Thursday, November 09, 2006

During fall break, my friend Nikos took me on a road trip to see a few small Greek towns and villages along the sea and in the mountains of lower-northern Greece. I told him that I wanted to see real Greece, not Big cities or touristy islands, and it was fabulous. Above is picture of the view of the village he grew up in, Analipsi, from his Uncle's house. (More on that later).

We first drove about 3 hours out of Athens to the seaside down of Nafpoktos, which if you look on a map is directly across the water from the Pelloponese port town Patras. It was very nice, though I could see how in the summer it would be crawling with beach tourists. We stayed at a nice hotel that had a balcony that looked out onto the water, and the weather was beautiful. Nikos sometimes worked there during the summer months, and so I met lots of people. It was nice to just sit on our balcony or at a cafe in the sun and breeze, take a siesta, go for a walk along the water, eat a nice dinner, etc.

<-- does anyone know what kind of bird this is? very strange. It was hanging out with a...flock(?) of ducks.

The next day we got up early and drove to a small village called Monistraki. The place was almost dead quiet, and I was taken to a little taverna/cafe to have some cafe ellinika (Greek coffee, thicker like Turkish, sort of). I felt like I was in a movie or something... and this feeling stayed with me for the rest of my trip. It was so beautiful and so peaceful. (replace the empty coffee cups above with Corona bottles and you got yourself a commercial)

So when I was told that I was for sure going to Greece back in August, I decided that I needed to find out a bit about the country before hand. I went to the Leelanau Township Library, and checked out some language audio cassettes (sorry for the late fee, mom) and a movie on Greece that I'm pretty sure was made in the 1980's. In the video, they made some (what I thought were) ridiculous and outdated assurstions about Greece. One of them was that only Greek men hang out at cafes; women meet at church. Well let me tell you, this is still the case. I think it is fair to say that all over Greece, the most popular pass time is sitting at a cafe and drinking coffee all day long. In Athens, everyone does this. In all the rural towns I visited on this trip, the cafes were solely populated with men, primarily elderly men. They sit, drink, sometimes in silence, sometimes they move to talk with some other man or watch football on television, but no women frequent these cafes. I can only assume they were in church. it was exactly like the movie I saw, except I was there, hanging out with old Greek men, talking about election results and football scores. I was giddy the entire time, needless to say.

After Monistraki, we drove up through the mountains on roads with hairpin bends, all the while listening to Greek pop and Bazokia music (more on Bazokias later...) on the radio. Greek pop is pretty popular (haha..Sorry) but there really aren't that many different songs that came on the radio, so by day two I was singing along. I'll have to bring bask so Hip Hop cd's and give you all a performance. So mountains: beautiful. I'm just glad that it didn't rain on the trip, because I'm sure we would have died on those corners.


(side note for my mother: you see these talk skinny trees, the ones that look like they were waxed like candles? well, I'm pretty sure we have one in our yard, and i'm pretty sure I have always hated it. But now that I see these kind of trees everywhere in Greece, I think they are gorgeous, so, good choice).

We arrived in Analipsi, and we went to Nikos aunt and Uncle's house where I met some of his cousins and his aunt Maria was preparing food. No one spoke English, of course, apart from one man whom every called "the American." It was a bit frustrating for me because I would catch about every fifth word they were saying, and then when I was spoken to, I would respond in English and then five seconds later remember how to say whatever it was in Greek. My vocab is good, but sentence formation... etsi ki etsi. Most of the time I just smiled and shrugged like a idiot, spitting out "yes, no, very good, and thank you". We decided to come back later when the food was ready, and he took me to a river that he used to play in as a kid. Here is a picture of Niko being a mountain man, spearing a fish for me, how nice.

we stopped by a near by village called Poros (not the island) for a snack before lunch, and Niko ordered us submarines, a popular sweet treat for kids. This is what came out to us: A spoon, with taffy on the end-- in a glass of water. Bizarre. The idea is that you eat the taffy, and when it gets too sweet for you, you take a sip of water. "very efficient" was the only thing I could come up with to say about it. And it was very sweet, I couldn't finish mine. They come in all colors and flavors, so you know.

In the cafe with the submarines, I went in to your the W.C and when I came out I saw this woman:

She was preparing olives for jarring, which apparently involves beating them with a rock. I was so excited when I saw her; couldn't wipe the smile off my face. After, we went to the village monastery. It was little and quiet, and quite beautiful. There, we met a nun, who gave us a piture of water and some candies, which I found out is the common thing to do when visitors come to monasteries. I was eating my candy while they talked, and she asked me if I like Greece. I responded that the candy was very good. Nikos and I lit candles, and he described all the paintings and mosaics to me. It was perfect.

We went back to the house and had some amazing tiropita (cheese pie), stuffed peppers, tomatosalada, and other traditional Greek food. Siesta, and out for another meal and another sit at his Uncle's coffee shop. By this time, I actually had a few conversations with some of the men, which was a bit redeeming. That night we had homemade apple pie. You can imagine how excited I was-- apple pie in October? how perfect!! I played with Georgia, Niko's 4 year old cousin, sooooo cute. Basically, I asked her what all of her stuffed animals were (Ti einai afto? Ti einai?) and she answered, so amused that I didn't know what they were. As I was going to bed, she kissed me and whispered in my ear "S'agapaw" ("I love you"). I about died she was so cute! We got up early the next morning to drive back to Athens, all too soon. I hope to fit in another trip like this before I leave Greece. Athens is great, but it really isn't... Greece. On this trip I saw Greece, back to Athens I was returning to "Europe" as Athens is now.


Post a Comment

<< Home