead in life: you either want to or you don’t.
And the best method to decide is to listen to yourself – those body signs you often ignore: if it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. But if you’re thinking about it so much, it probably means it also matters enough for you to go forward with it.
Whatever you do, remember this: it may be better to live with remorse than regrets, but things are just as simple as our minds allow them to be.
Everything starts and ends with a healthy mind, a healthy attitude, and a healthy mentality.
In the northernmost part of Greece there is a prefecture – one of the largest regional units in the country – home to beautiful places you’ve never even heard of. Because the Prefecture of Evros, part of the East Macedonia and Thrace region, is better known for the huge fence across the border between Greece and Turkey, aiming to keep out irregular migrants, rather than the dozens of other wonderful things that invite you there. The truth is, there is not much sightseeing to do here. But was is certain is that you’ll have a great time and you’ll manage to relax. Because here, there are large areas of natural forest that will replenish you with tranquillity that only nature can offer. There are museums and natural wealth, that unfortunately is not promoted sufficiently, nor it is it exploited adequately. There is so much more beyond the media-focused fence to see here. There are people who are among the most hospitable you will ever meet; simple, calm and hard-workers, who know how to enjoy life in a milder rhythm and seize every single day that comes.
The capital of the region is Alexandroupoli, one of the newest cities in Greece, as it was only a fishing village settled by the Ottoman Empire until the late 19th century. It benefits from its position at the centre of land and sea routes connecting Greece with Turkey. Landmarks in here include the city’s lighthouse in the port, the archaeological sites of the Mesimvria Zone, the city’s waterfront (the centre of commercial activity), the Ethnological Museum of Thrace, the thermal springs (Hana) of Traianoupoli which have been recognised by the Greek state for their therapeutic abilities and are considered among the most important in Greece, as well as the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus in Makri – a coastal village, which also offers a range of beach bars and restaurants by the sea.
The city’s large coastal road is closed every afternoon, transforming it into a long promenade along the beach, with a view of Samothrace island, and the majestic colourful sunset that allows your thoughts to wander as you acknowledge the slower pace of life you too are entering.
For nature lovers, the area has a lot on offer: the nearby Evros Delta is one of the most important wetland on a national, European and international level. Extending over 200,000 hectares, with a significant number of rare animal and plant species, it has been branded a Special Protection Zone, as well as a proposed Site of Common Interest in the Natura 2000 network.
The Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park is also one of the most important protected areas at national, European and international scale. It is one of the first areas in Greece to be declared as protected since a great deal of flora and fauna species found in the Balkan Peninsula, Europe and Asia coexist here. The landscape mosaic formed by pine and oak forests, interrupted by clearings, pastures and fields is the ideal habitat for birds of prey. The Park is near the village of Soufli, notable for the silk industry that flourished there in the 19th century. The village hosts a unique Silk Art Museum, which aims to highlight and preserve the region’s rich tradition of silk production and processing.
The northernmost and newest city of Greece and the second largest town of the Evros regional unit of Thrace is Orestiada. It was founded in 1923 by Greek refugees from Adrianople after the Treaty of Lausanne when the population exchange occurred between Turkey and Greece, in which the Evros River became the new border between the two countries. Despite lacking in sightseeing, the city is full of options for leisure, as it offers a range of all kinds of traditional cafes, taverns, restaurants, and modern bars that are not far from any other found in larger, more urban, cities. There is a particular café situated in a large pine park, allowing you to enjoy shade in the summer, while children can play carefree in the playground. A small theatre here, also hosts the Panhellenic Amateur Theatre Festival every end of August-beginning of September, while the city itself organises a variety of concerts and performances, especially during the summer.
Here, you’ll manage to relax, as you’re only true concern is where to have your next cup of coffee, where to dine, and where to have a drink later on. In this northernmost part of the country, you’ll come to acknowledge that you don’t need a lot to have a good time. It’s the company that makes that time worthwhile and memorable.
The city has a characteristic solar tree dominating its central square, an equivalent of which exists in Milan and other cities around the world. The city’s central square won the first prize at the 2016 Best City Awards Contest. Noteworthy is the fact that the city is constructed in a square-like manner, making it hard to get lost even for those with no sense of orientation whatsoever, while it is remarkably clean, peaceful, and with the character of an urban-village.
Further up north, there is an endless green scenery by the river Ardas that makes you wonder why these amazing destinations are not better promoted. The area here by the river that unites three nations (Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria), is an attraction for a pleasant walk, and a relaxed coffee with a unique view. Here, every summer, a music festival is organised with the participation of renowned Greek and international artists.
The traditional town by this river, Kastanies, whose name derives from the huge chestnut trees that once featured in the town square, hosts the only land border between Turkey and Greece (of length 11km), given that the rest of the border is along the river Evros. It is said that this is one of the oldest towns of the prefecture and has never been occupied by Muslims. Although it is highlighted by media for political issues, this town is full of vitality, demonstrating the warm hospitality of the people of Evros, and uniting people beyond the borders who cross over for work, leisure, a cup of coffee, or a delicious meal at the famous pizzeria “Lakis”.
A trip in this region will not be complete without a tour of Didymoteicho, a town associated with the military presence it is best known for, due to its proximity to the borders (it is only 2km from the Greece-Turkey border). The town once served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire, while it holds the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Plotinopolis. The city had been built in a very strategic position, because it had for exploitation a very fertile plain and also controlled a passage of Erythropotamos, through which passed a branch of the via Egnatia leading in the middle and upper valley of Evros river and on the shores of the Black Sea.
The city offers a mesmerising view from the ancient medieval hilltop citadel complex – Fortress/ Castle, while an important sight of the town is also the Çelebi Sultan Mehmed Mosque, also known as the Bayezid Mosque and the Great Mosque, an early 15th-century Ottoman mosque, which is considered one of the most important Muslim monuments, not only in Greece, but in all of Europe, as being the oldest mosque on European ground. It has been a protected monument since 1946. Due to a fire during restoration works in 2017, the entire roof was destroyed, while damage to the interior and the walls remains unknown. The mosque, like many other buildings, today remains unexploited. The city, however, is a great escape from the urban routine, as it hosts a range of cafes and restaurants with a breath-taking view.
With endless valley green, riverfront walks, and tranquillity we desperately yearn for, this border prefecture illustrates some of the most beautiful areas of Greece, despite the fact that it is rundown by mosquitos (so much, that even cafeterias have mosquito-repellents available!). But that is the minimum price you pay for relishing the so many benefits this region has to offer. Whatever you are looking for: relaxation, adventure, exploration, food and drink, this place is ready to impress you, so much that you’ll want to return soon.
They are like surreal instances. Like a bicycle clinging onto a wall as if it’s about to ride up against gravity.
Those thoughts of what you could have, would have, should have; they cause too much distress and eat you up from the inside. They tear you apart piece by piece because there is nothing you can do to change the situation or remedy anything. You can’t alter what did not happening. All you can do is look towards living the present as best as possible, and enjoying what is to come as much as you can.
So what is it that we truly need to have fun? It’s not the location, not the material stuff, not the luxury or comfort, it’s not the resources. Regardless of what you may have in mind – and the fact that some of these do help make life easier – you don’t need a lot to enjoy your days.
All you really need is good humor, good friends and a good mood. (Although a drink or two also helps).
In essence, you realise that we are the ones complicating our lives without reason when you’re suddenly found in a place where there is not much to do and almost nothing to see.
So you acknowledge that very often than not it is the simplicity of things that helps you relax; you communicate faster and effortlessly; you enjoy your (longer) days more; and you certainly feel more satisfied. Because you’re actually enjoying yourself without straining too much for it. And that’s really the point. Isn’t it?
Every so often we need to get lost. To follow a path we don’t know where it leads, because life ought to be an adventure, and we should be willing to discover whatever it may bring. It may pleasantly surprise us.
If you start off with no expectations, you’re going to have a wonderful time.
You’ll find it is true for any sort of travel. The less you anticipate, the more bewildered you become with everything around you. And the more you enjoy your time there. Because you realise you don’t need a lot to have fun.
A walk in the countryside, a coffee by the river, a meal at a cosy restaurant, a couple of drinks with friends. No matter where you are.
You’ll see; you glow differently when you’re actually happy.
What if you weren’t simply watching it all live from the comfort and safety of your own home? What if you weren’t the audience of the tragedy but one of its victims?
What if you were the one forced to evacuate your home amidst deafening sirens and emergency alerts?
What if the flames of a devouring fire were pressing against your own property?
What would you do? How quickly would you gather your things, your family, your animals, and flee?
And what would you take?
How do you select in an instant among the myriad of things that compose a life? How do you choose what to take and what to leave behind to burn and be lost forever? How to you keep a clear head to act rationally when all you hear is “run to save your life”?
What constitutes a life that is so easily destroyed by what begins from a tiny spark?
What is essential and not?
How do you run when you know there will be nothing to come back to?
How do you pick yourself up when you know you probably lost everything the instant you close the door?
And what can anyone ever say to support, comfort, or encourage you?
Where do you find strength to carry on when you’ve literally seen your past, present and future ignite in flames?
And how can anyone ever do or say anything to make it better, when all they’ve done is watch your home burn live on TV?
There is a saying that “success is falling down nine times and getting up ten”. Because in every fall, in every adversity, in every challenge, there is a lesson to be learnt. We grow up wiser (hopefully), stronger, more resilient, and more prepared for all that lies ahead.
Among others, it represents fulfillment, life mission, wisdom, and higher consciousness. It is said to symbolize transformation.
In the nine years of writing this blog, this is exactly what the past year has been all about. Changes, in every form and every level, lead you to rethink your course of life, your choices, the decisions you’ve (not) made, the way you view your existence in general. Finding inner peace and mental serenity means you need to acknowledge what is not working out. And in so doing, change it. It’s amazing how life improves when you develop a positive perspective for it. It is essentially true that when you smile at the world, it smiles right back. Well, not always; but at least for more times than none.
Birthdays – even if just for a blog – are a period of reflection of how time has passed, how things have altered, how you’ve progressed and evolved. One year is a lot and a little, depending on how you look at things. It is 365 days of starting over and hoping it will be a better day, and not giving up no matter the difficulties you’re facing. And that alone means you’re stronger every day. Because you survive. And you maintain that aspiration that things will get better. As long as we can keep that attitude, it’ll all be OK.
When your phone isn’t working due to lack of network signal or any other technical problem, what is the first thought that rushes to your head? That you’re blocked out from the world and are isolated, unaware of what is going on out there? Or that you can finally get off the radar and enjoy some peace and quiet without the annoying buzz of notifications and messages that your OCD does not allow you to leave unanswered?
Like everything, there are two sides to every issue. One is that it’s actually liberating to sometimes know nothing. In many cases, ignorance is indeed bliss. Because what you don’t know, won’t trouble or affect you. But on the other hand, we need that constant communication with others. We want to know that our loved ones near or far are OK, and we feel we ought to be reachable in case of any emergency that may arise. Because we too would want to find someone in case we were in need.
Being out of range for a few hours every so often, though, actually helps as recharge, in many ways. It makes us realise how dependent we are on our devices, and how much we’ve lost touch with the small joys of life, including – and perhaps most importantly – our own mental health and tranquillity.
The Ancient Greeks had a saying, “everything in good measure”, or rather the need for moderation in all things – from consumption, to technology, to food, to overthinking. If we could control all that, we would definitely be able to regain some of our sanity.