4th GPU Photo Festival 2017, GREEK Islands – Pack your camera, we leave for… Greece!
Greece is the country that gave birth to democracy and philosophy 2500 years ago. Where ancient theatre and arts bloomished. Where Socrates and Aristotle were born. The country that enjoys more than 250 days a year of sunshine. The cradle of the Mediterranean diet, considered as the healthiest nutrition in the world. The country with more than 2000 islands. The country of endless blue.
When I was announced that Greece was selected as GPU destination for the 4th Photo festival 2017, I was excited that our federation would organize this international festival and invite friends from all over the world to capture through their photographic lenses the multi geographical sensation of Greece, the combination of Eastern and Western elements and the variety of human origins. Additionaly, GPU would celebrate its 10th aniversary since it was founded.
Our president Manolis Metzakis, gathered and encouraged our team to organize and prepare the GPU cruise in the Islands of Aegean Sea, Crete and West Coast of Turkey.
An 8 days trip for a group of 132 photographers from 22 countries of the world was certainly not an easy task! Yet, our president was more than efficient making sure that this photographic experience would be safe and well organized. Additionally the governing board was ready for every challenge and everyone who joined our coordination team was filled with responsibility and enthusiasm.
From my point of view words are not enough to describe the beauty of this photo festival. GPU philosophy “to allow and encourage cultural exchange” was there alive in our sight. On 15th of July, 132 photographers and friends arrived in Heraklion the capital of Crete, the biggest Island of Greece. The picture engraved in my mind was a multicultural celebration from people from each part of the world being united under a common hobby.
On Sunday, 16th of July, our cruise boat, “Celestial Olympia” departed from Heraklion having as its first destination one, Santorini. The island is one of the most visited islands in the world mostly because of its unique architecture structures. The houses are literally built above big cliffs which offers the visitor the feeling of awe and the most amazing pictures of endless view and sunsets. After a few hours of endless capturing images of architecture, nature and people, we left for our cruise ship where we spent the night onboard having the chance to get to know better to each other.
Τhe following day was dedicated for visiting Athens, capital of Greece, a city that ancient and modern co-exist harmonically. Our visit was concentrated in Acropolis and Parthenon. The hill of Acropolis is considered as the core of ancient Greek civilization and our fellowship photographers and friends focused on panoramic photos of Athens the architectural achievements of ancient Greeks. With cameras full, we returned to our cruise ship excited and curious for our next destination: Mykonos Island.
Our arrival time was early in the afternoon. Mykonos is an island where a visitor can explore the typical and unique in the world Aegean architecture. Its basic features are the totally white houses with blue windows and doors and the paved alleys. The evening soft light was mostly appreciated by our group photographers who captured the faces and the traditions of the island. Hotspots of the island were also for us “Little Venice” (because of its similarity with Italian Venice) and the dozens of the old authentic windmills spread to the
Next day was a 2 choices day for our group! The first one was Kusandasi and Ephesus in Turkey. The other one was Samos Island in Greece. Ephesus, the city that was founded according to the legend, by the tribe of the Amazons, great female warriors, is considered as the most important ancient city of Asia Minor. The remnants of its ancient glory can be easily detected as the ruins are very well preserved. On our way out of the site, we had the chance to take a small taste of Turkish culture. On the other hand those who visited Samos Island had the chance to capture images from a small and authentic society which is growing far away from the Western standards.
Next destination was Patmos, an island with intense spiritual character. Patmos in Greece is mostly famous as the island of Apocalypse. According to tradition, it was in a cave in Patmos Island that Saint John the Divine was inspired the Book of Apocalypse. This is why a large monastery is built on the top of the hill surrounded by strong walls and looking like a fortress. After our visit to the cave, the monastery and the village of Chora we headed to our cruise ship and our next port of call.
Wedsnday, 19th of July and day 5 we arrived in Rhodes Island, the island of castles and knights! Its special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional elements and numerous cultural and archaeological sites compose a wonderful photographic destination. Medieval City of Rhodes is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. As soon as we stepped at the old town it soon became obvious it is a mosaic of different cultures and civilizations. So, we had the chance to capture the fascinating medieval fortress-like buildings, the bastions, walls, gates, narrow alleys, minarets, old houses, fountains, tranquil and busy squares.
After our visit there, we embarked in our ship, and left for Crete. Our cruise was over. But what was in front of us was the exploration of the biggest island of Greece and the 5th largest one in Mediterranean Sea. “The mystery of Crete runs deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force coursing warmly and beneficently through their veins, sensing their soul beginning to grow” wrote Nikos Kazantzakis, Crete’s most celebrated author.
Crete is the island of antithesis. Imposing, high, wild islands meet the sea. Remnants of brilliant civilizations meet modern Europe. Minoan palaces, Venetian towns, Medieval Castles, Ottoman mosques and Byzantine monasteries co-exist with modern architecture structures. Old villagers with wrinkled and suffered from the 2nd World War faces in the villages. Modern, fashionable young people in the cities.
On Thursday 20th July we arrived in Crete and headed for the famous Arkadi Monastery and Margarites village. In the village we had the opportunity to capture the making of traditional potteries, a very interesting procedure indeed!
Our next destination was Rethymno town, the 3rd biggest town in Crete. In Rethymno, the major feeling is the essence of the Venetian- era. Venetian Councillors, the Ottoman mosque built by Sultan Ibrahim Khan, the Bishop’s Palace, the Ibrahim Khan Mosque, cannons, bastions, mansions… are just a few of the attractions that awaited us there.
Late in the afternoon we departed for Heraklion which was our basis in Crete.
Νext day, 21st of July we visited one of the most traditional villages in Crete called Kritsa. Apart from the beautiful old houses, the paved small alleys and the wonderful nature that surrounded us we enjoyed the famous in the world Cretan hospitality and made some beautiful portraits of the local people.
The same day later, we left for St. Nikolaos, a quite small town with a beautiful lake in the middle of it. Early in the afternoon, we visited the monastery of Panagia Gouverniotissa, one of the most famous monasteries in Crete
At the surrounding area we had the chance to spectate a few traditional events and enjoy the for one more time the original flavours, songs and dances of Crete.
Τhe day after, 22nd of July, was the last day of our amazing trip. One of the most amazing experiences was left for the end : visiting the Palaces of Knossos. Knossos was the dominant city of Minoan civilization, one of the most important ancient civilizations in Europe. Commerce, arts, scriptures and a mystic religion prospered there almost 4.000 years ago! Then, next in our program was the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion one of the most important museums in Europe. Its exhibits cover an era of 5.500 years!
Οn the same day, 2 more very important events took place: the GPU General Meeting and the Gala Dinner. At the General meeting all the members had the chance to listen to the Governing Board members announcements and plans for our beloved federation.
At last but not least the Gala Dinner was the most emotional closure of our photo festival. A great celebration of photography and 10 years of GPU took place. And as it was the last day of or trip, farewells also had to be made, and these were not easy. But GPU was successful, as new friendships were created, bonds became stronger and our cameras were full of beautiful moments. Plus, each one of us who contributed to the organizing of this challenging photo festival was strongly satisfied, as all our friends who participated in it were delighted.The feedback we received was the greatest gift for all of us.And we will keep these moments in our hearts forever.