Nothing bad happened to us here. Not a single thing. The tragedy is only that now it is time for us to go. We're excited to come home, but so sad we have to leave. We've spent the past forty days hiking, walking pedestrian streets and alleyways, drinking and eating in tavernas and cafes, laying on the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean, without doing laundry, driving, shopping, or even doing dishes. The people have been lovely. Super nice. Though I still live in fear of Greeks yelling at me. I'm not sure why, it just looks like it would be very unpleasant.
I promised in the last post that I wouldn’t talk about the cats. But I’m going to talk about the cats. It’s hard to over emphasize how different the cats are here compared to the States. Cats in America live their lives privately in homes and apartments. You might occasionally glimpse one perched on a deck or in a window. You might see one prowling around their yard – but by and large they are spectral.
In Greece, cats are more like American teenagers. Not exactly human and slightly feral; yet ubiquitous and perfectly at ease in the public square. They have their own language, culture, and customs and generally prefer their own kind; yet they will grace us with their presence in a manner that, if not precisely symbiotic, is at least moderately grateful for the handout they hope is coming. They are everywhere. In the shops, the cafes, even on the beach – just sitting there, gazing out on the water and perhaps wondering if a tuna fish will beach itself.
In several pensions we’ve stayed at, a local cat has simply adopted us for the length of our stay. Like they come with the room. Three of them became such regular companions that we had to name them: Shiva, Athena, & Morris respectively. That's Morris on the right, helping himself to Lori's chair. Cheeky that one.
The days are always filled with a combination of awe and a little embarrassment. Awe at the scenery that is all around us. Embarrassment at our inability to know what to do in most situations. There are signs, but they are written in Greek. Usually twice, using different alphabets, but still in Greek, so not extremely helpful to this guy.
The other morning, we set out to catch a 7:30AM bus for a hike. As soon as we sat down, we noticed that all the other people on the bus were children. Odd. Turns out it was the school bus. The driver seemed to think nothing of our presence. Luckily, the school was in the same town as where we were trying to get to for our hike. So, it all worked out. Though a bigger kid stole our lunch money.
Even hikes can lead to these moments. In this case, the very narrow hiking path on Sifnos was currently occupied by a very wide cow. There was no way around the path. The cow seemed as nervous as we were, but she had horns. We and several other hikers spent a good twenty minutes spitballing various ineffective cow persuasion ideas. Finally, I just sent Lori in there. She is from Iowa. Note her cow-herding stick.
Then there is the schedule. Here, as in other parts of Europe, you eat late (or we, in the U.S., eat early. Depends on one’s perspective). We’ve tried to be hip, tried to be cool, tried to fit in to the local culture. But when we’ve attempted to sit down in tavernas for our mid-day meal at the rather languid hour of 12:30PM, we’re still told that they don’t open for another half hour. When we try to sit down for dinner at 7:30PM, we’re often the only ones there. The staff looks on us with a mixture of dismay and something like pity.
And I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to sit down to dinner at 10:30PM if I’m simultaneously starving to death and falling asleep? When you get to our age (no mean feat), you can’t just adjust your sleep habits to suit the local eateries. We wake up early, like it or not. Unlike Lori, I can usually manage a siesta in the afternoon, but it’s 20 or 30-minutes, not the 3-hours I would require if I’m going to be ordering dessert at 1AM while throwing back another ouzo. Who are these people? How does it work?
Truth be told, Lori and I have always been like this. I could never figure out why parties in college had to start at 10 or 11 and not immediately following dinner (which was mercifully at six). What am I supposed to do during all that prep time? My hair? That never took long.
So, in Greece, we are super uncool. I have to comfort myself with the fact that some of the best light of the day is precisely at our uncouth dinner hour. The setting sun dances on the indigo blue waters of the Med as the evening breeze cools the night.
And we always get a killer table.
Next stop: Athens. Cradle of Western Civilization (and the airport).