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.”

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 ago.

                   

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.
 

Γειά σος!