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Published: July 31st 2011
One of the perks of my new job was that every year we were guests of a different NATO country. The Infrastructure Committees that I was on received invitations from one or two countries each year to spend a week or so seeing not only the projects funded by the NATO Infrastructure Committees in those countries, but also some of the historic and cultural sights.
Fortunately, our first trip was to Greece; and September was the perfect month to visit as far as temperatures and lack of tourist crowds was concerned.
12 September 1984 Wednesday. We flew from Brussels to Athens on Olympic Airlines and were greeted at the aiport by our Greek hosts. We boarded buses to take us to our hotel in the northern part of Athens. This was our first experience having a police escort, which we would have every time we moved. It sure helped navigate the Athens rush hour as the police closed intersections for our bus to pass through. Terrorists were active in Athens, so I guess they didn't want to loose any diplomats.
Our hotel was very nice with a roof top swimming pool. While the committee members were at meetings
the spouses could lounge around the pool. Linda told me that a number of wives were by the pool, and others were curious about the mix of nationalities in our group. They wanted to know what we were doing in Greecer and what did the husbands do. None of the wives actually knew what the NATO Infrastructure Committees did. I had to explain to her what we did; it was no big secret.
We had the late afternoon and evening free so some of us took a taxi to the Plaka district near the Acropolis for dinner and some souvenier shopping.
13 September 1984 Thursday. The committee members went to the Ministry of Defense for introductory briefings. This was followed by our official reception and lunch. After lunch we boarded buses to the National Museum where we saw all the Greek art that we had become so familiar with in our humanity classes in college. We returned to our hotel in time for a swim before doing the Plaka again.
14 September 1984 Friday. After breakfast we boarded the buses to drive to Delphi. On the way there the committes stopped stopped at a tank refurbishment factory
and an aircraft overhaul factory. We had lunch on the way to Delphi where we rejoined the spouses for a tour of the ancient ruins on the southwest slope of Mount Parnassus. This was the site of the Oracle of Delphi, the most important oracle of ancient Greece, and the site for the worship of Apollo. Delphi also hosted the Pythian Games every four years, starting in 586 BC, which was the precursor to the Olympic Games. The name Olympic sounds better than Pythian. I'm not sure I would want to be known as a Pythian athlete.
We arrived back in Athens by early evening, so we did the Plaka again.
15 September 1984 Saturday. This was a day without any official business, and was devoted to history and culture. The committee and spouses traveled on buses to Marathon. I'm not sure if we took the same route as the runner who ran 26.2 miles to bring the good news to the people of Athens of the victory at the Battle of Marathon. We had a great lunch at Marathon overlooking the sea. We continued to the Cape of Sounion, the perfect setting for the Temple of Poseidon
for a tour of this beautiful ancient temple. By late afternoon we returned to our hotel for swimming and the Plaka.
16 September 1984 Sunday. Another day of sightseeing, this time by ferry to the Saronic Islands just south Athens. We took a ferry from Pireaus to Aigina and Agkristi, enjoying the beautiful weather during the crossings, and then touring the port towns and rocky beaches on each island. This pretty much took up the entire day, so we were suntanned and tired by the time we returned to our hotel. We ate near at the hotel as the next day we would be leaving Athens early.
17 September 1984 Monday. We boarded a C-130 transport aircraft for the flight to Heraklion, Crete. The committee members toured the airbase before visiting the Bronze Age Knossos archeological site. The archeologist in charge took a lot of creative license in rebuilding some of the ruins. It was very interesting to visit, in any case, and we learned alot about the early Minoan civilization, and the place of bulls in their religion and culture.
That evening we stayed at a substandard hotel. It was so bad that the chairman of
the committee and his wife checked out in the middle of the night and carried their suitcases to a better hotel. This was the rare exception to an otherwise perfect trip. I guess our hosts recognized the problem because the next night we stayed at a beach resort.
18 September 1984 Tuesday. We visited some more defense installations on the drive to the east end of the island, and as we were staying at a beach resort our hosts left us time for a late afternoon swim in the Aegean Sea.
19 September 1984 Wednesday. After breakfast we returned to the the airport at Iraklion and flew to an airbase in Northern Greece. We visited a pipleine and then drove up to the Bulgarian border to see the defense installations on what was then the front line with the Warsaw Pact.
20 September 1984 Thursday. We visited some other installations before flying back to Athens in time for dinner.
21 September 1984 Friday. For our last day in Greece, the committee visited the Acropolis and the surrounding ruins such as the Agora, or marketplace. That evening the Greek Ministry of Defense hosted a dinner at a
Greek taverna near the Acroplolis, which in addition to the great food also had folk dancing. It was a memorable end to our visit.
22 September 1984 Saturday. After breakfast, we were taken to the Athens airport where we checked in for an Olympic Airlines flight directly to Brussels.
I visited Greece again in 1994 as part of another NATO Infrastructure Committees visit. However, I cannot find any pictures. Once I find them I will write that blog. The highlight of that trip was our visit to Thera and Santorini.
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