The first time I set my eyes on the Acropolis, it is a dream.
I set my eyes on it from a distance because it is late. The gates are closing and the creamy complexioned young man with jet black hair, and dark eyes behind reflector sun-glasses politely urges me to come early the next day, after reading my complementary letter from the Ministry of Culture granting me access to a couple of museums.
It is my first day in Athens, and I am in awe of the hilly nature of the landscape; buildings huddled close together, barely leaving space for the maze of streets that snakes past the numerous cafes and restaurants, and the accompanying smell of roasting meat hanging thickly in the air. Like entry into a crash course, I have quickly familiarized myself with the Greek fast food, souvlaki and make a point of indulging to my fill, which isn’t difficult because it consists of gyros (barbecued strips of meat) with fried chips, tomato, salad and tzatziki (yoghurt dressing). Quite filling.
Far beyond the souvlaki, beyond the friendly stray dogs and gypsies touting fake i-phones, designer watches and perfumes; beyond the ancient relics and history, Athens is the venue for TBEX Europe’s 2014 conference.
I prepare on the evening of 23rd October for the opening party. I don’t know what to expect, I’m a little panicky yet thrilled to be attending it as a newbie, a first-timer. When I get to there, it is a little ‘quiet’ like nothing I expected. I think I expected fanfare, some cultural exhibition of Greek folk dance or something. I expected an electric atmosphere.
There is an exhibition of course, tables and tables of Greek food and wines. And in the midst of it all are crowds of people in conversation. So, I begin to chat with the people behind the exhibits and sample for the very first time; Greek caviar, Greek escargot from Crete, Greek wine, Greek feta made from Sheep milk and Greek eel. Strong flavors of everything…Greek cuisine never disappoints.
The din seems to get louder, it is quite stuffy and hot inside, so I escape out into the open fresh air, where I bump into a few bloggers I recognize and make friends with new ones. I even make friends with a dog that finally lands at my feet and dozes off there. I spend time briefly with the happy lot that is dancing at another location. Now this is a party.
In the days to come; it is conference, meetings and a lot of networking. I meet lots of new friends, acquire loads of cards and discover alot of common experiences undergone as travel gurus, in discussions over lunches.
I come away with the challenge to do more, dig deeper, write e-books, research a little and broaden my vision.
The keynote closing remarks by Robert Reid is a winner. I’m still pondering over the importance locals play as we encounter them in our travels, the weight of their quotes in our conversations with them, and the fact that ‘travel-ability’ does not necessarily translate to the number of countries one has been to, rather it should be ‘Quality over quantity.’
Good stuff! I look forward to TBEX 2015..will I meet you there?