They say that Greek philosophy is the basis for western civilization. But Greek life is more than that. It’s also about the appreciation for life’s little moments. It’s about authentic hospitality. It’s about being heroic and humble at the same time. It’s about loving the sun, the earth, the sea, the olive tree, the forest. It’s about a glass of good local wine. ALL THESE, make Greeks special.
Greece has been going through challenging times over the last 5 years. A positive side-effect of this is that you start digging into the very foundations of your Greek identity: what makes Greece special, what do we have that others don’t? You need to find an empowering answer if you want to move things forward.
The answer that I gave was “Greece is special, because of our way of life, our attitude of thinking big while remaining human, our open-hearted sense of hospitality and acceptance of others, our perseverance, our love for little things in life, our appreciation for friends and family and culture, and our innovative and non-conventional thinking”. After that, I decided to welcome the whole world into our “Greek way of life”. And the best way to accomplish that was through being a guide, hence the whole GoGreekforADay initiative.
If you could only take a visitor to one place in Greece, where would you go?
I would take him away from the glamorous tourists’ facade, towards a route of unexpected discoveries, to spend a day with an ordinary Greek family. Discover how they live on a day-to-day basis, explore local and unknown attractions, experience warm Greek hospitality first-hand, take part in traditional cooking and do a lot of chit-chat. This is guaranteed to build loving memories for a lifetime.
It’s when I see the sparkle of passion starting to glow inside my guests’ souls. When they start indulging into elements of Greek life, NOT as our visitors but as our friends. When they start discovering and loving the little things of life that are an integral part of our Greek experiences.
What is your most memorable guiding experience?
Once, during a casual chit-chat with a guest, he started speaking passionately about the merits of the way of life in his country. I stopped talking, and started listening! I loved what was happening. People from different civilizations were coming together as friends and blending different ways of life, without losing each other’s core identity.
Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?
I’m not keen on occasional Greek drawbacks: lack of organization, lack of attention to detail, lack of flexibility. Having lived in the UK for 10 years of my professional life, I hate it when I have to come across these attitudes while I am trying to deliver a 100% satisfying experience. I am totally committed to immaculate organization coupled with flexibility, so I sometimes need to push things hard in order to make that happen.
My favourite thing to do is spending time with my family. I love talking to my daughters, day-dreaming with my wife, going to places with all of them and spending precious time with close friends. It’s all about human relationships.
What is the most awesome local specialty that all visitors must try?
They should try home-cooked food, no matter what the actual dish is. For example, a home-made tyropita (cheese pie), or a home-cooked dish of fasolakia (fresh green beans, cooked in the pot, with plenty of olive oil, garlic, and tomato puree) are priceless!
Tell us something about Greece that only a guide would know.
Here’s the secret: tourists are trying to pin-down Greece as a place for sea and sun. This is just the facade. Greece is about discovering an amalgam of 1000 different things, where nothing is out of proportion. For example, the Parthenon is big, but it’s not huge and ugly – it’s elegant and in proportion to the size of human existence. Our mountains are high, but not colossal. Our seas are open, but not vast. Our neighborhoods are small, but not tiny. Everything is in proportion to the human being, and there’s “plenty of everything”.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
A good tour guide is one who LOVES his guests and will constantly go beyond his comfort zone and pre-planned itineraries in order to put a big smile on their face. In return, his guests’ affection is his most precious payment.