Travels with Anna: Rediscovering Greece

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Friendly dogs and sandy beaches aren’t the first things that come to mind for me when I think of Nafplio and our Greek Untour. My 14-year-old daughter opened my eyes to new sides of this lovely seaside town when we visited Greece this summer.

Anna didn’t join me on a work trip to Greece to see ancient ruins. She wanted to eat good food, see a new country, and be in the land that birthed the myths of gods and heroes she had read so much about. A kids’ book series by Rick Riordan based on Greek mythology had been her gateway to the world of ancient Greece.

As we strolled old Nafplio on our first evening, Anna noticed the cobblestones we walked were strewn with rose petals. They had fallen from flowers planted along a street that was suddenly more colorful than I had realized.

Soon Anna noticed the first of a handful of stray dogs. They seemed well fed, but they meandered the narrow streets with the evening crowd, looking for food scraps. At Anna’s request, we bought dog treats. By the time we left Nafplio a week later, she had made friends with every dog in the old town.

Anna was fascinated by the many bead shops selling komboloi (worry beads). We soon learned how to flip our own little strings of beads like we saw the Greeks doing as they walked around town.

Of course, we had to spend time on the beach. On previous visits, I had barely noticed the beautiful sand beach just a few minutes’ drive from Nafplio. This time it became a regular stop at the end of our days. The quiet turquoise water, the wide stretch of sand, and the mountains in the distance made it a magical place to unwind.

Sightseeing with Anna was tricky. The ancient ruins that interested me (Mycenae, Epidaurus, Delphi) were just piles of old stones to her. Our “Greek island cruise” to Hydra and Spetses was a fun day, though. The constantly changing scenery from the comfortable ship (with snack bar) kept her interest. She enjoyed a donkey ride on car-free Hydra and a dip in the sea on Spetses.

Though there were limitless day trip options from our hometown, Anna was happiest wandering the streets of Nafplio, sometimes by herself: eating ice cream, devouring a plate of honey-drizzled loukoumades (a sort of Greek donut hole), tasting the many varieties of baklava, savoring grilled octopus in a seaside restaurant, or chatting with friendly komboloi merchants.

Several times she asked if we could move our entire family to Nafplio. Somehow the idea didn’t seem completely crazy and there was that old house for sale.

But what was most magical for us about Greece was its otherness, its separation from the daily routines we share. I was reminded that, traveling with family, one can discover compelling new aspects of a familiar person and even a familiar place.

Those travel memories and shared new experiences have stayed with us both, even as we’ve settled back into a busy fall of school and work routines. We will always have Greece.

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