Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Destination: Greece

Well, the time for our departure to Greece is coming closer. Now we’re getting out the checklists to be sure we have everything we need for a comfortable trip, including medicines, electronics, and travel clothes. But what helped us reach this point where we feel nearly ready to head for Athens?

By Gilberto Gaudio from Rome, Italy (Athens (Greece))
 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

First of all, this is not just a tourist trip but also a heritage journey. Thomas MacEntee explains what heritage travel is in his web article “You Can Go Home Again.” I am taking this trip in part to visit the home village of my Greek great grandfather, Peter Flesouras. He was born in a small village in the middle of the Peloponnese: Pigadakia, Tripoli, Arcadia, just a small dot in the mountains where he and his family herded sheep and goats. Pigadakia is 15 miles (24.3 Km) south of Tripoli.

"PeloponnesosMap". Licensed under Public Domain
 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/

My first step in preparation for the heritage part of the trip (as I described in my Feb 6, 2015 post) was to find and hire a heritage guide to search for existing Flessouras records and possible living relatives. Through connections on the Facebook Hellenic Genealogy Resources group, I was introduced to Marina Harami, and we have been working together for several months. It has been frustrating for her because the economic situation  in the country has hit most sectors including the registry offices, church offices and other research centers. Staff has been reduced or put on really limited schedules, which makes it very hard to reach anyone and to try to locate information. But she has persevered, and we may have some success yet.

For my part, I have contacted Americans with the surname Flessouras on Facebook. Since this is a rare Greek surname and all the people of this name hale from the same area of Arcadia, we probably are related, but we don’t yet know how. Some of these Americans of the Flessouras name have relatives in Greece, and I have arranged to meet two of them.

Along with planning for the heritage side of our trip, we are also preparing for the tourist part. If you are considering a trip to Greece and are looking for travel guides, my husband and I have found three in print and on-line that we recommend. First, is Rick Steves’ Greece Athens & The Peloponnese.

Rick Steves at the Mountain Hostel, Gimmelwald,
Switzerland, 20 July 2007, Andrew Bossi, Wikimedia.

 My readers may remember how much we relied on Mr. Steves’ book on Eastern Europe to guide us through the Czech Republic and to help make our trip more rewarding and memorable. We especially like the walking tours, complete with “concise and simple” “black-and-white” (p. 495) maps, to introduce each destination. My husband describes Steves’ books as full of practical, everyday necessary information.

One of my husband’s favorite books is Insight Guides Greece with its stunning color photographs of natural beauty, icons, and monuments. He says this guide has the best photographs and maps and comprehensive coverage of culture, history and geography.

The third guide that I found very engaging on the subject of the Greek islands is by D. Haitalis: Discover the Greek Islands. This book delivers with stunning photographs, that make you want to fly tomorrow. It also has a brief history and sightseeing section for each island accompanied by small maps. For more detailed information on the islands, I would pair this book with the Insight Guide referred to above.

Just by luck and the grace of google, I came across Max Barrett’s  (online) Greece Guides. What a treasure trove of information! Mr. Barrett arranges his site as a virtual book with chapters ranging from “Matt’s Essential Greece Info” and “Honeymoon in Greece” to “Travel Agents & Tours.”  This is where we found one of the best discoveries in our travel planning: Fantasy Travel.

Many of you may be familiar with working with travel agents and arranging tours. Throughout most of our travel, we have created our own itineraries as we are doing for the Peloponnese. But for the island part of the trip, we decided to work with a tour company. The first step in working with Fantasy Travel was to figure out which islands we wanted to visit and in what order on what dates. After looking through our travel guides, Bert and I came up with this itinerary.

First we will visit Naxos:
"Naxos8" by Ildebrando - Own work. Licensed under
 Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.
How could one miss the island described by in the Insight Guide as:
"the largest, loftiest and most magnificent of the Cyclades, replete with high, windswept ridges, long beaches, remote villages, ancient ruins, medieval monasteries or towers, and a fascinating history." (p. 249)

Next on our island tour will be Santorini or Thira as it is known in Greece. In his book Greece Athens & the Peloponnese, Rick Steves calls Santorini  "one of the Mediterranean's most dramatic islands..." and goes on to say  "...this unique place has captured visitors' imaginations for millennia...." and is "...one of Greece's most scenic spots." (p. 429)

Santorini Scene by Understandingmedia13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

 I am excited  because the island is what was left from a volcanic eruption around 1630 B.C. (p. 450) For fans of Pompeii, one can visit the city of Akrotiri that was buried under ash and was unearthed in 1967.

The final island we will visit is Rhodes.
Acropolis of Lindos on Rhodes by Norbert Nagel, 
Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany (Own work)
 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/
by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I found great information about Rhodes and all the islands in Frommer's Greek Islands, our last print pick.
What does Rhodes have to offer? Here's what Frommer's has to say:

"A location at the intersection of the East and West propelled the island into the thick of both commerce and conflicts. The scars left by its rich and turbulent history have become its treasures. Hellenistic Greeks, Romans, Crusader Knights, Turks, Italians -- all invaders who brought some destruction but also left behind fascinating artifacts." (p. 332)

 In addition to detailed descriptions of the islands, the book also contains 60 pages on exploring Athens.

Once we had our schedule of islands to visit, we simply e-mailed this to Fantasy Travel. They arranged our rental car and all hotels on the three islands we are visiting.  Then they set up connections by ferry and air from one island to the other. Someone from Fantasy Travel will be meeting us at the airport. What royal treatment! It makes me feel like this:

HM Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Perth, Australia for CHOGM,
 taken by Andrew Taylor, Oct 26, 2011, Creative Commons, flickr.com.

Traveling for heritage and/or tourist reasons can be made easier and more productive with the help of excellent heritage guides, travel books, tour companies and websites. I’ll have a lot more to share when I return from Greece.

Categories: genealogy tools, genealogy professional


  1. Great job Pat! I know you will really enjoy spending time with Marina and hopefully you will get to take lots of pictures. Pat, a few years ago I met someone who was working for Ancestry.com and he was researching the name Flesouras, but I don't think he is there anymore. I'll look and see if I still have his contact information. Good luck on your trip!

  2. Thank you, Dawna. That is exciting news about the Flesouras man that you met. I hope that you can find his contact info. And thank you again for connecting me with Marina. She has been such a pleasure to work with.