People: Vassilis Karamitsanis, President, Animasyros

P3_grey Set the scene! An interactive intersection crossed our itineraries from Athens to Brussels and Genova, only to make it happen… add Syros island as a backdrop and the discussion naturally unfolds. Clear and direct, in close contact with open horizons.

An interview that goes beyond postcard-impressions, yet more destinations pinned on the map. Vassilis Karamitsanis, President of Animasyros International Animation Festival + Agora [www.animasyros.gr] recalls the cultural moments in Shiraz, the genuine hospitality in Pelion, the educational experience in Germany, the largely admired region of Caucasus and shares new plans heading to Cuba and Uruguay. Hospitality is everywhere and everywhere is ‘walking distance’.  The island, the festival, its people. Hospitality and tourism enclose the magic of destination reality and place identity. Events and festivals, moments and memories.

Only few days to go until Animasyros 2018 and our next port of call is Ermoupolis – Hermoupolis, the town of Hermes [click to read more on Syros: grand summer della Grazia with bergamot and rose petals]. Voyagers are kindly requested to disembark… the animation of travel co-creation with the 4Ps (Priceless Places and People Perspectives), is ready to start.

tvv: Born or become hospitable?

V.C.: Well, hospitality is not a mere character feature; it’s rather an experiential process you carry inside you and blooms in a guest-friendly environment. In other words, there are people, who are by nature more open to meeting others, especially when they welcome someone from abroad. There are also societies whose guest heritage and overall attitude is more encouraging to hosting someone who is not local, regardless if it’s about a tourist, an immigrant/refugee or a business visitor. I am especially proud that the Greeks have ever since been considered a hospitable nation worldwide, yet I feel that this natural feeling of “philoxenia” is often altered nowadays due to over-tourism.

tvv: The most hospitable encounter experienced

V.C.: Years ago, with friends in a traditional lodging in Mouressi, Pelion (GR) that has just opened with the support of the EU Leader programme… our hosts were a couple with no previous experience in tourism; they did try their best for us to have a great time. They were next to us throughout our stay in the pension house, sometimes way too close to us. They once heard that we were searching for locally typical wild artichokes for lunch. However, we have toured the area without finding this local delicacy. When we came back to the lodging, we were welcomed by the couple with a whole pan of local wild artichoke handmade pie. “We could only find pickled ones, since fresh artichokes are out of season” they said, as a natural response!

tvv: An outline of Greek voyager’s current identity

V.C.: Travelling abroad as a Greek national, you very often encounter people retaining the “postcard” impression of Greece. This is a mixture of beaches, ancient columns, white-washed cubical houses and the belief that we have summer throughout the year in Greece! Most are surprised when we talk back about the versatility of Greek landscape, the exchange of seasons and, alas, that there is far more contemporary stuff than the Parthenon! Being often abroad around diverse nationalities, I try to make others to point out the features that make our country a vivid, modern, contradictory and overall charming place to visit and indulge in.

tvv: The performance of Greece on the world travel map

V.C.: Over the recent years, we have experienced a tourism boom in Greece. Partly related to the international environment and the stability Greece offers as a destination, Athens has revamped as a city-break destination throughout the year, top chains launch numerous new luxury units all over the country, while the tourist season duration is expanded. It’s a cliché, yet very true, that Greece is a shiny destination in the world travel map, having almost every possible lure for contemporary travellers. What was utterly missing and gradually changing is a policy directing state infrastructure and private tourism businesses into attracting high-income travellers, special interest visitors and seasonal residents.

tvv: Priceless travelling

V.C.: Indeed, the only true life luxury I may afford. Going to places, staying at different lodgings, eating locally, getting to know diverse cultures through the people, especially in the cities of the world, is a standard hobby since my adolescence. My deceased father used to tell me that education and travelling are the only things one should invest in his/her life. Ever since I remember myself, I have been planning my life in between travel schedules, for work or for leisure. As I grow older, I wish I may yearly plan a couple of trips to places I haven’t been, to destinations I’ve been long dreaming of.

tvv: The “where” and “why” of travel directions to my Places

V.C.: It’s hard to select one or two fav destinations I’ve been to. Among a rich and rather diverse pool, I would pick Shiraz (IR), a city I recently visited as an official guest of the Iranian Cultural Centre in Athens (the voyager voice in press | our travel review about Shiraz will be available soon). Next to meetings with the animation community of Iran, I had the unique experience to visit numerous historical sights of this impressive place and the extraordinarily proud and gifted locals, sharing many common values with Greeks. Among my frequent European destinations stands Stockholm (SE), a city of innovation and pure aesthetics at every corner.

tvv: People who stood out as co-travellers

V.C.: I usually travel alone, either transiting for work or doing some tourism next to a business visit. For my long-haul trips, I enjoy the most my closest friends, since sharing the travelling experience is a very intimate thing to me.

tvv: Perspectives on my motivation

V.C.: Nothing motivates me more than original places, reasonable prices, value-for-money travel options. To be honest, I neither make my choices based on friend’s opinions nor on ratings in the Internet of traveling, since my travel motivations are driven by a personal rather instinctive sense of interest.

tvv: Milestones along my way

V.C.: I’ve been travelling as a law student at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (GR), then had an Erasmus exchange semester in the Humboldt University in Berlin (DE) and then chose to follow a master’s programme spent in three different European states (NL, FR, DE). Working for 17 years as a lawyer professionally [bkklaw.gr] and more than 10 years as a co-organizer of Animasyros International Animation Festival + Agora in my free time, I never stopped travelling, never quenched my crave for getting to know new places and new people. My experience so far is my sole achievement; every little piece of new experience is a tile of the patchwork I am now.

tvv: Little dreams for trips to come

V.C.: Among my persistent dream travels stand Cuba that I plan to visit before the end of the year, the countries of the Caucasus – though I have already visited and very much admired Armenia – and Urugay, of course;  so many interesting stuff heard about this country and many friends living there. Always looking for new places to visit and old ones to revisit.

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