Eleni Petroutsou studied archaeology and history of art before becoming a tour guide 36 years ago. Eleni works mainly with the Road Scholar groups who come from the USA and sail with Voyages to Antiquity.
As well as her work as a tour guide, Eleni has a keen interest in Greek cuisine, running an Athens-based catering company, as well as researching the benefits of olive oil and studying Greek wines. Here she shares with us how she feels about the heritage of her home country.
“A natural barrier between East and West, Greece has experienced centuries of invasions and occupations by many different civilisations: Persians, Romans, Goths, Slavs, Venetians, Genoese and Turks. Each of them may have left their mark, but never really touched the soul of this amazing country and its people.
If someone asks me about my favourite places in Greece, I don’t know what to answer, as Greece may look a small country but at the same time is vastly impressive! Anyone visiting Greece for the first time should visit Athens; a modern metropolis with an ancient heart and soul built around the eternal Acropolis, as well as the new Acropolis Museum with its modern glass structure, allowing visitors superb views of the Parthenon and the city beneath.
Excellent museums abound in the city,including the National Archaeological Museum with incredible antiquities from all over the country; the National Picture Gallery; the Benaki Museum; and the Byzantine Museum where icons and precious religious objects of the Greek Orthodox Church can be seen.
Away from the antiquities there is plenty to explore in Athens. The oldquarter of Plaka and central market with its spices and fresh produce give visitors an idea about a way of life which has remained unchanged for centuries, as well as a chance to sample one of the richest but healthiest cuisines on the planet.
For most, the beauty of Greece can be found away from Athens. To the south on the Peloponnesus there is so much to explore; archaeological and biblical sites, excellent wineries, picturesque port towns such as Nauplia and Monemvasia. Further inland, Byzantine cities, mighty fortresses and sanctuaries have influenced the destiny of the Greek world and await discovery.
Further north to Meteora, the suspended monasteries in the air or beautiful Thessalonica, capital of Macedonia, and the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire, indicate the profound Christian tradition of the country.
At the centre of the Aegean world are the islands which seem like dreams floating in the blue waters of theAegean! Henry Miller, in his book The Colossus of Maroussi, said “Marvelous good things can happen to one nowhere else on earth”.
The Greeks have always survived; whilst life was often uncertain, we still knew how to enjoy it! We’re very proud of our country and its traditions and it’s this pride that guides us through today’s troubles. I really hope that you will discover my Greece sometime soon.”