OPINION

Letter to a foreign friend

You are getting ready to come to Greece. Perhaps you know the country from previous journeys. You have consulted travel guides. You have probably read articles about Greece in the press. At school, you most likely read about ancient Greece, the same place you first saw in some travel agent’s posters. When you get here, the mood will be festive. Inside the newly built stadiums you’ll be surrounded by happy faces, beautiful athletic bodies as well as commercial commodities. But this land is not only inhabited by ancient glory, the lifestyle displayed in travel brochures, and the achievements of modern engineering. This place is more than moussaka and tzatziki. Modern Greeks have formed this state with «reason and vision,» politics and blood. They blended ancient roots with Christian tradition, always aware of being part of the East and the West. Before opening fire on the Holy Alliance they had accumulated an explosive mixture: Centuries previously the most educated among them fled the Conqueror’s sword, bringing Ancient Greek to the West. They built ships, traded, collected money, educated their descendants. They set up printing presses. They courageously raised the question of national independence and won it with the soldiers Kolokotronis and Ypsilantis and the poet Solomos, and folk songs – all on the foundations of the Cretan renaissance, the Ionian revolution, the cultivation of politics and spirit in Constantinople. They set up a state always dependent but always ready to rise up. Modern Greeks kept up with [the governor] Kapodistrias and Antonios Matesis, [Prime Minister] Trikoupis and [the writer] Papadiamantis, with [the statesman] Venizelos and [painter] Parthenis, with blood and money. They continue, renting rooms to foreigners, saving money for their children to study at leading foreign universities. This is the other face of Greece.