At first sight, I thought it had lost its fascination.
But after a little while, it all came back.
I have always prayed and asked God for two things:
To let me live until my children have grown up and don’t need me anymore
to let me travel to Greece one more time (or may be twice….or……- am I too greedy?).
I am so grateful that God has granted me both wishes.
Greece has something special which is difficult to find words for and I won’t even try to describe it. It may be something that not everyone feels, but Greece is special to me; I hold it dear to my heart.
Is it the constant sunshine? So reliable, just like in Australia. Is it its barren, dry landscape?
Is it its people, friendly, simple people, a life away from all the hustle and bustle?
Is it the steel blue Mediterranean Sea, crystal clear and always so refreshing to jump in?
It could be its food, too, I guess: Greek salad, olives, feta, fresh fish, grilled vegetables, moussaka, always prepared in olive oil and with fresh herbs. Or is it the wine? Retsina, and the white house wine are my favourites.
How else can I share my special affection for this country and its culture, landscape and people?
Just take this bus driver.
Every day, he drives tourists around the island of Foligandros.
He is about my age, or a bit older. He is a very careful bus driver and I trust him with my life, every day. He beeps his horn at every bend in the road, he is never in a hurry and speeding is as alien to him as a sprint to a snail. He takes his time, “cigar, cigar” (slowly, slowly), before he finally gets started, having a chat with the locals before departure. If this means delaying our departure by five minutes….”n’daxi (that’s ok). He carefully slows the bus to a momentary halt when two donkeys loaded with hay block the road. And then, at snails pace, he tackles the steep descent to Agia Agkani, the nice beach where the bus drops you off and from where you walk to another, even nicer beach for twenty minutes.
This is a tight turn for a bus. And the little road is VERY steep! Scary! I think he is taking it in first gear. He is just so careful. “Efcharisto poli”, thank you very much, bus driver.
Another day we hiked for about an hour to get to another beautiful beach. For a while, walking down, it looked as if we had the whole beach just to ourselves…..Wow, that would have been nice! You know what I mean…..? Ron and I are still in love, after 33 years…..
But sadly – not such luck. There were another four people, maybe? And, as we made ourselves at home under a small pine tree where someone had erected a little rock wall, we found out soon that we had invaded the space of at least 10 little lizards who peeped their heads out of the rock crevices and looked at us (and our food) with great interest. They weren’t scared of us at all, they moved very fast in between our hiking boots, cut up tomatoes and cheese and made themselves at home on our Turkish bath towels. Their fast movements unsettled us and we decided to move closer to the water, on the pebbles, so that we were able to read our books in peace. Two hours rest: swimming, sunbathing, eating, reading, collecting beautiful pebbles, round and smooth, grey, white, with sparkling silver specks that glitter in the sun, observing small fish in the water and wishing we had snorkelling gear.
Then, at 4 o’clock, it was time to pack up and walk an hour and a bit, uphill now, along stone walls, goats, purple flowering wild thyme full of buzzing bees and an old stone settlement, in ruins now, but still beautiful, with glimpses of the blue sea underneath us.
We love you, Greece. We love your colours, your smells, your views, your water, your people, your cats and donkeys, your yoghurt and your honey.
We love all your islands, too. After Crete, Santorini and Folegandros, we will go to Sifnos next.
One more story I want to share with you here.
Do you want to know what else Greece has revealed me this time?
There are others.
Have I mentioned that this trip to Greece has shown me for the first time that I belong to the oldies? Not that I don’t know I belong to the older ones, but so far- I had never felt it. And with that, I mean I don’t feel physically or mentally old. On the contrary, I feel fitter and younger than ever. I am experiencing first hand that it does have its benefits not to work and be able to do as you please, not just for the weekend, not just for the school holidays, but every single day! It gives you an absolutely amazing feeling of freedom.
Hurray retirement – can’t wait to welcome you into my life!
But- there are others.
Couples in their 60’s, give or take 10 years, that travel around, like us, with backpacks, walking boots and sunhats shielding their grey hair. Some have upgraded to roller suitcases, but many use backpacks, new ones, of course, like us.
There are others, like us, who are in the same fortunate position, because they still have their life partner, whom they love and cherish and ahh, know so well.
When I look at these couples I have no doubt that they have known each other for many years. The way they travel, the way they go about their business every day, the way they get dressed to go out for dinner. The way they talk, to each other, and to others, like us. You can read their body language. You find (and hear) them all and everywhere, the French, Germans, Italians, British, Americans, even Greeks themselves. It is such a pleasure to observe them.
And – it makes me feel a little older, because I am just one of them and when I go home and see my tanned face in the bathroom mirror, I see so many similarities, the many lines around my eyes, more grey streaks in sun bleached hair, the sagging boobs and the thinning hair, but hey:
I am alive and well, resting in the very fortunate position to have my life partner traveling with me, the one I love and cherish and know so very well, just like he knows me ever so well; and we share so many memories, memories of earlier days, as young travellers with our backpacks, and not a care in the world.
These days, we are one of the other “oldies” and seeing them all around us is what makes me feel old!
In a good way.