I am back from a week in beautiful Greece. Tanned, relaxed and de-stressed, with some lovely memories to treasure of stunning scenery, warm hearted people, delicious food and much laughter.
Greece is an odd place, for someone like me, who is used to the stark lines of modern city life; its hustle and bustle, its tall skyscrapers, its regular timetables. In Greece, the buses come if the drivers feel like it. If they want a siesta, or a long lunch, or a chat with a friend, the bus is late, or doesn’t arrive at all. A timetable is nothing but a rough indication, and no one expects the times to be adhered to. In Greece, if it’s broken, it stays broken. Hence the blind windows and concave roofs of beautiful old houses, usually earthquake victims, sitting alongside newly built hotels and apartments; no need to fix it, equally no need to tear it down to make more space. It’s like they’re much loved, battered old bears, buttons hanging by a thread and stuffing leaking out, no longer useable, but unthinkable to be thrown away. It’s the same with old cars, no longer water-tight boats, old mattresses…they will sit, where they were last left, until they disintegrate entirely. Anywhere else such things would be rubbish, eyesores, a public disgrace. In Greece, however, they are a symbol of a nation that doesn’t take life too seriously, and lets what will be, be. People take time to talk to each other in Greece; they have long lunches, afternoon coffee, loud, raucous, heavily gesticulated conversations over shop counters and restaurant tables. Children are left unsupervised by their parents until 10, 11pm in the evening; they stick together, play sensibly, walk each other home. Life is slower, more communal, more trusting. Their economy might be in freefall, but they know a thing or two about quality of life, those Greeks. It was a pleasure to have been in their company for a week. I only wish it had been longer.
We stayed in Nidri, a bustling resort on the coast of Lefkas, an Ionian island (along with Corfu and Kefalonia) and the only one of the many Greek islands that is attached to mainland Greece. Normally we go to much more isolated places and ideally we would have liked something quieter, but even so, it was a lovely place to stay, as you can see from the photo above. All around were stunning tree covered mountains and sparkling, crystal waters, and in the distance rose the mountainous landscape of the Greek mainland, and the soft, blue tinged silhouettes of its neighbouring islands, most notably Skorpios; the private island of Aristotle Onassis, who married Jackie O on the island and is now buried there, among the peace of his own pine groves.
We took trips to other islands; Meganissi, very close by, is a delightful and peaceful little place with only three towns and a tiny population, and the church at the top of the post is perched on the cliffside of its biggest town, Vathi.
We also went to Kefalonia and Ithaca, fabled home of Penelope and Odysseus in The Odyssey, on a cruise that took us around the Ionian islands and deposited us on a couple of gorgeous sandy beaches that are only reachable by boat. Below is Fiskardo, a beautiful harbour town on Kefalonia, where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set. Fiskardo is a very expensive and desirable place to stay, and there were a lot of very plush yachts and catamarans moored up in the harbour on the day we visited. It’s also famous for its excellent fish restaurants.
The views across the seemingly endless sea were breathtaking, with islands rising like the backs of sleeping giants from the calm waters. I found myself wondering how they had got there, and who had been on them before me, especially those that are no longer lived on; what evidence of habitation did they hide amongst their dense undergrowth, if any? And for those that were still inhabited, was life lonely for the handful of people who live in the scattered houses I could just about glimpse through the trees?
Thank you all for your lovely comments and wishes of a good holiday; they clearly did the job as a marvellous time it was indeed. I also, unexpectedly, managed to finish all five books I took with me to read, and they were all magnificent in their own ways; I look forward to writing about them all over the coming week. I will leave you with a final photograph of two very happy holidaymakers; taken this morning, before my mum and I flew home.