Untranslatable Words – Volta

‘βόλτα’ or ‘volta’- is a modern Greek expression which literally translates to ‘let’s go a turn’, similar to the English ‘let’s stretch our legs’. Yet the Greek is more precise and refers to taking leisurely walks in the main town or boulevard in the evening, during dusk.

Volta can be not only a simple, solitary stroll but also social occasion to spend quality time with friends and family: it carries connotations of relaxation and socialising, a time to unwind after a long day. I frequently saw families taking voltas in warm mediterranean countries like Greece, Italy, and France during the summer, and often wondered if they continued this pastime when temperatures dropped.

On the other side of the ocean,  voltas seemed to be part of the Cuban lifestyle. Everywhere you could see people enjoying themselves on the streets – simply being happy in each other’s company  without feeling the need to actually do something like go shopping or go out for a meal. These are wonderful things to do, of course, but the way Cubans did voltas really made it a purely social occasion focused on fostering human connections. Being on the streets with other people is in itself a leisurely pastime in Cuba, and many locals seem to spend hours on end doing voltas, dancing and chatting outside. Time slows gently slows down and life just seems easier this way.

To me, volta is also an opportunity to take in your surroundings and enjoy the moment without the need to hurry anywhere, a time to wander the streets without intending to go to a specific destination. It can be a time to listen more attentively to street musicians or to watch fishers reel in their catch for the day. One of my favourite things to do in Havana was to go for a volta along Malecón, a long seaside esplanade stretching across the outskirts of the city’s busy streets.  Sometimes all you need to feel refreshed and let go of your worries is to go on a volta with a good friend .

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