WHO: Vera OBrien, 53, and her daughter, Jennifer OBrien, 25, of Plymouth.
WHEN: Two and a half weeks in May.
WHY: "It originally started because I'd wanted to go and try to find relatives in the village my grandfather was from," Jennifer said. "Mother's father, who's Greek, wouldn't let her learn to speak Greek and wouldn't really talk about it. Before he died I got him to tell us where he was from, but he only told us the region, Arcadia."
FAMILY PLAN: "My father was proud to be Greek but he wanted us to be 100 percent American," Vera said. "I understood he was trying to protect us from getting hurt, but I felt like part of my heritage was missing." After researching a host of family names, Jennifer thought she had located the town but couldn't find it on a map. Finally, mother and daughter gave up their quest and decided to be just tourists. They arranged to stay in Athens for a week and then tour the islands of Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes.
OH, THERE IT IS: On a day trip to Olympia, the pair stopped at a jewelry store. When the store owner learned of the Americans' failed attempt to find their family's village, she explained how some towns had changed their names in the 1930s and was able to confirm that the correct name was Elliniko. The tiny village was high in the mountains and they would need to rent a car. It seemed impossible to pull together in a short time.
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY: Back in Athens they were window shopping, unsure of what to do, when the owner of Academy Travel, next door, struck up a conversation. In short time, the travel agency had arranged a car rental for them and showed them how to reach the village. "The roads there were really narrow and windy and breathtakingly beautiful," Vera said. "Jennifer had to drive through a herd of at least 100 goats. Almost no one goes to these mountains, but it's really the most beautiful part of Greece."
VILLAGE LIFE: "We got there in the middle of the day and there's no one around except the stereotypical old men at the local taverna," Jennifer said. "No one spoke English and we figured it was enough that we saw the village and the church." But someone went to fetch the village's only English speaker. "He turned out to be a relative and took us on a tour through the village and area. In the village they're goat herders and make feta cheese. Vera said, "My father would always say, 'We are not peasants.' So I joked that I was reclaiming my inner peasant." They had to leave to catch a ferry.
A HISTORY OF HEALING: Mother and daughter most enjoyed the natural areas of Santorini, and were also taken with Rhodes' medieval center and Turkish history. But the highlight was a day trip from Rhodes to the island of Kos, the birthplace of Hippocrates, father of medicine. Kos contains ruins from the first medical school and a hospital, particularly meaningful to the OBriens because Jennifer is starting medical school at Brown University this month and Vera is a chaplain at Brigham and Women's Hospital.