Monthly Archives: November 2012

My Big Fat Greek Vacation Conclusion

My Big Fat Greek Vacation Conclusion
Central Athens

The Central Market near Omonia

This morning in the dining room where we have breakfast in the hotel, I made a cup of Greek coffee for a gentleman from Germany. The hotel provides us with a hot plate. On top of it is a metal box made filled with sand.  The hot plate heats the sand which heats the water in the briki.  The little brass pot is filled with water, and then coffee and sugar if desired, stirred, and placed on the sand. After several minutes, the coffee foams to the top and you then pour it into little cups.  He didn’t know how to do it, so I did it for him as he watched.  He asked where I was from and I said Pittsburgh.

“Have you heard of it?”

“Yes, they make steel there.”

“Well,” I said, “not any more. We make technology now.”

He knew a lot about Premier Simitis of Greece and I assume, the rest of Europe, but wasn’t up to date about the US.  I thought he wanted to engage me in a discussion about President Bush and/or American foreign policy but refrained.

I promised Andrea that after this we would not climb any more mountains nor walk any more dusty, rocky paths. For the remainder of our trip we did not.

Where else but in Greece do you run into people you know? (Actually, I have friend who runs into people everywhere: Israel, Canada, New York, etc., but I never do.)

We decided to look at the market which is near our hotel. (It is similar to the Strip District in Pittsburgh.)  The meat and fish vendors display the heads of

pigs, pig’s feet, the intestines and the whole lamb, cow, or pig. They also call out to customers to buy their wares and offer excellent prices (according to them.)

Andrea posed with one vendor and I will mail the photo to him. At first, she was “grossed out” at the sight of all this but after a while she took pictures of everything. The other vendors in the central market sell hats, underwear, fans, beach towels, shoes, pets, you name it.  There is a Marks and Spenser in the neighborhood. I hadn’t been in one since I was last in England. I had to go in and look around.

The prices of clothes in the stores (other than in the central market) are a little higher that we are used to here but they have good sales.

There are also gypsies in Greece who always peddlling something.  At the taverna in Monastiraki, they were either selling (Kleenex) tissue or playing music to the patrons. Gypsies are not shy about putting their children to work.

Andrea and I ran into a rest room in a coffee shop. One of the patrons overheard me speaking to her in Greek and struck up a conversation with me. When she found out we were from America, she…guess what??????? No, she didn’t tell me to go home or drop dead.  She said she loved America and Americans and has been there many times Chicago, San Francisco, and I think she mentioned Detroit, too. She has friends and family who live there and she misses them. She is fearful of traveling post Sept. 11 the. She treated us to coffee and ice cream in a coffee shop in the central market and we exchanged telephone numbers. I told her to visit me in Pittsburgh the next time she comes to the US.  She was very nice and we talked like old friends.

Later that evening we went back tot the Plaka with another koumbara and her daughter, Athena(not connected to the koumbari who are holding the wedding), and we ran into some of the friends we saw at  the Acropolis plus some we had seen at the taverna, etc. It’s a small world. Elpi, Papou, and Christopher, I was informed were at the church in the town square but I couldn’t find them. It turned out later that they were looking for me, too. (Mike didn’t last long and headed back to the hotel and the Internet Cafe.)

The Plaka was packed with gypsies, tourists, and vendors. Andrea and Athena loved the vendors who let them play with their wares. As we were leaving, we ran into our friends again (but not Elpi, Chris or Papou) and we also saw the bride with them. Her name is also Elpi.

Our priest, Father Serviou, told us about a jeweler, a friend of his from his university days, who gave us great discounts.  He will be in the States next winter, he informed us, because his son is marrying a woman from Ohio. He also told Chrissie how to get to Portorafti where she is staying with a cousin.  The bus connections to that town are limited in the evenings but he told her to take the airport bus to the airport and catch a cab from there.  Portorafti is right by the El.Venizelos Airport.  He was very friendly and served us drinks, too.

We ran into an American tourist who had walked from her hotel to the Plaka and couldn’t find her way out. I wasn’t sure how to help her.

“Do you speak Greek?” I asked.

“No.”

So we went into the nearest shop and I asked the way back to the Temple of Zeus (which was across the street from her hotel). One of the workers was African but spoke excellent Greek. Like most Greeks, he gave general directions which get you lost.

“I have an extra Metro ticket,” I said. “Follow us. Chrissie and Athena are getting off at Syntagma Square and that will bring you a few blocks from your hotel.”

I made another friend that night.   Her name was Rose Marie.  She was touring Greece with a group and was from California. The next day she was to go up Mount Lycabettus.

“I understand the vehicular is being repaired,” she commented.

“Ain’t no vehicular unless it is invisible,” I said. I mentioned how we couldn’t find it but I found out later that the lift at least used to exist.  She laughed.

What was scary to me was that I was learning the streets of Athens. I found Byron Street which was where the Metro station was and I even knew which line to take when we descended into the Metro. When we got off I told her to take a right and at her hotel was only a couple of blocks on her right. I wonder if I will remember these streets the next time I’m in Athens.

Well, Chrissie and Athena hopped on the airport bus and Andrea and I walked home. It was quite late. We always walked late in the evening but I never

feared for our safety. Athens is supposed to have the lowest crime rate of any European city but I think I instinctively felt safe.

The next day, I went to the Benaki Museum on Queen Sophia Avenue. I went alone while Mike and Andrea went looking for the Children’s Museum. I passed the beautiful Embassy of Egypt and I literally stared at the building.

“An old man made a comment about tourists and I replied to him in Greek, “Yes, I am. So what?”  He shuffled away clicking his worry beads.

The Benakeion (emphasis on the “na”) is housed in a lovely old building which you can’t find because the sign is on the gate facing the side street and is only about 14″ by 17″.  When you finally do find, it doesn’t disappoint. It houses ancient jewelry, statues, and pottery from ancient Greece and Cyprus as well as a very extensive collection of Byzantine Art. What wowed me, though, was the collection of folk costumes from the period after Byzantium and up to the War of Independence. There is furniture, jewelry, ceramics, textiles (I value the textiles I inherited even more than I did before) from Greece and Cyprus. There are  drawings and watercolors of Greece made by European “visitors.” It is a vast and well maintained collection and the Benaki deserves its reputation.

At one point I was staring at an icon and I could hear a voice saying in English, “Yes, I can make it then. I will meet you.” I looked around but I was the only person I could see in the gallery. I knew it couldn’t be the icon.

“Yes, of course. So long, Father,” he said in Greek.  I suddenly realized that this person was standing behind the wall the icon hung from. I ran into the next room as soon as he said good-bye because I didn’t want him to think I was eavesdropping.

That night we went to Vouliagmeni for Elpi and Dean’s wedding. It is a small, lovely white church – like a country church surrounded by trees, flowers and a stone wall. The guests stood around because a baptism was being conducted prior to the wedding. The groom stood waiting for the bride (and the baptism to end). He held a bouquet of yellow roses because tradition dictates that he meet the bride outside the church, give her a kiss and the bouquet.

She arrived fashionably late with her father (but not too late because priests in Greece are extra busy in the summer). The groom kissed her on the cheek, gave her the bouquet and they entered the church. Their parents followed including the maid of honor and the best man.  They’re both the koumbari, the person(s) who exchange the crowns and the rings in an Orthodox Christian service. The three little Myrofori followed. They were dressed in white. Their ages range from 5 to 10 and they are like little junior bridesmaids. (They were her goddaughter, Zoe, her niece, Alexandra, and her cousin from Cyprus, Myrto.) Then, the guests rushed into the little church and stuffed themselves into the pews. Everyone tried to form a circle around the bride and groom but some of us didn’t make it past the pews or the center aisle. Mike left and stood outside as so many of the other guests were forced to do.  He said he has seen it before anyway (like when we got married).

The rush of people out of the church was like the rush of people into it. As Elpi (Andrea’s godmother, not the bride) and I were saying, “You can’t take the villager out of them.”

Rented buses took us to the Island Club. It is situated by a bay. The wedding was at 7 and so the reception was in the evening. The moon was almost full and very white against a dark sky. The Med washed against the rocks by the shore and in the distance the land was illuminated with white lights. There was a small white chapel near the reception area with a path that led to the stone wall at the edge of the property.  An outcropping of rock jutted into the bay on the left. The wedding was, visually, the most beautiful I have ever seen, from the church service to the reception.

It was also one of the most enjoyable. The guests had a rollicking good time. The guests came from Greece (the groom’s relatives), Cyprus (the bride’s relatives) and Ohio and Pennsylvania (the rest of their relatives.) One family came from England.

The food was bountiful and included sheftelies (Cypriot sausages for those of you who may not know) and plenty to drink. We all danced including

Mike who doesn’t usually dance Greek dances. My feet hurt for days afterward.

A note to those of you who saw MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, the Cypriots are the epitome of the Greeks in the movie. Regardless of the seating arrangement, the men sat at one table and the women sat at another. There was much singing as well as dancing. Everyone had a ball but I think they had more of a ball than anyone.

The wedding was a great finale to a great trip.

Thanks for reading my long story (those of you who lasted.)

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation IV

My Big Fat Greek Vacation IV
The Parthenon Athens, Greece

The Parthenon, Athens, Greece

The big news in Greece this summer has been the arrest of November 17 members. November 17 is the terrorist organization that has periodically bombed buildings and assassinated prominent people in Greece since the 1970’s. But walking through the National Gardens the next day, the big discussion was soccer or podosfero as they call it.  I bought Andrea and Mike shirts with the names of two soccer players on them. The name on Mike’s shirt, Nicolaides, always elicits comments from people. Supposedly, he is one of their best players.

We also saw the Temple of Zeus in daylight. It is just as imposing in the sun as it is under the moon. Walking back, I saw an elderly woman riding a motorcycle (which are very popular here) and she lay on her horn because the traffic cop didn’t change the lights soon enough.

We passed the evzones again. This time they put on a show. Four people posed for pictures with one of them and he banged his rifle butt into the ground. His supervisor came out of his “hut” and glared at the public. Then, he told the people in Greek that only two people could pose with an evzone at a time. I translated for them.  Another woman sat on the steps and the other soldier banged his rifle butt and brought out the supervisor.  The poor woman jumped out of her skin when the evzone did that.  The supervisor informed her that no one could sit on the steps, either. Then Andrea posed in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and he gestured to her to leave.

“Is it forbidden?” Ι asked.

“Forbidden!”  He answered.

This time we were in time for the full changing of the guard ceremony. They walk like marionettes and the ceremony is short. They do, however, stop in front of the Tomb and pay respects.  The soldiers were the fustanella, or short skirt, of the soldiers from the War of Independence. They wear tights, shoes that curl up at the toe and are decorated with a pompom, and long caps with tassels. Their supervisor wears pants, a shirt, and a beret.

Once in a while, he would come out of his hut and wipe the sweat off of their faces or look them right in the face and speak in low tones. I’d love to know what he told them. Something like, “Get ready to change positions.”

Later, we went to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Posideion.   We drove in a different direction than we did yesterday. We passed the suburbs of Athens, like Glyfada and Voula, etc. lots of boats, and beautiful beaches (very few topless, etc., but I did see one guy’s butt) and new homes.  Many of them are left incomplete because the owners ran out of money, or were built illegally or something like that.

The view from Cape Sounion is breathtaking and worth the trip with or without the Temple. Lord Byron wrote his name somewhere on the temple but I couldn’t find it. The bay and the boats and the village across the bay are very picturesque. I can appreciate Byron going there to write poetry (and graffiti), reflect and get away from it all.

In the evening we decided to walk up Mount Lycabettus which is above the neighborhood of Kolonaki. Kolonaki is not far from our hotel room. I didn’t know that it is a hilly neighborhood. There are steps that serve for sidewalks just like in Pittsburgh. Well, we climbed those steps looking for a trolley or lift of some kind that would take us up part of the way. Well, we never found it. So we kept on climbing until we reached the first of two cafes.

“Is there a vehicular that will take us up?” Mike asked.

“No,” the waitress answered.

So we kept climbing and climbing and climbing until, two thousand feet later, we reached the top. We didn’t see too many people on the way but when we arrived, we saw lots of people. They were all waiting for the sun to set. We went into the little church and lit candles, etc. and then waited with everyone else. The sun was an intense red orange and it produced rays that radiated toward the sky. As time went by, it grew larger and larger and redder and redder. It finally set behind a horizon of clouds. He took several shots of the view. Hope they come out.

We also ate dinner in the outdoor restaurant half way down the hill. I’ve never had bad food to eat in Greece but this time we had slow service. We also had visitors. Every stray cat in Kolonaki was there begging for scraps.

On our way up, we passed a woman who was sitting on her porch, talking on her phone.  On the way back, she was still there, chatting away.

PS I forgot to say that the view from Mount Lycabettus was awesome like so many of the other views. You see all of Athens and probably part of Piraeus (if I knew what to look for when I looked towards that port city). The Acropolis is spectacular lit up at night and so is the Temple of Zeus.

The Parthenon is spectacular in 96 degree heat as well as in the evening. Of course, it involves another climb up another hill, the famous Acropolis, but by now, we were used to it. Experts are currently working on the ruins and there is scaffolding everywhere including the Parthenon. I understand that this work is being done because pollution is eroding the marble not because the monuments are falling. (Someone else might know more than I.)

It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World (depending on the list and the year the list was published). That fact alone gave me more chills but I am always astounded that I am walking where Pericles, Plato, and others once walked. One can see far and wide. I enjoyed the museum of artifacts there, too. Mike and Andrea left the museum before I did and in the interim, Andrea ran into two of her camp counselors from Camp Nazareth (a camp run by the Archdiocese here in the Pittsburgh area)!  They took pictures to mark the occasion.

On our way down we ran into our friends and koumbari who are here for a wedding (to which we were also invited).  I had called another friend that morning and she told me I would run into them. I didn’t think so because the Acropolis was so crowded.  It was fun to see them even though I was going to see them that evening anyway.

On our way out, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant in Monastiraki and walked over to the Agora and archeological museum.  I pointed out an olive tree to Mike. The olives are green and not yet ripe for picking.  I barely touched them when a guard shouted to me not to handle the olives. Ooops. These trees are probably harvested in the fall like all the other olive trees in Greece.

Museum guards and others are very strict about the rules and regulations. In Rhodes I stepped on a footing so I could see through a bay window and the guard there also yelled at me. (The breeze was worth it.)

We walked around Monastiraki and looked at the flea market there. The objects for sale are much like the stuff I would find in a flea market in the US with

a few exceptions here and there.  I did see two large Karagiozi (shadow puppets) but I decided not to even think about buying them. Where would I put them back home?  I guess I would find a place.

Well, we lost our way back to the Plaka.  We took the Metro as far as the foot of the Acropolis just to see what it was like to ride it.  We had another long walk (and I mean long) but we finally found the Metro station. The Metro is very new and very clean and there are absolutely no vendors in any of the ones I saw. There are police who patrol them and are very helpful if you have questions.

On the way to the Metro, we saw new townhouses that had recently been constructed. They were gorgeous and looked like they were made of marble. I don’t know what they were really made of.  They were right next to the Acropolis.  What a sight, especially in the evening.

We found our friends in the taverna in Vouliagmeni that night. The family of the groom hosted the event and there was plenty to eat including kokoretsi. The kids enjoyed looking at the pig and lamb that were turning on the spit. Andrea and the other kids had a lot of fun together and practiced speaking Greek. I don’t know how many times I had to confirm the meaning of some very simple Greek words and terms to them but I hope they still remember them.  It was a late night but fun to be with friends.

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation III

My Big Fat Greek Vacation III

Ancient temple of Poseidon

We landed at the big, new Eleutherios Venizelos Airport but a driver did not meet us. It was a misunderstanding with the travel agency. (Of course, I was upset but we weren’t going to waste time in the airport.) I should have expected a snag. We were compelled to hire a cab driver who took us for 42e (euros).

As I learned the streets of Athens, I later came to realize that he took us around Athens and did not drive directly to the hotel. I think Athenian taxi cab drivers should be, in keeping with the “humanistic” policies of the new European Union, sentenced to life in jail without parole. Actually, they should bring back the Rack, which they used to torture people in medieval times, and bring on a revival of nostalgia.

That evening we headed for the Plaka but on our way, I spied an evzone (soldier) marching as we were turning towards Syntagma Square.  I ran to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament building. We took Andrea’s picture standing next to one. She loved it and every evening or afternoon we were in the neighborhood we had to stop and visit the evzones.

The Plaka is like the old medieval villages: narrow, streets, shops, tavernas, etc., but you can see the Acropolis from there.  At night it is lit up and quite beautiful. The Parthenon is on the other side and I know we’re going there later in the week so I stayed near the other end. As the government built the Metro, more antiquities were discovered and you can see some of the excavations that have begun as a result.

We had a delicious dinner at an outdoor taverna (salad and mousaka) and passed Syntgama square and the evzones again. It was quite dark by this time so we didn’t take photos.

The next day we took a long motor coach trip to Delphi. We passed industrial buildings and an agricultural region. There are many, many olive groves.  We stopped at two different villages to rest and buy souvenirs. Finally, reach Mount Parnassus which is an awesome site by itself.  We enter the site and descend. The first stop is the old Roman agora or marketplace. You can see Parnassus close up and it is more imposing than from a distance. Delphi gave me chills because I came to realize that Alexander and other famous Greeks from ancient history walked these very paths and consulted the Oracle.

We climbed to the very top in intense afternoon heat, past the Rock of Sybille and other architectural landmarks. We finally reached the stadium there. It is like a football field. Mike and Andrea were ready to race the length of it but I stopped them. No use getting sunstroke now. The descent was easier but no less hot. We also visited the museum with the famous sculpture of the charioteer.  Another interesting object that I saw was the early version of glass which was later developed by the Romans into the form it is today.

It’s also interesting to note that under these mountains were gasses. The Oracle would go down into the cavity of mountain and take a whiff of the stuff. Then she would come up and give her cryptic messages.

Archaeologists from Pennsylvania recently found traces of a gas in the mountains around Delphi giving some proof to this theory.

The view here is heady enough because you can see for miles and Mount Parnassus dominates the valley. That would give me a high especially if I came to work everyday to recite prophecies; I wouldn’t need anything else.

When we returned we walked to the Temple of Zeus which, like every other monument, is lit up at night. It is tall and isolated from the Acropolis which can be seen from there. Next to it is the Botanical or National Gardens. We ate at the cafe there. I had yogurt that tastes like the home made kind my mother used to make and “cure” in the linen closet. Mine had wonderful honey poured over it.

As we left, I again spied out of the corner of my eye, an acrobat. Andrea and I ran to see him and when we were close we realized that it was someone swirling ropes of fire. He was being photographed in front of the Zappeion so I guess it wasn’t a formal show. He repeated his act, though and I took pictures which I hope come out. Mike, in the meantime, wandered off to the restaurant a few yards away. The restaurant was showing MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING in the back to a party of diners.

The Gardens are filled with evening strollers and it is curious no one feels afraid. They stroll quite freely in the semi-darkness.  I certainly did not fear to walk the streets at night and we often did so.

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation II

My Big Fat Greek Vacation II

The airport in Rhodes was crowded when we left. There were mostly people from northern Europe and a lot of chain smokers. I changed my seat in the waiting area a million times to get away from the smoke. Phillip Morris will never go out of business. Those of you who are from northern Europe on my email list, I love you all, but I’m allergic to the stuff.

Beach Chios, Greece

Beach Chios, Greece

By contrast, the airport in Chios was crowded with Greeks. Our driver met us and took us to a hotel in Vrondatos which is right outside of Hora, the capital. The drive through Hora was interesting because it was busier, bigger, and more crowded than I realized it would be. There is a paralia (coastline in Greek). Here it is a place where you can walk for the evening or whatever. The paralia runs the length of the coastline and passes by waterfront, hotels, tavernas, shops, and two Internet cafes. (Information provided by Mike.) There are many boats of all descriptions in the waterfront and some medieval ruins. My favorites were the three windmills standing together in a row. Further inland is the fortress that once encircled the town. It is not whole like the one in Rhodes and the old town apparently was not preserved.

We arrived on the eve of the Feast Day of Agia Markella, the patron saint of Chios. The hotel where we stayed was also called Agia Markella, and it is an old fashioned hotel. The front (which you access by climbing steps!) is filled with large clay pots of flowers and a small, very blue pool. I can best describe it by calling it Old World. Chios is like that, too.

Our concierge informed us that a rental car was not available even though the poor woman made a lot of phone calls for us. The cars were rented because everyone was going to the Monastery that night and the next day, to worship. Instead we secured a driver who agreed to take us to Kardamyla, my mother’s birthplace, Nea Moni monastery, and the Mastihohoria (the “Mastic villages”). We decided not to go to Agia Markella monastery because my husband would not have enjoyed the zoo atmosphere created by the swell of people.

We decided to walk the paralia and look for a restaurant. We found two that had no patrons (no one eats dinner early, that’s why) so we decided to keep looking. I asked an old man if he knew of any. Before he could answer a woman overheard him and offered to walk with us to the nearest one. We chatted about Kardamyla because her aunt lived there but we didn’t recognize each other’s family names. Anyway, we reached the restaurant and had a delicious dinner. The dessert was provided by the owner at no extra charge: fresh plums and miniature pears (home grown, I’m willing to bet). PS: The owners were not relatives of the woman who took us there. (Surprise! No kick back!)

Our driver, Vasilis, picked us up on time (another first) the next morning and drove north through Daskalopetra (the Rock of the Teacher). We saw the (big) Rock of the Teacher which is where Homer taught his students. He was allegedly born there.

The drive along the coast was just as breathtaking, in my opinion, as the drive around Rhodes. The mountains are rocky and stark in their beauty and the sea below was a true blue. The sky was clear and the sun was hot and getting hotter.

We drove past many small towns and saw the small island of Inoussa off the coast of Chios which is where my goddaughter’s family is from. We didn’t go there but some day……We finally reached Kardamyla from the top which is called Pano (upper) Kardamyla. It is your typical village with stucco houses and narrow, winding (paved) paths. We passed the church which was celebrating the liturgy. The windows were open so that the men in the coffee house across the street could hear the service and have their cup of java at the same time.

Then we entered Kato (lower) Kardamyla which is our neighborhood. It is by the waterfront and so picturesque with the boats bobbing in the sea and the cafenia (coffee houses) lining the paralia there. As always, as I came to realize, there is the requisite bust of Some One Important to the Town. I didn’t chance to find out who it was but I saw my mother’s family house which sits partly in the water and partly on land. I don’t see how eight kids plus two parents ever fit in that house. We didn’t linger but took some photos.

Among the many horia (“villages”) that we saw was the village of Anavastos which sits on a mountain top. It can be covered by fog in winter and it is invisible from down below. It is surrounded by mountain tops that are higher than it is and that probably contributes to the invisibility. On top of the mountain a medieval fortress and the town which surrounded it are still standing. The houses are not the worse for wear. We stopped to look and take pictures and I bought rose petal preserves and home made honey. There are a lot of honey bee hives in Chios – little boxes which are often painted blue.

We also a saw a monument built in memory of the villagers who were killed by Turks during the War of 1821. Another village is a popular weekend destination for Chians. The houses are not stucco but built out of the rocks and stones of the mountains.

Occasionally, we would see an old man riding his donkey. This is something that you just don’t see frequently anymore.

We saw Nea Moni (New Monastery) from the mountain top and entered the property as we descended. It is surrounded by tall fir trees. The monastery is not in the best condition but it has an interesting history and a collection of skulls and bones of our Chian ancestors from the massacre. These are real and are housed in a chapel near the church. The blood stains are still evident on the floor of the church, too. Andrea saw a stray cat and befriended it.

There are dozens and more stray cats and dogs in Greece. We got some holy water for a neighbor and continued to the Mastic Villages. They were a lot of fun for me. The mastic tree only grows in Chios. Mastic is used for making gum among other things including a liqueur called Mastiha. (The best way to describe it is mastic flavored ouzo. Good for various ailments.)

The tree’s trunk literally glitters because the mastic comes from the sap of the tree. The younger the tree, the better the sap, and you can only harvest the tree a few times. Then you have to move on to another tree. In these villages the old medieval streets are better preserved although smaller than in Rhodes. We ate at an outdoor cafe which gave us a shot of Masticha liqueur on the house which was fresh and excellent. I haven’t tasted it in years. We bought a handful of souvenirs and walked round the old town. More stray dogs and cats.

(BTW, American and Chinese scientists have been to and are returning to the Mastic villages to research the possible cancer curing properties of mastic.)

Then we headed for the ceramic villages but we didn’t stop. Our last stop was St. Minas which also houses skulls and bones and the blood stains on the floor to the old church. The original edifice was burned down during another massacre.

Our trip lasted eight and a half hours. We circled the whole island and I think Vasili, our drive,r was wonderful. I think we wore him out. He was so informative and very professional.

That night we went into Hora to see the parade of people along the paralia and to eat dinner under the stars. The coast of Turkey is illuminated cross the water. The breeze alone is wonderful considering we were battling 95 degree heat during the day. Upon reflection, Chios is the real Greece, not Rhodes which is beautiful but overrun with tourists. (Although who really knows?) I overheard an old man complaining about them in old Rhodes city and he was right. But Chios is unspoiled and is still the Fragrant Island. (Our hotel even had a small orchard in the back.)

I forgot to mention two things about Chios. The beach near our hotel had sand as well as rocks and no nude bathers (!) We passed a town, Pyrgi, which was once the (temporary) home of Christopher Columbus. He married one of his two wives there. The outstanding thing was the architecture of the stucco buildings. They were painted with geometric designs and I did not see this anywhere else on my trip.

The next day we left for Athens. I said goodbye to my wind mills but I promised myself I would return. Even Mike said so! To be continued…

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation I

My Big Fat Greek Vacation I
Mosque Old City Rhodes,Greece

Mosque Old City Rhodes, Greece

NOTE: My Big Fat Greek Vacation blogs were written in 2002. There’s more to Greece than its current economic problems. I hope my blogs will show readers not familiar with Greece another side of  the Greek people and their country.

Hi. I’m back. (I’m not sure I want to be back but that’s the reality I face.) We flew to Rhodes from Athens. Rhodes is beautiful.Unfortunately, we only had two days there. We got to our hotel and went straight to the beach; it was right in front of our hotel.

Andrea immediately became  “grossed out” at the topless bathers. Well, not everyone was topless. Some of them that were, shouldn’t be topless. I was struck by the fact that the tourists were rather reserved for all that. No one said hello if they didn’t know you even if some of them came from the same country. They were mostly from northern Europe.

I spoke Greek to the hotel employees and they seemed thrilled to find someone who knows their native language. They wanted to know when I left Rhodes to go to America. I told them I was never here in the first place. Mike and I rented a car and drove all over the island. He loved driving. It felt like a Formula 44 race the way they drive there.

 I was struck by the medieval history of Rhodes.  There is a castle on a promontory  near the town of Lindos. It is lit up in the evening.  The outline of the castle against the night sky and the sound of the Med washing on the rocks below is a visual and aural experience. The town of Lindos is composed of narrow, winding, cobblestone streets with  lots of shops and restaurants.  The native population is hidden away, I think.  We ate at a hole in the wall which had great food and smelled the jasmine spilling over the courtyard walls.

Jasmine and kebabs grilling…as Mike would say, it doesn’t get any better than that:)

We also saw the old city of Rhodes. The populace loves to ride their motorbikes through the narrow, winding, cobblestone streets. Everyone just gets out of their way. Walking through there is like going through a labyrinth. Many shops, tavernas, an Internet café, etc., but real people actually live in the small, windowless houses. It is a real neighborhood where the locals know one another. The houses open on to central courtyards which sometimes are visible from the front of the house (if the doors are left open).

There is a big old castle at the top of the hill and an old mosque (closed to the public). Actually there are two mosques. the second one is near one of the Internet cafes. The castle is now a museum and it houses antiquities from a site that was excavated somewhere on the island. There were mosaic floors similar to the ones I’ve seen in Cyprus. Great castle. Someone remarked that the fireplace would be a wonderful place to roast a whole lamb.

There is an Ottoman house under renovation that is open to the public for free. It was interesting to see because it had an indoor bathroom. The high walls and door open to a courtyard with an inactive fountain.

We also saw the new city of Rhodes located outside the old walls and surrounded by an empty moat. There is a casino and one of the most crowded beaches I ever saw. The beaches here have pebbles. I didn’t see any sand or seashells anywhere.

Another observation: the cicadas never stop their incessant “singing.” You can hear them very clearly on the islands and you can see them everywhere.

We also slept out on the beach on beach chairs one night. The sky is covered with stars. The dark mountains form a silhouette against the even darker sky and you hear the sea crash against the shore.

Next stop: Chios.

 

 

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