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How Old Is Europe

… and we think 100 years is old.

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RHODES, Greece- My daughters are digging holes in the front yard. They are pretending to be archaeologists. They are looking for artifacts … and finding them.

When I was a kid digging up my mom’s backyard pretending to be an archaeologist the only thing I ever found was a chicken bone. Yes, a chicken bone that my mom told me was a dinosaur bone and I believed her. I would go around telling people that I found a dinosaur bone and show them the chicken bone.

But I would eventually get even with my mother for making me look like such a fool. When I grew up I became an archaeologist.

Americas and Australians will never be able to fully comprehend what old is. To us, 100 or 200 years is old, but that’s just a flashing moment for Europe. This is a region of the world where a 1,000 year old building conjures little more than a “that’s pretty neat” kind of response … if that.

I’ll put it this way: I once spent a month at a house in France that was older than my country.

So the 1,500 year old monastery that’s on the hill behind my house in Rhodes is, well, normal.

We walked up to it the other day. Along the walk, covering the hillside were the ruins of other historic buildings. But, although old, it’s all still culturally alive.

A group of men were repairing a church that for some reason was placed on a switchback. It was completely removed from any villages or other population centers. It was even a good ways away from the monastery. maybe something happened there once that the people wish to remember? I watched as the men rebuilt the front entrance. It looked as if they had recently finished repainting it.

The monastery itself was in immaculate condition. For 1,500 years the place stood on that hilltop. Although I do not believe it is currently in operation, it is still more or less used: there were locked doors to rooms that appeared to still have a function.

In front of the monastery there was a temple for Aphrodite. It was built over two thousand years ago.

I walked through the backyard and into the small wooded area behind the monastery that lead to a cliff that overlooked the town and the sea far below. All of the uniformly painted white houses bunched up on the slope down to the sea like a pile of mahjong chips at the end of a game. The sea itself combined with the sky to make a sandwich of blue.

It wasn’t difficult to understand why thousands of years worth of people would keep building religious structures up here.

Various waves of prehistoric peoples didn’t begin coming to North America until 17,000 years ago. We know little about these people, calling them by the blanket term “Clovis people” because of the innovative spear points they used — which, not coincidentally, were pretty much the only thing they left behind. But here in Greece the view into history is much deeper and there is a direct line from the people who built the shrine to Aphrodite to the people who built the monastery to the people who built the church to the people who were walking around today looking at it all.

Olive orchard


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Filed under: Greece, History, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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