“Let’s leave all of this behind”. This is what we think every time our brain and heart get dragged on the floor. Another punch, another disappointing job, another heart beat that skips. Your mind goes back to that unconditioned and therefore unique trip to Santorini, Ios and Athens. Olives, belt bags, that ferry that leaves at dawn, the Dj, Sofocle, a million cats. Pista and I, and the immensity of the Mediterrranean Sea.
I cannot remember how we decided to go to Greece. All I know is that at some stage we met up at Linate Airport and we left carrying impossible backpacks. And then Athens was there, in front of our eyes. Homer.The Acropolis. Jupiter and Artemis. No sign of the current political and economical turmoil. Narrow streets around the Harbour, filled with noise, garbage and syringes on the ground.
At the hotel, two hilarious memories come to my mind now. A few minutes after entering our room, it looked like a grenade had landed on our beds. Our sheets were everywhere but where they should have been.
There, my great comment: I think this is how it works here. I don’t think I have said something so idiotic afterwards. I was like yes, you know Greeks do not dress their beds. The second hilarious moment in that hotel took place overnight when a lament disturbed our sleep for hours. Pista got up, abruptly in the middle of the night. I thought Now she’s going to open the window and shout some sort of outrage to them. No, she simply froze in front of the open window. Staring at this loser mugulating out there. My second memorable comment was he’s not going to stop if you look at him from here.
We were Ulysses.
Dawn at the Phyreus, the city harbour. Athens is waking up yawning amid the thick fog. We have some tea on the deck, wrapped up in our sleeping bags. We felt like Ulysses in that moment. Above us, the Greek sky rapidly changes colours, breaking into millions of pinks, blues. A fierce sun starts to rise and it feels like your bones are dried by its forceful energy. Islands on the horizon, you imagine mermaids and Phaeaces and Laestrygonians living on them. This is where our culture comes from, our language, thousands of Nostoi. I felt proud as I felt part of such knowledge, such incredible backgrounds. I am not Greek, I know, but I was born close enough to this land and there, on that ferry, I felt alive.
Santorini, or Θήρα in Greek is a violent present left behind by one of the biggest volcanic explosions in history. 4000 years ago someone pushed the wrong button and this side of Europe disappeared. The wave hit Crete, nearly 100 kilometres from where Pista and I are now. The Moinoic society, Arianna and the Minotaur vanished forever. Funnily enough, Santorini resembles Ireland and the UK from the satellites: as a matter of fact, it’s not alone there. Nea Kameni, Palea Kameni, Aspronisi and Therasia are scattered around her and keep her company.
Shots of Santorini.
White and blue buildings. The best one for us is still Anna’s house. Anna la sciancata owned this incredible place, but our first contact was her mum. She must have been between 85 and 99 years old, but could speak English like a Man United supporter. Our towels and our swimming suits hanging outside, unforgettable wine and olives that would always be the starting point of our nights out. My bed where I thought I had contracted scabies. Sometimes I believe happiness lays within simple things.
Driving a car around Santorini sounded daft to us, so on our first day there we decided to rent two scooters but that turned out to be daft too. Our choice turned then to a 4-wheeled means of transportation called quadbike. “Have you ever driven one of these before?”, the owner of the renting shop asked me. Pista says that at the stage I looked at him as if I were insulted by such a ridiculous question. Pista also says that when by pure accident I ended up on the wall opposite to where we were standing I shouted something like move over, I can drive this thing. The author of this blog cannot recollect such a sarcastic comment. At first our cruise speed was low, around 15km/h. This lasted twenty/thirty minutes because then, after that momentary lapse of courage, I got the gist of it and we started to fly speeding at the unstoppable speed of 40km/h.
Although quadbikes look a bit ridiculous, to me they meant freedom. We could always decide to stop here or there, or go to that village. We could leave it anywhere we felt like, but to make it different from the other million ones, we tied up a red ribbon on its back. Flying at the speed of light of 40km/h it made a sound so loud that only our laughter was louder. Another interesting aspect of driving our quadbike around was that, on steep terrain, we had to stand up on it and lean forward. If this procedure was not followed, our Pegasus would hyperventilate and eventually stop. Look at those two idiots. We must have looked crazy, but on that 4-wheeled miracle we transported everything: backpacks, walking boots, sheep, limitless amounts of cats, figs that either we stole or we were given by men whose facial features were so beastly that we had nightmares about. Sometimes, if I think of that quadbike I think that happines comes from having your hair squashed by an helmet.
That guy is the Dj, or men in Santorini.
At first, there was The Dj.
On our first night in Santorini we walked by the Murphy’s, whose name sounded so celtic that I had to cry out “I’d rather not spend all our Greek nights at an Irish pub”. Spinnig records, at the music deck, the guy I firstly labelled a loser. This comment was elaborated at 10pm on that very first night. My readers should know that my judgement toward that individual was to change from 10om on the following night. My readers should also be aware that the author of this blog is capable of gestures which look so imbecile that they turn out to feel heroic. Some of these actions must vanish in time. Others, though, like that night when I ended up hanging from a window, a metre and a half from the ground, only to get a glimpse of my desire object, should instead remain in our memory.
Then, there was Stani. Stani could be a nickname, or a shortened form for something that is not relevant to this story. One night, though, after Pista and I had a fantastic dinner at the restaraunt this Stani guy worked at as a waiter, we met him again in Murphy’s. “My name is Stani, and I have something for you”.”Why are you teethless?”. This is how a love story starts and ends in Santorini. Skandorina established herself as the latest poet of Greek love.
Then there was the Doctor of the Black Stone. While we were in Santorini, I got a terrible cold that lasted until we got back home. I am a lazy girl, so instead of purchasing some paper tissues, I went around the Greek islands with a couple of toilet paper rolls. I sneezed everywhere we were, even under water. “Trust me, I am doctor you know”. At first I could not realize where the voice came from, because this guy was everything but tall. At first I thought the voice was coming from the black stone Pista and I had been resting upon after another night at the local clubs. “I have the perfect cure for you”. At this stage, the author of this blog must admit that she’d be about presenting him with a sarcasm-fuelled comment, but then she didn’t have any time to do so as the little gargoyle went on talking. “First, you go to bed. Two hot water bottles must then be placed under your feet, two must go under your armpits, one will be adjusted on top of your head. Afterwards, you make sure you drink a whole bottle of ouzo. This cure will change our century, I am telling you. Who will bother then with pennicylin?”. Sometimes, when I think of men in Santorini, I know laughing is the only cure.
Homer. Ios. Nudists.
We reached Ios by ferry. While navigating at an intergalactic speed, two kids spent their time eradicating my hair and screaming how that was fun. We then got to Ios, where Homer’s grave is. Between June and August, though, millions of Northern Europeans arrive here and disturb his eternal peace. For this reason, when Pista and I arrived there in September, from a Mediterrenean country, cultivated, clean enough and looking for a room, they looked at us as if we were two UFOs.
To me, Ios will always mean sunsets, windmills, and getting lost somewhere amid its dry lands with the idea that only the two of us were walking on those steps towards Homer’s grave and that from up there we would have the whole Mediterrenean Sea, the whole life awaiting us. We then arrived to that beach, secluded, hidden by infamous rocks. We got there by accident, because that’s the way it goes where you travel. You might drive for thousands of kilometres, then you need to stop as you get thirsty and there, wham! Nature takes your breath away, and usually you are alone, or maybe a good friend is with you to share this moment. You could not distinguish the sky from the sea, there. We were not alone, there were some nudists, between 50 and 70-year-old. I believe that sometimes it is necessary to jump outside that circle they’ve drawn around you, or on the contrary it’s better to go with the flow. We chose the second option. Off the clothes, off our swimming suits! That’s the best memory of Ios. That swim.
Seriously, I am ok this way.
You lose track sometimes. You forget that, besides that job that constantly shakes your soul, that relationship that does not work, no matter how hard you try, you will always be yourself at the end of your day. I believe there are many ways to find yourself again, and each of them makes sense and is a valid option. To me, the best path to follow to find myself has been to leap over, to see what’s on the other side of here. I also believe that some trips differ from all the others for a specific reason. Our time in Greece was the time of laughter. Laughing is such a tolerant action, it blossoms on every kind of face and comes from such various backgrounds that is always right. When you laugh, your lungs get expanded, your face becomes illuminated, your brain gets fit again.
Laughing, like travelling, means hope.