A storm was brewing. Literally. The weather was turning piercingly icier and the sun was in hiding. You could feel the wind changing.
But also metaphorically. People were evidently affected – they were colder in attitude too. Agitated, nervous, and too easily irritated.
It was all wrong. For no sensible reason.
So she decided to leave.
These are the best decisions; the get-up-and-go-on-the-inspiration moments. Because if you don’t think about certain things too much, they end up being the best decisions you ever make.
She acted upon the impulse to flee. And travelled all across the world to where the climate was exactly the opposite.
She didn’t exactly encounter a heatwave, but a much warmer weather, and a much kinder folk. People who had much less – of material belongings and wealth – yet much more heart and goodness. They knew how to enjoy the utmost of what they had, and to appreciate the instances, the smallest of heart-warming gestures, the gratitude of having even the slightest of everything.
If you step back from your own world and delve into someone else’s, perhaps you’ll just realise how lucky we are but never acknowledge it enough. Be grateful for everyday; for the goodness around you; and focus your energy on all you want to create, not on what you want to get rid of. Know who you are and what you want to achieve, but be careful who you choose to walk with in life, because in the wrong company you’ll never reach your destination.
“I won’t tell you the clichés, that there is no other place I’d rather be than here. Truthfully, I would want to be at that place on earth where the ocean meets the mountain. Where the ends of the planet seem to meet in harmony. Where all nature is at peace. There is no evident – and ugly – human intervention in sight. It’s just you and the world. And your soul is calm. Like everything around you”.
“Is there really such a place?”
“I sure hope so, otherwise I’ll be searching in vain”.
Have you ever noticed how we often allow a few bad minutes of a day to wreck the entire 24 hours? High stress levels so easily overwhelm us that we consciously believe the entire world is out to get us; that everything suddenly turns against us simply because of one bad moment. Those five minutes you were late in leaving the house means one hour delay because you missed the bus. But so what? The series of unfortunate events is bound to end sometime.
If you come to think about it, life is an occurrence of episodes. We spend inexplicably long hours in some, and irrationally little time in others, but we constantly find ourselves moving on to the next one. We even wonder, often with intrigue, what the next episode will bring.
It’s refreshing to reflect that the best moments of our life haven’t arrived yet. That’s why we need to be open to things around us; to have our eyes and minds wide open to the splendor that is out there. Life might just surprise us.
What is more, we need to choose wisely who we surround ourselves with; who affect our personalities and character and contribute to forming who we are. We need friends who support us and push us to be better. We need people who bring out the best version of ourselves. We need strong role models, like a mother who shows her daughter she doesn’t need constant company to have a good time; she can simply book a flight and get on a plane and leave – alone – and still have a great time because she is empowered, confident, and courageous enough to do so.
If you take the leap with faith, life will reward you for it. Just believe.
It was one of those misty, hazy, winter days, filled with drizzle that turned into thunderstorms before allowing a rainbow to later briefly appear. It reflected her inexplicable mood.
But that wasn’t why she remembered that day.
It was because of him.
Because regardless of it all, he took her around the city she hadn’t seen. Round the hidden corners, to the fragrant teahouses, the unique little shops, the monumental squares, the tourist attractions, and the unbeknown gems.
He made it special by creating an indelible memory; by imbuing the thrill of discovering something new together. And of feeling loved.
There is a tingling sensation mixed with an adrenaline rush when you take a trip abroad with a partner. Particularly when the flirting is still young and everything is so sweet and fresh and delightful. There are so many things you want to do; so much you want to talk about; as if trying to make up for the time lost when you hadn’t yet met each other.
It was freezing cold at the square. You could feel it climbing inside and diffusing into every vein. But when he heard her laugh ripple, he needed nothing more to warm up.
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.
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.