Shows What I Know
Well look at that, we’ve been in Greece almost two weeks!
I thought that being in Italy was easy and being in Greece would be harder, because we had been to all those places in Italy before, some more than once, and we both speak enough store/restaurant/market Italian to make everything nice and comfortable (thanks Parliamo Italiano!) I mean, we have that system DOWN where we pay the cashier first and then take the ticket to the barista, then we stand at the bar and drink our coffee feeling pretty darn smart, while other tourists mill around confusedly. And Greece? I know no Greek and have you seen their alphabet? Also, the Greek ferry schedules had been driving us crazy for months. Once we had figured out which islands we wanted to go to out of the bizillion options, we could not find a way to get between them. The route we wanted apparently exists in August but not in October, but we kept hoping the schedules just hadn’t been posted yet. Finally, after spending a morning fighting with the slow WiFi in our Venice apartment we gave up and chose a new route. It was a little painful. I was prepared for Greece to be difficult.
Shows what I know, because Greece is a breeze. It’s easy to get around, everyone speaks some English (instruction starts in first grade in public school) and the people have been warm, even at the end of a busy season. My apologies Greece.
We started in Athens which gets a bad rap as a dirty hole, but we found it just fine. A little gritty sure, but no worse than New York or Rome. The big sights there were the Acropolis (duh!) the slick new Acropolis Museum and the very large National Archaeological Museum. The kids already had a pretty good knowledge of Greek myths and we had been enjoying their moments of recognition and excitement for weeks. “Look mom, it’s Perseus with Medusa’s head!” in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence or “Hey, that’s Apollo catching Daphne!” seeing Bellini’s sculpture in the Villa Borghese in Rome, but that all went into overdrive in Athens seeing temples, statues of the entire cast of characters and a hundred stories played out on ancient red-and-black figure ware. Will any of it stick? Will they remember how Athens got its name having seen Athena’s olive tree? (chosen by the citizens over the salty spring Poseidon made as the more useful gift.) We also had been reading and discussing the Odyssey in advance of our time in the Greek Islands, so it was very satisfying when our Athenian taxi driver started quizzing the kids about the significance of the name of the ferry he was delivering us to (the Ithaki) and they were ready with answers. Ha, we are not deadbeat teachers.
From Athens we went to windy, pretty Mykonos. There, when we stopped at a bakery for baklava, we were educated about Mykonos’s twisty streets and why the bakery was built in the basement level (to confuse the pirates and then, if they did make it through the labyrinth, hide the precious flour!) We also spent on a morning on nearby Delos, seeing more ruins and the palm tree where Leto birthed Artemis and Apollo (the very one? I’m skeptical.) From Mykonos, we sped to Santorini, where we decided we could not afford an iconic caldera view but could afford a place with a nice pool on the other, less famously photographed side of the island. It was the first pool we’d had all trip and the kids got our money’s worth out of it, wallowing for hours, with breaks for fresh orange juice and math class. From Santorini we took a grueling 1:00 am ferry to lovely Kos and now here we are, a hop, skip and a jump from Turkey (we can see it!)
It’s close to the end of the season on the islands, with lots of mostly empty tavernas and a touch of fall in the air, but for us the weather is perfect. Clear, sun drenched, warm in the sun and perfect in the shade. Greek food is working perfectly for us, too. A loose concept of courses, everything easily shared around, and we’ve yet to find a preparation of feta that we don’t love and we have tried hard, sampling it fried, smoked and fried, grilled, baked, with shrimp, with lamb, with mussels, on salad.
We’re watching the news regarding Turkey, our next stop, and getting State Department updates on protests there. We’ll cross over on Monday and plan to visit ancient Ephesus, then work our way up to Istanbul for a week where we’ll meet friends (hi Laura and Andy!) before heading on to Antalya and Cappadocia. We’re settled in for the long haul now.