"Europe 2004-05" story # 50

Allonisos, Greece           May 10, 2005

"But, what does it mean to have peace?"
     An Evangelist priest in Larissa, Greece asked me a question I'd never thought to ponder before.
     I'd come to this man because a friend had told me the priest might have a free room I could stay in. He didn't have any rooms. Now, he and I were drinking tea and having a nice philosophical discussion.
     "I think having peace means you have confidence in everything you do. You don't doubt yourself, and you always feel good about things." I believe peace only comes to people who care about others.
     The tired-skinned, forty-something priest told me his version. He said we all have a hole inside us. "God" created that hole, and only He can fill that hole once we accept His son as our savior. Only then do we have peace.
     Then, the priest smiled at me. His wide smile seemed forced and almost painful. If that smile was anything, it was not the smile of a man who had peace.
     I really liked this priest, though. His name was Yeoryeos.

Well. I - certainly - didn't have peace while in Larissa, Greece. I wasn't confident that that was where I wanted to be, and thus I wasn't motivated to look hard for a job or practice the language. Darn it all! - I still really missed my last girlfriend.

My month of rent in a Larissa hotel was nearly finished. I continued an uninspired look for work, I made anxious calls to my American ex-girlfriend, I also called experimentally to a girl in Argentina who's very special, and I layed around unhappily. The Greek culture did its best to keep me smiling.
     A night spot called "Xilia Xeilia" (A Thousand Lips) opened on a Saturday. It was basically a fancy white palace filled with tables of dressed-up Greeks. Romantic night seeped in through wide-open walls; a show band celebrated its confident songs.
     Greeks are slow to dance, but by four a.m. the place was alive with movement. Arabian songs howled exoticly, and the people swayed their ribs in a belly-dance. Merry, Eastern European songs played, and people held hands in circles and skated patterns. And when the twangs of the bazouka guitar echoed poignantly, individuals performed sad dances before their kneeling, clapping friends. I had confidence to go on-stage and dance only a few times, and the hospitable Greeks accepted me. They didn't even mind when I couldn't keep pace with their circle-patterns and ran into the bazouka player.
     I tried my hand at Greek games the next day. It was the Greek Orthodox Easter, and the priest Yeoryeos hosted a large lunch of mousaka and kaftedes (meatballs). Yeoryeos' children were younger than me, and they were nice, but they kicked my butt in Greek Scrabble. I knew I was in trouble when I drew the "allen wrench" letter. They also outplayed me in "tavli" (backgammon), but that's no surprise because everyone's tavli-crazy here.
     The next day, hotel employee Takis helped feed me. Takis is the guy who'd jokingly convinced me he'd killed his wife. If you think his sense of humor is sick, you should see what he eats! He pulled from out of a bag and gave to me ... a goat skull. Whoa, my. I didn't really know what to do with it.
     What I wanted to do with it was put it back in the bag.
     Takis told me to eat the inner ears and eyes and tongue and brains. The eyes tasted like big raisins, and the white tongue was rough and fuzzy. The brain's interesting taste was one-third wax, one-third butter, and one-third chicken. Mmm. Thanks, Takis, for the goat skull!
     And, for my final new meal in Larissa, I finally tasted pastiggio. My older friend, library employee Costas, had been raving to me for weeks about this favorite meal of his. His beautiful wife, curly-brown-headed Magdha, did the artistic cooking like always. Pastiggio is similar to lasagna. The main differences are 1. It's bigger. 2. It's floppier. and 3. It has an added ingredient: gigantic macaroni noodles. It's yummy.
     Even gigantic macaroni noodles couldn't stop the inevitable. My month amongst the dirty-white, Mediterranean balconies of Larissa came to its end, and I was jobless. My ex-girl in America hadn't given me a positive response that she wanted me to come back for her. So, I went wandering around Greece.
     So, I went to an island. I went to Allonisos.
     A modest ferry-boat chugged amidst deep, wild-blue Aegean Sea waters. It first stopped at Skiathos then Skopelos, the first two in this island chain. Lividly white houses wore Eastern moons and sprouted up on top of each other climbing steep hillside. Mortar stairways and not roads led around the towns. Turquoise window-boxes and sea completed picture dreams.
     Allonisos was the final inhabited island. Its tiny main town was nothing special to look at. And so, the select tourists who chame there were Dutch or English who scattered and lived happily alone in houses in the hills they rented or owned.
     I hitchhiked/walked three kilometers to an empty beach. I could leave my backpack in the bushes while I explored, and sleep there at night.
     Allonisos was nature. It and the other islands in view had hilly spines like brontosauruses coming from the sea. Its spine was covered with dry pea-green plants. Walking freely around the island, I saw a rushing snake, and a pen housing odd-colored chickens and turkeys and cats. The air had the smell of newly-born land.
     I wound my way downhill to a rock-protected "limani" (harbor). Only two or three houses/part-time hotels sat around it. A small, beautiful white boat hung crookedly above a dock in front of the clear, soothing water. I was all alone and in ecstasy. It was May 7th, the water was chilling. I snorkeled for twenty-five minutes, seeing nothing but rocks; what a wonderful snorkel it was.
     In the calm nights, I went into town. I met radiant Tatyana from Belarus, a twenty-five-year-old bartender. Her blond hair and blue eyes were so clear it seemed all the light in the room was coming from inside them. She wanted me to stay and work the summer on Allonisos.
     I met the young locals who were laidback and fun, not obsessed with their looks and shopping like the Greeks of Larissa. They said they'd surely find me a job. I even met two American girls - one of whom already had TWO jobs in Greece; she was a much better job-finder than I.
     But, what was I to do?
     Unfortunately, I'd gone ahead and bought my ticket home just before coming to the island. I suppose I had to see my ex-girlfriend, to get her out of my head. Even if I'd stayed on this fabulous island, maybe I wouldn't have felt good. I don't know ...
     I don't know if I liked Greece or not. I don't know how to bake a pie. I don't know all that much, really. But, in this world of uncertainty, I do know there are four things you can always count on: death, taxes, an abacus, and MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! I'll leave the pumpkin-pie-baking up to Grandma Bott, and she'll gladly leave the reflective-list-writing up to me.
     Let's start with the Top 5 Best Things About Greece! certain to certainly ascertain you.

Twice while I was in Greece, shop-owners just gave me things I planned on buying. That's "filoksenia" for you.


I saw some big, thousands-of-years-old pillars in Athens from a distance, but they still took my breath away.

HONORABLE MENTION reminds us not to forget: STRONG COMMUNIST PARTY; THE ALFABET; GIRLS TOUCH YOU (lightly, when talking to you); and MY TV SERIES. Greece had a hillarious tv series about a serious college professor, Konstantino Konstantinos, forced to share a house with a loud woman named Elena. The funny characters were always yelling, slapping each other, falling in love with dorky pop musicians, doing weird dances, having pillow fights ... I always watched it.
     Now, you sit back and watch The Top 5 Worst Things About Greece!

1. CAFES -
In Larissa, the cafes were expensive and boring. And they were the only activities some people did.

The people are obsessed.

The people would rather look good than dance.

It's tough to see what some people actually look like.

Library-employee Costas was having a difficult time surviving, despite working two jobs.

You can't always count on the phone company, but MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! is there when you need it.
     An old university chum drove me around Athens on his "moto," which was fun. We could see the majestic Parthenon lit up green on a hill above the city. We passed massive stadiums where the Summer Olympic Games were held.
     And that was all the fun I had. The money I had left-over from Andorra bought me a flight ticket home. I was hoping to recapture something.

- peace.
Thanks for reading.
Modern Oddyseus.

Thanks to Aeri + Dutch guy; Cullin; and Aposteles for the rides!
Much thanks to Amy & Emily; and Costas, Magdha, Kristos, Spyros, & "Ruth" for the places to stay!

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