Ioannina (small city northern Greece near Albania)
Saturday Jennie and rode a bus from Kalambaka to Ioannina, which was very beautiful... Driving through the mountains, the sun gradually following us, curious as to what possiblely could call us away from spectacular Meteora, we drove in and out of clouds and around bends that did not agree with Jennie's stomach, which unfortunately rejected her yogurt and honey breakfast in protest. I was alright, though. Everyone on the bus agreed that it was the quietest and most polite "sick" that they had ever witnessed. Coming down the mountain into Ioninna, the city was completely blanketed by cloud. Above it was a beautiful sunny morning, beneath it was almost depressingly gloomy, and sort of reminded us of certain parts of Michigan along the highways in rainy/snowy November (minus the snow) But within a few hours it cleared and was very nice. We walked around near the Kastro, which is a little residential area with a think stone wall near a lake-- quintessential Greek setting, I loved every minute of it and went back early the next morning to take pictures. We stopped by a tavernaki (cute little taverna) for lunch, and meet a jovial old Greek man. His name was Christos, short, little red motor bike riding, bourree wearing magician. He spoke several languages because he used to be a tight rope walker in a traveling circus, but now, he does magic shows-- but not like David Copperfield, he clarified, which was all high tech smoke and mirrors, not anything that real magicians would dapple with. Latter Jennie and I walked around Ali Pasha's mosque, did a few prostrations, etc. Ali Pasha-- not a nice man; According to my guide book, he was a "ignomious, swashbuckling tyrant" who "used the city as a base for his fiefdom which extended across much of Western Greece into modern-day Albania." All I can Say is that the mosque was beautiful. On out way out of the kastro we saw some men our age breaking into some cars... Don't worry, I suppressed that which is my mother inside of me and pretended not to notice them instead of going over there are telling them just what's what :-) At sunset, we walked along the lake and watched the snowy mountain peaks turn pink. Its fall in Greece, though in Athens you wouldn't know it. In Ioannina, the leaves have turned yellow and have begun to fall off the trees that line the lake and cobblestone streets. It was very comforting to brush through them as we walked along. That evening we heard music coming from inside a cafe, and, as we have been meaning to see some live music together, wne t in to listen. They were just rehearsing, and so I still have the few bars stuck in my head-- catchy. Jennie slaughtered me at checkers (next time we go Chinese and she wont stand a chance!) and we left for dinner at "1900 Cafe restaurant"- a very nice place housed in an old Jewish Mansion. We had mushroom rissoto, nice chicken, and the very friendly chef just kept pouring glasses of syllogi Kondi- my new favorite wine. After, we stumbled back to the taverna to meet Christos the magician, who poured us more wine, entertaining us with circus tales before Jennie had to catch her bus back to Athens.
The next day I woke early for a walk and some coffee. In the cafe, it is typical for street sellers to come up to your table and ask you to buy whatever random thing they are selling, and you brush them off. Something was different about this particular CD seller. He gave every man a pounder, every child a hug and a twirl, every woman a kiss on the check. He sat and chatted... over all a very peasant friendly character. So I decided to buy some CD's. He helped me pick out a few, absolutely delighted that I was an "Americana," his sister is in Texas. His name was Chuka, from Ethiopia, and we will meet again in Athens, I hope. For lunch Christos took me for some sipro and mezes- giant beans, psariki (ting fish you eat whole, looks disgusting, very delicious) and macaroni's. The Ouzery was as predicted filled with old Greek men, looking at football scores, appearing tired but content. Ioannina is full of young couples and old farts- my favorite mix. One step off the bus and the only faces I saw were Albanian- I was so happy. Athens, as big as it is, one would think it would be less homogeneously Greek. Ioannina- Beautiful, Cultural, Lively, but Quaint- go there next time you are in Greece.