Glorious Greece

In Greece, the Flying Longhorns discovered a country at once ancient and new.

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It’s easy to see why the ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the center of the world. More than four millennia after the site was built, it still commands attention. Magnificent stone temples, sweeping amphitheaters, and the remains of city streets are shaded by the dramatic peaks of Mount Parnassus, with the almost impossibly blue waters of the Gulf of Corinth far below. As a group of 18 Flying Longhorns travelers paced the marble steps of the Sacred Way, they marveled at the beauty of the place and the ingeniousness with which it was designed so many centuries ago.

“Visiting Delphi was just astounding,” says Noni Ham, BS ’72, Life Member. “You really realized the hardships people had to go through, but also that they lived in luxury for the time. Their homes had sewers and running water! We didn’t have that 250 years ago in the United States. I was in awe of the people who created this place.”

And that was just one day of the 13 that the travelers spent sailing the sunny Aegean Sea this past June and July. The nimble 25-cabin M/Y Harmony V made for an unusual itinerary, since the luxury yacht could dock in smaller ports inaccessible to typical cruise ships. From sleepy Hydra, a small community where donkey and cart is still the preferred mode of transportation, to the busy streets of Athens, the trip was a window into a country that is at once ancient and new, unchanging and struggling, says Texas Exes vice president of communications and digital strategy Tim Taliaferro, who hosted the trip. “You can tell these people invented democracy,” he says. The travelers were in Athens just days before Greek citizens voted to decline a bailout from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. “On one night, we saw the pro-referendum people who had reserved Syntagma Square and were holding a rally,” Taliaferro says. “And the next night we saw the anti-referendum people, and both went about their business, and everybody else was going to work.”

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The travelers were impressed by the friendliness of the Greek people they met. “People there want and welcome tourists because they get to tell us their stories, stories they’re proud of,” Taliaferro says. “We were welcomed with open arms.”

For Ham, another highlight was when the yacht dropped anchor and the travelers hopped overboard for a leisurely swim in the Aegean Sea, the burnt-orange flag of the Flying Longhorns flapping on the mast above them. “That was a trip!” she says. “There was a little bit of a current, so we all floated away and had to swim back.”

In Santorini, with its postcard-perfect white buildings and cyan water, the group had free time to wander. In Athens, they took in the Acropolis and the Parthenon, and at the ruined citadel of Mycenae, they walked the same paths as mythic figures like Perseus and Agamemnon. Seeing theaters, sports arenas, temples, and sophisticated cities from so long ago made a lasting impression on the travelers.

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“It’s just sort of mind-blowing to think that 3,000 years ago people cared largely about the same things we care about now,” Taliaferro says. “We have different toys and weapons and medicine and things. But people back then were trying to get by, have a family, do something they’re proud of. It made me feel at peace with the whole of humanity.”

Photos by Leba Shallenberger.

 

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