GLOBE TREKKER GREECE
Review by Ed Nguyen
Christina Chang, Megan McCormick
Directors: Angus Cameron, Andy Humphries
Audio: English Dolby Stereo
Video: Color, full-frame
Studio: Pilot Productions
Features: Round the World tour, fun travel information, web links
Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2002
is physically and culturally at a crossroads.
It is said, "Their heart is most definitely east but their mind is
has long been considered the cradle of western civilization.
With a rich heritage and a history stretching back thousands of years
into ancient times, Greece is home to some of Europe's oldest and most
influential regions. Possessing a population over ten million people, this
Hellenic Republic occupies the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula and boasts
some 14,000 kilometers of coastline, complete with clear turquoise waters, sea
turtles, and even seals. Over the
years, this ancient Mediterranean nation has transformed into a vacationer's
paradise for native Greeks and tourists alike.
long-running television travelogue program Globe
Trekker takes a look at the wonderful Mediterranean nation of Greece through
the eyes of hosts Christina Chang and Megan McCormick.
Christina Chang is one of the newer and younger hosts for Globe
Trekker, and for this disc, she visits mainland Greece and the Peloponnesian
peninsula, while Megan McCormick ventures forth into the vast open expanse of
the Greek Islands.
exploration of modern Greece begins in the "Last City of the West and the
First City of the East" - Athens. Home
to nearly four million people, Athens is situated in the Attica region and is
the current capital of Greece. A
most cosmopolitan city, Athens is an exciting mixture of an ancient society with
a modern Mecca. The city itself
suffers from the traffic congestion of a typical sprawling metropolis, complete
with nephos, Europe's equivalence to
Los Angeles' infamous smog. Taxis
are cheap but difficult to hail, so motorcycles are a quicker and more effective
way to get around the city.
in Athens, Christina visits the Kolonaki area, near Syntagma Square, and the
Exaria, the center of student life and counter-culture in the city.
Herein, the hip energy of the young is intertwined with the familiar
customs of the old. Christina explores a few ethnic restaurants for a flavor of
the diverse live Greek folk music and rembetika
(or "Greek blues"), played with accompanying bouzoukia and evolved over the years by immigrants and refugees to
no trip to Athens would be complete with a visit to the Acropolis, the
"High City" that towers over Athens like a monument to the gods
themselves. While the Acropolis
once served as a religious site in ancient times, its role now is merely that of
a very popular tourist attraction, particularly for the Parthenon, a Doric order
temple built in the time of Pericles around 480 B.C. to pay homage to the
paying home to the Acropolis, Christina continues her journey next to the island
of Chios. The Aegean Sea is
literally dotted with over a thousand Greek islands, and any visit to Greece
must include a visit to one of its many islands. Ferries are available to transport tourists to most any
island, although finding the right ferry for one's destination can be confusing,
especially since ferries do not always dock where they are supposed to!
The ferries are leisurely and rather slow (but cheap); sun decks, game
parlors, and even sleeping cabins are available for exhausted or bored tourists.
is home to Greek's great shipping dynasties and is close enough to Turkey to see
the Turkish coastline. The island's
main export is mastic, a tough and valuable resin derived from Pistacia
lentiscus, a short evergreen shrub. Mastic
is purported to have multiple medicinal and even Viagra-like properties and
today is still used in chewing gums, liquors, and perfumes and other hygienic
products. Christina samples a bit
of mastic but to no immediately discernible effect.
around Chios is most easily accomplished with a moped, so Christina rents one to
visit the monastery of Nea Moni. Built
in the eleventh century, Nea Moni is one of the finest and oldest Byzantine
churches in Greece. It also serves
as a poignant reminder of the 1822 Ottoman massacre during which a quarter of
the population of Chios was killed and the Mastichohoria (mastic growing
villages) were devastated.
next destination is the town of Nafplio back on the mainland.
Formerly the first Greek capital (from 1829-34), Nafplio remains a busy
port town today as well as the gateway to the Peloponnese.
It is also a popular destination for young Greek lovers, and komboloi,
or Greek worry beads, can be found here in abundance to soothe the aching
spirit. Dominating the town's
skyline is the massive fortress of Palamídi, built by the Venetians in the 18th
century. The view from this
fortress is a truly awe-inspiring one, although the climb up to the summit,
nearly one thousand steps in total, may be too taxing for some tourists.
on the itinerary is a trip through the Mani Peninsula, which extends southward
from the Peloponnese. En route,
Christina catches a glimpse of the town of Mystras near the remnants of the
ancient city of Sparta (of which only a few foundation stones remain).
Then, she takes a scenic ride along the picturesque road to Areopoli via
the stunning Langada Pass between Sparta and Kalamata.
was named after the Greek god of war, a rather appropriate name considering that
the Mani were a fiercely independent and proud people who today still consider
themselves separate from the Greeks. Christina
probes into the history of the Mani people to learn more about their past blood
feuds or even mini-wars fought between entire villages over family honor.
The magnificent towers built for these territorial conflicts still dot
the countryside and are today a popular tourist attraction in Areopoli.
Naturally, a region with a long history of so much conflict will have a
tradition of mirolóyia (mournful
tunes) songs, many of which are thousands of years old.
Christina takes an opportunity to listen to a few such songs.
the very tip of mainland Greece, according to the ancient Greeks, is the
entrance to Hades, but Christina opts instead to head northwards to Zagorohoria,
a national park in the woody, mountainous regions by the Albanian border.
In the village of Mikro Papingo, she sits through a customary ritual,
conducted by a local "Evil Eye" woman, to restore positive energy.
It is probably a wise decision, as Christina must expend all her energy
on the next phase of her passage through Zagorohoria - an arduous, seven-hour
trek up the mountains to Dragon Lake. Named
for the dragon that reputedly lives within its depths, this mountainous lake
fails to reveal any secrets to Christina, although she is still rewarded with an
unparalleled and breath-taking view of the mountain peaks.
Christina heads eastwards towards Seres, near the Bulgarian border, to witness
the anastenaria, a fire-walking
festival. Held annually every May,
the festival commemorates a church fire in 1250 during which the church's holy
icons were rescued by brave villagers who were miraculously unscathed by the
burning blazes. Those icons have
since been passed down through the generations and are believed to protect the
fire-walkers now in their annual ritual. Christina
watches the trance-like dances, the ritual sacrifices of sheep, and the
culminating fire-walking ritual held in the evening.
She doesn't partake in any fire-walking herself, though!
Christina ends her journeys in Kalamkaba, home to the mysterious monasteries of
Meteora. Fans of the James Bond
thriller For Your Eyes Only will
recognize these seemingly inaccessible monasteries perched high upon their
pinnacles of rock. The origins of
these enigmatic structures have been lost in time, but the climb up a steep,
vertical rock surface to reach the monasteries provides a spectacular way for
Christina to conclude her journey through mainland Greece.
the many rewarding sights of mainland Greece, the Greek isles, rather than the
mainland, are ultimately among Europe's favorite holiday destinations.
Globe Trekker sends its next
intrepid host, Megan McCormick, on a journey through the multitude of Greek
isles scattered around the Ionian and Aegean Seas to discover the appeal of
these isles. Megan is one of the
show's more popular and bubbly hosts, and she clearly enjoys a whirlwind
vacation trip through a paradise which many viewers would probably die for.
Greek islands are fifteen hundred in number, although less than 10% of them are
inhabited. Megan begins her
journeys at one of the more popular islands - Hydra.
After chartering the Pink Elephant,
Megan McCormick sails to this Saronic island for its annual Miaoulia festival.
Hydra, lying in extremely close proximity to Athens, is a favorite harbor
for Athenians with their myriad boats and yachts.
Transportation on the island itself, however, is quite basic and consists
of...only donkeys. A tourist
could always simply walk to destinations, though (or take a water-taxi around
June, the Miaoulia festival is held to commemorate the struggle for Greek
independence from Turkey around 1800. Costumed
Hydriots re-enact a glorious sea-battle between small rowing boats (packed with
explosives) and the Turkish battle ships, and the ensuing night-long
celebrations are filled with music, ethnic dances, and even fireworks.
The biggest thrill for Megan, though, is an opportunity to meet the Greek
President, who annually comes for the festivities, too!
journey continues on a convoluted route via the mainland and then by ferry to
the Dodecanese island of Patmos. While
passing the day hours there, she tries the extremely strong Katakathi
Greek coffee and a fresh octopus (which she helps to catch).
Octopus being a staple of island diet, Megan later goes to several
restaurants, sampling the many ways of preparing this cephalopod delicacy,
including octopus ice cream, believe it or not!
aside, the peaceful island of Patmos is also a very sacred Christian site.
According to the Book of Revelation, Saint John the Evangelist
experienced a vision from God on this island around 95 A.D.; consequently,
Christian pilgrims regularly flock to Patmos now, where they may even visit the
cave in which Saint John reputedly received the Revelation.
next destination, requiring another convoluted journey from the port at Piraeus,
is Mykonos. This glamorous,
cosmopolitan island, one of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, is an extremely
trendy vacation spot famous for its incredible party atmosphere, hip and wild
night life, and nude beaches. Talk
about a spring break dream vacation! Megan
takes a quick peek at the popular Paradise Beach before heading out via
motorbike to the decidedly less flashy, quieter, and seldom-visited northern
coast of Mykonos.
then heads for the Cyclades island of Delos, legendary birthplace of the god
Apollo and only twenty minutes away from Mykonos by boat.
A very important cultural antiquity, Delos is home to such archaeological
treasures as the Agora of the Competaliasts, the Temple of the Delians, the
Minoan Fountain, the Terrace of the Lions, the Stoivadeion, the Temples of Isis
and Hera, and the House of Dionysos. There
are still vestiges of the original plaster, paint, or mosaics at some sites,
offering a glimpse of the formal beauty of Delos.
next destination is the cluster of volcanic islands known as Santorini.
Also a member of the Cyclades, Santorini (now mostly a caldera whose
largest island is Thera) possesses a fascinating historical and geological past
pertaining to the 1650 B.C. eruption of one of its volcanoes.
Ancient records relate how the resultant magma shot up 22 miles into the
sky and, in raining down, utterly destroyed the ancient Minoan city of Akrotiri
on the island and created a massive 80-foot tidal wave that reached all the way
to the Middle East, with ash falling as far away as Egypt.
Ancient archives worldwide even record severe climactic changes around
this time, suggesting a dramatic global impact from the Santorini eruption.
eruption has been estimated to a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 7, or in
layman's terms, super-colossal. The
Santorini eruption and its fallout has even been suggested as the inspiration
for the Titanomachy in Hesiod's epic poem Theogony
or the ten plagues of the Hebrew Exodus, with the effects of the subsequent
tidal waves possibly allowing for the Red Sea crossing.
Another popular theory also links the eruption with Plato's story of the
tragic fall of Atlantis. Fascinating
Santorini annually receives half a million tourists who explore the white-washed
architecture of its modern towns. The
city of Akrotiri itself, re-discovered and first excavated in the late 1960's,
remains an on-going archaeological dig site and is a solemn reminder of the
once-mighty power and influence of the Minoan civilization around these region.
Amazingly, Akrotiri is fairly well-preserved and still holds ancient
pottery and furniture that survived the volcano's wrath intact.
Minoan civilization was a pre-Hellenic Bronze Age civilization based in Crete,
so Megan fittingly continues her journeys in Crete, the largest of the Greek
Islands. An extremely popular
destination with over two million tourists annually, Crete is renowned for its
600 miles of coastline and a plethora of water sports.
Megan indulges in some canoeing, visiting a former leper colony at
Spinalonga before exploring the ruins of old Venetian fortresses along Crete's
coastline. At Souda Bay near the
port of Hania, Megan visits war cemeteries for the many fallen men from the
invasion of Crete by the Turks in 1931 and by the Germans in World War II.
Today, the people of Crete still remain a proud people with tremendous
most memorable excursion on Crete is a hike down the largest gorge in all of
Europe, the Samaria Gorge, formed by the flow of water between the White
Mountains (Lefka Ori) and Mount Volakias. During
the summer months, the gorge receives several thousand hikers daily.
One of the Samaria Gorge's more popular photo ops is the "Iron
Gates," where the sides of the gorge close in and reach up to 1,000 ft
high. The gorge was named after the
Church of St. Maria (Ossia Maria) which served as the center of Samaria, a
village once situated just inside the gorge.
The village was subsequently abandoned after the gorge became a national
park in 1962.
the end of the gorge, from the village of Hora Sfakion, an infrequent ferry is
available to carry curious travelers to the seldom-visited, tiny island of
Gavdos. Home to only fifty
permanent residents, Gavdos is also the most southerly landmass in Europe.
Legend has it that Odysseus was once shipwrecked here and spent seven
years under the spell of the beautiful siren Calypso.
The aphrodisiac berries which she fed to the epic hero to keep him
spell-bound can still be found throughout the island.
Megan ends her Greek island-hopping experience here on Gavdos on its
stunning beach at Agios Yannis.
a relatively small nation, Greece has an overwhelming wealth of diverse sights
and locales. From monuments of
great antiquity to the cosmopolitan allure for the modern-day jet set, from holy
destinations for religious pilgrimages to extreme mountain peaks and cavernous
gorges for adventurous hikers, Greece offers something for all tastes.
It is a nation rich in heritage and ceaseless wonders.
And yet, with over a thousand islands rarely visited and a mainland
covered 80% by hills and beckoning mountains, there is a lot left to explore or
re-discover in Greece. Globe
Trekker: Greece takes audiences occasionally off the beaten path, but it
only merely touches upon the full array of delights offered by this ancient
originates from cable television, so the images are TV-quality.
Colors are generally bright and clear with natural skin tones and good
delineation in contrasts. The
graininess of the image will vary depending on the type of film stock or medium
used, as the Globe Trekker episodes
tend to employ a wide variety of different visual media.
is provided in English Dolby stereo with occasional voice-over narrative by
hosts Christina Chang or Megan McCormick. The
soundtrack is complemented by ethnic music and plenty of flavorful background
ambient sounds due to on-site sound recording.
anyone considering a trip to Greece, there is travel information concerning the
country's weather, cuisine, travel system, popular attractions, and festivals.
This information can be further complemented via links to the various Globe Trekker web sites.
only other offering here is a Round the
World tour (10 min.) featuring a collection of clips promoting various Globe
Trekker DVDs. Hosts Ian Wright,
Christina Chang, Megan McCormick, and Justine Shapiro can be seen traveling
through such countries as Brazil, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Bolivia, to name but a
few. For a promotional feature,
this tour is quite exhilarating and highlights some truly gorgeous scenery and