Go Away With … Yanni


By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
March 17, 2009

Born in Kalamata, Greece, Yanni moved to the United States to attend the University of Minnesota when he was 18 years old. Though he earned a degree in psychology, the self-taught musician decided to pursue music as his career.

“I didn’t know any better back then,” he says, laughing. “I’m not sure it was the best thing to do, but it was what I needed to do. I have always just loved music.”

Yanni has a new PBS special “Yanni Voices: Live from the Forum at Acapulco” airing this month, a new CD “Yanni Voices,” which releases on March 24 and a tour that kicks off on April 10.

An avid traveler who enjoys exploring other cultures, the 54-year-old musician fondly remembers trips to Japan, Thailand and Europe. But ask him about his favorite getaway and it’s a no brainer: Greece.

TRAVELING: Picking just one place is very difficult because I travel extensively and have been to so many wonderful places. But I am Greek and I was raised in Greece. Even though I left when I was 18, I love to go back home every year, sometimes for months at a time. So that is my favorite destination.

WHY GREECE: I love that it’s not overly developed, like so many other tourist destinations. It has the cleanest water in Europe, which makes it the perfect place to go sailing and scuba diving. There’s a place where I dive where you feel like you’re diving from the mountains directly into the ocean. It’s amazing and so beautiful. I’m definitely a water baby.

YANNI’S PICKS: Mykonos is the party island and is a fun place to visit. But don’t attempt to go there in August, when everyone is there. The best months to go are September or October because the tourists have left by then and you have a little more privacy. However, my ultimate place for a romantic getaway is Santorini, which is a volcanic island. I like it so much that I wrote a song about it. There are little villages hanging off at the edge of the cliffs and the water is deep blue. It’s absolutely stunning at sunset — kind of like a Fellini movie.

GREEK CUISINE: The food is so good and hearty. It’s really easy to get carried away. I have to run about six times a day when I’m there just to break even with everything that I eat! (Laughs.)

ON BEING RECOGNIZED: People are very polite to me. I’m a little bit of a celebrity in Santorini but everyone is so nice. Greeks aren’t very aggressive. They may stare at you, but they won’t invade your space.

NOT LOST IN TRANSLATION: I try to learn a little bit of the language that is spoken in whatever country I am in. When I’m touring, I try to learn how to say “thank you” and “I’m pleased to be here.” Korean and Mandarin were hard to learn. And if I wasn’t Greek, forget about it. Greek is a very difficult language to learn!

SEEING DOUBLE: I have two of everything. So when it’s time to travel, I don’t have to worry about packing my shaver. I have a second one ready to go in my bag. If I travel for work and have to make TV appearances, I’ll bring suits and some nice clothes. But if I’m traveling for vacation, I’m happy if I only need a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. I don’t even travel with my scuba gear. I have amazing equipment for diving in Greece just waiting for me.


CAPITAL: Athens.

TIME DIFFERENCE: If it’s noon in Chicago, it’s 8 p.m. in Athens.

CURRENCY: The Euro. One U.S. dollar equals about .80 Euros.

FAMOUS GREEKS: Socrates, Aristotle Onassis, rocker Tommy Lee and Yanni.

TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP: A service charge usually is included in your restaurant tab. Though tips aren’t “mandatory,” as they are in the United States, servers always appreciate it. Tip bellhops about one to two Euros per bag. As for taxis, a small tip is expected, even if it’s just rounding the fare up to the next Euro.

To learn more about Greece, go to www.visitgreece.gr. For more information on Yanni, check out www.yanni.com.

© 2009 JAE-HA KIM


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