I wonder if people will remember where they were on the day Trump got elected, the way they do 9/11 or JFK’s assassination. We were in southern Bulgaria, and purely by coincidence, happened to be in the province where a famous Bulgarian soothsayer made prophecies about the election.

Kind of. Maybe. Baba Vanga allegedly predicted that the 44th president of the US would be African American, and the last president. That’s what the trashy tabloids say but I can’t find a record of what she actually said, so who knows if she even said it, let alone if it means anything. But it was kind of funny to find ourselves there at that particular time, anyway.

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A magical hike from a monastery to a wine village, Melnik, through a canyon.

To avoid the negative cesspool that the internet had become following the election, we took a beautiful hike from a monastery through a canyon of sand pyramids to a wine-producing village.

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Mt. Olympus, the throne of the gods.

The next week we headed to Mt. Olympus, Greece, to a gorgeous little town called Litochoro. We made friends with our hosts, a young Greek and Turkish couple with an adorable four-year-old daughter, and discussed Greek and Turkish politics with them over wine, cheese, juice, and delectable olives.

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The woods of Olympus National Park are like fairylands.

It was easy to see why this region inspired tales of gods, fairies, and muses. The high snow peaks melt into pale aquamarine rivers through the oak groves. Deep green moss covered the rocks, silver moss covered tree branches that still had some leaves clinging to their branches.

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A little church tucked into a cave, next to the holy spring of St. Dionysius.

We even had a canine friend join us on one of our long hikes.

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A cute pooch accompanied us on one of our long hikes in the park.

The next week we went to Ioannina, a collegiate lakeside city in the heart of the mountains. It was a formidable Byzantine city that flourished under Ottoman rule, becoming especially famous for silver craftwork. There, our host taught us about the Greek financial crisis.

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The beautiful lake, and Ioannina on the far shore.

Leonidas was 70 but looked much younger. He’d owned a butcher shop but due to the crisis, had defaulted on some debt and been forced to close his business. Shrewdly, he’d purchased real estate during the course of his career and now subsists on rents, including an Airbnb flat.

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Ioannina is famous for its metalwork. Here, Aaron and a cat gaze at each other through a shop window.

He had interesting political views. He was a self-proclaimed democratic socialist but hated communism and admired Trump and Putin – in fact, he was the first European we’d met who didn’t seem to think our country had gone batty by nominating our current president-elect. He criticized the Clintons for the Balkan War and accused the Americans of baiting Russia with their military bases in Eastern Europe. He hated Erdogan, and dismissed any claims Turkey may have to islands in the Aegean sea. He blamed the US, rightly, for the turmoil in the Middle East and resulting refugee crisis, but he expressed compassion for those refugees and criticized Greek politicians for pocketing aid instead of helping them. There were thousands of refugees living in United Nations camps and hotels in the area.

He said the Greeks were being squeezed by the crisis. Businesses were shuttering in the thousands and he said everyone he knew had personal debt they were defaulting on. Indeed, since I work an east coast schedule, we spent our mornings free to wander the city and the cafes were invariably full of people – no one seemed to be working! Leonidas said he didn’t see an end to the crisis in sight.

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The silversmithing museum in Ioannina’s fortress grounds.

The Greek people we’ve met have been the friendliest yet. Despite the crisis, they’ve shared meals and time with us. Aaron and I vow to return to see our new friends and the rest of this beautiful country once we’ve made our first million. But first, time to take a boat to Italy. Can’t believe we’re heading home in two weeks!

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Written by Ada Kase (Kulesza)

Ada Kase is a freelance journalist and photographer from Philadelphia. AJKTravels is her personal travel blog documenting her adventures with her husband, journalist Aaron Kase.

1 comment

  1. What an adventure you have had. I envy you and yet probably wouldnot have had the courage to travel so freely. Truly some beautiful sites

    Like

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