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How I Found Inner Peace in Athens Greece

If you’ve ever talked with someone that’s been to Athens, chances are the words that you’ve heard are dirty, polluted, crowded and of course magnificent, cultural, and educational. What’you probably haven’t heard is that someone had a religious experience there or that they found inner peace in Athens, Greece – even though the rhyme is so nice that it should be said all the time.

First of all – a bit of history about Athens. This is a city with a history of at least 3400 years – a place that dominated the known world at one point, and a place that has inspired modern western thought, architecture, education, and government from the remote ages well into today. With a population of about 650,000 – this isn’t the largest city in the world or even in Europe, but it is an important city.

Birthplace of the olympics, home to the Acropolis, and seat of the basis of all Western thought. It ranks high on bucket lists and ranks high on disappointment lists when people do finally go there – the reason is the high crime, the pollution, the traffic, the crowding, and the overall – not very much like classical Greece at all feeling of the place – but, when all is said and done this is Athens. The horns, the noise, the crowds and everything else in Athens can be completely overwhelming – it was for me.

The air can be difficult to breath and when you get to the Acropolis it can be disconcerting to find it desecrated with graffiti and dog turds (which you will find everywhere). After a long flight, a bus ride, and a bad meal – I found myself sitting near the Acropolis at sunset and I saw this:

acropolis graffiti

At first, I found myself getting depressed that the center of our civilization had declined so much. Then I started to laugh, because honestly – it was such a foul joke that I couldn’t help myself. And then – then I started to wonder if the ancient Greeks would have found it funny – I’m pretty sure that if they understood English well enough – they would laugh. In fact, I could picture Jason of the Argonauts scrawling a joke on a temple wall. And then it hit me – we’re not any worse than the ancient Greeks – in fact, we might better. In 3500 years archaeologists might just look back at our century as a time of great enlightenment and wonder. This might be a golden age. For all of our problems and issues – things could definitely be worse. Sure, we have a super greedy rich class – but so did the Greeks – the Greeks had slaves as well. We have wars – so did the Greeks and genocide was the norm. We have awful politicians – but the Greeks made Socrates drink hemlock poison.

Hey, maybe we aren’t so bad after all. After that, things got better. I wasn’t so judgmental of the pollution, the crowds made me feel excited, and as for the grafitti – it really showed me something wonderful. It showed me that we aren’t so bad after all. It gave me a sense of inner peace. Thanks random person who painted it.

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Exploring Argentina’s San Carlos de Bariloche

Bariloche
Bariloche in Summer (image open source from wikimedia)

San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina is one of the world’s least known ‘hotspots’.  With skiing, trekking, hiking, and the fabulous Andes mountains surrounding the gorgeous waters of Nahuel Nuapi Lake, there is no shortage of outdoors activities in the area and since the 1930s and 1940s, there has been a steady buildup of cultural, architectural, and touristic infrastructure as well. The city of slightly more than 100,000 is famous for the chocolate the region produces and the historic ruins nearby which have survived from Spanish colonial days.

Still, the modern city of Bariloche was born when a German merchant opened a shop near the modern city center in the 1880s. Carlos Weiderhold is considered the founding father of the city. The city is built in the style of a Swiss mountain town and as such has an odd character in its South American environment. Long known among wealthy Argentines as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of busy Buenes Aires, the city gained a bit of unwelcome notoriety in the 1990’s when several Nazi war criminals were discovered living there.

In recent years, Tourism has become the number one industry in Bariloche and not only Argentines but also Europeans and Brazillians flock there in  winter for fantastic skiing, mountaineering, and outdoor adventures. Those visiting can utilize paid parking to take care of their vehicles, ski equipment, and parking needs in this crowded winter resort.  Temperatures in summer are also very nice with a cool Mediterranean climate and plenty of hiking, fishing, and outdoor adventures.

 

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Bariloche – Patagonian Paradise

North Americans tend to think of South America as something between a banana republic and a third world poverty hole – nothing could be further from the truth. This is especially true when you get into Argentina and even more so when you venture into Patagonia and the Bariloche Region.

Nothing can prepare you for the wonders you will encounter – far from there being tall buildings and sophisticated European civilization as you find in Buenos Aires – in Bariloche you find more than you ever expected. The town of Bariloche acts as a home base for many travelers who want to explore Patagonia. The shores of┬áLago Nahuel Huapi are nothing short of stunning – this is especially true in the morning as the sun rises or when you are returning after having been away. The lake is just one of the jewels that travelers find and the recreation you discover on it.

Argentina-BarilocheHowever, when winter comes, it is the skiing that makes Bariloche famous. Called the Switzerland of South America for good reason, the architecture, the landscape, and the slopes all are reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. Actually, for those who have never been to Switzerland – it might be a better comparison to say Lake Tahoe – nice slopes, great mountain food like steak and hot chocolate, and great beer for drinking after you come off the slopes.

Bariloche also has a high tech industry and several univeristies so it’s a fun place with lots of night life and no shortage of wifi hotspots. It’s a fun place filled with people that love the outdoors, love living life to the fullest, and aren’t afraid to Tango because, after all – its still Argentina.

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There are quite a few (obviously very intelligent) students who come to Bariloche to study Spanish and while doing that explore the magnificent hiking, kite surfing, boating, skiing, tango, and trekking that can be found in the areas surrounding Bariloche.

In terms of hotels, there are plenty to choose from with a wide range of accomodations ranging from budget hostels to five star resorts with all of the luxury you can imagine. In the middle, there is something for every budget. Bariloche has attracted culinary attention as well because there are a number of top Argentine chefs who have opened restaurants in the region. You can even use gobibo coupon codes in town. Think you can’t find sushi in a South American ski town? Think again…

Bariloche is one of those places you have to go in order to really get it. You have to stand there and see what it’s all about before you can understand. So, what are you waiting for?

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