Traveling Small

Blue. Islands. Beaches. Mamma Mia. These are usually the first words that come to mind for people when they hear the country Greece and specifically associate it with travel. However, there is so much more to this country – and every place there is to visit.

Over the summer of 2022, I took a 10-day trip to Europe, specifically Italy and Greece. I visited Rome, Florence, Delphi and Athens, and though each of these famous locations was beautiful, my favorite stop was a small city in Greece called Kalambaka (also known as Kalabaka or Kalampaka).

Kalambaka is a small town in Greece located in the Meteora region, near the Meteora monasteries. It’s about four hours from Athens, the country’s capital and largest city.

On this short stop – we only stayed here for about a day and a half – I visited the ___ monastery and just explored the town of Kalambaka.

I walked from the hotel I was staying in, down the street and around the town, passing normal people living their lives.

The town was filled with restaurants, small shops, parks, children and people who lived in the area. The energy felt slow and casual, which is different from a trip to an area with high tourist attractions.

Places like this, such as Athens, Santorini or Mykonos in Greece, are very fast-paced and crowded, and many often feel that they have to fit in every attraction, rather than just enjoying the town.

Straying from the norm and visiting a small town in a new country or state has numerous benefits. One is that the people in the area can more easily become part of the place. 

In Kalambaka, my friends and I walked down the street from our hotel and we ended up at a sitting area outside of a hotel with an open space surrounded by some green areas, right along the road. Here, we got to see little kids playing soccer right on the cement with their friends, while their parents watched, all of them seemingly oblivious to the busy world around them.

After watching for a while, I ended up playing soccer with the kids for a couple of minutes – an experience I might not have gotten in a more populated area.

This also leads to experiencing local food, shops and art.

On this trip, I purchased a small hand-painted painting of a city street in Greece that is unique to me and my trip. In larger cities, many of the souvenirs that are available are mass-produced, and therefore not as individual.

Another unique experience I was able to have in Kalambaka was visiting unique sites and seeing different aspects of nature I wasn’t even aware of in Greece.

Growing up, I never thought of Greece as being a mountainous country, despite two-thirds of the nation being covered in them.

However, on this trip, I visited the surrounding mountains of the Meteora region (of which Kalambaka is a part) and was able to stand atop huge rock structures and view mountains for miles. It was a beautiful site that I wasn’t even aware I could witness in that country.

I also was able to visit the Holy Monastery of Varlaam – the second biggest monastery of Meteora. While on this visit, I was able to go inside the monastery, meet people who lived there and take in the amazing views. This was an experience not many people get to have and one that isn’t available in big cities.

Being in a small town or area while traveling or when surrounded by bigger cities gives the perception of being frozen in time in a busy world.

Kalambaka was a town that opened my eyes to different areas of the world and changed my perspective on travel. Since my visit, I’ve been searching for places that remind me of this town so that I can recreate the same feelings I experienced while there.

Though it’s not on the same scale, one area close to Chapel Hill reignites some of those feelings in me: Weavers Street Market.

The bright colors, local people and food, children and proximity to the town makes Weavers Street feel so different from the big cities around it.

Visiting small towns around the country and world is a way to gain a greater perspective on a place and a way to have more memorable experiences on a trip. Sometimes the most unknown places can become the most important ones in your life.

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