The real soul of Greece – Why I’ve fallen for this country

[box type=”bio”] I originally wrote this post in August 2008, but yesterday, after the news of Greek performer Dimitris Mitropanos’ death started making the rounds, I noticed people were reading it again. I was in Kalimarmaro Stadium that night, finally able to share my passion for what is often an overlooked by foreigners side of Greek culture with my parents who were visiting me in Athens. Watching the video clips now, I’m brought back to that wonderful and a bit crazy night (it poured!) and grateful I had the chance to share with my parents, particularly my father who was both passionate about music, and seemed to “get” my love for everything Greek. I knew my father had ‘gotten’ it when I looked over and saw his eyes welling up, as mine always do in these situations. This morning, watching the last video here, I cried again.[/box]


Ιf you’ve wandered around on my blog for awhile you probably get the idea that I have little tolerance and patience for those people who don’t like Athens.  I spend alot of time writing about the various things there are to do here, and I try to share some of the things that have endeared me to this place.  Yes, there are many beautiful places in Greece, but the truth is, this is the heart and soul of the country, it is where everything happens.  And as crazy and congested as she is, there are many moments when the Athenian people come together and recently at a concert to raise money for the reforestation of Greece in the wake of the devistating fires of 2007, I had a chance to come together with more than 70,000 of them.

I don’t actually have the right words to due justice to the experience of attending the fundraising SKAI concert at Kalimarmaro stadium on September 23, 2008, instead, thanks to the miracle of digital technology, and the mania amongst the Greek people for their supercharged mobile phones with video cameras, there are slowly being uploaded dozens of videos from the historic concert, which featured 15 popular Greek singers, a special performance by a Corsican group, and 70,000 really well behaved, singing Greeks.

The first video is the news coverage – which was the only thing I could find at first, since the Olympic Committee, which control the old Olympic Stadium, prohibeted SKAI from brodcasting the concert (Greek speakers will hear this talked in the video coverage, non-Greek speakers will recognize it by the booing of the crowd). Even the Archbishop appeared from Constantinople (yes, the Greek Orthodox Church has a very green leader!) to lend his and the churches blessing to the reforestation project.

But slowly fans are uploading, and I will try to include the best clips  can find – in these two, pay special attention to Dimitris Mitropanos’ “S’anazito sti Salonika” (“I Search for you in Salonika”), a hauntingly beautiful “laiko” song that fills every Greek at once with pride and sorrow,  and which brings me to tears whenever I hear it.

Dimitris Mitropanos and the 70,000 Athenians at Kalimarmaro

I think the second clip would more aptly be titled the 70,000 Greeks sing over Mitropanos.