Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grecian Odyssey

I am now in Ermoupolis. The city of Hermes.

It is filled with slender windy streets lined with old mansions. At some point in history somebody sprang for marble roadways. The plazas are lined with cafes and palm trees. There are cement docks off the rocks below and in the morning you can see the old timers bobbing in the clear Aegean.

I am staying in a 200 year old place called Ipatia Guesthouse. It reminds me of The Harlem Flophouse. No air-con, phones or tv, just high ceilings, huge windows, a chandelier and a whirring fan at the foot of my cast iron bed. Oh and wi-fi.

I spent the last week in Kythnos. I was with friends of Maria Elena. She passed me off to my new hosts. I was in the fancy pants Yachting town of Louitra. The hotel was a little expensive but it is high season and there are only a limited number of rooms in this little village. What is nice about it, and has been my experience everywhere in Greece so far, is that even in a little town there will be a main square jammed with cafes and restaurants. Social life includes everybody not just the mating -agers and at 1 am you will still see little old ladies and men on their wooden chairs, talking and smoking, and children running the streets.

There is a dive center in Kythnos. The dive captain is in a wheelchair, due to a motorcycle accident I am told. When there is a dive they make a little parade in their wet suits down the main street. The captain rolling along in front. One evening I went on a night dive. Myself and the other diver Stan, were bare chested our suits hanging at our waist as we made the walk of honor. Because it was night time a little throng of town-folk followed us to old stone bridge at the end of the harbor. They wanted to watch us plunge into the murky waters. Among the others were a group of dirty kids, two little old ladies in house dresses and slippers, a man with a straw hat and a cane and pregnant girl holding a baby. Stan and I were helping each other on with our weight belts, checking our mask, fins, pressure gages, hoses and the like when somebody yelled out "Not even a bride takes so long to get ready."

As in Kea, the preceding island, every day we went to a different beach. I asked Spentzos why this was, every one seemed great to me. He went over the criteria. There has to be shade. The water clear, the beach clean. And most important... there has to be NO people. Whenever we approached a beach descending a dusty rocky road from on up high, if there was even one person, with an umbrella tied to rocks, he would sigh in exasperation. I told him that in NYC if there are fewer than 25 people that counts as nobody showing up. He laughed. There must be thousands of beaches in Kythnos alone so his quest is a life long one.

Every day has also included a new taverna. Each one with its own specialties. We eat late at night ordering numerous plates for the table. Everyone diving in everywhere. There is always a loaf of freshly baked bread. Thankfully also this usually includes pureed fava with fresh green onion sprinkled on top, a plate of warm sun ripened melon, and a spinach like green called horta served with wedges of fresh lemon. There have been tasty empanadas filled with eggplant or capers or cheese with fresh mint, baked stuffed eggplant and tomatoes (just like my mama Thanos claimed) and smoky charcoal grilled pork chops.

Tomorrow I will take the boat to Riraeus and from Athens and then fly to Frankfurt. On Friday I will take the train to Warsaw and spend a night there. Then, according to the rail map, I go to Kaunas in Lithuania connecting to Riga.

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