Unforgettable experience for award winner Aidan
Albert Johnston Travel Award winner Aidan Hall had an unforgettable time in Greece as he examined the country’s role in the development of Western society and academia.
Aidan was particularly interested in ancient political, religious and judicial institutions, the origins of the analytic philosophical tradition, as well as contemporary economic issues and controversies that have haunted Greece in recent years.
His trip started in the capital Athens or, more specifically, at the site of the Acropolis – an ancient citadel located upon a rocky outcrop that juts upwards out of the gigantic carpet of white buildings that makes up Greater Athens. After getting up early and reaching the ticket office – which proclaimed ‘Europe Starts Here’ – Aidan was able to make the most of his time at the city’s most popular attraction.
At the top of the Acropolis lay the Parthenon, a “breath-taking” devotion to the god of wisdom and warfare, Athena. Aidan commented: “I marvelled as I thought of the sheer devotion ancient Athenians had to the divine”.
Exploration of the surrounding grounds included a visit to the Hill of Pnyx, the site where the ancient Athenian assembly gathered for debate and discussion under the three founding principles of democracy: equal speech; equality under the law; and equal opportunity to assume political office. Aidan remarked: “These three principles have truly stood the test of time as liberal democracy is still – despite Trumpian tomfoolery and Brexit buffoonery – hailed as the holy grail of political organisation.”
The morning and evening street culture captured Aidan’s imagination, though it was seldom able to shroud entirely Greece’s desperate economic situation. The Greek financial crisis, so emblematic of Greece’s political and economic underdevelopment, seemed to be the cause of all Greek hardships according to a local student he spoke to and a waiter said to him that he had become so resentful of Greece’s political class that he had become an ‘Anarchist’; a political movement with a growing membership in Athens judging by the sheer quantity of graffitied red ‘A’s around the city.
Visits to the Temple of Olympian, Aristotle’s Lyceum, the Hellenic Parliament and an afternoon in the National Gardens rounded out his time in the capital and, on the morning of his fourth day, Aidan ventured north by bus out of Athens and round the northern arc of the Saronic Bay.
The first stop was the small seaside town of Epidavros. The impressive white church spire dressed in orange tiles dominated the profile of the town centre as the importance of religion to modern day Greeks, less obvious in Athens, was made immediately apparent to Aidan. With a form of Orthodoxy being the dominant religious force in Greece, he was reminded that in many ways Greece leans culturally and ethnically east, not west, despite its membership of the EU.
Another morning and another destination beckoned as a short journey south along the coast took him to the village of Galatas neighboured, across only 200 metres of sea, by the village of Poros. This village was an obvious destination for domestic tourism as Aidan noticed the dominant holidaymakers were Athenians, keen to smell the sea air during a short summer break.
Aidan concluded: “My trip was an experience I will never forget and something I could not have done, if not for the Travel Award and the generosity of its benefactor.
“I learnt so much not only about the fields I had hoped to further my knowledge in, but also about the challenges and excitements of independent travel. I am incredibly thankful for being chosen for the Award and look forward to seeing others embark on exciting travels in future years.”