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You Couldn’t Pay For This – Greece

You Couldn’t Pay For This
Greece

Last August I joined fifteen other students from the University of Washington for a month long study abroad in Athens, Greece. Three days after arriving in Athens we boarded a bus destined for my professor’s home village, Vitilo. Vitilo, located three hours northeast of Athens, is built into a series of mountains and is populated by only a few hundred Greeks. It’s a charming place filled with quintessential Greek white-washed buildings and old world cafés, a place where few of the residents speak English.

Lamborghini tractor
Lamborghini tractor
Since we had arrived late in the day, we ate dinner as a group and went to bed fairly soon after. The next morning we awoke, had class and then lunch and were preparing to go to the beach when a Lamborghini tractor with a large trailer rolled up in front of the caf̩ we had just dined at. To my surprise, Professor Lagos indicated that we should all climb aboard and hold on РI had expected to walk to the beach, but this was our ride!

Once in the trailer we drove through the town, stopping only to purchase a box of ice cream popsicles. As we ate them, ice cream begun to melt and drip under the heat, and it took some effort to eat, stay clean, and hold on to the side of the trailer as we dodged impinging tree branches along the road. After ten minutes of driving we left the cement roads of the village it became apparent why a tractor was needed: the road was unpaved and full of potholes the size of small cars, and it looked as though the beach was a long way down. We bumped along down the mountain path that descended for another fifteen minutes until we rounded a bend that exposed clear blue ocean water and a secluded strip of sand that would prove to be our end point.

Except for a few campers, the beach itself was deserted and my peers rushed for the water. I remained behind and used a combination of poorly pronounced Greek and hand motions to ask our driver if he would let me drive the tractor, to which he enthusiastically answered yes. I climbed aboard, revved the engine, popped the clutch and sped down the beach – the first, and quite possibly only, time that I will drive a Lamborghini, even if it was only a tractor.

On the beach
On the beach
We played on the beach enjoying the warm, clear water and the fact that the beach belonged only to us. There were no houses, no cars and no people in sight, just sixteen students and one professor. We found any excuse to stay longer: A rock skipping contest, a game of catch, anything. Reluctantly, though, we had to load back into the trailer and ascend the path to Vitilo after two hours. When we returned to Vitilo, Professor Lagos paid our driver and thanked him in fluent Greek. Our group began to disperse, but I found that I didn’t know where to go next, so instead I sat down at the café.

I realized at that moment that I had just experienced a lesser known side of Greece, a place that few non-Greeks had seen, or even heard about, and I knew that if I had not been with Professor Lagos then I never would have had the great fortune of seeing the beach. I could have afforded the ride, but I wouldn’t have known where to ask, and I probably wouldn’t have even been in Vitilo to begin with. I couldn’t help but feel as though this was a once in a lifetime experience, as though I would never again visit this nameless beach, and certainly not with some of my best friends. Even if I do go back, it would be different somehow, the feeling of the place disrupted by expectations that could not be realized. The joy of the experience came from the ride down, the people I was with and the surprise and seclusion of the place, not the beach itself. It was an experience that even with all the money in the world, I could never have paid for, and I hold the memory dear.

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