The Swirling Senses of Hellas

Last night we sat on some steps overlooking the main square, watching kids practice their roller blading and skateboard skills while their parents watched TV screens in every cafe and bar surrounding the perimeter. The game was on. Basketball — Greece vs. Spain. If Greece won, they would go on to the playoffs and the first game would be today. Jan said if Greece did win, no one would vote — everyone would be watching the game. It was fun walking around listening to the intermittent roars of happiness as Greece scored. Alas, they lost. Today was election day and all was calm.

The War Museum was closed because of the election, but the Folklore Museum was open with its fabulous displays of colorful traditional clothing from all areas of Greece.

We had dinner at another taverna with Greek musicians. Other tables filled with Greeks sang along. This morning, I ate a mound of yogurt. Then we headed off to the 1,000 steps zigzagging up the steep promontory to the Paramidi, the old Venetian fortress at the very top. The views were staggering on the way up, and we took frequent breaks to take pictures.

At the top, we found that the entrance was closed due to the election, however we also found a couple from Manchester, England — Paul and Margaret. We stood there at the top, chatting with them for almost an hour. They were delightful, and we took pictures of each other before we returned below.

On the way down, we found a rocky ramp that was obviously not for the public, but we walked up it anyway (since we had seen others doing so). A great, albeit dizzying view of the town and water below! We found a three foot wide hole that, when peering down into, the bottom could not be seen! That was a little unnerving. We carefully returned to the real steps and made our way back to the bottom.

We spent more time wandering all the little nooks and crannies and characteristic corners of the town: flower-bedecked balconies, white-washed steps leading up and around corners that compel you to follow them (we obey). We walked around the point alongside the water, following a wide flagstone trail that hugs the sheer face of the rocky cactus-covered cliff. An old stone wall caps the top where lookouts once protected this inlet.

We had a gyro (sort of a pita sandwich filled with meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, accompanied by tsatziki, onions, and french fries), then packed for the beach. The Aegean Sea was calm today, no boats to disturb the tranquility of the water. It lapped at our toes and called us into its crystal clear depths. We heard someone yell “GINO!” and saw our new friends, Paul and Margaret. They had the same idea to spend the afternoon at the beach.

The water is perfect: cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough to be deliciously comfortable. It is very salty and keeps you buoyant. The water feels soothing and curative, both mentally and physically. I can’t get over its color and clarity. And the Europeans cavort about unselfconsciously in speedos.

After some lay-out and water time, I left Gino basking in the Hellas sun and took a solitary walk along a dirt road that curved along the shore. The cicadas were singing in the trees, the scent of pines wafted past my nose, I felt the warm Hellenic sun on my face and tasted the saltiness of the sea on my lips. The gold and gray-green colors of the rocky cliff straight up on my left contrasted with the blue-green of the sea straight down on my right. I found a little white-washed religious shrine, adorned with pink flowers and a candle burning within. You see these little shrines all over Greece, often at the sides of the road.

On the way back into town, we stopped at Antica Gelateria, a wonderful Italian store featuring homemade gelato. We spoke Italian to the proprietor, who pegged me immediately as an American. I asked her how she figured that so quickly. It was because I spoke Italian with an American accent! I wonder what that sounds like! I had chocolate-grappa gelato covered with espresso (gelato affogato: drowned gelato), while Gino enjoyed a shot of Limoncello (his favorite!)

We bought a small bottle of red Greek wine, grabbed two glasses from our hotel, and walked back around the point to sit beside the sea. We watched the sun set, toasting Greece with our glasses of wine, and are now back in town ready to search for a perfect taverna for tonight’s dinner.

Tomorrow we leave Naplion and make our way further south into the Peloponnesos: Monemvasia.



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