It’s not “goodbye,” it’s “see you later”

The last weekend of Heritage Greece 2019 has finally come, and we are not ready to say goodbye to our new friends or to Greece. The time sure does fly when having fun…and it flies even faster when the fun is in Greece!

Saturday was a free day for the 2019 Heritage Greece participants, and the HG family was excited to return to their favorite parts of Athens, or to explore parts of the city they had not yet seen. Whether students wanted to hit the beach and experience the Athenian beaches, or head down to the center to explore new neighborhoods of Athens, the day was open for anything! Having a free day at the end of the trip was a perfect way for the participants to head out with each other on their own time and have a relaxed, spontaneous afternoon.

“I really liked having the opportunity to have a free day on the last full day of the trip because, although the program was packed with so many incredible experiences and memories, we were always on the go,” HG participant Dina Ciulla said. “Getting to go back to our favorite places and spent some more time there with some of the closest friends we made on the trip, was just a perfect cherry on top to the program.”

Group photo on the rooftop of the SNFCC

#HG2019 takes the SNFCC!

Everyone came back to the residencies with stories from the day of the varies experiences and locations found. The day was far from over as an evening at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center was planned. The SNFCC is a massive architectural beauty, coined by Dr. Matilda Chatzipanagiotou, HG Program Director, as the “Parthenon of Modern Greece.” The SNFCC houses the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, as well as countless cultural programs and beautiful views of the city.

The night was spent learning about the SNFCC and taking “golden hour” photos on the rooftop, closing out the final night of the program. However, the fun was far from over as “HG superlatives” an a karaoke party broke out back home at the residencies. The participants and peers sang and danced all night celebrating the end to an amazing trip!

On Sunday morning, the day of departure, a sadness filled the air as the participants packed their bags and prepared for their flights. Some had plans to continue their adventures in Greece and Europe, while others were heading back together to the states. Nonetheless, nobody was looking forwards to saying goodbyes…

The day was brightened by an awesome brunch by Athens’ favorite, Phi Bakery. Complete with decorations in the garden and delicious breakfast foods, a final meal was shared by the participants and peers before loading up the buses and saying goodbye. Participant Sophia Placencio said: “Its really sad that we are all leaving because we have made such incredible bonds with one another, I wish we had more time together, but I can’t wait for the reunion in October to see everyone again. I know that I will be bonded with the friends I made at Heritage for many years to come.”

Sunday morning was the last time spent all together before departure.

When it was really time to leave, tearful goodbyes began, alongside long hugs and words of love. Every year, the goodbyes get harder and harder. It was a beautiful expression of love and gratitude on behalf of both the participants and the peers, for a once in a lifetime experience that is unlike any other.

A beautiful goodbye brunch hosted by our friends at Phi Bakery!

“Having this be my first experience ever coming to Greece was better than I ever could have imagined. I am very in touch with my Greek heritage back home in the States, and I honestly wasn’t sure how I would actually feel in Greece,” said Sophia Andricopulos, HG 2019 Participant. “Everything is so new when you go to a different country – it can really feel like you are being put in a foreign environment, but I did not feel that way here in Greece. Though my connection to my Greek heritage in the US, finally coming here made me feel like I truly was finally coming home. I feel like I found where I belong and it really made my Greek-American identity make sense to me.”

Sophia beautifully summed up the heart of the Heritage Greece Program – together we celebrate our heritage and find where we belong, in a country that we all share and love. Heritage Greece 2019 was full of incredible moments that will be remembered by those who shared them together for years to come… All we can say now is: see you in October!

Thank you #HG2019, we love you.

An Afternoon at the Yacht Club

A bitter-sweet feeling was starting to sink in between the peers and the participants on Friday morning, as it was one of the last full days of the Heritage Greece 2019 program. With so many incredible days behind us, and a couple more ahead, the value of the friendships and memories of HG 2019 started to become clear…how can we have only met 11 days ago?!

After the final Greek language class and the participants finished (and all passed) their final oral exams, a very special afternoon at the Yacht Club of Greece was waiting. The annual lunch at the Yacht Club of Greece has become one of the high points for each HG program in the past few years, as the company, scenery, food and community of the event bring the program together for one last special occasion.

Alongside the company of great friends and supporters of the Heritage Greece Program, Art Dimopoulos, Executive Director of the National Hellenic Society, spoke to the participants, peers and special attendees on behalf of the NHS and the NHS’s excitement for the continued success of the program.

The participants were honored to have also been spoke to by Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic and Ambassador Mark Allen, the Ambassador of Canada to Greece. Mr. Pyatt and Mr. Allen gave the participants inspiring words about the importance of the great relationship that both North American countries have with Greece, and how the Heritage Greece Program is a testimony to the bonds between the three nations.

Reflecting on the afternoon, ACG Peer Marina Doundoulaki said: “It was really nice spending the afternoon with the peers and the participants at the Yacht Club of Greece. I thought it was great that there were both American and Canadian Ambassadors there – they made great comments about how important the connection is between Greece and America and Canada. The afternoon was bitter sweet because we took one of our final group photos together, and we all made sure to get photos with one another to remember the trip and each other. It was a beautiful afternoon spent with the HG family.”

The wheel at the Yacht Club of Greece is always a great photo op!

With the stunning views of Athens and the sea surrounding us, the program was celebrated in all of it’s glory. “Being all together and dressed up for one last time, with the beautiful 360-degree views of Piraeus behind us, was so wonderful,” said Stephanie Rouvalis, HG 2019 participant. “Not only were all the peers and participants together, but all the important people who make HG happen and even ambassadors from the US and Canada were there to celebrate the end to an amazing trip. It was one last big family celebration where we could take photos and enjoy each other’s company.

One final group photo at the Yacht Club of Greece.

Thankful to have had another wonderful afternoon together, the peers and participants returned back to the residencies feeling full of joy and appreciation for Heritage Greece. Only one more full day to go…

Walking through the paths of the past…

Walking through the footsteps of the people who came before us is always a surreal experience, one that is difficult to describe with words and is touching, humbling and fascinating. It can be difficult to imagine the lives and realities of our ancestors, the ones who paved the way for so many aspects of our daily lives. It is thanks to passionate scholars, academics, researchers and archaeologists of the world  that the history and legacies of those before us are uncovered and preserved for us and the generations of the future.

Greece is home to some of the World’s most important excavation sites of ancient times. The Agora was the heart of Ancient Athens, and was the epicenter of political, commercial, administrative, social, religious and cultural activity in the ancient civilization. The Heritage Greece participants were treated to a once in a lifetime insider’s tour  through the ancient Agora, by the world renowned archaeologist Dr. John Camp, Director of the Archaeological dig of the ancient Agora. We were in for a treat…

The Temple of Hephaestus, found on the grounds of the Agora, is one of Greece’s most originally kept and in-tact temples from ancient times.

Dr. Camp has been working at the site of the Agora since 1966 and has put his heart and soul into the recovery and preservation of the world’s most precious ancient sites. Heritage Greece participants got to hear about the digging process first hand from Dr. John Camp, something that few others, besides HG program alumni, can say they have had the opportunity to experience.

“Walking through the Agora today was by far my favorite tour of the ancient ruins we have seen so far,“ said HG Participant Yiana Tjotjos. “It was so interesting because we actually got to go into the archaeological site with Dr. John Camp, and even dig a little bit ourselves. It was awesome to get an insider’s perspective of the excavation process and to learn of the care taken in order to preserve the history and priceless information that lies below the ground.”

Group photo at the Agora!

Gavin Cunningham felt honored to be given a first-class tour of one of Greece’s best known temples, saying: “It was so cool going to the Agora and getting to actually go inside the Temple of Hephaestus, because it really is something that not everyone gets to do. The Heritage Greece program gave us the opportunity to actually step inside the Temple, among other sites of antiquity, and see Greece from a perspective that is unique to the program and special for us as participants.”

After an afternoon in the ancient ruins of Athens, the participants cleaned up for one of HG’s most anticipated evenings each year: The President’s Reception. The President’s Reception is a beautiful evening where the HG and ACG community come together to reflect on the successes and experiences of the year’s program and share food, stories and great company. Dr. Dimitrios Andreou, ACG Vice President of Enrollment and Administration, and Art Dimopoulos, Executive Director of the National Hellenic Society, welcomed the participants, peers, program alumni and the extended HG family to campus for the special event with inspiring words on the beauty of the HG program.

Dr. Dimitrios Andreou, ACG Vice President of Enrollment and Administration, and Art Dimopoulos, Executive Director of the National Hellenic Society, introducing the ACG students performing traditional Greek music.

“The President’s Reception was a wonderful experience,” said Greek-Canadian participant Alexandra Coughlan. “As one of the Greek-Canadian participants on the trip, I was so happy that I was able to meet the representatives from the Canadian Embassy in Greece to learn more about their role here and take photos together. I also was happy to have been introduced to Dr. Dimitrios Andreou, the ACG Vice President of Enrollment and Administration, because he came to Canada last year and advocated for the Greek-Canadian students to be able to take part in the program. It was wonderful to meet Dr. Andreou and his family and be together with the whole HG and ACG community.”

The night continued with an incredible performance by ACG student musicians and singers, who performed traditional Greek songs which expressed the heart and soul of the Greek culture…

“My favorite part of the President’s Reception was when the live performers played Zorba the Greek, and we all got to dance Sirtaki together,” said Vlasi Pappas. “It was so much fun,  and hearing the talented students from ACG singing and playing traditional Greek Instruments was really awesome, they were amazing!”

Dancing traditional Sirtaki to a live performance of ‘Zorba the Greek!’

In realizing that the trip was coming to an end in a few short days, the participants and peers cherished another beautiful day and evening together. The HG family is a bond that lasts a lifetime…

The Greek Market

One of the final Greek language courses started off Wednesday morning to prepare for an afternoon at Monastiraki, Athens’ traditional market neighborhood. Monastiraki is in the main square of Athens, and means “little monastery,” in reference to the Church of the Pantanassa which sits in the center of the square under the Acropolis.

Monastiraki is one of Athens’ best-known attractions, it is bustling with flea market vendors and produce stands, right next door to Plaka which is home to traditional Greek Tavernas and the buzzing sounds of the city. Of course, with a view of the ancient temple on the hill, the rich history of Greece comes to life in the streets below!

The afternoon was spent strolling through the flea market of Monastiraki and putting our Greek skills to the test while bartering prices on unique items to take home for ourselves, family and friends. The little stores along the streets sell items unique to Greece, making for a perfect token to remember this trip of a lifetime.

Nicole Godellas reflected on the afternoon, saying that “It was very neat walking through the streets of Monastiraki because each shop was unique and family owned. It was clear how passionate the store owners were about the products that they produced and sold and how proud they were to show visitors what they have to offer.”

Heritage Greece participants strolled the streets of Monastiraki for an authentic downtown Athens experience, practicing their Greek and finding new treasures to bring home!

After Monastiraki and a family lunch downtown in the center of Athens, it was back to Agia Paraskevi to get ready for the big event of the night: The Hellenic Initiative’s (THI) ReGeneration Program Event. The Hellenic Initiative is a non-profit organization that supports those hardest hit by the Greek economic crisis. As stated by the official THI website, “ReGeneration is a project of the Global Shapers Athens Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum designed to help combat both youth unemployment and the brain drain phenomenon – when talented graduates flee Greece to find employment abroad.”

This afternoon, representatives from THI presented the ReGeneration Program and explained it’s mission: to help young people in Greece stand out, find a passion for working in Greece, and to be given paid placement, personal and professional development opportunities while taking their “…first professional steps and distinguishing themselves in Greece.”

The representatives of THI explained how the economic crisis in Greece left young people discouraged about their futures as young professionals, as well as the economic future of Greece. The HG participants were then split into groups and given a prompt by the THI speakers, allowing the participants to work together to find solutions and discuss ways to bring new ventures to Greece, and uplift Greece’s economic situation from the perspective of young, Greek-North American adults.

Alongside HG Program Director Dr. Matilda Chatzipanagiotou, representatives from the THI ReGeneration Program explained their mission of helping young people in Greece on their search for professional success.

The Heritage Greece participants teamed up, together with the ACG peers, to brainstorm and later present their ideas to the other groups, the THI team, and ACG faculty and administrators. The experience allowed for the HG participants to gain a grasp of the realities of creating a professional future for someone their age in Greece, and actively work to find tangible solutions to the challenges they face.

HG participants and peers presented their ideas to the panel of THI representatives and their HG/ACG peers in the audience.

Upon reflecting on her experience at the THI ReGeneration event, HG participant Athena Gerasoulis explained that “Before Heritage Greece, I was pretty unfamiliar with how passionate people are with preserving tradition and propelling the development of society. In the culture that I was brought up in, prioritizing financial success means that people are more willing to sacrifice other things – sacrificing tradition is not a big dilemma,” Athena said. “However, yesterday I really saw how much Greek tradition means to the Greek people and how much they’re willing to prioritize the preservation of their culture on the same level that other places may prioritize financial and societal development.”

With the incredible connection built to our shared heritage throughout the past two weeks, the participants were passionate about learning as much as they could from the THI team and understanding how the experiences of the Greek-North American participants differs from the experiences of students in Greece when entering the work force.

HG participants realized that when looking beyond the ocean and continent that separates them, they are more alike rather than different to the young-adults in Greece than perceived beforehand. The goals of aspirations of the young Greeks inspires the Greek-North Americans to use their knowledge of the professional world to build bridges, and help move each other forward.


From the market to the dinner table…

Tuesday morning began with another Greek language class to prepare for an afternoon at the traditional “Laiki” market shopping for fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, herbs, spices and more. The participants have been working in the classroom to improve their conversational skills and be able apply their expanded vocabulary in day to day life in Greece. There is no better opportunity to practice Greek than at the Laiki!

The colorful streets of the traditional Laiki market.

A Laiki (open farmer’s market) can be found in almost every neighborhood of Athens, its suburbs and all around Greece. In Athens alone there are 44 ‘Laikes’ and each neighborhood hosts their Laiki on a specific weekday. Fresh fruits, vegetables and even fresh fish caught in the nearby seas can be found in the Laiki market. The participants were able to walk around, smelling the aromas from all different varieties of fresh foods, and practice Greek while ordering from the local vendors!

“The Laiki experience was awesome,” said HG participant Deanna Tzanis. “ I loved talking to the locals and getting to practice my Greek in an authentic way. I ordered fruit and had a great time with the ACG peers and HG participants.”

ACG peers helped the HG participants order their favorite fruits and vegetables in Greek.

After the Laiki, we spent the afternoon in another cultural seminar learning more about the heritage we all share and how the Greek culture has transformed through generations. After having been in Greece for over a week, and having spent time in many museums, classes, at beautiful locations and at iconic historic monuments, the participants are starting to feel connected to Greece and understanding their culture deeper.

The host family evening is always a beautiful night for the Heritage Greece participants, and for the extended family of the peers and HG community who host participants for a night. The participants are invited into the homes of ACG families where they get to taste Greek cuisine, connect and share the experiences they have had so far with ACG faculty, administrators, students and their families. Once again, the participants experienced the warm hospitality that Greece is best known for.

Welcome to the family! Heritage Greece participants shared an evening with ACG peers and their families for the host family evening.

“I loved the host family experience, the family that welcomed me in to their family was lovely,” said Styliani Tragus. “My host family took us downtown in the center of Athens, showing us an authentic night out for Athenians! I can’t wait to come back to Greece and visit them in the future.”

Community is one of the pillars of Greek culture. Sitting around a table, sharing a meal and sharing stories is a beautiful experience – one that is very special to the Greek people. No matter what family the participants shared a meal with, bonding together over a meal with a family who treated them like their own was a special feeling for all. It is moments like these, laughing and connecting with people who were but strangers a week before, when we realize how important our shared heritage is to all of us.

Our Weekend in Naxos

Before sunrise on Friday morning we loaded the buses and headed to Pireaus Port and began our adventure to the beautiful island of Naxos. With a 6-hour ferry ahead of us, we were ready to take a step away from the bustling city of Athens and immerse ourselves in the easy-going lifestyle found on the Greek Islands. The next four days were sure to bring new experiences and forge stronger friendships for the Heritage Greece family!

Our first day in Naxos started in true island style – on the beach. The stunning beach of Agia Anna has golden sands, crystal clear waters and rocky peninsulas. For many participants, this was their first experience on a Greek Island, and it sure didn’t disappoint! For Rebecca Dickinson, Agia Anna beach was her favorite beach of the trip: “I loved Agia Anna beach, it was so beautiful and unlike any other beach I have ever been to,” said Rebecca. “I have seen a beach with rocks like this one, we were all jumping into the clear waters and having the best time together.” The first day came to an end with a traditional family style dinner along the sea, at sunset. What could be better? The weekend was off to an amazing start…

The second day in Naxos was one that HG 2019 surely will never forget. It was a day of Island hopping, historical antiquities, bumpy boat rides, bonding and incredible scenery. The first leg of many boat rides brought HG to Delos, an uninhabited Island in the Aegean Sea called “The Island of Light” by the Ancient Greeks. Rendered as a sacred island because of the belief that Delos was the birthplace of Gods Apollo and Artemis. The island has been free of inhabitants for over 100,000 years and is home to more items of antiquity than any of the Greek Islands. We were taken on a tour back through time as we walked the historical streets of the ancient villages, hearing the stories of a past life that Delos once held. 

HG 2019 admiring the ancient ruins of Delos island.

“My favorite part of Delos was seeing how everything is so preserved,” said Anthony Wilson.It’s so amazing that there is an island that is solely dedicated to antiquity and to our past. Its amazing that we can keep those memories, the history, the legends and the myths alive for future generations.”

The next boat ride, from Delos to Mykonos, was a trip most of us will not soon forget. Strong winds meant for a bumpy and rocky 30-minute trip…thankfully we all made it to Mykonos in high spirits, excited to see one of Greece’s most famous islands. We were able to walk the main village of Mykonos Town and soak in the picturesque views of white and blue buildings before our trip back to Naxos. One final boat ride brought us back to our temporary home base of Naxos, where once again a beautiful family style dinner was shared overlooking the port of Naxos and the setting sun.

The beautiful views of Mykonos’ blue and white village….

Sunday started with an optional liturgy for the Orthodox Pentecost and a trip to the castle (Kastro) of Naxos. More sweeping views of the island could be seen from the top of the castle and a trip to the Archaeological Museum of Naxos showed some of the most beautiful pieces of art from the Cycladic islands. The afternoon was spent at one of the most famous beaches of Naxos, Plaka Beach. For Caroline Dudunakis, another afternoon in the sun exceeded the expectations of life on a Greek island: “I loved every second of laying in the sun and swimming with all of the new friends that I have made here, it was an awesome experience.”

HG 2019 enjoying the crystal clear waters of Naxos!

The real treat of Sunday was the traditional Panagiri festival hosted by the village of Koronos, just for the Heritage Greece family. The experience the night of the Panagiri was too great to put into words…the village welcomed us with so warmly with all the hospitality, or “filoxenia,” that Greece is known for. We shared the evening with the locals eating, dancing, and listening to live traditional Greek folk music. HG 2019 Participant Alex Stieglitz loved Greek dancing with everyone: “I haven’t gotten to dance in so long and it really felt like I was back in my natural habitat,” Alex explained. “Everyone was dancing together, even if somebody didn’t know the steps, we were all up and dancing for hours, it was such a great time.”

HG joined the locals of the village of Koronos and danced all night long!

Friendships that were made earlier in the trip were made stronger and new friendships were made over the dancing and “kefi” shared Sunday night. As Sunday turned to Monday, the vibes of Naxos had brought the best out of everyone. George Pollos felt that, “being in Naxos was different from Athens because of the incredible hospitality and friendliness of the people. I felt so welcomed, the island is so beautiful,” George said. “As a Greek American, I felt at home on Naxos with the small-village feeling and kindness of the local people.”

On our last day on Naxos, we visited Agios Prokopoios beach and spend the day swimming in the turquoise waters. Just as our trip began, it ended by the sea with friends, making more life-long memories under the sun. Naxos was filled with unparalleled beauty and brought the HG 2019 family closer together – a trip that we will all remember for many years to come…

A Step Back In Time….

Today was yet another adventure into the Athenian classical time period, visiting the Parthenon of Athens and the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion. For the HG participants who visited the Acropolis on Wednesday, today was the day to make the trek to Cape Sounion, and for the participants who had already experienced the beauty of The Temple of Poseidon, Thursday was spent touring the ancient ruins of atop the hill of The Acropolis. After hearing of the adventures from the parallel group the day before, the participants were even more excited to embark on Thursday’s adventures! The Cape Sounion group was also able to experience swimming below the temple in a small cove, all the while being careful to avoid the prickly sea urchins. The morning trek at the Acropolis was guided by an official tour guide and met with the morning sunlight.

JUMP! Group #2 of HGers soaking in the experience of the ancient Acropolis!

Another morning and afternoon spent at the temples lead into an evening at two of the most important museums in Athens: The Museum of Cycladic Art and The Benaki Museum. The Museum of Cycladic Art was founded in 1986 to house the collection of Cycladic, Ancient Greek and contemporary art belonging to Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris. The Greek Cyclades Islands are a group of Islands southeast of Athens in the Aegean Sea and are home to some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches. The museum ran a experiential learning exhibition on Cycladic art, and gave the participants an opportunity to make their own clay artifacts. Upon reflection of the activity at the museum, participant, Moxey Polles commented: “The parallelism between the art of the museum and the art we were able to make, made me feel connected to my roots and get a glimpse into what life was like back then.”

HG participants and ACG peers got to practice their art skills while recreating ancient clay artifacts.

The next stop for the night was the Benaki museum, which houses an array of artifacts from classical times up to world war two propaganda posters. The founder of the museum, Antonis Benakis, was a successful collector and a member of the Greek diaspora like the participants. HIs story is particularly inspirational because Benakis was able to be a member of the Diaspora and still give back to his Mother country like we hope our participants to do in their respective lives and careers. The participants particularly enjoyed the byzantine iconography and the jewelry. Stephanie Blackwood “really loved the structure of the museum because it went from ancient times all the way to the 20th century.” Saying, “It really helped me imagine how my ancestors actually live and was a window into the past and the entire story of Greece.”

HG participants were mesmerized learning all about the amazing art pieces housed at the museum.

Both groups of participants came together for a delicious gryo dinner and shared stories of their morning adventures. Tomorrow we embark on our island excursion to Naxos to experience the beauty of the Aegean!

Take me to the Temple!

It was another full day for the Heritage Greece participants as the group split up to divide and conquer two of the most iconic sites of antiquity in Greece: The Acropolis and the Temple of Poseidon. While one group got an extra early start to beat the heat in Athens, group two was off to a later start for an afternoon swimming and seeing the untouched beauty of Cape Sounion and the ancient Temple of Poseidon.

The Ancient Acropolis of Athens is the crowned jewel of Greece and is a symbol for the historic contributions and innovations the Ancient Greeks introduced to the modern world. The participants were full of anticipation and excitement to experience the beauty of the most famous and visited monument in the world, and to see Athens from a new perspective.

“Climbing up to the Acropolis as the sun was still rising was a rich and beautiful experience,” reflected participant Nicole Godellas. “We were able to see the city of Athens from a unique perspective and learn about the extensive history of one of the oldest monuments!”

Seeing the beauty of the Parthenon – a moment that HG 2019 will never forget!

For many participants, seeing the Parthenon in person has been a distant dream and a cultural calling for as long as they could remember– it was a special afternoon spent basking in the historical glory of Greece!

After the Acropolis, the participants headed back to campus for another Greek language class and a demonstration by the ACG peers on the making of traditional Greek coffee. The peers enjoyed getting to show their new Greek-North American friends the art and technique of creating the perfect cup of “ελληνικός καφές!’

As one group of HGers were reveling in the beauty of the Acropolis, another group of participants were headed to Cape Sounion, the southernmost tip of the Attica Peninsula, where the sky means the Aegean Sea. Situated atop a hill overlooking the Cape, The Temple of Poseidon is one of the picturesque structures from times of Antiquity. The participants spent the day uncovering the mythological stories behind Poseidon’s Temple and soaking in the unparalleled views. After a tour of the ruins, the participants swam in the deep blue waters below the temple, looking up at the incredible history from above. It was an afternoon to be remembered for a lifetime, and was topped off with a traditional Greek meal accompanied by the stunning scenery of Cape Sounion.

Heritage Greece group #2 poses with the majestic Temple of Poseidon.

Participant Marika Maggos had the afternoon of a lifetime: “The Temple of Poseidon overlooking the beautiful sea took my breath away today! I was able to understand and appreciate how Greece’s history, artifacts, and scenery intertwine to make a complete story that will continue to be preserved for generations to experience what I experienced!”

Both groups met together once again on campus to learn about the art of Greek cuisine from one of the best in the business: Greek-American celebrity chef Diane Kochilas! The participants were given a private presentation on perfecting the famous Greek salad, a classic dish that is unique in its ingredients depending on the region of Greece it comes from. The HG family sends their deepest gratitude to Diane for sharing her evening and beautiful talent with the Heritage family! For more about Diane and her work, check out her website at https://www.dianekochilas.com/ !

Professional Greek-American chef Diane Kochilas prepared beautiful traditional Greek salads for the Heritage Greece particpants.

A Greek dinner topped of a great day for HG with more laughs and memories made. The Heritage Greece family knows that the end of every great day comes with a great meal shared by great friends…

Channeling Our Inner Archaeologists…

On Tuesday, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens opened their doors to the Heritage Greece team, inviting HG to experience an insider’s perspective of the innovative work and research being conducted within its state-of-the-art facilities. For the participants who had once hoped to grow up and be archeologists, the afternoon was one to remember!

ASCSA Executive Director George Orfanakos warmly welcomed our group of eager HGers at the beginning of the afternoon and gave the group a brief history of the ASCSA’s campus and the beautiful buildings we were soon to explore. After a welcome address from Director Jenifer Neils, and the screening of an inspiring video describing the school’s history and cutting-edge research, HG 2019 split into groups to be given a first-class tour through many of the school’s impressive research labs, libraries and exhibitions.

ASCSA director Takis Karkanas gave HG a front row seat to see the technology of the archaeological sciences, and narrated how archaeological research is conducted to connect us, and help us to understand the past. Senior Librarian Irini Solomonidi presented the peers and participants with treasures from the rare books collection at the Gennadius Library on campus, and Director Maria Georgopoulou challenged HG to a life-sized puzzle where the map of Greece illustrated the long and trivial history of the Nation’s past. HG students were able to see an exhibition from the beautiful Acropolis Redux exhibition and even get a lesson on the revolutionary work by Heinrich Schliemann.

“Today was a really unique experience at the ASCSA,” reflected Lilly Kahris, HG 2019 participant “I particularly enjoyed the rare book room and the archives, and getting to see all the history within the pages. It was awesome getting an insider’s experience that I know I wouldn’t be able to have otherwise.”

After an afternoon filled with riveting insider tours, bones, original journals and rare books, a beautiful lunch of was shared of Greek pastitsio, a perfect end to an awesome afternoon! The opportunity to have been given a sneak peek into one of the world’s leading institutions of classical studies, and the generosity of the faculty and directors of the ASCSA was truly special and deeply appreciated. Heritage Greece would like to send our warm gratitude to the ASCSA for their kindness and hospitality!

The afternoon was far from over as the next stop was to the Acropolis museum, where we were given a guided tour through the three levels of history depicting Greece’s most famous monument. “It was really cool to go to the Acropolis museum and get to see all of the architecture up close,” said HG participant Labis Koussoulis. “Being able to take a look at the beautiful artifacts that Greece has to offer, and then being able to take that experience going into tomorrow when we get to visit the Acropolis in person, and see how the structure still stands and is preserved is a really beautiful experience.”

The HG family ended the long day filled with archaeological wonders with a wonderful Greek meal in Monistiraki complete with yummy food, laughter and some Greek dancing! OPA!

The Heritage Greece group is warmly welcomed to the campus of The American School of Classical Studies in Athens. (Photo credit: George Orfanakos, ASCSA Executive Director)

HG 2019 having fun and looking good in between the pillars at the ASCSA! Special thanks to George Orfanakos , ASCSA Executive Director, for the great photos!

A day filled with learning…

On Monday, June 10th the day got off to an early start for HG 2019 as it was the first of six Greek language classes and cultural seminars to come! Modern Greek has evolved from the ancient Greek language and has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language. The rich history of the Greek language is at the heart of the Greek culture, and throughout the next two weeks, the Heritage Greece participants get the opportunity to learn the basics, or advance their knowledge of the Greek language.

After her first language class, HG 2019 participant Elena Afendoulis reflected on her experience: “I have only heard Greek a little bit because my parents, YiaYia and Papou speak it, so I know a few words,” Jamie said. “Now that we are learning the language, I am so excited to be able to use it more while I am here in Greece, and also to be able to use it when I go home and speak with my parents and my family.”

A morning of Greek language classes was met by an afternoon for the first Greek cultural seminar with Dr. Gregory Katsas. The culture of Greece is rich with unique and beautiful traditions built on history, food, practices, family, religion and beyond. Dr. Katsas took the HG 2019 team on a journey through the cultural context of their heritage, building more excitement to experience the culture first hand in the days to come!

Monday evening began with a beautiful welcome reception and dinner on the lawn of the picturesque ACG campus, and finished with a traditional dance performance by the Lykeio Ellinidon. Dr. Dimitrios Andreou, The American College of Greece VP of Administration and Enrollment, and Dr. Matilda Chatzipanagiotou, Program Manager of the Heritage Greece Program, welcomed the class of 2019 to Greece and to the Heritage Greece family with plenty of “φιλοξενία,” or filoxenia, the Greek word for hospitality. Words of excitement were shared for the 10th annual year of Heritage Greece memories.

The Lykeio Ellinidon, a dancing school founded in 1911, followed the reception with the spectacle of traditional Greek dancing. Kallifoi Parren, a significant figure in Greek feminism, founded the Lykeio Ellinidon with the vision to preserve the traditional Greek culture, and has continued to do just that.

For Greek-Canadian participant Jamie Elsey, dancing with the Lykeio Ellinidon brought memories of her childhood spent learning modern dance. “I grew up in a Greek-Canadian family, and we would Greek dance together sometimes, but I have never gotten to just sit and watch the traditional Greek dancing by professionals,” Jamie explained. “I grew up dancing jazz and other modern types of dancing, and although the dance I used to practice is very different than the Greek dancing, I found so many similarities in that all forms of dance are a way to express oneself. It was so awesome to be able to join in and dance all together.”

For participant Maria Korkos, Greek dancing with her HG family reminded her of her family back home in the States: “It was so much fun to Greek dance with everyone tonight, and it reminded me of great memories I have with my dad when we would attend Greek weddings together,” Maria reflected. “Watching everyone dance made me feel happy because it really reminded me of my family and the memories we have together.”

The Heritage Greece 2019 family shared the night with the ACG community, dancing together with the Lykeio Ellinidon around the campus to traditional music. A day filled with lots of learning came to an end and HG shared “kefi” – not a word, but a feeling described in the Greek language for the joyful, passionate and happy “Spirit of Greece!”

Dr. Matilda Chatzipanagiotou, Program Manager of the Heritage Greece Program, welcomes the Heritage Greece participants to Greece at the Welcome Reception on Monday evening.

The Lykeio Ellinidon dancers lined up and ready to perform traditional Greek dances.

Heritage Greece participants dance together with the Lykeio Ellinidon dancers on the lawn at The American College of Greece. Dancing is in the Greek blood!