Greece, Part 2

Photo credit: Stacey Batzer

We had just arrived in Santorini when I posted last week. We took a ferry from Mykonos, with quick drop-offs and pick-ups along the way. No chance to set foot on the other islands in the Cyclades.

They’re called the Cyclades because they encircle the ancient, sacred island of Delos, the one I wrote about last week. Wikipedia tells me the islands—with the exception of Santorini and one called Milos—“are peaks of a submerged mountainous terrain.” Milos and Santorini are volcanic islands.

And the volcano part of Santorini is another big thing that captured my imagination. The island itself is pretty big, it was about a forty-five minute drive from where our ferry docked to the town of Oia. The whitewashed roofs of Oia looked like snow-capped peaks from the ferry port. It wasn’t until we got closer that we realized it was a town—and our ultimate destination.

But apparently, the island was much bigger about 3,600 years ago. That’s when it was decimated by a volcanic eruption, which created the caldera central to Santorini. I was super psyched to gaze upon the waters of the caldera for three solid days. I have wanted to see Crater Lake, a caldera lake in Oregon, for as long as I can remember. (Yes, I’m a geology nerd, too). But it’s pretty remote. Even when I was living in Los Angeles, it was definitely too far for a day trip. And I was never able to convince anyone to make a long weekend of it. Though, honestly, I never tried too hard at that.

Luckily, there was a lot more to see in Santorini than just the caldera, and lots more to do. ‘Cause I feel fairly confident in writing that Stacey and Zoe were not as fired up over the caldera (pun intended) as I was.

We took a sunset cruise on Stacey’s birthday, which took us all around the caldera and the adjacent waters of the Aegean Sea. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a quick swim. But it was indeed quick, because the water was too cool to stay in for too long. We went to a tasting at one of the wineries on Santorini. The wines were fantastic, and they were paired with some incredible dishes. My travel companions have some better shots of our meal at the winery—all I have is a few pictures of the little beggar kittens who kept asking for their own tasting, especially of the seafood dishes.

And the food. Everywhere we went in Greece. I don’t consider myself a foodie, and I don’t think I’ve ever posted about my meals (maybe I’ve mentioned the shepherd’s pie at Kitty O’Sheas in Chicago). But I can say I had some of the tastiest octopus ever in Greece. And I’m also now a big fan of moussaka, having tried it for the first time last week. (Looking at pictures and recipes online, there are definite similarities to shepherd’s pie. Guess I’m consistent.)

So I’m back in NOLA now, and very happy to be home. And also exceedingly grateful to have been able to make that trip, and to have those memories of Ελλάδα (that’s Greece written in Greek). 🙂 🇬🇷

Greece, Part 1

Ancient things. That’s what I’ve been thinking about, these past five days spent in Greece. So many ancient things.

New Orleans will celebrate its Tricentennial in 2018. Three hundred years seems pretty minor, compared to the 3,400 of recorded history within Athens (according to Wikipedia). Mykonos had inhabitants before the 11th century BC. Delos, a now-uninhabited island a short boat ride from Mykonos, was inhabited from the 3rd millennium BC.

It was fascinating to tour the ruins on Delos. For roughly 1,000 years before the Greeks deemed it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, it was a holy sanctuary to the goddess of the earth (according to Maria, our tour guide on Delos).

Certainly, much has changed in the intervening millennia. And much of it in just the past 100 years or so. But I’ve been thinking of all the things about human life that haven’t changed. Our needs, especially. Eating. Drinking, both wine and water. Shelter. Employment, to occupy our days and provide means to the eating and drinking and shelter. Entertainment. Companionship. Worship.

The details have changed, and access to all these things has become much easier for a great many of earth’s inhabitants. But really, it seems not much has changed about the needs themselves. Being a human in the 21st century, who would like to make entertainment her employment, I’ve been intrigued by the story possibilities of all these ancient things.

Like, why does “an ancient evil” sound so much more menacing than just plain old “evil?” I’ve been drawn to all the manifestations of the eye symbol I’ve seen while in Greece. On doorways, gates, on fighter planes I saw on the way to our hotel in Mykonos from the airport. A card I picked up from a gift shop tells me this: that use of the symbol dates back almost 3,000 years, and is supposed to ward off evil and bring the bearer good luck. So, apparently, it’s not just me—people have been worried about the bad gris-gris for a really long time.

Since pictures are worth (at least) 1,000 words, I never intended to get too long-winded with this post. So here are some photos from my time in Greece thus far:

Athens
Mykonos Harbor
Shop window in Mykonos

  

These four pictures are all from Delos
At Kiki’s Tavern on Mykonos
Last sunset in Mykonos

It’s All Greek to Me

I leave for Greece tomorrow. In the past twenty years, I’ve traveled to Europe many times. In the first five or so years of that twenty-year span, I would head across the Atlantic at least twice annually. But the frequency doesn’t diminish the impact. It’s always a big deal to me.

All of these trips, with one notable exception, have been for my job. I might have tacked on some personal travel (at my own expense, natch); but for the bulk of the travel, work was the main reason behind it.

Tomorrow’s trip is pure vacation. The only other time I’ve flown to Europe with no agenda other than sightseeing was in 2002. It was a couple of years after my Dad had died, and my Mom and I went to the U.K. We drove all around Great Britain, and covered a good bit of England (with a couple of forays into Wales and Scotland). I’ll sum it up with this: I’ve been fortunate to have several “trips of a lifetime” in my lifetime thus far, and that trip with Mom was definitely one of them. She’s been gone nearly three years now, and the memories of that U.K. trip only grow sweeter with time.

Greece will be with one of my best friends, Stacey, and her cousin, Zoe. I’m super excited for many reasons—one of the chief reasons being getting to spend time together. Stacey and I became friends when we worked for the E! Networks in Los Angeles. We each left our jobs there many years ago, and I also left Los Angeles many years ago. So I only get to see Stacey during visits. Once a year, if I’m lucky.

Back in the early days of our friendship, Stacey would refer to me as “International Anne.” (I worked in the international sales/marketing department. Thus, all the trips to Europe.) I think these days, Stacey’s international travel has far surpassed mine. Be that as it may, it will be the first visit to Greece for all of us. For the past several months, I’ve paid extra special attention to anything remotely Grecian that’s crossed my path. Here, in no particular order, are a few observations:

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, Outside In Makes It So: I’ve mentioned this Star Trek: TNG anthology several times, because I have an essay in there (trying to do a better job at self-promotion). The title of that essay? “Time’s Arrow: I Might Be .004% Out of Phase with Plato”. Yes, famed Greek philosopher Plato factors pretty heavily in the piece (but it’s really accessible and easy to read, I promise!) I wrote it long before I knew I’d be traveling to Plato’s old stomping grounds.
  • Greek myths, titans, and gods: I haven’t specifically researched Greek mythology, but any deeper look into the origin of any story always seems to lead to something Greek. I’m working on a sci-fi short story, and in the course of researching some names, I’ve encountered these morsels:
    • Deucalion: He was the son of Prometheus, and, according to Wikipedia, “is closely connected with the Flood myth.” Like a Greek version of Noah.
    • Chiron: Sired by the Titan Cronus, he was an “intelligent, civilized and kind” centaur. He was also immortal. He suffered from a wound that would not heal, so he wasn’t that keen on living forever, so he traded his immortality for the life of Prometheus.
    • Prometheus: Kinda funny how he keeps popping up. Even though Zeus was really, really, pissed at him for stealing fire and giving it to humankind.
  • And to conclude with something completely different: I recently purchased the blouse featured at the top of this post. The blue trimming and the loose fit struck me as appropriate for Greece (and hopefully pretty comfortable for the flight over). But once I got it home, in a fit of buyer’s remorse, perhaps, it also struck me as something Pagliacci wouldn’t be afraid to wear. I’ve had “The Tears of a Clown” in my head ever since.