Classic Texts

This page contains links to a few representative articles written primarily in the first decade of my career, lending them a certain classic feel as the places visited and topics encountered have changed over the course of time, as they inevitably must. Some of these texts include original photographs and even extra text that was not published at the time.

Into Kazbegi

georgia-miiltary-highway-mosaic-chris-delisoOver the Georgian Military Highway and through the woods, to the border town of Kazbegi I go. The text, accompanied by original photos, recounts a beautiful day in the high mountain villages when the border with Russia was still closed following a terrorist attack in the fall of 2004. While parts of the story were published in a subsequent piece, this is the longer original version, with more local characters and flavor.

An Incomparable Inertia: Skopje to Saloniki by Rail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis old text describes a journey I have taken over one-hundred times but may not get to do again- the four, sometimes five hour run between Skopje and Thessaloniki. It was the final leg of the train originating in Ljublana passing through Belgrade. Many interesting and important things happened to me on that train and the journey developed a certain unique rhythm. But then the Greek government cancelled its international trains due to the country’s financial crisis. Will it open again, and if so, will someone curse us with new and improved trains? Only time will tell.

Seductive Southern Crete

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreece’s grandest isle has numerous highlights, but the villages and notable beaches and mountains of its rugged southern fastnesses provide a dramatic backdrop and arguably comprise its greatest treasure. This article introduces the reader to some of those highlights, with certain places being more well known than others, some so small as to boast only a solitary restaurant, guest house or enchanted spring.

Letter from Macedonia: a Vital Jewish Heritage

This long article appeared in a magazine, back in 2006, well before the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Skopje had been built, and it includes interviews with persons from the Jewish community including one extraordinary Holocaust survivor who died not too long after. As such, it includes a bit of living history, as well as a solid introduction for curious readers to the historic but tragically nearly vanished Sephardic heritage in Macedonia.

Turks Living in the Shadow of Iraq and Turks Reinforce Border with Iraq

Turkish boy and flag chrisdeliso comWay back in 2002, as autumn was weighed down by rumors of the inevitable war, I went down to Turkey’s deepest southeast to see what I could see.

The result was an extraordinary mix of kalishnikovs and amber tea, energetic honeysellers by the River Zab, secret agents in white suits, teachers displaced and lots and lots of military checkpoints. Not typical travel texts but a very memorable adventure.

Into the Heart of Byzantium:  A Journey to Mt. Athos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis classic text recounts my first visit to the ‘Holy Mountain,’ the majestic, remote peninsula in Northern Greece where Byzantine monastic traditions have flourished for over one thousand years.

These monasteries and scattered dependencies sprawl across a thickly wooded peninsula punctuated by the soaring peak of Athos in the southern corner.

With a bit of organization and determination, men (only) can arrange to visit and experience for themselves the tranquility of this special place.

Exotic, Cultured Tbilisi

Tbilisi-Georgian-Wedding-chris-delisoTbilisi, the Georgian capital, has definitely changed much since this article was written, back in 2005. But travelers can still count on a warm Georgian welcome, excellent food and wine, and some fascinating opportunities to see the city’s sometimes chaotic mix of old and new up close.

Oxford in Winter

Written way back in 2001, this article introduces readers to the fabled university town in England. Despite the weather. winter often makes a good time to visit, when the pubs are agreeably full and the gargoyles most foggy and inscrutable. There’s even a comic introduction, based on personal experience. Like some of the other classics here, this represents a bit of living history, written as it was before certain edifices of progress, commerce and modernization came into being here.

Macedonia’s Enchanted East

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a beautiful week in fall 2004 I toured the east of Macedonia, from south the north counterclockwise, encountering some of the friendliest people and most sublime sights in the relatively ignored and depopulated ‘other’ half.

From exuberant Strumica and historic Lake Dojran to the winding back road up to Berovo, Delcevo and Kratovo, this classic text brings alive the flavor of life in a still undiscovered corner of the Balkans.

The West Peloponnesian Coast: from Kato Samiko to Pylos and Methoni

kato samiko beach greece chris delisoIt doesn’t have the stately ruins of Monemvasia, or the storied appeal of waterfront Nafplio on the east coast, but the western Peloponnese does have miles and miles of relatively unvisited beaches and mythic locales like Homer’s ‘sandy Pylos.’ Written during the warm glow of the Athens Olympics, this classic piece illustrates the beaches and Venetian flair of the west.

Drinking in Dublin

Ah, the Irish. This playful piece, originally published in 2001, recounts a legendary rumble involving sportsmen, beer and the police from late in the previous century. It was the rough side of town, on a lucky, sunny afternoon during a rough time that was occasionally illuminated by luck. There are no photos, which leaves the text to stagger across the page unchecked.

Thessaloniki and the Meaning of Transience

Thessaloniki-men-parkbench-ChrisdelisocomThis meditation on ‘my’ city may be a few years old but the prevailing conditions remain in place that allow it to remain relevant. Greece’s second city has for millennia been a trading and cultural crossroads, a place exuberant and measured and weary all ay once.

It is a city where you always end up walking more than expected, but where you can avoid getting wet during the rain by sticking to the corners, under the city’s balcony-edges and awnings. Though there are always plenty of people sitting back to take it all in.

Searching for the Soul of Crete: into the Villages

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome things never change, or at least change more slowly than others. Such is the case with rural Crete, its wild thyme scents and wind and black-clad elders.

Add in the obligatory bullet-holed road signs, and you have a classic place to explore in some of the southernmost pockets of civilization in Europe.

Exploring San Francisco’s Mysterious Outer Richmond

The uniformity of the pastel-toned Richmond district, wedged between the Golden Gate Park and San Francisco Bay, creates an almost Zen-like mindset as you follow the identical avenues down towards the roar of Ocean Beach. The progression also follows the gradual disintegration of mercantile intrusion on the strictly residential, as you go from Inner to Outer (though no one can say where the exact threshold lies). I have had dreams of agreeing to meet at restaurants that I know do not exist here, even in my dream… it’s just a place that pulls you in.

Illustrious Olympia, Then and Now

Inevitably, when Greece hosted the 2004 Olympics, the now ruined ancient site that hosted the earliest games was frequently mentioned in the media. In this article from the same year, I visit the site and flesh out this glorious history further. Greece might have sunk money into modern sporting structures that it since has found no use for with profligate glee, but they can count on the ancient sites to keep bringing money in as the tourists keep coming.

Ireland: The Blaskets

This evocative piece hearkens back to the past century, and centuries before that, in its meditation on Ireland’s wild western islands. Past Dingle and the beehive huts of erstwhile medieval monks, the Blaskets stretch out into the Atlantic and its rough cold depths.