Forty years ago this summer, my maternal Grandmother traveled from her home town of Decatur, Illinois, to explore the islands of Greece. The year was 1971 and she had lost her husband the winter before. She traveled with two couples, and took a very similar route to the one that my Mom and I (her daughter and granddaughter) took this summer.
As I was planning my own trip and found out about the one my Grandma had taken, I immediately asked her to send me photos. “They aren’t like the pictures you take today,” she protested, but sent them anyway. She’s right. They were better. Full of life and texture, I hatched the idea that I wanted to re-create them.
Its hard to describe how fun this was. To be traveling and doing something creative, with a dash of detective work and a bit of family and history thrown in for good measure; it was amazing. What follows are the results, and the stories behind them.
The first photo we tried to recreate was simply labeled “Athens.” We could tell from the angle of the Acropolis in the background that it was taken from a hill, and by looking at a map of the Parthenon we determined in which direction. The problem was that there were two hills next to each other, and as we decided to leave this to our final morning in Athens, we only had time to hike one.
Luckily, we guessed correctly. The walk up Philopappou Hill was lovely, and we were thrilled when we found the same bench and cobbled stone viewpoint that my Grandmother had sat at years before.
The hardest part of this one was getting the angle right. The tiniest movement of the camera can make the photo look completely different. Notice how much clearer the Acropolis was from that view 40 years ago? Air pollution seems to have taken its toll. These photos are my favorite of the bunch.
This location took very little detective work to find. However, it seems they don’t just let people hang around and sit on columns of the Parthenon anymore (weird). The real challenge here came from the fact that we had to get both of us in the shot to recreate the two-person pose, which meant handing over the camera to others. We probably asked 3-4 different people, and even still the results are sub-par.
I still love the original photo though, and I love that there is scaffolding in the same place, 40 years later.
This one was a real challenge. When we first got off the boat, the pier was deserted, but we were itching to get going to Oia. When we returned to meet our sunset boat ride, the pier was flooded with thousands of people who had just disembarked from another ship. While my mom protested we would never get to the front in time, I stubbornly stood in the line for donkey rides.
The only problem was, I didn’t really want to ride one. I was too unsure about the treatment of the animals and plus, we didn’t have time. The heat, crowds, and slow moving line were making people a bit cranky but that was nothing compared to the massive fight that broke out between the donkey handlers. I’ve never wanted to speak Greek more! I was ready for everyone to bite my head off when I said I just wanted a photo, but it all went pretty smoothly. Other than the guy refusing to remove his arm. Arghhhhh. We snapped the photo and made it to our sunset cruise with moments to spare.
From what I had read about Rhodes, I suspected this shot was from the Old Town. When we got our hands on a detailed map, I spotted two fountains in open spaces. I was thrilled when we found the second one and it was the one in the photo! The big challenge here was trying to get people out of direct line of the shot.
Even if you take away the crowds, its amazing to see the effects of tourism on this little snippet of the world. New awnings, more signage, building additions- Rhodes Old Town has clearly changed in 40 years! Imagine if it wasn’t a UNESCO World Heritage Sight with some protection…
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
There were other photos in the collection that we were unable to recreate, either because we weren’t going to the place they were taken or we were totally clueless as to where the heck that was. Others, my Gram was behind the camera in front of it. But I love them so much I wanted to share them here.
I absolutely love this next shot. What an eye!
And two more of my beautiful, smiling Grandma.
My grandma has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders. Whether it’s a new art project or a crazy adventure, she’s still listening to me blab about it hours later when everyone else has slipped into a boredom coma. So it was so much fun to be able to combine travel and art in this fun surprise for her.
Love you Gram!
Just lovely! Makes me miss my grandmothers. . . especially the one who encouraged me to travel the world just like her. Your photos seem all to familiar to me. . .
Alex, this is great. What a wonderful gift for Joyce…and Mom
So, incredibly moving!!!
This is great – you grandma must be so happy about this!!
Did anyone else notice the sign that says “CHANGE” in the background of the fountain photo of Alex?????
How very fitting. 🙂
I didn’t notice that actually! What a good find!
What a cool project! The photos are great.
Really Cool Alex !!! You are something !!!
Thanks Laura, I love knowing you are reading! And now that I see how fun cruises are we should all go one one 🙂
Brilliant idea and well executed. Congrats!
That’s a big compliment coming from a photographer! Thanks!
Alex, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and been so impressed by all your blogs, but this one is my favorite! What a gift to all three generations! I wonder if a 4th generation will take pictures of the same locations in another 40 years!
Now that would amazing! We’ll have to see if Olivia or I end up having kids. I’m sure if we do they’ll be little travel bugs
What an amazing time this must have been to recreate those photos. The older and newer photos were all incredible. My dad’s side of the family all live in the Decatur, IL area. I wonder if my grandma knows your grandma, her name is Jacque Chenoweth and she still lives in Decatur. Small world!
Wow, that is a small world! I will have to ask her, as Decatur is such a small town I wouldn’t be surprised! Thanks for reading!
How did I miss this post? INCREDIBLE!!!
Finally got ME to figure out the computer, and I am REALLY enjoying going with you on your journey around the world. Your Xmas was certainly a novel experience for the family. I’m 86 next month and in fairly good health – although the term “golden years” should start with the word tarnished. Love, Gram B
Hi Gram! Glad you are following along! Can’t wait to start posting about Christmas!
I found your site while looking for the bench on the hill near the Acropolis. My family of four lived in a remote village in Greece for one year. We sat on that bench, and had our picture taken in 1972. Thanks for helping me identify the spot. What a great idea for a photo project. Our camera was an Argus 35mm, and we used Ektachrome slide film. Good luck with future projects.
Linda, thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m so glad you found me 🙂 And I hope you are able to return to the same spot again someday as well!
This is SO incredibly sweet!! I absolutely love the idea, and what great pictures to hold on to 🙂
Thanks Leah, this is one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done! Glad people are still finding it!
Wow! I just stumbled upon your blog today and I LOVE it! My spouse and I live to travel and experience new worlds. I’m amazed at the recreation of your grandmother’s photos and am looking forward to reading more about your travels. 🙂
Hi Kristy! I’m so glad you found me 🙂 This is one of my favorite posts, even years later! I hope you’ll keep following along, and happy travels to you and your partner!
I’ve discovered your blog few weeks ago and like most people i’m totally addicted to it.
I started reading it from the very first posts, and this on is so special, so creative, so nostalgic, so full of love and respect, I had to finally comment !
I remember this path in Santorini, I had booked a ship cruise to the volcano island and was a bit late, so in kind of a rush. When I asked at my hotel I was told the descend would only take me like ten minutes. So I went, and was badly surprised to face a path totally full of donkeys and their holders… The men didnt’ want to let us go through without paying a fee ! Witch I was absolutelly not willing to do. We argued with them but that was useless.
Thus we tried to make our way through the herd anyway and though my boyfriend was quite good at it I started to have like a panic attack. the donkeys were restless and rearing and I couldn’t stop myself from picturing my face shattered by one of teir hoof.
I was paralysed.
And time was not waiting for me to be brave.
I had to get rid of my dignity and somehow started to climb barriers and walls in order to avoid the donkeys pugilism.
I was of course grumbling, swearing and even crying all way long. (Panic attack, remember ?)
Finally arriving at the end of the way down, there was a last donkey jam I had to go through.
I was out of nerves and asked, again, politely to the holders if they could put the beasts away just for a bunch of seconds and they, again, asked me money for it.
I was so scared to miss the boat and that I would have been sent to Hell for no reason I eventually gave them 5 euros.
Grumbling. Swearing. Crying. More than ever. Especially swearing. Very, very loud.
I actually hadn’t really realised I loud I was swearing until I got the the dock, and face the ship, waiting for us, and the big audience on it, watching and hearing our little drama as in a theatre.
But, still, a memory I’ll never forget, and my friends favorite journey travel.
So, sorry for mixing up your comment field and my own blog but reading your blog means so much to me, and this one post especially, all that you share with us, I wanted to share a little with you.
Keep writting, phographing and blogging ! You are inspiring.
(And excuse my english i’m french…)
That is quite the story, Tania! I’m glad now that I just posed for the picture and didn’t try the hill 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog and about this project in particular — they really mean a lot to me! x
what a brilliant idea! love that! <3
Thanks Cecilia! It was a really fun and special project.
what a cool project! I love old photos and so cool that you managed to find the places and recreate them!
Thanks Jenn. This was one of my crowning moments of travel glory 😀 Still love this old project!