In the first two weeks of November, my wife, Becca, and two children, Eli and Abby, enjoyed an amazing adventure in Athens, Greece and The Peloponnese to the Southwest. We hear so much of strife and sorrow these days, but this trip and the memories created in an awe-inspiring land remind me of the beauty in the world around us. No matter where we are from, we are all brothers and sisters. I hope we can all remember that.
I’ll share a few thoughts jotted down during the trip:
The evening has fallen on us again in our little cottage outside of Napflio, Greece. In the distance, a dog barks and the tall, stark mountaintop with the small church atop is alight – the ancient sites across this beautiful land are offered the respect they deserve. Just beyond that mountain, where ages ago guardians of the land watched for danger with huge pyres waiting to be lit should the need arise sending warnings to the mountains across the valley, the waters of the Gulf of Argolis rock ashore in steady rhythm.
I was in those waters yesterday with my family and maybe six other people on the beach at Tolo. The sea was comfortable on a warm November Day, as my children tasted salt water upon their lips for the first time. The sea is much different than a lake in the Kawarthas of Ontario, they quickly discovered, but the sand is so much denser, like deep flour you sink into as the waves come across your feet.
Our hosts at this little cottage have been beyond hospitable; they are gracious and kind and eager to ensure we have all we need in this humble place. Lydia and Thanasis have been here for 14 years or so; they bought the land partly because of their love of another small church atop their hill, a sanctuary above groves of Olive and Orange trees. For them, our cottage, which carries the name of its Queen, Lydia, was a getaway from the pulse of Athens while they built their retirement escape. Now they live below in a magnificent home, rich with rooms for their large extended family, and a ping-pong table coveted by our children.
We are the first guests at Lydia’s Cottage, aside from their children and grandchildren, who stay here often, and we couldn’t be more grateful that we met them. Tonight, after we spent the day visiting the ancient theatre at Epidaurus, where two millennia ago people paid homage to the influence art and beauty has upon the moral compass of man, we shared an amazing meal with our hosts. Their friend, Barbara, who now manages that theatre’s summer schedule, joined us and sang for us when the lamb was all but gone and the wine gave up its last few drops. The song was of love and nature and in this place we feel them both with amazing force.
Thanassis shared with me a bottle of homemade Tsipouro, pure and perfect, as he said; we spoke a little of politics and of the challenges facing the world, and we spoke about art and music. We all sang ‘Let it Be’ together, and wished John Lennon was beside us to help with the words when the verses missed their mark. This was a magical evening. They spoke of their pride in their country and a little of their fears for the future, but most importantly they shared the common understanding of the importance of cherishing simplicity.
In ages past, the people here knew strife and challenge and blessings and possibility, just as today the world over these things push and pull against each other. I sat with my son today in the jail cell within the Palamidi, a fortress built in the 1700s on the cliffs above Nafplio, where modern day Greece’s most honoured soldier, Theodoros Kolokotronis, was sentenced to rot after he led the nation to independence in 1822. In that dank cell, I felt the weight and confusion of conflict. Here was a man who won the fortress back from Turkish rule and led the revolution, condemned by the Bavarian Prince installed afterwards to rule the country. It makes no sense to me now just as it made no sense then and today, questions still arise as to who rules the fate of this proud nation.
Over a fourth glass of Tsipouro, Thanasis explained this history to me and offered his interpretation of the present, and I’m thankful for his wisdom. When I came to Greece with my family, I expected to see amazement in my children’s eyes at the sight of a gorgeous beach, I anticipated the wonder we’d find in ancient stones unearthed by the curious hands and minds of the not-so-distant past, and I hoped for the hospitality I’ve heard so much about. An all counts, the past few days have been a wonder and Thanasis, Lydia, and Barbara will forever hold a special place in our hearts for the warmth they shared with us in this beautiful part of Greece.