Internet Point, module #11
DISCLAIMER REGARDING FOLLOWING LOG: I feel it is necessary to apologize to those of you who have not watched the movie "A Room With a View" to the point of knowing it intimately like my family and I (or at all). Just bear with me and note that phrases in both quotes and italics are meant to be in an English accent.
As I touched on in the last Log, we made it to Italy a bit later than initially intended (which probably has a lot to do with the fact that this trip has been based entirely on intentions rather than actual plans, in fact the only entity known to possess an actual itinerary for us is the universe itself). Thus, we are here, along with- as Marlon put it- Everybody Else and their mother, cousin, sister, and aunt (hi, Mom, Brynna, Angelique, and Aunt Sally! Wish you were here!). Obviously, the less positive side of this is that when I am attempting to photograph famous monuments from the best possible angle, when we are ambling wide-eyed through the historical streets with our gelato and, indeed, when we are kissing in some of the most picturesque locales in the world, we are doing it in the same elbow space as Everybody Else and their mother, cousin, sister, and aunt. The more positive side of this is that we are discovering just how expeditiously and thoroughly we can experience and see all of the quintessential elements of a city (and indeed, some of the well-kept secrets) in the same amount of time it takes the average tourist to put their bags down and change some money.
Starting with Rome:
Possessing an entirely new lease on life with the aid of our freshly-laundered garments, we set off to see what Rome was all about (obviously a crucial step to living out the old adage, when in Rome...).
First was Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel, which we'd anticipated popping in and out of though it turned out to get to the chapel you were required to tour the entire Vatican Museum (and pay for it, monetarily and otherwise), and not even in a fashion of our own choosing but as specifically dictated to us by ropes and arrows (I suppose it was only fitting, as their religion doesn't allow one to wander from the path either). All in all, I left there with additional admiration for the involved artists, the severest case of claustrophobia I've ever experienced, and basically just feeling creeped out beyond description. Oh, and confused: if anyone has an explanation for there being a brass replica of The Death Star (from the Star Wars movies) in the Vatican courtyard, please let me know. Seriously.
From there we proceeded to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and Constantine's Arch, and treaded on half of Rome in the process. We also completely accidentally stumbled across some ruins and the colossal building Italians refer to as "The Typewriter"- I can't remember its actual name- though I'm sure I'll surprise none of you when I admit that the highlight of the day for me was bonding with the carriage horses outside the Colosseum. In fact, my demeanor was so noticeably improved by the encounter that Marlon has vowed to find me a horse to pet at every opportunity!
From Rome it was on to Pisa, the true City of Love as far as I'm concerned. From the moment we arrived at the train station, everywhere there were couples engaged in passionate affection, and overall the place had the purest frequency of anywhere we've yet been. We were stopping there only for one night and only because its Leaning Tower is quintessential Italy, though both Pisa and its famous monument ended up utterly enchanting us, despite- or perhaps because of- us viewing it all after dark. (The Star Essence Angels will be tickled to hear that I dropped some Earth Balancing Essence at the base of the askew monument- the security guards seemed unable to decide whether or not this was a threat, so they let it be.)
Leaving Pisa wasn't easy, though we had Florence to look forward to. As soon as we were shown to our room, I went to the window and (after fumbling briefly with the modern window latch) said with a delicate English pout, "I thought we were going to see the Arno." (Which was fun despite being ridiculous, as we'd lost the volition to carry our bags any further a full fifteen minutes away from the river. Of course, it became even more ridiculous when there was a mix-up regarding how many nights we were staying and we were required to move to a different hotel the very next day, giving me a second opportunity to say it- which I took. This also allowed us to humor ourselves extensively by doing our own take on "Don't you agree that on one's first visit to Florence one must have a room with a view?" by saying, "Don't you agree that on one's first visit to Florence one must have a... room?")
Florence was every bit as profound and raw and beautiful as A Room With a Viewportrayed it, though I envied Miss Honeychurch's near solitude while exploring the city's sights, as Everybody Else (etc.) were out en force! Nonetheless, we bought postcards, strolled Piazza della Signoria and indeed, got lost in Santa Croce with no Baedeker (guidebook), where we also experienced "A true Florentine smell: Inhale my dear- deeper!". Overall, I would have to say that Florence solidified my transfiguration with Italy ("And why should she not be transfigured? It happened to the Gods"), as well as, obviously, confirmed my sad obsession with movie lines. (Marlon took it all in quite good humor, considering that he's only seen the film in question once.)
Then there is Venice. We both experienced thrills of excitement as we initially laid eyes on one of the most romantically renowned cities in the world, as it is every bit as beautific and surreal as any picture or film ever portrayed it, in fact more so. However, right away I felt an underlying unease that the colorful buildings and celebratory atmosphere couldn't mask, and had a sneaking suspicion that the reason for it rhymed with daunted.
After a much-needed siesta in our room at Casa Peron (the reception of which is dominated by a large green parrot who prefers to answer the day's "Polly want a cracker?" queries at 5am), we headed out for dinner under skies rolling with dark clouds and distant thunder. By the time we finished what we mutually agreed were our best pizzas yet, it was drizzling and the canals reflected purple lightening branches in the skies above. We grabbed our sweatshirts and my camera and dove into the dark, labyrinthine streets, holding to each other to avoid falling on the rain-slicked stones. We quickly discovered that the broader, more easily traversable corridors tended to lead nowhere, and the narrow, uneven little alleys where two people could barely walk shoulder to shoulder tended to be main thoroughfares... sometimes. Also, the most direct route, or indeed, any route, was never the one indicated by the signs... for the most part. Sort of. Basically we were almost kinda lost all of the time but having a blast anyway (as were a trio of girls who spontaneously broke into song and dance through the puddles). We finally made it to bed at 2am, and I dreamed of ghosts. No surprise then, that I awoke a few hours later to an etheric vase being repeatedly hurled at the wall, only to start the pattern over before ever shattering. Also, men in cloaks were marching through the room five abreast, and a small-statured shadow on the stairs could have been child or goblin. I snuggled into Marlon's embrace and managed to fall asleep again, with thoughts that Santa Fe, NM. was no longer the most haunted city I'd ever been to...
We are here in otherworldly Venice for another few days and then where we go, only the universe knows! The only thing that is apparent at this point is needing to get to France within the next week if we are to make Amsterdam by our deadline.
Punti BolleBlu' (Laundromat/Internet Access)
Ever since Crete, the Quest for Adventure had been forced to share the stage with the Quest for Laundry, as the hero and heroine's garments have been stinking as much as their Greek and Italian (repetitions of "Dove lavanderia?" - Italian, "Where is the Laundromat?"- have not improved the latter much at this point). It was a great stroke of fortune that Milos had a place that would do our laundry for us, though we had not encountered anything similar since (we kept being falsely directed to dry cleaners) until this evening!
Si, we are in Italy!
Ironically, moving between countries was the smoothest, most spontaneous transition we've made yet. After a pleasant few days in Olympia, we caught the bus back to Pyrgos (where we played foosball at the station with an hysterically primitive and monolithic wooden table- hi, Portia and Wadrien!), then on to the port city of Patras. Fortunately our Eurail Passes gave us substantial discount on ferry tickets, as it was another over-nighter and we were both adamant in having a cabin this time. Also fortunately- and as if to deliberately contradict everything we'd been saying being our other ferries' backs- "Blue Star 1" was more cruise liner than ferry, equipped with three bars, two restaurants, a casino, Internet access (which we didn't make it to before the signal went out), and apparently, naval technical somethingerather that would probably be of great interest only to my dad (hi, Dad!).
Landing on the port city of Bari in Italy was akin to landing on another planet. All of a sudden there was a whole other language to deal with, and we may as well have been Greek for all of the Greek that kept instinctfully coming to the edge of our tongues. After a rather harrowing time getting to the train station- not to mention negotiating the train station itself- we decided on a direction and went with it. Our delayed arrival in Italy required us to bypass the Amalfi Coast- and unfortunately, as a result, Pompeii- due to sky-rocketed high season prices (not to mention our being short on time), so we made for Rome and got as far as the coastal city of Pescara that day. As a result, my first impression of Italy was half carnival, half horror circus: Pescara certainly knew how to have fun, but it was in such an over-the-top, in-your-face fashion that one wasn't sure whether to jump in or run the other direction... Particularly from the kilometers and kilometers of umbrellas with two lounge chairs apiece lined up in military fashion down the length of the beach. Some of these people had to walk a kilometer just to take a swim, but it didn't seem to deter them from enjoyment!
Another train ride through the breath-taking Tuscan countryside and we arrived in Rome- we were at an entirely different station than we had anticipated, but we were here. After all, would it be a true MarandAr entrance if we didn't have to do a 60 minute clueless dance?
Regardless, we managed to get ourselves to Pensione Ester, which is in a positively magical and charming old building and requires clearance through three different gates/doors and buzzers (and is ferociously guarded by the sweetest little bundle of canine since Toto), and speaking of which, we have to get back before midnight curfew!
Epathlon Internet Cafe
Olympia, Peloponnese - Greece
Kalimera! (Good morning!) Or if it is the case, Kalispera! (Good afternoon!)
It is officially well beyond the point that I would typically have since returned home from a trip, which is evidenced by the current sense of normalcy in living out of a backpack and having no idea what my next bed will look like, whether my shower will be hot, nor indeed what the people at the next table are saying! In fact, it is the lack of normalcy which now feels "normal" to Marlon and I- not that either of us were ever terribly normal to begin with, but we didn't always do a happy dance because a toilet had a seat cover. The only thing we can truly predict is unpredictability, and we've come to expect that Greece loves to throw us curveballs- mostly pertaining to getting from one place to another- and test our confidence a bit (it also loves to do this with exaggerated impatience, like it should have been soooooo obvious that we had to purchase tickets 3 kilometers away from the port).
One thing we have down pat is the re-acclimation process required every time we come to a new place. We've whittled this down to about five hours, and it basically consists of returning to preschool for the day. First we go on a field trip, then we have Snack, then it's Nap Time, and then depending on our grogginess levels we may have Play Time, which you're welcome to interpret however you like because I'm sure you will anyway. Bottom line is, we have to smack ourselves on the side of the head every once and awhile to remind ourselves we're in Europe, because we've adjusted to it so extremely that it feels like average life!
Anyhow, that's partly how these Logs come into play, so let's get on with it.
After a long, long, looooong "sleep" on the overnight ferry, which not only smelled but stank (we quickly learned that staying low to the ground was the best way to avoid excessive fume inhalation- stop, drop and roll), we entered into a love/arrrrggghhh! relationship with Crete.
The renowned Cretan hospitality made itself known right away, when our hotel owner insisted not only on driving us to the bus station, but that we join him for a home-cooked lunch by his wife. It was certainly our most authentic Greek meal of the trip, and actually one of the very best, despite- or perhaps because of- the fact that all of its components were like islands drifting in a sea of olive oil.
This positive experience was immediately followed by the city of Hersonissos, which Marlon quickly took to referring to as "shithole", even before we were ripped off by the rental car grease balls. The frustration we experienced was such that we occupied a good chunk of time researching Greek insults in our phrasebook (we were particularly amused by piecing together Arnold Schwarzenegger lines in Greek, i.e., "Ohi simfonia" = "No deal") (you have to add the Arnie accent for true effect, obviously).
Anyhow, our only reason for even stopping in "shithole" was its proximity to the village of Avdou and Odesseyia Stables, though the stables' website had failed to mention the lack of accommodation in Avdou, nor that, more importantly, they were closed.
Thus we ended up driving aimlessly around the mountains late that night, searching for a hotel. Eventually we pulled into a taverna, interrupting a group of elderly village ladies it seemed likely were partaking in some local gossip. If we'd landed in a space pod they couldn't have looked at us with more surprise, but one of them understood "hotel" and said, "Mochos," indicating something further up the mountain. (This was then followed by several finger gestures which could have indicated kilometers, euro, or the number of grandchildren she had for all we knew, but we thanked her and moved on.)
It was after 10pm when we found Hotel Mary. We'd been bracing ourselves for another truly ghetto experience, so we were pleasantly surprised by the clean, aesthetic exterior that greeted us, shortly followed by three little yap dogs in varying shades of gray and a large German Shepard. The hotel owner was a small, gentle gentleman in his 60s, who seemed surprised not so much by the late hour, as our demographic (anyone else our age would have been back in shithole, dancing on a bar by now). (Sorry, almost anyone- we miss you, Portia!)
After a brief stop at the powerful ruins of Knossos (where I found the cheesy recreations to be incongruent with my inner impressions of the place), we proceeded on to Omalos and the Samaria Gorge.
Samaria Gorge is the longest ravine in Europe and a 13 kilometer hike from one spectacular end to the other. Unfortunately, we hadn't thought ahead about all of our stuff and hotel being on only one end, so we had to hike in then turn around. This still came out to about 10 kilometers- 3 of which were steep inclines with unstable footing- so we were quite proud of ourselves (Roger Valencia will be pleased to know that his hat went along for the trek, and even tried to leave me behind once or twice for forgetting to inhale-exhale properly).
Marlon's knee starting giving him horrible pain early on, which necessitated an exceptional amount of strength and determination on his part- making him Warrior in addition to Musician and Magician! However, this also necessitated that I learn to drive stick shift, and leave it to me to do this in conditions even the most experienced manualer might balk at. With my I-can-do-anything-they-can-do in full gear and Marlon proving once again what a man he is (by not only agreeing to actually ride in the car with me, but coaching with all of the patience and lack of condescending a strong-willed woman like myself requires), we set off on the narrow mountain roads, full of hazards like mountain goats our car would lose any battle with and, especially, Greek drivers with no regard for lanes. Our sense of humor remained in check however as I screeched and lurched and eventually stalled us into Sougia ("Nothing to see here, people, go back to your meals.").
Sougia turned out to be by far the highlight of Crete, not bad considering we chose it randomly on the map merely for its proximity to the beach. Though we could only linger there for one night (staying in the aptly-named "Paradiso"), all of our stresses washed away in the exceptionally buoyant waters and we knew a calm and relaxation we'd almost forgotten (we also got our cheapest meals yet and the first "salad" with a humane ratio of dressing to lettuce! Yay!). The most memorable thing for me I'm sure will be the local kid gang, comprised of both genders and a variety of elementary ages, and all of whom seemed to have perpetually just devoured something chocalotey. They were around constantly, climbing trees, dancing along the low stone walls, or chasing one another with water pistols. Marlon and I speculated what it would be like to grow up with such a diverse and tight-knit posse in an idyllic place like Sougia.
After Sougia it was on to the port town of Kissamos ("Kissa-me-os!" Marlon said, and I was happy to oblige), where after a wild goose chase that I won't go into, we caught a ferry to the mainland. (Deck class was completely sold out, so we simply had no choice but to get our own cabin, yes what torture.)
We got into the port city of Kalamata in the Peloponnese around 7pm, where we quickly became enlightened to the fact that there was not a single room available in the whole place! (Apparently school had just gotten out and every soul in Athens had fled there- we would have fled in their situation too, though to us Kalamata seemed not much of an improvement over Athens.) We hopped a taxi to the bus station and were told that we would certainly find a room in Messinia, and there happened to be a bus leaving at 9:00. Okay. Problem was, once we got there we discovered there was only one hotel, and they too were full. Marlon was starting to entertain the idea of sleeping on the beach, and not happily, but synchronicities were occurring in such a way that I felt confident we would be fine (every last coin between us had come to exactly 2 euro, the cost of the bus tickets).
Fortunately, our taxi driver seemed as dedicated to finding us a place to stay as we were, and 5 kilometers outside of town we eventually found solace at Sias Hotel Bungalows, a secluded resort 200 meters from the beach that we never would have found if the circumstances had been different. It blew the bank a little bit, but it was only one night. We concluded that the universe simply had a really roundabout way of totally hooking us up (despite the fact that the toilet didn't flush and they didn't provide blankets).
Now here we are in Olympia, and we're content to be "settled" for a little while ("settled" being anywhere we stay three nights, or more- Milos being the only case for that).
Tomorrow is our six month anniversary! It is also Summer Solstice, and we intend to visit the ancient Olympia ruins, where the very first Olympics game took place! It is interesting to contemplate what sort of Solstice ceremonies might have taken place there in ancient times...
P.S. Seeing as we will be departing for Italy imminently, I would like to leave you with the following...
MarandAr's SUMMATION OF GREECE:
1. Tomatoes: whether you bloody well like it or not! In fact, even if you request something specifically without tomatoes, they find a way to give them to you anyway, even if they have to get rather creative with the garnish.
2. Mountain Goats: which have the same population as Athens and are dramatically more intelligent than the average pedestrian about crossing the road.
3. Homeless Cats: In some cities, the most- or solitary- enchanting thing about the place.
4. Accommodation: Most Greeks will go out of their way to make sure you're happy, and we've witnessed more than a few restaurant owners hop on their bikes to go fetch fruit for our quintessential daily fruit salad. In fact, we've speculated humorously on the trail of perplexed Greeks we've probably left in our wake: "Who are these goofy, albeit gracious, people going around ordering fruit salads? Can't they survive on bread and tomatoes (see #1) like normal people?"
5. Buses: which are regarded as the primary and most superior form of travel here, and which they almost seem to delight in making as difficult as possible for travelers to utilize.
6. Phenomenal Beaches: if you look hard enough, and both the beaches and the adventures that inevitably occur in the process are well worth the looking!
7. Ferries: you really don't want us to go into it.
8. Fresh Orange Juice: literally and actually fresh, and available EVERYWHERE!
9. Inhumane Amounts of Salad Dressing: not enough, or way too much! More frequently, there is an inch-thick layer of mayonnaise-like goop on the top, which we subsequently have to scoop off and find a resourceful place to put, usually the ashtray (more resourceful uses for ashtrays could be a Log in and of itself).
10. Cryptology Games: One result of us constantly wandering back roads and my scrutinizing the map for hours is that I have acquired a basic grasp of the Greek alphabet. I don't know what anything actually means, mind you, but I can sound it out, and we have spent considerable time amusing ourselves with "reading" signs, menus, buses...
Du Lac Music Cafe
Agios Nikolaos, Crete - Greece
*The dominant Greek word we know, which our phrasebook defines as "hello", though the Greeks seem to use it like "aloha", appropriate for all sorts of gracious occasions.
It seems I have kept a number of you in great suspense! As I'm sure occurred to you, Internet access on the islands was non-existent or limited to strange hours like after 8pm, which is a bloody inconvenient time when you've been on an epic beach safari all afternoon and don't even get around to showering and eating dinner until 9pm. Anyhow, I myself have been anxious to get back to the keyboard, as I have a severe case of "writer's mind" and it can get clogged up with strange fragments of experiences until properly channeled, and thus processed... Thus I very much appreciate all of the enthusiasm I have received for these Logs!
Where were we? Ah.
Vibrational alchemist, writer, artistic mystic, pack mama and spiritual adventurer living in The Goodland - Goleta, CA. Creator of Lioness Energetics.
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