For a truly unique corporate retreat, you could consider bringing your team to participate in a traditional aspect of Greek life. Rather than experiencing through observing, your team can become part of a community, broadening their perspectives and introducing them to new ways of thinking.
Imagine your team joining communities in timeless local traditions – like village feasts honoring a patron Saint in a grand festival, the ancient ritual of harvesting grapes, or fishing Greece’s storied seas. These rare experiences will give them an entirely new perspective of teamwork, expand their cultural and social horizons, and give them a deep and concrete sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Participating in a traditional community activity is also a wonderful way to experience authentic Greece.
A Unique Corporate Retreat: Participating in Local Traditions and Trades
Panigyria – The Highpoint of Village Life
All over Greece, each Church has a patron Saint, and each Saint has a feast day. Even in the cities, the feast day of a church is celebrated with special masses and also some secular festivity, like a small street carnival with vendors and music. But in villages, feast days have a much greater importance. These are the days that bring people back from the cities to their ancestral villages, to relive traditions and to embrace their connection to the past, and to one another. It’s a combination of an enormous family reunion, a folkloric celebration, and a religious pilgrimage, and definitely the highpoint in the village calendar.
The Greek Islands, like Crete and Naxos in particular, have famously wonderful panigyria, with traditional foods and music, and folk dances in colorful traditional costumes. To participate in such a festival is to have a very privileged experience of authentic village life and its customs that stretch back for countless generations.
Of course, a celebration of this enormous scale needs lots of preparation, and as they say, many hands make lighter work. Joining in the preparations for the event is perhaps an even more valuable and pleasurable experience than the festivities themselves, as this is what will help your team bond with the local community and to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of customs and culture.
The church is the festival’s spiritual center, and the cleaning and preparation of the church are among the most joyous of activities. A central feature of a panigyri is also of course food- traditional dishes are prepared in great quantities. This is the place to experience authentic Greek cuisine and learn first hand about some of the most traditional dishes, by helping more seasoned cooks and working with them side by side.
Where do you hold a festival for hundreds or even thousands of people? The village itself is the venue. Transforming a shady town square with decorations, a dance area, and tables and chairs for countless guests is a tall order and a festive task. So is helping to serve the many people celebrating and keep things running smoothly with maintenance and cleaning up. By the time the musicians begin and the dancers fill the square, your team will truly be one with the community, and experience the panigyri as their own.
The Grape Harvest
Wine has been central to Greek life since the most ancient days. Since long before the Symposia of the Golden Age of Athens, Greeks have been making wine. And wine is also central to Greek Mythology – there is even a god of wine, Dionysus. The Dionysean spirit of good living through fellowship and conversation over glasses of wine remains integral to the Greek way of life.
Apart from culture and mythology, the grape harvest is a wonderful way to experience Greece’s agricultural bounty. Greece is home to countless grape varietals. International grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay thrive in Greece. But the glory of Greek viticulture is that it truly is culture- many Greek winemakers have been instrumental in reviving ancient grape varietals, offering us a true taste of ancient Greece.
Participating in the grape harvest is a chance for your team to experience one of the oldest traditions of Greece. It’s satisfying, rewarding work under a glorious Mediterranean sun. And it truly is work- your team will learn the schedule and procedures of the professionals who engage in the harvest year to year, enabling them to develop a whole new skill set, as well as an added appreciation of wine itself. The festivities at the harvest’s end will be a satisfying reward.
The island of Samos is famous for wine, especially its own delicious grape variety Samos, which produces a slightly sweet white wine with a delicious perfume and a rich golden hue. This glorious island of the eastern Aegean is a wonderful place to learn about viticulture by participating in the grape harvest. Your team can enjoy a unique Aegean island experience while learning valuable skills and whole new type of teamwork.
The area around Drama in northern Greece is also famous for wine growing, with wines of Protected Geographical Origin. The city of Drama is rich in culture and history. In addition to participating in the grape harvest and learning about wine production first hand at one of the many state-of-the-art wineries, your team will be able to explore a region of Greece off of the traditional tourist track, but blessed with natural splendor and fascinating culture and history.
Getting Up with the Fishermen
What could be a better break from the rhythms of urban corporate life than adopting the hours of a Greek fisherman? Your team will already be on the sea by the time that the rosy-fingered dawn that Homer writes of greets them from the eastern horizon. The tranquility of the moment is truly awe inspiring.
To engage in this most ancient of professions is a rare privilege, offering a glimpse into a way of life that depends on experience of the seas and knowledge of the winds and currents. Your team will experience what it is to truly be in tune with the elements and the natural environment.
Fishing is, of course, hard work. It’s also deeply rewarding work: there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction in truly getting one’s hands dirty, in the refreshing salty breezes of the sea, in the feel of the ropes, and of course in the glorious sight of nets hauled from the sea, teeming with fish.
The spirit of teamwork on the open sea will enhance your team’s connection to each other, while giving them the sense of accomplishment of a hard day’s work well done. For three days, your team will join with professional fishermen, following their schedule and daily routine, learning both valuable skills and fascinating lore along the way.
Your team can enjoy this rare experience in the Ionian sea, joining with fishermen of lush and lovely Corfu. Or they can join seasoned professionals in the elemental beauty of the Cyclades, with the fishermen of Serifos.
A fine day’s work is of course its own reward, but in addition, your team will enjoy some of the finest meals of their lives. There is nothing like the taste of one’s own fresh-caught fish from the purest of seas.
A Corporate Retreat of Lasting Value
Whatever adventure you choose, your team will have the uniquely privileged opportunity to experience Greece not as a visitor, but truly as a local, by contributing to the culture. Along with wonderful memories, they will bring home valuable experiences of teamwork and cultural understanding that will enhance performance and creativity in novel and unexpected ways.