Chapter Thirty-Three January 11 – February 24, 2007
When we returned to Mykonos in January it felt like we were coming “home.” Our
time here has been so filled with events and people that we shall find it very
difficult to leave. So we’ll just have to make the most of the time left to us.
This past month has flown by as we have been busy with touring, friends, and
Work on Costas’ house had come to a standstill after the Christmas holidays as
workers drifted back to Mykonos from their homes and families in Albania. We
decided to take advantage of the lull and make our way to Athens. The day we
left on the ferry, the sun was shining brightly and the day was warm as spring.
The weather held for our entire stay in Athens, so we had an easy time walking
around the city. Our hotel was just a stone’s throw from the Acropolis, and
everything was close by.
You can read all about the Acropolis, its temples, the antiquities in the
National Archaeological Museum, and the Theater of Dionysius in any good
guidebook so we won’t try to compete with their wonderful descriptions of these
treasures. We spent an entire morning roaming over the Acropolis, and the better
part of an entire day in the National Archaeological Museum, and were totally
enthralled with what we saw there. Our morning on the Acropolis was sunny, but
quite windy, and I was very afraid that Sharon would be swept away by the wind.
After all, there is no “Health & Safety” or “OSHA” in Greece, and guardrails and
safety fences are unheard of.
We especially loved this profile of “Aphrodite”. The breathtaking phenomenon is
she is dated 460 BC. Hard to believe? We thought so, too.
And then there were the sarcophagi. These were much newer. (150 AD!)
The gold “Mask of Agamemnon” was here, too. We think the date is 11th century
B.C. We had seen the grave in Mycenae from which it came when we toured the
Peloponnese last November.
Because we have been staying in the Cyclade Islands, we took a morning to see
the exhibit of ancient Cycladic Art in its own, private museum. Most of the
collection is from 3,000-2,000 B.C., and we became quite enamored with the art,
especially the marble figurines. After studying it, the figurines take on a
sweet purity of form that is very pleasing. Sharon marveled over the decorative
gold ornaments used to decorate clothing of the rich and famous just 4,000 years
Sharon has been working on a sewing project, and we found the time to do some
shopping for that, too. Athens is an interesting city, and we enjoyed eating in
the local tavernas and walking the neighborhoods.
Then, to our utter amazement, Costas and Maria came to Athens on a business
trip. They were kind enough to give us a driving tour of the outer parts of the
city, including some of the 2004 Olympic Games venues. The Olympic Stadium is
most impressive, and quite the engineering feat. Afterwards we lunched in the
fashionable Kolonaki neighborhood and got in some great people-watching. But the
best part of their visit was Saturday night. Costas and Maria had arranged for
tickets to a nightclub, and what a show it was! The featured performers were
Marinella and Adonis Remos. Marinella is a pop icon in Greece, and Remos is a
hot star in his own right. Even though there is a 25-year age difference, they
made a fabulous singing duo on the stage that night. For our US readers, try
imagining Barbara Streisand performing with Harry Connick, Jr., and you’ll come
close to what we experienced. The club was packed with over 2,000 people, and
the show went on for hours; it started at midnight and was just beginning to
wind down when we left at 4:30 a.m. We would have stayed, but just had enough
time to return to our hotel, pack, and catch the 5:00 a.m. subway to make our
way to our ferry back to Mykonos. No sleep for us that night! But what an
evening!!! At this huge club, the show was ending with patrons jumping up on the
stage and dancing to the music with Remos and the band. The Greeks really do
know how to party!! Suddenly Athens transformed itself and became an
exhilarating, exciting city that we couldn’t wait to return to. Amazing what a
few friends can do!
Soon after returning to Mykonos, we hooked up again with our Greek-American
friends, Ioannis and Dimitra. “John” and Dimitra are Greek, but each had
immigrated to the United States in search of work. They met in New York, and
were married there. Later they operated a restaurant together in (get this!)
Hartford, Connecticut. They lived in the USA for 35 years, and are naturalized
citizens. They returned to Mykonos to retire; this is Ioannis’ hometown. What
wonderful people they are! They have invited us to their home for meals and
coffee, and have introduced us to so many Mykonian traditions. Last Saturday
night, they were invited to the wedding of a friend’s daughter and they asked us
if we had ever seen a Greek wedding. When we said “No,” they insisted that we
accompany them. So we did. The groom was the first to arrive; he was accompanied
by his family and they were all led down the street by two musicians playing
violin and bazooki. He (the groom) then waited for the bride at the door of the
church, holding her bouquet of flowers. Her family then arrived, again
accompanied by the same musicians. The streets around the church are so narrow
and twisty that cars cannot pass through them, so both families and all the
guests arrived on foot.
Once inside, the ceremony began. Three Orthodox priests and a cantor sang the
entire liturgy a capella. Rings and vows were exchanged. During the vows reading
the priest tells the bride she will "obey her husband". At this time, the bride
chooses to stomp on the groom's foot. Or not. Everybody roars. As the ceremony
continued, much of which we did not fully understand, the groom looked across
the heads of the congregation (all the guests stand and crowd around the couple
during the ceremony; it has a real “community” feel to it) and saw my face. I
saw a flicker of astonishment cross his face as he wondered “Who is he and what
is he doing here?”, but we were generally made to feel welcome. We slipped out
before we had to pass through the receiving line, and went home. But it was fun
being there and lovely to see. Ioannis and Dimitra stayed at the reception until
3:00 a.m., eating, drinking and (of course) dancing.
This being the last weekend before Lent, there were more visitors to the island
than usual, and we ventured into town on Sunday to check out the “action.” We
had lunch in a seaside taverna, and then went to see the celebration in the
local “theater.” The theater is built in the Greek tradition, is outdoors and
has tiers of stone seats set in a circular amphitheater. The stage is a little
circular area at the foot of the rows of seats. All very simple and efficient.
We estimate well over 1,000 people were in attendance, of the 3,000 or so
off-season inhabitants of Mykonos. The children were all in costumes very much
like Americans would expect to see at Halloween. Superman, Spiderman, Minnie
Mouse, pirates, princesses etc. were all very cute. The School Band performed,
of course. (Music lessons have been taught in the school only since September,
so let your imagination run wild with this scene.) All very much small-town fun,
and we loved it.
By the way, EVERYBODY joins in the fun!
Monday was Ash Monday, and the first day of Lent, so the fasting began in
earnest. No meat, cheese or dairy products until Easter. So the tradition here
is to have a party (nothing new there), but only serve seafood. We went to the
most remote part of the island (about a 10-minute drive away) to a picnic
sponsored by the Boy Scouts. Each family brought food enough for themselves and
the Scouts grilled fresh octopus for everybody. Five hundred pounds of octopus!
We sat with our friends on the porch and watched the festivities. Near us,
several men brought their instruments, so there was music and dancing
(surprised?) all afternoon. There was a fund-raising raffle – Scouts are the
same everywhere when it comes to raising money - and prizes for the highest
flying kite, etc. We stayed until sundown, and people were still coming in. Boy!
These Greeks sure do know how to party! (Did I already write that?)
Dimitra and Ioannis introduced us to their lifelong friends, Theodoris and Ireni.
Theo has the grandest smile you’ve ever seen. Sharon began waving to him on her
morning run back in October which is how all these associations really began.
Anyway, they invited us to “coffee” which was a four course meal; spinach pie,
grilled sandwiches, sausage and turkey omelet and homemade bread. It was
scrumptious. While there, Theo got a call from his friend. He returned to the
table looking panicked. Turns out his friend and neighbor had two ailing sheep
that needed calcium injections. (Most of the natives have a couple dozen animals
running around and, of course, a full garden. We always leave friend's homes
with fresh eggs. Last week we ate Dimitra's rooster!) So Theo had to run off to
help. But the house we were sitting in was his great-grandfather's. It was two
rooms. There were NINE children and two parents living in the house. It had no
electricity or running water until 1974. The roof was made of seaweed, bamboo
and cement. It has since been refurbished and it's charming. The whole
experience was wonderful.
We made a quick trip over to Syros in early February to check on the boat and
get a few preliminary projects started. All is well there. One evening as we
were walking home from dinner in town, we heard someone calling “John! Sharon!
Over here!!” Who could know us in Syros? We turned to find Josef, the Albanian
stonemason who has been working at Costas’ house. He insisted we join him and
his friends for a coffee, and we met six or seven more Albanians who were
traveling with him. Now we run into these people all over town! It is simply
amazing how our circle of friends has suddenly grown. We are really going to
miss Mykonos when the time comes to leave in April.
But leave we must, and April will find us back on Syros getting Seraphim ready
for another season of adventure. We are beginning to plan the summer’s voyaging;
keep watching this space.