Historic holiday has roots and ruins
A once-in-a-lifetime, three-month trip to Greece has given a Blenheim family a rare insight into their Mediterranean heritage.
The Geris family of George and Barbara and their two sets of twins, Sophia and Ella, 11, and Jay and Luca, 9, travelled to the Mediterranean with George's parents, John and Eleni Geris in August to soak up the culture and some sun.
"My Mum was born in Cyprus and moved to New Zealand when she was six, while my Dad's parents are from Lesvos in Greece," said George, who is the chief wine maker at Villa Maria Estate.
While he and Barbara have been to the two countries before, even working in Athens for a year as English teachers, their children had never been.
"It has always been a dream of my parents to take their grand-kids to see the countries that they are from - this was a very special trip for them," said George.
The family split their time between Greece and Cyprus, and although they saw the major tourist attractions such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis, they spent more time staying in small towns, immersing themselves in day-to-day life.
"We wanted to experience village life so we would stay two weeks at a time in smaller places. I think we only spent about four days in Athens," said Barbara.
For George's mother, Eleni, returning to her home village with her family was a big event and a great experience for her.
Their stay in Cyprus saw a major family reunion with Sophia, Ella, Jay and Luca meeting cousins, aunts and uncles for the first time.
The holiday meant the children missed some school but they were each involved with researching and giving presentations on one of the Greek gods and a place or object of interest, before they left.
The family kept a blog which the children mostly wrote and took photographs for, updating it about every third day.
"The research they did before we left worked well because it not only got them to learn about where they were going but also kept them interested when we visited museums over there," said Barbara.
"Instead of being really bored they often didn't want to leave the museums."
For her and George returning to Athens, where they had lived for a year, made the news of Greece's financial meltdown a reality.
"In the smaller towns it's not that obvious but in Athens it is. There is a lot of unemployment, graffiti on monuments and crime is quite bad now.
"It's really sad to see," said Barbara, who used to be able to walk home late at night while teaching in Athens but would not dare to do so now.
Despite this, the family had an unforgettable holiday, absorbing the culture, strengthening family ties and of course enjoying the great food and legendary Mediterranean weather.
The Marlborough Express