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...
Vibrational alchemist, writer, artistic mystic, pack mama and spiritual adventurer living in The Goodland - Goleta, CA. Creator of Lioness Energetics.
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